I’m Back!!!

I’m back from my month long adventure and full of inspiration, ideas, to-do’s and general end-of-year panic!! But it’s all good. And I have so much to share with you that I have that buzzing going again!! Let me start with the trip we just completed (I tried to be brief but there was just so much to share!).

The trip to Greece was  . . . . well it was amazing. I was so happy that I opted for a discovery tour of Greece through Gate1 Travel. They have trips that work with small groups. We were 20 people, a fairly diverse group, but with a common interest in the history of Greece. The tour guide was infectious with his love of Greece. He was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and knew how to engage people.  The country itself was beautiful. We drove over 1,200 miles (well our bus driver Plato did, I sat back and relaxed). We went over or through mountains, along coastlines, over bridges and took ferries.  I felt we really saw and experienced Greece.

The history of Greece is long and complicated being influenced by many different peoples.  I had to do a special map for my journal in order to get a better understanding of where we are today before I started down the historic path. I put a little brad at each location we were stopping for a night or two. I had so much fun making this. And yes, my kids think I am a bit whack-o, that’s okay. 

Map in travel journal documenting the country, our route and places we visited.

The museums we went to were so well done! They were all built at the archeological excavated sites. So you learned about the site and saw the artifacts before walking through the excavations. I will mention only a few here.

The museum in Vergina showcased the tomb of Philip II, and was actually built over the actual tomb. Philip II (359 to 336 B.C.) was the King of Macedonia and father of Alexander the Great.  You could actually walk down to the entrance to his tomb in the museum. The artifacts found in his tomb were unbelievable riches and included his gold crown that was a delicate wreathe of leaves and acorns and a golden box with detailed designs. 

You walked down a dozen or so steps to stand in front of the actual entrance to Philip II tomb.

Delphi was spectacular! The oracle of Delphi was one small area housed with the Temple of Apollo originally built in 7th century B.C. There are only a few remaining columns along with the foundation left. An illustration in the museum shows what the site originally looked like. It was a massive complex of buildings, a theater and stadium. It was actually used as a treasury. The patterns of adornment (see carved limestone) and the craftsman ship (see carved ivory foot from statue) were stunning!

This is the Temple of Apollo where the oracle of Delphi was housed and gave out words of wisdom.

The museum in Mycenae featured some of the oldest artifacts we saw. The site dated back to 1500-1250 B.C.  The entrances were grand in scale at both the acropolis (the carved lions are missing their heads) and the beehive tomb referred to as the Treasury of Atreus out side the walls of the acropolis using massive stones. How did they do that back then??? The gold jewelry found at one of the grave sites was jaw dropping. It was as contemporary as any jewelry today. Yup, my mind was blown!!

And lets not forget ‘The Acropolis’. I did learn that the word acropolis simply means a fortified area of a city often built on a hill. There are ancient Acropoli (is that the plural?) all around the country. But the biggie is in Athens and is what everyone associates with Greece. The current remains at the site include a cluster of buildings built in the 5th century B.C. to honor Athena. The site and its adjacent museum did not disappoint!

We did visit a vineyard that had been established in 1850’s that was beautiful and sampled some of their wines. We had lunch at an olive grove where they bottle and sell olive oil, olive oil soaps and loads of other things.  It was a charming location that is often used for weddings and events. The lunch was superb. Okay, to be fair, the food throughout Greece was superb. I did find a little souvenir for myself, a porcelain pendant made to look like micro-mosaics. I don’t know the artist or even if these are mass-produced. I did see them one other place on the trip. Regardless, I will cherish mine. I love it!

And of course I have my journal full of wonderful memories and crazy, silly things that occurred on the trip. My journal is always my favorite souvenir of the trip.  It brings back waves of emotions as I flip through it. Below I have shared a few of the pages.

I sure hope you have enjoyed the journey with me . . . well a little bit. I did find it funny that the first question everyone asked us was “which islands did you visit”? Yes, Greece has numerous picturesque islands but there is so much more to Greece than its islands. If you every get a chance to visit, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough!!

To me honest, the trip did not end in Greece. We had a two-day stop over in Roman and then jumped on the Celebrity Edge for a transatlantic cruise back home to Fort Lauderdale! It was grand!!

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A Polymer Puzzle

If you have attended an art retreat you have probably heard of ‘swaps’ of some kind . . . . . buttons, beads, ATC’s, bowls, etc. You get the idea. But have you every participated in a group project . . .  like a puzzle? 

At a recent polymer clay retreat there was a group project that I found to be very interesting. One of the attendees finds an image, reduces it to a black and white line drawing. It is then enlarged and cut into 20 or 25 squares that are randomly numbered. Each participant gets a square, about 3×3-inches, without knowing what the final image looks like. If there are black lines on your square, you should make them dark. If there is white you should make that light colors. And some squares are, in fact, all white . . .  just blank pieces of paper. No other rules apply.

This is the square piece I was given to work on (bottom left). Clearly part of a face and this is my finished tile (below right), a little reptilian looking or even Avatar-ish.

The interpretations of the rules and individual styles that surfaced were fascinating!!  Here they are, all 25! The variety of technique is amazing.

So at the end of the retreat everyone turns in her square tile piece. They are all dumped on a table and we, as a group, try and put the puzzle pieces together. Once the puzzle is together, everyone that participated gets her name in a drawing to take home the completed puzzle. Here is what it looked like! Isn’t she lovely!!

Yup, you guessed it. I WON!!!!  I was thrilled. And I will lovingly frame it for my studio wall. I was able to take home a piece of everyone that played the puzzle game!

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What happens when . . .

This last August I had the opportunity to join a group of 27 women . . .  well artists at a private retreat in the mountains.  I was intimidated, but not enough not to go. I was nervous . . .  would I fit in . . . . . am I worthy?!?! What can I bring to the table??

Well that inner critic was a waste of time, an irritation and couldn’t have been more wrong!!

Our amazing retreat workroom was a good space, with wonderful light and filled with warm, kind hearts!

I was welcomed with open arms and no judgement. Everyone brought so many wonderful things to the table and did such different work with the same materials . . . .  polymer clay.  They all had their own voice and were on their own paths.  And what blew me away more than anything, was they all had their own inner critic!!  I couldn’t believe it . . .  they had doubts and struggles????  Even the best of the best?!?!

Again, this was a reminder that we have more in common than we think.

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What’s That Buzzing

If you listen closely you can hear it. It’s an intense buzzing sound in my brain as I zero in on another trip.  Yes, my brain is busy overthinking . . . . reviewing packing lists, checking sizes of luggage, researching the climates that we will be in and more than anything WHAT KIND OF TRAVEL JOURNAL WILL I TAKE???? Yup, that’s the top of the list.

So I started making my set of covers and painting papers. It was okay, but didn’t grab me  . . . . or my imagination.  But I plodded along.

Then,  . . .  then I saw it!!  In one of my piles of materials,  . . . . bulging at the seams . . . .  I remembered saving parts of an old emergency rescue raft.  At this point you might be thinking ‘What is she talking about’. Let me explain!

A while back my brother-in-law brought over an old, expired emergency raft. He thought the grandkids would get a kick out of deploying it in the lake.  Sure enough, they loved it. But it was dry rotted and in really bad condition. So when the days fun was over, it was headed to the trash.  Until I ran out there with my scissors! With my husband rolling his eyes, I managed to cut off some of the stamped wording that I thought might be cool.  I rolled it up and stuck into one of the piles in the studio.  

Fast forward to a few days ago! I saw this material peeking out and it caught my eye. Yup, slam on the brakes and start in a new direction!! So I cut up some wording and sewed it together in order to fit the signatures I already created.

I bound the signatures using a fancier binding technique that shows a criss cross pattern down the spine.  I added a pocket in the back and a Velcro tab for a closure, I love it!!  Could not be happier!

Finished journal ready for travel!

Then I started prepping my pages with a few details. I add some paint where I think it might need it, stencil some more patterns, maybe add some washi tape and then collage bits and bobs here and there.  You might wonder why I add the details, how I pick them and where they go.  First of all, I try and not overthink things (ironic for me, I know!). Not all pages need something, I want room to add things as I travel. But this gives me a base in which to build.  For every travel journal I have done, the stamped, stenciled or collage images or words seem to work for whatever day it falls on in my journal and no matter what happens. Chance or luck, . . .  not sure, but I’ll take it!!

Oh yeah, you might be wondering where we are going this time!! We are going to start with the 13-day tour of Greece, a couple days in Rome, then catching a transatlantic cruise back to Florida.  I am a very lucky person to get to have so much fun. I hope you have something that gets you so excited your brain is buzzing!! I promise to share the completed journal when we get home.

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My Process . . . This Time.

I recently was developing some work for a new class. As I was reflecting on how I got where I was and where I could go . . . . a light went on. If I could document the steps, or process . . . . could I more intentionally repeat it?? I can hope this works, but maybe each time it’s a new and different dance? Only time will tell. 

Last fall, I was browsing quilt patterns on Pinterest, lots of stripes  . . . . I love a stripe. This initial inspiration stuck with me. No I am not a quilter. I collect fabric and dream about making a quilt, but  . . . no, I am not an actual quilter. 

This is a screen shot from Pinterest. The artist is Dianne Firth and her quilt is Red Hills (2015). Love her work!!!

So back in February, I noticed that I had a few leftover pieces of striped canes on my desk and a little idea using leaf shapes. This is what happened. I do love the bold graphics and high contrasts of these pieces.   These were just trial pieces, but the idea stuck with me.    

Over the next few months I thought about leaves. I collected different shapes from my yard and on walks. 

I sketched simplified leaves with various crazy patterns. I seem to always have a piece of paper, notebook, etc. to jot down ideas. Some of these are buried deep in notes from lectures or ‘to-do’ lists for the day.

Another way I sketch is to use this magnetic drawing board that has been kicking around the house since grandkids started popping up! It is a way of testing ideas and just doodle away . . .  it’s only temporary and the board can be wiped clean and you start again. It is very freeing! If by chance there is something that catches my eye, I snap a photo.

It was clear that I was on a graphic leaf design binge! So I played with it a bit when I was experimenting with liquid clays (see last post). These became my aboriginal-inspired leaves. When I started these, the liquid clay was the focus, but I couldn’t shake the idea of this funky leaf shape and graphic designs.  

So I started thinking about the ‘what if’s’. The shape of each side of the leaves, stretched, squat and asymmetrical. The graphic patterns of circles, triangles or lines. The dot patterns, size and color. The colors of the clay.  The leaf stem, striped, curvy and dotted.

Collection of aboriginal-inspired graphic leaves.

After the first five, I liked them so much, that I decided that I would use these as a swap item for an upcoming retreat. This required me to make about 25 of them.  I have to say, making multiples of exactly the same thing makes me lose interest . . .  quickly . . . very quickly.  BUT when I can vary something in the design, I find it challenging. And to play with those variables . . . . I am now in heaven!!!  In addition, the process of making something over and over again  . . . . well you will get better at it! That’s one of the ways you grow your skills. Its a lesson I have learned over and over again!! So keep playing my friends!

And yes, this will be a new class offering.

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We All Do It

We see some wonderful handmade item and think ‘I can do that!’  And with the blackhole of inspiration and ideas called “Pinterest’ available, it probably happens more and more.

I have to admit, I spend WAY too much time on Pinterest. I get so caught up in the inspiration side of things.  After an hour or so, regret sets in and I often sheepishly think that I should have spent that time creating!!  Does this sound familiar?

Okay, leaving regret behind, I have been playing with some of those fabulous ideas and inspiration.  And yes, many of the ideas have come from seeing some else’s work and thinking ‘I can do that in polymer’!

I have recently been playing with liquid clays.  Specifically I love the idea of mimicking enameling. I have done enameling, long before I fell in love with polymer clay. It was the color and the various ways you could manipulate it that drew me in to enameling.  But it requires a lot of patience . . . . and skill . . . . and time. When introduced to polymer clay, there was a lot more instant gratification in the short term. In the long term though the same rules apply . . . . it takes a lot of patience and skill and time.  Funny how that works!!

I started mimicking a scraffito technique. It is a technique used in painting, enameling, ceramics, etc. where layers of colors are cut, scraped, pulled and manipulated.

Then I went in another direction with the liquid clay. Dots. Lots of dots. These are my aboriginal-inspired leaves. I have done a ton of these and love them. But that’s my next blog post!

I tried a bunch of other things that didn’t work. Or I should say, didn’t work for me. They didn’t ignite a spark or I thought I could achieve the same look another way. But everything was informative. And experimenting with mark making is always at least interesting. 

I then started to play with a series that is a little more . . .  grungy (is that the right word?) than I normally work. But I like this as well. And the focus is more on playing with composition rather than the liquid clay, but it is still being used here.  I like these  . . . . . different from my normal . . . . but another tangent worth exploring. 

Okay, it is clear that this little squirrel is all over the place. But it is certainly more fun when ideas are popping and I am jumping from one thing to another! A few of these ideas (or tangents) deserve more attention and time for more concentrated playing.

So where do you find inspiration? How do you balance between finding inspiration and getting to work?!?  Do you play with an idea long enough to transition from mimicking someone else’s work to making it your own? It’s hard, so off you go . . . . get in your studio or creative corner of the world . . . . and make something!

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Next Up – Beadfest Phillie!

It’s coming up quick . . . Beadfest Phillie August 14 through 18! It is a new venue for me, but I know they have done shows throughout the country and have quite the following. I will be teaching five classes that include:

  • Gone Fishin’ – full day class, Wednesday August 14
  • Making Your Mark With Kandinsky – full day class, Thursday August 15
  • Channeling Mondrian – half day morning class, Friday August 16
  • Three in Three Earrings – half day afternoon class, Friday August 16
  • Picasso-Inspired Portraits in Polymer Clay – full day class, Saturday August 17
Gone Fishin’
Making Your Mark with Kandinsky Bracelet
Channeling Mondrian Pendant
Three in Three Earrings
Picasso Inspired Portraits in Polymer

I find it so interesting to see which classes are the most popular . . .  it changes from place to place.  If you are in the area, come join me for some polymer fun!!

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