Sunday, November 23, 2008

This, That, and the Other

*Yawn* It's been a good morning to a weekend with good points and bad points.

Let's get the bad out of the way first. It was hideously cold! So cold it could chill you right through several layers of warm winter clothing, and I had to stand outside in that for 45 minutes waiting for my local farmer's market to jury my jewelry for their winter fair only to be turned down. To be fair they said they loved my stuff, but sadly they just had too much jewelry already and I was a Johnny come lately. Still it was sad and disappointing to be rejected. Thankfully I still have the other two fairs to do the weekend end before.

Happier news is I sold my lovely snowflake earrings featured in the last bloggerie, and so I made another pair so that I can still make the matching necklace I have schemed. But first I'm making a very different piece. It's a necklace and instead of beaded I'm doing all wire coils for the chain and danglies and stuff. I'll post a photo as soon as I'm done. It should be very nice.

This morning I have lots of lovely new hearts and over 6000 page views at my etsy store because my very latest treasury (pictured here) made the Etsy front page around 1 a.m. or so. I wish I had seen it. When I checked my email last night I had noticed that one of the pictures had been swapped out for an alternate and I KNEW I hadn't done it so I figure it might make the front page but it was late and I was tired so into bed I went. However Adorn Me Jewelry left me a nice message so I knew I had hit the front page. That was very sweet!

So that's three front pages I have made now. I feel warm and fuzzy about that achievement and hope to hit it more often. Now if I could only get MY stuff on there! Hehe.

Oh and I'm sooo looking forward to Thanksgiving this year! Now if I can only get my son to come with me instead of sulking by his lonesome.

Oh oh oh oh… after viewing my show William H. Hays has suggested swapping portraits. I do one of him and he do one of me. Very exciting. William is a great guy, very enthusiastic about the arts, as well as a talented painter, and he runs the Artist's Loft here in town.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Artistic Update

I had a lovely dinner at a Thai restaurant last night with my mentor and professor Gary, from when I was an undergraduate at Smith College, and his wife Deedee. It was really flattering because I had sent him a show card for my show this month and he had made the effort to come and see it and have dinner with us. It was so nice and refreshing to look at my paintings with him and hear his insightful critiques once again. He is really such a warm and yet forthright teacher, and he remains my favorite critic to this day. He made sure to let me know how much he enjoyed the work (comparing me to Alice Neels, a comparison I often hear), but also to have really useful and interesting things to say about what specifically worked or didn’t work for him in various pieces.

Then he asked me what was next and I told him about my etching class and that was great too because he’s a printmaker as well as a painter himself and so we talked about that and he encouraged me to work on some of the same ideas I had been working on in the paintings – which is, actually, one of the things I had been thinking about doing!

And just to show how productive I have been in general here is a photo of one of my latest creations that I’m selling at Etsy. I love these elegant winter themed earrings in silver, kyanite, and pearl. I have more of these snowflake charms in a couple different sizes so I think I’m going to work on an earrings and necklace set.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Learning to Etch

Oh my god, I'm absolutely pooped. I spent this weekend at an etching workshop (had to time off work but sooooo worth it). I have wanted to learn to etch for twenty years and it was everything I thought it would be and more. I'm already a copperholic. Truth be told I'm also a little sore.

The class, taught by two women at Twin Vixen Press, started right at the beginning with the preparation of the copper plate for etching. This included filing the edges to a 45 degree angle so that the roller on the press could easily catch the edge of the plate during printing. That part seemed tedious but I was assured that if I was doing it all the time I could use a belt sander! Once that was done it was on to sanding the plate to make sure the surface was smooth and free from marks that would show up in the print. Some do anyway but there are some lovely random accidents that happen in etching on occasion that I quite like.

I had brought some images, as requested, to the workshop and after seeing the size of the plate I selected one of titled Undine from my Female Monsters series (part of my graduate thesis). It was a painting that I actually sold and so rather missed, but fortunately had a good digital photo of on my computer I could print. I then traced the outlines of the image onto tracing paper with dark graphite rich pencil. Next we put hard ground on the plate which is a sort of waxy medium that resists acid. Laying the tracing paper on the dried surface of the ground rubbing with your fingernail actually transfers the graphite drawing to the ground - then using an etching tool you just draw into the ground. You don't have to press hard or anything because you're not dry pointing etching into the copper. The acid bath will do the work.

After that I cleaned off the ground and prepared the plate for a quite test run - to see what I had made. It was pretty neat right away, but lacking in detail that would make the image stand out. I have always loved the quality of line in etching though. It seems to me that it just makes line so much more beautiful. After that I laid down a new hard ground in order to work more into the plate.

After that stage and seeing what the print looked like I then decided to try the aqua tint process. Basically they have this sand box where rosin is dusted onto the plate, then the plate is heated, and after it has completed cooled you can paint another medium onto the plate called stop out (I might remember that wrong) and block out areas you don't want the acid bath to etch. Aqua tint lays done these tiny specks and so when the plate is in the wash these little specks are eaten out of the copper plate. Varying degrees of timing produce lighter or darker tonal ranges. It's a cumulative process so you have to do a bit of arithmetic, working from your lights to your darks as you add more stop out (stop it?) to the plate until finally you feel you're done.

Then wash it all off again, apply the ink, and print. Amazing. I include a scan of my final print. I made quite a few of these today. I look forward to seeing one framed.

Just some final notes about the image: Undine is a mermaid but in keeping with the whole theme "Female Monsters" I was thinking about the early sailor stories that made out mermaids to be fearsome creatures luring sailors to their death. The body of the undine is a moray eel. She is swimming through kelp.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Stapled My Thumb

I have some new pieces to photograph, and I'll be doing that in just a little while, but I decided to take some time to write a little update in my blog.
I stapled my thumb yesterday.

Yes, I was exceptionally stupid and while checking a stapler to see if it was full of staples I pushed it closed with my thumb right under the opening where the staples come out and of course managed to fire one staple right into the pad of my thumb. There was a sharp and instant pain and then there was the equally shocking sight of a staple embedded in my flesh. Fortunately I didn't need one of those thingies that look like jaws with metal teeth to extract it, but I still had to pull it out, just like you do when you remove a staple from paper. It bled a bit, but more it felt bruised. Last night I even managed to work on some earrings, coil wrapping the wire, but it was kind of painful.

This morning I have a fat bruised looking thumb! Eek.

Still I don't regret working on the earrings last night. I intend to do more tonight if my thumb allows. While I have lots of stock - sales have been light - I want to make sure I have some stunning pieces for a show I'm going to be juried for which I really really must get into for Christmas. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tea with Crescent Dragonwagon

Yesterday I had a wonderful opportunity to have tea with noted cookbook author and children’s book author Crescent Dragonwagon. I have known Crescent for a couple of years. I met her before I knew anything about her amazing cookbook Passionate Vegetarian (because I’m an unabashed Passionate Omnivore), but I soon figured out she was a pretty interesting and amazing lady. Yesterday, however, I got to know just how amazing she is.

I was at her lovely old farmhouse in the Green Mountains to interview her for the newsletter where I work (circulation 5,000) as Crescent had enthusiastically agreed to be our featured local producer. I have interviewed about 30 people since I have taken on this job and I have to say that Crescent was one of my favorites. First of all she was such a wonderfully gracious hostess. She prepared a southern-style cornbread for us in a skillet, one of the recipes in her newly published cookbook The Cornbread Gospels, and then made shortbread out of it by slicing it in half, filling it with her homemade from her own organic garden green tomato mincemeat (a recipe that can be found on the Passionate Vegetarian Cookbook) and served with fresh whipped cream. She served this as a dessert to follow little egg salad sandwiches on rye bread or something herbed and creamy amazing on oatmeal bread; cut into little squares, of course, as it was a tea party.

Tea was Assam or this very lovely kind of smoky Russian black tea which I forgot the name of (yes, and I was taking notes!) so I guess I’ll have to email her for that information and it was brewed in a gorgeous antique china teapot that she bought when she was eighteen with a gorgeous dragon for handle and spout. She was meticulous in her tea ceremony, warming the pot before she added the tea, and even warming the milk. I let her be ‘mother’ and pour. I confess I haven’t had such a nice tea since I lived in England.

Conversation was lively and entertaining and I mostly eschewed the time-dulled practice of interviewing her by asking questions. I let the conversation flow freely, and I’m sure it was far more fun for everyone that way. After tea Crescent led us on a tour of her home, which was the same one she’d spent every summer in as a child, including her wall of photographs where I learned that Crescent had dined at the White House with the Clintons, but even more impressive to the artist in me had been photographed by Annie Liebovitz! What was really remarkable was that this fascinating and multi-talented woman who wrote novels as well as her cookbooks and kid’s books, was so wonderful forthright about herself without ever seeming boastful or vain. She is truly a special and unique human being.

Oh and another notable was the fantastic paintings in her dining room done by her grandfather or great-grandfather I believe.

(photo credit: Walter Fogg)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Portrait Anyone?

It’s not been a stellar month for me at, but I can tell you that I was star of my show the other night at my opening. I include a small sample. I’m wondering about including some of my paintings on Etsy or making some cards or ACEO or whatever, but I always hesitate because if I think my jewelry is a slow mover I have to admit my artwork is like sludge. I think I’m a good painter, don’t get me wrong, but fine art paintings are not exactly on the top of anyone’s list in this economy and paintings of still living people are generally only interesting to their relatives! That said I did sell a couple of the portraits at my show, but at pretty discounted prices. I would rather they had a happy home among the people that love the sitters than they sit in my attic, basement, or studio gathering dust.

I do actually hang my own art in my own home and several of my favorite pieces are portraits of people that I don’t even know anymore. I actually had to look up the name of one woman. I had forgotten it, but an intriguing portrait is more than just an individual. It takes on a broader connotation after the person is no longer known and becomes a universal: Madonna, whore, mother, daughter or vanity, wisdom, folly, vision. I have become friends with my portrait paintings in a way that I never expected. I put up some older ones at the show and then was shocked that I didn’t want to sell them. I put up ridiculously high prices for them! I figured if it would help pay the rent it was worth it, but otherwise forget it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Blackbird Morning!

It's a really busy day today, a pretty big day, and I will be just fried by the end of it. I am throwing a party for my friends and it's really the first time I have had a party in a very long time. There is a reason of course, quite a big deal for me as I have an art show opening tonight in town. I'm very excited about how people will receive it, but I have a feeling it will be very well attended. Thank you to Dan for getting me inspired and motivated and helping so much with everything, and of course thanks to my Nome! It really helps to have such wonderful artists around me who understand just how important and scary something like this can be, and then to have a party too! What was I thinking?

The piece of jewelry I have posted a picture of is a fairly recent piece and a little bit of something new for me. As usual I have combined elements, including new and old, but in this case I have created some more dimension to the necklace. The black beads are very old, brought back by Nome's grandmother from some exotic wonderful place (I suspect South America from the looks of them, if anyone can help me comment away!), and then I used a vintage clear plastic gold-etched bead for the center piece. I've posted a couple views so you get the idea. It has matching earrings which I have listed separately but I think it would be awesome if someone got the set. The earrings are featured in a treasury right now - and the curator commented that she was inspired to create the treasury by my blackbird earrings! I love stuff like that. I think this set has a very Frido Kahlo look. I should have put that in the tags right? It would be great to do someone's portrait wearing it too. I love the color and shapes. Now if you were sitting right here with me I could let you handle the necklace because it has very different textures too, something else I find really interesting. The red sponge coral beads are very light and like a very soft pumice, but not abrasive at all, while the birds are smooth clay and then, of course there is the textured metal. I hope to find more interesting beads like those birds to inspire unusual one off designs.

I have slowed down on the number of pieces I have been making lately because I'm definitely feeling a stirring of desire to make things that are really distinctive and a little different. Many of my previous pieces are very lovely and I would and do love to wear them, but I think I want to jump into something like metal clay or lamp working to really bring out my distinctive style and individuality.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bread Blues

The scent of warm fresh baked bread drives me into deep waves of longing, and there is simply nothing I can do about it. I posted about a great bread company Against the Grain in a earlier blog of mine, but much as I endorse the wonderful products they produce nothing can, for me, replace crusty artisan crafted baked wheat flour bread. I can prefer Sesmark rice crackers with sesame seeds to regular crackers, I can live with quinoa pasta, I can cope with Against the Grain pizza crusts, I can live without cookies and cakes, or occasionally treat myself with flourless chocolate cake, but nothing is as gorgeous to my senses both olfactory and gustatory as good bread.

I have never tested as allergic to wheat or as having celiac disease but I’m pretty sure I have it now. I been on the Atkins diet since June, my second time on the low carb regime. Each time I basically just cut out things like bread, pasta, sugar, etc. I don’t go for the substitutes generally. Just as if I was a vegetarian I wouldn’t eat tofurky, I don’t really buy the whole substitute thing. If I don’t want to eat meat why would I want to eat bean curds shaped to look like a turkey with all sorts of weird flavor and texture additives? Don’t even get me started on how odd I find that. So you won’t find me eating all those high priced and over-processed Atkins brand carb substitute products which actually have a lot of carbs, well more than if I simply didn’t eat it in the first place. Yes, I’m eating piles of delicious healthy veggies so fret not.

Anyway, that was the point of this? Oh yes, so I accidentally cut wheat out of my diet 6 years ago and then again this year. I lost weight, felt better, stopped having headaches, and was relieved of some uncomfortable and embarrassing personal health issues that I don’t feel like elucidating for you here but if you are familiar with some of the symptoms of gluten intolerance I’m sure you can guess. Both times. And the day before yesterday I cheated. I had a little lasagna. I was at an event where I needed to eat and there were no low carb options that would have satisfied me as I had been moving tables and chairs around for 150 people. I needed food. Yesterday all day I paid the price with that little problem of mine – the one I haven’t experienced since June.

Big sigh here. I have finally had to come to terms with, as I walk down the bread aisle smelling my favorite food, that I will never ever again be able to enjoy a crusty loaf with butter and brie, or a delicious just out of the oven chocolate chip cookie, or have my beloved toast and marmalade.

I mourn.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Night Before Election No One was Stirring...

I feel like the world is holding its collective breath. It bustles around me and yet I can’t focus, can’t really sit still. Is everyone feeling the same way? On the surface it wouldn’t seem if anything momentous was taking place, but underneath there is a little tension. Jokes are strained. One of my coworkers agreed that he was all nerves and little attention span.

Since I wrote the first paragraph I have had the same conversation over and over again with plenty of lame jokes about emigrating if things don’t go well. I just want it all to be over and start to work on whatever is coming next. I want to be celebrating life instead of holding my breath. I want to feel my creativity well up inside me and share it with people. I want to see a little optimism around me because whatever party you vote for the deep and abiding fact is that we are still a fortunate people, us Americans, for the standard of living we, most of us, have, and the freedoms that we have come to take for granted.

I want to start the healing and the return to the faith of our founders in a free society of equals. Of course I understand that their definition was a little different from mine. I get the differences between their mindset and mine, but fundamentally I still feel proud when I read the stirring words of Thomas Jefferson:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —

If you haven’t read the Declaration of Independence you should – and if you have you should reread it. It’s an incredible document and can be as stirring today as the day it was first penned.