Happy Thanksgiving

Boris chows down!
Stay safe this holiday season

Electricity from the Mind of Mildred Greenberg

Last week’s post which included a link to a film about the artist Judy Chicago got me thinking.  If being an artist is challenging, being a woman artist is even more so.   I saw a great exhibit at the Tate Modern a couple of years ago on the Guerilla Girls and one of my favorite parts of the show was their Advantages of Being a Woman Artist Poster.  You can get a look at it here.  And Jane Dunnewold has produced another excellent video, this one on Women Abstract Expressionists.  You can watch that here.

I was not familiar with the work of Mildred Greenberg although I had known her daughter, Susan for many years and at one time we had even worked in the same office.  Ancient history.   We fell out of touch and the years passed.  Then we got reacquainted, this time through my husband.   And before the Coronavirus shut everything down,  Susan invited us to the opening of a retrospective of her mother’s work presented by InLiquid, a Philadelphia Arts organization, ELECTRICITY: From the Mind of Mildred Greenberg.

Electricity

Mildred Elfman Greenberg hailed from Philadelphia and much of her early work was produced  for the W.P.A.s  Federal Art Project during the Depression.  Her bio from the British Museum, one of the many museums that have her work in their collection reads as follows.   Painter and printmaker. Born as Elfman to Russian immigrant father and American mother in Philadelphia, where lived most of her life. Married Samuel Greenberg. Graduated from Moore Institute of art and Design in 1934; WPA 1940. No work between end WWII and 1974.  That’s thirty years without making art.  I believe at this time that the family had relocated from Philadelphia to California.  It’s my understanding that Greenberg resumed her art career after moving back to Philadelphia in the 1970’s.

Geometric Figures
Student work
Work produced for the WPA
Work produced for the WPA

Later work

You can read more about Mildred Elfman Greenberg here.

Nerikomi In Progress

Now that I have a kiln that can fire to cone 8, I can finally experiment with colored porcelain and Nerikomi on my own schedule without having to wait forever to see how a pot comes out. I am using mason stains to color 257 porcelain which I bisque fire at Fleisher Art Memorial, and then fire it a second time at home, unglazed, to cone 6 . This porcelain was made to be fired to cone 8-10, but it gives very nice results at cone 6 which is how they fire it at The Clay Studio where I first started using it. I only take my kiln to cone 6 to preserve the firing elements. I’m learning as I go by watching videos and reading what I can on the Internet. Most of the books on the subject cost a small fortune and I haven’t found any in my local library. No matter. I’m having fun and that’s the only thing that counts.

How’s this for inspiration? I love the spiral motif and never saw it in a plant before-not like this anyway. Anyone know what this plant is called?

Gray, black and white spirals sliced like jellyrolls
Holes plugged with white clay
This will be the top of the bowl
Bottom of bowl over a form
Inside of bowl inside the form.

When the bowl gets leather hard, I will smooth it with a metal rib. It is extremely fragile when it’s bone dry, so I try to do most of the work at the leather hard stage. After it’s bisque fired, I’ll sand it with wet/dry sandpaper and then fire to cone 6. After that? I plan to experiment with paste wax. This will be a decorative bowl.

Transitions: Mary Federici

South Jersey Clayathon started in 2005 as a small weekend get together for a group of people from different walks of life united by their love of polymer clay. It has grown to one of the preeminent polymer events in the US, last year attended by 130 people. I have been going to Clayathon since the beginning and am involved with the plans to take the event to a virtual platform in 2021 because of the pandemic.

You don’t attend an annual event all those years without making friendships. So we were all devastated to learn of the death of Mary Federici on September 20th. She never missed a Clayathon.

Hamming it up at the first Clayathon. Arlene Groch is in the front, Emily Squires Levine is left. Mary is at the rear.
Mary at Clayathon 2019

Mary was always good for a laugh. A typical story: one year when she was dating a plumber, she brought a length of heavy pipe to Clayathon that she used to whack the hell out of hard bricks of polymer to soften them for conditioning. “My persuader,” she called it.

We will all miss her.

Clay Cutter Magic from the Mind of Robin Milne

This has been another one hell of a week. I won’t go into details, but humor always helps. As I opened up the web browser on my newly-repaired computer to write this post, one of those real provocative headlines you see on the Internet shot across the screen. You know the kind I’m talking about: Stuff like “If You Have One of These in Your Kitchen, There’s a Ninety Percent Chance You Are a Narcissist,” or “The Ten Things Your Dog Does Not Want You to Know,” or “Scientists are Begging Seniors to Wash This One Body Part.” The headline that I saw was “Seven Things You Should Never Do With a Magic Eraser.” Only seven? I can think of lots more.

Let’s see, you should never insert a Magic Eraser into your Blue Ray drive. You should never give a Magic Eraser to a panhandler on the street and expect a thank you. Don’t think you can cut a pocket in a Magic Eraser and stuff it with falafel. Ok, maybe you can, but that doesn’t mean you should. And finally, (do I really need to tell you this?) don’t roll them into tubes, shove them up your nose, and go food shopping. I could list more things you should never do with a Magic Eraser, but I’ll stop here. I think you get the picture.

Besides, I digress. This week’s post is about one of my friends, Robin Milne, who I am convinced comes from a family of geniuses. Robin is a talented artist in several mediums including polymer clay. Her latest project is developing a line of 3D printed, high-quality clay cutters (although you could use them for cookies, too) . 3D printing has always intrigued me, so I asked Robin how she got into it.

Robin’s Canes

My father got me a small 3D printer 5 years ago for my birthday. One of the first things I made was a cutter in the shape of M.C. Escher’s tessellating lizard. I wanted to use that cutter to make a sample of all the polymer veneers I made and connect them all together. Once I had learned how to use the printer, I upgraded to a bigger, higher quality printer and started designing. I made a stamp with my gym’s logo to mark the attendance sheet that I had been to class. That led me to start making initial stamps for artists to mark their polymer clay pieces. A year and a half ago, I upgraded to an even better printer that can print larger items. Since then, I’ve been learning and printing and designing all kinds of things. I brought 3D prints of about 10 different cutters styles sets to Clayathon this past February and almost sold out.

“People were really happy with them and I got requests for new shapes. When I got home I stocked up again, printing as many as I could to take to the next retreat but then Covid happened. Since I can’t take the cutters to a retreat, I have been taking requests and making customs cutters and mailing them out. I have a lot more cutters I want to design and I also plan to make texture sheets and rollers. I have always loved clay tools and now I can make my own.”

The good news is that Robin opened an online shop! You can buy her beautifully designed and reasonably priced cutters , here. Support the arts and small business! Robin’s adding new designs all the time. I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Back in the Pottery Studio

I am computerless this week because my laptop is in the shop. I left it plugged in too much and the battery swelled alarmingly. I got it to the repair shop (Wise Guy Tech. If you are in Philadelphia, they are the best!) in time and dodged a bullet. I had no idea I was doing anything wrong, but I know now. ( If you use a laptop, read this. ) So I am writing this post from my phone.

Fleisher Art Memorial reopened its pottery studio this week! There are new requirements to use the studio because of the pandemic. We all have our temperatures taken before we go in, wear masks, and observe social distancing.

I brought over lots of colored porcelain to make little objects which I can bisque fire at Fleisher and finish with a cone 6 firing in my own kiln.

But I started out glazing some earthenware pieces I’d left unfinished when the studio closed last March. Here are some pictures

Mushrooms and Fairys

I’ve been seeing crops of mushrooms sprouting up in the city everywhere I go. They look like little fairy worlds to me.    Makes me want to reread The Blue Fairy Book.  You too?  You can download it on Project Gutenburg.

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!

A Surprising Twist on Caning

6

I was wandering in the Alhambra complex in Granada Spain last year when I chanced on Laguna Taller de Taracea, a store and workshop offering splendid items for sale that were decorated with marquetry.  Marquetry is a design applied as a veneer that’s made up of  different types of wood, ivory, bone, and metal. The pieces are combined to form intricate geometric designs.  It’s usually applied to furniture, frames and boxes.

I was watching a demonstration of the process when someone in the crowd remarked that it must take a great deal of patience to cut out all those tiny pieces and fit them into the design.  “Not so,” replied the craftsman.  He held up an object which I immediately recognized as a cane.

After the demonstration was over,  I hung around to take some close up pictures of canes and some work in progress.

We polymer clayers have it drilled into our heads that we adapted the caning we use in our work from glass millefiori.  But canework is also a hallmark of marquetry, and the  style of marquetry found in Granada and the south of Spain follows in the tradition of Islamic geometric patterns and stays away from the figurative images you are more likely to see in European marquetry.

Here are some more pictures of the process and a video.

 

As for me,  I am continuing with the caning challenges put out by the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild and will let you see what I make in future posts.

The Secret of the Paradox Cane

Let me start out by saying that this is not a post on how to make a Paradox cane, rather, it’s a post on how I learned an easier way to put together a Paradox cane.  Some background:

I have been having a ball these past few weeks trying out the various canes put forth in the cane challenges sponsored by the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild.   We are given a link to a tutorial or a video on how to make a polymer cane.  We post the results on the Guild’s private Facebook  page and share what we’ve learned in online meetings.

The first cane challenge was the Paradox cane, a beautiful cane that lends itself to so many variations.    Here’s a picture of one that I made.

Paradox6 sided

Motley Woods has a good tutorial for making a Paradox cane, as does Polymer Clay Workshop on YouTube.  There are many others which I have not seen and a great many variations on how make one.  Meg Newberg’s tutorial on Etsy comes highly recommended.  You can purchase it here.  If I ever get back into serious caning, Meg’s tute is probably one of the first tutorials I would purchase because I’ve heard so many great things about it.

The Paradox cane patterns that I have seen consist of three  triangle components joined together and formed into a larger triangle which comprises the cane.  A big problem many people face when assembling a paradox cane is putting the three component triangles together to form a larger triangle.   After you select your clay, arrange it in accordance with the method you are using,  and form it into a square, you are normally directed to  form that square into a triangle, reduce it, and cut the triangle into three pieces to form the final cane.

 

And this is where the problem comes in. Most people think Equilateral  triangle when they think of a triangle, but that won’t work here with the Paradox cane.  Instead, think Isosceles triangle.  Like this. 4IsoscelesTriangle

From there, it’s easy to alter the triangle as per the instructions, cut the cane into thirds, and then fit the three pieces together into a triangle for the final cane.

 

 

 

ThreeIsocelesTrianglesTogetherForming Isosceles triangles enables you to bring the edge of each component triangle right up to the edge of the neighboring component triangle.  The sections in the middle are pinched into wave shapes that interlock and become solid when all the components are joined and compressed into a larger  triangle which forms the cane.

Paradox

And the cane is done!  From there, you decide how you want to reassemble and/or reduce your creation.Paradox 2 canes