Their color palette is rich, highly saturated and vivid, even when depicting dark woodland scenes and costumes, as represented in this month's Art Bead Scene's inspiration, the Renaissance-influenced work of Marie Spartali Stillman, called “Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni”.
Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni
I was immediately drawn to this painting, but not because of the theme-- as I usually am-- but to the colors-- bronze, sage, russet-- especially the bronze. In mixing this color in polymer clay, gold and black are mixed in equal amounts to create a metallic with great depth and opulence. So I started to create some textured elements that I planned to use to frame molded cabochons in polymer tinted with my other favorite colors from the 'Madonna'. I started with texture sheets and molds that had more naturalistic themes but added some of my favorite abstract ones to change it up.
I found myself getting rather carried away with these textured frames and once they were cured and antiqued with burnt umber heat-set paint, I was conflicted-- had I strayed too far from the painting in my interpretation? Well, isn't that the point-- to use the work of art as a springboard to some completely new ideas?
My method is to re-do and keep working until I have exactly what I want, even if I have to do it over and over. I did just that in this piece-- the third time was the charm. My first attempt was to cut cabochons to fill the textured frames from very abstract pieces of scrap clay in a colorway from the painting but the result was wrong for the ornate quality of the frame. After I carefully chipped out the cured, glued clay with an X-Acto knife, I tried a mokume gane veneer but it was too busy and distracting. I finally went back to one of my favorite molds, made from a piece of Victorian picture frame that was the basis for my Jane Eyre cuff and recently was reinvented for the current issue of Handcrafted Jewelry magazine as the Shangri-la Cuff tutorial. I centered the cutouts for the cabochons on the leaf motifs, placed the clay slices to cure on an upturned metal palette so they curved and used my heat-set oils and gilders paste to color and gild the cabochons. I liked that they had a porcelain-like look to them. To delineate them from the frames I used some notched scarlet clay as an edging and lightly gilded it. I used some reproduction Victorian bookchain to hang the elements, completed a set of earrings and I was finally satisfied with the results.
Now I've got a very opulent necklace to wear for the holidays and a new technique to play with. Not a bad investment of my creative time!
"Gilded" - detail
"Gilded" - detail
"Gilded" - earrings