The stamping experiments continue! Ironically, there has been something very liberating about restricting myself to exploration in one area. Using the outie form* of my stamps and pastels I returned to a colour palette that was me several years ago and created what I call my relics. Friends and family would talk about Wendy colours and knew this meant emerald, magenta, turquoise and ultramarine (give or take). In these pieces, I sometimes augmented the impression of the stamp with additional texture makers and then added more texture by pressing the completed piece with a texture sponge. This also helped to embed the pastel chalks into the clay.
Many of my homemade stamps were leaf forms and certainly there has been a leafy theme to my latest experiments. I combined my stamps, pastels and, for the earring components, silk screens by Helen Breil and made a bangle and a couple of forms that I will make into BIG BEADS!! There was something about these that reminded me of my childhood and some research yielded barkcloth. This led into a bit of an online rabbit hole but I got lots more ideas about designs and saw that everything old gets new again!! So many of the new fabric designs we are currently seeing borrow heavily from mid century barkcloth patterns!
For lots of inspiration and ideas, you might like to subscribe to Heidi Helyard’s Studio Scraps which is a fabulous read each week. I get easily overwhelmed by words (I know, ironic!) and Heidi has the perfect sized newsletter of tips, techniques, prompts and links. And who knows what you might read about in coming months or weeks!? I also feel a class coming on so watch this space.
*technical terms! The outies are the stamps that have fine raised lines so leave large flat areas when used. The innies have the lines carved into them so leave lines when pressed. I had a photo of the outies in my last post and here are the innies!
Hello my darling ladies,
(Going out on a limb a bit there re gender! Correct me if I am wrong)
I dropped the ball a bit with my daily posts (we could all see that coming) but it was mindful ball dropping. I began enthusiastically at the start of the lockdown but the internet got so bloody noisy so I kept wearing my daily earrings and posted them on @sociallydistantearrings on Instagram but stopped rambling on. The internet version of whispering I hope.
I have been walking. A lot. I am very lucky to have a great place to walk within ten paces of my back door. I sometimes spend several hours walking, stopping to meditate or make mandala type thingies. (I only use seeds and pods and leaves as I am mindful of not moving rocks etc.) Then I come home and head to my studio where I have been exploring some new techniques (for me).
True confessions time….when I began with polymer in the dim dark depths of time over 30 years ago, I was bit of a purist. I was…a caner. And only a caner. I prided myself in saying, often in bold capital letters, no paint has been used. You could almost imagine me crossing my fingers in front of my face. I loved caning with a passion (if you are wondering WTF I am talking about read this). I still do love caning and I make some really really complex canes.
But over the last few years I have come to understand (call me a slow learner) that caning is just a tool…a process. It is just one way for me to say what I want to say or to express the idea I want to express. Other fabulously exciting and effective ways include surface treatments like painting, texturing, carving and printing. I have done all these things for ages but realised the purist still lurked a bit telling me that this was somehow less…pure. Well, I have told the purist to be buggered and am having a heap of fun. The best fun is actually combining the techniques.
It was a bit like saying I only cook Nepalese food. Or I would cook other cuisines but that when I did that, I wasn’t really cooking. Now I am exploring a heap of cuisines now and, guess what, it is all cooking!
Recently, I’ve been looking at the work of a number of ceramic artists and I love how they used stamps. I decided to try carving myself some stamps from scrap clay and then set myself the challenge of using these in ten different ways. This been such a good exercise!! I will post more photos in a few days and hope you enjoy seeing how one thing can trigger such fun!
I can’t quite recall what got me onto reading Genevieve Williamson‘s blog but I am so glad I started. After a nanosecond I signed up for her newsletter and there began a friendship which I value enormously. She is a gem. I (like many others!!) adore Genevieve’s work and after surviving a tough time several years ago I treated myself to a Genevieve Williamson necklace as a You made it gift to myself. The necklace was inspired by a quote by Clementine Paddleford (what a fabulous name?) who said Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” I felt like I’d shown some backbone! I have this necklace on right now, in splendid isolation, with the fabulous drop earrings I got to go with it.
Do you like the board I painted to show earrings on? As I said on IG, she is exactly like me except for the absence of eyes, hearing aids, age spots, facial hair and wrinkles. But the lipstick and hair colour is bang on.
Just do yourself a favour and look at Gen’s website and the simply extraordinarily beautiful works of art on it. I think you will start breathing more slowly, feel soothed, calmed, and ready to face whatever comes next with backbone.
People who know me know that I have a very conflicted relationship with social media. I basically hate nearly everything about it but use it of necessity. I am not SO narrow though that I cannot see the positives. I am just not totally sure that they out weigh the negatives. But this makes me sound very snarky and I am not really. Much.
For the next 5 days, I will wear earrings that celebrate some good things from social media…mainly connections with gorgeous people which may not have happened without it. I have already referred to Kate and Heidi who began as Instagram friends and today’s earrings celebrate another friendship born of a social media connection.
Early on in my involvement with Samunnat Nepal, a dear friend Mel told me I should contact the legendary Cynthia Tinapple of PCD and tell her about the ladies and what was happening over there. Me being me I didn’t, but Mel being Mel she encouraged me to until I did. To cut long and fabulous story short, Cynthia was thrilled to hear about the amazing Nepali girls and how they were using polymer clay to escape lives dominated by violence. She came and visited (twice!!) bringing with her all sorts of resources including our beloved Simmons slicer (thanks Dorothy too!!) One of the many things we learnt from Cynthia was how to make what we called our shisha veneer which she designed especially for her trip to us. Later on, with the extraordinary help of also legendary Ron Lehocky she rallied the polymer community to help us raise thousands of dollars to build our home. Cynthia learnt the delights of a good mustard oil massage and the best time of year to meet mosquitoes.
These earrings always make me think of darling Cynthia and the very special time we had together there in Nepal. A time that may never have happened without horrible social media.
Did you all realise it was a weekend? Harder to pick the difference in these days of the new normal.
I realise that a lot of the earring posts are really about connections. If the most I can do is to connect lovely people with other lovely people or lovely things (via links or photos or whatever) then…that’s enough! I sometimes think that is my role on the Colourful Journey….cue wistful sigh…connecting wonderful people to each other.
I am catching up a bit today. Yesterday I was obsessively walking or gardening. But OF COURSE wearing earrings. Yesterday’s earrings are on high rotation. I made them using veneers I made in an online class called Matrix Canes by Dan Cormier. Dan and I work differently. Dan works with precision and exactitude and I sometimes work less precisely and exactly but I learn SO much from his classes. I learn techniques but also about another way of working, another approach, that I can modify for what works in my studio. I have now done several of Dan’s online classes and he and his partner Tracy have donated a place in the classroom to the Samunnat ladies just about every time they do a class.
I made today’s drops using two gorgeous silver beads from Millennium Crafts in Thamel, Kathmandu. We sometimes go there on our trip. It is one of those really tricky to find places that are well worth the effort hunting down. A place where it is good to have local knowledge or you could end up in a dance bar with cabin. Don’t ask. Today I wore these earrings on a cold, windy walk to Mt Ainslie’s quarry. I wanted to find an old dump I had heard about and I did. But decided that it would be better to return wearing heavier boots rather than runners!! I may have had the wrong shoes but I did have the right earrings.
Today’s earrings are hot off the press. I have been working for a while on a collaboration that I was doing with Annette* from Dissonance Fashion for a fashion parade that Trove Canberra had planned. Obviously the fashion parade has been postponed but I am still excitedly working away with the fabric swatches and drawings that Annette gave me. Part of my intention was to just play with the colours and work with different ideas that I had learnt, invented, liked or made by mistake. I want to really make exploration a big part of this.
As I mentioned before, I have been playing with ideas about mark making triggered by Sage Bray in her wonderful Virtual Art Box. I’ve also been looking at ways of combining veneers and colour. Someone whose work I have loved for decades now is Bonnie Bishoff. I was transported by the pieces made by Bonnie and her partner J.M Syron which combined Bonnie’s skills with polymer and her husband’s cabinet making skills. Just stunning. What a handy husband.
Over the years, Bonnie has made different kinds of sculptural and practical pieces and, more recently, jewellery. Her voice is so clear and her style so distinct. There are several artists who use a cut and replace technique with polymer veneers and Bonnie’s is just so vibrant and joyful and celebratory. I have also used this technique but more often with blends or veneers made from repeated canes. Bonnie uses both caning and colour blending. The earrings I am wearing today are the result of me trying to do what Bonnie did. The really important step though is the next one (that isn’t counting the message I sent to Bonnie about buying earrings…)
When someone has a really clear, distinctive style, I don’t want to copy it. It was the same when I did some online courses with Dan Cormier. If the result simply was that I could make something like Dan’s, or like Bonnie’s (and it would NEVER BE AS GOOD) then I have sold myself short. And when I teach my own classes, students might initially make something very much like something I have shown them. But I REALLY want them to use what they have learnt to connect with their own voice. (Such a laden word but I can’t think of a better one at the moment.) To make something that is authentically THEM.
Only Bonnie Bishoff can make art like Bonnie Bishoff. Any copy is usually very obviously a copy and just lacks the…singing. The authenticity. Now that I have made some veneers that look a bit like sorry imitations of what Bonnie does, I want to work out, not how to make them better imitations, but how those techniques and skills can work in the pieces I want to make. Because Bonnie’s work is the star here my earrings will take a very small role in the wings. For a feast of visual sumptuousness (Mum, you will LOVE this) just go to her website and drool.
*Annette is the amazing woman who made my goddess dress.
I am doing some of the things some of the time and, given the lay of the land, I am telling myself that is good enough!! This will be a catch up for those of you not following the earrings on Instagram (where I have been a bit more disciplined!) There was Anu from Samunnat Nepal modelling some colour exercise earrings that we made and that I wore on Monday. With trakky dak equivalent.
Then there was my turquoise ensemble which is another version of comfort eating for me. I may at one point have popped on something a bit less gardener’s wear…yes! I shopped for essentials! My model is a classic isn’t she? I fell in love with her battered but stunning form at The Green Shed and she is very patient when I try necklaces out on her to see how they sit.
Then…mark the day…on Wednesday I dressed in a dress. The black version of this dress. And accessorised it with another pair of Kate’s earrings. I love these for so many reasons and one is because they have so much heart and such story attached. Kate was thinking about lungs because she made these when fires were blazing around Australia and Canberra was shrouded in smoke. AND…she cleverly used Holi powders got from Nepal to colour the earrings. This is beautifully significant for me!
And today it is raining outside. I have been on my wettish walk and wore the earrings of the day! They are big, bold and elegant. A perfect match for the There is no planet B t shirt! My friend David from Trove Canberra makes colourful, humorous, practical, intriguing things on his 3D printer. One day he bought in an articulated gecko brooch. I told him I would wear this as earrings and he replied, Yes, YOU would. He may have been in italy sceptical if other people would. Well, he ain’t sceptical now because I suspect Dave’s articulated geckos are among his best sellers! They are light, lithe and elegant and in these days of physical distancing it is nice to have something nibbling on your ears!
Make multiples. I always try to and thank Dayle Doroshow and Cynthia Tinapple for making it so clear in their gem of a book, Creative Sparks . It is fascinating to watch how something evolves when you make multiples. But what has that got to do with the earrings I am wearing today? Everything.
One day as I sat doing my shift at Trove Canberra I was looking at the lovely packaging used by Rachel of Lucian. (The scent of her Watermelon and Eucalyptus Reed Diffusers is divine.) I am often inspired by combinations of colours, be they hidden in sun kissed lichen on a rock or flamboyantly shouted on someone’s sari! As soon as I got home I started to mix colours to get as close as I could to those she used. Then I started on my multiples. These first earrings show the early ones that I made…pretty close to Rachel’s packaging design.
Then my voice started to be heard more clearly. I love adding textures and you can see the influence of Katy Way from Bullseye Art Studio who also loves combining texture and bold strong colour. Katie often uses acrylic paint to highlight the textures (as do I) but I decided not to for these earrings. Mixing the striped background from Rachel’s packaging and the bold repeated circles was fun. The process of making marks* using things I had found around the traps was like writing letter to the future wearer of the earrings. If I had just made one veneer, and stopped pushing and playing and exploring at that point, I may not have felt like I was making something authentically mine.
The final photo shows the earrings I am wearing. And they were made with the scraps from the play! And this is one of the many things I love about working in this medium. Nothing is wasted!!
*And if you want to have enormous fun learning more about mark making and design in general, subscribe to Sage Bray’s Virtual Art Box. This month is all about mark making!! Such a wealth of ideas. I know I hyper link a lot and rave about various things but there are no affiliate links (not for someone with readership in the single figures) and I just rave about stuff I love. Which is a lot of stuff really.
I refer to my earrings by the name of the makers. The other day I wore my Kates and later you will see my Gens and my Lindlys. Today it’s My Heidis. I like to think I was one of Heidi Helyard’s earliest fans. In a world abundantly well supplied with earrings, Heidi’s shine for being so distinctive. She sings so clearly with her own voice (little link to the singer I mention later!). I love these ones which combine Heidi’s love of colour and design with her love of needlework! You can see in the detailed photo to see how she has embellished my earrings with cotton as well as texture.
Heidi nurtures the community of polymer artists and approaches the medium with freshness and enthusiasm without ignoring techniques and artists from the past. I subscribe to only a handful of things but one of those things is Heidi’s Studio Scraps, a weekly newsletter of inspiration, tips and ideas. She’s a gem. I am a bit in awe of her and if she wasn’t so gorgeous I might even feel a bit inadequate and lazy!!
Today when I wore my Heidis up on the hill I heard opera singing. Hearing anything in my case is quite something and hearing opera singing in the Australian bush is REALLY something. I was following one of my kangaroo tracks and there she was: a tiny lady with jet black hair wearing bright yellow pants and a blue cap singing opera from a red folder. Just standing there! I sat on a rock, she didn’t notice me, and just listened until she finished and we smiled at each other. No photos because I forgot my phone which I see as a sign of personal growth.
I wonder whether she went home and blogged about a silver haired woman wearing tattered black leggings, a threadbare maroon T shirt and FABULOUS earrings just wandering through the bush like she owned the place?
Today’s photos was meant to be be in a hospital bed with a bandaged head or an apology for no photo due to drug induced grogginess. I had it all planned!
Last year I was going to have a cochlear implant*. The plans for that were blown out of the water when I had to have surgery for cancer. Today I was going to have a second go at that cochlear implant. Those plans got blown sky high by COVID19. I’d been expecting cancellation call for days and when it came I was a bit relieved as I didn’t want to end up with a heap of chunky, expensive hardware in my head that then couldn’t be activated due to a lock down. But…part of me was a bit sad. Another go at the build up, at readying myself for the months of post operative therapy. As they say in Nepal, ke garne?**
So today I am wearing earrings and a necklace that help me to connect with that positive, optimistic part of me who knows that if this is the worst thing the virus can mean for me, I will be happy! I love these earrings and wear them a lot. Maybe because I wear purple a lot! But also because this ensemble makes me feel brave. I wore it to several medical appointments last year. When I wear this I remember that I am not just a scared woman but that I am a WELL ACCESSORISED scared woman. And that makes a difference!
*I am as deaf as the proverbial post. Fortunately I am a red hot lip reader but that is useless when people wear masks!
**Trans: What can you do? It is an expression of resignation accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders.