Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obsessed with Etching

Etched German silver cross with labradorite rondelles, jade, rhinestone rondelles, and Czech fire-polished beads. Sterling and steel wire. When I first learned how to use a jeweler's saw, from my wonderful teacher Kelly Conroy at the Worcester Center for Crafts, this archetypal Southwestern cross shape seemed like an easy one to practice on. But when I started applying the etching techniques I'd picked up over the summer to my growing heap of crosses, well, somehow the whole became greater than the sum of its parts. Photos can't pick up the rich play of shine and darkness this mysterious process lends to the surface, but I'll post 'em anyway!
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And speaking of October...

Here's a little peek at what I've been up to lately down at the Flux 'n Pickle, the drafty but functional jewelry studio my sweet husband has rigged up for me in our unfinished basement. Faceted carnelian rondelles, steel and sterling wire, vintage Czech glass seed beeds, and a drop of jasper surround this bezel I made of brass and silver to frame a tiny New England landscape I painted en plein air this past summer at the Cape. I'm re-launching my etsy shop this weekend, or as soon as I can stop fiddling around with different banner designs! stay tuned!
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Not a Ghost

Alright, well, it's not a ghostly apparition, which might have been more suitable for an almost-Halloween post which attempts to bring this languishing blog back from the dead. It's the sunlight pouring through the stained glass door to my office. Today was the first time the colors and the camera were in the same place at the same time.
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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A poem I just wrote about not writing a poem

Could I But Die a Thousand Deaths

(An epic poem waiting to be written

one line at a time,

in the space between the washer and the dryer

in the crack between the counter and the stove

in the gap where the cabinet doors don’t

hang straight

Between the ring and the recorded call.)

For quality assurance purposes, this poem is being monitored.

This helpless poem must be written against its will.

This poem will have to phone itself in — sick,

Or just stay on the line and wait to be written.

There are three poems ahead of it, but it can be assured that it will be the next to be served.

This poem is important to me.

I appreciate its patience.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Grafton Flea Market

Wow, am I ever glad my husband reminded me Sunday morning that the Grafton Flea Market was up and running. We figured we'd better check it out, and it was well worth the trip -- not that it's very far. And to think I might have stayed home in my pajamas watching cartoons when these 600 vintage rhinestone rondelles were there waiting for me, or these gorgeous blue-green-purple freshwater pearls strung with 28 faceted aqua briolettes. (Snippity snip.) Along with the usual vendors of tube socks and colorful plastic household goods, there's also an astonishingly well-stocked model shop inside the flea market building, and I got all kinds of goodies for jewelry making in there -- not all of it pictured here. The owner is very knowledgeable and helpful, and I'll definitely be a regular customer there. He's got everything, and I want it all!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Come look at my etchings

...well, not quite yet. I've been trying this metal etching technique from Stephanie Lee's blog and it's sort of working, but my results are not quite ready for primetime. I'm not sure if I'm not leaving my pieces in long enough, too long, or if the various mystery metals I've tried are to blame, but the nickel silver squares I cut, filed, and stamped do show just enough of the desired effect to keep me trying!

Old and rusty. That's my personal manifesto of beauty, always has been, so as I approach the new-to-me metal arts, it just seems right to take lovely, shiny, new materials and do whatever I can to make them look like they have been buried in the ground for a couple of hundred years. When I made quilts, it was the same way. I would finish the quilt top, sewn only from reproductions of antique fabrics, quilt it by hand, apply the binding by hand, and then systematically perform various nefarious aging processes on it to make it look like a timeworn, beloved antique. A psychologist would have probably had a field day with this behavior, which may seem inexplicable since I was trained to be an art historian and curator, pledged to preserve other people's antiquities, which I guess I did, but for my own work, it's always been all about recreating the past. So though I am not entirely sure what I'm doing, I'm turning my attention this chilly spring afternoon to etching and aging metal, and it's pretty exciting. Ineffective so far, but exciting. The great results that Stephanie Lee, Jane Wynn, the O'Briens, and all the other people who've published variations on the etching techniques lately are just so beautiful, I have to keep trying. Wish me luck. Pictures, hopefully, to follow!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

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Well, I'm back, and apologize for letting my poor blog languish so pitifully. You see, like Elmer Fudd used to say, I've been sick. Shanghai-ed into a four day hospital admission by well-meaning ER docs and a negligent office staff -- don't ask -- I've been out of the hospital for a week, and freedom never felt so good.

Though the combined effects of costochondritis and mesenteric adenitis -- and the short-lived amusement of wondering which came first, and how in the heck I managed to catch either one -- are indeed inconvenient, I am now in that happy state of grace between being well enough to venture into the studio, but obviously far too ill to undertake any housework beyond, say, lobbing wads of wet laundry from the washer into the dryer. Small wads. My poor husband was really a saint through this whole scary episode, and I intend to make this all up to him somehow, and soon. But today, I was determined to finish this piece I started before the wheels came off my personal health bus.

"Finished" is a very powerful word to me, because it's one I don't get to use very often. Merely completing a task I start is remarkable enough, since I have been starting several new projects a day for decades, but to say a piece of art is finished is to imply that it has a certain, well, gestalty completeness to it, and though I know it when I see it, I don't see all that much of it. That's what happens to art history majors who cross over to the dark side of making their own art. Spend your whole life looking at the good stuff, and your own efforts, no matter how sincere, are bound to fall short of the mark. Way short, in my case. So a project like this, which straddles the fence between art and craft, is where I feel most comfortable, like the little pearl egg in the nest. It is awfully good to be home.
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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Stormy's Dahlias

This past September I took a plein air painting class with Mary Giammarino through the Provincetown Art Association's fine museum school program, and stayed across the street from this gorgeous cottage with its incredible dahlia collection. This is my first attempt at coloring a black-and-white photo, which I was strongly inspired to try by Angela Cartwright's newish book, Mixed Emulsions. I've always loved antique postcards, with the way the images seem to capriciously dance between color and black-and-white, and am really excited about trying these techniques for myself. So here's my first effort -- lots of room for improvement, to be sure, but I'm just so excited about finally trying this technique, I just had to post it here.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tibetan Beads

I am counting the days until the big spring bead show in Marlborough, MA, so I can get more of these gorgeous Tibetan silver-capped chalcedony beads. Last time, I didn't get there until the third day of the show, and they were almost all gone. THIS time, I'll be there when the doors open!
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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Get together

Five inches of snow this morning, the kind with the huge fluffy flakes, and not a breath of wind stirring -- so beautiful and still. I don't think I ever noticed before this morning how this group of pine trees across the street from my house seem like a group of friends clustering together, leaning in towards one another -- a hushed, intimate moment I just happened to glance up and see. Hope they're not embarrassed.
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Thursday, February 28, 2008


Rowan just loves to curl up with a good book. Who doesn't?
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In the mail

Off it goes, my submission for Monica Magness' Pink Artist art doll project. What an amazing collaboration she has undertaken. It's a privilege to be even a small, two-inch square part of it! Thanks, Monica!! Breast cancer has impacted my life most directly in the loss of both my mother several years ago, and of my dearly loved friend, one of the sweetest-natured women who ever lived, Darlene Roberts, founder of Quilting Books Unlimited. So in their honor and memory, I'm sending off this little Zuni fetish bear, symbolizing the power, strength and courage shown by all who fight with and against this awful disease.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

Vintage clear glass beads with antiqued sterling silver wire...I made these last night. Diamonds and rust. Now I just have to summon the courage to put them in my etsy shop. The pictures aren't great, because they were taken with the world's oldest, and probably heaviest, digital camera. I think digital camera years and dog years are about the same.
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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Kitchen corner

The plants are winning. The glass dangly things are winning. The books are winning. I used to think it would be so great to have a sunny corner like this that I could fill up with plants, but the thing with plants is that even if you semi-ignore them, they grow. They're like art supplies that way.
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Tag, you are it

Obsessed with that gothic arch thing about tags, each one is a little shrine to me, and I can't stop making them. I could've painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for the amount of time -- and paint -- I lavish on each one, but each to his own obsession, I say. Houses, arches, nichos, shrines: places where the spiritual might abide for a moment in the material world, so bring it on. Little altars everywhere.
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Lacks Focus.

This picture of my studio shrine to my two current favorite books and one all-time favorite color is a little out of focus, but that's probably how it should be. Following up on Ali Edwards' one little word challenge, my word for this year is gonna be "focus." That's my well-thumbed and slipcovered edition of Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. It's a tiny little chunky edition which doesn't fit well on a bookshelf and that's good, because if it's lying about on a table I'm more likely to snatch it up and read a few pages at random.
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Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

The finished background canvas sat, stood, or hung around the studio for over a year before this lordly image of a Hindu deity appeared in the New York Times last spring. I didn't hook them up right away, but kept the page torn out of the paper, thinking I'd collage it into a separate work, not ruling out the possibility of just taping it to the wall as it was. When I re-organized the studio last summer, the general upheaval brought these two unrelated unfinished objects into close proximity with one another, and synchronicity kicked in. Note to self: save everything no matter what.
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more ocean dreams last night.

Painting waves again. Must be this book I'm reading, The Sea, the Sea, by Iris Murdoch. An eccentric loner goes to live by the ocean after a busy life in the theatre. He thinks he will write, and he makes a good start of it, but pretty soon the wheels start to come off the bus. I'm reading this really slowly because a) I don't want it to end, and b) it is starting to scare the bejeezus out of me!
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Tamsin Barraclough, waiting for spring

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Between Two Worlds

Painted this a few weeks ago. I had stopped by our local Panera Bread, which is adjacent to a huge hospital complex, and was just so deeply touched to see this chemo patient in her housecoat in there, looking so haunted and far away, like she was literally existing between two worlds.

Chemo patient

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Made a terrible mess in the studio this past weekend, sitting on the floor making collages around a specific color theme. I think I'm finally getting past my inner critic. Working with the most basic materials -- acrylic craft paint, rubber stamps, charcoal pencils, and last week's New York Times retrieved from my recycling bin -- seems to get me past the preciousness of working with "good" art materials and frees me up to just create without any assumption about the worth of the outcomes. These collages will get cut up and combined into other things, but I figured I'd scan them first before I started whacking them apart!

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