I have been exploring textile arts and learning techniques for incorporating them into jewelry. And making up a few of my own. The bracelets below are from recycled materials: old clothing dyed, stamped, painted and shredded, cast off electrical wire stripped and straightened, scrap stained glass tumbled and drilled, some gilded twigs from the sidewalk, pieces of old jewelry, and old plastic bangles or wire forms, There is no plan; I just start to wrap and embellish. I hit some of the bracelets with a heat gun to see how it would affect the fabric. Depending on the fabric, it will burn, seal the frayed edges, or melt the fabric to reveal what’s beneath. I got this idea from a video by Textile and Mixed Media Artist Maggie Ayres. There is so much information out there. Don’t limit yourself to what you already know or think you have to take a class (unless you are learning how to use a torch, or another technique where proper safety instruction is vital). Don’t be afraid to try something new!
I recently had the opportunity to see an exhibit at the new home of the Fabric Workshop and Museum . It’s a roomy, comfortable space that takes up several buildings on Arch Street in Philadelphia. You no longer have to climb flights of stairs to get to the exhibits and it’s conveniently located on across the street from the Philadelphia Convention Center.
The current exhibit, New American Voices II showcases the work of four invitational artists-in-residence: Bill Smith, Jiha Moon, Robert Pruitt and Jim Drain. New American Voices II was definitely not the visual version of a string quartet; it was the work of four soloists, each of whom chose different media and themes to express a unique point of view. The FMW tries to showcase artists from across the United States with varied backgrounds and perspectives and encourages them to work with materials they might not have used before. From what I saw the FMW accomplished its mission and it looks like the artists enjoyed the process. The exhibition had so much to offer that I can only hit the highlights in this post. To get the full flavor, you must see it for yourself.
South Korean-born Jiha Moon’s mixed media wall pieces combine collage, sewing, painting, and screen printing with an Asian color aesthetic. She makes plentiful use of Asian and American popular culture symbols and much of her work reminds me of traditional Asian embroidery, not because of any needlework she might usem, but because the designs are expansive and flowing. Much of her work consists of fanciful pieces that incorporate images from folklore and advertising , but she showed her serious side in a work that appeared to explore the tensions between North and South Korea. The piece below, which is a little different from the others, features pin cushions, ribbons and beads.
Jim Drain’s huge (and I mean XXXXXL) colorful machine-knitted dolmen sleeve sweaters remind me of the big suit David Byrne wears in Stop Making Sense, and fantastic Noh costumes. I suppose they could be worn, but they were displayed on stands that let the viewer examine every nuance of the designs. A two-dimensional picture cannot convey the surprises that jump out as you circle the sweaters. The colors shift and there are lots of subtle details and embellishments. At first, the color choices appear to be mostly random but on further examination, you realize that every skein and thread works with everything else in the sweater. Nothing is there that doesn’t belong.
What fascinated me most about Robert Pruitt’s work was his use of period cameras to photograph members of a fictional African-American family to depict ancestors from years past like you’d see in a family album. Now that’s attention to detail and real dedication. For me the most powerful photograph was one of a young woman wearing a grass skirt and what appears to be a European colonial officer’s dress uniform jacket. The golden shoulder cord is replaced by rope that appeared to be a noose. Pruitt also uses traditional African symbols and imagery pulled from contemporary urban America. I found his work disturbing and compelling.
Bill Smith’s mechanical sculptures meld engineering and art in a way that any fan of Jules Verne or Nicola Tesla would admire, but his inclusion of organic objects like Emu eggs and feathers along with organic looking plastic forms that resemble jellyfish or brain synapses takes his work out of the realm of Steampunk into another world that seems really strange (or is it strangely real?) Along with Emu eggs, he takes water, magnets, quirky copper wire, electronics and computers to fashion several interactive contraptions that manage to look organic, old-fashioned and futuristic all at once. When walked up to one sculpture, the Emu egg started to spin, the wires started to sway and the room filled with a low humming sound. Then projectors started flashing images onto the white walls of the gallery. Amazing. Here’s a video of a similar device he designed and built.
New American Voices II runs until the Spring. Admission is only $3.00 but you can donate more if you like. Treat yourself to this exhibit and the ones planned for the future. We are so lucky to have a venue like the FMW in Philadelphia. Let’s support it.
First I cut the clear glass and a piece of stained glass (from scraps) for the back. The tiny collages come from my scrap paper collection- magazines, menus, calligraphy, newspapers, metal leaf, washi paper. (I like to troll the streets on recycling day). I also used some Dover images of Japanese woodcuts. (If you are ever in Tokyo, do not miss the Tokyo National Museum where you can almost get your fill of them.) I also used bits of wire, stones and tumbled stained glass that I drilled holes through, and pieces of twigs colored with Prisma markers and coated with epoxy resin. The frames are wrapped with copper foil tape and soldered with lead free solder.
Here’s some more from an earlier post.
My latest project is covering the countertop between my dining room and kitchen with a tile mosaic. I cut lots of glass tiles, tumbled some to get a matte finish and left the others shiny. I have plenty of cut up ceramic tiles, dishes, glass baubles, some fusing failures that still look pretty, lampworked beads that cracked in half before annealing and a bunch of mirror tiles I cut. I got sand colored grout because I thought white would be boring. Much like when I got married, I don’t have a plan. I will wing it and see that I get. I’ll post pix here when I’m finished. Wish me luck!
There are two new books that will enhance the library of anyone creative. Both show you how to elevate non precious material into art imbued with special meaning.
The first one is Amulets and Talismans by Robert Dancik. I took Dancik’s class on cold connections last year and put the book on pre-order as soon as I could. I was not disappointed. The book is crammed with information on cold connections techniques, and full of ideas on how to take ordinary objects and showcase them in original, one of a kind pieces of jewelry that tell a story that could be about the wearer, maker or materials themselves.
If you are a tool junky like me, you will relish Dancik’s ideas for making custom tools. He shows a nifty little jump ring cutting gizmo you can make yourself. I made one. There are no directions, but one look at it is all you need. (If Truman Capote had met me when he first came to New York, his book would have been entitled Breakfast at Harbor Freight.)
Weltman’s designs have an inimitable primitive sophistication that’s fresh and inspiring. Her projects and instructions will stoke your creativity and have might change the way you think about polymer clay and wire.
Ever since I took the classes with Susan Lenart Kazmer and Jane Wynn, I have been inspired to get back into metal work. I was Jonsing for a Jeweler’s bench but my workspace is small and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So I took scrap lumber, made made a work surface, and bolted it to the top of an old desk. I even attached a pegboard and shelf. Finally, my bench pin is in the right position for sawing. Here is a picture of the new old bench and a piece in progress.
I’m off to Polymer Clay Express at The Artway Studio to take a class in Creating Objects and Elements in Jewelry with Susan Lenart Kazmer. If you’re not familiar with Kazmer, she wrote Making Connections A Handbook of Cold Joins for Jewelers and Mixed-Media Artists.
I’ll let you know about the class in a later post. In the meantime, check out Kazmer’s Blog and her on-line store, Objects and Elements where you can buy her remarkable book, supplies, and watch her great instructional videos.
Dancik was Riveting
I mentioned last week that I took a two day class called Forming Lasting and Meaningful Attachments with Robert Dancik and sponsored by the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild. We learned all about cold connections in jewelry making including riveting, tabbing, gluing, fold forming, and fastening with miniature hardware. We also learned about different types of resins, epoxies, alternative art materials, and how to use them.
Want to learn more about cold connections? Some of my favorite books on this topic are Wrap, Stitch, Fold & Rivet by Mary Hettmansperger, Making Metal Jewelry by Joanna Gollberg, Making Connections by Susan Lenart Kazmer and a book on the Godfather of cold connections, Alexander Calder, Calder Jewelry by Mark Rosenthal.
And here’s a good illustrated article on how to make rivets by Patty Fleishman.
To see more pictures from the Dancik class, go to the Philly Area Guild’s Flickr site.
For interesting takes on Metalsmithing and Metal Jewelry, check out the work of David Paul Bacharach, Barbara Briggs and Connie Fox’s wonderful site, Jatayu
To learn to make just about anything, check out Instructables and the Ready Made Magazine web site.
No matter what kind of art you’re into, you’re sure to find something that interests you on Wet Canvas.