Sunday, September 29, 2013

A New Twist on an Old Favorite!

The studio was briefly hijacked at the end of the summer to produce centerpieces and decorations for a dear friend's bridal shower.  She loves antiques and has a beautiful wedding gown covered in lace, which quickly became the theme we worked the day around.  I recalled some fun lamps made from antique doilies that I thought would make a great basket for our centerpieces.  They were on Dos Family Blog and the post with its simple instructions can be found here.  You can see two of my baskets below in progress.  I had a tough time finding a round beach ball, since by the end of summer the Halloween decorations are already out, so I ended up with a "ladies workout ball" from the dollar store.  It was thick and easy to inflate and deflate.  I used white school glue, for the six I made I went through close to a half gallon.  To simplify it, I placed the balls in paper bowls with the plug side down, so I would be able to access it when it came time to remove it.  Wearing gloves, I poured the glue into a paper bowl and dipped the doilies right in there to saturate them.  I squeezed the excess glue off, draped them on the ball and smoothed until they covered the way I wanted them to.  I then let them dry for 24 hours with a fan on them.

Below you can see the baskets before we filled them.  Some general tips:

When checking to see if they are dry, there will be a point where they are no longer wet, but they are soft.  You will know they are dry when they feel hard and crunchy - if you remove the interior support too soon they will collapse.

White school glue was just right for our purposes, but it is a slave to moisture and humidity.  If you want these to be more durable or appropriate for outside you should consider sealing them with a spray glaze or spray lacquer.  You will want to very slowly build up many thin coats of spray lacquer.  If you really saturate it by painting it on or spraying super heavy the glue may not hold up to the liquid and collapse.

I didn't have a bunch of old doilies laying around, but found them at a reasonable price at Factory Direct Craft where I could order them in sets of a dozen.  They have a nice variety, so if you were doing a very special piece you could order individual pieces, but the bulk worked for us.  I ordered two different sized round doilies and a set of heart shaped doilies in an ecru color to create some contrast.  Their prices were hands down the cheapest I found from a US vendor, they immediately sent a confirmation and I received my order within the week I placed it at no extra charge.  I found cheaper prices on some international sites, but many of them had ship times of up to three months and surprise charges at check out.

We filled our baskets (and the room) with paper flower pom-poms.  If you haven't made them before, they could not be more simple and Martha Stuart offers a great tutorial you can check out here.  We made varying sizes of small flowers for the centerpieces and made huge ones to fill the room and the window sills.

The key was finding a lot of tissue paper in just the two colors we wanted.  This elevated the final pieces and helped tie in our theme.  I found the colors I needed at a store called Bags & Bows that specializes in retail gift wrap supplies.  It allowed me to order a ream (400 sheets) in colors of my choice for under $20.  They have more than 100 solid colors and the economy reams start at $13.  Again, they shipped fast and the delivery was packaged well to protect the tissue paper from the elements.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Artistic Voice

Kilauea, 2013
Ring:  Fine Silver, Lava Rock, Black Sand & Glaze

"I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them."  -Picasso

As the semester begins, I will spend a lot of time helping my students to push beyond the literal.  As they are asked to find inspiration for their artwork, they will also be asked to begin interpreting their own world.  I want them to understand how their experiences and perspectives shape their artistic voice.  I hope to empower them to develop original work that is all their own.  This is often hindered by the fact that they are submerged in a popular culture that is overloaded with simplistic graphic symbols for the purpose of appealing to mass audiences.  I read a very critical article this week on a professional jewelry blog about the ethics of jewelry artists stealing each others' designs.  When I scrolled down to see the images, all I could do was chuckle.  Two competing popular jewelry designers have come out with similar lines, but how either one can claim originality is laughable.  Each piece was based on common symbols such as lightning bolts, hash tags and @ symbols.  They were simple pendants in gold that all appeared to be maybe 2" in length, with one designer incorporating diamonds.  I think the only person who had a right to feel robbed was Max Miedinger who originally designed the Helvetica font these appear to be based on.  There was no transformation, so there was no artistic voice to protect and no lasting relevance to connect to.  
Kilauea Side View
(Photo Credits this page: Amber Jones, Studio Pura, LLC)

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working." -Picasso

The images in this post are from one of my most recent pieces.  Bringing this work into class served as a catalyst for our discussion on creating relevant work by interpreting our own experiences.  I am very much influenced by my environment.  Not necessarily "the environment", but my environment - wherever I am physically spending time.  I work to capture the essence of each place that influences and subsequently inspires me by eternalizing the brief moments I spend there.  This ring gives permanent form to the fleeting minutes I found myself overlooking a smoking crater in Volcanoes National Park.  It goes beyond documenting the park and becomes about documenting my experience - being mesmerized by the billowing smoke which I have interpreted through the undulating silver, being drawn into the glow in the evening from the lava interpreted through the glaze disc and having these ephemeral sensations disrupted by the rough lava rock surrounding me.  This piece began the moment I stood before this crater.  It continued as I walked the trail of devastation and eventually followed the lava flow down to where it emptied into the sea.  It began as photographs and sketches and quiet nagging thoughts of how to process a new and fundamental understanding of the actual creation of the earth.  What I find most interesting is now writing this post, I am able to make connections to pieces I was doing a decade ago.  I hadn't visited this place and I worked on a much larger scale and in completely different materials, but there are still clear visual and conceptual relationships between my work from then and now.  I remind my students that as each of our artistic voices gets stronger, we can spend less and less time laboring over what makes our work our own because the more we use it the more the visual language we develop comes naturally to us.  This means the less and less time we need to spend worrying if it will be mistaken for someone else's.