Friday, May 25, 2012

Button, button, who's got the ......?

Cindy Wimmer's Button Blog Hop a few weeks ago really got my button-related creative juices started. My partner in this button love-fest, Celeste Thurston, had sent me a package filled with more buttons than I could use in just one creation. Since I work a lot with the color red, I decided to finish up a piece that I started over two years ago.

Starting with a polymer clay mokume gane blend of red, green, white, black, pink and cream I covered a quantity of beads with slices from the mokume stack, placing them over a base of red and gold. I had a lot of the mokume blend left over so I amused myself with building a long cylinder bead (4”), intending at some point to wrap it in wire. The resulting beads were reminiscent of gypsy bandannas and I sold several sets on Etsy. Then the leftovers sat in a bag.

Gypsy beads

 About a year ago I found the Gypsy beads again and began building a necklace base, using some red flower-shaped Czech glass beads with Picasso finish-- my favorite!--older twisty gold polymer spacers, early faux coral polymer beads and some experiments with Maggie Maggio's watercolor technique for polymer which I adapted to my own eclectic style.

Watercolor bead

The long cylinder bead proved difficult to position in a design, since it needed to hang vertically in the piece. My idea for the wire wrap evolved into a beaded wire twist, which not only added color to the cylinder but also morphed its shape into something more interesting.

Gypsy cylinder bead

Again, the necklace sat, waiting for .....something.... to motivate me to finish it. Then inspiration struck.

For the Button Challenge I had made a complex polymer base for the Bakelite buckle from Celeste which had Mayan overtones (for me). I decided to made another base to support a red Bakelite bead from my stash and stage two more buttons from Celeste on top-- a Bakelite cream fluted and a red Czech one. But this time I decided to go with a round design to play up the shape of the buttons. I layered and sliced and built and then antiqued the focal in various colors before glueing on the buttons.

While all this was coming together, Douglas was viewing a program called “Ancient Aliens” about the recent discovery of a massive complex of buildings beneath the waters of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, near an amazing pre-Inca ancient temple site called Tiahuanaco. One of the images made him call me into the living room to look: it was the image of a god with a halo of shapes very similar to my focal!

Tiahuanaca image


I never turn my back on synchronicity so I looped two large jumprings from a chain purchased at Michael's through some convenient holes in the focal and my long process was completed. I named it “Stone in the Center” to honor the temple site, Tiahuanaca, and the deep and mysterious lake in the Andes Mountains. When modern meets ancient, the two can make some real design drama together.

"Stone in the Center"

Sunday, May 13, 2012

All Buttoned Up!

What do Mayan stone carvings and red Bakelite have in common?

Not much, you would think but lately I've been perusing a book on Alexander Calder's jewelry, a fascinating look into the artistic mind of a genius whose iconic sculptures changed the artistic world of the 20th century. He made wire jewelry as gifts, each one a tiny masterpiece of form and design. So I've been steeping myself in mid-century styles and influences, mostly tribal and primitive.

I was lured away from my new avian buddies – 45 chicks which arrived peeping at my door courtesy of the USPS a few weeks ago --by the promise of new and unknown buttons chosen from a stranger's stash. And of a fun design challenge/Button Blog Hop hosted by my good friend Cindy Wimmer.

I found myself happily paired with Celeste Thurston, whom I met at ArtBliss last year. We chatted about our button collections—where we collect, what we like to collect and what are our favorites to collect--one of the best entertainments of a button swap. We both like to make molds from our buttons to use with polymer clay and neither one of us shies away from “large” so Celeste suggested she send a Bakelite belt buckle in red and amber that she had. I have a fabulous stash of red buttons of varying shapes that I scored at a flea market one summer-- one of the excellent finds of all times-- that I knew contained some red Bakelite I could combine with the buckle.

When the buckle arrived, it was magnificent – large, colorful, shiny-- and square! I'm not a 'square' person-- I don't like angles but I adore curves. How to incorporate this intriguing shape into my design sensibility? I decided to do a polymer clay background, using a technique I stumbled upon while messing around with unconditioned clay one rainy day.

Faux Bakelite Primitive

I liked the freeform way that the holes appeared when the slices were stacked so I did the same thing using ecru clay, building a flat background layer, then stamping and antiquing it. Reminded me of Mayan stonework when I was finished. So I kept the theme going and made some beads using the same technique to pull the whole thing together into the stringing. I raided my bead stash for some leopard skin jasper and found some older beads I had made with the same colorway, added some red crenellated Bakelite beads from the famous Red Button Stash, some bronze African cage rounds and rings from a Michael's chain to hook it all together.

I was planning to add some other red Bakelite shapes to the center front of the buckle and use E6000 to glue the whole thing together. I usually like to use wirework or rivets to join pieces but the smooth modern finish of the buckle seemed to need a minimal treatment. When Douglas got home from work, I proudly displayed my creation and he said “It almost looks like a face, with that center line as the nose”. A face! Perfect! Celeste had included an interesting long Bakelite bead with a gear around the center and that made the ideal nose for my 'little man'. An ochre Bakelite gear button was the base for one eye and coral rounds made up the rest. Very Picasso-like, I thought. “Pablo” was born. Thanks, Cindy for hosting such a fun challenge and thank you, Celeste, for the gift of my wonderful buckle and supporting buttons. Happy Mother's Day!


Please visit all the other participants' blogs to see what they did with their buttons-- here's the link to Cindy's page (can't seem to load this list!)