Big, Bold Jewelry Designs at Synergy

I am finally home after nearly three weeks in Europe.  Past of the reason for the trip was to attend the EuroSynergy Conference in Bordeaux.   I rekindled many friendships, made some new friends, attended fabulous programs and mostly tried to keep my head from exploding with all the artistic influences, new products, wonderful people and the inspiring and informative program the conference offered.

One of the highlights for me, however, was meeting Jude Parker and seeing her big, bold, colorful jewelry.  Jude,  who  was attending Synergy with her mother Ann Parker is from Sanderstead, England just south of London where Ann has a business selling craft supplies called Monkey Ann. Visit the web site here.

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Jude’s work is large, colorful and light because  it is composed of hollow forms. It is big and bold and she carries  off the look  beautifully.    Here she is modeling some of her creations.

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This neck piece has a fabric-like feeling to it , but it is all cane work and  deceptively light because it is hollow.  I love the limited palate.  Jude made the findings because she will never find ready-made clasps for the scale of jewelry she creates.

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You can see Jude wearing the neck piece in the above picture.  Below are some close ups of her jewelry.

 I will write more about Synergy in the weeks to come.  Tomorrow I am head to Connecticut  for Clay ConneCTion 2016

A Detour in Corning, NY

I don’t know about you, but it has always mystified me  how ancient peoples discovered processes like glass making.  I mean, we have all heard about how Rouquefort cheese came to be-you know the Shepard leaves his goatskin of milk in the moldy cave, finds it  6 months later and voila! Quelle fromage! But that was an accident.  And in his play John and Mary Doe, playwright  Christopher Durang  speculates on how a caveman might have invented the, er-if you really must know, click here.    But glass?  Glass is basically sand that is heated to about 1700 degrees F. until it melts.  (The color and other characteristics the glass might have comes from added chemicals.)  Historians believe that glass making  started around  3500 BCE in Mesopotamia and that  the first  glass was made in coastal north Syria, Mesopotamia or ancient Egypt.   But who wakes up one day and tells his wife or his boss that he is going to the beach so he can bring back some sand and try to melt it?  I mean, seriously.  But where would we be without glass?  In the dark probably.

It was in this spirit that intrepid fellow traveller Patty and I decided to make a detour on our way home from the Morrisburg Polymer Clay Retreat and stop in Corning, NY, home to the famed Corning Museum of Glass.    We got into Corning the evening before our planned visit and got to explore the town a little.  Here’s what we saw.


Corning is a charming town nestled into the rolling hills of Southern New York State on the Chemung River. It’s home to Corning Incorporated and to the Corning Museum of Glass.   Corning is also home to the Rockwell Museum (not to be confused with the Norman Rockwell Museum)  which specializes in American Art. The main of the town street is dotted with restaurants, art galleries and antique shops.  It really looks like it would be a nice place to spend a day or two window shopping, dining, visiting the museums and enjoying the countryside.



We stayed in the Staybridge Suites right next to the museum so we could get an early start the next morning.  It was a good choice and I recommend it.


Next week: The Corning Museum of Glass.

Some Things I Saw at the Pushkin Museum

Pushkin Museum Moscow 59

Our friend and Moscow native Dmitri told us that he passed many an afternoon at the Pushkin Museum when he was a student.    So, we had to make a visit.  In fact, we made two.   The Pushkin’s collections are housed in several buildings.  The first ones we saw were located in the main building and included ancient Greece, the Black Sea region, the Near East, Roman Egypt and Troy.  I never get tired of looking at ancient beads and metalwork although  those items comprise only a small portion of what we saw:


 Little Greek Cupids.

Beads (glass, pottery, rock crystal, carnelian, chalcedony and jet) from what we know today as Greece, Turkey and the Near East.  Dates vary from 1st century BCE  to 7th century CE.




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Phanagoria, includes beads of  lapis.

  We jumped at the chance to see the exhibit  on Ancient Troy and Schliemann’s excavations.  Schliemann has always fascinated me because he came from humble origins, had a successful business career and used his money to excavate the site where he determined the Trojan War had taken place.  Before he found archaeological evident that Troy had actually existed,  most people considered Troy “a matter of myth and not reality.”

When Schliemann found the treasure pictured below, he dressed his wife up in the jewelry and took her picture.  I did not take the pictures below because my cell phone battery had decided to overheat and die.  If you click on the pictures, however, you will be taken to a link with information on the photographers.

Golden diadem with pendants

Tesoro di priamo, spialla d'oro, cat. 239

Tesoro di priamo, grande diadema con pendenti, oro, cat. 10, 01

Golden sauceboat with two handles

Tesoro di priamo, bracciale lamellare con decorazione a spirale, dal tesoro F, oro, cat. 123

Tesoro di priamo, orecchino con pendenti, oro, cat. 155

Ritual Hammer-Axes

These are ceremonial  hammers. They are oversized, maybe about a foot long and are very impressive in person.

We returned to the Pushkin to see the 19th and 20th Century European Art collections.  If I had only seen the Matisses, I would have been happy.  An incredible collection you must see if you ever make it to Moscow.  Thanks Dmitri!

The Light Fantastic: St. Petersburg While the Sun Sets

I’ve never quite seen anything like it. Rather than describe it, here are some pictures take from our hotel.



  I added some pictures of St Petersburg and Moscow to my Flickr site.

Greetings From Moscow!


St. Basil’s Cathedral


Le Mutt in Red Square!

I will be posting more about our Moscow experience.  Suffice it to say that the Russians are always rushing (at least in Moscow) but I had no trouble going out and finding my way around with the help of a map and occasional requests for directions (it helps to write down the Cyrillic version of your destination just on case the person you ask does not speak English).  The people I have met have been very cordial and helpful.

Sargent Johnson and Sid Mohammed Diag on the Promenade Deck

In my last post, I wrote about my serendipitous  stumbling onto  Hilaire Hiler’s murals and Prismatarium in the Maritime Museum in San Francisco. And just when I thought the highlight of the trip had passed, another surprise was waiting for us. My husband and I wandered through a doorway that led from the lobby to the promenade deck on the beach to get a look at the ocean.  We didn’t see Sargent Johnson’s fabulous mosaic gracing the side of the building until we turned to go back into the Bathhouse.

Sargent Claude Johnson was an African American  painter, potter, ceramist, print maker, sculptor,  artist  and visionary. Born in Boston, Johnson lived and worked mostly in the California Bay Area, although he had ties to the Harlem Renaissance.    He belonged to the Communist Party for most of his life and he did not complete the Maritime Museum mosaic,  reportedly because he objected to plans to turn part of the building into a restaurant which would be out of reach for most working people.  He disdained such commercialism and thought that art should be for the masses.  Interestingly he was turned down when he first applied for a commission to work on the  Bathhouse which was being built as part of a WPA project.  He was hired after Hiler vouched for him.

Johnson created his stylized and sophisticated “Sea Forms” mosaic on the Promenade Deck  working with  a Moroccan tile cutter named  Sid Mohammed Diag.  The friendly park rangers at the Bathhouse related a few stories about Diag:  Diag could cut Arabic  letters from tile (do you have any idea how hard that is?).  He let his skills speak for him when bureaucrats and visitors to the site  questioned his ability to produce precision tile work. (Which apparently happened regularly.  Diag was a short, dark foreign looking-man)    Diag’s  response would be to take a tile, whip out an intricate shape, hand it to the offender, and continue his work without looking up or saying a word.  

Thanks to the Smithsonian Institute and its New Deal and the Arts Oral History Project, you can read a transcript of an  interview of Johnson recorded in 1964 in which he talks about his career, his art and  his work on the mosaic.  If you want to listen to the interview, try this link.

I love the Sea Forms varied shades of green and blue green and the pops of red and warm brown. You can’t really see it from these pictures but a few of the tiles were glazed in gold luster. The limitations of my photography plus the 60+ years that these tiles have faced the Pacific Ocean make these areas difficult to see on the computer screen.   Even though Johnson has worked with a limited palette and mostly abstract shapes, he succeeds in depicting a beautiful sea fantasy world that is quite different from Hiler’s.

If you are in San Francisco, go to the Maritime Museum and see the work of Hiler, Sergent and other artists who contributed to this little-known National Park treasure.

The Colorful Ways of Hilaire Hiler

Hilaire Hiler was an artist.  No, he was a jazz musician.  No, he was a psychologist.  No,  he was a color theoretician.   In fact, he was all of these things.

Hilaire Hiler was born in Minnesota and died in Paris.  He has a Philadelphia connection having studied at the University of Pennsylvania and briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. After living and studying in various cities around the United States, he left for Europe around 1919 and made a living playing jazz in the Montmartre district of Paris.

The old order of the 19th Century had started to crumble by the end of World War I. Life seemed all the more precious for those who had experienced the horrors of the war first hand. People were questioning  the wisdom of old values with their rigid rules of conformity.  World War I had exposed a generation of young people to places and cultures they would never have otherwise seen and it opened them to new possibilities.  What if everything they had learned was wrong?

Paris was a Mecca for creative people in search of nurturing and support for their art.  They  could not find it at home, but the bohemian and eccentric could find community and acceptance in Paris.  African American artists of the time  could live and work in  Paris  without the constant onus of the historically ingrained racism they experienced in America. Many of the expatriates  settled in Montmartre.  Press here to watch a short video of Paris at that time.   Press here to get some idea of what Montmartre was like when Hiler arrived.  Press here for an article.

Hiler had reportedly attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to make his father happy before he clarified what was important to him, embraced his artistic side and left for Paris.   I have read varying accounts of Hiler’s time in Paris:  That he played the piano with a monkey on his shoulder.  That he owned or managed a club.  That he played the saxophone.  Our guides in San Francisco told us and several web sites confirm that he painted a number of murals on the walls of nightclubs in the district.  But none of them remain today because when Hitler invaded Paris in 1940, the Nazis embarked on a program to eradicate what they termed “degenerate” art.  Hiler’s murals were among the many works they destroyed. 

Which means that the only place left to see Hiler’s  murals (recently restored) is the lobby of the  Maritime Museum in San Francisco.   It is reported that when Henry Miller first walked into the lobby and saw the murals, he asked Hiler to teach him how to paint.

Here are some pictures.



In his later years, Hiler’s art became more abstract as you can see from his work on this site but his exploration of color and the infinite possibilities for its expression was always a central focus in his work.

As a jazz musician, Hiler used musical such as tone and harmony to describe color.    “The harmonious relations of structure and order presented in a new way, in the nature of a continuum. Relations of degree, and those of geometric progression of color-form, replace relations of simple analogy—or in turn of contrast, by opposition. As the sequential relations of Structuralism design resemble those of natural growth, it may be termed organic. In this sense, it is like certain kinds of music.” (Hiler, Structuralism, London, Heal & Son, 1955).  From Hiler, Hilaire Biography, download here.

The Prismataruim


 This blog post only scratches the surface of  Hiler, his art and his fascinating life.  If anyone has additional information and would like to share, I invite you to leave a comment.

Yarn Bombing in Mendocino

It’s been a long month this week but I will spare you the details.  Suffice it to say that at times like these, color and travel memories are nice escapes. This week’s post has both: from a town-wide installation called the Mendocino  Crayon Box.

7_new 5_new 6_new 4_new 1_new 2_new Read more about it here and here and here.

Bead Shopping in Portland

Dava Front_new

Stores like Dava Beads in Portland Oregon are hard to find these days. It’s a full service, generously-stocked  bead shop. 



Sunny and inviting and scads of beads- something for every one and every budget.  And classes and books and magazines and a friendly knowledgeable staff.  What more could you want?  Classes?  They have those.  A few good restaurants within walking distance?  They have those too.


 I found plenty of different sized needles there including size 13s


You can get Delicas and Charlottes and they have a respectable selection of 15/0 beads


You can buy in bulk.  There are 11/0 Czech beads


And antique and vintage buttons.  

I’m sure that the stock has changed since the last time I was there.  All the better! Portland is a great city for walking, dining and bookstores!  And Dava Beads.

Polymer Clay in Puerto Vallerta

Have you ever dreamed about retiring to a small piece of paradise and spending your time making beautiful things?  It looks like Karen Mical turned that dream into a reality.

PV689_FotorI found Karen’s stand at the Old Town Farmer’s Market in Puerto Vallarta  Mexico which, while it might not be paradise, is pretty close by my standards.

 PV697_FotorKaren works in polymer and her jewelry was selling like mad.  Small wonder.  It was impeccably crafted and visually appealing.

PV688_FotorI didn’t get to talk to Karen but her husband told me that  they lived in Puerto Vallerta full time and that she was a regular at the market which requires that the vendors make their wares.

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Karen’s color palettes evoke the tropics making one of her pieces  a souvenir that does not advertise itself as such but that helps the wearer to remember a short time spent in paradise.  What could be better?

Check Karen out on Facebook!