Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Just Playing

Happy New Year's Eve to one and all!!  It has been such a busy month for all of us so I though I would just show you how I play with my beads with no real plan in mind other than an inspiration piece.

Yes the December component of the month was my inspiration. So I pulled out all my coordinating beads and started playing with them.

First I started just seeing what a chain would look like

Interesting possibilities but they just didn't do what I wanted.  Then I thought of components.

I like the little snowflake with the rivoli in it very much.  I did not like the way the hex pyramid sat so that got torn apart.

I love these little tri beads and this chain just kinda took on a life of its own.  I love it.

You will have to wait until the the reveal of the component challenge on the 3rd of January to see what I finally decided on.  I will tell you that I ended up with 2 separate designs and a morph of a third.

How do you like to design?  Do you sometimes just wing it?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Starry Road Studio... Looking Back, Looking Forward

About this time last year, I was holed up in our little cabin on the next hill over from where we currently live... I wrote about it in Cabin Fever.

That winter was brutal. The cabin is off-grid with only solar power to provide our electricity needs. But as the days got shorter, and the sunlight scarce, I frequently had to run a portable generator to charge our batteries (the cabin has an array of 16 batteries charged by the solar panels - or in emergencies, by a generator - these are what the house power is run off of). Eventually the pipes froze and I was forced to leave, to stay with Don at his place in Rochester where he stays during the week to work there.

At the end of February, I managed a small escape to Florida to see my daughter Audrey. It was pure bliss. I wrote about it in Ocean Inspired.

Meanwhile, construction at the new place carried on. Our friend Jack was in charge of the construction and he hired extra guys as needed to keep the work going. Still, it took a long time. It was windy and even more cold in our new location and the pipes with new never-used well and septic froze almost immediately. Argh. One frustration after another. I wrote about that in "A Small Update...".

Ha! In reading that post just now, I see that all sorts of plans for handmade cabinet knobs and what-not have yet to come to pass. Too much to do, so we settled on commercially made hardware. Oh well.

Somehow, through it all, bead making and other art continued apace... I like to keep the creative juices flowing. I managed to get a little drawing time too - using new digital art tools...

Once we got moved into the new place, I continued building on work I had begun in the cabin, some based on sketches I had done over a year previous (summer of 2013), and even managed to get a little pottery done. I covered some of this work, such as my "Woodland Camping" theme in a post back in 2013, Autumn (2013) at the Cabin, and in a later post in May 2014, "Crazy for Clay". Throughout the last two years, I continued to develop my core woodland themes with wood textures, tree and limb concepts, and all manner of birds and owls.

And so life went on... and I turned to new ideas, bird and owl totems, with symbols in their bellies, loosely inspired by indigenous american art. I wrote about this in Musings on Creativity.

Here is just a small sampling of the inspiration behind this work.

I carried this theme into a new motif based on Bear (which happens to be my personal totem).

I also explored Crow in more detail... covered in this post, "Crow", and in bead strands I later assembled.

Looking forward, I have begun working on a couple of new series: one based on quilt motifs and stitched elements... here is some preliminary work for that...

And another is a series based on stars, constellation, and celestial navigation. This is in part an homage to my father, a career Air Force Navigator, who used celestial navigation in his work to plot the courses of planes he flew (this was in the days before computer and satellite navigation), and to my own love of astronomy (I'm a total space geek).

Here are a few bead "sketches", works in progress, and inspiration images... much more to come!

My dad, explaining the use of a periscopic sextant for celestial navigation on airplanes.

Well that's it in a nutshell. I have more ideas in my sketchbooks but whether I get to them or not remains to be seen. I'll keep plodding along and we'll see what pops up.

I wish you a happy and creative New Year. :) 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Embracing the Failure...

I just realized this is my last post here at AJE for 2014!  Looking forward to a new year of designing, making, experimentation, and yes, failing!  It seems that 2014 has actually been full of those last 2 for me!  I jumped in and tried some new things...polymer clay, kiln enameling, metal clay are the stand outs in my mind.  I am excited to say, I had lots of success.  All those mediums have learning curves.

There were failures, though...remember these?

Ugh...I haven't tried kiln enameling since, but it is definitely on my list to play with again soon!

Sometimes, failures just happen.  They are a surprise and we have to go back and think of what we could have done to prevent it.  The above enameling debacle was really no surprise, it was just my novice approach after my torch-firing successes.

This one came as a total surprise to me.  I made 2, one came out perfectly, but this one had a big old crack. :(  What did I do differently with it?  Hindsight made me remember there was a tiny scratch as my file slipped while cleaning it up.  Had that weakened the piece?  Possibly.

Some of you remember this from my FB page...

I was so bummed!  I felt really stoked about carving the cross stamp and was so happy with it.  As it dried, something bumped it, or knocked it, and it just snapped.  I almost cried.  I set out to repair it, though and several layers of slip, drying & sanding later I was satisfied that I was going to succeed.

The back side of repaired piece...just one more bit of cleanup!
Fast forward to after firing.  I took it out of the kiln and inspected it.  It looked good, albeit a  bit curved.  No problem, after clean up, I will flatten with my rubber mallet and steel block.   Which I did!

Hmm, yeah.  Well, obviously, all that tender love and repair care had not worked.  I had smoothed the outside over cosmetically, but the fatal flaw was not fixed.  Lesson learned.

Not to be defeated, I am already trying to come up with a mixed-media design to incorporate the pieces...maybe riveted to copper with beaded wire around the break? Maybe a bezel with resin?

A little E-6000 will hold it together long enough for me to trace a backplate and decide what to do next!
So from me, Happy New Year.  I hope 2015 brings lots of joy, happiness and peace....and just enough failure to keep you striving to do better ;)!

Friday, December 26, 2014

A penny for your thoughts? Thoughts on coins...

Happy Boxing Day to our UK readers, team mates, and friends!

 (The exact etymology of the term "boxing day" is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive. The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen,which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.)

From Boxing Day to coins wasn't that far of a creative association if you think if the Medieval alms boxes. And It is most definitely coins that have inspired this post.

Examples of ancient coins, many of them Greek. 
I want to start with Niky Sayers of Silver Niknats - for she was the driving source of inspiration to me for this topic. We recently participated in the Beads of Courage Charm swap and Auction, which I know you heard about here. I received a coin "locket" made from a 40's era copper British farthing. (pictured below, canvas backdrop) It thrilled me no end. The bird is a wren - at times called "Jenny wren" and there are myriad folklore and tales associated with the bird... There is a garnet inside, a secret treasure. I love her use of coins, both her creative vision, and the recycling nature of the coins as material. And I admit to being an Anglophile - if you have seen any of my tiles and shrines you know they are inspired by myth and lore, mainly that of the UK, Ireland, etc. 

The six pence coin ( top left) pictures the four plants representing the UK: Tudor rose/England, thistle/Scotland, leek/Wales, Shamrock/N. Ireland.  Thanks to Niky for the use of her pix. 

So coins. Coins IN jewelry. Coins as material to make jewelry... not just a wonderful coin, prong set simply... on a chain. But more integrated... Here are my inspirations: 

Richard Salley. These older pieces of his show his mastery of mixing found objects, wire, metal. The union of quarter and a watch casing as the front of a hinged locket? Brilliant. Found washers, steel wire, visually compelling mechanisms that are simple and function flawlessly. 

Keith LoBue. Keith is a Stuffsmith, an artist working with all matter of materials and found objects to make wearable sculpture. This spinner ring of his showcases a three penny coin, and the patina of age  is gorgeous. 

Hairy Growler. Caroline, my fellow AJE member mentioned this UK artist to me... And his work is... well, just look! I am in love! His take on reworking older coins is beyond creative. I really appreciated the inclusion of the original coin in the images - to see King George and then the altered version really illustrates the amount of work carved/engraved into each piece. And of course - the moon hare is a favorite!!! 

Stacey Lee Webber. I had the good fortune to meet Stacey at the ACC Craft Show in Baltimore a year or so ago. It was so interesting to see these pieces in person! Taking a commonplace coin and elevating it, challenging our associations of a mundane object, given and used... now becoming a treasure, a work of art. Really interesting! 

I am inspired by these artists and more - coins are miniature works of art, designed and carved by artists whose names are not recorded for posterity... I find coins can be very evocative souvenirs of a place, a trip, a time. I plan a more hands on coin post in a few, when the new year has me back in my studio. 

I hope you are all enjoying the post holiday period! Have a merry holiday - wishing you all the best! 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Seasons Greetings and Secret Santas...

All of us here at AJE would like to thank you for being with us in 2014 and making our work so worthwhile and however you spend this holiday we wish each and every one of you the best for the season.

And just in case you haven't had enough presents yet today we thought we'd share a few of ours with you. We organised a 'Secret Santa' within the team and each one of us sent handmade gifts to another team member and fabulous gifts they were too...I am very proud to be part of this hugely talented team.

These are the gifts everyone recieved...can you guess who made what...?

 Jen's gifts

Lesley's gifts

Karen's gifts

Melissa's gifts

Diana's gifts

Caroline's gifts

 Lindsay's gifts

 Jenny's gifts

Linda's gifts

Kristen's gifts

 Kristi's gifts

 Rebekah's gifts
 Francesca's gift

Sue's gift

Enjoy the festivities!