The Fabric Workshop: A Philadelphia Treasure


 

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.

                                       

Jiha Moon

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.

 

Jim Drain

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.

Robert Pruitt

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.

For more pictures of the artists’ work, press here, here, here, and here.

A New Polymer Clay

robindemoRobin Milne    introduced her fellow members of the The Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild to a brand new clay at our last meeting!   Robin had been tapped to introduce Pardo Jewellery Clay manufactured by German Company Viva Decor at the Winter CHA Show in Anaheim, and she came back with clay samples and brochures.  What could be better?

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Pardo Jewellery Clay comes in gumball-sized pieces packaged in 2.7 oz jars.  Robin said it has no odor when  raw or baking and it’s easy to condition.  It uses beeswax as a plasticiser in place of phthalates.

But is it durable?   Robin was  able to run it through her pasta m31achine on the thinnest setting without tearing and, when it was baked, she could tie it in a bow.  She could bend a cured bookmark-shaped piece of clay in a circle without breaking it.  Although the clay is on the soft side, she could produce decent canes with it.  And she was able to sand and buff it to a high shine.

Pardo Jewellery Clay comes in a beautiful range of jewel-toned colors, and the metallics contain plenty of mica. The manufacturer, Viva Decor,  says it can be mixed with other brands of polymer clay without a problem.  

Poly Play Clay, is  the only retail supplier I know of at the current time.  They don’t carry all of the 64 colors of Pardo Jewellery clay yet. Owner Trish Hodgens says that eventually,  however, they  plan to carry every color Viva Decor makes available to the United States Market.

Robin also recommends another Viva Decor product: Precious Metal Paints.   She’s tried thse high quality paints on raw and baked clay; they don’t scratch off and cover beautifully.  When the paint is applied to raw clay, allowed to dry, and run through the pasta machine, it crackles like metal leaf.  The mica in the pain is so small, you can use the paint for screen printing. And, Robin says, “the colors are amazing!” 

If you want to see what Robin has done with Pardo Jewellery Clay and Precious Metal Paints, press here.

I don’t know if anyone in the United States currently selling the Precious Metal Paints, but you want more information on them, check out U.K. supplier The Fruit Pixie.

 

 

Earrings Earrings Earrings!

    
Here are some polymer clay earrings I’ve made over the years.  The techniques include screen printing, stamping, geometric caning, mica shift and the use of inclusions and washi paper. The lantern earrings with the copper dangles are hollow, light and comfortable to wear.

I’ve started to make my own ear wires and I recommend that you try it.  You’ll save money and will be able to fashion a custom wire that compliments your design.

McFarland Designs offers an excellent tutorial on how to make round ear wires. To learn how to make fish hook ear wires, check out this video from My Daily Bead on YouTube.

Arlene Groch: Polyaddict

 Let Arlene Groch’s story be a warning to all of you. “My totally out of control addiction to polymer clay had such an innocent birth in September, 2004”, she recalled. “I bought some clay and a couple of books to share an activity with my 8 year old grandson. He was mildly interested; I was hooked. Within a month I had decided to give up my 30 year career as a trial attorney so I could devote most of my time to playing with clay and attending workshops and classes. I set myself a one year goal of learning enough to be able to begin to develop my own style.”  To see more of Arlene’s one of a kind Mezuzah cases and jewelry, go to her site,PolyGemDesigns.

I’m at Polydelphia!

I’m at Polydelphia this weekend!!! To check out my newly designed web site, press HERE. See ya later!

Mann Beside Himself at Synergy

   

  Ok, so that’s a bad joke.  But there were a lot of new and interesting products at the Synergy Vendor Fair.  Jeweler Thomas Mann was there with his Studio Flux products. Eberhard Faber brought  Efaplast, a microwavable modeling clay that looks very intriguing. I got to examine some of the cured stuff. It seems buoyant, almost cork-like and they say you can carve it and paint it. They recommend you use a dedicated microwave for this product.

  Polymer Clay Express was there with their new Bracelet Angle Jig Kits. Wilma demonstrated making bracelets for six hours!  Ann and Karen Mitchell were there displaying products for Amaco and had a new pendant roller that I’m definately going to get.

 Dan Cormier was there with Cutting Edge Peelers and new tools he developed to expand  your Skinner Blend repertoire.  Kato PolyClay was there with new liquid clay colors I don’t see on the website yet. Robert Dancik sold Faux Bone and a neat beveling tool to cut it with. I bought one and am going to try it on cured polymer clay. 

Here are a few pictures from the fair.

Screen Printing on Polymer Clay

You can achieve beautiful effects by screen printing on polymer clay.  I was introduced to this technique several years ago when Ellen Marshall, who literally wrote the book on polymer clay surface design, Polymer Clay Surface Design Recipes encouraged me to take a  class with Gwen Gibson,    S.L. Savarick, is another polymer clay artist who uses screen printing with breathtaking results.

They all inspired me to create my own designs and see how far I could take this process.  You can find my article, Surface Techniques: Silk Screening Polymer Clay, in the Fall 2007 issue of Polymer Cafe Magazine.

In the meantime, please enjoy my slideshow.  It includes some things I have come up with while playing with screen printing and polymer clay.   This is a journey and I am just getting started!