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


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)!