Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Year, New Challenges

I don't like the idea of making resolutions for the New Year. As much buzz as there has been about major cosmological and spiritual changes in 2012, I feel that the term 'resolutions' is too much like an old school-blackboard writing punishment “I will not....” --fill in the blanks. I like instead the idea of taking on a task, a challenge, a quest. Of perhaps learning a new skill, exploring a new avenue of creativity. Make it positive and reject the negative.

I've got some projects that I've finally decided to take on this year and you'll be hearing about them in subsequent blog posts here. But I'm telling you today about one that's going to be fun and possibly very productive-- the 52 Earrings Challenge.

52 Earrings is the brainchild of Anke Humpert (Anart Studio), a mixed media and polymer clay artist living in Karlsruhe, Germany. She loves collaborative work and hopes that this challenge will bring her inspiration from working with others and with the wide range of artists who've signed up for this-- from all over Europe and the US-- she will get her wish.

Just around the holidays this year, I challenged myself to do 12 pairs of earrings for the traditional 12 Days of Christmas. I really had fun doing those earrings so when I learned about the 52 Pairs project, I decided to join. Yes, it's adding a bit of pressure to my schedule that I vowed (to myself) to keep clear. But it's also a great way to use up orphan or one-offs that consistently get produced through experimentation in the studio and then just sit around taking up real estate.

I'm behind two weeks but I quickly completed two pairs that came from ideas sketched during a free-association doodling session. One of my little tricks is to doodle a whole page of ideas at once, not judging or editing my ideas but simply working to fill a page with images. My trusty copier enlarges or reduces the designs and I combine different shapes in a multitude of ways. I print out the refined elements on copier paper, then cut them out with tiny scissors. The paper adheres nicely to the polymer sheet then it's cut out with a sharp scalpel blade, the shape is refined and then textured. I find that texturing after I cut out the shape helps to round the edges so there's less smoothing to do.

I'm starting a new series in my work titled “Heaven and Earth” and the earrings below are my first stab at that theme. Week 1 – 52 Earrings.

Raincloud Earrings, Heaven & Earth Series - 52 Earrings, Week 1
Polymer clay, Whim-Z Wire, vintage Japanese handblown glass beads, vintage celluloid spacers

 I liked the design and shape of this next pair-- Week 2-- but they needed something. I thought about resin, the newest tool in my design box, but I didn't want to mix up an entire batch without other pieces waiting to be 'resinated'. I just recycled some silver to Rio Grande (check out their quick turnaround on scrap metal) and removed some teensy diamonds from an old ring so I thought about using them. But then I remembered some vintage rhinestones I had and voila! that was just the perfect touch. Just funky enough to work with the polymer and keep the price range reasonable. I like the contrast between the textured and patinated clay and the old rhinestone. Just enough bling for me.

Tidepool Earrings - 52 Earrings, Week 2
Polymer clay, gilders paste, Whim-Z Wire, vintage rhinestones

 So I'm on to Week 3 and the ones I'm working on already have a name--Little Crazy Earrings. I'm using some very strange elements for these but hey, I'm having fun and that's really the name of the game. Check out 52 Earrings on Flickr, there's still time to play along.


  1. I really want to start on that challenge as well but it is going to have to wait until afer my mom's surgery. I can't take any more on right now. I love the earrings you made! Very different.

  2. Both pairs are wonderful - feeling more drawn to the Rainclouds, though, so beautiful! Looking forward to seeing how the earrings develop through this challenge!

  3. Thank you, Christine, for your blog post about the 52 earrings!!! It is so great to learn a bit more about your process of cration, and you are definitly right: my wish has been granted .... ;-))
    Looking forward to see more of your inspiring work!

  4. These are some amazing earrings! Not some simple put-together things! Wow!

  5. Christine, I'm with you about New Year's resolutions, although I do have goals. :-)
    What an ambitious undertaking - 52 earrings! After seeing the beautiful earrings you created for the 12 Days - I know you are more than capable of keeping up with this challenge, and I look forward to seeing your work. Your first two sets are really great - trying to decide which is my favorite. I do like the addition of the rhinestones, what a nice, unexpected touch.

  6. They look very different and funky good for the youthful teenagers who like attractive pieces like these.Could be nice gifts also for someone you love.