Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Treasures from Bead&Button...

It's almost a month since I was in Milwaukee for the Bead&Button show.  It seems so long ago.  How time flies!  I was pretty consistent about updating my Facebook feed with pictures from the show, so I feel like I'd be duplicating my efforts if I posted them here.  I didn't, however, take pictures of the things that I got for myself.  I came across the bag of baggies last night while I was organizing my studio, and I thought I'd share some pictures.

I once was accused of bragging and showing off when I shared pictures of the things that I acquired and ever since then, I've been hesitant to publicly post the things that have entered my collection.  Even though it has been years since that random comment, I still think about it.  It's funny the things that stick with you.  Even so, I think it'd be fun to share some of the fun things I found.

This year I taught and while there were only two classes, between that and helping at the booth, I didn't have too much time to shop.  And the time I had to shop, I had to shop for the store more than for myself.  I did manage to come away with some nice things!

Here's a picture of the strands that I picked up at the show.  Notice the color palette?  I must have had fall on the brain, because everything I picked out had a warmer shade to it. I found some excellent garnets, rubies, heliodor, brown chalcedony, sunstone, amber, peach moonstone, hessonite garnets and faceted copper ore.

I got the fun stone fan sets on the left from Dakota Stones, the glass eyes in the center from Wayne Robbins of Mountain Robbins Art Studio, and the bumpy lampwork glass bead on the right from Karen Elmquist.

I also found some lovely metal pieces.  On the left are two bronze pieces from my family at Green Girl Studios, in the center is a sterling silver rebus bead from Anne Choi, and a little bronze forest spirit critter from the markets of Thailand via Saki Silver.

New additions to my collection also include a ceramic Day of the Dead sugar skull pendant from Michelle McCarthy of FireFly Design Studio to the left, a bumpy lampwork glass bead from Wendy Bergamin in the center, and a polymer clay mosaic bead from Erin Prais-Hintz of TreasuresFound.

The polymer clay treasures on the left come courtesy of Heather Powers of HumbleBeads and the beaded bead on the right is from Onye Ndika of Designs by Onye.

I also picked up this swank traveling beading board called a Beading Pal from Ezel Findings.  It's gorgeous and there's a space for everything!

I must admit that I found a lot of lovely things, but I think the highlight of all the treasures that were discovered during the show came in the form of two matching rose-cut natural chocolate diamonds.  I love how much character and personality they have.  Eventually these stones will be made into rings for me and William.  We've been searching and saving for awhile now.  They are just right.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Determination and Direction...

Everyday I pull a card from The Wild Unknown Tarot.  It helps focus my thoughts for the day and gets me in the appropriate mindset.  Plus, I love the illustrations by Kim Krans.  It's a beautiful deck and I could stare at the images all day.  After I pull a card, I look it up in the Guidebook.  I appreciate that the messages usually have a positive spin and even when there's an obstacle, there's also helpful hints on how to navigate troubling times.

Today I pulled the Two of Wands.  It's the card of Determination and Direction.  I smiled when I read the first line:  "With the two of wands it's clear you're on your way to success."

I spent the day quietly working, wondering about the card and the meaning.  Sometimes it isn't until after the day is done that I really understand.  When I got home, I checked my Facebook page and saw my Timeline lit up with rainbows, much like the card I pulled.  I learned that the US Supreme Court had ruled in favor of nationwide marriage equality.

I don't often talk about sexuality, least of all my own.  It is certainly something that is a part of me, but it is just one of many things that makes me who I am.  But as a gay man, I've learned to tread carefully.  Don't laugh too loud.  Don't lisp.  Don't act too effeminate.  And definitely don't express affection to another person of the same sex in a public space.  If you do, you'll draw attention to yourself and that attention could come with consequences.  I come from a generation, hopefully the last, that was brought up believing that sex was dirty and unclean and that being gay was the worst of the worst – that it was a shameful thing.  I remember hearing boogie man stories about gay men, how they preyed on children and spread disease.  I remember hearing stories of how gay men were outsiders who were tortured and murdered, left tied to fence posts on rural roads.  When I discovered my sexuality and felt all these feelings that were contrary to how I was raised, I was scared.  I didn't want to be different.

Years later and after much soul searching, I've learned to let go of what scared me.  I've had to unlearn the lessons of shame and guilt.  I had to separate the truth from the fiction, to let old myths die and let new ideas take root.  In my search for self, I had to find love.  Not just finding another to love, but loving myself.  Eventually, I embraced being "different".  It is just another part of me.  I sometimes still catch myself trying to blend in.  It's hard to completely let go of old habits.  It makes me a little sad when I see this in myself, because it is a reminder that I haven't come as far as I would like to think.  I remind myself that life is a work in progress and the journey is still not over.

Today, I pulled the Two of Wands.  I couldn't know that it meant, what it fully meant until now.  The wands form an arrow that point to a bright future, where hate and bigotry are a thing of the past.  The wands direct us to a hard won equality, where fundamental freedoms are acknowledged and respected.  Today, love is the law.  Success, indeed.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Creature Collaborations Postcards...

Last month during a trip to Asheville, I worked on a collaborative project with my sister and fellow artist, Cynthia Thornton. We decided to work on a whimsical collection of small-scale paintings.  We blended my abstract sensibilities with her elements of fantasy... producing the Creature Collaborations!  I worked on the backgrounds and creating the amorphous space the creatures inhabit.  Cynthia coaxed the creatures to life, giving them form and character.  CLICK HERE to see all of the originals.  The originals are painted on heavy paper with layers of acrylic and gouache.  (If you're interested, a few of them are still available for purchase.)

After we made the paintings, we thought they'd make charming postcards/notecards.  So I had some of them printed and they are available in a set of twelve or a random set of four.  Each card is 4"X6", printed on 15PT card stock, has a gloss UV coating on the front, and has rounded edges.  To find out more and to purchase packs of the Creature Collaborations postcards CLICK HERE.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Classes with Kieu: Day Three...

Today was our last day hosting Kieu in Ligonier.  We learned all about how to create bezel settings for stones.  I was particularly excited about this class and was one of the main reasons why I wanted her to come out here.  I'm a smitten kitten with rings, especially rings with stones.  Now that I know how to properly do it, all kinds of gears are turning in my brain!

In this picture, students are watching Kieu demonstrate how best to hold the bezel-setting tool.

These are the rings that I created in class!  The first ring I made was the simple labradorite ring.  I wanted to practice to get my technique down before I risked anything more advanced.  I then went on to make the aquamarine ring on the left.  I granulated fine silver balls and attached them around the bezel.  I'm quite happy with what I made and learned!

I wanted to thank Kieu for coming out to Ligonier and for sharing her jewelry insight.  She's a wonderful teacher and has a fun, sassy sensibility.  I also wanted to thank Main Exhibit Gallery for allowing us to use their new classroom space.  I especially want to thank all the fellow students who attended!  Without you guys, this kind of programming could not exist.  So we appreciate each one of you and your support of arts education in the community!

Keep your eyes peeled!  We had such a good time with Kieu that we're going to plan another Weekend Intensive!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Classes with Kieu: Day Two...

What a jam-packed day full of activity!  The day started out with a morning class.  We took the Weave It To Metal class, where we learned how to make soldered woven metal pendants.

Here's the piece that I made!  We had a lot of fun in class.  My piece isn't perfect, but there's a lot of potential packed in it.  I keep imagining this technique on a larger scale.  Maybe in a cuff with mixed metals.  When I was in college, I used to do all kinds of woven paper collages, so there's something nice about revisiting this process of taking little things and bringing them together.

Here's a picture of William soldering on his ring shank in the afternoon class.  We made the CosmoPearlitan cocktail rings.

One of the nice things that resulted from these classes is that William has expressed an interest in soldering and it's something that we can share and collaborate over.  So often, we are divided into who is more art oriented and who is more geared towards numbers.  I'm looking forward to exploring these techniques with him.

This a quick snapshot from the afternoon class.  Kieu was demonstrating how to set the metal spiral into the cup.

I ended up changing my project a little bit.  Originally I worked on the spiral to solder in the cup, but I didn't get it in their very good.  So I popped it out and decided that I liked it a lot as is.  So I polished it up and did the interior part of the dome in a sanded, satin finish.  I might play around with it and add a bigger stone... we'll see!

One of the things that I've really been enjoying about these classes is that there's an endless supply of food for thought and these are just stepping stones to bigger ideas!

After the day of classes, we hosted a trunk show and book signing with Kieu at the gallery. It too was a lot of fun and even though there was torrential rain, a few folks came out. I have to say that the book is beautiful and we stocked up on a bunch of awesome tools!

We have one more day of classes left and I'm really looking forward to it!  Tomorrow we will be bezel setting stones in rings.  I'm super excited!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Classes with Kieu: Day One...

We were so lucky to get Kieu Pham Gray to come out to Ligonier.  I've been wanting to take classes from her for a while, so I was really glad that everything worked out and we could make it happen!  This is also the first time that we've had a class in Main Exhibit's new Lower Level Art Center and it's great!  It's a beautiful building and there's a great courtyard filled with art.  There's a lot of room for possibilities and I'm looking forward to them!

In the first class, Kieu showed us how to solder and make this really cool Spiral Chain bracelet.  Here's my piece!  It's not perfect, but I think it turned out pretty nice.  (Of course, I had a good instructor... so that helped iron out any kinks... literally!)

For the longest time, I avoided silver soldering.  I didn't think I really needed it and came up with all kinds of ways to cowboy engineer how to get around it.  Now that I've done it and it's not so intimidating, so many possibilities have opened up!  

I'm really looking forward to her other classes this weekend.  CLICK HERE to see the class offerings.

If you're around, we have an event at Allegory Gallery that's free and open to the public!  Kieu will be signing copies of her new book, "Hot and Cold Jewelry Connections: How to Make Jewelry With and Without a Torch".  She will also have a trunk show going and offer a wide arrange of jewelry tools!  She's super knowledgable, so it's the perfect opportunity to stop by and learn something new!  Hope you'll join us!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Splendid Procession Challenge Reveal...

Today is the day for the Splendid Procession Challenge!  Much gratitude goes out to all the participants!  I have been having a lot of fun looking at all the different pieces made with the kit!

The colors of the kit were inspired by watermelon tourmaline and I drew inspiration from some of the depictions of faerie processions.  This is what was included in the kit.

Each of the kits also included a Mystery Component made by me!  I made these polymer clay butterfly wings with colored resin embellishments.  It's a fake cloisonné look.  I also touched up each pendant with iridescent paints and pigments.

And without further ado.... here's the reveal:

This piece was made by Laurel Ross.  Here's what she said:  "The base of this necklace is made of hand-dyed silk ribbon.  I used waxed linen to tie on beads and add texture to the piece.  It can be worn as a necklace or a funky wrap bracelet."

This piece was made by Debbie Rogers.  Here's what she had to say about it:  "I call this necklace, "Splendid Whimsy".  It was a labor of love for the bead challenge.  One look at the beads and the ideas and inspiration just flowed.  My inspiration was the fairies and flowers of the forest.  Every step I took in making this piece was guided as if by magical forest creatures whispering in my ear, telling me exactly what to do next.  I imaged them gathering things and their tiny hands making it all come to life."

This necklace was made by Lisa Mendum.  Here's what she had to say about it:  "It was wonderful to work with this color palette.  The butterfly wing focal was the best!  After I opened the challenge kit, I went into my bead stash and found a magnetic clasp and some chain which I made into a multi-strand necklace.  I hope everyone likes it!"

This necklace was made by Kathleen.  Here's what she had to say about it:  "I just love this colorway!  I always think of red and green as Christmas, but that mindset has been forever changed.  I wanted all the colors to be visualized, so I made a simple multi-strand necklace."

This necklace was made by me.  One of the techniques that I fall back on is embellishing chain with wire-wrapped dangles.  I think it gives pieces an opulent look and has a lot of movement.  It's also a great way to use up seemingly random assortments and makes them work together.  I think the necklace has a very lush look, almost like a magical garden!  I used a bronze toggle from Saki Silver and I think it goes with the piece perfectly!  The other nice thing is that the decorative clasp can be worn in the front, in the back, or off to the side depending on which beads you want to highlight.

But wait... there's even more to see! Check out what these participants made for the Splendid Procession Challenge:

Up next is the Endless Sky Challenge!  I hope you'll join us on the reveal date.  It's scheduled for Thursday, July 16th!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Dreaming Tree Challenge Pre-Sale...

I wanted to get the next kit launched before I left for Bead&Button.  I've gathered most of the components, but unfortunately not all of the materials arrived yet.  Even so, I thought I'd offer the kits as a pre-sale.  It'll be a bit of a mystery until I get back next week and can kit everything.  (Who knows?  Maybe I'll find something special at the show to add to the kits!)

In the most recent kits, I've been using natural gemstones as my source inspiration.  In the Endless Sky Challenge, I used aquamarine.  For the Splendid Procession Challenge, I drew inspiration from watermelon tourmaline.  For this challenge, I looked for direction from rainbow fluorite.  Fluorite is a mostly translucent stone with bands of purple, sea foam green, clear, and even touches of honey.  I love how light and airy it looks.  It reminds me of the shifting light of the aurora borealis.

Some people believe that the stone has metaphysical properties that include aiding visualization, mental clarity, and grounding.

I remember one of my first experiences with the stone.  It was in a group meditation activity.  We sat in a circle around a substantial sized piece that was cut into the shape of a point.  The guided meditation included imagining that our energy was a tree, with roots connecting to the earth and branches that extended into the sky and out into the universe.  As we extended our conscious mind upward and outward, it was like we moved through levels... almost like the bands on the stone.  So now whenever I see the stone, I think of this tree, made of light and energy and consciousness.

The Dreaming Tree Challenge Design Kit is a lovely mix of these shades of pale purple, misty greens, and airy clear.  The Luxury Bead Blend is composed mostly of the stone, with Czech glass (both old and new), Swarovski crystal, vintage sequins, and Japanese seed beads.  Each kit will also include a strand of fluorite and a Mystery Component.  I won't give away too much more though!  I'll reveal the final kits on Friday, June 12th when I get back.  So it'll be a surprise until then!

In the meantime, you can still order one of the kits.  There are 30 kits available (with one set aside for myself).  They sell out fast, so claim your kit quick!  CLICK HERE to order your Dreaming Tree Challenge Design Kit during the Pre-Sale.