Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Many Wonders of Nature

The March Challenge of the PCAGOE is Nature. That is a wide subject that could be interpreted in as many ways as there are artists who choose to do so. At first, when I thought I had a lot of time, I thought of making spring goddesses or elaborate scenes of lakes and mountains. As usual life had other plans and this time it took the form of a bathroom remodeling. Worst case scenario it will take 3 days, they said. Ha! We are a full 8 days later and we are finally seeing the light. Technically, we are seeing the lights in the ceiling being reinstalled properly and the shower curtains being put up. It will look all spiffy once I paint and clean it up and that could take a while. The deadline approached fast and I had to think of something else. Thank God this challenge is so flexible. Nature has a widespread range like that.
I've been making these sewing pins, which I talked about in the last post. They are so efficient when I quilt and sew. This past week I introduced them to my quilting guild and they bought them all. I needed more and necessity met opportunity. In Nature you find fruit. How hard could it be?
I've never done much in the line of miniatures. I'm not a girly-girl much and have always thought of miniatures as a way of making little charms life cupcakes and Pokemon. Well, aren't I the surprised and humbled child when I attempt making these small versions of every day fruit. I tried making a cane of orange slices. That did not go as well as I would have hoped and we won't even mention the poor version of the strawberry cane. I know that with a little more practice I will be fine. I lift my hat to those who make these to be so realistic and yummy looking.
Therefore, I offer my humble creation of oranges, lemons and apples. They will serve their purpose of making pinning fabric much more comfortable on my poor hands and that is a much appreciated purpose indeed. These challenges are about growth both artistic and personal. I have met mine, bowing to those who have made creating miniatures an art. I will study the masters and keep trying. I may even start my next challenge's project earlier this time to give myself more leeway. Stranger things have happened!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ironcraft- Love is in the Air!

These past 2 weeks have just flown by. I always think I have more time than I do. For this Ironcraft challenge, we were to make something for someone we love. I decided to make something I love for someone I love. The pin cushion I made earlier and they are very popular with the crafters that come to the Artisans Shows that I do during the year. What is new are the sewing pins. I've always used the ones with the little metal knob on the ends and have sore fingers when I use them for a long time. I was looking at them, wondering how I could keep these things from hurting my fingers and it came to me that I could add polymer clay to make a flat end. I'd seen them in stores a couple of times, wondering what the fuss was all about. They were expensive compared to the other ones. I had seen many quilting videos where the artists were using the flat ones instead of the ones I had. So, I added some clay to the ends of a couple of my pins. From the minute that I tried them I was a convert for sure. They are so much easier on the fingers! And I can make them into any color and shape that I want.
These are for my daughter. She does not sew much now but I made them for when she does decide to exercise her right to make stuff. She has the soul of an artist but for now, ipods and makeup are more enticing than sitting and sewing. I can wait. The pins will be there when she needs them.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

I'm Ready For Mardi Gras!

The January PCAGOE Challenge  is masks. They are not my favorite thing. I don't like to wear them. I'm too claustrophobic for that. Don't really like them on other people as well. They kind of scare me. Never sure what is hidden behind them. I do love a challenge though.
Zentangling has been a new past time for me lately.  I drew my inspiration from that. If you are not familiar with zentangling is it called a yoga for the brain. It is a great creative tool for me. It's doodling with a certain freedom that drawing wouldn't allow. It's very restorative.
This mask was constructed on a homemade mask form made from foil and paper. I started with a very thin veneer of black and white stripes. This is the thinnest I've ever worked with, the thinnest on my pasta machine. I wanted to see how it withstand the handling once it was cured. I also was thinking about the clay I would add on top and didn't want to start too thick. The black and white stripes crackled while I was getting it that thin and from far it looks like newspaper. Adding black and white stripes, triangles, squares and circles to make repetitive patterns on the mask I made shapes that I found pleasing. I then added some mica powders to give it a silvery sheen in some spots.
The next step was a spur of the moment idea and I love the way it turned out. The thinness of the base clay gave me concern. After the curing, I was afraid it couldn't be handled without breaking. And I was concerned about how comfortable it would be to wear the mask. Having clay so close to your face would be uncomfortable for me. So I glued a piece of felt to the back and blanket stitched the felt to the mask, all around the edges. I added a silk ribbon on both sides to tie it up It makes the mask much more comfortable and add strength to the clay.
Voila! We are ready for Mardi Gras. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Happy Anniversary Ironcraft!

Well, I'm back with the Ironcraft bunch, given a challenge to make something every 2 weeks. I think this is my 3rd year and I love the challenges and all I learn from them. I had stopped during the holidays-artisans-shows season and am now ready to play.
For a 4th anniversary the traditions of gift giving is of flowers, fruit or appliances. I chose flowers and coupling this with my ongoing self-teaching of quilting, I present to you my Color Wheel Flower Quilt. It was fun to make, I especially like the gradation of colors in the fabrics. They are all from my scrap pile. When I started this project, what was supposed to be a wheel turned into a flower. I didn't follow instructions. Not that I knew that until it was too late. Reading quilting patterns is a skill that I have to learn. It isn't as easy at it looks.
So, finding myself with only half of the color panels I needed, I decided to make it look like I knew what I was doing and I made a flower instead of a wheel. I think it turned out very well and as far as the quilting lesson I got the general idea. I also re-affirmed that I need so much more practice. Patience and compassion are to be my motto for a long time to come and humour, can't forget humour. I'm going to need that too!
And what about you? Have you ever decided to go with the flow when you made a mistake on a project? Did you like the results?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Let There Be Light!

Christmas is a couple of days away and getting this piece in to the PCAGOE Challenge is part of my getting ready for the holidays. Winter solstice is all about the light coming back so I see a good omen about making a piece that will diffuse light. The skies have been gray way too often around here so more light is what we all need.
This piece was inspired by a ceramic bowl I saw on The Polymer Arts newsletter. I had already played a bit with the idea of removing clay from a bowl to let light through and was spurred on by the inspiration from Sage Bray. My first attempt was done this summer and I wasn't happy with the outcome and had let it sit so I could brew a solution to my discontent. My second attempt was closer but not quite the shape I had in my mind. My third and final attempt (the challenge due date was upon me) came out just right. In the end, I did manage to save the first two, turning them into pieces that I like. These last weeks of my 2014 Bowls Challenge are seeing me finishing pieces I made this year that were not quite right or not to my liking.
The final piece is a multi-baked creation. I first baked the inside shape, then the outside elements were baked later. In all, the piece went in three times. What puzzles me the most is that the clay on the outside started out white. But each time it went in the oven it came out a little darker. It didn't burn but it's like the dark copper of the inside leached through to the white. I've never heard of that happening but that is certainly what it looks like. As most of my pieces, I ended liking it that way quite a bit. The "leaves" or "blades of grass" on the outside were treated to a little crackle paint to lighten them up and give them a contrasting texture to the pod like, spongy texture of the top part. I'm quite pleased with the results and it looks very cool in the dark all lit up. I use a battery tea-light and it flickers just a little. I'd like to thank all of those who have followed this Bowls Challenge for 2014 and I still have not decided which challenge I will  choose for 2015. I learned so much about my art, my capabilities, about the medium by doing this series that I want to choose another theme that will continue my education and bring me that much further to finding my own voice. Now, all we can do is notice the days getting longer! Happy Christmas everyone!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Carving Myself a Little Peace

This month's challenge for the PCAGOE lived up to its name again! I had never tried carving, well, that is not entirely true, I had tried, had made a big mess and moved on to better things. So, this time, not backing away from a challenge, I tried again. I knew there were 2 ways to go about this, I could carve on raw clay or cured clay. Having sculpted a bit by making marks on raw clay I tried that first. Getting the work to appear carved, like with a chisel, on raw Premo did not turn out like I thought. The clay is soft and the overall shape gets distorted and I wanted to continue on making bowls and the exercise did not work well. So I baked that so I could compare it to the carvings on baked clay.
I was surprised when the cured clay worked out better than the raw clay. It is laborious using those carving tools to take away a little of the clay at a time without taking away too much as not to mar up the design. Carefully, slowly I carved my design into my baked bowl. It was rather zen to slow down and feel the clay through the tool. In this busy time of year, it was an exercise in taking my time which I gravely needed to remind me to relax a little and enjoy my work.
My design was inspired by Christmas and this song I heard on Facebook. Reba McIntyre is a favorite country singer of mine and she has this video of a new song, "Pray for Peace". It is a simple melody which sings like a prayer that is repeated often. You can listen if you wish, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A29S6cn0nig .
I decided to make a bowl that reflected the spirit of the holidays and drew a bird holding an olive branch with the words PEACE on the bottom. It is made to stand on a table with a plate holder. The back is polymerized gauze fabric with silver stars. I find it resembles carved porcelain. I'm quite pleased with it, not only because I taught myself that I can try new things in the middle of my busiest time but also when I look at it, I hear the message of that song and that is comforting to me. So I thank Reba for writing a song that reached me and I'm sure countless others. We could all use more peace in our lives.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mandalas Are Fun!

This month's challenge on mandalas lived up to its name in spades. I couldn't pinpoint what I wanted to make. Restarted the project up to 3 times. And then I finally just let go and let the clay decide. I should have let that happen from the start but I guess I needed to go through the process.
At first I thought of making canes for the symbols I wanted to use. Making canes isn't my strength and I would have had lots to make. I was going for the 8 chakras of the body as a theme so I then thought of making 8 bowls with each chakra and then group them together somehow. However, I couldn't figure out how to group them in a cohesive manner. I knew I wanted to incorporate fabric as a background or bottom of the bowls but couldn't figure out how to make them all stay together. So, after making a couple of chakras into bowls I changed course.
Using a new found method of surface enhancement, I colored black clay in the colors of the chakras. Then using stamps with Chinese symbols of various good fortunes, I opted for making a good fortune mandala using the chakra symbols as inspiration for which good fortune stamp to use.
The top crown chakra which deals with the overall understanding is given energy. The third eye chackra is given good fortune. The throat chakra which entails communication receives friends. The fourth chakra is given truth. The fifth chakra is offered the gift of "Think". The sixth chakra which encompasses our ability to manage our stress is given passion. The seventh chakra which balances the energies in the body gets wisdom. And the eight chakra receives peace. It is fitting that these good fortunes ended up in this piece. We as Canadians and I'm sure others around the globe could use a bit more good fortune and peace in our lives.
The fabric I used to create the bottom of the bowl looks like leather. I am so pleased with it. And once again, I have plans of what I want to make and those plans are set aside and replaced by others that end up being more fitting for me and the piece. I am always amazed at that process and usually feel much better when I surrender to it.