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.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Repurposed Sweaters

I'm not sure why....
but years ago, 
I began to collect wool sweaters.
There was a vague idea that I would transform them
into something else,
but I had no clear plan when I decided to begin this woolen odyssey.
I fear these could be the opening lines to a horrifying documentary on hoarding.

Each sweater was felted by repeated cycles in the washing machine and dryer and then placed in a large storage tub.
Eventually, two storage tubs were filled with sweaters,
waiting for a plan.

I considered making mittens,
but then thought, 
"Ugh...opposable thumbs.
Too much cutting and sewing maneuvering."
Yes...I can be lazy and impatient with some of my creative endeavors.
I briefly considered making hats,
but having previously been down that path using fleece,
I kept pushing that idea to the back of the line.

Then...
helping out at Sweet Mabel a few weeks ago,
I realized what the plan would be.

Beth Warren,
multi-talented mosaic and assemblage artist,
(https://www.facebook.com/BreakingTileMosaics/)
was wearing a wonderful scarf as she also worked at Sweet Mabel.
After commenting how much I admired her scarf,
Beth told me that she had handcrafted it from a variety of
recycled sweaters.
She had made and sold a number of scarves,
but eventually ran out of her old sweater inventory,
bringing the scarf making industry to a gentle conclusion.

As we worked,
I kept thinking about the sweaters
that were accumulating back at my home.
I could definitely handle the straight lines of a scarf
and asked Beth
if she would mind if I gave the recycled scarf thing a try.

And so...
the plan was ready to go.
Yes,
I was busy getting ready for the holidays,
but I made time to prep for my scarf making by cutting apart a selection of sweaters.
Pieces of different sweaters were going to be sewn together
with a blanket stitch along the edges.

Not knowing how to do the blanket stitch...
I turned to YouTube.
After a few video tutorials and some practice stitching on a felted scrap,
I was ready.

My sweater carcasses were cut into strips,
and the sewing began.

modeling the first scarf...
which is now on its way to London.
More scarves coming soon.

 An example of Beth's wonderful talent...
 the landmark mosaic wall on
Sweet Mabel Studio
in Narberth, PA.
It's fabulous!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Handmade Holidays

It's that time of year...
I'm finally able to take a breath 
now that my creations are set loose in the 
local world.
If you are the type that appreciates unique, handmade gifts for family, friends and yourself,
there are several wonderful options to shop local
if you happen to be local to me.

I set up my jewelry display
for the
The show is open through December 10.

My jewelry is also featured...
in the Holiday Store at
The Musem Gift Shop is open year round, 
but the Holiday Store is open until it reverts back to an art gallery on January 1.

Sweet Mabel's annual show,
will stay open through the end of December.
My contribution to the show include these small oils.

Other paintings are on display
in a 
The display will remain hanging through January 2, 2017.

If you don't live near me,
there are probably wonderful options to support 
local artists and local businesses 
in most communities.


Happy Handmade Holidays!


Sunday, November 20, 2016

New Bangles With Dangles

Preparing for a couple of upcoming holiday shows has me busy at my workbench,
building up my inventory.
In addition to the cuffs that I recently made,
a request came in for more bangles.
Part of my stash of recycled copper wire was pulled out for the job.
Most of the wire used for the bangles is a pretty hefty 10 gauge.
At that thickness, 
I have a difficult time manipulating the wire into shapes 
other than large circles or straight links....
perfect for bangles.

Each bangle has a wire wrapped briolette dangle of amethyst, amazonite or moonstone.
Once the dangles were attached,
I decided that the brightness of the copper was just way too bright,
so the liver of sulfur 
(or sulphur)
came out.

Those who make jewelry will probably know that a can of liver of sulfur 
might last for the length of ones' career....
unless moisture invades.
I had one of those cans of liver of sulfur for years 
and was always very careful to tightly secure the lid 
after very carefully removing a chip of the sulfur.
This level of carefulness worked well 
until it didn't.
When I prepared to treat some pieces of jewelry a few years ago,
I opened the can of sulfur and immediately saw that it had gone bad.
In spite of precautions that I had taken,
I found myself with a can of useless, 
somewhat smelly, rocks.
I immediately ordered more liver of sulfur.

Instead of a can,
I received a small, plastic container with a red lid.
I removed enough of the sulfur to treat a collection of jewelry pieces, 
replaced the red lid 
and put the plastic container away.
A week later,
I prepared to treat some more jewelry 
and found that this second container had gone bad as well.

This second disappointment luckily coincided with
BeadFest being in town.
I put liver of sulfur on my shopping list of supplies
and chose to buy the gel form.
I've now had this container for several years with no problems 
other than the inherent stinkiness.

The copper bangles turned to the expected blackness.
Sulfur success!
After wiping the bangles with a soft cotton rag,
they were cleaned with a fine grit sanding block.

Much improved, 
and my Bangles with Dangles are ready for the holidays.