Saturday, October 15, 2016

We've Moved!

Art Jewelry Elements has moved to a new Wordpress site and will no longer be using this Art Jewelry Elements Blogspot site. We have also broadened our focus and changed our name to Art Elements. Please stop by for a visit, see what's changed and what's stayed the same.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

At the back of the cupboard I found....

I decided to make my own Christmas cards this year, I used to when I was drawing but once I stumbled into glass - not literally that would be painful - I never found the time to create the cards. My chosen medium, before glass, was pencils: beautiful coloured pencils.  My favourite being Derwent Inktense and 'ordinary' Derwent Artists pencils.  The down side of pencils is they are time consuming but I figured starting my Christmas cards in October gave me loads of time.  I am nothing if not over optimistic! 

After spending a whole day designing and drawing one image in coloured pencil I was being to rethink my Christmas card idea, the thought of popping into town, or better still sending my daughter on her lunch break from work (she works in town) would save me loads of time I am always moaning I don't have.  BUT...  I have already brought the blank cards for printing, got the VERY EXPENSIVE archival ink in my rather posh printer, brought for printing my original drawings years ago and had got the husband to not only source me the clear cellophane packets for the cards but also to bulk buy the cardboard backed envelopes with DO NOT BEND on the front.  Really I had to crack on with this idea having invested money.. well husband's, but what is mine is mine and what is his is mine so.... 

Deciding, that fateful day of the 'great Christmas card idea' to abandon hope I cheered myself up by cleaning out the cupboard in the dinning room - you know the cupboard, you shove everything in it, weld the door shut, pray it won't pop open and squash the cat should the contents burst forth when no one is looking.. we all have one.. don't we?

At the back of this cupboard I found not one, not two but three sets of watercolour paints and a box full of tubes of watercolour paint from way back in my 'I am going to paint and be brilliant at it years' before I abandoned all hope of mastering watercolours believing them to be the gift of the Gods and those Gods were just not gifting me!  

'Ah... ha'  I decided 'a quick doodle with a paintbrush to produce a work of brilliance is WAY quicker than the pencils' and so I dragged out the paints, cleaned up the dried palette's, found an old cup with a crack in it - try finding one without a chip son still lives at home, he of the 'Chief cup chipper' gene - and then dug about a bit more in the cupboard until I found the watercolour brushes.

Armed with my paints, some paper, my brushes I sat at the kitchen table and remembered I was completely rubbish with watercolour so I then Googled, Watercolours for Dummies.  I love Google!

Google told me to try mixing the colour on the brush and .. get this.. USE LOTS OF WATER..  I know shouldn't be rocket science but turns out this was where I was going wrong all those years, not enough water and trying to be clever mixing the paint in the palette.. and never mixing enough although I do know there is more than 20 colours of mud! 

I loaded up my brush, with water, I coated my bristles in pigment from the watercolour pans and I kept it all quite simple, 'I will just use my doodles' I thought 'the ones I sit in front of the TV and do without thinking about line, or form or quality, those doodles that I enjoy and will turn into beads at the next torch session'.  So I did!  Turns out I like watercolour after all, now if you will excuse me I am off to create some more designs for Christmas cards and that owl with the Robin isn't quite right, his eyes are weird and he is flat..   just a tweak here and there!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Book Recommendations for Needle Felting

Since I've been exploring needle-felting lately, I thought it might be nice to share some suggestions for books to help others get started or to explore their own felted work further.

Let's begin with a comprehensive guide...

The Complete Photo Guide to Felting
The Complete Photo Guide to Felting by Ruth Lane is a excellent place to start.  It's also a great reference book to add to an experienced felter's collection.  This book is broken into five main sections; All About Wool and Other Fibers, Preparing to Felt, Traditional Wet Felting, Nuno or Laminate Felting, Needle Felting.  It's also fully illustrated with both step-by-step instructions and a gallery of work by skilled felt artists.  You can get a peek inside the book by checking it out on Amazon.

Now, if you'd like to try 3D felting the next two books are worth a peek.
Woolbuddies by Jackie Huang is great if you are getting started with 3D characters.  This book contains 20 projects with step-by-step photos.  It has three categories of whimsical characters; Simple Woolbuddies, Moderate Woolbuddies and Challenging Woolbuddies.  You'll learn how to make everything from an owl to an elephant to an octopus!

Little Needle-Felt Animals
If you've checked out Woolbuddies and want to expand on your cast of cute characters, then Little Needle-Felt Animals by Gretel Parker is the book to go to.   Inside, you'll find 30 fully-illustrated projects ranging from a moon-gazing hare to a series of fish to a frog princess complete with lily-pad. The shapes of the animals in this book are a bit more complex than in Woolbuddies and will help you build upon your skills.

Art in Felt & Stitch
Now if 3D felting isn't your thing or you'd like to try 2D felting then Art in Felt & Stitch by Moy Mackay is the book you're looking for. 2D felting is a lot like painting with wool.  In this book, Moy Mackay provides both inspiration and technical information with this beautifully photographed book.  Some of the many topics covered include materials & equipment, color, texture, composition and techniques.  This is one of my favorite felting books for 2D felting and I highly recommend it if you are looking to explore this style further.

AJE Contributor, Jenny Davies-Reazor is also a fan of this book and had this to say about it:

"This book I purchased a year or so ago - I believe Lesley introduced me to this Scottish artist? Stunning. Mind blowing. Gorgeous work - tapestry style... and by that I mean "paintings" in fiber. This book is a treat for the eyes, and very inspirational. While my fiber paintings are no where near Moy's in any fashion - this is how I like to use felt - as painting. And then of course I want to bead it too!"

Felt to Stitch
Jenny had another book recommendation to make with Felt to Stitch by Sheila Smith.  Per Jenny:

"This was the first felting book I ever purchased and It has held me in good stead. I wanted to learn to wet felt - both "canvas/paintings" and shaped pieces. The diagrams and directions are clear and informative. In fact - that section of the book is waterlogged from having open while felting! The book goes into Shibori and nuno and other more complex forms I haven't experimented with... yet. But see? One book and every time I dive in there is so much more to learn."

In addition to the many books on the market, you can find some fantastic felting videos online. Here's a few places I recommend:

Sarafina Fiber Art (A great company to buy your felting supplies from. Click here for the shop.)

Living Felt Felting Supplies (Also has an online shop for supplies and kits).

Felted Sky Studio (Has an Etsy shop with kits available.)

If you use or have used any of these books or sites I'd love to hear your feedback on them in the comments section below.  

Happy Felting! 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Knots Through Time: A Very Brief History

A knot. The simple act of tying one cord to another. This is the first step in creating macramé. Tying many knots together creates a fabric, a sturdy textile not unlike weaving or knitting. One of the earliest recorded uses of macramé knots as embellishment appeared in the carvings of the Babylonians and Assyrians, depicting the plaiting and braiding that adorned the clothing of that time period. The Moors, traveling north into Spain carried this knot tying technique with them where it then spread to France, Italy and throughout Europe.

Moorish Fringe "Morisco Fleco"

Queen Mary II taught this art to her ladies-in-waiting in the 17th century. Sailors created macramé objects during their long days at sea to trade or barter with when ashore. This spread macramé to the Orient and the New World.

Sailor's Knots

Sailor's Needle Case and Purse
Macramé was most popular during the Victorian Era where it was used for trimmings, embellishments, tablecloths, bedspreads and curtains.

      Victorian Macramé also Known as Knotwork from Weldon's Practical Macramé Lace 1890
During the 1970's when other crafts such as quilting, stitchery and needlepoint found their revival so did macramé. This time around the fine silk threads of the Victorian Era were replaced with rope, twine and hemp. It was during this time period that I learned the mystical art of knot tying! I made plant hangers and more plant hangers followed by Santas with fuzzy beards to hang on your front door and three foot tall owls to hang over your fireplace. Crazy stuff! And BIG!

    Yes, people actually made and wore these crazy vests!


And made gigantic wallhangings
The very popular plant hangers

 The fuzzy-faced Santa

But then the '80's came and it was time to move on to a more serious life of making teddy bears, kids' clothes and weaving. But as it's been said "everything old is new again" and so it goes with macramé but this time around it's known as micro macramé (teensy tiny). Still the same basic knots but done with finer cords and threads. At the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) I first saw the work of Barbara Natoli Witt, herself inspired by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas and the symbolism of the Goddess. At that time I was entranced by her use of knots, cords, color but most of all beads and amulets.

   Barbara Natoli Witt

I remember first seeing the beautiful work of Sandy Swirnoff at The Shepherdess in San Diego in the late 1990's and not even recognizing it as macramé because of her precise and tiny knots-solid, beautiful little works of art. Her work consisted more of knots than beads and I was later to learn that this type of knotting is referred to as Cavandoli Knotting, named after Valentina Cavandoli of Italy. This type of knotting (also called tapestry knotting) is done with a single knot, the double half-hitch, done vertically and horizontally. It forms a solid textile often with geometric shapes.

Sandy Swirnoff
Sandy Swirnoff
I was fortunate enough to visit the Museo Italo Americano in San Francisco in 2006 where a retrospective exhibition of the work of Barbara Natoli Witt was on display.  The gallery  described her as "a contemporary artist with the rare distinction of having created her own medium." Her work is stunning, just breathtaking. And it is all knots, perfectly executed, tiny little knots.

Still I did not indulge in this knot-making madness until about two years ago and I am now smitten with the knot. I personally tend to work more in a tapestry or Cavandoli form of knotting, though I love to use beads and metal work in my pieces.

My Micro Macramé Cooky Schock

Micro macramé is extremely portable, requires few tools and the basics can be learned in minutes.

My Key Obsession Belle Armoire Jewelry Fall 2016
Remember when you learned to tie your shoes? Well, this is even easier! Why "knot" give it a try?