Our blog this week is brought to you by polymer clay artist Laurel Swetnam. Laurel highlights the importance of play through art!
One of my greatest challenges as a family therapist for young families was to teach and motivate parents to play with their children - they just didn’t know how. Play is a cornerstone of early childhood development, but it’s just as important for us adults. Unfortunately, sometime our brains just get in the way. I posted an apt quote that a friend gave me near my workbench.
Playfulness takes us out of time and place as it eases stressors and renews our sense of well-being. Solo play unlocks new ideas and group play builds community. It’s not so easy! The popularity of Zentangles and the ongoing adult coloring book mania of young professionals (who, my daughters tell me, sometimes have coloring book parties) reflects our need to engage in play, but also our need for a little help with the process. Artistic Portland’s Kelly Casperson understands that need and publishes lovely coloring books - this one is aptly named “Meditations”.
We artists are often pretty good at play. We lose ourselves in Pinterest images and imagine new directions for our work. However, facing the pressures of shows and production while staying true to our “voice”, artists, too, forget to play. Burnout!
But I am very lucky! Every year I attend a retreat for polymer clay artists where play is the order of the day. About 25 professional artists gather for a week to soak in the synergy that springs from being together. We learn from each other, share resources and experiment. This year was especially interesting, because a little help came our way in the form of a book that one artist brought to share, Rex Ray Art and Design ( Chronicle Books, 2007). Rex Ray’s vibrant colors and curvy patterns fits well with our chameleon medium. Intrigued by the mid-century vibe, we started to play.
Lynn Yuhr, from Miami Florida, interpreted Ray’s aesthetic by cutting apart little screen prints she had made on clay then imbedding the lively patterns in a neutral background. Cynthia Tinapple from Ohio, who brought the book, channeled the guru of the hour by rocking his sumptuous palette to create a series of stylized leaves to hang from a mobile. Libby Mills ran with the shapes and started a series of 2-D wall tiles which repeated Ray’s iconic oval shapes.
My own Rex Ray efforts stuck with a couple of my favorite colors, yellow green and orange and my two most treasured design elements, strips and dots. Here’s a veneer I made. It’s been sitting around since a got home two months ago. I don’t have a plan, but I will definitely make time to play with it.
And now for something completely (and deliciously) different. This week's blog is a reflection of sorts and was written by visual artist Ben Gilbert of Crayons and Cardboard. The title of Ben's art business sums up his materials but not his extraordinary talent. Ben is a master at creating oftentimes hauntingly beautiful images meticulously imagined onto sheets of cardboard. If you haven't checked out Ben's work at Artistic Portland yet, you're missing out!
"I tossed a spicy Dorito to the fat pigeons of Burnside and Grand today... they pecked but did not nosh until I stepped on it... if anyone reads this I will be in a Starbucks after getting a burger and will look at 11/2 to see if any quirky things spark the creativity... The first 5 to read this and make it known they have read this can get a magnet or $5 off a commission.
I’m doing 6 survey apps not because I need the money but because I got the time... I’m not doing any shows because I’m not actually wanted.. more they need warm bodies... the cable show is still a few months away... I’m traveling east in December and got to stay focused on completing the one thing I’m planning on doing... going to the end of Cape Cod on the 21st and chucking apples into the ocean...
Parasite... The Lighthouse and Jojo are on my radar... Brunchbox is in my path so I go there every day.
The store I’m at now has become comfortable and I’m good with the new systems they use...
How long have you been a member of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the Co-op?
I’ve admired the concept of an art co-op for a long time. I’ve been a member of Artistic Portland since May 2019 and joined the co-op to gain first-hand experience and support the success of the co-op.
What is your background?
I’m a mechanical engineer, moved to Portland about six years ago and decided to open a home studio. Prior to having my own studio, I always used city or university rec center facilities.
What does your work aim to say?
My work is primarily an invitation to experience something different.
Who are your biggest influences?
I learned pottery from my father and I’m most inspired by the mastery of form expressed in Japanese pottery.
Describe yourself in one word. Why that word?
Optimistic. I know that there are no short cuts to perfect design yet every piece that I complete is the best piece that I have every made!
Where do you create?
In my home studio.
What inspires you?
The timeless natural beauty of the West and Pacific NW.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
Every piece of my studio is indispensable.
How do you know when a work is finished?
This is a good question without an easy answer. Each work is an expression of a concept and is completed when the concept has been captured.
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
Creativity is somewhat of a rebellious thing. It likes to sneak up from behind and surprise you. I’m not sure that there is any way to cure creativity of this unfortunate habit.
Is there an artwork that you created that you are most proud of? Why?
Another good question without an easy answer! This would have to be some of the first pieces I made as a child because they were my first pieces.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you do?
I tend to suspect that almost everything is art when you look at its foundations.
What do you like to do when you're not creating?
Paying bills and other day-to-day tasks seem be a good way to use up time!
A visit to Artistic Portland will never leave you feeling uninspired! Check out this visual blog featuring current artists showing at Artistic Portland! And did we mention the holidays are right around the corner? Be sure to click on the images to see who the artist is behind the art.
The following blog is brought to you by June Martin of MOTH & TWIG Mosaic Jewelry.
Artistic Portland houses a wide variety of great local art, including ceramics, glass art, painting in various mediums, fiber arts, sculptural pieces in various materials including wood, metal, and found objects, as well as pretty much everything in between. In other words, if you're looking for some pretty fabulous art, look no further than Artistic Portland!
You can also find a beautiful array of jewelry at Artistic Portland. Full time jewelers currently showing at Artistic Portland include Becca Paisley, Beth Jones, June Martin, Laurel Swetnam, Leslie McMillan, Petra Woodworth, and Susan Hunter. Michael Barley and Dolores Kueffler also show jewelry as well as other mediums at Artistic Portland.
Becca Paisley is our newest jewelry artist at Artistic Portland. Becca Paisley Designs is the jewelry line she created after having fallen in love with the art of metalsmithing. She is inspired by raw metals and tools used to transform a flat piece of metal or a wire into a carefully constructed adornment. She uses traditional, contemporary, and experimental metalsmithing techniques. Her styles range from geometric and minimalist to organic and intricate. The process of adding bold texture, colorful patina or a bright finish to her jewelry could be described as solving a creative riddle. There always seems to be one right answer.
Beth Jones is the creator behind Delicate Filaments. All of Beth's jewelry is designed and hand fabricated by her. She describes herself as loving to work with metals and gemstones of all kinds to create something beautiful and unique, something that is an expression, or even, an extension, of herself. Ever since she was a child she has loved collecting rocks, fossils, shells and weathered old glass pieces from the shores of Lake Huron to Vancouver Island and the Oregon coast, and every other country she's had the good fortune to visit. Beth's work is intricate while also sturdy and substantial.
MOTH & TWIG mosaic jewelry was created by mosaic artist, June Martin. June's work consists of various materials including tile from Morocco, glass from Italy, bezels from Mexico and Turkey, as well as bezels cast closer to home, in Port Townsend, WA. June uses an array of tools to meticulously create tiny mosaics that she then carefully sets into jewelry bezels. She finds the small work meditative and rewarding. Each piece is unique and she doesn't often plan out her designs, further enhancing the organic feel of her work. She's in love with color, texture, and shape, all elements that can be found in abundance in her pieces.
Speaking of color, you'll find no shortage of vibrant colors and contrasts in Laurel Swetnam's exquisite polymer clay jewelry. Laurel also creates small decorative items using polymer clay. Laurel first started working with polymer clay when she worked as a family therapist. She would use the medium in sessions with her clients. This evolved into the creation of her jewelry line entitled Sequels. Laurel is particularly intrigued with millefiori cane work as she loves patterns and the exploration of symmetry and diversity of organic forms such as pods, anemones, and flowers.
Another relative newcomer to Artistic Portland is Leslie McMillan of McMillan Metals. In Leslie's work you will find how she transforms silver, copper, and brass into wearable art. According to Leslie, manipulating and hammering metal grounds her. You'll see that her pieces have a subtle simplicity influenced by the shapes, colors and the textures of nature.
Recently Leslie trained with Master Momoko Okada in the ancient art of Japanese silver leaf. Production of gold and silver leaf dates back to the 15th century. Today 99% of gold and silver leaf is produced in Kanazawa, using traditional methods of pounding a small amount of metal into whisper thin sheets. The leaf is so thin that even a tiny amount of static electricity can cause it to tear. Along with silver leaf, Leslie uses traditional silversmithing techniques such as; soldering, forging and casting in fabricating her work. Leslie has also expanded her metalwork to include the fusing of high kt. gold to steel which results in a free form and highly textured design. I
Petra Woodworth of Purely Petra is a jewelry designer living in Portland. Petra has been making jewelry for over 20 years. It was love at first sight when her daughters took her to a bead shop on that long ago day. Over time she taught herself the techniques needed to create her unique and beautiful pieces.
Many of Petra's designs are inspired by "Steampunk" - antique machinery...meets modern day science...meets Victorian romance. Most of her designs are one-of-a-kind and she uses a wide variety of materials from sterling silver to found and recycled objects like old keys and dominos.
Susan Hunter of Bodie Design Studio creates elegant silver jewelry that can be worn everyday or to special occasions since her pieces translate well to a multitude of settings. Learn about Susan's touching journey into the world of jewelry making. Not only does Susan work in sterling and fine silver, but you can also find her latest creations in 14kt and 14kt gold filled! She also incorporates various stones into her jewelry such as blue topaz, chalcedony, amazonite, and sapphire to name a few. Susan also makes fun pet charms from copper! She is truly talented and versatile.
This week's blog was written by polymer clay artist Laurel Swetnam of Sequels.
One of the most appealing qualities of polymer clay as an art medium is the fact that artists can mix any color under the sun from three primaries, black, white and maybe a touch of metallic pearl or gold for sparkle. Although I drool over tools as much of as any artist, I love the simplicity of being able to mix all the colors of the rainbow from 5 blocks of clay. Since my monkey brain gets in the way of traditional meditation, I turn to color mixing when a dose of tranquility is needed.
Here are the primaries in Kato Clay, my preferred brand, and a handful of the dozens of colors on my worktable that I’ve mixed from those primaries.
I’ve always loved the art of combining colors and, of course, try to remember how to recreate favorite colors I’ve created. In July, however, I learned that there is so much more to color theory and systematic color mixing.
Along with 11 other professional polymer clay artists, I recently attended a 6 day workshop called “Color Intensive” taught by two color wizards, Lindly Haunani and Maggie Maggio. Maggie and Lindly are both experienced teachers in demand all over the world as well as renowned polymer artists. Their shared passion for color generated their collaborative book Color Inspirations (2009), which is a classic in the field for polymer artists. Maggie calls her approach to teaching “21st century color”; the red-yellow-blue primary system we learned as children has ceded to magenta-cyan-zinc yellow primaries. During the class each participant learned a bit about the science of color, then dived into a systematic approach to color mixing, learning how to create an individualized color palette that reflects the artist’s voice and that hangs together beautifully.
We started by mixing color scales from each primary pair (strings of beads on the left), then tweaked one color by creating a “pivot” deck by adding muds. Muds in this case are mixtures of the three primaries, plus possibly a little black and white. I mixed several variations of mud for the colors I was considering, and then chose one particular mixture to be my “mixing mud”, a warm brown (more yellow, less blue and magenta). My pivot color was a yellow orange (on the top of the tiles on the right below). The result was luscious variations on my original hue created by adding various qualities of my mud along with pinches of yellow, blue, magenta, black and white. Because I learned a systematic way to vary the pivot tile color, I can catalog and recreate my colors in the future. It’s way more effective that writing down color recipes.
Here’s the coolest part. Once you have created your mud for a palette, adding just a pinch to any other mixed color unifies the aesthetic. Here’s a photo of a pair of earrings and a necklace made with a lot of the variations in my orange pivot deck, plus a few more darks and lights for contrast. Mud magic!
How long have you been a part of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the Co-op?
I joined Artistic Portland about one month ago. After retiring from my full time career one year ago I knew the co-op would provide me with companionship of other artists along with a space to show my work.
What is your background?
I am from Buffalo, NY and lived on the east coast until my husband and I moved to Portland 20 years ago to escape the snow. I am one of seven children and when we all get together it is loud and joyful. I have been married to a wonderful guy for 37 years this August and together we have owned 4 Newfoundland dogs (not all at once). I worked as an accountant/financial analyst for over thirty years before retiring.
Why do you do what you do?
I have created some form of art work since childhood. It is simply a part of my nature. As an adult I have dabbled in many art forms; raku pottery, silversmithing, oil painting, photography, but once I began working with glass I knew that I had found my forever medium. I love the translucence of glass, the color, the reflective quality and the fact that it can be manipulated to create anything your mind can dream up. I actually purchased my first piece of fused glass about 30 years ago and now it has been almost 15 years since I took my first fused glass class and I have never looked back.
Describe yourself in one word? Why that word?
Curious. I love to keep learning. My favorite question is "why?" It always elicits great information about anything being discussed.
Where do you create?
I have a studio in the lower section of our house with several stations to perform the different processes that I employ to create my glass art.
What motivates/inspires your work?
Together with my innate need to create, I am inspired by colors and shapes. I prefer to work in primary colors for their boldness, their cheerfulness, but really any bright color will do. I'm also fond of geometric shapes of all kinds. The clock line I am currently making has both of these elements. Looking at the glass art work of other artists to see how they are using the medium is also very inspiring. This often spurs me on to try new technique.
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
I make sure to be in my studio every day. It may only be for five minutes to straighten up, but I find being surrounded by my creative materials motivates me to want to work.
What is your favorite piece you have ever created?
Any piece I make using pattern bars has great appeal for me. Pattern bars are a separate process of layering different colors of glass in such a way that when they are fully fused they curve into beautifully striated masses. Slices of these masses are then incorporated into an overall design and fully fused again.
What do you like to do when you are not creating?
When I am not creating I love to travel the world. I have been to every continent except for Africa and the Antarctic (so far). I love meeting people, exploring their customs, trying the food. It is a great way to keep learning and expanding my mind and perspectives.
This week's blog was written by Ammi Brooks of Ammi's Art.
I found a beautiful skirt at the thrift store and knew it would make a great scarf. The fabric needs to be a natural fabric like cotton or silk or even rayon. The lighter the better. Heavy fabric takes long to felt and full.
Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of it before I cut it up. If the skirt is straight or ruffled I can lay it out evenly. In this case the skirt had many different seams. To get it to work I needed to cut it and then sew it together so the ends were alike. I used the seams as a guide for the black wool roving. One side had a finished seam so I didn’t felt that side. The other side I used the black roving to cover the rough edge.
Below is the full layout on bubble wrap. The close-up shows the black wool roving with silk accents.
After I covered the seams with the roving I made a few more placements of roving on the fabric. Placement of the roving makes a big difference in how the fabric ruffles. The more space between the wool the more blousy the ruffle is. The closer the wool strips the tighter the gathers.
After I laid out the wool on one side I covered it with another piece of bubble wrap and turned it over pinching the side with clips so it wouldn’t slide.
I take the bubble wrap off and place the wool roving over the seams where the wool is on the other side. Next, I wet it down.
I like to use a bar of olive oil soap in a bowl with water to rub gently on the surface. After I have gently rubbed the wool on one side I put on the bubble wrap and turn it over. I continue to rub the wool on the other side pressing harder. Because the wool is on both sides the wool fibers tangle together in the middle and felt faster. At this time some artists will roll up the scarf to press the fibers together. Since there is very little wool coverage I don’t see the need. I rubbed harder and harder and the wool begins to shrink and “full”.
Here is the final result! This scarf sold the day it came to the store.
This week's blog was written by mosaic jewelry artist June Martin of MOTH & TWIG.
I'm a big fan of quotes, in particular, art quotes. I'd like to share some of my favorites along with images of the artists quoted. Have fun! Be inspired!
“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” Georgia O’Keeffe
“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.” Pablo Picasso
“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.” Claude Monet
“I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.” Andrew Wyeth
“I paint myself because I am alone. I paint myself because I am the subject I know best.” Frida Kahlo
“An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision.” James McNeill Whistler
This week's blog was written by polymer clay artist, Laurel Swetnam.
I imagine that everyone who sells art gets stuck from time to time. Your stock of successful products has to be replaced, but your chaotic workspace overwhelms you. On one corner of my studio table there are five half-done projects. Yikes - time to focus! Other times you carve out a little time to create new designs, but your
muse takes a hike and you feel uninspired.
Here’s my motto. When the muse takes a vacation, it’s time to retreat - not retreat as in run away, but retreat as in step back, refresh yourself and take time to play. I am most grateful to have the opportunity to do just that every August when a group of professional polymer clay artists gather in the awe-inspiring northern Rockies to spend a weekend together.
Each artist generally chooses to explore something new during the week which pushes a bit beyond her comfort zone. Jewelry artists sculpt, color zealots work only in black or white, sculptors use clay as pointillist painting medium or artists collaborate. I crafted a series of large pods, using millefiori cane work (which I do) and oil painting (which I don’t do). Bonnie Bishoff, a maker of extraordinary wearable art, used polymer clay to create this 2-D textured painting.
Energy is augmented, and the workroom thrums from early morning to the wee hours. As punctuation to the studio work, individuals demonstrate techniques, spontaneous “seminars" (marketing, teaching, social media) spring into life, and critique groups form. Artists share other skills - one polymer artist is also a photographer who shares tips. There’s lots of storytelling and jokes by a couple of masters, reminding us all not to get too serious! I’m way too introverted for that, but I bring my guitar and play classical music each night. Maybe best of all, there are myriad lovely, deep conversations during our week-long slumber party.
There’s time for walking around the gorgeous northern Colorado landscape, sketching or taking photographs. I love doing that by myself so I can process the heady brew of group experiences. The combination of solitude and camaraderie is my secret sauce. Some artists are fed by the group synergy and create amazing new pieces. I know I’ll never be one of those, since I work most productively in the quiet of my own studio. However, I always leave the mountain with a notebook full of drawings and ideas, a ton of photos and an eagerness to get back to work since I know the muse will have returned.
I am most fortunate to have my amazing August retreat as a time to reset and re-energize. Best of all, it has taught me a “retreat” strategy we can all use any time: take a walk, sketch what you see, and play!
Be sure to stop by Artistic Portland to see Laurel's gorgeous polymer clay art!