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.

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

Beth Warren,
multi-talented mosaic and assemblage artist,
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.
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.

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.
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, 
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!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Etching to Earrings

Preparations for upcoming holiday shows had me busy etching metal last week, 
using some of my current, favorite patterns.
Last month's Art Festival and recent deliveries to shops has left my inventory of earrings completely depleted, 
so earring making is at the top of my 
To-Do List.

After a thorough post-etching cleaning,
I punched out a small disc from some of the pieces.
Each piece had been assessed to determine the most appropriate balance, 
and I used a template to mark the location to be punched.
This extra step of marking the punch location is worthwhile since I find it challenging to accurately situate metal in my disc cutter.
The traced circle lets me double check my placement before hammering with confidence on the punch.

Once I had accurately punched the discs,
they were drilled, domed and sanded...
ready to become earrings.

With wire wrapped gemstones and sterling earwires,
the discs are coming off my workbench, 
ready for someone to find them irresistible.

Monday, July 18, 2016

This Used To Be a Nude

This 11 x 14 oil painting is what came off of my easel last night.
It actually started off as a life study painting of a model 
as I tried to see if I might have it in me 
to consider submitting to an upcoming juried show,
at Wayne Art Center.
Since I now have an abstracted landscape I'm calling
Frozen Dream,
you can guess how that went.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Revisiting Some Paintings

As I prepare for several shows that are scheduled for later this year,
I'm pulling out old paintings that are not ready for public viewing. 
Some of the paintings are incomplete, temporarily abandoned when I either hit the wall of frustration or allowed myself to be sidetracked by a newer inspiration.
And then there are the paintings that I had previously considered complete but now realize
that I could have/should have done a better job.

This painting, from a couple of years ago, falls into the latter catagory.   
A photograph in my pile of "Images for Art" provided the inspiration as did the movie 'Take Shelter', which features some dramatic, stormy skies.
If you haven't seen that movie, starring Michael Shannon, I highly recommend it.

I took some liberties with the image
and felt happy with my painting.

a couple of years has made a difference with my perspective and presumably with my level of skill.
Looking at the old painting,
I now think that the sky is pretty dreadful.
The only thing that I do like is the thin band of light blue at the horizon,
And speaking of the horizon...
I now don't like how it is located almost at the center of the painting.
Moving the horizon up or down would almost certainly introduce a more satisfying dynamic to the image.

Also, the dark, stormy atmosphere wasn't working for me anymore.
With an abundance of conflict swirling around in daily news,
I decided I wanted this painting to take on a new personality.

I keep my camera in my car in case I see a sky that I want to remember and have quite a few images of clouds on file.
This particular cloud cluster over the football field of our community high school....
seemed like a good candidate to inform and guide me as I revised the stormy sky.

The horizon was dropped a bit.
The tire tracks shifted slightly.

The sky and the field brightened,
and the clouds became friendlier.
A little more work is needed,
but I'm feeling better about allowing this painting to be viewed by the public.

Also reworked...
this painting from a workshop a few years ago.
I abandoned it when I got frustrated with the shadows.
 As I recently looked at it with a more knowing eye,
I realized that I had created a scene where the sun was shining from both the left side and right side of the painting.
No wonder I was confused!

I am now wiserer.
The shadows now make sense,
and I now like this a bit more....
maybe enough to allow public viewing.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rookie Mistake

A few weeks ago, I came up with a new necklace design.
This is not one of those designs that began with a clear vision;
 it evolved as I went along.
I cut out a large circle from a sheet of 24 gauge brass and textured the surface with one of my old, flea market chisels.
Sitting on my workbench were parts that I had made for portal charms, intending to use them for more bracelets.
Bringing a portal charm and the large brass disc together seemed like a good idea.
After doming the brass disc and soldering a bail on the back, 
the portal charm was riveted in place with segments of sterling wire.

I had an appointment to deliver new inventory to Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia 
and planned to bring the necklace.
It seemed like a good idea to have some companion pieces for the necklace,
but that meant I had to work fast to develop that idea and then make something.


I cut out smaller brass discs, 
textured them with the same chisel, 
domed them and soldered sterling bezels in the center.
The bangle portion was cut from 14 gauge brass wire and shaped on my circular bracelet mandrel.
What a rookie mistake!
Once the wire bangles were shaped and work hardened,
I soldered them to the formed discs.
Cabochons were set in the bezels
and the metal was cleaned.
I was so pleased that I finished the bracelets in time for my appointment
but then realized what an error I had made in using the circular mandrel.
The weight of the disc makes the bracelet slip down,
completely hiding the featured texture and bezeled cabochon.

I should have used my oval bracelet mandrel,
creating a form that would have sit comfortably on the wrist without freely slipping around.
These lovely looking bracelets are still on my workbench,
waiting for me to revise the design to make them functional and marketable.

My other rookie mistake of the week...
leaving a mixed metal piece in the pickle pot for a few too many days.
I forgot it was there.

The word of the week...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Blocking, and Reblocking, a New Painting

I blocked out the beginning of a new painting a few nights ago
and thought,
"All right... 
this could possibly be the beginning of something worthwhile."
And then I really looked at it.

I was using a photograph for inspiration,
and realized that I had diverged from the image in some significant ways.
Diverging is not inherently a bad thing,
after all, 
a painting is not a photograph.

diverging can be a bad thing 
if the changes are not making an improvement.
My first session had everything a bit too high on the canvas
with the net effect of minimizing the sky...
not a good thing.
The expansiveness of the sky 
is one of the things that I find compelling about this photo.

I went to my easel last night to reblock the image.

Since I was primarily interested in getting the elements more properly situated,
I put only three colors of paint on my palette.
That limited palette was also a factor of my frugality.
The layout still needs quite a bit of finessing,
but I think that this updated version 
better captures the essence of the photograph.

More work, 
with more paint selections, 
later tonight.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Happy Clients Are a Gift

After being the selected landscape architect for a project in northern Pennsylvania over 20 years ago, I never had to promote my business.
The initial clients continued to hire me for a series of projects in Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey, New York and Nevada.
One happy client can often be the most effective path to more work and hopefully,
more happy clients.

Because of that first Pennsylvania project,
I was hired to develop a Master Plan for a community park in northern New Jersey.
The local Garden Club funded the Master Plan, so I ended up coordinating with the club's President which led to a nice friendship. 
The President and her husband eventually left New Jersey, relocating to a plateau on the edge of Rapid City, South Dakota.
During a post-move phone conversation, President mentioned that their new home needed a completely revamped landscape but she had yet to find anyone in Rapid City to develop a design.
That's when I said,
"You know....there are airplanes that can solve problems like that."
I was hired.

Rapid City presented a landscape significantly different from any that I had previously worked with.
The soil on the plateau is very acidic and very dry.
The winters can be bitterly cold and the summers, staggeringly hot and dry.
The winds are powerful and the threat of a wildfire constantly hovers.
I visited nurseries to understand the local plant palette and noted which trees, shrubs and perennials were thriving in nearby landscapes.
Being one who likes to do work that's compatible with the vernacular landscape,
local stone was selected for the paving and wall surfaces.

The existing entry drive as well as all other parts of the landscape appeared to have been laid out as a simple reaction to getting from one point to another with no intention of purposeful lingering.

That needed to change.

A new walkway and entry patio was designed to make the arrival more gracious and welcoming. 
The front side of the house has a view to Mount Rushmore, 
and I wanted family and guests to have a comfortable gathering place where that view could be appreciated, 
especially in the evening when the other Presidents are washed in glowing light.
Aside from a few small trees, 
the landscape on the back side of the house was pretty barren.
The space between the house and the garage served no purpose.

Selecting the best location for a pool, 
I thought that the back side of the garage would provide an effective anchor
but the location was definitely more about the extended views.

A new doorway to the house was added 
for direct access to the newly rennovated lower level,
requiring significant excavation,
retaining walls
and some careful drainage planning.

Paths and steps were built
to comfortably navigate the different elevations.

The pool,
with an accompanying trellis structure for a bit of shade,
became a refreshing retreat for those hot, dry summer days.

That underutilized space between the house and garage
became a comfortable outdoor dining area,
complete with grill and a built in buffet surface
as well as welcomed protection from the unrelenting wind.

I recently found out that President and her husband sold the property 
to live full time on the west coast.

How fortunate for me that a project in northern Pennsylvania
eventually led me to a plateau in South Dakota.

Happy clients are a gift.