Tuesday, August 28, 2012

As I Move On, My Mother Shows Up

Going through the living room library of books smashed into the bookshelves... I find a hard covered book my dad put together  - after my mom died - of many of her writings.  I open the book up to the following poem... And my heart soars... Thank you, Mom.


In the Beginning
when Energy
I was here.

When inanimate matter
transformed itself
into living cells
branching out
I was here.

When life
now sentient
in seething, steaming waters
first clambered on to land
I was here.

When Earth's creatures
ever more complex
ripened into human form
and seized the energy
of the sun
I was there.

I suffused all that is
with my Wisdom
the Wisdom
of great age
of limitless experience
of infinite knowledge
of boundless love.

I am in the stardust.
I am in you.

- Martha hope West
(Note: For those not familiar with the Goddess Sophia, you can find out more here, but, please remember... Sophia was around a long time before Christianity. They just took her over because she is so awesome.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mojo and More (some from across the pond)!

I have been meaning to plug Cynthia Tinapple's terrific weekly e-newsletter, StudioMojo, for... er... well... months, actually. But in typical Mel "Island Time" I'm just getting around to it now.

This week, Cynthia's newsletter included a video interview with Alison Gallant that spurred me to (finally) crow (well, blog) about StudioMojo. I had the chance to clay with Alison last month, and it was a real delight. She was wearing something like (perhaps the same one?) the necklace above.  (I also managed to trade earrings with her... My new colorful, Gallant drop earrings are definitely the better end of the deal.) 

I had a good laugh when Alison referred to "mud" - what we call the color of mixed scrap clay on this side of the pond - as "donkey brown". I think I like her words for it better (I have a thing for donkeys).

You never know where you will gather tidbits of information that will spur new ideas and creative rushes, but I can always depend on StudioMojo to give me a shot of inspiration and motivation (just look at the fact that I'm finally posting a blog! Heh).  In the interview, Alison spilled the beans that the International Polymer Clay Association's Synergy 4 (in 2014) will be held in Amsterdam! But... Before that happens, be sure to check out Synergy 3, in Atlanta, GA, which will be held in March of next year.

Now for a bit of selfless self promotion... For those who (wisely) stay away from the Book of Faces (aka Facebook), you might not have heard I have started to teach more regularly (well, regularly for me). Next month I will be teaching with Bonnie Bishoff at stunningly beautiful Saddleback, Maine. You can find out more here, but just to get the juices flowing...

...Here's a brief description:
"This four day course will be a fun mash-up of creative discovery.  This class brings together the experience and visions of two world renowned artists, Bonnie Bishoff and Melanie West, who will invite students to join them in the exploration of creativity, play and the marriage of surface and form.
Bonnie will share, among other gems, her stunning marquetry technique, incorporating the feel of brushstrokes and fabric. Melanie will share her methods for organic form and the materials behind them. Together, they will help students explore their creative voice through (among other things) the creation of an organic bangle, laminated with marquetry and other methods."

Just to make it more interesting, Melanie Muir will be teaching a one day class right after Bonnie's and my class (plus, Ms. Muir will be joining our class!)... How cool is that?  And the best part, it all takes place at the incredibly beautiful Saddleback, Maine... So come play with clay with us!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It's All My Dad's Fault...

What do you give a dad who has everything and doesn't care much about possessions? Well, for a while, I just donated money to a charity I knew he would appreciate. But, that kind of got old (and I didn't have much money to give any more). So... I learned how to make bolo ties

Lucky for me, my Pop loves bolo ties (also called string ties). I think it started, for him, with trips to the Southwest. He would purchase beautiful Navajo silver and turquoise bolo ties. Whenever he went to his office, or out to dinner, on went the bolo.  

When I first started making them with polymer clay, I used to buy silver tips and leather cord. But, in an effort to place my own "voice" in the ties, I began making my own tips, and used buna cord instead of leather (heh, guess they could be called "buna bolos" - say that five times fast).  

Now I'm making them not just for my dad, but as necklaces (as in, for women). I really like wearing them myself. While I still love making my "honking big bead" necklaces, and am still playing around with the torque style necklace with magnets, my personal favorite to wear is the bolo. They are light, colorful (well, mine are), and unexpected (at least on a woman).  Throw in my kooky organic "cilia and cell" patterns, and they can generate a lot of surprised looks from folks - in a good way, that is.  So yeah, it's all my dad's fault.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Of Magnets and Armature

One of the reasons I love making jewelry is the engineering puzzles behind each new design. Once I have successfully tackled a new idea, I'm always eager to see what else I can do.  Incorporating new material into the equation is always fun... and sometimes a real challenge. A while back I started making torque-style necklaces that simply lay around the wearer's neck... Like this Ball and Squiggle necklace.

 I really like the way the ball and squiggle bounce along as I move... But I was aware that not everyone would appreciate this quirk. In fact, I was one of only a tiny handful who thought the bouncing delightful and silly (silly can be very good, in my book). So, the puzzle presented me was how to make a similar style that tended to stay put, once on. The solution I came up with was rather simple, in this case... Magnets!
This Ball and Star necklace in greens is the first try... and came through my "road testing" with flying colors! If you look closely, you can see a pair of small magnets, which lie between the ball and star. The wearer can simply "break" the two pieces apart to remove the necklace. 

The original design (the Ball and Squiggle) was made with a foundation of memory wire (which added to the bounce). This new engineering design is made over simple buna cord, and hangs like a standard necklace.  I am currently trying to incorporate the magnets and memory wire, but so far the "road testing" hasn't been so successful. But stay tuned... I am getting closer to a solution.

For some time I have been looking for better inner armature for my bangles. At a retreat last year, a couple of friends suggested an epoxy clay-like material that air dried rock hard... Which is pretty cool. The best part, however, was that this stuff can be covered with polymer clay and baked! While this stuff has a three hour work time, it can have a mind of it's own, and is VERY sticky.  So it's been taking some time to feel comfortable with it... but here is a sampling of what I've been doing so far.
There are some more adventuresome pieces that I've been working on, but they aren't ready for consumption yet. But... As before... Stay tuned (but don't hold your breath - this is me we're talking about).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Who's Going To RAM?

Finally made it back from the Rockies late last night... Boy, is it great to be back home (I feel like breaking out in song)!  Man, Dog and Cat were all really happy to see me. The black sky was studded with sparkling stars, the air was clear, and the altitude was only 600 feet above sea level. Phew! 

 And... in just a month's time, I will be flying off to Wisconsin (the Cheese Hat State, as my son calls it), where the Racine Art Museum (RAM) will be debuting the exhibit Terra Nova: Polymer Art at the Crossroads. For those who haven't been following the efforts of Elise Winters and others at the Polymer Art Archive,  I strongly urge you to check it out. Because of their tireless efforts (both time and money!) Polymer Clay is rising to the level of respect and recognition it deserves.

While the exhibit is a huge turning point itself, the press it's been getting is nothing to sneeze at. It's been covered by Ornament Magazine...
Art Jewelry Magazine (see the current issue's "A Conversation with Bruce Pepich")...

And now American Craft... (if you click here, you can download a PDF of the article)

And, speaking of deserved exposure... Rachel Carren received due honors in a terrific article in Ornament, written by polymer clay champion Jill DeDominicis. Well worth a read.

I got a real creative kick start while I was huffing and puffing in the Rockies... so stay tuned for some fun stuff ahead. Well... some time in the near (ish) future.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Nice Ring (or three, er... four)

Last year a number of polymer artists took a year long Ring-A-Day challenge, and the results totally gobsmacked me... And, it got my old Muse hootin' and hollerin' to get going on my own designs. My Muse can be a major task master *coughpainintheasrsecough*, so I complied and actually kind of like some of the results.

The core is sterling silver. I built and carved a polymer armature over the core, then laminated it with cane work. It really is a pain to do (I don't like small work... my fingers are too old and achy), but I really like the end results... so far.

I even made a few wavy rings to go with the wavy bangles... But don't expect too many of those, because they are even more of a pain. Fun... but a pain (literally).  

For those who enjoy my bangles, don't worry, they are still on my docket... I'm just letting my Muse have her way so she'll settle down a bit...

From The Science Desk -
Isn't this Red Tailed Catfish a beauty? Oh, to be a master of color and pattern on the level of Nature herself. *sigh* 
A Plug For a Friend and Colleague -
If you haven't signed up for the Studio Mojo newsletter, I highly recommend you do. Cynthia Tinapple, it's creator, takes her daily blog "Polymer Clay Daily" and pumps it up with lots and lots of major Mojo. Video interviews, artist resources, inspiration and innovation fill her weekly posts. Well worth the investment.

Next week I head off to Colorado to meet up with friends and see if I can stretch my creative muscles a bit... let's hope the altitude doesn't clash with the Fibro, but whatever happens, I'm sure it will be well worth it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Having Fun With Form

I've been messing about with Ultra Light again... And have finally manifested a form that I have been thinking about for some time. Instead of an outer wave, I'm going for an inner movement...

I've also been working with more muted colors lately. Not sure why. Perhaps it was the Winter Blues that have carried over into my Spring Fever... or perhaps I just had way too much scrap clay. (For those who don't know... I am a "Use Your Scrap" warrior... and not just for bead guts. Lindly Haunani and Maggie Maggio have taught me the beauty of playing with "mud".)

I'm heading out tomorrow for a ten day road trip, visiting family and friends, and (hopefully) claying up a storm. My friends Betsy Baker and Melanie Muir have convinced me to try working with vessel forms... so perhaps, when I get back, I will have something really new and different to share with you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two Steps Back Can Be A Good Thing

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had a bit of "artist's block" to deal with this spring... And, as someone (please don't ask me who) once said, "It's more preferable to step back a bit, than to keep banging ones head against the wall." So... always one to follow wise advice *coughnotcough*... when I stepped back I found myself making beads.

Lots of beads... (sorry for the lousy pics... I didn't want to delay this post any longer than necessary).

Beads are an old passion of mine, but many years ago I decided to resist making any more because... well... I am not very good at stringing them. What good is a bead if you can't do anything interesting with them (I have a couple of drawers of ancient beads to testify to that).
But, I have found that sometimes going back to a form that comes easy (i.e., simple round balls with holes in them) helps coax out a sleeping muse.

Above are some of the Mokume Gane squid and cicada beads.

Then I started easing back into my usual "simple cane" patterns...

When my muse started to open her sleepy eyes, I began making simpler beads, but with a little added dimension.

As well as more "cephalopod eye" beads, which I actually started making last year...

So. Now that my muse is up and had her coffee, what do I do with all these beads!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A New Twist to An Old Passion

One of the few things I am (sometimes) able to do when having to "go horizontal" (due to pain and such) is draw. Spending lots of time in the studio working with polymer is great, but my drawing skills can get a little rusty if I don't keep practicing. So, I am grateful that I'm forced to do down time, where I can get my 2D skills back in shape.

One of my greatest inspirations is the work of Ernst Haeckel. He was a German biologist and artist who loved wild and crazy (my words) forms in Nature. Below are two Haeckel illustrations (in color) and my re-interpretation of them in pen and ink.

While one could say I am just copying Haeckel's work, so be it. I remember as a child, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City, and seeing students set up with easel and canvas... right there in the middle of the museum, copying the Masters. When I asked my mom why they were doing that, she said that one of the ways to learn to paint is to copy the work of others who's work you admire. It will help you to see through their eyes.

My mom was a wise gal. I would only add that it also helps you stretch your creative muscles and keep in "practice". The pen and ink drawings above, as well as others inspired by both Haeckel and directly inspired by Nature, will be transferred to polymer clay and turned into little pins and earrings and such... so, stay tuned. I'll do my best to share some photos of them in a future post.

My next blog post, however, will be about some of the beads I have been making... so... um.... yeah, stay tuned.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Crawing Out Of The Mud

It's been another challenging Winter for me. Most of the trouble has been because of my fibromyalgia, but I wont bother you with the gory details. Suffice to say, as the sun slowly shifts toward it's Summer Solstice zenith, my body and spirit are rising with it.

And, as my spirit rises, so does my muse... finally! I have felt, at times, like a hibernating reptile... so, in celebration of those anti-freeze-blooded creatures, I've made a new bangle I'm calling Two Sides Of The Same Lizard.

Not really sure what kind of lizard I'm paying homage to... I kind of think it's more of a Winter vs. Summer kind of thing going on here, with some nice glowy gold and green inside.

Now, when I first started to climb out of my shell (another analogy to reptiles... did ya notice?) this spring, I found I had totally lost touch with my muse. So, in order to shake things up a bit (imagine lots of dust being shaken from my poor muse), I went back to a technique I haven't played with for a loooong time...

... Mokume Gane! Initially, started with beads... LOTS of beads (you'll get to see some of them in a future post), and played with a method of MG that made my beads look suspiciously like Cicadidae (you will have to use your imagination... for now). But, as I was messing about with the zillions of sheets of MG I had made, I became inspired to try a new look for my bangles. The result is above. Granted, I did use a cane for the inside of the bangle, and I'm still using the ol' "spots & dots", but it's definitely MG.

For those few souls who haven't (yet) given up on me and my blog, thank you for hanging in there. I have made a promise to myself that I will increase my "web presence" this Spring, and I think I should be able to keep that promise... baring any unforeseen complications *coughfibrocough*. Heh.

And, as a little thank you to you die-hards, I shall leave you with "Six Terrifying Ways Crows Are Way Smarter Than You Think". Note: A couple of the photos look suspiciously like Ravens, but it's such a fun article that I can let that pass. Enjoy!