Every piece of jewelry is a small scale work of art worn on the body. Each of the jewelry artists at Artistic Portland has a different vision, carefully crafted and unique. Jewelry from Susan Hunter features striking metalwork, while pieces of Beth Jones are delicate and romantic. June Martin’s signature mosaics are both geometric and subtly colored, while Petra Woodworth imaginatively combines found objects with metals and stones. My work in polymer clay is highly patterned and brightly pigmented, falling perhaps into the category of “statement” jewelry.
“Statement” jewelry necklaces are one-of-a-kind, attention-grabbing pieces which are often large, colorful and sometimes asymmetrical. Glittery or tribal, statement pieces transform that little black garment into a canvas. Polymer clay is especially well adapted to making statement jewelry because it is a great chameleon. Lightweight and inexpensive, it can be carved, twisted, painted or sculpted into infinite shapes, patterns and colors. Polymer jewelry artists have discovered a myriad of approaches.
My partner at our teaching studio, ViaArtistica , Maggie Maggio, is an architect, so perhaps it not surprising that she is known for exploring and expanding the structural possibilities of polymer clay. Maggie pinches and twists polymer to create sinuous neckpieces. The model shown here is from a series she has called “Octopi”. Maggie’s wow factor comes from complex swirls woven into a dramatic neck piece. One can fully imagine these pieces on the runway.
Another local Portland colleague, Wendy Wallin Malinow, has a completely different approach to making dazzling jewelry with polymer clay. A metalsmith, illustrator and sculptor, Wendy transforms polymer clay into mysterious fantasy pods, bones and imaginative unearthly creatures. Her imagination astounds! Wendy’s panache comes from vibrant colors and surprising shapes that range from naturalistic birds to gothic skulls. Her necklaces are eye-catching collectors’ pieces, which are also wearable
Kathleen Dustin’s calls her work “Wearable objets d’art” and her website showcases several collections of her polymer jewelry and handbags. Trained as a ceramicist, Kathleen has explored several properties of polymer, including translucency and the imitative potential of the clay. Here she pushes the boundaries of texture in her Tribal Bead series with lush mark-making, carving and the complex layers of pigment which create her distinctive palette, earning her a place in many galleries and museum collections.
My own work takes advantage of the lightweight nature and malleability of polymer. I love to form flat polymer into 3 dimensional petals, disks and pods. Most of all I love creating and juxtaposing patterns, a bit like a collage artist or a quilter. By mixing the primary colors of polymer clay I can create virtually any color I want. The complexity of millefiori cane work adds rich patterns to the mix. Nothing makes me happier than creating a palette, then making a pile of canes on my studio table ready to create veneers. I invite you to come see my polymer clay jewelry at Artistic Portland!
This week’s blog is written by Carl Sandeen of Kristi Usher Fine Art. Carl’s wife Kristi is a bronze sculptor of western themes as well as a two-dimensional artist with oil, pencil and ink. Kristi's work is known for realism and projects her intimate knowledge of horses, dogs and the cowboy way of life.
Attending an event at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology in Otis, Oregon I was enjoying the presentations of several artists. Sitka Center, as part of its mission, provides artist residencies; and this was the conclusion when artists talk about what they have accomplished during their stay on secluded Cascade Head. Kindra Crick was one of the presenters. Her last name intrigued me as she introduced herself as a molecular biologist, and artist, who loved science but was also inspired by her grandmother to pursue art. As Kindra began clicking through her PowerPoint slides, she soon mentioned that her grandfather, Francis Crick, was the Nobel winner who had worked on the structure of DNA. And his artist wife, Odile, first drew the DNA double helix. To this day, Odile Crick's artistic concept of DNA still visually represents DNA's molecular structure.
Smitten by Kindra's story, I listened intently as she concluded her presentation focusing on a neuroscience inspired artwork installation, in collaboration with U of O Health Sciences University, called Cerebral Wilderness. She, as was her grandmother, is using art to promote the understanding of science. Kindra is often quoted as saying, "Artwork gives visual expression to the wonder and process of scientific inquiry and discovery."
And it's not an isolated concept. Quoting Stanford University, "There is growing interest in the intersection of art and science, whether from artists adapting technology to suit their visions or from scientists and engineers seeking to explain various visual effects. To take advantage of possible creative sparks at the art/science interface, it is necessary for fuzzies and techies to have some knowledge of the language used by the other side. This interface will be explored through examining approaches used by an artist and an engineer in the context of the materials science of cultural objects."
So now I look for opportunities to discover and contemplate these ideas and understand them better. Recently at a Fishtrap event exploring Native American, environmental and cultural topics at the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture in Joseph, Oregon, the topic of art and science intersecting came up often. At Artistic Portland I look around at works on display, talk to folks browsing in the store; and have a growing sense that art, my friends creating artwork, can through their creative efforts help change the world.
Be sure to visit Artistic Portland to see Kristi Usher's beautiful fine art sculptures! We are open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm and Sunday from noon until 5 pm.
Last week, we interviewed one of our fiber artists here at Artistic Portland. This week we're giving you the perspective of Jason Winslow of Cool to Me, who joined the Co-op in December 0f 2018. Jason is a local artist who creates imaginative sculptures out of various materials.
How long have you been a part of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the Co-op?
I joined AP in December of last year. I am drawn to the idea of a group collaborating to make everyone's goals a reality. It follows that when I started looking for a way to market my sculptures, I specifically began looking for a Co-op. Artistic Portland was in particular appealing for the wide variety of artistic expression represented. I enjoy being influenced by the different styles and personalities that are represented. I also feel that the customers' experience is enhanced with that variety. Many members use the similar materials as I do- metal, glass, text, paper etc. - but we all produce wildly different results. The juxtaposition of those results enhances the appreciation for each artist's voice.
What is your background?
I have been a live entertainment technician since the mid -1980s. I predominately work in lighting and scenic construction for plays and dance. I began assembling sculptures in late 2017.
Where do you create?
I actually find this to be a complex question. The easy answer is in my home. I have creative assembly spaces in my basement and garage. The text is composed on my computer. But the inspiration/planning/creationeering happens inside my head wherever I am at the moment. Driving, showering, shopping, working, etc. Sometimes a creature will be inspired by a piece of junk I find in the corner of a deconstruction shop, or at IKEA. Sometimes I wake up with a solution to an assembly problem in my mind or see a piece of random Portland ingenuity that sparks new solutions. Other times a friend or colleague will make a suggestion that leads down a rabbit-hole of creation.
What motivates/inspires your work?
My creatures often spring out of my subconscious without my permission. Most of the time, I don't realize what emotional/intellectual nugget was inspiring the work until a fair bit into the process. Eventually, I realize "Oh! This was my back-brain gnawing on global warming or social policy or the phone bill."
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
It depends on which part of the process I'm in. I'm fortunate to have a life partner who will give honest feedback while I'm writing/creating the text portion. I like to do the wiring and soldering while watching Netflix. While assembling, I try to incorporate materials in a way I haven't before to avoid overusing any one process or solution. Shopping for materials is a sort of creative routine because the new materials make me contemplate new solutions or new projects.
What is your favorite piece you have ever created?
In truth, I tend to be most excited by whatever sculpture I'm currently working on. The act of creating brings a level of stimulation and engagement that doesn't exist after the piece is finished.
What do you like to do when you are not creating?
I have another career that keeps me busy. Other than that I'm a home body. I love having dinner with my partner or watching Netflix together. Depending on my mood, computer games and/or social media can give the brain a rest.
This week's blog is brought to you by fiber arts artist and soap maker, Karin Kaufmann of Nadelwerk. Karin interviewed fiber arts artist Alycia Allen Tolmach of Alyen Creations.
How long have you been a part of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the
I joined Artistic Portland in March 2018, after Susan Hunter of Bodie Design Studio talked to me at the Southeast Area Art Walk and invited me to submit my work to the jury, which just happened to be the next evening! I jumped at the chance, because aside from one or two shows a year, my quilts were languishing in a closet. To have a place where my work would be seen every day of the year, and to get to work in the gallery and to gain an instant community of new artist friends and to be part of this group effort was an incredible gift. It was something I needed, but I wasn’t even aware it existed. To be invited was such an honor!
What’s your background?
I have a degree in Journalism from the University of Florida. I retired from journalism in 1992, leaving the copy desk at the Philadelphia Inquirer to marry Andrew and follow him to Portland.
Why do you do what you do?
When I was young, I wanted to take art lessons, like my older sister did. When I got old enough, we moved, and I never got the chance after that. The only thing I ever really drew was horses, and only in profile, and only the left side!
What would you say was your “ah ha” moment in going from thought to passion to actually starting your business?
Many of my friends on the copy desk at the Inquirer were quilters, but I resisted the urge, because of the mess, the time and the obsession with fabric. But when Andrew’s daddy was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, something just said, “Make him a quilt.” So I went home with one of my girlfriends after work, and she helped me design a block, and the next morning, I went to a fabric shop, where I heard someone exclaim, “I saw this fabric in a dream last night!” (Did I mention obsession?) Anyway, I showed her my quilt block and the colors I was using, and she told me to make sure to use different scales of patterns, so the fabrics wouldn’t blend into a muddy mess. (She probably saved me a year’s worth of bad quilts, with that one piece of advice.) When Andrew came back from his folks’ house, and I began to iron my first piece of fabric for his daddy’s quilt, I blurted out, “I think I just might be good at this.” I had to buy a machine and teach myself how to sew to make that quilt. I still can’t sew clothing! A couple of years later, when I retired from the paper, (at 30) I decided to start Alyen Creations, which is a name I came up with as a 9-year-old, from my name, ALYcia allEN. It’s pronounced Alien, like a Martian….
Where do you create?
I am fortunate to have a studio in my home, with 25 years of fabric and a pin-able wall to design my quilts on, a big cutting table and 2 Bernina 1090 sewing machines.
What motivates/inspires your work?
I make primarily landscape art quilts, based on photos from our travels, mostly in Europe and the Northwest. While I know I would be a lousy painter, somehow working with fabric allows me to convey the sense of places that I love. I also love it when people are drawn to touch my quilts. I know I have succeeded when someone wants to pet my work. That connection is such a thrill!
Who inspired you if anyone?
In 1992, I invested in a 200-pound bale of Vintage Japanese Kimonos with my best friend, and I was hooked. I have probably owned 1,500 kimonos since then. The fabric in each kimono is unique; the kimonos were hand-sewn and home-made in the 1940s-1960s. It takes an hour to take one apart. The fabrics often involve two or three design techniques, including jacquard weaving, kasuri dyeing, block printing, hand-dyeing, brocade, metallic and lacquered threads, shibori dyeing, resist painting, batik, roh weaves, gauze weaves – I could go on and on. The closer you look, the more you see in Japanese fabric design, and that inspires me to create art that pulls you in and rewards a closer look.
Tell us how you choose your supplies, material, you use in your Art?
For my collage quilts, Origami Kimono Ornaments, Origami Obi Cards, and some runners/hangings, I pull from my palette of several thousand yards of commercial cottons. However, for my landscape art quilts, I use almost exclusively Japanese kimono fabrics. My basement is full of kimonos, and I have taken apart more than a thousand. I sell to other fiber artists what I can’t use.
Did anyone ever tell you couldn’t do it?
No, but every time I walk into the studio, I ask myself if I still can! Some days the answer is yes, and some days it seems like no, but when I push past the doubt, the answer is a resounding YES, and that is when I remember how happy it makes me to create my quilts.
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
What is the most difficult thing about making your Art?
Starting. I am constantly starting, it seems, and I lose so much ground. I work in spurts, and sometimes they last for months, but then life gets in the way, and it can be months or sometimes years (like if we go on sabbatical to another country) and then when I restart, I have to relearn a lot of the techniques I devised, or re-solve design issues I forgot I had solved! It’s very frustrating, and sometimes it is easier not to start again! But that is one reason I was so eager to join Artistic Portland. Now, every day, art is a priority, in one form or another, be it the studio, working in the gallery, or taking on responsibilities to help run the cooperative, or brainstorming with other members about issues they have, that I have, or the gallery has. Thanks to Katrina, I am now having giclee prints made of my quilts. I never in a million years would have thought of doing that, but to her, it was obvious. Having others help me see what is outside my own little blinkered box, (to mix a metaphor) is incredible.
Do you have other staff, partners etc.?
Nope, just me.
What’s your favorite piece you’ve ever created?
A quilt of Saint Pere de Rodes in northern Catalunya on the Spanish Mediterranean. It is a ruined monastery, and the man who bought the quilt from me said that he was going to hang it right in front of his recliner, so that he could look at it all the time.
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new artistic skill, what would it be?
The ability to master perspective!
What do you like to do when you're not creating?
I like to read real books I hold in my hand, especially old mysteries and novels from the 1920s that smell like my elementary school library in Florida!