Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Good Nose for a Deal

One of my favorite book characters is an antiques dealer named Lovejoy, described as a “divvy”, someone who can tell instinctively when an antique is real. He gets a kind of vibe about a piece and has been known to sniff out a real Chippendale in a barn full of broken junk and fleamarket trash, fierce in his pursuit of those treasures lovingly crafted by masters of old.

I am an inveterate antiques hunter and committed fleamarket hound. My experience has been that many a treasure can be had by those willing to wade through boxes and bags on someone's front lawn or prowl through the back room of a dusty barn. I found my first Jenny Lind bed (also known as a spool bed) leaning against a stack of old doors in the farthest dim recesses of a Vermont shed. The owner couldn't believe that I would pay him $75 for it! But refinished and primly dressed in my finest handmade quilt, that little frame was a beauty-- so charmingly authentic. I may not be an actual divvy but I do have a nose for what might be hiding in the most unlikely place. I've sprinkled this narrative with some winners from past hunting.

One of the casualties of this so-called summer, caused by frequent deluges of biblical proportions, have been weekend outdoor fleamarkets and yard sales. Spurred by reports of fabulous finds by other blogger friends, when Sunday's weather predicted only the possibility of a thunderstorm, we hopped in the van and sped off to Waterbury, VT to a large outdoor venue. I've both bought and sold there and I usually discover at least one wonderful find special enough to make my visit worthwhile. But the place was practically deserted! Woe! The weather was finally hot and sunny and should have been teeming with buyers and fleas but except for one table of so-so vintage costume jewelry, it was mostly used cassette tapes, tools and limp produce. But something told me to take another look at the costume jewelry.

My persistence was rewarded with a funky little copper and bronze bracelet. It looked handcrafted and had a nice patina. The emblems were soldered but the rest was cold-connected. I got it for $7. The vendor told me it was a signed piece and sure enough, in a little oval on the back was “MB SF”.

Copper and Bronze Marjorie Baer bracelet

When I got home I found out that “MB” stood for Marjorie Baer, a San Francisco designer who has been making jewelry since the early 60s. Her work is very collectable and I found many examples of it on Ebay, going for lots more than I paid! So I'm very happy with my one find of the summer (so far).

I may not be a true divvy but I do have a good nose for a deal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Be Kind to Your Muse

This past week I was madly scrambling to get two designs done for a magazine deadline. This was the first time I was going it alone to submit my work to a major beading venue and the necklaces had to be at the FedEx pickup box by Monday afternoon at 5:00 pm. Everything was going wrong—first, the US Postal Service “missent”(their official term for “lost”) my 2nd day air package, so I was lacking the supplies I needed to finish. The design that looked so good on paper failed dismally when it was translated into three dimensions. A technical problem was stymieing all attempts to make my seedbead strands hang properly. Design Hell! No time to step back and think about my poor pieces overnight—no time to tweak, re-do, enhance, embellish. "They're good enough" I had to say -- "just get 'em in the mail!"

Some lessons you can't learn too many times--“Be kind to your Muse” is one of these.

No matter what kind of urgent and immovable deadlines you may have, bludgeoning your poor Muse doesn't work! Ever! I thought I had learned that back in college, when I'd have a really great idea for a paper and then wait until the last bloody minute to write it. All-nighters never quite produce the result when you have to force your creativity to meet your deadline.

Polymer Clay Daily posted a quote by Tory Hughes a few days ago-- here's the part that applies: “Playing and creating are very close together.” To play is to dance with your Muse. Dragging your Muse onto the dance floor leads to effort and struggle and ultimately--failure. I don't mean to say that you should give up if an idea isn't working--keep on trying but give yourself time and be open to a different way of doing it. When I was a potter, the phrase going around the studio at school was “Let the clay tell you what it wants to be”. Let your Muse tell you if she wants to tango or to waltz. Or to sit this one out. Go ahead and push your materials in new directions and to new ideas but also let them show you the way.

Along the same lines, making do with less or other than what you intended to use can turn design dross into gold. When I designed mostly in fiber, I used this forced creativity principal all the time. I would find expensive or vintage materials, piece them into garments with less costly fabrics and come out with a much more creative and interesting result. But be warned--one very important factor in the successful application of this principal of being more creative with less is TIME. You can't rush this, you can't be doing your project last-minute or the stress factor is off the charts! Be kind to yourself AND to your Muse. You just can't rush good design! Let me say this again-- good design takes time! I have learned this the hard way and just lately in the above-mentioned projects.

In the end, the deadline passed and I decided that the pieces weren't up to my standard. Instead, I played with them some more and the Muse rewarded me with gold. I've submitted them elsewhere and I'll keep you posted on their progress. No matter what happens, I'm proud of my work now that my Muse and I are in step once again.

Here are a few pieces that happened when I just let myself play. Thanks to Lorri Scott for her fabulous fibers!

Lascaux Necklace

Kalahari Necklace

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lazy Days of Summer

For folks in parts of the country where the weather is not characterized as “ten months of winter and two months of bad sledding” as it is in the fair state of Vermont, summer can possibly be described as “lazy”.

But warmer temps here mean a frenzy of activity, not only for farmers, housepainters and construction crews, but for the plants of the northeastern habitat. A riot of green-- both of forest and fields-- brought on by spring rains and relative warmth means that every little fern, weed, tree and wildflower is doing its best to fertilize, seed, blossom and fruit in the short, sunny days of July and August.

So as much as my summer designing palette would like to draw from the soft, ocean hues of aquamarine, and the beachy whites and sandy colors of the seashore, this year I'm drawn to hot, fecund colors that shout life and hectic activity!

Papeete necklace - available in my Etsy shop

So after trekking to my nearest Borders store last week to purchase Ronna Sarvas Weltman's new book “Ancient Modern” I sat down with my coffee looking for a few good ideas, my criteria for feeling justified in spending money on a new craft book. My dollars were amply justified-- it's got ideas and techniques to spare! There are many I could wax rhapsodic about but one of the very simplest got my attention this week-- marbeling with hot colors.

I love intense colors but don't normally use “hot” colors-- fuchsia, orange, yellow, red-- without blending to tone them down. Also, I find it difficult to work in neutrals or strict black and white themes, finding the extreme contrasts too modern for my style to stand alone. But as guests to the party of color, I love nice, contrasty graphic elements. I was so inspired by Ms. Weltman's color aesthetic that I decided to throw caution to the winds! Looking more closely at the method, the marbeling tempers the intensity of the colors by laying them closely together and partially blends them, so you still have the intensity but also new combinations. Also, the added white clay makes the colors appear brighter. Here's what I did with her palette. She points out that using a hot color next to more subdued ones can make an entire compostion sing.

Sands of Mars necklace

Stay tuned for more Ancient Modern influences in future posts. Thank you, Ronna, for a great book!