Inspiration Makes a Clasp

I haven’t been making much jewelry lately, but when I do, it always comes back to clasps. I love clasps that are elegant, simple to use, and reliable. I don’t like to struggle to put on and take off a piece of jewelry and I dislike losing it even more. A good clasp doesn’t call attention to itself because it is part of the design. By that, I mean it doesn’t stick out like someone who crashed the party. Even if it functions as the focal in a piece, it should be a working part of the design.

Sometimes, I start a piece and then consider what the clasp should be. Sometimes I start with the clasp and build the piece around it. And sometimes, someone’s else’s jewelry inspires me to create something new. The following necklace is a case in point.

This necklace belonged to my mother-in-law who loved midcentury modern studio jewelry. I think it’s made of onyx and it’s got a lot of heft. The beads are about 25 mm and the necklace is about 18″ long including the clasp. I think the clasp is the best part of the necklace.

The clasp is silver. Note that the open ring to the left it slightly open and ajar. The closed ring slips right onto it. You can put on the necklace with your eyes closed. The weight of the beads pulls in a manner that the open part of the clasp remains on top so the necklace is secure.

Here’s my take on this clasp with a polymer necklace.

Again, I have very big beads. In fact, most of them are bigger than the beads in the onyx necklace. Except they aren’t heavy because they’re hollow. Can you see the clasp? It’s on the right above the red round bead.

The polymer beads are strung on 16 gauge dark annealed steel wire and connected with loops. The back of the choker-length necklace is 16 gauge wire which works because the beads are so light that it doesn’t bite into the neck. This piece of wire is permanently fastened on one side of the necklace and finished with a tiny hook on the other side that slips into the loop coming out of the round red bead. The opening on the hook points to the side and holds the necklace closed and secure.

Here’s a picture of the polymer choker. The wire is rigid enough to hold the beads in place but not so rigid that it’s stiff. The onyx necklace keeps its shape by virtue of the weight of its beads. It’s a heavy necklace and not everyone would feel comfortable in it. My mother-in-law was not too concerned with the comfort of what she wore, as long as it was fashionable. But the clasp is very comfortable and makes up for the weight of the beads.

And here’s a picture of the polymer choker with the onyx choker. As you can see, they are about the same size.

And a New Twist (for me) on Polymer

As the Irish playwright so aptly said, “The world is in a state of chassis.” I won’t go into it all-I am sure you know what I mean. I won’t say that WordPress has made it any better by choosing this time to introduce a new blog post editor. But I try to maintain a sense of perspective. I once shared a house with an older woman, and the night I moved in, I asked her whether there was a washer and dryer we could use. “No,” she replied, “but I lived Second World War in Soviet Union and believe me, you can get used to anything.” Hard to argue with that.

Fleisher Art Memorial‘s pottery studio will be reopening soon with new rules and procedures to keep us safe during the pandemic. And I am working with an incredible team of people to plan a virtual Clayathon for February, 2021. In the meantime, I am participating in the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild‘s online caning challenges and design challenges. Caning creates a lot of scraps. So I decided to use them and try my hand at making Torpedo beads.

You normally think of earrings when you think of Torpedo beads, so that’s where I started out. But then I decided to branch out and to incorporate non-polymer elements into the designs. I spent a lot of time last summer making fabric jewelry, and I had some gorgeous, vintage rayon embroidery floss in bright colors that was singing out to me. I used this to attach Torpedo beads to one another with the help of screw eyes.

It’s a bit tricky to knot the slick rayon floss securely, but I think I managed to do it with reinforced Surgeon’s knots.

Here are some more variations. And as I make more canes for the challenges, I’ll have more scraps to try. I’m also going to try some other fibers to attach the beads to each other. The sky’s the limit. And maybe I will even learn how to use this confounded block editor!

New Earrings (Ugly Cane School Part 3)

I have pretty much exhausted my supply of ugly canes, but I think I have put them to good use.

Earringsnew1

These earrings are what can happen when you chop up ugly canes in a mini chopper.  (I found one like this  at a thrift shop for $6.00) and add a few lumps of contrasting clay for interest.

Earringsnew1detail

Earringsnew2

Another example

Earringsnew2detail

So I have all these components that I plan to take  with me to Clayathon to play around with and try new combinations for earrings.    I have also been experimenting with making my own clay cutters with this kit I got on Amazon.  I will post a tutorial and a review in the future.

I’ll have a  lot to keep me busy!  Clayathon starts February 12 and goes until February 20.  A week of polymer bliss with Kathleen Dustin as this year’s guest artist.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

Ugly Cane School and Some Inspiration

I must confess that I have been singularly uninspired these past few weeks.  This hardly ever happens to me.  I’m back in the pottery studio and even threw a few pots last week which is great considering that I had CMC joint reconstruction surgery in October.

I have amassed a collection of canes over the years that I haven’t used and that have become crumbly with age.  A few years ago, I played with a bunch of them to see what I could come up with.   Today,  I dug up a few of the components I made and they’re not bad.  I think I’ll take a few to Clayathon and see if I can combine them with wire work to make some necklaces.    In the meantime,  I am going to dig through my old canes to see if I can do anything with them.  More on that next week.

Anyway, here are some results from my first ugly cane experiment.  I made veneers by passing sliced canes through the pasta machine and laminating them on sheets of clay.  I kept rolling and laminating until I came up with something interesting.  I set some of the pieces in metal, mostly heavy-gauge copper wire which I squared in my rolling mill.   I limited my color palate, something I did not do with the ugly cane experiments you will see next week. Let’s see where these ugly canes take me.

component
Lentil-shaped component

unfinished
Unfinished piece.  I was still trying things out.

I made some pendants using jump rings to attach the lentil-shaped front component to a back component. While most lentil beads are attached at the edges, the parts of these swing freely.

 

pendant3
I also tried different ways of setting the polymer bezels in the metal.  This one is suspended by a jump ring drilled into the big ring which is soldered onto the long bail

I attached the polymer piece to this pendant by drilling holes in the polymer and threading 30 gauge wire to wrap around the metal frame.

 

pendant1
I attached the polymer here with tabs I soldered onto the frame and bent around the polymer.  Read this post for more information on tab setting.

 

Earrings
Simple earrings with grommets and silver wire.   They are very light.

More examples of  uses for ugly canes next week.

In My Workshop Right Now (as of Yesterday)

Colored porcelain jewelry elements waiting to be bisque fired.

 

Experimenting with different textures.

 

 

Colored porcelain pinch pots.

 

The cracks can stay

 

I work on fabric or canvas

The polymer side of the table

 

Making fish (taught by Amy Sutryn at May meeting of Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild)

 

One lazy Bluefish

Open Studio at Art-Sci Designs

What inspires Terri Powell, the creative force behind Art-Sci Designs?   Terri spends her days wearing a lab coat and peering into the microverse through a high-powered microscope.  She spends  the rest of her time creating  wearable Modern Artifacts from  a wide range of materials that include polymer, metal, glass and any other materials she might pick up on her world travels.  (Last destination Portugal; coming up: Colombia).  She also develops  recipes for some incredible mixed libations  which she shares (along with  the occasional restaurant review) on her blog The P&P Drinking Company.   I’m sure I’m leaving something out.

I visited Terri at her open studio a couple of weeks ago and she turned me loose in her studio which she did not bother to clean up before hand because creativity is not an orderly process.  (Something I already knew).

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Table

Table3

earrings

I didn’t get as many good pictures of  the finished work as I would have liked but you can see plenty of pictures on the Art-Sci Designs webpage here.

elements


And  I suggest that you follow Art-Sci Designs on Instagram here.  There is always something surprising and delightful to behold.

Elise

I wanted to write a more comprehensive post on Elise Winters who died earlier this year, but I find myself too sad to write much of anything.  So let me say that if I remember Elise for anything, it is not for her artistic ability, and her innovative spirit (which would have been more than enough).  And not for her advocating for the acceptance of polymer as a serious art medium. Not only did Elise start the Polymer Art Archive Blog,  she persuaded the Racine Art Museum to establish a permanent polymer collection.   This was a huge accomplishment.  Finding a museum to take a collection is a more difficult and expensive proposition than most people realize.  But this is not why I will remember her.

The pictures that follow are from a trip Elise made to Philadelphia in 2005 to give the Philadelphia Guild a slide show on her development as an artist.  She showed us some of her first attempts at making art that were far less accomplished than the work she was known for.  She told us that most artists have day jobs, or a parent or spouse with a credit card.  She told us not to be discouraged and to keep on making art.

I will remember Elise for her great generosity of spirit.  And that will keep on living long after everything made of clay crumbles.

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Update:  I received a more complete obituary from Bruce W. Pepich,  Executive Director and Curator of Collections, Racine Art Museum.  To read it, press here.  The Museum also supplied two images of Elise’s work.

winters red ruffle cascade neckpiece

Red Ruffle Cascade Neckpiece, 2009 Polymer and acrylic paint 9 1/4 x 5 1/2 x 3 5/8 inches. Racine Art Museum, Gift of Elise Winters and Sherwood Rudin

winters woodland ruffle cuff

Woodland Ruffle Cuff, 2008 Polymer and acrylic paint 3 x 4 x 4 1/8 inches. Racine Art Museum, Gift of Elise Winters and Sherwood Rudin

 

Photo credit: Penina Meisels

 

What I’m Working On

I’ve been participating in the #100DayProject on Instagram
trying to create something every day and post a picture. I’ve been working on projects, like making a set of mugs, rings for friends, painting my house, helping Boris write stories for the Step Potato and the Step Banana and numerous other things. I’m mixing batches of colored porcelain in my basement to add to thrown pieces and to make jewelry. I’m still puzzling out hollow polymer beads and strong magnetic closures. And doing some volunteer work with the Color Wheels project at Fleisher Art Memorial. Here are some pictures

BeadsinovenPolymer beads in the oven

BorisandhisMug                        Boris admires his new mug

ClayStudioThrowing porcelain at The Clay Studio

ColoredClayMixing colored clay

IMG_20180711_111409Color Wheels: Gelli prints at the East Passyunk Rec Center 

IMG_20180711_111732MoreBeadsMore polymer beads

PendantColored porcelain pendant with gold embellishment.

What I Learned in Bonnie Bishoff’s Class

Last week, I took a two-day workshop with Bonnie Bishoff entitled “Polymer Meets Wire,”  sponsored by the New England Polymer Artist Guild.   Bonnie is probably best known for the extraordinary furniture she made with her husband and artistic partner, J.M. Syron, and her superbly-crafted cane work.   But there was no cane making instruction in Polymer Meets Wire.  Instead, the class was packed with information on how to construct lightweight and durable open forms, findings, and components by first making cores of epoxy clay and wire and then covering them with polymer veneers.  Then she showed us how to assemble them into delicate-looking necklaces, pins, and bracelets that did not rely on soldering to hold them together.

Bonnie

I am really excited about what I learned because now I have the means to address some design and construction problems that have been dogging me for years!  I also learned about the properties of various metals and why some are better for building inner cores than others.  Good to know.

Class

Bonnie also showed us some clever wire measuring tricks and taught us the ins and outs of working with epoxy clay, Genesis  Heat Set Medium and liquid clay.

My head was exploding by the middle of the first day and I still need to process all I learned.  Fortunately, Bonnie provided us with detailed written materials and drawings.

Here are some pictures of a cuff bracelet that I started in the class and finished when I got home.  Not my favorite cane work, but I have a feeling that I will be making more of these.  Thank you, Bonnie!

 

The class was held in the home of Ann Marie Donovan, who was a gracious, welcoming and friendly hostess.  Not only did she open her home up to 14 students, she provided us with a delicious lunch both days, coffee and snacks.  Thanks, Ann Marie and thanks to Kathryn Corbin for organizing the class and laughing at my jokes.  Well, most of them anyway!

To see more of Bonnie Bishoff and J.M. Syron’s work, check out their Pinterest board.

Into The Forest Opens This Friday

Into The Forest,  the long-awaited collaborative polymer installation spearheaded by Laura Tabakman,  Julie Eakes and Philadelphia’s own Emily Squires Levine opens this Friday at the Spinning Plate Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA. 

I can scarcely believe that it’s been more than a year since Laura announced the project at Eurosynergy  and requested contributions from the polymer  community.  They responded with enthusiasm: polymer artists from 27 countries around the world and 37 States around the US sent  an abundance of hand-fabricated floral and faunal elements inspired by their geographically-diverse environments.  Into The Forest is more than an art installation; it is a celebration of diversity and unity. A virtual global forest.

A small version of Into The Forest had its first public showing in Philadelphia as part of a larger “Constructing Organics” show which ran at the Park Town Place Gallery from September 2 to December 30, 2016.    Emily, Laura and Julie have spent  this past year working to make Into the Forest come to life in Pittsburgh.

Here are  pictures of contributions from the Philadelphia polymer community that we made under Emily’s instruction at a meeting of the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild.   

 

 

See you in Pittsburgh!