Monday, May 22, 2017

Wonder Woman Contest...

I grew up watching Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.  My sisters took turns playing her, roping each other (and me) with the Lasso of Truth, and floating dolls with fishing line to recreate the invisible jet.  Cardboard tubes painted gold became the Bracelets of Submission.  Sometimes our mom even joined in on the game!  I grew up watching a strong female character empower girls to be heroes and save the day instead of needing to be saved.  I didn't know it then, but early on it instilled in me a sense of gender equality.  Women could be strong and powerful.  Women could be courageous and bold.  Later, when I started to learn about feminism, I found that those concepts already lived in me.  Our childhood games, inspired by a TV show, prepared us.

Over the decades, I've been surprised that there weren't real efforts to reboot the series or portray Wonder Woman on the big screen.  It seemed like there was always a Batman or Superman movie coming out, but it was curious how Wonder Woman's character never seemed to be revived.  That's why I got very excited when I heard that they were working on a movie about her!

To celebrate the release of the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, Allegory Gallery is hosting a little contest!*

Create a piece of jewelry inspired by Wonder Woman and be entered to win a $40 gift certificate from Allegory Gallery! Send a picture and a short description to us before NOON EST on June 2nd for a chance to win! One winner will be selected and announced at midnight. Send your submission to info@allegorygallery.com. 

The fun doesn't end there! The Allegory Gallery crew is going to the movies! Want to hang out with us and watch the film? Join us at the Diamond Theatre of Ligonier at 7PM on June 2nd for opening night! We will have Wonder Woman-inspired goodie bags while supplies last! Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for children 10 and under, and an additional $4 per seat for VIP seating! We hope to see you at the movies!

*Disclaimer: This contest is not associated, affiliated, and/or sponsored by Atlas Entertainment, Cruel & Unusual Films, DC Entertainment, or DC Comics.

Ligonier Art Walk...

I'm getting excited for the Ligonier Art Walk!  The event is coming up soon and is only a handful of days away!  Allegory Gallery is participating with a bunch of other venues on Saturday, May 27th to celebrate art and creativity.  We are pleased to represent Chicago-based modern folk artist, Mystele Kirkeeng.  Her mixed media pieces are truly inspiring.  We hope that people will come out and show their support for the arts in our area!  We would love to have people join us for this awesome opportunity to see and experience artwork!

Resin Reliquary Class...

We had a fun day at the Allegory Gallery Reliquary Doll Class!  Since I'm not at the store anymore on a regular basis, I don't often teach much these days.  (Even though I didn't always teach formal classes, it always seemed like I was sitting down with someone to show them how to make something.)  It was definitely good to connect with people over creativity and hopefully give them some useful techniques that they'll be able to add to their art-making tool boxes.  We had a delightful group!  We didn't all finish our projects, even after working hard all day, but I hope everyone had a good time and is set-up for success and can complete their projects independently.

I hope that they'll share pictures of their work when they're done!  All of the students did an excellent job and had some really interesting concepts going.  All they have to do is bring everything together.  Here are a few pictures from the class:
Process pictures from the Reliquary Doll Class.

Lennis Carrier and Andrew Thornton at the Reliquary Doll class.

Chris Harris at the Reliquary Doll Class.

Lennis Carrier with her bird-head at the Reliquary Doll Class.

Alison Adorns with her creation at the Reliquary Doll Class.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Inspired by Reading: April Reveal...

For April, the Inspired by Reading Book Club read a delightfully interconnected novel by Armistead Maupin called, "Tales of the City".  The book starts off with one of the main characters deciding to stay in San Francisco during the mid-70's.  She finds an apartment in a house presided over by the ever-so quirky landlord, Anna Madrigal.  From there, it introduces a wonderfully vibrant cast of characters and weaves their lives together.  I love how rich the depictions were and even though the book is over 40 years old, it didn't seem dated or stale.  This isn't always the case; sometimes I'll pick up "great works of the day" and once they're out of context or the buzz has died down, they seem to lose their zip and sparkle.  Not so with this title!  Maupin worked his magic and flash-froze the era filled with zesty details.

Here is my submission for "Tales of the City".  It's a long, strung necklace with rose quartz, amethyst, brass, vintage Czech glass, and polymer clay by me. The polymer clay beads feature a paisley cane pattern that I made.  I was inspired by Anna Madrigal and her flamboyant, bohemian style and her purple kimonos and purple paisley dressing gowns.  I also thought the amethyst was a nice nod to the references about being in the Age of Aquarius. (Amethyst is the birthstone for Aquarius.)  The brown is an allusion to the brown shingles of the building, which one of the characters says is like bear fur.  Rose quartz is usually used to symbolize love and friendship, which are central themes in the book.  I used a yellow brass as a nice contrast to the purples. The flower bead caps remind me of a 70's floral print and dress up the polymer.  I strung the piece so that there's no beginning or end, a nod to the way all the stories seem to circle back on each other and connect.

I really liked the book! (There were definitely some sketchy characters I didn't like, but I was charmed by most of the lavishly fleshed out figures that populate Maupin's world.) I loved how nuanced and detailed all the characters were and how the book captures the vibe of mid-70's, post-Summer of Love San Francisco. I definitely want to read more in this series!

To find out more about our book club, CLICK HERE.  You can also join our Facebook page by CLICKING HERE.  Up next is, "Mistborn: The Final Empire" by Brandon Sanderson.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Book Club Tips...

GoRead.com did a feature on book clubs and Allegory Gallery's very own Inspired by Reading was featured in it!  I was happy to be interviewed about our book club and share it with others.  The article had some really great insights on running a successful book club.  To read the post, CLICK HERE.  And to join our Facebook group for Inspired by Reading, CLICK HERE.

Small Business in Rural America...

Remember this little gem of press?  Allegory Gallery was featured alongside the Amazing Race-winning, goat-raising, book-writing, TV show-making, fabulous Beekman Boys in an article called, "Small Business Ownership in Rural America: Where Community is Everything."  The post appeared on the Insureon blog and I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for it.  The piece does an excellent job of outlining some of the benefits and challenges of having a small business in a rural area.  To take a look, CLICK HERE.  You'd think that a blog by an insurance company would be just about... well... insurance, but it's actually packed with all kinds of useful small business tips and interesting spotlights.  For instance, there's THIS post about small business activism.  As a small business owner, I've found their content super fascinating!

Friday, April 07, 2017

Make It Artsy: Episode 212...

One of the things that I wanted to do when I got asked to appear on Make It Artsy was to help promote and shine a light on other artists.  I firmly believe that the rising tide raises all boats.  This project dovetailed perfectly with that intention.  Episode 212 is all about your personal style.  In my segment, I feature a collaborative fabric book project that spotlights your individual artistic aesthetic and documents creative explorations in various mediums.  I show how to get started and share examples of the fabric book pages.  The examples highlight work by Kecia Deveney and Lynne Suprock!

The new series has already started airing and you can catch it on most public television channels.  Check your local listings to see if you can watch Make It Artsy where you are.  (And if you can't, do be kind and suggest it to your local PBS channel.)  Of course, you can always see my slice of the show above (through YouTube) and you can get the full instructions and see examples created by Kelly Russell simply by CLICKING HERE.

Make It Artsy: Episode 210...

Episode 210 of Make It Artsy is all about wearing your artwork.  The episodes also include segments with Candie Cooper, Susan Lenart Kazmer, and Jane Dunnewold.  In this short mini-segment, I show how to create a necklace from fabric book pages.  If you want to see the fabric books, tune in to Episode 212.  The 200 series started airing on March 30th!  Make sure to check your local listings to see when and where you can see it where you live.  If you can't access the show near you, take a gander above (through YouTube) or check their website.  CLICK HERE to visit their page.

Make It Artsy: Episode 207...

I was fortunate enough to be able to appear on Public Television's Make It Artsy.  It was a lot of fun.  Episode 207 is all about books!  In my segment, I show how to create a sculptural book cover.  The new series started airing on March 30th.  Check your local listings for channels and times.  If you can't find it locally, you can see my portion above through YouTube and on their website.  CLICK HERE to visit the Make It Artsy website.  You can get full instructions on how to make this by CLICKING HERE.

Catching Up...

There was a time when missing a day of blogging would make me panic a little... let alone a month or more!  At one point, I was posting three or four times a day.

In addition to taking some time off from the internet to ground and center, I've been posting more on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Now that I have a smart phone and reliable internet, it is so easy to upload ideas and images to those forums.  I still miss blogging though and I see how the act of blogging has helped me a lot in organizing my thoughts.  It takes a little time and forces you to pick your words and not fire off so easily.  With some of the other ways that I share the inner workings of my brain, it is dangerously easy to get in trouble by reacting and posting without really being mindful.  That can happen with blogging too, but I feel like there's more work in composing a post and formatting it, that those extra steps help alleviate some of those rash put-your-foot-in-your-mouth moments.

I also see blogging as a valuable tool to preserve things.  I've noticed that some of the other social media platforms are somewhat ephemeral and you have to really dig to find content that you created that you're looking for.  For instance, if I was curious about what I did at any given point throughout the many years of blogging, all I'd have to do is search the date and there it'd be.  It's a little bit harder with the more immediate platforms.

So, I'm going to be more mindful about posting here as well, even if the content is duplicated.  (Sorry folks who follow me in multiple places!)  I imagine it'll take some time to get back into the rhythm of posting on a regular basis.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Deeper Roots...

When I was growing up, we didn't have a lot of money and there were problems at home. Books were one of my safe places. In them, I could escape any trouble and let my imagination run wild. Reading was a gift that helped me better myself.  I found my wings in the pages of books and those wings could take me anywhere!

I was lucky that the librarians at my school didn't mind my insistent questions. When I had exhausted our library and sought deeper insight on subjects, my librarian said, "You know, there is a bigger library."

I used to bum rides with neighbors and even my older sister's boyfriend at the time. When that failed, I would ride my bike five miles along a busy highway and then five miles back when they kicked me out. I can see my 10-year old self with my ratty combat boots, cut-off denim shorts, a Dollar Store "Welcome to Florida" t-shirt, and a backpack held together with safety pins and patches, peddling frantically across one of the most dangerous intersections in the county. Sometimes I would treat myself with a can of Sprite and a roll of Lifesavers purchased at the 7-Eleven down the street. This was luxury to me – a can of warm soda, hard candy, and a book.

Education is so important, especially in these uncertain times. Reading opened my eyes to the possibility that I could make my life better. I could create any world that I wanted. I could overcome anything, if I embraced my imagination and let it fly.

That's why when I heard about the Ligonier Valley School District Foundation and their efforts to help raise money for the local Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, I jumped at the opportunity to help.  Winter is a slow time of year at the shop and we don't have a lot of extra money right now, so I gave what we could, but I still wanted to do more.  So, I embraced my imagination and creativity and created these Deeper Roots Pendants.

They're made out of polymer clay and feature a quote by Dolly Parton.  It reads, "storms make trees take deeper roots".  I love the words, the message, and the symbolism; I thought that it was very fitting for this project as well.  We'll donate all our profits from the sales of these pendants to this fundraiser to hopefully increase our contribution.  To see the pendant in our Etsy shop, CLICK HERE.  To learn more about the fundraiser and to donate directly, CLICK HERE.

Please consider helping another kid out there find a safe place in the power of words and give them wings to soar!

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Broken Things...

I've always had a soft spot for broken things – the things that get left behind, discarded, or passed over.  And it's not just with things either.  Some of my favorite people were the ones that were last in line, never picked first, and have known great hardship.  Even if we never actually talk about what we've had to endure, we look at each other and we just know.  There's a tribe of the wounded hearts and broken spirits.  There's a family of people who have had to overcome and rise up and are stronger for it.  These are my people.

When I'm making things, especially to fill an order, I usually make a few extra just in case.  I've been in situations where I've made just enough and then something happens and I'm short.  So nowadays, I make a few extra just in case.

I have a drawer that's filled with the pieces that are not perfect.  It's true that all of my pieces have little hallmarks of the human hand, tiny nicks and dings and fingerprints, but some have more than others and I pull those.  I don't want a customer to question the quality if they got one that was defective.  So I keep the broken ones.  And I have to admit, sometimes they're my favorite.  I never sell them, but I keep them and mend them and make them whole again.

In Japan, they have a method called, "kintsugi".  It's also called, "kintsukuroi".  It's a technique of repairing broken pottery and ceramics with a lacquer mixed with gold.  Instead of discarding or hiding a broken piece, it celebrates them and elevates them.


For instance, I recently made a bunch of these bronze coins.  Sometimes when I'm pressing them out, there are certain areas that are thinner than others.  And sometimes in the firing process, the area is so thin that it burns away and leaves a little fissure.  I can't sell them like that, so I keep them.

I keep them for a rainy day, when I have time to sit down with them and see how I can help.  Usually things hang around a long while before I get back to them.  I so rarely have free time and sometimes the fixes are easy and sometimes they're more involved.  So that drawer is awfully full.

With these pendants, I ended up patching up the tears in the coins.  I soldered them shut with a few metal shavings.  Even though I've fixed them, they're still a little wonky.  I won't sell them.  I'll just hold on to them for myself or maybe I'll leave them some place, so that just the right person will find them and hopefully cherish them in all their imperfect glory as much as I do.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

New Fine Silver Pendants...

I've been on a roll lately working on things.  I should be making other stuff, but I've learned not to ignore the muses while they're present.  So I ran with the inspiration and produced several limited edition pieces.

We recently rewatched the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Even decades later, the show remains relevant.  This is both good and bad.  I think it's good, because so often popular entertainment can lose its magic once the then current events have passed and seem woefully dated.  I watched a satyrical comedy show from the 70's not too long ago and unless you are keyed into what was happening (sometimes so specifically as that week the episode aired), the punchlines fall flat.  The Mary Tyler Moore Show continues to be enjoyable and poignant many years later.  How can that be bad, you might ask?  Well, a lot of themes of the show center around women's rights and equality.  When you see Mary's character struggle for equal pay as one of her male counterparts and realize that that STILL happens is mind-blowing and a little frustrating.

In any event, when we heard that Mary Tyler Moore passed away, we were both saddened by the news.  We also rewatched the Dick Van Dyke Show and enjoyed her performance on that show as well.  Mary Tyler Moore was an advocate for the arts, for health, and animals.  She was really a remarkable person and I was moved to create this pendant.

I carved a stamp that says, "Love is all around".  This comes from the lyrics of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, the chorus being: "Love is all around, no need to waste it.  You can never tell, why don't you take it.  You're gonna make it after all.  You're gonna make it after all."  I think it's an important message to remember.  Love IS all around and each of us has to reach out and take it.  CLICK HERE to check in out on our online shop.

I originally carved this dragon to be included in my polymer clay and porcelain line.  (And even faux porcelain!  CLICK HERE to see the faux porcelain dragon pieces with the cool green celadon-inspired color.)  Dragons are curious creatures and exist in several different cultures around the world.  Depending on the culture (and the type of dragon), their symbolism changes, but a general feel of what they represent is power, strength, and courage.  They are also guardians and protectors and often times stand sentinel over mysteries, secrets, and treasure.  Dragons are often associated with the elements and are thought of as timeless.  This dragon looks like an air dragon to me.  To me, it represents a fearsome courage and freedom.  If you can face your fears, you can bask in great riches.  I've been feeling the need to call upon the dragon totem lately and as a result, I decided to make one for myself.  While I was at it, I thought others might enjoy it, so I made a few extra.  CLICK HERE to see it in our Etsy shop.

Life isn't always easy.  While there are many blessings in this world, it can seem as though there are as many or more bad things lurking out there.  It can be overwhelming and totally consuming if you let it.  The darkness sometimes feels so oppressive.  We can either give into this or we can chose to shine brightly.  To be a light in the dark isn't easy.  It requires us to draw power from a deeper place and be mindful to nurture and protect this tender flame.  In the middle of the night, when shadows loom tall and ominous and everything is swathed in a velvety blackness, a shiver of fear creeps down your spine, as you miss the warmth, radiance, and reassurance of life given from the sun... but even on the darkest of nights, pinpricks of light can be found burning defiantly in the dark.  This pendant is a reminder to "be a light in the dark".  CLICK HERE to take a closer gander at it.

One of my friends and customers recommended that I make a unicorn pendant.  Sometimes suggestions strike a cord and other times they don't.  This one hit home and I started carving immediately.  The unicorn is a really fascinating fantastical creature.  It symbolizes purity, grace, healing, joy, and life.  At the same time, it can also represent protection and strength.  The unicorn is often depicted as a guardian of magic and faith.  The unicorn has even been used to tell the story of Jesus in the Unicorn Tapestries.  For a fun read, check out Zombies VS. Unicorns.  Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier edited this anthology of colorful short stories by some of the leading contemporary young adult authors.  

I've got an order to make a few more of these in bronze, but once these are gone, I think I'll retire the design (at least for now).  It's not that I don't like it.  I do!  I just think that sometimes things, like unicorns, are special because they're rare.  I go through phases where I want to make a million of one thing so that everyone can get one and then there are times when I just want to make one or a precious handful.  CLICK HERE to get one while you still can!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Music to Make To: How I Learned to See in the Dark...

A map of the heart often reveals a moody landscape, studded with shadowy regions.  Chris Pureka explores this darker terrain with her rhythmic acoustic guitar strumming and haunting voice. Her smoky crooning is punctuated by passionate wavering notes, alternating from the feathery to the ringing.  Some of the songs are punchy like Broken Clock and others are more forlorn like, Time Is the Anchor.  Her music exposes something raw and vulnerable.  Underneath it all, there is a sense of optimism – of someone reaching out in the dark, hoping to find contact.

Chris Pureka
April 13, 2010

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Music to Make To: Servant of Love...

What is love, but a mix of emotions?  Sometimes fearsome, sometimes nostalgic... Patty Griffin's album is like that.  She dives into rocking tunes that call the listener to stomp their feet and shake their fists, and delivers melodic contemplations of hate crime violence that make your heart break, like in Good and Gone.  The album is kissed with happier songs, like Made of the Sun and Shine a Different Way making a bittersweet smile cross your face.  One of my favorites from the album is 250,000 Miles; it feels almost like a spiritual chant that hums with electricity and builds into a spiraling frenzy.

Patty Griffin
September 25, 2015

Friday, January 27, 2017

Music to Make To: Tracy Chapman...

The first time that I heard music from this self-titled album, we were (coincidentally) driving in a fast car. Fast Car was playing on the radio and after it had finished, I was blown away.  "Who was that?"  I wasn't used to music with deep, social awareness being played on Pop radio.  Later, when I listened to the entire album, it continued to pull at my heart and mind.  Tracy Chapman addressed often hard to talk about topics: racism, classism, and sexuality.  Set to music though, sometimes catchy and sometimes starkly haunting, the message was smoothly conveyed and helped break down barriers.  Proof of this came years later while attending a concert.  The opening band (whose name I can no longer remember) played covers and one of them was, Fast Car.  The audience, mostly white and affluent, erupted into cheers at the opening cords and belted out the lyrics from memory.  It was truly remarkable to see an artist's talent, even filtered through another group of musicians, transport people.

Tracy Chapman
April 5, 1988

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Music to Make To: Revelling/Reckoning...

The first time I heard this album, I didn't know what to think.  It was different from the earlier Ani Difranco music that I had already loved.  But the more that I listened to it, I appreciated the great breathe and diversity of the artist.  The album contains a mix of rousing, energetic anthems and sweeping ballads.  My favorite song from this collection of songs is Grey.  It punches me in the gut every time I listen to it... and I tend to listen to it over and over again.

Ani Difranco
April 10, 2001

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Polymer Clay Daily Blog...

If you're not already acquainted with the Polymer Clay Daily blog, you should be!  Cynthia Tinapple, an amazing talented polymer clay artist and blogger, does a marvelous job covering the polymer clay world and has been doing so for over twelve years!  There's a treasure trove of information and inspiration over there and I totally recommend you checking it out, if you haven't done so already!

I was lucky enough to have my Marching Baby Dragon featured in her post, "Marching as one in polymer".  How delightful and what a lovely surprise!  CLICK HERE to take a look.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Marching Baby Dragon...

Pussyhat Project Baby Dragon by Andrew Thornton.  SOLD
I won't be able to march on Saturday, but I wanted to show my support for the Women's March on Washington (and other major cities) and the Pussyhat Project.  I believe that women's rights are equal rights. I am a supporter and an ally.  I created this baby dragon sculpture sporting the iconic pink hat out of polymer clay to represent my commitment to the cause!

Alternative views of the Pussyhat Project Dragon by Andrew Thornton.
To start, I layered a mixture of polymer clays over an armature to create the sculpture.  I work in an additive/subtractive style, building up clay and taking it away as necessary.  Focusing on larger shapes first, I add progressively detailed layers as I work.  Texture is applied at every step.  Once the sculpting is finished and cured, I then add color with paints and pigments.  I paint in a similar fashion to the way I sculpt – establishing shadows first and then color blocking the major areas, and then going back and building up gradations of color.  Then I create highlights to accentuate the details and embellish with metallics.  I use heat to set the paints and finally, once everything is dried and cooled, I seal the piece.  It's not really necessary to seal the sculpture, as the paints are pretty durable, but I like to add it as a protective measure.

Close-ups of the face of the sculpture by Andrew Thornton.
While most of the sculpture is made of polymer clay, I do use glass taxidermy eyes.  I really like the depth and shine you can get with glass.  I've experimented with polymer to make eyes and while they're perfectly fine, I like the contrast of materials and even though it is a small detail, I think it enhances the overall look of the piece.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Kiva...

We know firsthand the power a little help can offer.  Over the course of our business, we have received so much support and encouragement.  We are profoundly grateful and wanted to give back and help spread the positive energy!  We joined Kiva to do just that.  If you're not familiar with Kiva, it is a nonprofit that connects people to lending options to alleviate poverty and grow prosperity.  Kiva works with countries all over the world and tackles a wide range of needs.

One can help someone start a business, grow their business, attend school, rebuild their house... there's really an incredible array of projects to help fund.  Lending options start as low as $25 and the original loan's impact can be grown exponentially as the repayment can be used to fund other micro-loans.  We don't have a lot of extra money, but we've decided to set aside a portion of every sale and use part of that to help others achieve their dreams!

To find out more and to get started, CLICK HERE.  Even though we can't contribute to every cause, I really enjoyed reading the stories about other people who want to better their lives and want to work hard to make that happen!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Wings of Fate and Destiny...

When I was younger, I was blissfully unaware of death.  I felt immortal.  I hadn't really lost anyone who was close to me and while I understood the concept of death, it always seemed at a distance.  But as time progressed, my own body betrayed me and my circle of beloved family and friends felt blow after blow of loss.  Death didn't seem so foreign after all.

Instead of dwelling on the hurt and eventual mortality of all living things, I instead wanted to use death as a reminder of the beauty of life.  It's not a new concept.  Memento Mori ("remember that you have to die") goes back centuries.  It is a call to live a good life and focus on the positive.  It was once used as a teaching tool to instruct people to focus on salvation of their immortal soul instead of their earthly body.  To me it is the shadow that makes the light all the more brilliant.  The darkness is a part of the light, and each aspect must be appreciated and acknowledged.

Moths are symbols of intuition, dreams, and visitations.  They are also symbols of faith and determination.  They are also reminders of the shortness of life.  Particularly the death's head hawkmoth.  There are many different species of death's head hawk moths, each with their own scientific name relating in some part to death, but the one I was most drawn to was the Acherontia atropos.  Atropos is one of the three Moirai (or Fates).  She is the goddess responsible for cutting the threads of life.  While some may fear her, and in essence fear death, we all must die – it's how we live that matters.

I wasn't intending on making these in fine silver.  I originally had wanted to add them to my polymer clay and porcelain designs, but I had a few grams leftover in an open package and instead of sealing it up and waiting for another design and another day to use it on (it's never quite the same afterward), I decided to seize the day and press a few out.  I'm happy that I did.  They look like little pools of moonlight and fit the design perfectly.

If you're interested in taking a look at them in our online shop, CLICK HERE.

The Right Words...

I once saw an interview with Oprah about what a typical day looks like in her life.  She said that she liked to take a few moments in the morning to partake in inspirational reading and offer her mind and spirit up to something greater than herself.  That really stuck with me and I try to do the same.  I try to find a few minutes each day to meditate or do some reading about everything from creativity, to religion.  Sometimes it's an artist's biography or a bit of Eastern Philosophy... whatever it is, I try to find pieces of writing that speak to the heart.

Yesterday was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  I decided to pick up, Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  To me, the words struck a cord.  Right now we live in a rather tumultuous time.  While it might not seem like it on the surface, filled with our First World Problems, under the shiny veneer is a lot of uncertainty.  I know that this uncertainty isn't shared by all.  I recently had a conversation with someone who said that we were beginning a new era of prosperity and freedom.  I have my doubts though.  I think nearly everyone who is "different" has those same doubts.  When words of hate and injustice are sounded out clearly from the highest office in the country, there is a real fear.  As a minority and someone who has only recently gained equal rights, all I can do is hope for the best and work on my level to reaffirm what I believe is right and true.

One of the quotes that stuck out to me was, "We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right."  While the intention of these words was to stir social equality and gain human rights, I think that this quote can apply to all aspects of life.  Every moment is an opportunity to make something, instead of tearing something down.  Every second is a second that could be spent giving ourselves to something greater.

I was so moved by these words that I decided to put them down in silver, as a reminder and a touchstone.  I carved the mold, pressed them out in fine silver metal clay, fired them in the kiln, and then painstakingly hand-buffed and polished each coin.  While I did so, I tried to focus on positive energy and direct action.  I tried to fill them up with all my best wishes and positive intentions.  I tried to push my feelings of doubt and fear down and away and use my time creatively.

I made one for myself, but I always try to make a few more just in case.  CLICK HERE to take a look at them in the online shop and if you're so inclined, to get one for yourself.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Broken Heart Into Art...

I remember a time when my friends and I would patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) await the awards lists for things like the Oscars and the Golden Globes.  We then would try our best to see all the movies nominated and would have big parties with our own ballots filled out with special prizes for those with the most correct wins.  One of our friends got so into it that he painted himself gold from head to toe to look like the Oscar statuette!  (We had to throw down a sheet over the couch so that he could finally sit down!)

Over the years, I've fallen out of touch with what's going on in Hollywood.  I still watch movies and try to keep up with what looks interesting to me, but I'm not quite so fanatical as I used to be.  I don't watch the award shows now and we don't have hours-long parties anymore.

This year, I did however see Meryl Streep's acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award during the recent Golden Globe Awards.  I was really moved by her words.  I thought of my own mother and how she traveled around the world to start a new life in America.  I thought of my own tribe and the wonderful and diverse characters that populate it.  But I was particularly touched by her tribute to Carrie Fisher.

"Take your broken heart; make it into art."

I listened to these words and my fingers sprung into action.  This is a sentiment that I also share.  I believe that you've got to take what is broken, what hurts, and what is in pain and transform it into a thing of art.  I know that I try to do this in my everyday life and encourage others to do it too.  There is so much in this world that has disintegrated and lays in fragments – only the act of creation can mend the things that ache and bleed and truly turn them into something more, something better, something beautiful.

I turned the quote into a pendant out of bronze clay.  I liked the idea that it starts off one way and then, when it is subjected to fire and heat, all that is inessential burns off and what is left is transformed.  It is solid and whole.  Each pendant is unique even though I've used a mold to make them.  They've got my fingerprints stamped on the backs and there are little nicks and dings and they aren't "perfect".  I like that there are these little hallmarks of the artist.  The give the pieces history and character.  When you hold them in your hand, you can tell that they were not made by a machine, but were made by an artist with love.  They tell a story about a person who wanted to fix what was broken and make the world a little bit better.

If you're interested in taking a look (and possibly getting one for yourself), we've listed the pendants online.  They are available by CLICKING HERE.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Make It Artsy Article...

Pick up a copy of the latest issue of the Ligonier Echo!  In it, you'll find an article about me and my appearance on the show, Make It Artsy.  I had a great time and hope people enjoy the segments!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Make It Artsy...

In the whirlwind of the holidays, I was remiss in posting about something really cool that happened!  Back in June, I ran into Kathie Stull of KS Productions at a luncheon in Milwaukee.  I met her when I did a few segments for the TV show, Beads, Baubles and Jewels.  She's really an amazing woman who has championed a lot of craft-based public television.  We got to chatting and she told me about a new show that they were working on called, Make It Artsy.  She mentioned that she would like to have me come on as a guest.  You never really know how things are going to pan out and I sort of mentally filed it away.  A few months later, she contacted me again and asked if I was still interested!  I jumped at the opportunity!

My background is in fine arts and it was nice to circle back around and showcase some of my mixed media skills.  I ended up filming two segments and one mini-segment.  In one segment, I showed how to create a resin book cover.  In another, I go over creating fabric books that are ideal for swapping, collaborating and trading.  In the mini-segment, I briefly talk about creating a mini-book out of fabric, using old artwork.  I had a really great time.  I always admire the hard work that goes into creating shows like these.  Everyone is so dedicated and I applaud the KS Productions team for everything they put into making quality how-to TV.

Above is a picture of me drilling the resin book cover with a Proxxon drill press.  I love it!  It even smells like a quality machine.  It's so precise and I love that the size is perfect for detailed work and doesn't take up a huge footprint in the studio.

I get asked all the time what resin I use and I have to admit that I have a love affair with the fast-cast resin by Amazing Casting Products by Alumilite.  I'm a smitten kitten with it!  It's sturdy, takes detail great, doesn't have a lot of air bubbles, and best of all... it sets up FAST!  When I'm working on production, the fact that it can demold in 10 minutes really is amazing!  I can really crank out pieces easily and quickly.  I also love that they have wonderful ways to add color!  They have dyes and Alumidust, which is finely ground metallic powdered pigments.  Plus, they have mold putties that are great.  They've got a nice pliability, a healthy working time (where you don't feel super rushed), and capture details beautifully.

To finish off the book cover, I used alcohol inks from Ranger.  I love the rich, saturated colors and their color palettes.  I like that the colors are more earthy and less technicolor.

With the fabric books, I was lucky enough to work with a lovely group of artists.  Not to spoil the episode, but the idea is that all the artists create a group of pages and then they swap with other artists and the books can be easily put together to form a mini-collection.  On the show, we also featured the work of Kecia Deveney and Lynne Suprock.  Other artists who participated are Kelly Russell and Gaea Cannaday and a few others!  So exciting!

The episodes will air in 2017 and I'll be sure to update folks before they come on and when they can see them air and where they can see them!

As an added bonus, Cynthia was filming at the same time and we spent time in the green room catching up.  We had a fun group in the green room!  Susan Lenart Kazmer was there, as well as Mystele Kirkeeng, Joe Rotella, Rae Missigman, and Mary Hettmansperger.  It was nice to finally meet Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.  She's very focused and is a powerhouse of energy!

Here are some candid shots in the green room:
Cynthia Thornton (my sister), Susan Lenart Kazmer, and me.

Mystele Kirkeeng and me!

Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and me (with Kecia Deveney's calendar).

Me playing with the Proxxon drill (again)!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Next Steps...

It has been a few days since the close of our fundraiser for Allegory Gallery.  There were times during the project that I didn't know if we'd make it or not.  So much in our world has been thrown into upheaval and uncertainty blossomed rampantly.  It crowded my mind.  I prepared myself mentally for the very likely chance that we wouldn't reach our goal.  I never gave up hope, but at the same time, I wanted to protect myself in case things didn't turn out...

And then something wonderful happened.  During the last few days, our forces rallied and we received so much support!  We had over 150 participants in Project: Next Step and countless others who liked, shared, and commented on our posts.  So many amazing people helped us reach our goal.

I talk a lot about gratitude.  And some may think it's an act or are tired by my constant talk of thankfulness... but I can't help it.  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  I am so deeply humbled by the incredible support and encouragement that we have received.  We are beyond blessed with so many people wanting to see us do well.  I pinch myself just to make sure I'm not dreaming.

So... what's next?

We've been making arrangements to pick up all the merchandise and I've been organizing and moving things and getting ready to make space to accommodate everything.  Since there is so much stuff, the store simply can't absorb all of it all at once.  So we'll be working to add it to our inventory both online and in the shop as quickly as we can.

We're also working like crazy to fulfill our pledge rewards.  We have so many wonderful things that we have to make and we'd like to keep it to the timeline that we posted for each reward, so we're busily working away in the background.  We'll leave the Project: Next Step page up and keep all the store links active for awhile.  There's a lot of behind the scenes costs associated with our fundraiser that went above and beyond our goal, so any pledges after this will help offset those.  There are things like travel expenses, processing fees, and material fees that we're currently covering.  CLICK HERE to see the rewards.

Now that we have reached our goal, we're starting to think of what's beyond the next step and already we have some amazing plans brewing.  The air around here is positively charged with all the possibility and future potential.  There is so much that could be and will be!

And once again... we are so thankful for all the support and positive energy that we've received.  It feels so good to know that there are people out there who have got our backs!  Thank you for making Project: Next Step a success and for helping us take the next step!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Winter Walk...

A winter walk can seem at first a bleak thing.  Everything seems swallowed up in a monochromatic blanket of snow and ice.  It's cold and the sky is gray.  All the foliage has long since dropped and fallen away.  There are no showy flowers – just a stark landscape.  But when you look closer, you see that everything is redolent with possibility.  A riot of blooms and fiery leaves are all hidden within, slumbering until just the right time and just the right conditions.

I remind myself that life can be like this sometimes.  It might not seem like much is happening, that things are uneventful or even a little monotonous.  But beneath the surface, there's a world of wonder and possibility.

Recently I ran into a couple of friends that I haven't seen for awhile and we proceeded to catch up.  They asked me what I had been up to, and I responded back that I mostly was working and that I didn't get out of the house much.  They seemed to take that as a cry for help or as if I was unhappy about my circumstances.  Far from it!  I enjoy my time spent in my studio.  I like that it is a place where I nurture deep thoughts and engage in the act of creation on a daily basis.  My studio is a gateway to a world of infinite possibilities.  My only limitation is my imagination.  In my sanctuary, I can do or make anything I can dream.  Worlds are born in the spark of my creativity and are coaxed into life.  Fanciful creatures that exist no where else are made real and are given shape and form.  Here there is a place where magic is alive and well.  I find comfort in my home and think of it as a happy place.  I like the little nest William and I have built together.  I like my life.

While there are certainly days that it would be nice to travel or have grand festivities or go on adventures, there is something to be said for a quieter season, of calm reflection and simple pleasures.      There is something to be said for winter walks on snowy, cold days.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

More Podlings...

I originally posted the Podling Ornaments on Facebook last week.  When I shared what I was working on, I had a customer request that I make 14 Podlings in the same family!  I worked on them feverishly to get them done in a timely fashion and could be enjoyed during the holiday season.

Here they are!  I think they're quite charming.  Someone said that they reminded them of chrysalises and they could imagine these Podlings metamorphosing into grown-up faerie creatures.

These are all claimed and have found their home with a friend, but there are several from the original batches that are still available.  CLICK HERE to visit the Podlings online!

Podling Ornaments...

Sometimes when I'm sad or disappointed, I turn to my work.  The magic of being an artist is that one can create the world that they wish to be in.  So, I wanted a little whimsy and magic... so I made it!

I sculpted these podling ornaments.  Each one is one-of-a-kind and the faces are all different.  I like that, like people, they are all unique and have individual expressions.  I made them in little families of five and they come in four different colorways.  I think they're pretty cute and I made them talk while I was working on them.  They told me secret things in funny little voices!

After I made them, I posted them online in our online store.  CLICK HERE to take a look.  They all come with handmade copper hanging hooks as well!

Ancient Eye Beads...

I was scrolling through Pinterest and came across these ancient glass eye beads and fell instantly and madly in love with them.  I tried to search them out with the sinking feeling that they probably belong to a museum collection or were out of my price range.  I looked and looked, but was unsuccessful in tracking them down.

It made my fingers twitch to want to make some beads that looked like these.  I love the graphic eye motif and the crustiness of the beads.  There's just something about that patina that makes my heart quicken. It conveys that these things have a story.  They are survivors of time and humanity.  When other things were lost and forgotten... these remained.

So, I set about making my own version.

I was never very good at lampwork glass and no longer have a set-up, so I moved my focus to polymer clay.  It's a magical material that can be coaxed into looking like all manner of materials.  Here is what I made:
I used all kinds of tricks to get them to look like this.  I started out by carving a mold and then pressing out the beads.  I rolled them in salt and hand-painted each bead and then did glazes and washes of antique mediums.  I wiped and sanded and altogether distressed the beads until they took on an ancient feel.

I have a feeling that these will be the first of many!  Sometimes things move you and you don't know if others will resonate with them or not.  Happily I can report that most of them found homes all over the country!  I, of course, kept some for myself!