Friday, December 28, 2012

Art Bead Scene December 2012 Challenge Submission

Just this month I discovered an exciting blog called Art Bead Scene. It is devoted to jewelry that features artisan handmade art beads like ceramic pendants, polymer clay beads, and my favorite - not that I'm biased - lampwork. If you follow me on Pinterest, you already know that I have a board devoted to Lampwork Jewelry, so to find a blog devoted to the topic was exciting to me. The blog hosts a monthly challenge to use art beads to create a piece of jewelry, which includes random giveaways to participants from various challenge sponsors. So, if you haven't heard of that yet, go check it out!

Given that my primary occupation at the moment is keeping an almost-4-year-old out of too much mischief, I'm always excited to find challenges to motivate me to create. So, when I saw this month's challenge I started pondering designs right away. This month's inspiration was Erté's 1983 Serigraph Sleeping Beauty.

I was struck right away by the soft blue and white in the sky and snow, and the contrast with the carmine dress on Sleeping Beauty. So, I created a lampwork bead with the same red and used some careful stringer work and fill-in to create designs on the bead that reflected the folds and drifts of snow seen on the dress.

December 2012 Art Bead Scene Challenge

Since I loved the contrast between the red and blue, I realized I could use beadwork to bring in color and detail to support the focal bead. The main beadwork feature that I envisioned was a blue herringbone rope with irridescent white beads interspersed to represent the falling flakes of snow, if for no other reason than I always feel compelled to have clean lines in my work, even if as only one part of the whole design. Because of some of the organic features of the serigraph, like the floral vines, I thought the design would look too confined if that was the only element I used to support the focal bead. So, to bring in an organic feel I connected individual strings of beads to the main rope. To help cement the organic, viney feel, I occasionally connected the bead strings with peyote stitch. I also used peyote stitch to connect all of the strings together at the end, so I could create a tube and finish the end of that side in the same way as the herringbone rope side.

December 2012 Art Bead Scene Challenge

Because I discovered the challenge in mid-December, then with Christmas, I had to hustle to get a clasp that would complement the design I was creating. So, I ended up creating a toggle clasp in Polymer clay. I liked the idea of the leaf shape because it complemented the shape of the focal bead as well as the vines and flowers that were part of the design. In a perfect world I would have created a leaf-shaped lampwork button in the same color with the same white designs. If I do make one, I'll replace the toggle loop with an open 3D peyote 'leaf', ala Marcia DeCoster, in red and white.

December 2012 Art Bead Scene Challenge

The finishing details were my main struggle. Though I'm great at imagining a finished piece, I have to play around to get a sense of the details. The first details that I filled in were the small loops I used to connect the focal bead to the rope. Because the area where I connected the bead strands to the main rope looked unfinished, I carried loops up the rope to hide the connection points. The black and gold/brown colors were chosen from the accent colors found in Sleeping Beauty's dress. I think if I were to go back and do touch-ups, I'd add some longer loops to fill in a little better, though at the time I didn't want to overwhelm the blue and red with too much black and brown.

December 2012 Art Bead Scene Challenge

The next detail was to do the same looping detail technique to hide the connection points where I attached the red beads that hold the toggle clasp. Finally - and this was the detail that I most wanted to include but was most unsure how to execute, was adding in the vines and flowers. Originally I'd been thinking I'd add those vines to the rope side to make it feel less formal, but the small peyote connections between the bead strands provided the solution in the end. I used those peyote patches as the stages from which I strung the black twist bugle beads and white daisies.

December 2012 Art Bead Scene Challenge

In all, while I obviously took liberties, I feel like you can tell this necklace was inspired by this specific piece of art, which is an important part of the challenge for me. I hope you enjoy it!

December 2012 Art Bead Scene Challenge

December 2012 Art Bead Scene Challenge

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Is it wrong to feel a complex coming on?

I'd spend some time trying to explain where I've been (mentally), or what I've been up to (physically), but if you've been on pinterest at all then you already know.

It started with the garage-to-studio remodel. The walls are all sheetrocked and painted. The ceiling mostly done. But, by the time I got to that point it was too cold for me to ask people to come and take some classes with me and my propane space heater. So, that bit will have to wait until spring. Just as well. Mentally I've been desperate to better define myself as an artist. Teaching out of stores, as I've done for the last six-and-a-half years, it was up to me to teach how to use what was in the store. Now that I'm taking the time to create my own studio, I feel like (1) I need a little more street cred to pull this off and so I need to start creating some more work, spend some time being productive, making a new masterpiece or two and (2) I really need to contemplate what it is that I want to teach. Right now I don't have a roadmap for my students (except for one young braniac, you know who you are, my padawan) and I feel like I need to be really excited about where I want my students to go ... at least in a more specific way than that it involves more than one kind of torch. Right now I feel like my body of work has been stagnant for too long for me to be excited about any of it.

More and more my ADD whispers to me (in an incessant, unignorable, Pee Wee Herman "I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I" kind of way) that I need to broaden my horizons; that I'll get bored if I try to focus on one thing, like sensible people who want to master something would do. In the recesses of my mind I understand that if I don't make things interesting for myself and explore beyond my current horizons I'm more likely to wake up in a rage of hating everything, making mastery of anything a moot point.

I've been working hard at getting my beadwork more advanced, my detailed/3D wirewrapping more advanced, my lampworking more advanced, along with experiments with leather, polymer clay, adhesives (though I've eschewed vehmently them in the past), found objects ... all while trying to envision how to bring them together in my own way. Of course, pedagogically, I know that won't happen until I can do all of the above without thinking. And, so I progress through the pedantic, reading tutorials and scanning pinterest to figure out the range of these crafts, what techniques I didn't know about, how to execute them, how to manipulate them, and who I can learn from.

So, enter Pinterest. My muse. Oh, how you know the soul of the artist, you siren. Did you know that the former Eastern Bloc is the nexus of the wireworking world?

(Iza Malczyk, Poland)

(Alba1980, wire_ru)

Oh, we have some gifted artists here in the US (e.g. Sarah Thompson and Nicole Hanna), but O.M.G. It's comparable to Germany for lampworkers. Maybe it's the culture that artists in those particular fields in those particular places are somehow incapable of accepting and posting work that is anything less than groundbreaking perfection. Maybe it's that there are some truly gifted and prolific teachers in those places. Perhaps both. But the phenomena doesn't seem to be isolated. Do you know how many Hungarian sites Google has had to translate for me when I've been researching talented beadweavers? More than any other language, let me tell you. Apparently people went to impressive lengths to do more with less behind the Iron Curtain. I'm on the verge of a serious complex. There's SO much to learn about so many things that I feel Socratic when I say that what I'm really learning is how little I know.

Oh, don't you worry. The practical side of me will keep plugging away. I don't let Zeno's Paradox keep me from making progress. What I can say is that, while I've been silent, it's been because I've been truly busy on many fronts and I'm on the threshold of some really new work. I'm excited. For now, I have been trying to put things in my Etsy store, so check in there from time to time. And for anyone that was hoping for fall classes - I apologize, but come the spring I'll have some really exciting things waiting!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Video Review: The Jewelry Architect by Kate McKinnon

Let me begin by saying that, generally speaking, I joyfully advocate the high quality of information that Kate McKinnon presents. Selfishly, I felt that it was vindication for all of the technical information that I force my students to endure so that their pieces are strong, durable, and beautiful. If you want to know how to create connections in your jewelry that are strong, durable, and beautiful, the book and video set is well worth the investment. The target audience is the inquisitive beginner and intermediate jewelry artist. As an advanced jewelry artist (versus, say, super expert), I didn't find anything super new to me in here, but some of the tips alone made the purchase worthwhile. So, I think this set would be a good investment to jewelry artists of many levels. Since there's a lot to cover for both the book and the video, i'll start with the video here.

The video was the first thing that I looked at. It started with an overview of her goal in jewelry which is to ensure that connections are strong and beautiful, without physical stress on the connection points - that you need to aproach jewelry making like a structural engineer. While that is a seductive statement to me, some may find that thought indimidating, but they shouldn't. As is made clear in the sections that follow, she uses clear language and concrete techniques to help you achieve amazingly strong and durable (and beautiful) jewelry.

The first technique-specific section of the video is about stringing. Some of what she covers in the section include the materials and tools she prefers and why, the core techniques, and important information that you need to know to create a beautiful and durable piece of jewelry. The next video section is about beadwork and she gives her number on rule, and several other suggestions, for making durable beadwork. Next is a section about fiber and some of her innovative thoughts about how to create secure connections between fiber and chain. Metal clay follows and here she explains that her focus in the medium has been to explore what metal clay and only metal clay could accomplish and goes on to give examples. She explains that being able to embed a post into metal clay is one of the moat helpful advantages of metal clay and does a brief, but very informative, demo. Wire is the next section and she starts off by giving a demo of how to make a double wrapped connection, and then a second demo about how to wire wrap pearls so that you don't damage the surface of the pearl. The last demo she gives is how to use wire wrapped pearls to make a really neat "pearl explosion" pendant.

Most of what bothered me about the video did so because I'm an anally retentive nit picker. If you're not, I doubt any of the following will bother you other than, perhaps, reading through it so I won't distress you by presenting my issues in great detail. The few things there were that bothered me were more about technique and/or a stated or implied argument that her way was the best and only way. As an artist who has strong feelings about right ways and wrong ways to do something, like Ms. McKinnon, I may have been hearing what she was saying in a more critical manner than I should have allowed. But, what I want to make clear to less experienced jewelry artists is that, like Ms. McKinnon asks in the video: think about what you're doing and why, there is more than one way to solve a problem in an aesthetic and structurally sound way. So, some of the things I would discuss with my students in conjunction with an examination of this book would be:

  • The use of crimp covers versus the method presented in the video

  • Why tucking the end of the wire has two legitimate (structural and non-structural) purposes

  • Why you don't need to bend the wire 90-degrees to get the perfect circle on a wrapped loop and

  • Why, when using sterling silver, it is a legitimate concern not to want to waste wire and how to cut the precise amount you need

  • Again, so far I overwhelmingly advocate the utility of this set. I think she presents a wide range of useful and exciting information. Since I've already had quite a bit to say about the video, I'll continue my review of the accompanying book in my next post.

    Sunday, July 8, 2012

    Beads of Courage

    Today I am spending a lot of time organizing my studio space. It was my great fortune to acquire a lot of beading findings as we were cleaning the back room of Knits & Pearls. In the midst of organizing I came across some old large-holed beads that I made a few years ago. They were beads I had decided not to sell because of size, color, or design. So, as I came across them again I realized that there were some people out there that might appreciate them: the children in the Beads of Courage program.

    For Beads of Courage

    What is the beads of courage program? From their website,
    The Program is a resilience-based intervention designed to support and strengthen children and families coping with serious illness. Through the program children tell their story using colorful beads as meaningful symbols of courage that commemorate milestones they have achieved along their unique treatment path.

    Even if you're not a beadmaker, if you have children and are thankful for their health, this may be a program worth considering for your charitable donations.

    Saturday, July 7, 2012

    Working On Something New

    Now that I have more time to work on new designs I'm very, very excited to say that I've expanded my repertoire to include fine gem beads and stones. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time and now have enough time! While I plan to continue producing jewelry with standard semi-precious gemstones and my lampwork beads, better defining and expanding those lines of jewelry, the fine gems will allow me to compete for some of the luxury jewelry business that's out there ... if I can resist the urge to keep them all for myself. Yay!

    07032012 - pearl, diamond, laboradite, spinel, sterling silver - art shot

    The top two gemstone beads in each earring are rough DIAMONDS! Pearl briolettes, laboradite, seed pearls, and black spinel round out the gemstone contingent. All of the metal is sterling (0.925) or fine (0.999) silver.

    The gemstone cluster look is pretty popular right now and it definitely appeals to me. I love the long, lean, and sparkly look! What do you think?

    Sunday, July 1, 2012

    Knits & Pearls Is Closed - A New Chapter Begins

    Knits & Pearls, where I was the primary beading and jewelry expert and instructor for the past two years, is now closed. While there is always some uncertainty in change, I've always been someone that embraces the possibilities of the future. So, I'm pretty stoked about having more time (okay, so only one day a week, but one more than before) to focus on bringing my own designs to life.

    At Knits & Pearls, while I was always proud of the work I did there, I felt like I had to be conservative in my designs so they would appeal to more of our customers. While that's not a bad lesson to remember, I have been itching to try more avant garde design elements and work on pieces that involve more complex and technical techniques than I was able to do for the work I did at Knits & Pearls.

    c koop bangle bracelet

    I also feel like I've entered a proving ground. This is my opportunity to take control of my time and structure it in a way that allows me to make Autochthonous Evolved truly profitable. For me, this particularly means to take social media more seriously, to be more consistent in sharing my ideas. For example, I embrace the fact that I'm pretty critical about technique and execution in my own work and in that of other professionals, but now I have the opportunity to take the time to explain why it takes more to be a jewelry artist than being able to make something pretty, why it's important to perfect technique and understand the capabilities and limitations of different materials, and what elements contribute to the wearability of a design. As someone that spent a lot of time, effort, and money learning how to be an effective teacher, I certainly hope that I have useful knowledge I can contribute to my fellow artists; and selfishly, I hope to help potential customers understand what lies beneath the surface of my designs and what makes them stand out.

    So, what should you expect from this blog in the future? I plan weekly book reviews. I plan weekly jewelry redesigns - taking some of my old, embarassing designs and talking about what I considered when remaking them. I plan technical briefs: information on metals, stringing materials, adhesives ... to do experiments on the things we use to make jewelry and share my results to help us all make more enduring jewelry.

    Above all, I'm really excited about this next chapter of my career and I hope you'll join me for this new leg of my journey!