What I Learned in Claire Maunsell’s Class

11.Class

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.

12.Paints

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!   

 

Artspiration 2017

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

10.Share05.Fleisher01.Dancers

We enjoyed music and dancing throughout the day.

02.ChalkGames06.Mural07.OpenStudioGang04.FiveYearColorVan

The Color Wheels van wore a big party hat to celebrate its 5th birthday.

09.SeedBomb

A decorated seed bomb

12.seeds

11.Yarn

03.Colorwheels

Texturing the clay for the seed bombs

Rembrandt Huis

Rembrandt bought a house on Jodenbreestraat  in Amsterdam in 1639 and lived there until he went bankrupt in 1656 and lost everything.  There is a debate over whether Rembrandt’s  lavish taste caused his financial problems or whether he was a victim of  a shift in the art market.

16.Rembrandt Huis Amsterdam 3

 

Rembrandt made his fortune as a portrait painter (and-this was a surprise to me-an art dealer!)  Prior to Rembrandt’s time, only the nobility could afford to sit for portraits. But social, technological and economic changes changed that.  By the early the 17th century,  the social fabric that had carried Europe through the last 1000 years was starting to fray at the edges. Holland was a Protestant country where to profit by one’s hard work was considered a virtue. Amsterdam was a commercial town with a wealthy merchant class. Then as now, the existence of a group of people with disposable income  was  good for business and a boon for artists.  Rembrandt did so well that he was able to buy his  grand house  on Jodenbreestraatin.   The house  is still there  and it’s open to the public

08.RH4
Rembrandt Huis was a must-see for me because I have always loved his work. Rembrandt’s paintings make an impression on the viewer  because they do more than reproduce people and scenes in pictures: the tell stories. When you look at one of his Biblical paintings, or example,  you think about the people in it and what they must be doing and thinking. They look like they are engaged in something  rather assuming poses for a painting. Their engagement, in turn, engages us because on a fundamental level, we humans are story telling beings.

Rembrandt is also known as the master of light and his skills were unmatched.  He could make the paint look like lace, gold, sunlight, or gossamer layered fabric. He did not use gold paint, but he could paint gold so convincingly that it is hard to believe he did not use gold in his paint.

Rembrandt  was an art dealer as well as an artist, and sold the work of other artists that he displayed in   a showroom in the main room of his house.

21.Rembrandt Huis display

He also ran an art school on the top floor of his  house and taught several students at a time.

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Rembrandt  had a well-stocked room full of costumes and props that he used in his paintings. Some say that he was more of a shopaholic, buying anything that caught his fancy.  His profligate collecting  did not do his pocketbook any good and when he was forced to declare bankruptcy, all his belongings and his house  were sold at auction to cover his debts.

I learned about how Rembrandt’s paints were mixed  when I went to the Rembrandt Huis this past summer.  I made a short film in which a docent explains how it was done.  I hope you enjoy it.  Be sure to visit Rembrandt Huis if you are ever in Amsterdam.

 

 

 

In Arlene’s Studio

Earlier this summer I got to spend some time in Arlene Groch’s spanking new studio.   For years , the room had been a makeshift storage closet for Arlene and her husband but now it’s the studio she always wanted.

I have to admit,  there was something refreshingly different about Arlene’s first studio.  She was a practicing lawyer and when she decided to quit, she turned her conference room into a clay area; the conference table was just right.  But when another tenant wanted the space, she decided to move on.  She took over a room in her house but it was never quite what she wanted.    Something had to be done.

There is a room near the front door of Arlene’s house and for years she and her husband used it as a makeshift storage locker.  Arlene knew it could be put to better use.  They cleared it out and now Arlene has the studio of her dreams.  Two windows give plenty of light on sunny days; one is a  bay window complete with window box.  The studio  has running water, work tables to accommodate five people and plenty of storage.

Now students can come to Arlene’s front door and right into her studio.

Arlene keeps her oven in the  laundry room it behind the door on the left and happily reports that she’s finally caught up with the laundry.

Arlene has filled her studio with her work and little mementos are everywhere.  Her studio is a happy place.

A work space like Arlene’s is conducive to creativity.  Next week, we’ll take a peek at what she’s been making in there.

The Big Reveal Revisited

The August 11 reveal date  for  group 2 of Lori Anderson’s  6th Bead Soup Blog Party has passed.  I was blown away by all of the outstanding work I saw as I hopped from blog to blog.  Lori put together the map below to show where  all 400 blog party participants live.  There are  more detailed breakdowns on her blog.

Look at what  my partner Kristen Latimer  made with the beads I sent to her

MJM Jewelry Designs

I don’t think my beads and clasp were the easiest to work with.   Kristen’s jewelry seems more delicate than a lot of  mine and the clasp I sent  was pretty big.  And I could never figure out what to do with those minty vintage curved bugle beads.   Kristen found a way to integrate her crystals and smaller beads  with mine and  made a a very attractive set of earrings and a bracelet that anyone would be pleased to wear.

On another topic, the Philadelphia Polymer Clay Guild (of which I am a member) has started a YouTube channel and we intend to fill it with playlists of high quality tutorials with videos we make ourselves.

So, here is the interview with Jana Roberts Benzon.

And finally, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.  That’s right: It’s Beadfest Philadelphia time.  Don’t miss it.

Pain and Soldering

Bezel Experiments

I have a friend who’s been a goldsmith for more than forty years.  She told me told me that she learned how to solder jewelry  by working with a plumbers torch over a pumice tray and crying a lot.   Hey, soldering can be frustrating to learn.    You can’t ignore the laws of chemistry.  Metals do not all have the same properties. Different varieties of solder flow at different temperatures and the flame must be hot enough to do the job. So, sometimes a micro torch will work and sometimes it’s just not hot enough. But the size of what you’re soldering affects things too.  If you are connecting one small wire to another,  a micro torch might be fine, but if you are soldering a bezel and need to heat a larger metal mass, the micro torch might not be sufficient. Or you might have to use two micro torches at once.  (Press here for a description of this technique.)   Solder flows towards heat which means that if you point the flame at the join, the solder will go everywhere but the join.   Solder will not fill gaps; the items you are connecting must sit as flush as possible.  And fire can be scary; you must respect it and take the appropriate measures to work with it safely.

I have been practicing my soldering.  As you can see from the bezels above, I’m a little heavy handed with the solder.  I am still working on getting my bezel soldering mojo and hope to improve on that in time.  Until then, it’s lots of cleanup.  But even with my limited experience, I have a few tips.

  • Take a class.  You, need to learn about lighting a torch and basic safety, but there is another important reason: you can read about soldering all you want but until you witness the difference stages of soldering  from the initial heating to when the solder starts to flow, it won’t make sense.  It helps when you see what color the metal should be, what the solder looks like right before it flows and how long it takes to flow.
  • Does your carefully laid out solder skitter as soon as you hit the metal with the flame because the flux starts bubbling?  Pass the flame over the flux to dry it before you place the solder.  No more skittering.
  • If you try binder wires, clips and tweezers to  hold everything in place, they will act as heat sinks and draw heat away from where it needs to go to get a sturdy solder join.  Charles Lewton-Brain wrote an article on soldering tips and tricks for Ganoksin where he gives instructions for making a thingy to weigh down pieces you are trying to solder together.


    Here is an idea for another thingy from the Etsy Metal Blog 
Yet another soldering thingy.
You can purchase this one from Wholelottawhimsey.

And finally,  you need to check out Lexi Erickson‘s videos on soldering.  I met Lexi when she was a guest speaker at the Main Line Bead Society and gave an entertaining and illuminating presentation  on creativity.    I thought she might be an  academic but I was only half right because  the next thing I knew, she had moved  to Colorado and was blogging, making jewelry, teaching and writing great articles for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

She drew on her years of experience as a goldsmith and university level metalsmithing teacher to  put together two videos on soldering that are full of practical information, including an explanation of the various types of torches used in soldering, tools, solders, and several soldering techniques.  The videos are well filmed which is vital in  a video about soldering.  You  really need to see  how the materials look during each step of the process before you understand what is supposed to happen when you are soldering properly.   You can buy the  videos  from Interweave.

Lexi’s videos are extremely helpful, she would tell you that you still have to practice, practice, practice.  Like throwing pots and making lampworked beads, the  more you make, the more skilled you will become.   As Malcolm Gladwell said in Outliers, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”


Litter Critters!

The City of Philadelphia invested in some solar powered trash and recycling units a couple of years ago.  But I knew something was up when I was walking on South Street recently and saw they had mysteriously transformed into brightly colored animals.  Litter Critters are a product of  the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s   Big Picture Program in which artists work with kids aged 10 to 14 to give them visual art training and to  promote social responsibility.       I’d say the Litter Critters fills the bill.  Hey, I’d rather feed my trash to a happy critter than a trash unit, even a solar powered one, any day in the week. Wouldn’t you?

Here are some pictures.

For more information on this program, press here and here.