I was going to write a post a few months ago about a wonderful visit I made in July 2019 to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. But one thing led to another as it usually does. The Penn Museum post went into the drafts folder and I went on to other things. I recently returned from Southern Spain(Seville and Granada)where I was overloaded with Spanish Baroque interiors. They are beautiful, but after awhile, you feel like you’ve eaten too much birthday cake. (At least I did).
“Where do you get your inspiration?” is a question I sometimes hear. And while I will not be making a Spanish Baroque wedding cake any time soon, I find inspiration pretty much everywhere. Which brings me back to the Penn Museum. There is certainly enough to inspire anyone who spends an afternoon (or better, the whole day) there.
The Mesopotamian jewelry collection is outstanding. Here are some pictures, but it’s better to see the collection in person.
The Near Eastern pottery collection is also very interesting. These pots are from Iran.
I was so taken with the pot shaped like an Erlenmeyer flask that I decided to make my own version using the tar paper technique, Here’s where memory and inspiration clash: I remembered the shape upside down.
But I think I love the Mexico and Central American collection best because it contains some striking Mayan artifacts as well as jewelry and pottery.
I love that turtle (I think) vessel and could see myself trying a colorful terra cotta version.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I start off with a confession. I am horrible at following patterns. I am not making this up. OK, I can follow sewing patterns because they are all flat on the table and you have a basic idea of what you are supposed to come out with. But I could never pull off a paint-by-number picture when I was a kid and my first attempts at origami went into the trash can. I can, for the most part, follow simple beading patterns. (In fact, one of my first published articles was a beading project.) But unless I can count beads easily, I am lost. This means I am mostly ok with loom graphs, Cellini Spirals, bead crochet and flat peyote graphs. So I learned how to make a peyote triangle with little trouble.
When I began to salivate over beaded kaleidocycles, (you can read all about them and download a free pdf from the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork website here) and wanted to try making one, I hopped over to YouTube to learn how to make peyote triangles. ( VPBiser has an excellent video tutorial here.) But for the life of me I could not figure out how to make anything more interesting than a two-color basic triangle and I wanted some more exciting variations for my kaleidocycles.
After making a few peyote triangles, I began to notice some patterns emerging. I figured out how to make a three-color pyramid! (See chart below. I am assuming you already know how to make a standard peyote triangle).
You can use the same reasoning to make a two-color pyramid. If you simply alternate colors for each row, you can make a striped pattern.(See kaleidocycle picture in the bottom row.
You can see that for some triangles, I merely beaded rows in different colors much like you would crochet granny squares. For the triangles in the bottom left-hand corner, I started the triangle with white Delicas for the first two rows and began adding red Delicas in the third row. From then on, I added a red Delica whenever I could see that it would be totally surrounded by white Delicas. This gave me a lovely chicken pox pattern. If you double click on an image, you can view it full size.
I realize this might not be clear to some people, but the real aim of this post is to encourage you to find new ways to solve problems even if you think they’re over your head. That’s the only way we learn. Now that these peyote triangles make more sense to me, I think I’m ready to start tackling some more complex designs.
The Atlas of Tomorrow is an interactive art installation located on South Street between Broad and Thirteenth Streets in Philadelphia. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
This is how it works:
I don’t know if you expected a post on teenage pregnancy but that’s not what I mean by fooling around. I mean playing. I’ve always liked to play and to try new things. My wild imagination has confused and alarmed most of the adults that I’ve met since the age of 12. Those who can roll with it and play along usually become friends.
Creativity is currently a sexy topic Internet topic, (maybe not as popular as pictures of cats) and people are exhorted to play with color, try strange and exotic spices and have experiences rather than collect consumer durables.
A website called, Creative Something.Net says
“Play is more than just important for creativity, it’s often necessary. Without a play-like attitude, creative insights hide from us behind fear and uncertainty. When we don’t embark on activities that involve play, being creative becomes a challenge.”
Remember, creativity brings something valuable to most things in life (OK, so maybe not accounting.)
I ‘ve been playing in my workshop lately. I haven’t come up with anything new yet, but I’m having fun and trying new things. Here are some pictures.
Fooling around with bronze wire which I squared in the rolling mill. How would it look if I soldered the rings together and bent them into a cuff bracelet?
Fooling around with shapes to see what would make an interesting cuff bracelet
What can I do with a fork?
What can I do with rings I never finished and jump rings? The medallions on the right are Hadar’s white bronze clay which is not a favorite of mine because it is fragile. Still, I like the medallions. They remind me of old miraculous medals.
Here is some more white bronze clay I fooled around with. I think the dangles look a little like sea urchins. I wrapped the ones on the left as if they were briolettes. I think I like that better than the ones on the right with the jump rings. I like the way the clay turned color and I decided to leave them like tha.
I am trying the rings and medals as embellishments for polymer bangle bracelets. I also used some pre-made gear charms.
Next: I’m going to try to make my own gear embellishments using Five Star metal bronze clay. Something good is bound to emerge. I hope. That’s usually what happens when I fool around long enough.
Spring is when the outdoor flea markets spring up in Philadelphia. My favorite Saturday activity is to take long walks through the neighborhoods and hit house sales, sidewalk sales, and flea markets on my way. I usually look for household items I might need at sidewalk sales. Estate sales are especially interesting because they are usually held in affluent neighborhoods and you get to see some pretty impressive homes from the inside as well as antiques and art. You also learn that money does not always equal taste, but we knew that already, didn’t we?
Flea markets are fun because the sellers are generally pretty friendly in my experience and some are eager to talk about their wares even if you don’t buy. They’re a place to learn, meet people, and relax.
John S. Whitney, Jr. has a clever way of attracting buyers to his table filled with antique art and jewelry. He also sells from his store, the Nue Gallery, in Lansdown, PA.
While I don’t collect antiques or vintage items, and rarely buy jewelry, I find plenty of inspiration at flea markets. You will find plenty of shapes and color at flea markets, in the form of old pottery vintage clothing, brightly colored cloth, old appliances, or just plain rusty stuff. I have found some great old tools at flea markets, but I also look for things I can incorporate into my art, like old jewelry, metal objects I can cut up and repurpose, ephemera, or anything that I can fit into a bezel.
Here are some pictures from my last flea market foray
And here’s what I bought: two cheap copper cuff bracelets and two cheap brass ones. Total, $5.00. I plan to reuse the metal to make something new. I also found a vendor selling cabochons and treated myself to some lovely striped jasper for another $10.00.
I started the story of my attempts to make a coin pendant with a post a couple of weeks ago. I am happy to say that I have finally made a respectable pendant which I intend to give to a friend whose story is much more interesting my story: Friend got married and started a family soon after high school. She got divorced and worked at several kinds of jobs before remarrying. When she was down sized from a job, her current husband reminded her that she had always wanted to go to college and thought that if they looked hard enough, they could find some scholarship money. She did, they did, they did and she enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. And emerged with a Ph.D in Anthropology in 2015. Since her dissertation was in the field of Irish Studies, I came up with the idea of setting an older (pre-Euro) Republic of Ireland coin into a pendant for a graduation present, and I begged some coins from her obliging husband who is a little fanatical about Irish culture himself. I am only 2 1/2 years late. But after I got my brilliant idea, I had to learn how to execute it. I could not find any new instructions (not that they would have helped.) I finally got inspiration from two YouTube videos by Online Jewelry Academy on how to make a gallery prong setting. You can watch the videos here and here. And I got the basic instructions on how to make the bail from a Soham Harrison video you can watch here.
I milled some 14 gauge square sterling silver wire, measured and cut it and soldered it and formed it into a circle. I wanted it to be the exact diameter as the coin so you didn’t see it from the front, and for there to be a frame on the back of the coin that did not obscure any coin markings. I decided to have three prongs hold the coin in place and to make the prongs from 14 gauge half-round wire. The picture above shows a notch I filed for one of the prongs.
Checking the fit of the wire.
Here is the assembly laid on the soft brick before soldering. The ring is already soldered. The prong bottoms are pushed into the brick to steady them. I had a few soldering failures until I made some changes that I think helped. First, I laid out everything and then made holes for the prongs so I could get them right into the notches and up against the circle. Secondly, I put a pallion of solder between the prong and the circle right in the notch. Third, I bent the prongs inward slightly to be sure they were really hugging the circle. I also soldered the ring, quenched and pickled and then tackled the prongs with a softer solder. I didn’t try to solder all four elements at once like I had done before. It worked! I had total soldering success!
Here’s the assembly before I cut the bottom of the prongs flush with the bottom of the circle.
The cleaned assembly with the prongs trimmed. They still have to be filed and sanded so they look good and don’t catch on clothing.
The coin sits on the circle and the prongs are folded over, trimmed, filed and sanded. But the inside of the prongs have to be filed to allow the coin to sit perfectly flat on the circle. So I had to mark the thickness of the coin on the inside of the prongs and then file-very carefully-so the coin fits in without a gap. It’s fiddly work; if you file too much you’ll weaken the prongs. Too little and the coin will sit askew. But it’s not really difficult.
Still need to file a bit more.
A perfect fit! I start to bend the prongs over gradually.
The bail has a prong soldered on the inside front which feeds through a hole in the back. I altered the bail a bit so it wouldn’t open.
And here’s the finished pendant! Still learning, but I like the way it came out. Finally!
I am making a setting to hold a coin. Or I am trying to. I set a coin in Richard Salley’s metalsmithing class at Hacienda Mosaico a couple of years ago. I didn’t like the results and vowed to try again. I had my class notes but wanted to find something a little more tailored to my capabilities. And so I looked for a tutorial in every dog house, out house and waffle house and didn’t find anything I like. So then I decided to improvise. Uh oh.
This is the coin. A lovely specimen (from before the time the Republic of Ireland went on the Euro) that a friend gave me so I could make the pendant for his wife. I would love to show you the other side, but I have lost it. My husband says it will turn up somewhere. Brilliant. Maybe on one of the moons of Jupiter or the other side of the state, but not with me.
I start off with 18 gauge silver
And measure very carefully.
My trusty scribe and metal cutting scissors. By the way, these scissors are fantastic! I forget where I read about them. (Maybe Helen Driggs’ column in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist?) I have a few pair of metal cutting scissors, but these are the best by far. You can buy them from Amazon.
I cut my bezel.
I straighten my bezel
I wrap the metal around the coin, cut to fit
I planned to cut tabs on both sides of the bezel for fold over tabs
Soldering on the jump ring
And phooey phooey phooey! But his story has a happy ending! I managed to design a coin bezel based on a basket setting. This took
several hundred many attempts.
In the coming weeks, I will post a tutorial on how I made it. In the meantime, here are two new ideas for making your own jewelry tools!
This one is great! Who uses phonebooks anymore? You can also use a thick catalog or maybe stacks of magazines. Just secure them with masking tape or duct tape. They make a great hammering surface or a cushion for a bench block.
An old hammer head secured in a vise makes a great metal forming tool.
I learned how to make hollow stacked beads and hollow pod-shaped beads.
I learned that hollow pod-shaped beads were only a starting point and that I could take the clay wherever I wanted it to go.
I learned how to assess whether a given paint would work with polymer clay.
I learned that Claire is an incredibly generous teacher who prepares illustrated handouts bursting with information, ideas, resources and more.
I learned why Pan Pastels look so ##@&^#$@ gorgeous on polymer and I discovered that I need to buy them in all my favorite colors. Like right now. Or sooner.
I learned different techniques to crackle, seal, antique, enhance, texture, carve, wax, paint, emboss, finish and (whatever else you can think of) polymer clay.
I learned about some new software that just might change my life. (Ok, that’s an exaggeration but Repper is pretty cool.)
If I have to stop to think about whether I really want to leave my clay to go for Chinese food with Sherman Oberson, you know that it had to be a great class. Here are some pictures of what I made. The ideas keep coming. Thank you Claire Maunsell for a great class!
This year’s Artspiration Community Festival at Fleisher Art Memorial was a blast. I worked at the Color Wheels table helping kids and adults make seed bombs with clay and wildflower seeds and helped out at the Open Studio pottery table. There were plenty of free activities for kids including face painting, mural painting, spin art pictures. Philly Typewriters was there with two tables of portable machines and the younger attendees were lining up to try them.
Here are some pictures
We enjoyed music and dancing throughout the day.
The Color Wheels van wore a big party hat to celebrate its 5th birthday.
A decorated seed bomb
Texturing the clay for the seed bombs