Monday, September 21, 2015

Vacation Inspiration

They do say that a change is as good as a rest and of course, the whole point of vacations is to provide us with a respite from the daily grind and help us recharge our batteries. Having just returned from  three weeks in the USA spent in the company of some of my fellow AJE team mates I can tell you that vacations can also be a huge source of inspiration.

My trip began in New Jersey With Diana Ptaszynski and the day after I arrived we set off for Bead Fest in Philadelphia - this was my second visit to the show and it was great to catch up with beady friends again and meet new ones. It's hard not to inspired amidst so much talent and so many gorgeous beads and of course I bought lots of them!

Tracey Seder Donaghe, Diane Hawkey, Staci Smith & Joan Miller, Maku Raku
Lisa Peters Russ was selling there for the first time and I was excited to meet her and get my hands on some of her work....I was not disappointed since she  had a huge array of beautiful ceramic pieces with the most gorgeous glazes.  I was particularly drawn to these stunning round cabochons but since they are bigger than anything I work with in my jewellery designs I was at a bit of a loss as to what I would do with them.

Lisa Peters -Russ
Every time I passed Lisa's table they would pull me me back to look again until finally I was struck by an idea to use them in mixed media wall art with textiles and metal or maybe Polymer clay. This was a bit of a bolt out of the blue since I've never really considered myself to be a mixed media or a wall art person but how great is it to pick up someones work and have it generate completely random ideas in your own head?

There are literally hundreds of workshop at Bead Fest so while there I took the opportunity to take a class with Cooky Schock to learn how to make these lovely braided wire bangles.

I'm a big fan of all things wire as you may know and this techniques adds nicely to my repertoire but as you can see from my class attempt I need a little's not difficult but it does require some concentration to get an even tension but I will get there eventually.

The second week of my holiday was spent with Jenny Davies-Reazor  and was always going to be full of creative play... you can't stay with a talented artist and teacher like Jenny and not take the opportunity to learn something new. Jenny has been adding more and more bead embroidery to her work this year and since I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with seed beads I wanted to have go at bezeling cabochons. With Jenny's guidance I managed to create this pendant around a shell fossil and a Labradorite cab. It seems I like my beads to sit very close together - too close in fact so the edging on this piece puckered a little but for a first attempt I was pretty pleased.

Jenny also showed me how to make this beautiful 'Silk Road' bangle - another one of Cooky's innovative designs. I just love this - it's so easy to take the basic design and really make it your own by the way you embellish it.

Phot courtesy of Cooky Schock

It's rather fortunate for me that Jenny also lives close to Marsha Neal Minutella - a ceramic artist who has fallen in love with needle felting since she started working at Sarafina Fibre Art. I was hoping to be able to get in a Visit to Sarafina and maybe do some felting with Marsha and lucked out on both counts.

We went to see Marsha at Sarafina and I was just blown away by the work of artist and owner Sara Renzulli who not only creates incredibly realistic 3D sculptures but also in effect 'paints' with felt to create the most amazing wall hangings... How could I not be inspired!

Stunning work and way, way beyond my ability but when Marsha invited round for a pumpkin making session I was totally up for it - she made it all seem very easy and we had great fun picking out fibres and stabbing away watching balls of wool turn into these lovely little pumpkins.

Photo courtesy of Marsha Neal Minutella

I was so happy with mine and I think I may have found a new addiction. In fact I know I have as I made Jenny take me back to Sarafina's before I left so I could buy  just a few supplies...

Jenny and I also took some time out from our creative play to seek out inspiration elsewhere with  a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the 'Impressionists' exhibition - sorry, no photography allowed there but I did manage to sniff out some beads and some pottery that took my fancy.

We also visited the 'Torpedo Factory Arts Centre" in Alexandria - an amazing place full of artists studio's and galleries representing a diverse range of style and media.

And it didn't stop there...for the last leg of my trip Jenny and I hit the road to meet up with two more of our AJE team mates Jen Cameron and Karen Totten at Jen's house at Lake James, Indiana. It was a long 10 hour drive punctuated by frequent stops for coffee and, towards the end sugar but it was so, so worth it. Jen's house is in a beautiful location which in itself inspires...

We basically spent the labour day weekend sharing skills, bouncing ideas around and of course - playing with a few beads. Jen and Karen were also keen to learn how to bead bezel cabochons and I happily set to work on my second, more intricate piece using one of Lisa Peter's cabochons and some extra stitches Jenny taught me.

Another of Jenny's many talent's is making hand made books - she taught me one Japanese stab stitch technique last year and I've made several more since then. We were all keen to have a go this year and tis time Jenny showed us another technique using Coptic stitch. Everyone's books turned out beautifully and I will certainly be making more...

Over the weekend we also had a bronze clay session which Jenny wrote about in her post last week and with Cooky Schock's kind permission I was also able to  demonstrate the wire braiding technique for the bangle I made at Bead Fest.

On top of all this creativity, Jen's husband James spent the weekend literally catering to our every whim...meals, snacks, cocktails and all top quality. So we played, we ate, we drank - a bit, we laughed a lot and had a thoroughly good time and speaking for myself, the time I spent with these funny, warm and talented ladies was both a pleasure and a privilege.

Looking back on my three weeks I can safely say that I enjoyed every minute of it and the people I shared it with and the places I went left me with a head full of ideas and a real hunger to get stuck into some new work. So what have I done about it since I got home a week ago..? Well unfortunately not too much since I'd barely set foot off the plane at Heathrow before I went down with an awful cold and throat about post holiday blues! I have managed to do a bit more  bead embroidery though - I re-did the edging on my first piece (I'm a bit of a perfectionist) and started work on some new pieces....

Funny Face cab by Diana Ptaszynsksi, Lampork cab by Susan Kennedy, Ceramic feather cab by Caroline Dewison
Obviously these new found passions mean that I had to do a bit of supply shopping but happily that was easily done from my sick bed!

I'm on the mend now though and looking forward to getting back into the studio and using my vacation inspiration to kick start some new work. Do your holidays inspire you..who are the people and what are the places that fuel your creativity?


  1. Wow, it sounds like you had the trip of a lifetime. So much creative fun with friends!! Totally jealous!! I love to see all the fun things you learned!

  2. Wow, your trip sounds lovely and I hope it inspired you to create many more wonderful pieces

  3. That is my idea of a vacation! How wonderful to add so many skills and memories at the same time. Great to see you at Bead Fest!

  4. What a wonderful trip! You have made memories and learned many great new skills. Lucky lady! And it was nice to see you at Bead Fest.

  5. Wow! You really know how to make make the most of 3 wks. No wonder you're tired!!!

  6. Wow, Lesley, you had a blast! And you learned such cool things! I love the little pumpkins. I'm afraid I would be addicted to making them also.

    1. Most of what I learnt is turning out to be addictive...Oh well winter is coming so I'll have plenty to do when I can't get out.

  7. So glad you had such an amazing vacation! I love that you just were able to just to bop between your fellow AJE editors and friends and get so much creative play in... I'm more than a little jealous. Sorry you came home sick, but glad you are on the mend. Again, it was so nice meeting you!

    1. Great to meet you to Sarajo - it was a great 3 weeks.


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