Friday, July 27, 2012

Change is Good


I’ve been wanting to change my blog header for a while but had been unwilling to put the time into learning the vagaries of digital photo editing with the confusing array of formats, pixels and photoshopping options. But as I approach my 100th post I know it’s time I updated my look to acknowledge the evolution of my artistic style.

Friends Cindy Wimmer and Claire Maunsell came to my rescue. Cindy turned me on to PicMonkey, a very user-friendly and fun program (don’t let yourself get too carried away with features) that has significantly more ability than my very low-level, free Photoshop program. Claire was having issues with Blogger, as was I, and discovered Windows Live Writer—which saved my sanity and my hair (as in the tearing out of) and has made blogging a pleasure once again. Also, Live Writer has a very easy-to-use photo resizer so I can manipulate the images easily.

So now I’ve been playing around on PicMonkey and stored up several other headers so I have them on hand when my next urge to update arrives. 

So your patience with my housekeeping shall be rewarded with some eye candy. Here are several new pairs of earrings I’ve made for the ongoing 52 Pairs of Earrings Flickr group that I belong to. Now that I’ve taken the plunge and updated my blog template, I can also make my photos larger and my surface treatments show up to much better advantage.













Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Second Time Around

When I design a piece, I try to do it in an unhurried way, so that I can consider everything-- design, placement, elements, story-- without the pressure to finish for a deadline. Well, that's the ideal anyway.

Sometimes the ideas just jump into my head and I work furiously on something, without any specific purpose in mind. Experimental ideas, especially. Usually I go to my sketchbook, to get my thoughts down before they dissolve like morning mist. But sometimes (usually) my housework, dishes, chores or whatever take a backseat to the siren song of my Muse.

As most of you know, a lot of my large pieces were a result of my participation in the Art Bead Scene's monthly Challenges, with fine art works as the inspiration for a strung piece using art beads. Some month's selections call very strongly to me, as did the choice for March 2009 by Henri Matisse. This painting as a poster hung on the door of my bathroom after I saw the original at a Matisse show in San Francisco. Oh that orangey-red color! Pure passion and intensity! When I was a child, I wore greens, browns and rust. Who would have thought that these days the color red in all its many forms would be found in almost every room in my home?

ABS Matisse_ Challenge_March 2009

For my first take on this, three years ago, I made up a polymer clay mokume gane blend (a technique from Japanese metalworking where layers of different metals are revealed by drilling and grinding) of orangey-red, dark green, yellow and violet and applied slices to 18mm polymer bead cores. Then I made several lentil beads in different sizes and did the same. These were strung with black and red seedbeads and black coconut shell slices. Overall, it had the modern feel I was seeking to complement the abstract design of the lentil and round beads.

Picture 906_1024

Original “Rainforest” necklace – March 2009

I couldn't bear to sell the piece-- I just loved those red goldfish too much! But my style started changing too and became more complex and layered and I decided to re-do it. On a practical note: don't use coconut shell slices-- they have sharp edges and are uncomfortable to wear around your neck!

I started with the focal, as it didn't seem  large enough or too weak to support the other elements. I added an elaborate black and white textured frame but it was just too much. [The great thing about polymer is that you can continue to add new pieces to the original as long as you haven't coated it with anything that can't take the 275 degree curing temperatures.] I ripped off a lot of that and began to layer on a textured backing and finally had my focal design! Since I used acrylic for the color I could employ my favorite polishing medium—shoepolish-- for a subtle shine.


Rainforest focal


Rainforest focal – reverse

Then the fun began-- I really love stringing!-- and I added irregular-shaped natural coral pieces, some Oaxacan clay bird beads, Dalmatian jasper chips, black bean beads, green vintage African glass and metal beads, some small yellow spacers and my mokume gane rounds. The clasp was hand-hammered annealed steel wire, which I also used for the twisty bail ends to attach the focal.

So now my necklace is more complex and interesting, the feel is more tribal and yet still abstractly modern and my homage to Matisse's genius feels like my style, finally. Paired with the bead-stacked mokume ball earrings, I feel the second time around for this necklace is a true victory lap!




Friday, July 13, 2012

Lessons from Nature

As I sit here this morning looking out over my shimmering summer pasture, listening to chirping birds and cackling hens, it's hard to imagine the violent weather of last summer, known here as Tropical Storm Irene.

Although we thankfully missed the destruction that many Vermonters endured, our lower pasture became a raging torrent of rain-swollen water. The stream bank that was formerly three feet above the surface of the water is now almost level with it. Luckily, this summer has been hot but very benevolent in terms of weather conditions and even allowed us to paint the rear wall of our house—summer painting projects are not always a sure thing in Vermont. The old adage about our seasons-- “nine months of snow and three months of bad sledding” isn't all that far off the mark!

Flint Brook

So we respect the weather here and it's usually the first topic of conversation when meeting others. As farmers, we know that every activity is dependent on the behavior of the natural world. So we respect Nature and learn to read the subtle signs and indications that She provides us every day.

Since last summer I've had a pile of tree roots drying on my front porch from a downed tree that was completely uprooted by Irene. It's caused me to think on how everything in Nature is connected by design. The leafy portion of a tree branches out to gather sunlight and air from its environment, while below the surface, the roots expand into the soil to capture nutrients and water. But think about the human body—our blood system mimics the same design as it courses throughout our bodies, very like the trees in my front yard. From heart to large veins and arteries, down to the smallest capillaries, these tiny streams branch out to the furthest parts of our fingertips, so similar to the branches and roots of a tree.

So this was my inspiration as I began to wrap polymer strands around my fingers into wreaths and rounds of clay, textured and antiqued and colored with pencils and oils. Picture jasper rondelles and pyrite were added to add reflective surfaces to complement the matte quality of the branchy beads. I finished off with beads from a prayer mala-- it seemed fitting, as this piece began as an experiment and ended as a meditation on our natural world.







DSCN0727_1024 “Roots”


“Twisty” earrings