This week's blog was written by painter, Jennie O'Connor . Jennie interviewed glass artist Dolores Kueffler of Fused Light Designs.
How long have you been a part of Artistic Portland?
I have been with the co-op since February of this year.
What’s your background?
Over the years I have dabbled in a variety of creative arts. I have been working in fused glass for about 18 years along with working full-time in Social Services and Management. Now that I am semi-retired I am able to devote more time to my art.
Why do you do what you do?
I enjoy bringing more beauty into people’s everyday lives in these challenging times. It also gives me a lot of joy to play with color and design and make one-of-a-kind creations.
Describe yourself in one word. Why that word?
It is tough to give a one-word description of myself. Perhaps, “multi-faceted." I have a breadth of things I enjoy and lots of different aspects of my personality.
Where do you create?
I have a studio in my home in Vancouver with a lovely large window overlooking the trees.
What inspires you?
Nature gives me great inspiration—especially the amazing colors and designs, from bugs to butterfly wings, to flowers in profound colors.
I tend to work in spurts – or bursts of inspiration. I like to play and try different combinations of glass see how they interface. I enjoy exploring a variety of techniques. I’m not content to find my niche and stay there. I'm always experimenting.
Is there an artwork that you created that you are most proud of? Why?
When I went to Belize I was totally amazed by the fish when I went snorkeling. I had a small underwater camera but I lost it with all the pictures on it! When I came home I created a piece in glass – an “s” curve shape (which you can see on my website.) I used a variety of flashy dichroic glass to create from memory those amazing fish and a multi-colored piece for the coral. That is my favorite piece.
What do you like to do when you're not creating?
When I’m not creating I love to be outdoors adventuring-hiking, kayaking, and skiing. I also enjoy working as a counselor two days a week assisting people with their personal process of growth.
This week's blog features Ammi Brooks of Ammi's Art.
How long have you been a member of Artistic Portland, and what appealed
to you about joining the co-op?
I was doing a show five years ago, and Marianne asked me if I would be interested in selling my felted scarves at a co-op store she and five others were starting. I had been only selling my felted items at shows and festivals so this sounded like a great opportunity. I joined so I only do one show a year now. I love being a part of Artistic Portland. I get to work with very creative people and contribute to the running of our store. I am amazed at how 35 people can run a business. At Artistic Portland we have people who contribute their time and expertise to make it a success. Working there is a pleasure.
What’s your background?
Hmmm. I am assuming this is about my art. I have always been good with my hands (a phrase my mother often used). I started with sewing Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls for my nieces. In 1971, when my husband was in the service in North Carolina, I took a class in making Christmas ornaments out of egg shells. That art form had me making duck eggs with music boxes and ostrich egg clocks. When I moved from California to Portland my daughter thought I would like felting. I did. I started by watching YouTube videos and then classes at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival and other classes online. I am still learning about felt. I will always be learning about felting. I am an expert, however, when it comes to my egg decorations.
What does your work aim to say?
Wear me! Give me to your cat. Soap me up and clean your body. Put me on your Christmas tree!
Who are your biggest influences?
My Teachers. There are so many fabulous women in our area who make incredible art with natural fibers. I took a felted hat class from Tash Wesp. She makes the most incredible nuno felted clothes (a mix of natural fabric and animal fibers)! I took my first wet felting class from Caren Engine at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. I recommend this Festival in Canby, Oregon for anyone who loves all manner of animal fibers, spinning, and knitting. They have great classes in knitting, felting, dying and many more. It is held at the end of September. Then there is the fabulous Tylar Merrill in Eugene. I hope to take one of her classes in the future.
How do you know when you are finished with a piece?
It is easy to know when I am finished with my egg creations. My little scene looks well balanced, tells a story, no glue showing, and seams are together. With my scarves sometimes it takes weeks of looking at it adding or subtracting this or that. Sometimes I put it into my giveaway box. Last month I took back a scarf from the store and added more fringe.
Where do you create?
In my home mostly. I am so lucky to have a really big downstairs room that I share with my Quaker Parrot, Birdie. I can make big messes so I am lucky to have a roommate/cousin who ignores the mess. I have manufactured wood floors for good clean-up and big sliding glass doors to our garden. Also, I can take materials to make my soaps, cat balls and eggs with me where ever I go. My storage space is in the furnace room which I share with the guinea pigs.
It is a constant organizing and reorganizing.
What inspires you?
Color! Whimsey! Other artists. Practicality. I love all the wonderful colors wool fibers come in Sometimes I find a skirt or scarf made of silk or cotton at the thrift store that I can make a felted scarf from. Sometimes I find a piece of silk at the fabric store that I love.
The fabric you see in the photo below has been on my 4ft table for at least a month It is surrounded by wool roving, raw silk, and yarn I plan to use to felt the scarf. The raw silk I use for design. It is always a surprise to see how the silk weaves through the wool to make little rivers of color.
I also love the natural colors of sheep or alpaca. I keep most of my wool in
boxes or plastic bags under my bed or in the furnace room. However sometimes they end up in baskets because I love to have them around! Check
out the yumminess of the Alpaca on the left and the sheep's wool on the right.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
My six-foot table. I can make scarves in a small 12X14 bedroom. When I lived at my daughter’s house I was able to make my bedroom work for my studio.
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
I really don’t have any routine. I get up in the morning and start on whatever needs to be done. I can work on my felting or egg ornaments for hours and days without leaving the house. I am very undisciplined in my artwork. I wing it a lot. I never weigh my wool or plan it out. I make a lot of mistakes too. I am teaching a class in September at the Hoffman Center in Manzanita. I will have to get disciplined!
Is there an artwork that you created that you are most proud of? Why?
I love my felted silk scarves with white locks. They are so soft and elegant.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you do?
I’ve only called myself an artist for the last five years. I am 73 years old and
in my life I have been a sales clerk, preschool teacher, an espresso pusher,
a personal assistant, house cleaner, organizer (kitchens and such), care giver, and nanny. I would probably find some crazed scientist or channeler of ETs to assist. Right now I am blessed to be the “artist in residence” in my home where my cousin Mary Beth pays the rent and feeds me. She is an angel.
What do you like to do when you're not creating?
I like to read a good book while I am bicycling at Planet Fitness, cook a good meal with Mary Beth and work in the garden. But mostly I love to create! While I create I watch or listen to all sorts of interesting things on my computer such as British mysteries, politics, conspiracy theories, science fiction and even the Marvel series and movies.
As a working artist who participates in fairs, markets, and galleries, I interact with many of my customers directly. As a result, I am often asked questions regarding my process and my studio. Customers express curiosity about the type of equipment/tools I use to create miniature mosaics and jewelry.
My studio is by no means large or fancy but it is functional and comfortable. If I had unlimited funds, I would create an impressive studio in my backyard complete with skylights, a small kitchen, bathroom, and a deck. Since I don’t have unlimited funds, I try to make the best with what I have. Allow me to take you on a tour of my humble art studio which is connected to my equally humble home in the John’s Landing neighborhood of Portland.
Upon entering the studio you will notice that the space does double duty in that the laundry facilities also reside there. Since the studio sits on a slope, the first section of the studio is higher than my actual work area. As you can see from the photo, the higher section not only houses the washer and dryer, but it is also a space for storing jewelry supplies and displays.
In the work area I have created “stations” as it is important for me to be organized. When my studio is in chaos, so is my brain. It is always important for me to sort out my studio before I start work. Though it may look cluttered because I have a lot of equipment and tools, it is actually organized. Each station must be ready to use at a moment’s notice.
My work area is small but each station has been carefully planned out so that I can work efficiently. I have 4 separate stations that I can zip in between in a nanosecond.
Since I predominantly create mosaic jewelry, this is the station where I spend most of my time. The station includes a large table, computer/monitor so I can watch Netflix while I work, various tools, a supply chest, and, oh, what’s that green thing at the end? Why that’s Pickle’s bed of course! Pickle is my neighbor’s senior cat. That is a whole other story worthy of its own blog. Pickle is my constant companion when I’m working in the studio and he even sleeps in the studio at night. I have two cats of my own but they don’t frequent the studio and they aren’t too fond of Pickle.
The mosaic station gets the messiest as I’m often cutting tile and glass as well as grouting and/or working with epoxies. The mosaic station is perched in front of the largest window in the studio. When I’m not watching Netflix, I enjoy the view and scent of jasmine which sits right outside the window.
Metal working Station
I have a proper workbench where my flex shaft and other various metal working tools live. I love my workbench! I love working with metal! I am currently combining metal work with mosaic jewelry. It’s been a process but soon I will be launching new styles of hand fabricated mosaic jewelry. Currently, I use cast bezels that are good quality and have served me well, however, fabricating pieces from start to finish has been great fun and I’m liking the results.
Enameling Station & Soldering Station
Alas, my enameling station hasn’t been used as much as I would like as I’ve been so busy with fabrication and mosaic work. My goal is to combine enameling with mosaic as well. I’m excited about the color explosion that will result from combining the two art forms. Oh the possibilities! My kiln is feeling lonely, but not for long.
It probably goes without saying that my soldering station ties to my metal working station. If I had a larger workbench I might combine my metal working station with my soldering station but it made more sense to do my soldering in the same area as enameling. On nice days I take my soldering station outside to work since it’s portable. I use various butane torches for now. I hope to use acetylene in the near future but that will of course require more funds (metal working is very expensive it turns out!) and space. I am currently working on filigree pieces which are testing my soldering skills.
The remainder of the studio consists of many tools and various supplies. Though cramped, I know where every single item is stored. Again, chaos is not my friend.
Thank you for touring my studio with me. As you can see, it’s possible to fit a lot into a small space if you’re motivated. Now, back to cutting tile and petting Pickle.
This week's blog was written by fiber arts artist Ammi Brooks of Ammi's Art.
I am veering off the subject of my art to talk about the animals I live with. First I will set the scene and then introduce you to them and give you a little information about each one. After that I will tell you how they fit into my world.
I live with my cousin Marybeth. We have two dogs, two guinea pigs and a Quaker parrot. Marybeth is the animal lover. From the time she was young she had birds, dogs, rabbits, and even a pet squirrel whereas I didn’t have animals growing up.
Five years ago I moved to Seattle from Portland to help my cousin sell her house and move down to Portland to be near her daughter. At the time she had Mimzi, a 13 year old pug, and Brodie, a 14 year old Chihuahua Jack Russell mix, and also a bird we called Birdie and often "damn bird."
Mimzie, the pug, died while we were still in Seattle. When Marybeth moved to Beaverton she immediately searched the animal rescue and found Rocky, a Jack Russell Terrier mix. He is a great little dog. He is very obedient and loves people. He has a spot on his back in the shape of a heart. Rocky has a lot of energy and shows great enthusiasm for meal time and walking time.
Here is the Rocky bounce.
Brodie became blind and died after about a year. Marybeth needed a little dog for her heart and lap. She found Juliette online from Animal Rescue and she came up from California. There were 10 other folks who wanted her. We won!
The Guinea Pigs
Marybeth was excited to expand her animal friends and wanted some Guinea pigs to play with and have for my grandchildren to play with when they came to visit.
Marybeth forgot about terriers loving little critters so when Rocky came home for the first time he tried to leap over their cage that was placed on the floor. The idea of playing with the pigs on the floor was not to be realized. Feeding the pigs is my pleasure in the mornings. They are so cute! Check out this video.
Nearly two decades ago Birdie flew into Marybeth’s home when the bird was very young. She hunted for the owners but alas couldn’t find them. Of course she adopted her/him (finding the sex of a bird is very hard unless you sedate them and poke around). Marybeth had a very close relationship with Birdie, carrying he/she inside her blouse and on her shoulder and feeding Birdie at the table. When birdie became an adolescent he/she rejected Marybeth and joined her husband Richard as her constant companion. We now think Birdie is a she.
In 2013 Richard was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and he and Marybeth stayed at his sister's house until he died a few months later. Birdie stayed home and never saw Richard again. Marybeth moved back home to grieve and to eventually return to work.
Birdie was never the same after that. She screeched when anyone came around, especially if there was excitement, except the time the EMT guys came to the house for an emergency. There were four big men…all very calm and Birdie didn’t make a peep.
My Life with Birdie
I took on the care of Birdie because Marybeth had enough on her plate. After Richard died she retired, sold her house, her mother’s house, and bought a new house in Portland.
Someone from Facebook gave me a small cage to transport Birdie to Portland. During the drive I found that she liked music and singing. I knew nothing of living with a bird. Apparently they are in need of a lot of attention, not just the usual feeding and cage cleaning.
I have her cage in the room where I do my art so she is nearby, however if I leave the room she squawks. If she hears a strange noise like someone upstairs moving around she squawks. It has taken a long time for me to figure out the things that make her screech. I know she is afraid of things like the mop and the ironing board invading her space. Depending on my mood I can calm her down. More often than not I shout at her and/or put her in the furnace room with the pigs (close by). Yelling at her works sometimes and helps me to let off some steam.
I look at our relationship as a gauge of my own life. I know that I can give her sweet coos and sing with her. I can ask for kisses. I know that I can put her on my finger and then onto my shoulder. I haven’t done that yet for fear she will bite me (she did that in the beginning but that was because I put my hand in her cage). I see how connected Marybeth is with her animals and see that my own connection is lacking. I am a bit detached, maybe my double Virgo nature, which has it’s advantages, and may also keep me from deep connection. My fear of getting bitten is my fear of other things in life. I see in our future a birdie who is on my shoulder while I make my cat toys and little egg ornaments.
She has her tissues to clean her beak and a mug filled with pens to play with. She has one of Richard's wool socks to snuggle against, when she sleeps at the end of the cage. She has several places to hang out including on the top of the cage, on the basket and the other end of the branch.
This is my animal loving cousin and housemate dropping into a dog grooming place in Tigard.
This week's blog was written by mosaic artist, June Martin of MOTH & TWIG. June interviewed Shelly Durica-Laiche of Indio Metal Arts.
My name is Shelly Durica-Laiche, owner of Indio Metal Arts. I’m a welder who designs and builds steel functional and decorative steel objects such as furniture, trellises, fine art sculpture and garden art.
How long have you been a member of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the Co-op? I have been a member since March 2016. I joined the co-op to have a local place to show my work and to meet other artists.
What’s your background? I’ve worked with my hands to create objects ever since graduating in 2005 from Portland State University with a sculpture degree. I built naturalistic elements for animal exhibits at the Oregon Zoo such as rocks, trees and vines. Some of my favorite projects there were
Predators of the Serengeti and Red Ape Reserve. I went on to build miniature landscape elements for sets on the stop motion film Paranorman at Laika.
Indio metal Arts has been established since 2013.
What sets your work apart from other metal art at festivals? I often hear that people are pleased to see the high quality of craftsmanship and clean welds. I also hear that people are surprised by how I use scrap material in a novel way. My work is refined, modern and contemporary.
Who are your biggest influences? My biggest influences are Lee Bontecou, Sabastio Salgado, Louise Nevelson, Constantin Brancusi, Barbara Hepworth, Rebecca Horn and Charles Bukowski.
What’s your process of creation? I record all my ideas in one of two sketch books depending on the context of the piece. One is for me and one is for client projects. The building takes place at my studio in SE Portland. Sometimes I know exactly what I’m going to build while other things take years. Sometimes there will be something from my collection of scrap steel that will spark an idea.
What inspires you? Nature and all of it’s creations inspires me.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio? The most indispensable item in my studio is my welder; a Millermatic 211.
How do you know when a work is finished? I know a piece is finished when it makes sense.
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have? I take regular road trips to set myself straight.
Is there an artwork that you created that you are most proud of? Why?
I created the Deco Shoe Bench for the entryway of a home in Lake Oswego. It was designed specifically to compliment the architectural elements of the home, the needs of the family and the style of it’s surroundings. I’m proud of it because it’s the pinnacle of my skill to date. It shows how far I’ve come and where I can go.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you do? If I weren’t an artist I would seek to become one.
What do you like to do when you're not creating? When I’m not creating I like to get inspired.
Where can we find out more about your work online?
This week's blog was written by fiber artist Ammi Brooks of Ammi's Art.
Today I started my felting day with a beautiful piece of cotton from a recycled skirt.
I have it laid out on rubber matting (for grip purposes), bubble wrap and a layer of thin plastic. I used fine black Merino wool roving to cover the cotton. I wanted to make it wider so I added an extra six inches of wool. I use one layer of wool tuft on the cotton and two layers in a crisscross pattern on the extra six inches.
I use wool and nylon yarn for the fringe. The wool yarn sticks to the wool tufts but the nylon needs to be covered with a little wool to make sure it sticks.
My shawl is ready to decorate with pieces of recycled cotton skirts, raw silk and wool yarn.
I spray down the whole shawl.
I rolled up two dampened hand towels (they need to be heavy) and rolled them in the plastic.
After the wet down I cover with bubble wrap, add soap with my hands and rub down for 10 minutes to settle the design in place, then roll up.
At this time I could roll this back and forth up to 500-800 times. I chose to put it in the dryer (on air) for 10 minutes. I unroll it once to put the towels on the other end. Thump thump thump...I unroll and put the wet towels on the other end and do it again. This procedure is to push the fibers through the cotton.
After I determine that the fibers are pushed through the cotton want to shrink the whole scarf, this is called fulling.I can do this by dropping the scarf onto my table many many times. I do this for a while then I rub it continuously and vigorously until it is the size I want.
Check out the links below!
A good tool!
If you noticed I added more fringe when I was done!
Felting is fun. Youtube has so many great free tutorials!
This week's blog was written by painter, Jennie O'Connor. Jennie interviewed ceramic artist, Denise Krueger.
How long have you been a part of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the co-op? I joined in January of 2013. When I saw the post on the Portland Etsy Team, I was intrigued but couldn’t make the first meeting. Well, actually, it was at someone’s house that I didn’t know and I was kind of nervous and freaked out to take the bus over there but I really wanted to be part of it, so I took the bus over for the next meeting.
Since I began to work in clay, I’ve had this dream that I wanted a studio with a retail space in front, where I could sell my work and the work of other people. Being part of Artistic Portland is one way I can realize this dream, and now I get to come to Artistic Portland and sell everyone’s art!
What’s your background? My work background is generally customer service. I’ve worked at Taco Bell, Toys R Us, a mail distribution company- shipping and filling orders, and as an office assistant at a CPA firm. I’ve been a self-employed artist for the last two years!
Artistically, I am inspired by my mother. She is a naturalist, a musician, and draws and paints nature with oils, water colors and acrylics. Her subjects are birds and nature. She plays several instruments; guitar, mandolin and most recently, concertina. She has encouraged all her children to play music and be arty. We get together to paint occasionally with my sister, and we have participated in the 6 X 6 Wild Arts project. Someday, we hope to get together to play music again.
She also taught me to knit and sew when I was about five. We frequently sewed our own clothes. I miss designing and sewing clothing. I mostly knitted for my art fix until my late thirties, when I got back into clay. It’s portable and a great way to get to play with color.
I first got into clay when I took a class at the Portland Children’s Art Museum when I was eight. I also took a year of ceramics as a senior at Tigard High School. It was twenty years later, when I finally had my own space and could afford a kiln and a wheel that I got back into pottery. I made wheel-thrown cups, bowls and plates. I started making my pods in 2002, after I took a hand-building class at Georgies. I took ceramic classes at Portland Community College 2008 2010.
Why do you do what you do? I wish I knew! I love my medium? Maybe it’s just the way I process my feelings, but I’m compelled to do it! If I don’t make a pod now and then, I get pretty frustrated and kind of depressed.
Describe yourself in one word. Why that word? Insane! I keep saying yes to cool art projects and not finding enough time to get it all done. There’s so much going on in Portland now. I think it’s great to try new, different things and connect with other humans, but it’s a fine balance to get studio time to recharge.
Where do you create? I have a studio in my home, in one of the bedrooms. My kiln, wheel, and slab roller are out in the garage. My studio has great morning light, but I have a hard time getting into the studio in the mornings because of chores. If it’s a nice day, I sometimes get to work on the patio.
What motivates/inspires your work? Colors! Nature! Insanity! And, also some really wonderful patrons/customers.
One of the reasons I create is because I love color. It gives me joy to put colors together and the different mediums I’ve tried throughout my life all start with color, except for clay. Color is problematic with ceramics, as I often forget what color I intend when I began the piece since it takes time to dry and bisque fire. I feel like that’s also a reason I create so much, because I have to try all the colors on all the pieces.
Another reason I make art is to get into the mind space of “flow.” I try to get there to process daily stimulation by making repetitive designs by hand. It’s relaxing and natural forms instinctively come from a place inside me. And another inspiration is collaboration. I have some pretty fabulous customers with amazing ideas of pods they would like me to make for them.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have? I struggle with routines. I often run late and hurry. I’m easily distracted and I live in the city, where there’s always so much happening, in my house and outside. My best creative time is in the evening, after the dinner dishes are done and I have time to relax. Embarrassingly, most of my work is made while sitting with my family in the living room in front of the TV. I’m lucky they are accepting of my behavior. I would love to have a studio apart from my house, where I could go every day like a real job and sculpt in natural light.
What’s your favorite piece you’ve ever created? I made two large pumpkin shaped pods in 2009 for an installation at Ceramic Showcase. I sold one, but the other cracked while drying and that piece, unfired, is still lurking in my garage. It can never be finished, but I like it as it is; flawed, raw, and too big for the kiln.
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new artistic skill, what would it be?Composition! And sewing! I’d like to paint, make wearable art and soft wall hangings.
What do you like to do when you’re not creating? I like to laugh. My friends and family are smart, witty, and share my twisted sense of humor. I also like to take walks, eat, and hang out with our hilarious, sweet old cats.
This week's blog was written by Fiber Artist, Karin Kaufmann of Nadelwerk.
Hi my name is Paul, and I am the youngest of three cats in my household. My first advice is that this should be read out aloud to your cat due to limited access to computers for us cats, (even though the best spot is on top of the keyboard)!
Dear Fellow Cat,
You should know that you need to be well prepared in order to take full advantage of your human. Let us start with a well prepared morning routine.
Waking up. Waking time is one of the most important moments and a perfect time to bond with your human. And the best time to wake them up is before the sun rises, while the stars are still visible and only early birds are starting to sing. If that moment is missed, you might fall asleep again and would miss their full attention. And that, my friend, would lead to a drastic decrease in your food supplies, severe lack of petting and loss of interest. Humans tend to have a bit of a short attention span when it comes to morning routines. So do your best not to miss out here!
Breakfast. Breakfast should be served immediately after getting up! We all know the most important meal is breakfast, isn’t it?! And cats need a lot of breakfasts during a day! At least after every nap; not sure if my human understands the importance and connection of napping and breakfast though.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my human, she is fun to be around, very creative (you should see her fiber art!) and a fantastic sidekick. She never gets upset, even if I have to use force to let her know what I need. For a human she is quite smart but you know sometimes she needs that extra bit of nudging. I mean I ‘talk’ to her a lot but can’t fully comprehend why she seems to ignore most of it. Well, in order to let her know that “I need food now” I have to make a point! And that needs careful planning, because biting too hard can cause her skin to break. We never want that to happen! Although I can’t understand why human skin is so delicate. But not biting hard enough does not get the message through. So, do some practicing to get the ‘right’ bite, eventually you’ll find it the best way to get what you want.
Play time. Never underestimate playtime since that’s when we learn and every once in a while can get away with ‘rough’ play. Also a great way to conceal your aggressions as you always can pretend that you just got carried away.
Just recently I wanted to inquire what those colorful fuzzy little snips of ‘mouse-tail’ are. They taste like hair with a faint hint of ungulate… whatever that means. So here I am, focused on some chewing and tossing that ‘mouse-tail’ thing, as my human all of a sudden grabs it and pulls it out of my mouth! It was already half swallowed and her pulling on that thing made me gag. How rude! But I’m no cat that would give up so easily! The ‘mouse-tail’ has a life of its own! It is moving and therefore it is to be hunted! To my relief I was well rested and full of energy to chase after it.
What happened after is mostly a blur or maybe it was all a dream. I’m not quite sure what exactly happened, but later on I awoke from my well deserved nap and was focused on getting breakfast…
If you’ve enjoyed my little advice, let me know and I might fill you in on the secrets of getting some catnip
Stop by Artistic Portland to see the fiber art that Paul's human (Karin) creates! You won't be disappointed! Store hours are Monday through Saturday 10-6PM and Sunday from noon until 5PM!
This week’s blog was written by polymer clay and jewelry artist Laurel Swetnam, See more of her work on Laurel's website.
I started exploring polymer clay about 12 years ago, using it in my interventions as a family therapist. I was intrigued and started noticing the amazing work of artists around the world in this relatively new medium. Five years ago I began working with polymer as an art medium, focusing on one-of-a-kind jewelry and small vessels. I joined Artistic Portland two years ago, and have really enjoyed being a member of this group of diverse and talented artists.
Millefiori cane work appeals to my love of patterns (textiles, quilts, baroque music!) and the chameleon qualities of this material invite explorations into the symmetry and diversity of organic forms like pods, anemones and flowers. Each piece I make is one of a kind. For me, polymer clay is three-dimensional color.
Polymer clay is a relatively new material. It started as an industrial product in the mid 20th century and took flight as an art medium with the publication of The New Clay by Nan Roche in 1992. The versatility of the polymer is amazing. The artist can mix the primaries to any color under the sun, then the clay can be painted, printed with silk screens, textured, sculpted, bent, carved, sanded, and polished. It becomes wall art, jewelry, vessels, sculptures, mobiles, art book covers and a myriad of household decorations. An international community of artists now explores new designs, and it’s amazing to watch the development.
I am a caner. Polymer clay canes are made using the same techniques that glassmakers have used for centuries. Clay is rolled into cylinders, which are then combined or reshaped to create elements to make more complicated designs. The process is fascinating because there are endless possibilities. Here’s one cane in the making.
Some cane makers are gifted creators of realistic representations like dog breeds or landscapes. I prefer combining organic patterns to create a collage of patterns. There is nothing as relaxing and satisfying for me than spending a few days making a set of canes that can be recombined for many different pieces. Here are two canes that with the addition of a third cane morphed into a small bowl (plus a few pairs of earrings and necklaces).
The lightweight quality of polymer clay is one of the things I value most as a jewelry maker. I can make dramatic necklaces that look like shells or clusters of over 100 leaves, which are light as a feather and comfortable to wear. No wonder polymer clay pieces are increasingly making a splash on fashion runways!
As a mosaic artist I am always on the lookout for new materials to incorporate into my mosaic art jewelry designs. When I discover new materials that work well in my designs, I can't help but feel excited by the myriad of possibilities that come with the discovery.
A while back, I started working with a tile called "mosaic gold" which consists a thin layer of 24-carat gold leaf placed on top of poured glass and then another layer of molten glass is poured on top. Mosaic gold comes in a variety of amazing colors including golds, coppers, greens, blues, and silvers. I am fond of "acid green" and the coppers. When I started working with mosaic gold I created jewelry pieces that were comprised of only the mosaic gold. I soon learned that I would have to charge a hefty amount since the mosaic gold is pricey as well as being difficult to work with. I decided to incorporate the gold pieces into my tile mosaic jewelry. This turned out to be a good idea as the mosaic gold looks stunning next to the Moroccan tile.
I continue to explore working with mosaic gold, combining it with other materials as well, such as Italian glass and millefiori. Below are examples of mosaic gold jewelry. The round pendant was created using only mosaic gold and dichroic glass. It took a long time to create the pendant as I had to "keystone" cut each piece of the gold and then place the gold piece by piece into a bed of epoxy which was very time consuming. In the photo on the right, the pendant on the far right contains copper mosaic gold mixed in with the Moroccan tile. The mosaic gold is reflective and shimmers creating texture in the sea of tile.
My latest "new material" is stone! I've purchased a variety of stones with delicious Italian names such as verde cina, travertino rosso, travertino giallo, peperino grigio, and travertino rosa to name a few. The names of the stone remind me of fine Italian wines, equally delicious. As with the mosaic gold, I decided to mix the stone with the Moroccan tile to not only add interest, but texture as well. To date, I've only made a handful of pieces but you can bet that there will be many more to come as I am having a blast working with stone.
In the photos below, you can see the stone mixed in with the Moroccan tile. I used verde cina and peperino grigio in the pendant on the left and just the peperino grigio in the pendant on the right. I wanted to achieve a natural effect so I used only neutral colored Moroccan tile. I am happy with how the pendants turned out and I can't wait to create more.
When it comes to cutting the stone, many mosaic artists use a set of tools called the hammer and hardie. It takes some time to learn how to cut stone (or smalti glass) with a hammer and hardie but once you get the hang of it, it's an effective way to cut stone. For my purposes I am using compound nippers that cut through the stone quite easily though I would probably have a little more control over the cut pieces if I used and hammer and hardie.
Working with stone has broadened not only my cutting skill set, but it has also impacted how I approach my designs. The cut stone is often irregular in shape which requires more design planning since it can be a challenge to combine defined tile shapes with irregular stone. I find this is true when I work with mosaic gold as well. Though mosaic gold tiles are square to begin with, I have to cut the tiles into tiny pieces in all directions in order for the pieces to fit into the bezels and into my designs. Mosaic gold can be difficult to cut as well and there is often significant wastage. I find that when cutting stone, I don't have as much wastage and I try to use each an every piece that I cut.
When cutting mosaic gold, I use my Montolit wheeled nippers, pictured above far right, which cut through the mosaic gold glass like a hot knife through butter. The only problem is, sometimes the glass has a mind of its own and it crumbles. Other times I can cut it into nice tiny squares, perfect for my mosaics.
I can't wait to discover yet another material which I'm sure will happen in the near future as I am always on the lookout for interesting textures and shapes. I hope to have both stone and mosaic gold mosaic art jewelry collections in Artistic Portland by early May 2018. Who knows, I may even combine tile, mosaic gold, and stone in one piece. Now that would be interesting!