My So Charmed Life

So Charmed

Learning Small

03.13.15

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I prefer working small; the above amphora necklace focal is 1.75″ tall, plus the millinery and stick pins. But since I’ve been seriously delving into the polymer clay medium, I’m realizing that even the smallest object holds the promise of so many lessons, from forming to surface texture to paint.

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The photo above is where I left the object last night… it had finished baking and I was disappointed with the dirty gray color and lack of translucency (I had mixed in gold leaf to very little effect). Still some things to master, but I wasn’t going to let all the work I’d done be for naught so I slept on it, and put some intentionality toward waking up to work on it some more, knowing that paint was the answer but feeling too sleepy to carry on.

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I’ve never been a clay or paint person, in art school or in my 30 years as a practicing artist/designer; I am now falling in love with handling clay and with applying paint in built layers. To make these amphora charms, I’ve taught myself how to create a slab vessel out of clay, because I wanted these to be hollow… more lightweight (for jewelry), and more real. I sort of made it up as I went along, doing what seemed to make sense. Softened and rolled out a sheet of clay, and started forming it, then making and attaching the neck separately from the body.

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None of these images capture fully the delicacy of either the textures or painted colors. By using the dirty gray as my middle tone, I was able to add shadows or low lights and high lights, applying pigment slowly. Close up above shows a bit more of the detail.

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The texture of the wing was produced separately from the vessel (stamped into the clay), with the top level sliced super thin like the thinnest swiss cheese and then applied to the surface. After this, the piece can’t be handled much until post-baking. All of these techniques can be learned via tutorials and videos on YouTube. I’ll try to find time to add some links to this post soon, but a quick search on Etsy and YouTube will yield everything you need. I’ve been studying and learning so much, even just making a tiny little object like this.

A Visit from the Muse Squad

03.11.15

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My creative impulse tends to build to a boiling point during periods when life is too busy, chaotic, stressful… and then as soon as the gift of time is provided… it’s like the floodgates of heaven and hell open, simultaneously.

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It started with this object, a very ancient glass bottle that I purchased in a crazy hippie crystal alchemists shop–The Crystal Fox–in Laurel, Maryland of all places. I think there was something about that visit that set things in motion; I’m blaming it on breathing too much incense smoke as Molly and I were in there for like three hours.

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This second object is something I’ve wanted to make for a truly long time, and after finishing it I realized its relationship to the image in the So Charmed website masthead, an image that has always compelled me in powerful ways. The boot is ceramic, and I made the teeny little vintage-style hatpins.

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The tiny ceramic or bisque boots are dear and expensive, so the following day I set about to make one out of polymer clay. The above piece thus is entirely handcrafted and I’m not sure I don’t like it better. Anyway, I plan to make more in both styles.

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This little guy is an ancient bisque doll, dug up from an abandoned factory in Germany and poor thing was headless, as so many of them are. I dearly love animal-human hybrids (this is my second foray with this concept for jewelry) and felt this one to be incredibly successful, to the point where I may not be able to let go. More are planned.

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During a manic creative period, there is a point where things either peak in an orgiastic art-fest or flame over the top in a heated blaze that can make one feel truly a bit mad. It is hard to know which thing is happening, only that it IS happening. Hence, Octoboy.

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An amphora bottle with velvety millinery and more hatpins. Hard to see but there is a ring of tortured rhinestones around the top. I spent most of the day on this, and I’m very happy with the result. Riveted holes will allow me to wire it for a necklace.

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I am going to continue making these with the intent of selling them at So Charmed. But… as always, how to price?? It’s so very hard. These take a day to fabricate and an endless amount of supplies, some of them costly. Above is the table in the dining room where I keep clay supplies so that I can be near the kitchen for baking. Below, more supplies and tools.

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Look closely, do you see two tiny Jiffy toothache medication bottles? Since Molly is refusing to give up her soon to be yanked wisdom teeth for the sake of her mother’s art (Mom, get your OWN out!)… I was forced to make some little toofs out of clay.

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Here is the entire collection to date. I love seeing them together as it suggests a certain consistency of vision that will manifest itself in so many differing and delightful directions. Yay for the muse!

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Adventures in (polymer) Clay

11.18.14

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I have a love/hate relationship with polymer clay. After shunning it for years based on my perception of the overly cutesy-wootsy suburban housewife crafter (gingerbread men) and psychedelic hippie (cane) aesthetics, I’m here to tell you, polymer has come into its own. This is my second foray into this medium, the beads above were made a few weeks ago. And they got me very excited indeed about the possibilities for this medium.

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As I set about to experiment again with polymer clay, I came up initially with the pieces above. I felt they were okay-ish. But they somehow felt a little safe. The leaves were beginning to have a nice, burnt feeling to them and I went on to create the entire suite of components below (Burnt Offerings collection).

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What you can see here is my experiments in both surface texture and coloration. Do I start with dark or light clay? Paint it? Powder it? Gold leaf it? Smash it, scratch it, etch it, impress upon it, embed into it, bake it, carve it? The answer is yes! All of the above and more! Polymer is a really forgiving and soft surface, and therein lies its beauty and frustration. You can get GREAT results. If you handle it after you do, those results will smooth back out quickly. It seemed like starting with a batch of small components was a great way to experiment without wasting supplies.

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Of course, you know me. Attention span of a gnat. Easily bored. Gotta go over the top. The above/below piece is a focal for a bracelet, entitled Octopus’s Garden. It has holes on either side to attach chain or ribbon, and a nice curve for the wrist achieved by baking it over a soda can. Features some of the burnt leaves poking out of a dark and spooky garden. With a squid tentacle and of course bling/sparkle/glitz. Because I can’t help myself! Darkness and light, people, darkness and light.

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I did not invent any of the techniques you see in use in these pieces… they are out there for the grabbing… all over YouTube. I probably watched about 8 hours of how-to videos over the course of a week while I was working on these pieces and collecting up some supplies. Just go over to the site and search for polymer clay, it will all come up. And you can follow links in the videos for additional blog posts.

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Most supplies are available at any craftstore; I went to Michael’s. I also stood in the aisle and read most of a polymer clay how-to book, so as to not have to buy it. Picked up some valuable tips! It was a full immersion into the medium… and I’ve still got a very long way to go with results. I like what I’ve done, but I’m still working it out.

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Having started with black clay, it was challenging to get any contrast going with the textures/colors. Although it’s even more challenging to photograph these, and they actually have a LOT of coloration. Above you see experiments with a sparkly white clay, as well as embedding a vintage image under a glass dome. I think it’s important to mix polymer clay beads in with other kinds of beads as you see in the curation above (which will be a necklace) entitled For Amusement Only (imprinted on the vintage brass carnival token also pictured).

So, this is as far as I’ve gotten with this round of polymer. I’m pleased and excited to make more things. There are some truly amazing polymer artists out there who make the clay look like everything from metal to raku-fired pieces. I’m no expert, but if you decide to play, feel free to get in touch with me; I’d love to chat! Unless you decide to make ginger-bread men… then I don’t really want to hear from you. JUST KIDDING!!!!

PS: I have not yet bought the requisite pasta machine for kneading and rolling clay. I’m not sure I’ll need one for the small batches of work I’ll do.

Large v. Small, Left v. Right

02.27.14

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In my work as a designer, both my professional communications design and jewelry design, one of my very favorite aspects has always been the toggle between big picture thinking and small detail management. I’ll assert that having a love and capacity for both aspects of design is a rarity for the creative soul. For me, it took decades to reconcile the fact that I feel most deeply satisfied when both left-brain (creative) and right-brain (reasoned) thinking come into play. I like to make a mess, but I like to clean it up too. I love big ideas but I love tiny little decisions as well. I believe this series of new necklaces exemplifies what I’m talking about. Click on the images to see them much larger or visit with them on my flickr.

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My strategic communications work is always in service of a story; whether about meetings for healthcare professionals or the annual findings of a trade association… a narrative unfolds in words and pictures, often with an actionable objective: Enroll, donate, attend. With jewelry, I’m up to the same kind of storytelling, although it tends more toward abstraction. Nothing compares to the excitement of ideas and meaning. I believe this is what we think of when we talk about design. What is the story we are telling, and, importantly why, and to whom?

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Making connections is part of this concept process, in communications I connect text with images in creative ways and with jewelry, I make, source, and bring together disparate elements… often from countries thousands of miles apart, and decades that now fall across two or even three different centuries. An early plastic button from the 1940’s or a glass Victorian one, beads from Africa, tassels from Asia, mid-century American toys, the tin lid of an oil can from India… how can these things possibly tell one story? With jewelry, the stories are sometimes gathered over years and finally come together unexpectedly. This is the part that seems magical (but isn’t, imho).

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Once the elements are selected, located, obtained or made, the right-brain engages as I work out actual construction issues. Whether I’m creating style sheets in InDesign, or linking fine threads to metal… problems must be solved at a more micro level. I find this to be the most challenging place in the process; the place where I may want to turn away from the project and find something new to conceptualize, because that’s just so much more fun and flows more fluidly for me. That said, this construction place is also the land of greatest reward (soldering, for example!). When I stick to it and make something impossible work, I am so damn proud of myself! the storytelling comes easily and readily, like breathing. Am I lucky or cursed?

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The final stage, or production, is the most micro of all. This is the time where most of the big picture problems are solved (though sometimes these can change even at this point) and where I buckle down to wrap tiny strands of thread around and around for hours, detangling as I go, or sit quietly and sew on minuscule beads one at a time, perhaps I’m styling text for hours on end, bold, italic, larger, smaller. I generally and truly delight in the zen of this work, though too much of it becomes boring and my mind will start to itch. This is why it’s great to have several projects going at once, a brochure being designed, another being produced… necklace concepts coming together, materials arriving from distant lands, pieces being made and photographed and shared.

Which stage(s) of design and making do you love most? Where do you have to push through difficulty or boredom? How does it affect your work? I’d love to hear from you!

My Reconstructed Life

11.16.13

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As the weather turns cold, I seem to turn to textiles as my preferred art form. Pictured above and below, a recent construction. The beautifully embroidered top was found as-is, been trying to find a way to work with it for YEARS. Ancient tattered and be-sequined black tulle/lace affixed. Worn as an apron (ties in back) over a very vintage cream slip. I love the way my bones necklace looks with it and will probably wear this all together.

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Made this a little while ago, a fairly simple deconstruction of a thrifted vintage black wool jacket, with some very pretty very old lace. Beneath it is an Antik Batik dress purchased at a consignment shop in the Marais Distric, Paris. Most divine thing ever.

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Another decon jacket with children’s scissors affixed. Has weird red velvet reverse patches and several men’s ties, one of which hangs down like a long strap from the bottom. For some reason, I’m always narrowing the sleeves down to being very skinny and fitted.

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The back has more of the strange and surreal shapes. I think this one is sort of Schiaparelli inspired.

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Another (and very moody!) shot of two pieces from last year… very tribal 80’s fusion, with neon and animal print and vintage Afghani jewelry for sytling.

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I shall leave you with this, a dress you may have seen many times, The Broken Teacup. I still delight in this piece and am always amazed to see it linked and pinned all over the Internet. You can visit all of these photos in larger sizes over on my flickr.

And now… back to sewing, dears!

About a Doll

03.25.13

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Blythe. Where to start describing the love affair with this plastic doll whose head is 10x too large for her body, whose eyes bulge and boggle, and whose history is one of mass rejection turned crazed global obession? To get the basics of the story hit this wiki link.

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Pictured above is my first Blythe doll, a Veronica Lace, issued by Takara in 2009. I fell in love with her romantic look but once she arrived, I have to admit… I was somewhat terrified of her. I named her Sophronia, took just a few photos (one of them below) and put her away in a vintage trunk. For four years.

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During a recent time of particular sadness (and maybe it is always during such times that grown women turn to dolls), I fell in love with Sophie again. And this time, it was different. Although she was still the intimidatingly expensive, freakily proportioned, strange little toy from Japan, I lost all fear of engaging with her. Suddenly I had to dress and photograph her in environments I carefully handcrafted and curated toward some particular vision or another.

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She had to be a Factory Girl, hanging out with Miss Sedgwick…

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She became a gypsy perched upon a tiny handmade ottoman of the finest silk sari trim from India…

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She absolutely needed a set of papier mache rabbit ears, Day of the Dead style…

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And she needed a friend (recent Takara doll release called Simply Lilac). She might well require more company before all is said and done, as well as rooms and things and shoes… and, oh my. Blythe!

You may be looking at these dolls and thinking… what the heck?!Or maybe, like me, you’ll be drawn into their crazy allure, feel repelled, be drawn in again. Be warned, once you are hooked… it’s bad. Real bad!

As a Blythe addict you may spend the grocery money irresponsibly but also you are lucky. There are people way more obsessed than you ALL OVER THE WORLD! You will hang out on flickr and “meet” them. You’ll troll etsy for the best handmade clothing, accessories and furnishings, learning quickly that there are trends, and sub-sub-cultures, all about a doll named Blythe.

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You might even begin to dream about a customized Blythe… with crazy curly hair (!), a lovely matte face with special gothy make up, and an outfit you could only dream of wearing. And while you are having all of this fun, you might just begin to think about this doll from a social or intellectual perspective: What is it about her that has gangs of smart, creative girls and women enthusiastically collecting, making, photographing, and connecting with one another through blogs and Web sites? That’s another post for another time.

WIP: Tassels, Not Hassles

02.08.13

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The completed necklace above is fashioned from an Afghani artifact, a heavily beaded tassel, probably used to decorate a camel. This is unlisted due to my complete inability to part with it.

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Here then, is another gorgeous tassel I’ve been trying to work with, this one is African and made of leather. The colors are amazing, both dirty and brilliant in perfect combination. The beaded ring is my addition but I can’t seem to properly finish this WIP.

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Above is the most recent tassel experiment, made from an upcycled plastic Winchester rifle bullet casing that is insanely rusted and distressed, then gilded (of course). I have a batch of these in the most wonderful desert-faded colors. This is all very unfinished, just playing right now with materials and thought you’d enjoy seeing the influences leading to the design.

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I know I will be using these Indonesian blue glass beads; amazing color against the red.

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And the Indian sari silk fiber is working for me. I love how all of these tassely objects are related to one another, coming from arid deserts and plains, the recycling and repurposing, how in some cultures even the animals are adorned to the hilt… but the humans too. I don’t know what I’m saying, I’m just…. all jazzed up about… tassels.

These pics are over on flickr in case you want to ogle them larger.

Lastly, I am planning to donate a portion of proceeds from any/all jewelry that utilizes bullet casings to a US gun control organization, so if you want to recommend one, please comment or email me.

WIP: Rocking Out

02.01.13

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Suddenly. In. Love. With. ROCKS!!!!!! Pictured above, from the top: fluorite, blue calcite, citrine (but suspiciously looks like calcite and am contacting dealer about this), raw garnets (!), amazonite and quartz points. Gemstones are MUCH cheaper by the strand, and ebay is a good bet for locating best pricing.

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Big batch of Rocking Rings made yesterday, now being varnished to protect the gold leafing and patina work. As soon as they’re dry I’ll start listing. They are really and truly beautiful, if I do say so, and although chunky, very wearable. Earrings are coming next, can’t wait to play with these stones in that context. As always, larger photos up on flickr for your viewing pleasure.

WIP: Gilded Age

01.27.13

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Have discovered gold metal leaf.

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Am in the process of gilding pretty much everything in site, including this amazing piece of Russian military surplus, a small metal tube that will become a necklace focal. I’ve got a batch of these babies to play with.

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And this simple pair of vintage brass findings… I love how the metal leaf clings to and shows the fine detail of the… metal leaf(s).

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A big-ass ancient glass chandelier crystal gets the gilding treatment, creating a weird world-within-a-world effect as you can see the inside of the other side through the front side. Yeah.

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Here’s a finished piece, a ring holding 2 raw crystals, citrine and amethyst. Then goldified, oxidized, and totally effed up. In a good way. I hope. Ring section coming soon over at So Charmed. Lots of these beauties will be for sale at rock bottom prices. harhar.

Bigger pics for better examination of the (charmingly) rustic and pathetically unskilled job of gold leafing of which I am capable: flickr.

A great gold leafing video, watch and learn and then go make your own mess!

WIP: Odd Pairings

01.22.13

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I like to fool myself into thinking that anyone could possibly be interested in my creative process, the inner workings of my designing mind at the earliest stages of making things. Hence, WIP (work in progress). Everything here represents an idea in formulation, not remotely finished.

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This is how it begins with earrings. Vast supplies in my studio. Many little things scattered on every available surface. One day the things… they start making their way toward one another as if by some poetic pull. At the top of the post, an Afghani coin finding with brilliant emerald glass, a gear with verdigris patina, an ancient crystal bead and a piece of industrial trash. Above, a newer finding paired with a Mexican milagro.

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More Kuchi coins above (these are used in traditional costume including belly dance) with lovely glass rubies, being riveted to a pair of seriously rusted bottle caps scavenged from some American desert. Fiber may be added at some point.

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How do these tiny objects — a old discarded button, an African Vaseline trade bead, a bumpy middle Eastern bead, a tiny verdigris sparrow — come together? Some ways might be: color, form, content, texture, juxtoposition of cultures and histories. Things that resonate as similar or opposite, or both. The rule of chance encounters. The joy for me is that I don’t think much about any of this.

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Part of it is the trained eye, the practiced hand, designing for years, decades, a lifetime. Part of it might be something inaccessible; dreams, associations. Above, an ancient glass button, possibly 1920’s, likely European, paired with a Mexican heart milagro charm. A tiny visual poem begun, beauty, an adornment.

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