An Artistic Challenge

I mentioned last October in a post “Putting Yourself Out There” that I was participating in a conference called Synergy 4. The International Polymer Clay Association (theipca.org) holds a conference every few years that is focused on the advancement of polymer clay arts and artists. It is truly amazing. A professional conference format with general sessions and breakout sessions and talks ranging from art as a business, new techniques, where to draw inspiration   . . . . you get the idea.

Okay, so they didn’t accept my idea for a session topic “The Evolution of an Idea”, it was a long shot.  However, one type of breakout session at the conference is called a Challenge. If you sign up for this session, you are required to develop a challenge for yourself (with the guidance of the session chair) and then present it at the conference. It could be about almost anything related to polymer clay . . . . like developing a new technique, . . . . . working on a new body of work, . . . . . . trying an experiment, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Well, of course, in my year of pushing myself ‘out there’ I signed up! I was able to use my ‘evolution of an idea’ and challenged myself to create a new body of work based upon inspiration from Kandinsky, specifically his ‘Bauhaus period’, early 1920’s to about 1930-ish. I love the graphic geometric shapes, the layering and use of color. They are joyful and fun. Makes my heart go pitter-patter!

But drawing inspiration from someone or something versus mimicking them are two different things. And I wandered around for several months trying different approaches. Getting frustrated. Starting again.  Then went completely off-course with other projects . . . can you say ‘tangent’?  But what is squirrel, I mean girl, to do??

Below are some of my creations on my meandering path.  While none of them are fabulous, I did learned something from each one.

But a quick glance at my calendar, about mid-June brought me to my senses and I realized I was quickly running out of time . . . . I revisited my challenge and tried a different approach.  I stepped away from the ‘mark making’ and focused on color . . . . lots of color!

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The session chair, Christine Dumont (www.allovercreation.net) has been wonderful. She is an accomplished artist and creative teacher (see previous post on “making improvements”). She reviewed my past work, we skyped, she reviewed work in progress, we skyped again . . . . she took her job seriously . . . so I damn well better take my job seriously!!

Her guidance was perfect, a nudge here . . . a verbal kick in the pants there . . . . a balance of pointing out my strengths and weaknesses in a very constructive way.  This type of coaching/mentoring is invaluable.  I feel like I received the deal of a lifetime . . . . . for FREE!  Thanks Christine!!

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I am very happy with my direction and new body of work. I continue to experiment and make adjustments . . . some work . . . . some don’t. But the journey has been great! More confidence. Improved technical skills. And new work to share. I couldn’t be happier!! And I love the flying squirrel logo for the back of my work.

So if you ever have an opportunity to participate in a challenge . . . . do not hesitate! What you will get out of the effort is much, much more than what you put in it.

 

 

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Catching Up

The last couple of months have been spent jumping from one project/trip to another. This level of over planning and over commitment is kind of how I operate. With the pressure on . . . . driving me forward.

At the moment however there is a calm. Not for long and I need to make the most of this time before the next wave of chaos hits . . . . and it is coming. But I need to face the path of destruction I have left along the way. The ‘I will put that away later’ has now become I can’t see the floor or the table in my studio any more!! Can anyone relate to this??

I thought I had purged when I did the big move in to my new studio space . . . . but clearly not enough. And no, I am not showing a photo of my hot mess . . . it is way too embarrassing!

But as I try to focus, I continue to be distracted . . . . and having fun doing it!

One of the distractions is my travel journal. I am now officially under 4 months until my Southeast Asia trip and I am just buzzing with excitement! The journal is coming along and I continue adding to it, bit by bit. The outer cover is decorated and I love it! The fabric for the cover was a scrap from a painters cloth and the cut edges were unravelling, a lot. So I took some sari/silk ribbon scrap and ironed it out and sewed it around the outer cover.  A simply feather was then sketched out and painted in. Then I found a box of fabric scraps that had fusing already attached. One fabric had these dots with a spiral design, so they were cut out and ironed on.

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I created four separate signatures, a small one for the overall description of the trip, then one for each country we are visiting. They were sewn using a simple pamphlet stitch. I used purple elastic cording to attach the signatures. Technically, I can slip a signature out to carry with me for sketching, if I don’t want to carry the entire journal. But I love the feel and weight of the journal as a whole. It seems to be just the right size. And don’t you love the eyelet detail on the spine for the elastic cord. Yes, the color of the eyelet matches the dominant color used in each signature . . . . . and yes, those little details make me happy!!

I have started adding to the journal pages, getting them prepped for the trip. An overview map has been sketched that will show where we are going with detailed maps added later. I have used the Asian stamps a dear friend lent me. I have used stencils. I have a box of phrases in my collage stash from magazines and such, and have been adding them where appropriate. I have even started drafting titles for key locations.

I have a long way to go prepping pages. Some more stamping, maybe some more collage, definitely more painted backgrounds. I don’t go overboard and cover the entire page. I like some white space.

I can’t wait to show before and after photos of this journal when I return from my travels. I also have to come up with my journaling supplies that will be traveling with me. Trying to not go too crazy . . . . keeping it light and portable!

I find working on my journal so much fun. It allows me to channel my excitement into prepping for the BIG trip. But it doesn’t have to be a BIG trip, I do travel journals for little ones as well and enjoy it as much!!  Alright, who is ready to make a travel journal and go on a trip??

Oops, didn’t I start this post saying I needed to clean? Okay, 5 minutes of cleaning for every 55 minutes of play time. Sounds about right!

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A Surprise Package!

 

You know we all love a new tool . . . . well I received a sweet little package from a dear friend from Scotland, Melanie Muir, a polymer clay artist, teacher and creative coach extraordinaire (www.melaniemuir.com)!! She visited last February and I had a chance to see her new line of jewelry before she headed for her next show. Very graphic. Very modern. Very beautiful.

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She also shared that the new line of jewelry resulted in a new line of texture stamps and shape templates. Woo-hoo!!   Who doesn’t love a new tool!

A few of the things that make her stamps nice for polymer clay work is that they are clear so you can see the underlying clay and make sure the contact is good, they are deeply carved stamps (great for mokume gane) and the size is manageable for jewelry size pieces. A twist to her new line of texture stamps is that the designs include both innies and outies for the same stamp shape!

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In addition, she has developed a few new shape templates along with a new line of cutters! And yes, I have already placed my order for the cutters!!

I have been playing with the stamps and templates a little. I used them to make some samples for my mica shift class I recently taught at Fandango.

So thank you Melanie for your generous gift and making a gal do a happy dance! It has been so hard to keep this secret but I promised I wouldn’t spill the beans until they were up on her website, go check them out!!

I know a tool doesn’t make an artist . . . . . but a new tool can make an artist happy!!

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Early Riser

I am not a morning person. For those that know me, this statement might evoke a ‘laugh-out-loud” response. While I like mornings, I want them to be leisurely, sipping coffee, thinking about the day ahead. It is probably in response to the many years of rushing . . . .  always rushing  . . . . . somewhere . . . . . for something.

On a recent visit to Melbourne Beach, Florida a walk on the beach to see the sunrise was discussed. I thought  . . . .  why not? I was not disappointed.  It was refreshing to see the beginning of the day greet us. And the view of the ocean waters soothes my soul! I don’t mind that it was cloudy and you can’t see the sun. The expansive view reminds me that I am just a little part of this world . . .  so small, . . . .  so very small.

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While walking along I looked (and found) treasures along the beach.

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Turtle tracks. Evidence of the nocturnal activity.  Leading to and from the new nests.

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Porpoise (bottle-nosed dolphin) just off-shore. My finger on the camera wasn’t as quick as they were, but if you zoom in a fin can be seen!

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I would follow these foot-prints anywhere (hubby leading me down the beach) as I dawdle and look for treasures!!

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Getting up a little earlier seems like such a small price to pay for something so wonderful. Its nice to have the opportunity to do something as special as this.  We should all look for these opportunities to enjoy our surroundings and appreciate where we are for the moment. It really helps put things in perspective.

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Trip Planning . . . Again!

It has been awhile, but the travel bug reared it’s head again and I have a full schedule.

Hubby and I have talked for years about going to southeast Asia. The history, the temples, the geology! We were thinking 2018 . . . . . or even putting it off until 2019. Then, in one of my ninja travel scheduling moves, I convinced him to go before the end of this year.  You could insert many adverbs here, such as . . . . . tricked . . . . . nagged . . . . charmed, he has his own list!

We are actually both VERY excited about this trip. However, my normal mode of operation when planning a trip is having a year or more to . . . . well plan! It is one of the parts of traveling that I do love. Finding out what the possibilities are in a particular place is exciting and then weaving a journey together makes me swoon!

This trip will be different for us in many ways, but the biggest is that we are going with a tour group. I waivered on this for a long time, but decided to let someone else be in control of the bulk of the planning (me, give up control, very unusual, I know). What pushed me in that direction was that I know four individuals from very different walks of life that have each used this tour group, three of them went to Southeast Asia with them. All four people used Gate1 Travel and gave them rave reviews. Fingers crossed!

map of itinerary

The tour will be 17-days long with a few extra days added to the front and back ends. The biggest coup for the trip, so far, was nailing round trip tickets using airline miles . . . . in business class!! Getting the tickets using miles was key for us going on this trip because if hubby is kept comfortable and happy, he is willing to travel.  Having a credit card that gives you miles is like my magic wand!! And I only use my miles for those international long flights, otherwise I will just buy domestic tickets. And yes, this will be a series of long flights. Miami to Los Angeles to Osaka (Japan) to Bangkok (Thailand) to Hanoi (Vietnam) where we will begin our adventure!!

So with the planning taken care of, I can then obsess about ‘packing light’. The intent is always there, but . . . . well . . . the ‘be ready for any weather or occasion’ usually interferes and things get added. Well, its a goal.

And of course I have to start thinking about a travel journal. Listen, our trip is now about 5 months away, so yes, I have thought about it . . . . a lot!  I put a plan together based upon where we are going, number of days traveling, how much sketching I will have time for, etc. So the plan, the papers, and the signatures are done. Then I focus on the structure of the journal . . . how I want the journal to function . . .  the cover, the pockets, extra space, etc. I had a piece of a painter’s drop cloth lying around and decided that would make a great cover and started sewing!

Once assembled, the next phase is laying down backgrounds and little bits of decorations throughout the journal. A dear friend, who is well aware of my obsessions has already offered to bring me her collection of Asia themed stamps so I can get started!! I love people who ‘get me’.

I will add photos when the journal is ready for the trip! Until then, its back to planning  . . . . . and dreaming . . . . and a few little trips in between now and then.  Happy travels!

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Pressing the Button

Your forms are filled out . . . . your photos are uploaded . . . . your finger is hovering over the SUBMIT button. And the little voice in your head is screaming ‘don’t do it’, ‘what are you thinking’, ‘who do you think you are?!?!?!?!?’ But you take a deep breathe and push that button anyway. There . . . . it’s done . . . . what have I got to lose?

That was me at the computer this morning as I submitted some work to the IPCA Awards. The IPCA is the International Polymer Clay Association (theipca.org). They have periodically over the years held juried competitions for polymer clay based art – wearable jewelry, functional containers, non-functional sculpture and hanging art and mixed media. There are also three levels of applicants – student, emerging artist and artist. As a member of the association a small fee allows you to submit three pieces. And I did.

The theme this year was ‘To Boldly Go!’ in honor of the 50th year of Star Trek and your pieces needed to be from your current work (no more than 12 months old). I have been spending a huge amount of time in the studio and have a fair bit of work to show for it over the last year. Is it great? No. Is it my best work? No. Is it something I am proud of? I like them, but none of them are earth-shattering. But what they do show is progress . . . . steps forward and that is what is important . . . . . at least to me. And as part of pushing myself in that forward direction, I submitted three pieces.

The fact is, this submission (and fear of it) is in the realm of the ‘small stuff’ . . . . that we really shouldn’t sweat, right??? Then why does it feel so BIG??? Putting yourself ‘out there’, particularly  in our digital world is a lot bigger in terms of exposure.  Okay, so it’s a bigger deal, so what.  In the effort to tame those damn voices in my head I continue to say . . . . ‘so what’s the worst that can happen?’ at least I pushed myself a bit and stepped out into the world.

I am finding that there are so many opportunities that are all a little uncomfortable, but once you step up and do them, you find out that they are not so bad after all. So if something comes your way, why not take the step to be a little uncomfortable . . . . push yourself . . . . and be rewarded with the experience and a new perspective!!

Sorry for no photos, but I am not allowed to post any photos until after the competition!!

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Collaborating Continues

While the blog has been idle, my hands have not been! I don’t think I have spent this much time in the studio . . . . . well, ever!! And that’s a good thing.

My friends at Banyan Bay Studio continue to experiment with wooden components, but there is a twist. They have a second company, Blue Tarpon Studio, where they create finished art jewelry. They got into the “One of a Kind Show” in Chicago, April 28 to 30th.  Since the wooden components and polymer combination has been so successful, they asked if I would collaborate with them for the show. Exciting, right?!?!

Let the playing begin . . . . . . the flat components (circles, squares and rectangles) provide a nice background in which to work . . . . but what about going three-dimensional?

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We are also working simultaneously on additional wooden components for Banyan Bay Studios (picture the performer with the spinning plates on thin sticks!). We came up with tubes of wood that have both channels and sometimes dots.  I worked on various color-ways that I thought enhanced the color of the wood.

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The length can be varied . . . . . . the placement of the channels and dots can be varied . . . . . . the color of the wood can be varied. What would you do with these?? Earrings . . . a single tube for a simple pendant . . . . . . or a series of tubes for a necklace?? Oh the possibilities! And yes, these will eventually be added to the wooden component series offered by Banyan Bay Studios.

Then in one conversation, the topic of natural edge pieces of wood came up. This is a slice of wood that not only highlights the beautiful grains of the interior, but has a unique, unaltered edge where the bark has been removed. They are like little landscapes themselves.

So what do you add to these to enhance the natural beauty that is already there? Well here is one idea.

 

So what would you do with all of these new pieces? If you happen to be in Chicago the end of April, come by and see us at the show! I would love some feedback on . . . . . well everything!

 

 

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