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, .
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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ancient Drinking Bowl

This PCAGOE Challenge is a southwestern-native theme. At first I had no real idea what that meant. I had vague visions of turquoise and pinks but nothing that I could really use in a piece. I did some research with the guiding from my fellow PCAGOE members and stopped on this photo of an antique drinking vessel.
It was a bone that had been dug out to hold water. That started the idea of my own 'drinking bowl'. I chose translucent clay for the placking that happens. Usually you try to eliminate that with various techniques but this time I wanted it to happen. I then carved a stylized eagle and added it to the bottom of the bowl. The natives would use a piece of bone that had a sort of handle on it, something to hold with your hand while you scooped out the water. I incorporated that feature in the initial design and baking. I added a second layer to make it sturdier and rebaked it.

Using crackle and Lumiere paints I painted the eagle and the swirls and letters. I added little flecks of paint on the inside of the bowl as well. The piece turned out quite well. It has an 'ancient' feel to it. I envision it in a museum gift shop, something to remember all the treasures you just saw inside the museum.
As in all challenges I learn something and this one is no different. I learned that the southwest native art is not all about the color turquoise and pink. I got a bit of a history lesson in the tools they made and used to survive. I learned that their Art was symbolic of the world that surrounded them and I added that to this piece as much as I could. If you look inside the eagle's belly, she is carrying 7 eggs of what will be future blessings. Like them I like to add hope to my Art. I know that those future blessings will make me smile when I look at them later.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Made in Canada

I just celebrated my birthday lately and I always try to give myself a challenge for my new year. A lot like a New Year's Resolution but without the gym membership. This year's challenge was inspired by this September's Vogue magazine. It's been a long standing tradition of mine to buy that edition and make myself a pot of tea and peruse the pages of this "bible" of fashion. It used to be that I'd dream of owning clothes like that or to look like the models on the pages. Well, that was then and this is now. Now, I study the pages and try to decipher the trends not in clothing but in the images that portray women and what that says about us and the world we live in. I include my daughter and her little friends and ask them what they think of the pictures and the clothes and what it says to them. I get some pretty funny and honest opinions. The sociologist in me is doing an informal experiment on social norms and views.
I was reading about Fashion Week and seeing the different countries who participate in the makings of the world of fashion. I didn't see a mention about Canada or so very little about Canadian designers and thought that that was a great shame. We have many great designers and I thought of the innovative and industrious spirit of Canadians. We should be in these Vogue pages. Then I realized that most clothes even all the ones in the Vogue are really made in China or Indonesia. Not much is made in Canada anymore. And I wondered if I could buy Canadian-made anymore? So that was it! My challenge for this birth year is to only buy Canadian made clothes for myself. The cost would be higher per item then what I'm used to now but I'm past the phase of buying new clothes every week or even month so it should be fine. Since it was my birthday I'd try to find a piece or two to start me off. Well, that search was mostly fruitful in eliminating most of the stores I usually buy from.
I found one store that sell women's clothes. It's in a nearby mall, ,and has lovely clothes manufactured in Canada for their own stores. I'm sure the fabrics are not Canadian-made but it's made here which is a good start. Then I found another company who makes jeans.
They make these very comfortable jeans in Montreal and I found a store who sold them. They actually make them in my size and for a whole year's jeans budget I bought a pair that I love. The store who sells them went above and beyond in service and that is commendable.
I am pleased with my start to this challenge. Of course, I'll wear what I have now but my money is going only to Canadian-made for at least one year. Is this going to get Canadian designers in the Vogue pages? Maybe not but it will be my small act to get them there.