Friday, November 1, 2013

Bonnie Bishoff Master Class

'400 Polymer Clay Designs: A Collection of Dynamic & Colorful Contemporary Work' was where I first met Bonnie Bishoff. Taking numerous trips through this goldmine of artwork by Polymer artists of the time her work stood out to me as something so innovative and stunning that I never got tired of looking at the pieces featured in this book. That was 10 years ago, a long, long time in the medium of polymer clay, we've come far since then but Ms. Bishoff still reigns Queen of the polymer veneers she artistically applies to her Husband J.M. Syron's exquisitely crafted furniture and home decor that are museum quality functional works of art.  

'Under the Sea' -  3"x4"

   Just this past month I got to meet Bonnie in person at our first Master Class of the new year at my local guild PAPCG. I wasn't sure what to expect as this was my first time taking a class in PC as I am a 'teach yourself' sort of artist but I was very glad I signed up for this. It was a long class (6 hours) but they seemed to fly by and I was so happy to know that Bonnie would be back the next day for our regular monthly meeting where she shared so much more of her wonderful techniques. 

 Bonnie demos translucent techniques

    Watching her create some of the canes she uses in her wonderful works was entertainment itself; like a magic show she turned a block of translucent clay with a bit of color added into clouds, swirls, ocean waves and more! It was fantastic to see how she creates depth in her pieces and not only that but to have her so generously share them with us. 


What is also amazing to me is how I spent 13 hours there over two days and only came home with three small pieces completed, which I really didn't like very much. So I set about for the next month to work through the things she taught and give myself time to grasp and improve. I was having difficulty mainly because my clay was sticky which took a lot longer because of this, but I eventually got the hang of it and produced a few decent pieces.   

Here's my three I did during the two days. 

Day One

 The Log Cabin and trying out my translucent canes over a skinner blend of gold and green. I really didn't like these very much but I'm not going to hate myself for my first tries.

   I did this landscape the following day, it was ok, but I knew I didn't have the kind of canes I needed to make this work to my satisfaction.

Day 2

 My re-do of this one I like much better using a skinner blend for the background and different shapes for the trees it elevates it to a higher level. I love trees and never can seem to make them to my satisfaction, but I like this second try.

My second attempt of the Log Cabin went a bit differently as I decided to think outside the box and instead of round or square, I made an elliptical shape log cabin square. Instead of the traditional red 'hearth' center, I went with gold foil. Adding this though made sanding prohibitive so this was the only one I did not smoothly sand and buff but rather tried out my newest favorite product, Renaissance wax.

So those were my re-do's for two of them and I went to make a re-do of the translucent canes over a background with this barrette but forgot to add that layer before putting in the oven. I decided to see how thin I could get it and if the colors would show through. They were dark with not much contrast to begin with. I was working very closely doing this with my glasses and magnifiers on and being that close you don't see the contrast problems as easy, oh well mistakes are learning tools!

And with this one I think a learned a new technique! along with managing to get the translucent canes really thin over a baked surface.

Bonnie Bishoff -  Birch Tree in Winter

When I saw this sample of Bonnie's work in trees I was in love! I love, love, love birch trees, probably because of the stark black and white bark which is very unique among trees and I love black and white! When I saw this an idea immediately came to mind to try something to emulate the birch using an old ivory/bone cane I had at home, and when I got home that's exaclty what I did.

It took three tries to work out some issues, but I think by my 'mistakes' I know what to do now. I have to think up something to make the improved version on but that will come, I'm sure. Meanwhile here are my three tries, Birch Trees in Autumn, not too bad I think for an old ivory cane with a few alterations.

I decided to try out another tree theme. Bonnie had a few samples of other trees and this is my version. I made a rather unique skinner blend cane so that I could get two looks of leaves from one cane.
   More lessons learned, my swirly canes are too large for this small application which measure about 4"x6" and my deep blue skinner blend with silver flecks from foil hardly show through but I'll know what to do and not do next time! 

Here is a close-up of one of the swirls, I like how this came out, the depth is really awesome.
And this is my variation on the swirls and cut and switch.
My last piece is the one shown at the top of this post, I just had to have my try at the fish, especially since I had made some canes, not knowing we were doing fish, but from brightly colored ones and just had to try them out. Here are some of my canes cut and thinned, ready for shaping into fish and applying. This piece has 5 layers yet is still micro thin.

Slices of cane used for Under the Sea
Fish laid out on top of mica shift brushed skinner blend
Fish inlaid, wave swirls and bubbles
Baked , sanded and buffed!

 So glad I got to meet and study under this wonderful artist and lady! 
 Thanks Bonnie!







Sunday, September 22, 2013

Art Bead Scene Autumn Entry

Autumn By Alphonse Mucha 1896

Happy Autumn!

I thought I would save this entry for the first day of Autumn since that is the theme this month from Art Bead Scene.

I have been very busy this month getting ready for my first Master class and working on this entry. When I first saw the picture for this month I was immediately hit by the colors. I do love the Art Deco era and have seen many of the works of Alphonse Mucha. I had planned to do one of  pieces in stained glass one day long ago when that was my 'medium' but never got to it, instead got into my own designs.

I was happy to have a chance of interpretation if not imitation with this selection. By the colors I knew the perfect art bead to use; one that I've had for about 3 years, bought at a Bead Show and held onto as too dear to 'do' anything with, (you all know about hoarding beads out there so I don't have to explain). But I thought, the time has come, be brave and do something with it!

As I looked at the bead I figured what I'd have to do is to bead a bezel for it, something I've never done before. I went to my teeny tiny seed bead collection and pulled out some golden beads, some 'root beer' and frosted green.

Funny thing is I didn't realize that the art bead had two holes in it for a soft neck lace to go through but I thought that would be good since I didn't want to rely on my beading skills to hold it all together and thought I'd figure out what to use later on.

So I beaded around the piece in peyote stitch but wanted it to be a bit more exciting than just flat work so I added different sizes to give it some 'texture' in juxtaposition to the smoothness of the glass.

A bit about the art bead; I purchased this at a Bead show years ago from a rep of Harold Cooney who makes fabulous 'trade beads' and is a master glass Bead maker. There were ones that were more vibrant, but I fell in love with this one, using almost my whole bead budget for that show on it! His work is phenomenal and he is composing an encyclopedic collection of glass beads to surpass any in history. He has collections designs for the different states in America and can be seen at his blog in the link above. He also sells through etsy at his shop hwcglass The Studio for the American Trade Bead. According to a forum post of his I think he's got many makers of beads and collectors beat because he saves his best for his own collection which two years ago totaled over 2,700 art beads! Now there's a record collection to beat!

~~~~~~~Special thanks to Ellen Marshall (the founder of the PAPCG)  who recognized his work and gave me his name yesterday at our guild meeting as I had not remembered the artists name nor could find any cards from my purchase.  

I decided that this would also be a non Polymer clay entry and thought this would be a great chance to try out my Kumihimo wheel I had purchased at the same bead show long ago. I have a huge 5 lb 'skein' of beige chenille thread (the kind used to make sweaters on machines I'm guessing) and thought this a good thing to use to practice. I wound all my bobbins and started. I wrapped and wrapped and wrapped but nothing seemed to happen. It was then I realized that the yarn was way too thin. So I cut some lengths of rat tail and tried with that and made a quick and nice cord. So, try again. I unwound all the bobbins and then rewound them with three strands each; this gave me the same thickness of cord as the rat tail. So now I had my cord made. 

Returning to the art piece it was then I noticed something I don't know how I missed before, maybe it was her flowing red hair, or those lovely spider mums which I have a penchant for but I hadn't noticed the two 'metal like' medallions that seems attached to her dress.

I looked closer and they looked so familiar......................had I seen them before on here and just didn't recall?

Or was it.............................OH! now I remember, I had seen those IRL on a belt I had bought to reconstruct in some jewelry piece. I couldn't believe how great the match was and was wavering
between ditching the glass bead for these, but I decided to try
and incorporate them together, only the cording I had tried so hard to make didn't make the cut.

So what I basically did was to finish the beading on the art glass and then I ran a wire through the holes and attached the two medallions to it with some bronzed chain.  These are then attached to a heavier bronze chain and I used two to give it balance.

The Art bead needed something and the picture was about autumn and it's colors which is reflected in the art bead of course, and also in the glass cabachons in the medallions but I saw my chance to incorporate the leaves of the picture and the maiden herself.

I used some copper patinated leaves from Vintaj as well as  the fairy princess. These dangle from beaded wires that incorporate some beads I had bought with the art bead, made to coordinate with them, made by the same man. These all flow out from an amber cushion bead in recollection of the golden grapes she gently holds in her hand.  

So there you have it, my entry for the Autumn 2013 Art Bead Scene Challenge!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Art Bead Scene August challenge

     This month’s challenge art piece at Art Bead Scene Blog  is titled 'Tres Personajes', or 'Three people'. It is an oil on canvas work from 1970 by the artist Ruffino Tamayo and is said to be one of his more stellar works. It has been called a 'masterpiece in color, abstraction and texture' and I decided to let all three speak to me as I took my inspiration, albeit a very literal one, from this painting.

     My bead stash is poorly lacking in these colors and if I'd known of this piece before attending my last bead show I would have stocked up, but sadly my palette was more earth bound.
     So, my only resource was my own worktable and I sketched out a few ideas, the shapes, the colors and motion that attracted me, and to think this million dollar painting was actually found in the trash only five years ago!

    These are the things that popped out to me each time I viewed the painting.

  • Two Red Dots
  • Purple curved lines over pale yellow
  • Grey and red stripes in a thin rectangle
  • Golden line which had zipper teeth
  • Circles, squares and other geometric shapes. 
  • Smoky Industrial grays
  • And of course, 'three people'

     After making a variety of beads and auditioning Gray metallic findings, only a few didn't make the cut. 


     My first 'bead' is structured like a pendant but is not the focal point, purposly. In my representation I wanted to evoke the feeling the painting does, that of abstraction and  have my necklace emulate that, not only with the beads but with the construction and placing of those beads.

     The three faces are Purple, Red and a Ying-Yang Red and Purple that stands for the androgynous figure that the painting includes.  These faces are placed on a background of stripes of Purple, pale yellow, black, Red & grey and purple & gray  stripes. The black has 'zipper' teeth highlighted in brass, cast from a real zipper. This I did not want to use as a pendant so my greatest challenge was how to attach this to the necklace in a different way than front and center, focal. I did this by stringing silver-heart clear glass beads and attaching a bail to the pendant and stringing it on top of them; when worn this falls off to the side of the rest of the necklace just a bit and gives it a unique look. I tried to take a photo of this to share, the weather was not my friend for photography today but to give you an idea.....

     I know....... awful picture. but by the time I thought of draping it on my manikin it was very late in the day and I had to use the flash. But this will give you an idea of how the three faces are supposed to look when worn. You can also see my metal bicycle chain woven throughout the left side of the piece.

     I was next taken by those two red dots on the far right figure. I had to incorporate that somehow. I did have a few red coral beads that I have included at the top left side, but I wanted them to be more prominent so I set to work on another bead. This was not originally going to be the focal, but when I strung it up the side of the necklace it didn't look right, then I realized since I had given this bead two holes instead of one that I could string down through it and back up, but it should have a purpose and that is where three of my twisted purple beads came into play. I added a small red coral bead to the center one and highlighted the twists with grays, the other two have ombre grays to blacks going the opposite direction.

       This focal is a rectangle rapped with a variegation of pale yellow, light grey, dark gray and black.   Encircling the black side is a metal zipper, made completely from polymer clay from a mold I took of a jeans zipper. This is what I saw in the middle of the painting with the yellow line with small dashes. The two red dots have hammer studs embedded as does the next bead up the left side.

      This next bead started its life a bit differently. I was going for the square within a square on the one persons head and  added it to this silver cylinder. Not liking what it was doing I ended up giving it a twist and deep lines, circles and embedded metal studs. This kind of captures many of the elements in the painting into one bead.

     There are also red and grey twisted beads for the stripes in the painting as well as textured disc beads that bring out the circles and the reds.   Further up is my first attempt at a hollow pod bead. The under layer is pale yellow with purple strings that encase the pod but don't completely cover the yellow, allowing a peek and reminiscent of the yellow with purple lines on the right figure.

     My last prominent art bead  is a pale yellow and silver striped one wire wrapped with silver plated wire with a few twists. This is for the large yellow area on the right of the painting mixed with grays, it reminds me of a small tornado.

     So there you have it.   All this was strung on black beading wire and because I wanted all the beads to show, once it gets up to the curve of the neck that disappears behind you I attached a antiqued gray chain. And almost all the beads were antiqued with antiquing medium in different shades of grays.

    I had some fun with this one, it was very bold, but very interesting and it gave me a chance to play with reds and purples. Although I can proudly and rightfully wear the insignia of the Purple hat Society I haven't yet chosen to do so, but If I ever do I have the perfect necklace to go with it and a story behind it to boot!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Weeds and Grasses

     Weeds and Grasses, something we drive or walk  by everyday and never stop to notice the color, texture, or the intricacy of these humble plants. But these should be revered for what they are, food for hundreds of animals around the world, including us. Have a sandwich today? Most likely if you are GF you had your bread made from a grass, wheat mainly.

      The seeds of many grasses make up a majority of the diet of birds everywhere including the songbirds we like to attract to our backyards.  But these are usually left growing in fields or mown down on occasion along roadways where they grow wild.

      The center stalks on the photo right (which shows my lay out for my texture sheet talked about in the PolymerArts Magazine Plein Air Article) are what I locally know them to be called: Indian grass.
    I remember as a child gathering the slender stalks in the field out back of my grandparents house and twisting them into garlands to wear on my hair or like a necklace. They are very graceful when growing, bending over with the weight of their tiny seeds bowing to the earth in the late summer sunshine.

     I also came across the outer grasses growing in close proximity to the Indian grass and decided to add them to this texture plate for variety.

     As I said in my last post I wanted to show the readers some ways these texture plates I made for the article can be utilized to make interesting pieces.  Here is the texture sheet right after impressing.

While a bit dark I did this in editing to show the deep impression these grasses made. Also notice the few grains that fell off during the process. They can usually be removed easily with your water spray bottle, letting the water droplets help wash them away. For more stubborn bits, using tweezers carefully to remove them will do the trick. I have just baked the clay first and then removed the debris but this doesn't always happen with all vegetation, some will stick and nothing will remove it so get off all you can before baking.  

Now, so what did I do with this texture plate of ordinary weeds and grasses?

     I made one experimental rectangle, keeping with my organic philosophy of not being perfect, baked it and then tried various coloring on it. I decided that it needed friends from the texture plate to join it and a bracelet seemed the obvious choice. I made them different lengths but keeping the width similar, pushed holes for stringing with care to denting the clay and textured the backs of all of them with my secret recycled texture plate.

     Each one was given the same coloring treatment and each on came out different, so not only are the textures different but similar on each tile, but the coloring is as well, very much like in nature!

That center one is my favorite and stands out among the others for it is the tallest and gives a full view of a stalk of the Indian grass.

What do you think, do you like the more natural organic shapes?

Acrylic sheets for making texture plates, swirl beads and assisting in all kinds of Polymer clay sculpting are available in my etsy shop .


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fall Edition of Polymer Arts Magazine - Plein Air Polymer

       The Fall edition of Polymer Arts Magazine  published today includes my first contribution to this wonderful magazine dedicated to aspiring and professional PC artists; titled Plein Air Polymer.

       In it you will find the outing at my favorite lake and some texture plates I made while visiting.  I did not however make anything from them for the article but thought I should do something with them so you can see how the impressions from weeds and trees can make striking and interesting textures that can be turned into very intriguing pieces of art, wearable and decorative.

      First one I did was of the bark of a tree I didn't recognize and since the weather wasn't so great that day I had to hurry to make my plates and take photos before the rain came. But it had very striking bark covered with lots of lichens.

      This is what the bark looked like; I took the impression from a different area, one not as densely covered with the lichens.

       There are many, many trees in this world and each one has it's own individual 'skin'. I might just set out in the fall to do a series of texture plates from a variety of trees to play with over the winter months and see what great designs can be made with those. 

    Meanwhile this is what I came up with using the texture plate of this tree. 

      These earrings were done at different intervals using white clay as a base. Successive applications of chalks, paints, inks and waxes helped to bring out the depth of the texture and give them the look of a surreal painting.

   I am gradually changing my philosophy on what constitutes art, my art in particular. I am a perfectionist by personality type and strive to do the best I can at anything I tackle but I've come to realize at this stage in the game that I don't want my art to be work, I want it to be an expression, and extension of who the 'free me' truly is.

     Striving for perfection all the time does not bring about possessive energy and this stress of trying to get something perfect actually strangles the need and ability to create, I know because I've been there, done that, don't want a return visit.

Now what has this got to do with these earrings you ask? Well I am just letting go and not striving for perfection because I don't want my art to look manufactured and I was there to be more human than machine look to it. We are all created perfectly imperfect and we aren't even symmetrical!  in fact people don't look good when they are symetrical (I saw on the net once a photoshop of a mirror image of a person flipped to make the other side of their face, compared to the true image they just looked unreal) and I want to be more 'real', so...

     When trying to decide what to do with this impression I had gotten from the bark plate I decided to free hand cut out the pieces, not using a template, not using a  cutter, just a  thin clay blade. I did make the shapes similar for cohesion, but not the same. One is bigger than the other, one is wider, but then again the impression is different and the colors are different which makes each one unique and interesting, just like people, even twins aren't exactly alike, why should your earrings be?

     So, after cutting these out I baked them, and then had to decide what to do with them next. In keeping with the new philosophy  I laid them onto a sheet of silver clay which I had textured slightly and cut around it. then I molded it to the piece, blending it in as I went. I had the foresight to try something different and made a long narrow tab at the top which I folded over to create a bail.

     Next came the coloring and bringing out the texture without making it look like bark.   I think I succeeded and won't go into details because when I get into that zone I just go with the colors and let my hands play and my mind wander!

     When it came time to make these into earrings I was stymied. I didn't just want to use an ordinary jump ring with all the extraordinary things I'd done so far so I went hunting.

     I'll let you in on a little secret I've come upon, I'm sure others have too but it's new to me. I used to have all my findings in little plastic egg cartons, stacked on top of each other and in a plastic drawer. Every time I wanted to make something I really had to know beforehand what, and when looking for it desperately trying to keep from catching the trays on anything and sending hundreds of findings all over the place!

     Well, I got fed up and I'm glad I did. Sure I could have bought some storage pieces to sort and store them but I still felt it would be hard to see what all I have.

     My solution? A simple little ziplock bag. Most everyone has these either bought or received with a bead order or findings, or you could go to your local dollar store and get 100's for cheap there.

     I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, as I recall I did something similar in my sewing room years ago. When storing all my notions, templates, etc I would forget what I had, buy it again or never get to try it.  To solve that problem I used the sandwich sized zip close bags, punched a hole in the top under the zipper part and used a pushpin to hang on my wall. Now all my notions were in front of me, catching my eye, whispering me to try them out and I did!

     Well this is similar but because these are mostly tiny items, using the 1"x2" bags suffice. I took some time to carefully gather everything out of dozens of  egg cups and into the bags. I sorted by type, color and metal. I threw these bags into plastic shoe storage boxes, the kind you get for a dollar and have them without their lids, stacked within easy reach on my jewelry assembly table. Now when turning my clay pieces into jewelry I can very quickly got through the box of bags, grab a few out to 'audition' and put them back just as easily, just remember to zip the bag shut before you do! 

So with this new system it allowed me to be adventurous and it also sparked creativity to solve this dilemma.  I'll let you try and figure out what I used, but I must say I really liked this look and plan on using it again.

This post got a lot longer than I planned so I will parse out the other pieces in posts to come, meanwhile if you haven't subscribed to Polymer Arts Magazine you can still do so and get this issue in paper form or the digital version.


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