Last week my husband and I found a little gem, “The Curse of the Golden Flower”, set in 982 during the Northern Song Dynasty. The story was destined to end in tragedy but the visuals were full of eye-popping color and the costumes rivaled the Tudor era in sheer opulence and complexity. We watch the character of the queen pick through a selection of yellow gold filigree hair ornaments that enhance her gold-embroidered damask gown then the camera follows her down a hallway draped in 40 foot tall silk hangings in rainbow-hued silks as her entourage proceeds to the throne room. I felt drunk with visual sensation!
With this as my background inspiration, this month's Art Bead Scene challenge-- Finches and Bamboo (from the same era as my Chinese epic)-- begged a lavish interpretation. Lately I've been working on a series of necklaces featuring large central focals of layered, textured and antiqued polymer clay. I incorporate wire, vintage metal findings and antique buttons in these. And I've been playing with some unconventional ways to color the clay-- oil pastels, oil paints, colored pencils and gilders paste.
My original idea was to create a ruffle of lightweight silk around the edge of the base polymer disk but my efforts reminded me of a horse show ribbon. On to Plan B. As I dug through a stack of articles from various magazines, I found one by Hadar Jacobson about using the inside of a sand dollar shell as a texture plate. I've been liking the effect of combining organic and formal textures into one element, so that became the base, colored with Prismacolor pencils and a touch of acrylic paint. Next I created a two-layer base-- again with one organic and one ornate texture-- for the molded bird button in a metal bezel from JemsGems. I've been incorporating twisted wire into my pieces lately so I added a layer of antiqued bronze wire as abstract branches, another nod to the finches of the painting.
I had planned to use some vintage metal findings separated by bronze twisted chain for the stringing on the right side so I drew a base plate design based on the findings' scroll motif. I impressed the clay with a texture plate I made from a piece of dimensional scrapbooking paper I found at Michael's, used my scalpel to handcut the scrolls, cured the clay and then patinated it with gilders paste. Using a bronze-brown clay as the base color made the patination stand out and accentuated the texture.
I made up some accent beads using mokume gane for the polymer veneer, this being a technique borrowed from Japanese metalworking. The pearls were a happy find in my stash-- they were the exact color of the bamboo leaves from the Challenge's silk painting. I finished up with vintage chain from One Piece at a Time and a vintage clasp from Jems Gems and I was done.
Detail of focal
I was pleased and honored to find that editor Heather Powers picked my necklace for the Designer of the Week this past Monday. Thanks, Heather and the rest of the ABS editors!
I will be teaching a class at ArtBliss in September 2011 in this technique of layering textured and antiqued polymer elements with found objects and metals. Cindy Wimmer and Jeanette Blix, the co-founders, tell me that there will be class descriptions and more information about the instructors up on the site in the very near future. Guess I'd better get mine written and submitted! This September's ArtBliss promises to be as exciting, informative and inspired as last year's inaugural event, so it's an occasion not to be missed.