Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Artists are varied in their approach to clutter on their workbench. Do you stop to tidy up so your tools are ready to hand or does the disorder somehow allow you to pull some creative inspiration out of the chaos?

One of the things that is most troublesome to me is my tendency to collect detritus and keep it in little containers all over my bench. Pieces of previous work that didn't quite make it, creative accidents, orphan beads, pieces of small repoussé work that my husband, Douglas, has made for me, interesting found objects, rocks with nifty textures, rusty bits, twigs-- all of these find a home in various receptacles. Sometimes I feel more like a 19th century naturalist, surrounded by specimens.

As I'm about to transform this space into a real working studio, I find myself firmly resolving to corral the clutter and keep my space zen-like and receptive to the slightest nudge from my Muse. But just this week, while digging through one of my boxes, I discovered a shard of polymer, a sample for the Jane Eyre cuff in faux ivory that I did some months ago.

Faux ivory cuff sample

Jane Eyre cuff

 It was too large to make into a pendant so there it sat. I just enjoyed looking at it. I like making pieces that look as though they are shards discovered in an archaeological dig and then combine them with more modern elements into one whole. The juxtaposition of ancient and contemporary creates a tension that appeals to me. I just happened to have one of Objects and Elements' open bezels in the same box-- sometimes when I buy new findings I don't want to store them away since I tend to forget about them. If I leave them out on my bench, I see them every day and eventually find a use for them. I've used these bezels with several pieces, like the Dance of the Ancients.

Dance of the Ancients

Intrepid explorer of the artistic landscape that I am, this rectangular bezel was cut, shortened and re-shaped to fit a scrap piece of polymer that I carved a bit and antiqued. So the bezel was fit to the shard, instead of the opposite!

Relic pendant

The shard was long and rectangular so would allow me to keep some of best motifs. I carefully scored the polymer with an X-acto knife and kept making shallow slices until I could break it off without damage. Some additional cutting and sanding was necessary to make it fit the bezel and then I re-stained the edges with shoe polish. My plan was to make a simple pendant necklace I could wear with jeans and a tee. Yeah, well.

The bezel had two attachment loops so I decided to look through my stash for a suitable dangle. Sitting in one of my containers was a copper leaf that Douglas had done in repoussé and I had heat-patinated to a beautiful purple/copper sheen. I drilled a hole and attached that to the bottom loop. The leaf was a more modern style than the shard but I encouraged that by stringing some garnet-colored square Czech glass beads together with mesh-covered crystal beads interspersed with lampwork rounds. I tried several ideas for the bail, like a piece of brass from a mantle clock that I had taken apart but ended up making one out of 18 gauge bronze wire. For the clasp, I used an antique etched brass bead on a chain with a handmade shepherd's crook as the loop side. It worked perfectly and was very secure.

Sonata necklace

After completing the piece, I was a bit sad that the repoussé leaf might be leaving my workbench forever-- the fate of all one-of-a-kind pieces. So I thought “why not make a mold from that great little leaf” and got out my Alley Goop RTV (room temperature vulcanizing) putty, and made a mold. I had some scrap clay in a mix of burgundy, green and purple so I used that for the leaf, which turned out to be the perfect base color and added some Jacquard metallic powders and metallic acrylic paint for the copper accents. Maybe earrings to match?

Repoussé leaf

Polymer copies of repoussé leaf

So, at the end of the day, I say – keep it but organize it. You never know what treasures you'll find to inspire you at the bottom of your personal benchtop midden.


  1. Where do you get those cabachon holders? I found some filigree ones, but I want plain. The piece you created from the cuff sample is exquisite. I wouldn't want to part with it either. Marlene - email: arteveryday(at)

  2. these are all wonderful christine! thanks for sharing how you work... i, for one, have things all over my table because you 'just never know'...

  3. You are incredible. I was just pawing through my collection of discarded and overlooked treasures in the many, many vessels I have cluttering my work space (for the record if I put it away it is out of mind...) and I was sharing the few beads I have left from my gallery exhibit from you with my local beading buddy Sharon. I am so glad to find you here today with something that positively makes my heart sing! I love the colors, the textures. I love that this was a piece inspired by Jane Eyre (a favorite novel). I love that you had the foresight to make a copy of that leaf (I am not that clever). This is just lovely, Christine. Thank you for sharing your inspiration! This makes me long to work with you once again.

    Enjoy the day!

  4. My work bench is full of 'flotsam and jetsam'-
    Love what you did with this piece. That cuff was so very beautiful - I just love the faux ivory you created and the leaf motive is gorgeous. The whole necklace turned out beautifully! Will you be doing any more faux ivory?

  5. Gorgeous work!

    My workspace is organized clutter, if that makes sense. Sometimes when beads roll up next to others, they make their voices known, and things I hadn't PLANNED on putting together suddenly ... fit. But every now and again, I sweep through and put it ALL back in its proper place, and start the slow build-up of chaos all over again.

  6. Christine, how could I have missed this post? Sorry I'm so late to the party here...Sonata is beautiful. It has all of your classic qualities -that I love- such a rich color and varied textures. STUNNING! I agree with you - I sure have a hard time parting with components and when I take the time to "dig" around, I'm happily suprised at all of the great treasures I've stashed away. If I don't have the components out, I tend to forget about them, so I constantly go through all of my drawers and bins. :-)