Monday, March 31, 2008

Neil Patterson Workshop

This past weekend the Syracuse Ceramic Guild, of which I am a member, hosted a pottery workshop with Neil Patterson. Armed with large amounts of cold meds (yes, I'm still sick) I, along with four friends, made my way to Syracuse. Nearly a year ago I attended a workshop with Neil's wife, Sandi Pierantozzi, from which I am still drawing inspiration. Neil's workshop was just as inspiring. And even though he throws all his forms on the wheel (I am a hand builder) I was able to learn many new techniques that I will be able to apply to my own work.

Neil works by throwing a variety of forms on the wheel which he then reassembles by hand into many different pieces. These are some of the forms (below)...

and these are some of the pieces he made with them.

To see my photos from this workshop click here. And to see better photos check out Neil and Sandi's website.

My apologies to any and all at the workshop that I may have given my cold to. If it is any consolation my voice completely disappeared the next day. Now it alternates between a really good Bea Arthur imitation and a high pitched squeak that makes my neighbor's dogs bark.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ring around the blackberry brandy

Yesterday I woke up sick for what feels like the 50th time within the past few months. I can go years without catching anything and then it seems I can't go weeks without catching everything. The great thing about being sick is that I get to sleep whenever I want. The other great thing about being sick is that I can drink blackberry brandy whenever I want and claim that it is for medicinal purposes. At this very moment I am sipping my brandy and thinking about going back to sleep.

Being sick, however, doesn't mean that I am being a total slacker. OK, so I haven't done any dishes (nothing new) and I haven't cleaned up after myself (also nothing new) but I have managed to work on some new porcelain rings. I have been mulling this design over in my head for a while and finally decided to just do it. I hand-built them a few days ago and today they were dry enough for me to do a little sanding and refining. Hopefully they will be bisque fired this weekend and I can get around to glazing them right away. Once I have fleshed an idea out I am very impatient to see the finished product.

Time for more sleep. And possibly more brandy. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nancy Ryan

Today I am featuring the work of my friend and former printmaking teacher, Nancy Ryan. A few weeks ago I helped her to get an Etsy shop up and running and I introduced her to the ACEO. She had never heard of these little gems before and was thrilled with the idea. Needless to say she has been working away and has managed to build quite a lovely collection.

Her style, as you can see, is wide in range from moody abstracts to the traditional look of the woodcut. She is adding new pieces to her shop every day so please be sure to check her out, give her a heart and maybe even buy yourself a little masterpiece. Let's show her some love!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A look at the past...

Last week Paul and I went out and did a little antiquing, something we haven't done together in a long time. I managed to find some wonderful photos of the past to add to my collection. To see the details of these great images be sure to click on them.

The above photo is such a beautiful shot from the 1940s of a clothesline. The composition is perfect with the silhouetted grape leaves running across the top.

This photo below shows a group peeling potatoes. I love the way the older woman on the left is watching intently as the children try to get involved.

It is always exciting to find an interior shot and this one is particularly thrilling since it depicts a young man reading. Notice the wallpaper border at the top and the tramp art box under the table.

And lastly I had to show you this portrait of a little baby sitting in a chair. I love this photo for several reasons, the first being that I have an odd obsession with strange chairs. Secondly, I find it amusing that the photographer hauled this giant chair outside to photo the baby in. By comparison if this were today it would be a bit like dragging out the La-z-boy to the backyard and snapping a few. :)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Just say no to the Easter bunny...

Yesterday Paul and I stopped at a pet store to find Petey and Laurel's favorite bunny treats. As we walked through the store we had to pass birds and hamsters and piles of the cutest, sweetest little bunnies. I try to avoid going in to shops like this. It is hard to pass by the rabbits and not want to purchase all of them. Easter is a particularly difficult time as every pet shop loads up on bunnies to appease the momentary interest in these wonderful creatures. I have never been able to understand why most of the population places rabbits into the category of disposable animals. This is both heartbreaking and maddening.

Over the past 16 years I have had the privilege of sharing my home with four different rabbits. Corduroy, Salinger, Petey and Laurel. None of them ever lived outside, all were litter box trained, my sweet girl Salinger lived to be 10 years old, Petey and Laurel were both adopted from the House Rabbit Society. Rabbits are the most forgiving, loving animals who know better than any how to enjoy life. They are happy and funny and smart. They play and dance (seriously!) and frolic and bring constant joy to those lucky enough to be around them. The point of this mushy rant is this: On this Easter holiday please consider the life of a rabbit to be something special, something worth honoring and respecting. Do not buy your child a cute fuzzy bunny that they will lose interest in in just a few days. Do not then place this rabbit in a cage in the back yard to live a lonely life and suffer a premature death. If you must buy a rabbit this Easter (or anytime) please educate yourself and consider adopting one of the many former Easter rabbits that have been abandoned or neglected. And please, consider keeping your rabbit in your house just as you would a cat or a dog. For more information please see the House Rabbit Society's website.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Multiple personalities

As I listed some new items in my Etsy shop yesterday it struck me how varying my styles can be. I go from cute bunnies, birds and dragonflies to bold, modern and abstract pieces. I like both sides of my designing personality and I think they have learned to live to together rather harmoniously. I have seen other artists on Etsy open separate shops for each of their styles, as though shoppers can only handle one look at a time. This seems like a lot of extra work to me. I mean, I understand the idea of keeping your shop focused, cohesive and flowing but when I like someone's work I am eager to see all of it - in one place - right then and there. Am I alone in this?

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Hooray! My bottles didn't stick to the kiln shelf! I am so glad I reglazed them - if you look closely you can see how far the drips went. It came pretty close on a few. Thanks to the kiln gods!

I am thrilled with the glaze job! I have never used this combination of glazes before so I really had no idea what it would look like. It didn't do what I thought it would, but I am totally happy nonetheless. Now I will line them up on my mantle and stare at them for a while. :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ed Levin

Many years ago I worked in a small shop that featured work by artists from all over the US. Aside from being a dangerous place to work (dangerous to my wallet) it was the place where I learned first hand about the value of handcrafted goods and those who produce them. That job was an introduction to a world that I would one day participate in but more importantly it was an introduction to the talent of many extraordinary artists. One of those artists was metalsmith and jewelry designer, Ed Levin.

Levin's work has always had the uncanny ability to look flawless and modern in design while maintaining an elegant simplicity. Good jewelry design doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, the very best of modern jewelry design is able to convey a sense of monumentality while being sneakily simple and unexpectedly comfortable. Ed Levin's work has possessed those qualities since the 1950s when he began his role as a pioneer in modern jewelry design.

Last week I was thinking about Levin. For a while now I have wanted to write a short piece on his work in an effort to encourage people to look to the artists who have come before, who paved the way for the so-called "craft revolution" that is taking place today. Just as I was trying to formulate my ideas and write down notes I received an email with the information that Ed Levin had passed away. He was 87. As I read his obituary I learned things about Levin that I never knew. He was an artist in every sense of the word - incorporating creativity, sensitivity and compassion into every aspect of his life.

The next day after hearing the news I decorated myself like a Christmas tree, layering on every piece of Levin jewelry I own. I stacked on the bracelets and rings, wore my favorite neck collar and earrings - I looked pretty ridiculous but somehow it made me feel better. For me the passing of Levin feels like the end of an era. He was my connection to the past, to the astounding artists who cultivated the modernist movement and influence in jewelry design and production. And while there are many extraordinary artists working today they are simply a continuation (and less of a revolution) of those who paved the way. I encourage everyone to take the time and learn about Levin's work and the work of his contemporaries. You will be inspired and encouraged to push your own creative endeavors even farther. What a fitting tribute to a man whose influence will be felt for years to come.

Two of the photos above are of pages from Marbeth Schon's wonderful book, Modernist Jewelry 1930-1960: The Wearable Art Movement. This book is a must have for anyone interested in jewelry history, modernist design, or simply those looking to be inspired. You need this, trust me. :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Here are two more finished pieces from one of my recent experiments. I received so many great ideas on how to glaze them and what kind of look they should have - thanks to everyone for your input! There are several pieces being fired at this very moment and I am hoping that they will have more of a vintage, time-worn kind of look, but we shall see. If they don't I will just keep trying!

I am pretty fond of this pair of necklaces. I love the combination of the glossy green glaze and the matte black oxide stain. Note to self: use black oxide stain more often!

Both of these pieces can be found in my Etsy shop. :)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jewelry and cabbages...

I was finally able to make it up to Syracuse to the Farmers' Market today. I sell there every weekend when I am not doing a show and minus the last month due to horrendous weather. Today was rainy but warm (ish) at 40 degrees and the people were there. The sales, not so much. The day wasn't a total waste but there will be no dancing in the streets tonight.

However, it was great to be back in that environment. I love to be surrounded by fresh fruit and vegetables, not to mention the other marvelous things that can be found there: handmade soap, fresh spices, plants, local honey, local cheese, local wine, organic meats, fresh bread and baked goodies (pie!) and let's not forget the freshly made hot donuts! Today I actually brought my favorite cookbook with me and sat there planning meals and buying ingredients. And since it is nearly St. Pat's Day (Syracuse is a big Irish town - everyone was in green for the big parade) there was cabbage everywhere, so of course I had to get some to make sauerkraut (not so Irish but oh so yummy!). It is nearly impossible to be surrounded by fresh produce and not try even a little to eat healthier and more creatively.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Stocked and fully loaded...

My day in the studio was a full one. I helped to load the large gas kiln which will be fired on Monday. The studio where I work as an assistant is doing a charity soup bowl drive so most of what you see in these photos is part of that project. We had to make 250 bowls. I say "we" but I actually only made one. Being primarily a hand-builder my skills on the wheel were not in demand so I hand-built one bowl (and glazed around 50). It was very amusing - in the time it took me to make my one bowl Maryanne (she runs the studio) had thrown around ten. But she is superhuman, so that shouldn't count against me. :)

If you look closely in the photo below you will see my little tiny pieces scattered around the bigger things. I wish I had glazed more. We only fire the gas kiln around once a month (the electric kilns are going nearly every day) so I try to have as much glazed as possible but this time I ran out of time.

I did, however, managed to reglaze my bottles and all four were loaded in the kiln. There is still a chance that the glaze will run too much and my biggest fear is that they will be stuck to kiln shelves. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I sprung ahead and stepped behind

Today is a full day and I am already falling behind. This whole spring ahead thing still has me sleeping in too late and disoriented. Petey (above) suffers from the same problem.

Today will be a day in the studio. First I have to reglaze these bottles (below). I should have stopped with the first two layers but in my glazing frenzy I decided to add the paper circles with a third glaze. As soon as I did it I knew it was too much and that if fired these four lovelies would be melted to the kiln shelf (and I would have a lot of grinding to do). So last night I washed them off and today I will start over. I am still determined to use the same three glazes - I will just have to apply them differently. Two steps forward, one step back...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Old Directions

On January 1st I sat in the studio looking at pile of porcelain pieces I had been working on. At that moment I was really into the the whole "it's a new year, time for new ideas and new inspirations" thing. I thought I had done just that - created a new look for my line of jewelry, pushed my own boundaries and was actively moving beyond the same old, same old. By all appearances that is just what I was doing, but the reality was that I was simply bringing to life ideas that I had been hoarding away in my brain for months. The designs that laid before me were nothing new to me, in fact, they were long overdue.

For me the creating process is often one of holding back due to the fact that I simply have too many ideas coming at me all at once. It can be overwhelming and intimidating, especially when there is a chance that a design will not work. Jewelry, at its best, is wearable art - which means not only does it have to function from an aesthetic angle but it also has to be comfortable to the wearer. These two requirements are not always happily married.

As I sat in the empty studio that New Year's Day I forced myself to abandon the worries, to forget about logistics and simply create for the sake of creating. Soon enough the old ideas materialized and new ones started to formulate.

Not every design I made that day works as a piece of jewelry. Some are just too odd or cumbersome, some are too weak and just ugly. But they all served a purpose that day. They gave me that "it's a new year, time for new ideas and new inspirations" kind of feeling. And they cleared my mind for the next round of inspiration.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Refreshing a necklace display

Last year I bought a around 15 necklace displays on ebay. They were so inexpensive that I thought I had hit the jackpot. Well, there was a reason they were so inexpensive - super crummy quality with a capital crumb! They were made of plastic sprayed with black flocking which was already making a run for it, and after just a few weekends at the farmer's market they looked like they had been through a war. What to do, what to do... I didn't really feel like spending a ton on new displays (they cost a fortune!) and I really liked the shape and low profile of the crummy displays. As bad as the quality was they worked perfectly as displays for my larger pendant neckrings. So, I did what any red-blooded creative person would do and I improvised. I knew I needed to re-cover them somehow - I toyed with making little slipcovers for them, then I thought of reflocking them. None of these ideas thrilled me. Then one morning around 4:00 when my mind was doing anything but really sleeping the idea of decoupaging hit me.

Again, not wanting to spend any money, I looked around my house to see what I could use and I found a stack of brown paper grocery bags. Perfect! I tore little pieces with ragged edges and began gluing (Mod Podge) them in a pleasing pattern all over the form. The result is earthy and natural and, most importantly, will provide a neutral backdrop for my jewelry. Only 14 more to go...

Of course this project could be done in any number of variations. With the amount of gorgeous papers available today you could really create a masterpiece, or you could even use fabric with frayed edges, book pages, comic books, candy wrappers - the sky's the limit!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring-time is for birds and bunnies!

There is a fine line between cute and sicky-sweet-cute and I try hard not to cross it. In my early jewelry making days I would never have dreamed I would now be making little bunny and bird necklaces, but here I am, and I am very happy to do so.

And here is a cool little tid-bit: this little bunny to the left was the inspiration for the bunny necklace worn by the Welcome Winter Blythe doll. How cool is that?

Visit my Etsy shop for more Spring and Easter goodies!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Fasting Update - All Done!

Well, almost. Yesterday was the tenth and last day of my fast. Unfortunately I can't do a swan dive into a tub of sour cream right away (oh, how I want to...) - I need to ease myself back into eating. So today it will be fruit juice. Tomorrow it will be salads and vegetable soup (I already have my simple recipe picked out!). I have received some questions about this fast: Why do it? Do you lose any weight? Are you completely out of your mind? All good questions and most of the answers can be found here.

Speaking personally I will say that I do it for several reasons. Primarily I view this fast as a way to start fresh with better eating habits. Over the past few years my diet has really gone down hill and I want to be in more control over what I put in my body instead of giving in to every unhealthy craving. There is a weight loss benefit if you need to lose weight. If you are carrying around a few extra pounds (my Winter weight, as I call it) they will come off but you will need to maintain that loss with your diet after the fast. A few years ago my mother fasted and didn't loose any weight at all (she's a twig), so if you are already at your healthy weight there is no real danger of losing any more.

Aside from the physical benefits there are many psychological ones as well. A clear body also means a clear mind. As the detoxing progresses it is amazing how the mind becomes sharper and the energy level goes up. Overall the fast, for me, is a time to reprogram myself both in regards to diet and where I am at mentally.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Saturday again...

This is the fourth Saturday in a row that I have missed selling at the Syracuse Farmer's Market due to the forecasted weather. And this is the fourth Saturday in a row that the forecast has been way off. It is difficult to make the call at 4 in the morning as to whether or not the hour and a half drive will be safe (and worth it) so we have opted out each time only to be frustrated by the rising sun and clear roads a few hours later. Today is all about the wintry mix: rain + snow = slush and possible flooding. I am watching the Susquehanna River, which is right in front of my house, rise and get dangerously close to the bank. I guess I should make the most of this "free" day.

On to a different topic. Yesterday was spent with my friend Nancy. She is a phenomenal artist, primarily a printmaker, who is interested in getting an Etsy shop up and running. I spent the day with her showing her the ins and outs of the site and looking at how others market their work. She had never heard of ACEOs and got quite excited about idea of making little prints that people could collect. I have a feeling that at this very moment she is busy in her studio working away on tiny masterpieces. As a thank you for helping her out she told me could I have any print or drawing I wanted. This is like offering a drug addict their choice of narcotics and I had to really control myself as I poured over her hundreds of works. I ended up choosing the drawing above - a beautiful figure study full of gestural lines and quiet solitude.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Don't be fooled...

These bunnies aren't as sweet and innocent as they look. After nearly two months of trying to bond Petey (white) and Laurel (Dutch) they still haven't learned how to play nice. Every now and then I think that they are getting close to finding true bunny love. They will have a great "date" with no nipping and lots of ear licking - they give me hope that one day I can permanently remove the gate that separates them. But then the next meeting results in flying fur (literally) and sulking bunnies. Last night I came home from the studio to discover that the gate had been accidentally left open. Petey must have ventured into Laural's area. What I saw looked like a war zone. Imagine a Hollywood movie pillow fight with feathers flying everywhere only exchange the feathers for rabbit fur and you would have a pretty good idea of what was going on.
Petey looked like he had exploded with ragged fur sticking out all over him. Laurel, on the other hand, didn't seem to have a care in the world and promptly resumed begging for treats. I checked them both out all over and miraculously there didn't seem to be any major damage to either. And after only an hour of pouting in his room (yes, he has his own room) Petey was right back by Laurel's side, licking her nose through the gate. He is a forgiving little guy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

You have to smell it to believe it!

A few weeks ago I stumbled across the most beautiful photos of soap on Flickr. They were so pretty that I couldn't imagine ever using them - I just want to display them in a bowl and look at them all day (like a million other things I have in bowls around my house that I just look at - I have a things-in-bowls-sickness). Anyhoo, the gorgeous soaps were made by 4th Ave. Soap Co. and I was immediately drawn in to her beautiful Etsy shop by the wide array of products in the most alluring scents. I ended up purchasing some aftershave for my boyfriend and some face cream for myself.

The aftershave: Sweet Pipe Tobacco aftershave has the most amazing scent ever! In the whole history of aftershaves never has there been such a perfect scent for the man who was born 100 years too late (Paul is a true Edwardian at heart). It has the subtle sweet aroma of fine pipe tobacco without being overpowering. On more than one occasion I have found myself standing the bathroom holding the bottle and just inhaling. Yes, I am an aftershave addict. I admit it.
The face cream: I bought the Antioxidant Face Cream and I couldn't be happier! Take it from a girl who has sensitive, fair skin that, in Winter, gets so dry it flakes like a fine French pastry - this cream can perform miracles! I am so impressed with what this cream has done to my skin in a just a few days I feel like I should buy a life-time supply so that I am never without it. When you are allergic to nearly everything made for the face it is such a thrill to find something that doesn't burn off your epidermis and actually improves the condition of your skin. Rock on 4th Ave. Soap Co.!