Friday, May 5, 2017

From the Mighty Oak

Always on the lookout for interesting textures to incorporate into my jewelry,
I recently found a well preserved white oak leaf, 
left over from last year's growing season.
Oak leaves are generally pretty tough, 
making this one a potential candidate for my rolling mill.

The leaf was sandwiched between two pieces of annealed copper
and then rolled through the mill.
Because I used a thin gauge of copper to get a good imprint,
I planned to solder the newly formed leaf 
onto a piece of metal that had been previously etched 
in order to have a finished product 
with enough substance to maintain its shape.

I tried to be smart about my soldering 
and began by sweat soldering pieces of easy solder on to the back of the leaf.
After cleaning the leaf in pickle,
it was fluxed and placed on a piece of etched nickel....
also fluxed.
While these are relatively large pieces of metal,
I wasn't overly concerned
since neither is of a heavy gauge.

Well...
I guess I should have been a bit more concerned
since things did not work out the way I had planned.
Some of the solder flowed, 
and some of it didn't.
The flux must have been burned off
because no matter how much heat was applied,
I couldn't seem to get more of the solder to do what I wanted it to do.
I know I could have taken the partially connected assembly apart, 
pickled it
and start again...
but I just didn't want to.
I made the executive decision that this would be a 
partly soldered/mostly riveted piece.
Holes were drilled in strategic locations...
and rivets were made with short segments of sterling wire.

When I first found the white oak leaf,
I thought that maybe it could inspire a necklace.
It quickly became apparent 
that the copper version was a bit too mighty to wear around the neck.
Second option...
a bracelet.

The riveted, layered leaf was formed 
with a plastic mallet and my oval bracelet mandrel.
I feared that some of the rivets might pop as the leaf 
was bent and pounded into shape,
but...
all connections held tight.
Sigh of relief!

Back to the garden 
to search for more millable leaves!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Keeping My Reluctant Resolution

Trying to earn money as an artist/craftsperson 
requires an ongoing search for display opportunities.
Since there is no financial benefit 
from being the largest collector of one's own work, 
contact with the world outside my home studio does need to be made.
While I typically ignore the urge to make New Year's resolutions,
I did resolve to apply to more shows in 2017.

As expected, 
I'm already experiencing mixed results 
from staying true to my resolution.

My lack of confidence keeps me from painting the figure,
but I forced myself out of my comfort zone 
so I could enter a recent show, 
'Body Language', 
at Chester County Art Association.
My painting,
'Monday Morning',
was juried into the show.
It didn't sell, 
but I'll view getting into the show as a positive.

I entered the maximum allowed four paintings 
into the upcoming juried show at Main Line Art Center.
All four paintings were rejected.
Ouch.

I was a bit stymied when I saw that 
Beauty Art Gallery in Newtown Square 
was having a juried show with the theme 
'The Art of Music'.
How would I capture music in a painting?
I decided to go abstract and entered two pieces.
 'One Note'
'Many Notes'
Both paintings were juried into the show
and each painting received an award.

The upcoming juried show at 
Wallingford Community Art Center
has the theme
'Pattern'.
I again decided that I might best relate to the theme 
with something abstract,
and chose to work on top of a misguided mixed-media piece 
that I began years ago.
Without any idea of where I was going,
I started by adding layers of both transparent and opaque colors.
Why had I collaged a vintage image of businessmen 
in front of a Roman aqueduct?
I don't know,
but that earlier work began to disappear 
as I thought that stripes would be my answer to the show's theme.

Using acrylics, 
I kept applying paint,
adding texture,
evaluating the balance of color and shapes...
until I felt that the individual components
worked together as an implied pattern of cohesiveness.
While the aqueduct is no longer visible,
I like how the heads of the underlying businessmen
can still be detected.

The above painting, 
along with my second study of stripes
will both be entered next Monday for jurying.

Fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Imperfectly Beautiful

My ongoing search for vintage, silver plated platters 
led me to a local thrift store this morning.
I found no platters,
but did find a couple of treasures that I bought.

This beautiful ring had some significant problems 
which is why it was tagged at the surprisingly low price of 
$4.00.
But....
it's sterling 
and turquoise
and lovely.

The chip in the turquoise?
Yes,
it's there
and no,
it doesn't bother me.
I would never try to sell one of my pieces with a defect like this,
but I'm happy to add this ring to my personal stash.

In addition to the chip, 
the shank of the ring was quite mangled,
making it practically impossible to fit most fingers.

No problem...
when you have the right tools and the right know-how.

Using my ring mandrel and my favorite hammer,
the shank was persuaded back in to wearable shape.

The other treasure that came home with me
is a brass vase with a beautiful patina.

Bright and shiny is rarely appealing to me.
I tend to gravitate to those older items 
that are faded, rusty and otherwise marred.
Those are the items that have history and a story to tell.
Those are the items that speak to my soul.

Also...
priced at 50¢, 
this item spoke to my frugality.

Paired with Narcissus from my front yard,
this vase is perfect.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Little Bit Ranty Today

So….
feeling a bit ranty today.

Sunday was spent with two of my siblings,
visiting a charming town that’s filled with antique stores, galleries and restaurants.
It was a lovely day…
except for the part of the afternoon 
when I allowed myself to feel irritated 
by an exchange I overheard in one of the shops.

This particular shop was filled with lots of wonderful, handcrafted items, 
some by local artists whose work I recognized. 
We were in the shop for around 25 minutes, 
and one of the salespersons kept busy with another customer for the entire time. 
I was impressed with the employee’s professional dedication 
as she worked with a customer 
who appeared to be interested in making a purchase 
but was seized with indecisiveness.

The employee and customer were by the checkout area 
when my sister was making her purchase, 
and I watched as different pieces of original, framed art 
were hung on the wall for the customer’s consideration. 
She was clearly interested in one of the pieces 
and asked if there was any 
‘wiggle room’ 
with the price.

That’s when my internal voice said, 
“Oh, please. Really?!”

Moments like this can bring out my judgmental side, 
and I freely admit to assessing the Prada baby stroller she was pushing, 
tricked out with a nice assortment of accessories 
and the lovely clothing she was wearing. 
I know, I know….
I’m making assumptions, 
but this woman did not present a picture 
of someone living a life of financial struggle.

I am acquainted with quite a few people 
who dedicate their lives to creative pursuits. 
While I can’t speak to other’s motivations, 
I feel like I’m wired to create. 
I’m a maker. 
The financial rewards are limited, 
and I appreciate that is the trade-off 
for the powerful satisfaction I can feel 
when my hands take raw materials and turn them into jewelry 
or when I translate an emotion into a painting.

Decades of learning, exploring, failing and growing 
go into each piece that I create. 
Assigning a price to each of those pieces is quite humbling; 
it is done very thoughtfully. 
In most retail settings, 
the artist gets 50% of the selling price. 
That percentage will sometimes be 40% 
when the arrangement is by consignment. 
I know they exist, 
but I do not personally know any artist 
who is getting rich off of his or her art. 
My guess is that most of them would say that’s fine, 
but I would also guess 
that most of them want to do more than just barely survive.

I have no doubt 
that the artist whose paintings were being considered yesterday 
worked hard to create the pieces that were matted and framed. 
I know that the store owners and employees 
were working hard 
to create a wonderfully curated selection of items 
in a beautiful setting. 
When someone asks if there’s ‘wiggle room’ in the price, 
that wiggle means less money for the artist or the shop, 
or both. 

I could feel a twitch developing in my left eye 
as I fought the urge to turn to the customer and say, 
“Just pay the price, already!”

But....
I do know how to behave in public.

I remained quiet until we left the shop, 
and I turned to my sister and said, 
“Oh, please! Really?!”

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Lansdowne Theater Project Part I

Before moving to our current home,
my family lived in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania.
I enjoyed living there 
and continue to have a fondness for the community.
There is a wonderful diversity among the residents, 
and many are actively engaged in local politics 
as well as community activities and events.

During our 9 years in Lansdowne,
 I did the design for Sycamore Park
when the Borough secured the property to
protect one of the oldest trees, 
estimated to date to the mid 1600's, 
in Pennsylvania.

My family also took part in projects 
that improved the site designs 
of the Borough library 
and two war memorials that honor local veterans.

When you get involved in your community, 
you tend to meet some really wonderful people,
and we met the Schultz family, 
Matt and Judie and their daughter Helen.
A lifelong resident, 
Matt is committed to improving the community
and is the driving force behind the 
renovation of
the Lansdowne Theater.
photo by Brian Mengini
As Chief Executive Officer of the
Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation,
Matt has been using his organizational talents
to bring this jewel of a building back to life.

To learn more about this exciting project, 
please visit the 
Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation
website.

Several months ago,
Matt suggested a possible collaborative effort.
Would I consider creating original artwork
that might hopefully support and promote
the ongoing restoration of the
Lansdowne Theater?

My response...
"Let me think about it."
I'm aware of my strengths,
and maybe more significantly,
of my weaknesses.
I didn't want to commit to a project
unless I thought I could do proper justice to the mission.

Matt let me have access to the theater
so I could gather images
that would hopefully provide the necessary inspiration.

During my visit,
I took part in one of the fundraising efforts
and made a donation 
to have a message installed on the theater's marquee.
My message, 
'MAKE ART',
went up shortly after my photo gathering visit.

My initial sketches and painting studies 
left me underwhelmed 
as I struggled to find the right note.
I found myself thinking of the beautiful work by local artist,
Nancy Barch
Liberty 1 by Nancy Barch
and thought some of the techniques she has developed
might work nicely for my project.
As I reviewed Nancy's work online,
I realized she was offering a workshop at
Perfect timing....
and what an opportunity
to learn from a mixed media/collage master!

After the two days of the workshop, 
I now know a wide variety of techniques
that can be applied to the Lansdowne Theater project.
Feeling confident that I've found the right note,
I have numerous pieces in progress,
using images from my photo shooting visit
and of my
'MAKE ART'
marquee message.

Part II of this project to come soon.

Visit Nancy Barch's web site to find information about upcoming workshops.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Adventures With Cold Wax

Several years ago,
I took part in a two day encaustic workshop at a local art center.
I loved working with melted wax and pigments,
adding layer after layer
for an eventual painterly image that had a
luminous, ethereal appearance.
I've been tempted to further explore encaustics in my home studio,
but that temptation has been overruled by my concern 
about setting up a dedicated workspace with the proper ventilation.

Then I started hearing about cold wax.

I began searching for any information I could find about 
how to paint with cold wax and 
decided that I should sign up for a workshop.

Easier thought than done.

I found classes that were offered in 
North Carolina, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Ireland, Italy and France.
All lovely locations...
and all completely out of my humble reach.

And then I came across the work of 
I love her work!
'Moon Dance' by Linda Benton McCloskey
Linda's abstract paintings have ranges of color that speak to my creative soul...
'Heavens Above' by Linda Benton McCloskey
and richly textured surfaces that draw me in and make me want to stay.
'Sweet Grass' by Linda Benton McCloskey
How wonderful to find out that Linda also lives in Pennsylvania.
How not so wonderful that her studio is in Harrisburg,
around 110 miles away from me.

Then!!!

I found out that Linda sometimes offers a workshop at one of the art centers local to me.
I spent almost two years being disappointed that I couldn't make my schedule work with the several offerings only 20 minutes from my house.

Then!!!

I saw that Linda was offering another workshop.
This one was going to be at The Millworks
where her studio is located....
yes,
in Harrisburg.
I decided that I had thought about cold wax long enough.
It was time to commit to learning.
Yes,
in Harrisburg.

So....
for the three days of the workshop,
I drove back and forth
from my Delaware County home to Harrisburg,
and it was totally worth it.
Linda was generous with her knowledge
and taught the four of us who signed up,
a wide variety of techniques that I would have struggled to figure out on my own.

It was valuable to be part of a small group,
watching how the others took the same information 
and interpreted it with their unique perspectives.
My own perspective gravitated towards interpretations of landscapes,
both real and imagined.
Most of my work was done with a palette knife, a brayer and a dough scraper
which helped push me towards a more abstracted vision of my message.

It's sometimes a challenge to maintain the energy and creativity
found in a workshop setting.
Being under the tutelage of a 
respected and accomplished artist like Linda
and in the presence of others who are also driven to expand their skills,
helped to keep me focused and determined.

The workshop was just over one week ago
and I'm continuing to work with my new set of cold wax skills,
and....
I'm happy that I'm not driving back to Harrisburg.

If you're ever in Harrisburg,
consider checking out
a beautiful, historic building recently renovated
and now home to a collection of over thirty artist studios and 
a wonderful restaurant with an on-site brewery.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

New Pendant

Planning out projects at my workbench, 
I thought about a pendant that I made last year.
After practicing a texture on several copper discs, 
I soldered some on to a back plate of etched nickel, 
creating a pendant.
Considering the ongoing, internal conversation that I have 
about establishing a recognizable identity, 
I thought maybe this texture is something that I should revisit and expand.

The initial pendant was made with discs that I cut at 7/8" diameter.
My new project began with a 2" diameter disc.

With a workbench that sadly does not include a hydraulic press,
I began the process of shaping the 2" flat disc into a dome 
with repeated annealings and a succession of dapping punches. 

The domed disc was then textured, filed and sanded.
As with the initial pendant,
I planned to have a back plate for the dome.
Wanting to keep the back plate flat for the eventual soldering,
I chose to etch some 2" diameter discs.

In spite of working hard to make sure that I had two flat surfaces for flush contact,
it took four visits to the soldering bench to get the job done.
ugh!

Finally...
with the soldering completed,
the excess of the back plate was cut off
and the edge was filed and sanded.
A simple bail was soldered on to the back,
and...
the pendant is completed.

Time to make complementary earrings.