Saturday, April 5, 2014

Labor of Love




Wow it's a good thing I didn't make a New Year's resolution to post more often to my blog. (insert smiley face)  It's amazing how fast time flies when you're having fun.  Today I'm going to talk about my latest project, it is a portrait of my son Kevin.  I started working on this way back in December and just now finally finished it and it's up on the wall.  The finished portrait is 3' x 4' tall.  I guess I made upwards of 100 different canes that went into this project.  The hardest part of this project was determining how many canes that I needed to make.


They're all black and white and shades of gray. Hmm. ....50 shades of gray ....at times it was torturous ...but I also liked it....hmmm maybe there's a book here.

I created this project by first creating 12 in. Sq blocks of scrap clay that I created a bubbly surface on.  I then applied thin slices of my canes to match a photograph that was taken by my sister-in-law when Kevin was just a little tyke.  It is my favorite photograph that I have of him.



 If I'm ever to do another project or mosaic like this again I think I will prebake my squares rather than trying to put them on raw.  It was hard getting the 12 in.² blocks to match up as nicely as I would like them too.
Here are pictures I took along the way. There's also a final picture of Kevin standing near his portrait.










Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Ok apparently I can't do any better.  March 26th then August 11th and that was it for the year?  I am so sorry to keep y'all hanging.  So in addition to my yearly new year's resolution diet I vow to post more regularly in 2014.  Let's hope that last longer than my diet usually does. 
So what's been happening?  My "delft" class in Vegas went great.  I think Clay Carnival is going to be in August again next year. Donna has some teachers coming from Europe to show us what's happening over there.  I hope to be there as a student again.  I believe I "misplaced" some money and I have to go and get it back. (If I knew how to insert one of those smiley face guys I would!)
While I was in Vegas I able to take Diane Keeler's doll head class when I wasn't teaching.  I had a great time.  My head didn't even look like Benjamin Button.  I have been telling myself that I need to do another one.  My face has what I call a lobotomy scare across her head.  She had gotten a little dirty and when I added some more clay to her forehead there developed a line.  Oh well, as I tell my students the class is just a journey.  The end doesn't come right away.  I will try to get some photos of my head added to this post.
right now I have to tell you about an upcoming teaching gig that I have outside of Tampa, Fl.  That's right sunny, temperatures in the seventies, Florida.  I will be down at McKilliams studios on Jan 11 and 12.  I will be teaching my "Cathedral Window Framing Class".  Come join me!  If the temperature and Me isn't enough, Alice Stroppel will be teaching a class on Friday Jan 10.  She is teaching her pen and ink on polymer class.  She swears you don't have to be able to draw......We'll see.  If you want to know more about either class contact Contact Sammie Williams at McKilliams@gmail.com



Here are some examples of what you might create in my class.  We will spend one day creating canes for our pendants.  I will teach how to reduce your canes down to "micro-cane" size.  I will give tips on reducing, combining canes, slicing and construction.  The second day we will create the frames and put them all together for your pendant. What a great way to start 2014.  Hope to see you there! 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Playing With the Hand That Was "Delft" You

First off let me say....MARCH 26th !@#$#@  Come on Julie you can do better than this.  What have you been doing that keeps you away from your blog that ten's of people read?  Well quite a bit actually.  I've been to Toulouse, Dufort and Paris France.  (didn't see anyone's underpants) I've been to Washington DC with Meisha Barbee.  I've spent a marvelous week at a retreat in Virginia and next week I head to Las Vegas, Sin City, Clay Carnival to teach my class that gets its inspiration from delft pottery.  Most of you know what delft pottery is but if you don't it's that blue and white pottery that makes you think of tulips, wooden shoes and the boy with his finger in the dike.  Well that is what it makes me think of.  For the class I am under constraints of time and clay.  It is a four hour class and we will be using shades of blue and white. Here is the picture I sent Donna Kato for the class description.



It can be made using only one cane that you take slices from at different stages of the reduction.  In coming up with the class I made several blue and white canes using a fairly simple cane technique that I came up with while I was working on my Chuck Close portrait.  I decided I would try to challenge myself to see how many different ways I could use these blue and white canes.  Now I wish I could say that all of these projects are finished but remember who you are dealing with here.  Her last blog was March 26 for $#$% sake.

This necklace is mostly finished.  I have to add some beads and a clasp.  I am taking a findings class with Kathleen Dustin and hoping I can get some inspiration after the class.  The focal "bead" is done like my framed mosaic pieces but with a more simple cane slice in the center.  You can't see but the sides have cane slices too.  Now normally I would have put in on a cord and called it a day.  I think it is beautiful on its own.  I have some dear friends who have encouraged me to complete my necklaces with more beads (in order to make them more saleable) so that is what I have done here.....well....that is what I am going to do here.  Do you see my problem?  Maybe this is why I am not in the business to make money.  Or maybe that's why I am not making money. 




Here is another unfinished necklace.  After seeing posts about Melanie West's traveling necklace I thought I'd make some big shiny balls.  So I did.  Now what?  I put the three of them together on a cord.   Didn't like the way that looked.  Put in some spacer beads.  Better but still no good.  Then I decided I would try a multi-strand necklace.  Still playing around with that.  Of course I dropped one end and all of the small beads went flying when I was trying to set it up to photograph.  Taking this necklace with me to a retreat for more advice.  Please feel free to add some comments on what you think. 

 
 
 
I decided to make a few necklaces and pendants that might sell at Clay Carnival.  So if you are going be sure to stop by the store before you hit the slots!  These are more likely what I would wear....What can I say I am a casual girl.






As you can see I am getting quite a lot out of a few rather simple canes.  Well, simple when compared to my face canes.  I like bracelets so I did a couple of cuff bracelets.

 
 
Then I went way outside my box and made a .......box.  Actually I covered a ceramic box that I bought at Michaels.



 
 
 
Then I really blew the box up and made this piece (that really isn't anything yet because it has no holes or a pin back yet) that is a cross between an organic piece and a framed piece.




I have some earrings that I know you will be shocked to hear are not finished but they weren't even close enough to photograph.  I hope you forgive me (and I am talking to you, Barb D.) for being so late but that you have enjoyed my blue and white period.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

After The Ball




Synergy 3 is over.  The Ball is over. There were ups and downs at the ball.   I gave you a hint at the last post of what my my most recent cane was.  Did anyone guess Cinderella?  This was a doozy of a cane to build.  I'd say that there was at least 15 different canes that were made, reduced and then incorporated into the final cane.  I really wanted to get this cane finished prior to Synergy.  Unfortunately I didn't have much time to come up with some necklaces so I could have something to sell in the gallery.  I came up with this design.




 I created one for each of my fairy tale themed canes.  They included my little sayings for each.  Cinderella's says "As she sat lone in the ashes, the ball seemed a fading memory".  For Little Red Riding Hood "As you're pretty so be wise; wolves may lurk in every guise".  "She looked into the beast's eyes and saw the beauty in his soul" goes with Beauty and the Beast.  I had time enough to finish four necklaces.  One of each with the sayings and one without that I donated to the auction.  I liked the way they came out but I guess I was the only one.  Or else I was delusional with my price point.  I felt like I was participating in  Project Runway and Heidi was questioning my taste level.  Of course when you are competing with sales with Kathleen Dustin and others I shouldn't have placed my hopes so high.  Oh well it was a reality check but then I had another possible disappointment. I had placed my auction piece to be included in the live auction.  By Friday I was getting into panic mode because I was afraid no one would bid on my piece.  Fortunately Tracy was a great auctioneer and some friends came thru and my piece sold at auction for close to $300.  Thank you to those who bid.  Again I take my hat off to those who sell their artwork.  Putting your heart into something and then feeling rejected can be tough.  This was the down part of the ball.  In the next post I will talk about the ups.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Barb, this is for you.



 
 
A friend of mine who is also a member of the Asheville guild always make a point of telling me she checks my blog everyday.  At first I thought she was just being nice and telling me she enjoys my blog.  It took me a while to catch on.  What she was really saying was "I check your blog every day.  Why don't you post more often you lazy @#$%^!"  Well maybe not that last part.  But she is right I don't post often enough.  But there is a reason.  I have been really busy getting ready of the up coming Synergy 3 in Atlanta.  As you know (if you are a frequent reader like Barb) I don't sell my wares too often but this is going to be one of those times.  In order to do that I need to have some wares to sell.  Being one to push the caning envelope I decided to make another cane with the fairy tale theme.  I also had an idea for a mosaic wall piece.  I have been working on these two creations for the past three weeks.  Sometime I wonder about me.  What was I thinking?  The mosaic is almost done and I have finished the cane.  I don't have any finished pieces made with the cane yet (Synergy is days away!) but I wanted to give you a preview/sneak peek of that cane.  There is also a picture of my wall mosaic during the process.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Polymer Soutache






As I was spending some time with pinterest (much better than house work!) I discovered the art of soutache jewelry.  Soutache is braiding that can be used on clothing.  Some artist have taken this into jewelry and I really like some of the pieces.   It was obvious that this was something that would translate into polymer clay.  I did a search and really couldn't find much in the polymer community.  I decided to give it a try.




 My first attempt was like so many things in my life -- it got too big.   I liked where it was going though so I pressed on.  I used some of the cane I created from my "5 from 1 Craftartedu class" as the focal beads for the next piece. Many of the soutache jewelry that I saw online also had bead work.  When I taught my class in Kansas City I spent some times with two friends there who were big into beading.  Let me tell you their studios were like walking into a beads store.  Now I have a few beads at home but I don't do a lot of beading (that's one of the reasons I am so terrible at finishing things) but I have a drop in in the bucket compared to them.  Didn't quite get it until I decided I wanted to add some bead work to my latest creation.  I get it now.....you never have the right bead when you need it.  My local bead store was having a huge end of the year sale so I got my big butt (told you... like so many things in my life...) over there and bought some beads.  Don't let the picture fool you - it is not finished.   There is no clasp.



It was very difficult to work the beads in with the polymer clay.  My next attempts were scaled down and with no beads.  I like the way they look.  It was a nice diversion from my complicated cane work.  I hope you enjoyed seeing them.





Friday, January 4, 2013

Working with my brother and remembering Phyllis




Several months ago my brother asked me if I would create a pendant with the likeness of his mother-in-law, Phyllis.  She had passed away this year and he wanted to give these pendants, as Christmas gifts, to those who loved her.  Of course I said yes.  I knew it was going to be a great opportunity to challenge myself and to work together on an art piece with my brother.  If you have been reading my blog you know that last year I created pendants for all of the women in the family.  This pendant was of my grandmother and was taken from an old photograph.  I never knew my grandmother and the only requirement was that it look sorta like her photo.  Here is a picture of the mosaic cane that I made.




I decided that I did not want to make this cane in the mosaic style.  I wanted it to be more like the African woman cane that I created.  This meant that we were going to have to reduce the number of colors in the photograph but also make it so that it could be created in clay.  I didn't want too many little pieces of color but we wanted a more photographic look to the piece.  Glenn, who is an artist and much more proficient in Photoshop than myself, did a lot of the preliminary work.  This is the original photo graph and the "working photo" he came up with.  Thankfully he decided to eliminate the background.  After going back and forth we opted for a palette of 16 browns for the hair and face, 3 more for the eyes and 3 for the mouth.




OK at this point I kept telling my brother, "I can do it".  While to myself I was saying "how in the hell am I going to do this?"  I have gotten pretty good at reducing large, thin canes but in order to get the details right I knew I wouldn't be able to create this as a single cane.  I decided I would create her face, reduce it and then finish the rest of her hair and body.  Here are some more pictures.  These were taken with my phone so they aren't the greatest but you get the picture.  Ha Ha "you get the picture"




All seems to be going well.  So now I needed to reduce this final cane.  Usually when you reduce a cane the middle is the hardest to get moving.  So a lot of the time at the end the middle appears larger than the outside because it was a bit slower to reduce.  Now if you have never reduced a large cane you may not know what I am talking about but trust me that is what usually happens.  (to me anyway)  Well not this time.  Maybe it was because I had already reduced the face but for whatever reason this time the middle reduced faster and therefore the face was smaller than the outside.  Here is a picture of a slice taken off of the reduced cane.



You can see that her facial features do not match in scale to the rest of her.  Now comes the tricky part.  In a perfect world the cane would have reduced evenly and all I would have to do is take some slices and  create my pendants.  Not this time.  I had to had manipulate each slice.  I won't go into the details but it was tricky. Lets just say it's why I make the big bucks. This project was different from other projects in that not only did it have to look like a woman but it had to look like a specific woman.  It was very easy to pinch or pull the slice too much in one direction which would change the look of the piece.  Each one is unique. As usual I find fault with every one.   I finally made enough "good" ones and let my brother choose his favorites to made into pendants.  One slice got a little out of control as to its size so I made a framed piece which I pictured at the start of this blog entry.  It was a challenging project and I enjoyed pushing the boundaries of cane making.  I enjoyed working with my brother and hope to do it again soon.  Phyllis will be missed by her loved ones and I hope they will enjoy looking at the pendants and remembering her.