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.

Lentil-shaped component
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.


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.


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.


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

More examples of  uses for ugly canes next week.

Messing it Up

These have got to be the ugliest canes in the world

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.

Years ago, I decided to take an oil painting class that was supposed to teach me about color. I had been making funky painted furniture and I thought this class might give me some fresh ideas.  The course description said each class started with a lecture followed by a painting session.

By the time the first class lecture ended, I realized that the course would not help me with my furniture; it covered the historical use of color in oil painting.  After the  teacher gave us some technical and historical  background,  and  we were supposed employ what we had learned and paint a picture from a live model.  What, no still lifes?  I was already out of my league.

OK, I took a drawing class in seventh grade, but when my brother and I got paint by numbers sets for Christmas, he ended up with beautifully done Emmett Kelley on his bedroom wall.  I produced a landscape with trees that looked like  broccoli with Dutch Elm disease and paint drips on the floor that gave my mother a seizure.

I was starting to worry.

But the lecture was interesting-much more interesting than I could have imagined. When it was over I fingered my brushes nervously and wondered the model would look like.   When I saw  an ordinary looking man in a bathrobe enter the classroom, I didn’t make the connection.   “A bathrobe? I thought,  That’s odd.” Did he just come out of the shower? His hair doesn’t look wet. “

The man ascended a raised wooden platform in the middle of the room and let his bathrobe fall to the floor. He was now a naked man. Naked man sat down. My mind raced.   I tried not to look like I was frantically searching for the fire exits while scanning  the room  to see what the other students were doing.  And what were they doing?  Well, some were sketching, some were squeezing paint onto their canvases. (And in case you were wondering, no one was doing that weird thing with his thumb that you see painters do in  movies.)

I looked back at naked man who  had assumed a pose and was looking straight ahead, seemingly unaware that the walls were closing in on me or that I was considering chugging my linseed oil and ending it right there.  He didn’t notice me.  No one else did either; they were all too busy working.

I took a deep breath and started to sketch a rough outline.  When class was over, I packed up my supplies and went home.  I slept in my own bed that night.  I went back to the rest of the classes and wasted a lot of paint.  But I also learned a lot and never looked at oil painting the same way after taking that class.  And most importantly, the sun rose the next day and has continued to rise every morning ever since.

What are you waiting for?  Try something new!    Maybe you should avoid things that involve using  shopping carts,  KY Jelly and explosives at the same time,  but I’m sure you already knew that, didn’t you?