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.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Cuff Happy

After taking a long break from making cuffs,
I got a request for more cuffs.
Oh, the peculiar nature of things.

A few years ago,
I had discovered the techniques of fold forming
and was almost giddy with delight as I powered my way through the forming and shaping
of brass, bronze and copper cuffs.

Then....
not much happened.
While my cuffs generated a healthy amount of interest,
they did not generate a healthy number of sales.
Cuffs can be tricky.
They either fit well or they do not fit at all
which can make them a hard sell.

While I felt pride in the work I was doing,
I just couldn't justify keeping my focus on something that was not helping me to make money.
This may be another exercise in frustration,
but it's kind of fun getting back to the aggressive hammering required for fold forming.

I cut some blanks from a sheet of brass....
annealed and began folding and forming.

The 18 gauge brass that I used hardened quickly,
so I had to anneal numerous times.

Even with the repeated annealing,
the brass was a bear to manipulate.

I began shaping with a sinusoidal stake,
and was not able to get too far beyond that beginning.
I decided that was not a problem
since the limited forming on the stake
still resulted in a subtle, anticlastic curve that I find quite lovely.
No pickling was done
since I wanted to keep the natural patina that formed with the annealings,
but I did clean up the raised folding lines to create surface contrast.

Displaying cuffs has always been a bit of a challenge for me.
If I want them to sell,
the cuffs need to be viewed in a favorable setting
that hopefully makes them enticing.

A few months ago, I found a small box with 12 compartments at a local thrift store.
Priced at $2.00,
I was pretty sure I could figure out a way to repurpose the box.
Although the box was designed to be used in a vertical format,
I realized that in a horizontal format,
the compartments would be perfect niches for my cuffs.

To become compatible with the other pieces that I already use in my display,
I cut cubby-sized sections of foamboard
and covered them with cream colored burlap.

After painting the box white,
the burlap inserts were set in place.
And there you go.....
a proper cuff display.

More cuffs on the way!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Revisiting Old Work

With my assorted creative pursuits, 
I find that it helps to occassionally revisit earlier work.
Sometimes, 
that revisiting simply helps to affirm that I'm on a path that is evolving in a positive direction.
Other times, 
I see an opportunity to alter a piece, 
satisfying the new perspective that I have.

Around five years ago, 
I made earrings with recycled, textured brass soldered on to strips of recycled copper.
I liked the fact that I was repurposing materials and kept a pair for myself. 

As I was going through my personal stash of jewelry, 
I came across those earrings which have not been worn in around three years.
Natural oxidation left the metals tarnished, 
making the earrings less than perfect in appearance; 
however the bigger issue, in my mind, 
was the design.
The earring on the left is the original design from five years ago, 
and it makes me think, 
"Bleh!"
The strip of copper is too wide and graceless, 
making the earring appear heavy.
I pulled out a pair of metal shears and cut away some of the copper 
and then hammered the piece flat on one of my steel bench blocks.
The altered earring made me think, 
"Yes....much better. I would wear this."

From that original effort, 
I still had some of the prepared, soldered pieces of brass and copper 
that had never been made into earrings.
They were pull out, trimmed with the shears, filed and sanded.
For an even better, updated look, 
the newly shaped pieces were treatd in a liver of sulfur bath.

Now I have something I can work with!