November 3, 2014

Falling for Studio Time

The last couple of months have been busy with things like travel and injuries (later...), and I realized it had been too long since I did any art work.  My usual mantra - my brain is blank.  Where do I start?  I never have any idea where to begin.  Sheesh, you'd think I'd have this figured out by now.  After my usual wasting time on Pinterest, I slammed the laptop shut and figured I needed to put something, anything, in my hands to get started.

A couple of months ago, a distant cousin gave me the most wonderful gift of a photograph of one of my great grandfathers, a man whose photo I have never before seen.  As an added bonus, I found that he had been a railroad conductor in Illinois and one of the photographs was of him in his uniform.  Given my son's obsession with trains as a young boy, this made it extra fun for me.  I thought it would be fun to create a personalized piece of art for the house using this photograph as a reference.  I accepted my painting skill limitations decades ago, so I figure this is a test of creativity, not necessarily painting skills.  I'm going to confess right off that I used Photoshop and bright light behind the canvas to help with the image.  If I'd drawn it freehand, Grandfather Carter would look more like a troll than a train conductor.

Are there steps that are supposed to be taken in a particular order when painting?  I have no idea.  Last month, I smooshed around what I thought to be pleasing colours for the first go 'round.  Today I painted the silhouette.  I'm thinking about adhering faint images of the railroad maps onto the background, but then I saw the lines cast by the setting sun on the canvas and liked that image.  Sigh.  I figure it's just a mess-around project at worst.  I'm getting my hands dirty and, hopefully, some artistic brain cells will slowly begin to stir and I'll move along to the next projects.   

The original photograph of Great Grandfather Grant Ulysses Carter

My poorly lit painting with Phase 1 started

While on vacation in Orlando two weeks ago, I took a terrible fall on what locals later told me they call "winter acorns."  That's code for deadly tree marbles.  I had tried dressing up like a big girl for a dinner date with my husband in an upscale restaurant, so I was wearing a dress and platforms (not huge and not wedges, so in my mind, not particularly dangerous).  We'd made it most of the way back to our hotel when I stepped on one of those stupid beasts and did quite the crash and burn.  My left knee made direct contact (and skid, ouch) with the pavement and I twisted my right ankle something fierce.  My husband helped me take off my shoes and hobble back to the room.  Mind you, this was after buying a 2-day pass to Universal Studios and our first visit ever to Orlando.  After a full day of begging for help from the hotel for first aid, help finding a wheelchair to get medical attention (my foot and ankle looked like a black and blue loaf of bread), I was a wreck.  After a doctor visit and x-rays there, then another round when we got back to CA, I was finally correctly diagnosed with not only a nasty sprain, but two hairline fractures in my right ankle.  Ouch, ouch, ouch.  I've never broken a bone or had to be on crutches.  This stinks.  But with the swelling down a lot, I figured I'm so limited in what I can do, I no longer have an excuse to avoid the studio.  Between rounds of elevating my food, I'll play in here and see if something wildly creative comes out of this.  At least I'm no longer Shrek-coloured from the knees down!  Now I'm a puffy, pale shade of Bart Simpson.  It could have been worse.

September 20, 2014

Another Day, No Blood This Time

Well, that last round of soldering hurt.  I managed to stab myself good with a twisted and sharp point of the copper tape I tried pulling off of the glass, thinking I might be able to re-use it.  No such luck.  The front was cracked in half, the adhesive clearly melted solidly onto the glass.  What a mess.

I decided to give it another whirl and it turned out much better.  Clearly, I need to continue to practice, but at least it's not so bad.  I think I can wear it if I continue to move so that it's a bit of a blur and the wobbly line of rhinestones won't be so obviously wobbly.

It could use another go 'round...
Why does the back look better than the front?  More flux, that's why!
When I feel in a bind in terms of just NOT knowing what I'm doing, I find myself wandering the internet for help.  I actually did find a couple of YouTube videos that offered good advice.  What noted that if you find yourself getting a lot of lumps and spikes in the solder, use more flux to get it flowing.  Great advice!  That's one thing I did much more with this version.  The other video offered suggestions about adhering the paper artwork to the glass first which I don't think I'll do.  I worry about how that glue will affect the paper.  In the soldering class that I took, the instructor had us use a modicum of glue adhering paper to glass.  I found that the heat of soldering caused a bit of condensation to appear under the glass.  Maybe I need to experiment.  The other tip was using a small amount of super glue on the back side of one of the glass & paper assemblies so that the two layers were truly joined together before soldering began.  I can see how this would keep it together tightly so the layers don't shift while wrapping with the copper tape, but still worry about 1) condensation from the glue if not 100% dry and 2) how the glue might affect the paper in terms of staining or eventually showing through.  Guess there's only one way to find out.

Just to see what was out there, I visited a number of Etsy shops that offered soldered jewelry.  I don't like to bash other artist's work, but there was some stuff out that that was just not what I expected to see for sale.  Was that polite enough?  Then there was another artist whose work was just about flawless and quite inspiring.  Clearly, it can be done!  Now to figure out how.  After I work at that for a while, I'm going to go back to fabric which doesn't make me bleed or sob in frustration.

September 18, 2014

Practice does NOT make perfect

Practice needs to take place more often than once in a blue moon.  When was the last time that I tried soldering?  It's been a while.  I'm not sure how many thousands of dollars I can afford on practicing.  To make the jewelry I want to make, I need images or something interesting to sandwich between the two pieces of glass I'm soldering together.  After working on a few tiny pieces of watercolored papers, I realized it was a lot of time spent on something that was likely to end up crap (at least until I had more practice).  There had to be something I could use that, if I pulled off a miracle and whipped up something respectable in terms of soldering, would be worth keeping and wearing.  A few months ago, I joined Teesha Moore's "The Artstronauts Club," and found that she frequently offers free printables of her artwork.  There are beautiful and perfectly sized bits to print (and touch up with sparkly paint or colored pencil for fun) and use in my practice bits.  It takes a lot less time to cut out a tiny rectangle than to paint or draw the work.

Today I was so happy to finish housework early (and skip the trip to the dry cleaners with hubby's shirts until tomorrow) and get into the studio.  My recently purchased burnishing tool performed much better than the old pen cap that I used for getting the copper tape to lay flat and tight.  Silly me thought that this would make a big difference in the finished project.

I just can't get it right.  I KNOW I'm going over areas too many times, but if there's a lumpy spot, there's only one way to smooth the surface.  I worried that I would melt the copper tape backing and it would stop adhering, but it looked like it was still sticking really well.  But as I made a final slide of the iron, I dropped the glass piece onto my studio desk.  If it were wood or metal, no problem.  But it's a cheap, crappy desk from Ikea, the surface of which is coated with plastic.  Ugh.  The hot solder picked up a bit of the plastic all around the surface.  In a panic, I thought maybe the high heat of the soldering iron would burn it off.  I know, dumb.  But I tried anyway.  Then I figured I could build another coat of solder over the first and hide it.  I should have quit while I was ahead. 

It was a wreck.  Done.  No more "fixing" would fix it.  I unplugged the soldering iron and let the piece cool off in a clamp.  After it was quite cool, I started trying to tear off the old solder and tape.  After getting three sides unwrapped, I just opened it like a book and wrestled the paper images out.  They are slightly marred on the edges from the uber-melting of the copper tape adhesive.  The glass was a total loss.  I can still use the images because the tape will cover it, but sheesh!  It's so much time invested to still suck this much!
The front after I over-soldered by quite a few runs

The back wasn't nearly as bad as the front

Time to try something new.  I need to practice every day, even just for a little while before I move on to something else.  I don't want to think that I, and only I, just can't do a better job at soldering with practice.  I've tossed the blechy glass and am ready to give it another go. 

August 4, 2014

Reunions are like mirrors...

I've been traveling so much recently, that I've had absolutely no time in the studio.  Just returning home from a reunion weekend, I opted not to accompany H on his trip to Santa Barbara.  I've had enough of trying to keep myself busy, by myself, away from home.  Ugh.

This reunion has given me a lot to think about.  An "old" friend laughingly pointed out that I can really TALK.  Yes, I talk too much.  I think that people who are out a lot, have a lot of friends and/or have a job that allows them to interact with people frequently have no idea how miserable it can be to suffer the silence of solitude after years of daily interaction with a lot of people.  The friends that I left behind when we moved in 2013 don't have much in the way of free time for getting together socially.  This new town has been rough, with everyone driving their snooty cars into their snooty garages, the doors close and we don't see them again until the garage door raises the next morning and they zip away again.  We have received the message loud and clear in this neighborhood.  Neighbors don't speak to each other.  Ever.  So yes, when I get around fun people, I tend to make up for lost time.  My mid-year resolution - listen more, talk less. 

The other thing I reflected on this weekend was how apologetic I am about the results of my creative efforts.  Spending time with my now real-and-in-person friend and fabulous artist Debbie was eye-opening.  We talked at length about how to move ahead, the fears and trepidation all artists experience, the rejection, and the need to keep moving forward and let our stories come out in our art.  I've struggled with a particular piece for so long and Debbie has urged me to just finish it and move it out, completing that circle that is creating art and moving it along and then starting anew.  So I have a plan for this piece that's been haunting me and will work on it this week.  Photos to follow!

I have a lot to think about now that I'm home.  I want to be healthier for the next reunion.  I want to make progress in my artwork and not feel the need to apologize or explain sheepishly what I was thinking when I made it.  I want to feel confident again.  I want to learn how to make friends here and get the social back in my life.  I'd like to see something different in the mirror the next time I look.

June 11, 2014

Still No Art?

I continue to just sit here and mess with my art supplies for a few minutes before I turn back to the computer and photos for "inspiration."  It's not inspiration if I don't do anything.

Today I grabbed the paper clay head I've been fiddling with for months.  Everyone wrinkled their nose when they saw the peak on his head, asking if he was an alien or if it was a horn.  Looking at it, I felt nothing.  It doesn't speak to me at all.  I keep trying to listen, and there's no thinking noise in my head.  So my response to the silence was to dip that puppy in some warm water and start whacking off the peak/horn/freaky hat.  Who knows how this one will end up, but I figure if I go over the top away from what I normally do, maybe my internal creative spark will get a little brighter.

Picture to follow.

April 3, 2014

Soldering Mistakes & Flops

It's been a few weeks since I sat down in my studio space and started working on anything.  We spent a week in Washington D.C. where I experienced my first real snow.  I've played in the snow a couple of times at Mammoth Lakes, just south of Yosemite, but the snow had fallen long before we arrived and the sunny skies were melting it quickly.  In this case I went to bed at the end of a sunny day and woke up to about a foot of snow.  It was beautiful!  We tromped all over the city and were stunned to find nearly everything closed because of the snow.  The streets, sidewalks and parking lots were clear.  If this Southern California girl can stomp a few miles in snow, I'd think the locals could drive to their jobs and open things like the Library of Congress :-(  In any event, I did get to nail my husband with many, many snowballs.  After a while, he got a bit annoyed and suggested perhaps he'd had enough.  I suggested he move along a little faster.  Bahaha!

Got him!  And look at all of that ammo coming up on the left ;-)

There were a number of people sledding on the little hills of snow alongside the Capitol building
So I'm back in the studio and decided that in order to get better at soldering, I've got to practice.  Usually, I'm one of those people that are OK realizing that it takes a while to get good at something, practice makes perfect, and all that rot.  There are some things about which I wonder if any amount of practice will ever result in my getting good, forget perfect.  Those things are cooking and soldering.  I can cook OK, but I think it's just OK.  No one has died yet and I was going to say no one has ever spit anything out, but there was that veal scampi I made a couple of years ago with what turned out to be nuclear-like pucker power.  My daughter spit it right out on her plate and has refused to eat that dish ever again.  It really was tart, I'll admit, and I've learned that lesson and have made the dish a few times since with significantly better results.  Did I mention that she was a college grad at this point?

Before (the other side)
The soldering is another story.  I took pieces that I made a while ago and tried to fix them.  I use the term "fix" loosely.  If I were to go back and re-read the books or articles I've explored in the past, I'd probably find that I did everything described as a "common mistake by those new to soldering."  The sides are lumpy and, no matter how hard I try to make them smooth, all sides are inconsistent in terms of thickness.  If I try adding solder to a side that has what looks to me like too little solder, it drips down the sides or flows over the back (too much at once?) or liquifies and thins out further (too much heat on one spot or moving too slow?).  This is going to be an expensive learning curve if I keep plowing through the solder at this rate of speed, but there is no other way to get better.  I will NOT repeat the same class I've taken twice.  If at first you don't succeed, don't keep doing that thing that didn't work over and over again.  It looks so darned easy when I watch those darned YouTube videos. 
The "after, but not finished" versions
 This is when I want to sew.  When I sew, I know what I'm doing.  Sometimes I make a mistake, but I know what I did wrong, know how to fix it, and enjoy the almost meditative state of mind that comes with cutting, sewing, cutting, sewing. 

Tomorrow I'll give it another try.  The inexpensive glass I bought when I picked up those cheap picture frames at a discount store will help reduce the cost of learning.  There's no point in using less expensive solder - poor quality supplies will result in a poor quality finished product.  I have learned, however, that cheap magazine pictures or scraps of wrapping paper make a perfectly suitable insert.  There's no need to waste an original little painting.

Since I did not at first succeed, I will try again.  Sigh.

February 19, 2014

Art Instructors Still Scare Me

I know I've blithered on about this before, but I only took one art class in my adult life until recently.   It's the one where we were supposed to draw three objects and the art teacher took my sketch pad out of my hand, gave me a big, fat red "F" and tossed the pad back.  Trying to get over that fear when I am already  so insecure about my art is HARD.  Last year I pushed myself and took the soldering class, believing I did OK.  I didn't start a fire and came home with some finished work.  I've practiced a bit, know I have a lot to learn still, but kept at it anyway.  This last weekend I took another soldering class.  The subject was the same - basic soldering - but the project was different. 

One thing I must say is that I don't want to hurt any feelings (or get caught for busting anyone's chops, frankly), so I feel like I have to write in code.  Darn.

The project for the class is a multi-panel standing photo frame with curly wire decorating the top.  I've blurred out the faces of the sample project since it's not my photo.

This most recent class was hard for me because I thought I was coming into it a step ahead, having taken the soldering class last year.  But so many little things throw me off - getting the supply list so late that I couldn't get everything I wanted to bring vs. having to beg or borrow at the class.  There were things on the list we were not to use, and things not on the list that it would have been good to have.  I'm not sure if the instructor assumed we know how to do things like cut glass, but I found it very intimidating and, frankly, I really suck at it.  She finally cut it for me (it was a challenging shape and I'd never done it before, so I broke a few pieces and felt like an idiot).  Then I was afraid to point out that the two pieces she cut weren't the same shape/size which they need to be because they are the sandwich for the photos being soldered and I didn't know how to fix it.  I figured I'd fudge and just bulk up on the solder when she wasn't looking.

In the end, I felt good that I never burned myself, I only cut one finger (note: flux hurts like mad in a cut!) and think I did a decent job of soldering.  I got all of the emails this time and confirmed the potluck (missed that one last time), and managed to bring something I thought was yummy that wasn't a salad.  (Not that everyone else bringing a salad was bad because they were really good salads).

So I'm tippy-toeing here, trying not to snark or come across as a smarty-pants critical, but I am just having such a hard time getting past being so nervous around snappy teachers that I'm struggling with the notion of going back for another class.  A couple of the other attendees (SO much more experienced than I) were SO nice, encouraging me to come to more classes, get over the fear and just get out there.  The instructor did not.  Am I back in high school and reading too much into this, being a paranoid big baby?

In any event, today I worked on putting on the jump rings.  I've learned that spring loaded needlenose pliers suck for this job and the rough end of a wire cutter works great.  I learned I should keep an antibiotic ointment with a pain reliever and bandages in the studio.  One more cut - ouch.

This is what I've got so far.

Starting to add the jump rings

Back of the panels
The photograph has a very sad story behind it.  The groom on the far left was my mother-in-law's brother.  His bride, to his right, died very soon after they were married.  The other woman in the photo is my mother-in-law.  They are all deceased, so we don't know the details of the story other than that Lawrence outlived his next wife (of many, many years), and pre-deceased his last wife.  He and his sister, my mother-in-law, died within six days of each other.  It was such a sad time.  I wanted to pay homage to them by creating this piece and hope it comes out well.  I should note that the backing paper was a fun project.  The center two panels were creating using gradients on a transparent background in Photoshop Elements.  The fun thing is that you can make a single page, then make a million variations of it by simply tweaking color & saturation.  That was the least stressful part of this project.

So the lesson I'm trying to take from this experience is to just try to stop hearing snark or criticism, focus on the learning, and keep moving ahead.  Oh, and stop being a paranoid big baby.

January 29, 2014

Orange County Housewife & Cat Nanny

It's been a year since we moved, and I still haven't adjusted to the Orange County housewife gig.  I remain, as far as I can tell, the only housewife around town that drives Honda Odyssey but isn't someone's housekeeper.  I'm probably the most plus-sized housewife in town.  I've had no injections other than that for the flu shot.  I have been known to wear Old Navy flip-flops to the grocery store.  I don't have a housekeeper.  OK, not yet, but need help with this big house and wicked arthritis.  I don't like spas.  I do my own mani/pedi and not on a regular basis.  I live in a small city that doesn't allow door-to-door solicitors other than by those who have applied for a permit to do so here, and even then homeowners can opt out, but a few still sneak around town.  I never knew such a thing existed as a city-wide ban on solicitors.  This week one of the sneaky variety came to the door and, as usual, I was dressed for the studio and had plaster all over my hands.  He said he was stopping by to chat with the homeowner about reducing electric bills.  I stopped him and told him I was not the homeowner and they weren't home, that I was the cat nanny.  He muttered "cat nanny" and made a notation on his little clipboard and said he'd come by another time.  He took it seriously.  O.M.G.  Now I'm actually looking forward to the next sneaky solicitor and have to come up with something better than cat nanny since I Googled it and there ARE cat nannies!  What ever happened to just plain old pet sitters?

On the mom front, the empty nest thing remains a mixed bag of emotions.  The kids are both old enough that even when we're home together, we aren't really together.  My son is usually holed up in his room playing video games (insisting that it is now related to his college major of software engineering, and thus qualifies as in-depth and intense study time that should not be disrupted with silliness like meals) along with making it dirtier.   The older of the two is usually busy studying (for real) for her last semester of grad school if she's home at all with her busy work and school schedule.  Me, I'm scooping the litterbox again.  Ah, the joys of motherhood.

On the art front, the week has been slow in terms of creative time.  My husband accompanied me to the Road to California quilt show which was extraordinarily crowded.  I couldn't decide which I needed more after the first aisle, an air horn or a martini.  There were a lot fewer quilts showing and a lot more vendors than in years past, but it was still worth the trip.  This week I'm busy painting a bathroom, once again with a looming party as the impetus to get something done.  I haven't painted in our house myself for about two years and had forgotten the icky stench of primer and the nausea that comes with it when in a small room with it for hours.  Blech.  The priming is done; I'll paint tomorrow.  Then I think we won't have a party for a while because this is not fun anymore.

January 22, 2014

I Should Learn Before I Do...

Live and learn.  Before I started with the paper clay, I did a lot of looking around online for information about how to use it with limited success.  Trying to break my habit of spending more time looking and reading than doing, I shut down the laptop and got to work.  Oops.

The paper clay head was cracking across the back of the neck and I was afraid it was going to fall off.  I slid the piece off of the dowel and found the clay on the underside of the neck still soft.  Good news!  So I rammed a piece of chopstick up the neck to give it some stability and re-wet the cracked area, packing on a little more clay to fill the crack.  I'm sure this isn't what one would read in an advice column in terms of managing cracks, but it appears to be working.  THEN I found more info on the internet about using paper clay.  Ugh, a day too late for this first piece.  There was frequent advice about building up in gradual layers to prevent cracking, as well as using more structural support than just a blob of foil in place of a brain.  Oops again.  Better luck next time.

January 21, 2014

Breaking Away from Comfortable

This afternoon started out like many other afternoons, cruising through the internet, looking at blogs and photos, hoping for inspiration, advice and help.  Trying something new with no previous instruction is hard and I wouldn't even know where to begin to try to find instruction for what I'm doing.  I decided that I wanted to try this next figurative piece using a new material, paper clay, instead of my usual polymer clay.  The instructions on the package weren't exactly helpful.   Add water if needed and wrap anything left in an airtight container, you can sand it...Ok, got it.  I didn't realize how quickly it would start to feel dry on my fingertips and I felt panicked about having to sculpt in a hurry, having little time to fine-tune it before it started to dry.

I worry about the structure and that I didn't think this through enough ahead of time.  The head is stuffed with foil, but the neck is just solid paper clay.  Will it crack?  Was I supposed to use something for armature?  Oh boy, I probably should have used a wire for added strength through whatever that thing is on his head.  I made it, I should have a sense of what it is.  I'm going to say it's a sort of hat.  Yup, it's a hat.  Now I have to figure out when it's dry enough to handle.  Maybe I'll just ignore it for a few days while I work on something else, just to be safe.  At least I made something, even if it was just a learning experience.

January 16, 2014

Cheat Day

OK, I wanted to get some art work done every day, but I keep getting interrupted with chores and errands.  I figure if I crank out a lot of those chores and errands today, that gives me a chore-free day tomorrow to play!  Today was the marathon run to the grocery store, the dry cleaner and Target for all of the cleaning supplies and household goods.  I am SO proud of myself for having been inspired by some of those nutty extreme couponers I saw on television.  I clipped a few coupons, check out the Target flyer in the newspaper and scored!  The Tide was normally about $13 each but is on sale for $8.  I had a coupon for $3 off, plus Target gave a $5 gift card if you bought two.  I refuse to do math when I don't have to, but I think I got two $13 dollar bottles of laundry detergent for $4 each!  There were a few other similar bargains, but it makes my head hurt to think about it.  Those extreme coupon shoppers are just nuts.  It was my sport for the day.

So while I didn't actually do this art today, I did work on it earlier this week.  A recent email with notices of upcoming art classes with Katherine England prompted me to pull out the goods from the soldering class I took with her last summer.  The work I did was clearly that of a newbie, not terrible, but clearly amateurish.  If I don't practice ANYthing on regular basis, everything will always appear amateurish.  I cranked up the soldering iron, pulled out some unfinished pieces and went to town.

This piece is a bit too large to wear, I think, but the point was just to practice attaching a jump ring (I used many bad words attempting this feat) and to practice adding beads of texture (not as many bad words were flying because I was laughing at my lumps). 

It's not a masterpiece, but more than anything I am happy that I just played around and enjoyed myself.

The surface of this little piece with the owl isn't quite right, but I don't know what's causing the wonky surface belmishes.  (This is where I puff out my chest a little bit, proud that I figured out how to do the little faded border thing in Photoshop).
My sister suggested I move the soldering iron along a little faster, but not keep the heating element right smack on the surface, just barely touch it.  Thank goodness Katherine told us about her tip about buying inexpensive photo frames for the glass to use for practice and projects.  The learning curve here could be expensive! 

For my birthday, my husband gifted me the most wonderful tool - a 3rd hand.  There are days where I feel like I could use more, but I think that comes from the fact that I haven't used it much.  Attaching jump rings is a lot easier now.

 Today I spent too much time on the hunt for supplies.  I can get one thing at several sites, but the prices are all over the place for the same item.  Right now I just want to find a decent glass grinder for a decent price from a place that accepts American Express (not a card tied to my bank accounts!) and that has an option for shipping other than the basketball-player-wanne-be dudes that work for UPS.  Too many packages have been bounced and tossed at my front door, including the ones marked "Fragile" in eighty-three languages.  Grrrr.

The internet is loaded with artists who make pendants like these, so I have no big dream of making a lot of money selling them.  I will enjoy making some with original little paintings or old family photos for me and other family members.  Sally Jean Alexander's book Pretty Little Things is a great source of inspiration for me.  Tomorrow, I take another whack at it.

January 12, 2014

New Year Resolution: Make Art for FUN

Boy, have I been whining and complaining a lot and not just lately!  My New Year's resolution is not going to be all about losing weight and getting into shape (I need to do that anyway), but to focus on being more positive and actually creative.

On the positive front, I stumbled across two wonderful blogs yesterday ( and ) that have completely turned around my view of my creative life and made me realize that my once creative spirit is still here, it's just been dormant for a while.  I don't need to worry about creating masterpieces to enjoy making something.

My art dolls have been my biggest stumbling block.  For years, I used basically the same construction method with a few attempts at wavering from the usual techniques.  The head and extremities were attached to the body by hand stitching with transparent thread.  After a while, that thread became brittle and the head sagged.  Without ever having taken a course in doll making and relying on trial-and-error, even consulting books and websites, I just couldn't come up with a method to make it better.  Eventually I tried another method, extending beyond just the neck to include the torso of clay.  Boy, was that a headache!  This thing has been through more - what's the word, versions?  Renditions?

The first ones I made a number of years ago (in my once cheery coloured studio in the old house)

First try adding (too much) fibers, wires and metal bits while trying to figure out the bottom half
Next I added some paint to the body and removed what I felt was excess junk on the wire

Last, I removed ALL of the fiber and spent a week adding a zillion bits of copper wire to the heavier gauge wire, painting it black, and then....nothing
 Then we moved and the movers threw this in a box and piled a lot of heavy things on top of it.  I just feel like I can't recover and this is one of those epic failures that is best just chucked aside.

Yesterday I decided to start fresh and get practice sculpting a face, but my clay is just to crumbly.  Bummer.  Time to shop for new, fresh clay.  Since I had free time, I Googled for ANY help on creating a stable neck using polymer clay and thus found these blogs.  My first thought when I started looking through the photos on one is that I just loved the artist's style and sense of decor, reminding me a lot of the home we just sold, valences I'd made for our kitchen windows, and funky art I made about ten years ago when I made stuff for the fun of it and not to sell or be graded or reviewed.  I don't know what I was going to do with this other than just test making and painting a small poofy thing.  I sure succeeded in that :-)

I made this 3" long piece about eight years ago and clearly painted it in about twelve seconds. 
This is the little guy I made years ago as well, but assembled only recently using embroidery floss as an experiment.

Today is about starting on the new path to being creative for fun, sharing with my artsy friends or friends that aren't so artsy but are curious about what I do when I'm in my studio.  This new me is going to make a note that reminds me to shut down my inner critic.  She's fired. 

January 11, 2014

Works in Progress

It's hard to wrestle with creativity without sounding like I am complaining, but I really am trying to focus on just figuring out the problem and then figuring out a fix.  The fact that I share my studio space with the litter box isn't helping my concentration!

Yesterday I found a figurative piece dated 1999.  It was a dreadful experiment with a fun colored body, but a nasty color of polymer clay and a sad experiment using a face mold with Friendly Plastic.  What an abomination.  I tossed the faceless head and removed the extremities, adding the body to the other two I made some time ago.  Then I stopped.  I'm having a tough time making the effort to make the sculpted parts because I just plain stink at it.  What now?  I need to practice, but it feels like practicing driving without ever having had instruction and hoping I don't run up a tree.  I've read books, watched videos and perused the web for help.  At this point, it's clear that I have to actually smoosh clay and try, try, try more than I have before until I get it right.  Watching and reading will not improve my skills.

Friendly Plastic using facial mold
Scary head without the face

This combo does NOT work!  What was I thinking?!?

Is art this hard for everyone?  I see so many prolific artists, some of whom make an enormous amount of art in a short period of time.  Tomorrow I'll be a "football widow," so I can work away in the stinky studio and see what I can come up with, focusing on having fun being creative without insulting myself in my head.  I have three bodies to finish and hope to tackle at least one.

January 4, 2014

Waking Up the Sleeping Artist-Wannabe

I've been struggling with cooties since Christmas Eve, finally able to talk and be heard, though still coughing up camels and tumbleweeds in my sleep.  Yuck.  Since I'm feeling better, I figured it was time to do some chores as well as follow through on my commitment to getting into art again.  It's hard when I've battled with a blank brain for so long, both in terms of just thinking clearly with this bug and with thinking "art" when I've been so uninspired and feeling dusty and stagnant.

My cyber friend Mary has been posting photos of the products of her creative energies on Facebook, reminding me that we can spend a little time and make a little something without the need to create a full-blown masterpiece.  Attempting to follow suit, I cleaned out a bit of junk in my studio space, cleaned off the surface of my desk and started rummaging through unfinished work to find inspiration and motivation.  I found the bits of one of my very small art dolls I made YEARS ago and decided to put them together in a fashion a little different than I've been doing for so long, using a thick cotton embroidery floss instead of the clear fine thread (which I've found grows brittle and breaks).  While I was wrestling with the needle and thread, my daughter's boyfriend passed through the room and said, "Are you making Voodoo dolls?"  I laughed and told him that no, not exactly, though I suppose it could serve that purpose.

As always, I struggle with issues as simple as posting a photograph of my artwork.  Can I take the criticism that may come with it?  If I were confident, I'd worry that someone were going to try to copy my style, then I laugh at myself and say, "Really?  It's too weird."  Do I post photos just to work on getting past the fear of wrinkled noses and squinty looks of people trying to figure out what the heck it is that I make?  Ugh, it's exhausting being such a fraidy cat.

I'm going to get past this fear and post pics (as soon as I get the stupid card reader problem resolved on my computer so that I can post a decent photo and full body shot.

The little guy I worked on today is 9" long from head to toe.  He's leaning on my cup-o-junk while the wires in his head settle down with the glaze I used to give it a bit more stability.  I'm using my Wacom Bamboo tablet to try out different versions of painted facial details before I call him finished.  It isn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel like I'm dusting off and warming up.