Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back - A Creative 2012

Time goes by so quickly, it's easy to forget just how much you've accomplished. So here's a look back at my 2012 projects, large and small.

A major project was my submission for the annual Manoogian Art Museum juried competition, the theme was Grand Hotel. I spent a full six months creating a three dimensional, life sized white pine stump, as Grand was built of white pine and originally used some of the stumps as the foundation (I was able to view a couple that are still under the hotel).

Not only was "The Foundation or In the Beginning" accepted into the show - it won Best of Show!

In the fall, it also was accepted into the Northern Exposure show at the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center; only artists living in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are allowed to enter.

Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey, Michigan hosted a fabulous show featuring 24 Mackinac Island artists. 

The curator chose several  of my pieces, even a couple that were still in progress! I was also asked to participate in their "Coffee at Ten" lecture series; it was a wonderful opportunity to discuss how my beadwork started as an effort to recreate the past and the unexpected directions it seems to be going in - where's it going next?

"Cycling" , a large mixed media sculpture was accepted into the New Fibers '12 juried show, sponsored by the Fiber Arts Network of Michigan. The show was reviewed by Fiber Art Now magazine, and a photo of my piece was included in the article. 

The International Society of Experimental Show was in Gloucester, Massachusetts and we spent a lovely week out there, combining our vacation and visiting the show. "Ripple Effect" was chosen for the show; it seemed ideal for a show along the shore.

 I also took a pin-press printing workshop; it's an interesting technique that I need to spend more time exploring.

The Mackinac Art Council offered a series of workshops this past summer, a couple were fiber related, I took two - needle felting and indigo dyeing - I'm sure both techniques will be showing up in future projects.

This was my third year participating in the Bead Journal Project; this year I created rune stones representing forces. Each stone incorporated an actual Mackinac beach stone, as well as beads and a found object.

I had a number of historical projects too.

I spent a fair bit of time researching mid-19th century bathing or swimming, created bathing costumes for both my husband and I, and hosted a period bathing party.

I also experimented with period instructions for making paper flowers:

And used them by the dozens on this "fancy dress" costume - we went as a "Rose Garden" and "the Thorn Amongst the Roses".

Our trip to Gloucester allowed me to press some "Flowers of the Sea" or seaweeds, again, using period instructions.

I only managed four submissions for the monthly Art Bead Scene challenges: they post an inspiration image, and participants create something incorporating an art bead - usually jewelry. I find these challenges really cause me to think "out-of-the-box", especially due to the time constraints, as I either need to order or create an art bead; I can't visit a local bead store.

And there's the photography; this is my second year with the 365 Project - a photo a day, everyday. 

It really forces you to look at your surroundings and consider the possibilities, but it takes a huge amount of time.

If asked, except for my stump project, I would have said I hadn't accomplished much this year - WRONG!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Berry

"Winter Berry" is my submission for the final 2012 Art Bead Scene monthly challenge. Here's the inspiration image,"Sleeping Beauty" by Erté, circa 1983:

Erté is perhaps most famous for his elegant fashion designs which capture the art deco period in which he worked. One of his earliest successes was designing apparel for the French dancer Gaby Deslys who died in 1920. His delicate figures and sophisticated, glamorous designs are instantly recognisable, and his ideas and art still influence fashion into the 21st century. 

This particular design reminded me of bright red berries, topped with snow, against a bright blue sky - a familiar winter scene here on Mackinac.

I was most inspired by Beauty's skirt - swirls of red, white, black and grey. I created a very long "beaded bead" in twisted tubular herringbone; the swirls are also present in the trio of hollow glass beads.

I found the clasp on Etsy, created by McDaddio. It's made of anodized aluminum and is the perfect complement to my beadwork - it's also very lightweight.

This is the second month in a row that I've ended up creating rather modern, somewhat stark (for me) necklaces - is it the start of a trend?

Available for purchase here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tumbling Turtles - 2012 Christmas Card

It's become a tradition over the past several years, for us to create a turtle themed Christmas card; they're a real labor of love we send out to friends and family.

Each year we start with a basic design - never traditional - and preferably modular. In this case, an old fashioned bicycle and tumbling turtle snowflakes. Each element is a separate, hand carved linoleum block, which we use to create hand-pulled prints. We cheated a little this year, only the bike is hand pulled, the turtles are done more rubber stamp style. A swipe of white, sparkle ink grounds the design. Currently, we print approximately 70 cards (more really, if you count the rejects) and every year we intend to start earlier, but you know what the say about intentions....

Each one of these blocks can be reused for non-Christmas projects; we're starting to accumulate quite a library of turtle designs! 

Enjoy your holiday!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A World Transformed

It stormed this week, after hours of rain, Mackinac was blanketed in snow and we awoke to a world transformed.

The previously unremarkable became incredible when covered with a coating of white.

And sometimes even unrecognizable, abstract natural forms.

We were surrounded by scenes that are Christmas season cliches - but every cliche has a nugget of truth

The everyday became something new.

Familiar settings changed, subtly renewed in a seemingly magical act of nature.

Everything has been altered, slightly moved from it's proper position - trees which should be upright, curved and bowed by the weight of ice and snow. Branches hang, blocking the paths with frozen white fringes.

A storm like this is devastating in most places - vehicle traffic slowed or halted, accidents, planes grounded, power outages, etc. But here on Mackinac, without cars, snow makes it easier to get around. We had some problems, 80+ trees came down and some brief power issues. It never lasts long, wind and sun will quickly deposit the sun on the ground, returning us to a normal winter scene - but it's just so completely glorious while it lasts!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Flowers of the Sea

"OH! call us not weeds, but flowers of sea,
For lovely, and gay, and bright tinted are we;
Our blush is as deep as the rose of thy bowers,
Then call us not weeds, we are Ocean's  gay flowers.

Not nurs'd like the plants of the summer partere,
Whose gales are but sighs of an evening air;
Our exquisite, fragile, and delicate forms,
Are nurs'd by the Ocean and rock'd by the storm."

Seaweeds, the "Flowers of the Sea", were frequently collected by Victorian ladies, for inclusion in an herbarium - not an easy task given the clothing of the day:

“…many difficulties are apt to arise; among the foremost of which must be mentioned the risk of cold and destruction of clothes. The best pair of boots will not stand salt water many days – and the sea-weed collector who has to pick her way to save her boots will never be a loving disciple as long as she lives. It is both wasteful, uncomfortable, and dangerous to attempt sea-weed hunting in delicate boots. As for the hardier hunters who have learned to walk boldly into a pool if they suspect there is anything worth having in the middle of it, they will oil their boots. Next to boots comes the question of petticoats; and if anything could excuse a woman for imitating the costume of a man, it would be what she suffers as a sea-weed collector from those necessary draperies! But to make the most of a bad matter, let woolen be in the ascendant as much as possible; and let the petticoats never come below the ankle.”  
   Margaret Gatty , British Sea-Weeds” 1865

Some collections were quite scientific; carefully labeled with date and location of collection, as well as the proper Latin name, if possible.

Other's focused on a more decorative presentation:

In my presentation, "Botanizing Women: The Growth of a Cultural Phenomenon", I spoke at length at the influence botany had on everyday life in the mid-19th century. This was even noted at the time, by Susan Fenimore Cooper:

“Look at the chair on which your friend is sitting, at the carpet beneath your feet, at the paper on the walls, at the curtains which shut out the wintry landscape, at the table near you, at the clock, the candlesticks, nay, the very fire-irons – or it may be the iron mouldings upon your stove – at the picture-frames, the book-case, the table-covers, the work-box, the inkstand, in short, all of the trifling knick-knacks in the room, and all these you may see, in bolder or fainter lines, a thousand proofs of the debt we owe to the vegetable world, not only for so many of the fabrics themselves, but also for the beautiful forms, and colors, and ornaments we seek to imitate. Branches and stems, leaves and tendrils, flowers and fruits, nuts and berries, are everywhere the models… the most durable and costly materials the earth holds in her bosom, stone and marble, gold, silver, and gems, have been made to assume, in a thousand imposing or graceful forms, the lines of the living vegetation. How many of the proudest works of art would be wanting, if there had been no grace and dignity in trees, no beauty in leaves and flowers!”

Here's a couple dress fabrics, which clearly show the influence of the seaweeds:

And a dinner plate, with a coral pattern:

I live surrounded by fresh water, not the ocean, and so was not able to attempt any collection/preparation of seaweeds for my presentation. Magazines and books of the period offered instruction on the proper techniques:

Peterson's Magazine July 1857

To Preserve Sea-Weeds and the proper season for collecting them.- Sea-weeds may be collected at any time, but summer is the most agreeable season for this interesting work. Put each specimen in a plate full of water, it will then be easy to spread out and arrange the branches or fibres. Then introduce a sheet of paper under the sea-weed and carefully raise it out of the water, the specimen will be beautifully displayed upon the paper, and when dry will be found attached to the paper by means of the gluten in the sea-weed.

This past fall, I finally had my opportunity, albeit, not under ideal conditions! 

We were in Gloucester, MA. to attend the opening of the International Society of Experimental Artists exhibit, as I had a piece accepted into the show - coincidentally, a water related creation!

It wasn't until the day before we were leaving that it occurred to me that I could try to press some seaweeds to add to the display that accompanies the presentation. Luckily, our room had a kitchenette, so after collecting some "Flowers of the Sea" and some watercolor paper to use as my mounts, I started trying to "float" the seaweed onto the paper - not as easy as it might sound! A quality mount should have each tiny little filament of each piece of seaweed separate and distinct from each other - no overlaps, no bends, no wrinkles - and while it wasn't too hard to achieve while in the water, lifting them out was a whole 'nother story. I, of course, didn't have a plant press with me, so we improvised; a nightstand, protected with a plastic bag and  turned upside down had to suffice.

The mounts were not even approaching dry when we left, so into the plastic bag and into my carry on they went; we didn't arrive home until several days later and they were starting to get a bit odoriferous. But I put them in the press ASAP and here are the results:

Perfect? No, but not too bad considering the circumstances! And, no lingering odor, either.

While I have some period examples to display, I'm really glad to have tried this experiment - hands on is always preferable to theory.

I first presented "Botanizing Women: The Growth of a Cultural Phenomenon", in 2008, at the Ladies & Gentlemen of the 1860's conference. It is, by far,.my favorite presentation that I've ever assembled and was very well received by the attendees. I've had one other opportunity to share it and would love to do so again , if you know of a group that might be interested, please do let me know!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Multitude - November 2012 Bead Journal Project

"A Multitude" is my November rune stone; each stone has been intended to represent a force and this month's force is the power of mass or numbers.

Coral reefs are formed by the calcium carbonate exoskeletons of coral polyps - uncountable numbers of individual living creature in some cases; the Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space! The coral attract other creatures resulting in an elaborate ecosystem involving numerous species - all living together in careful balance.

Working with seed beads is a similar system - each bead is individual and complete, but not of much use in it's singularity. But combine a multitude of them together and the product is certainly more than a sum of the individual parts.

This month's stone is a bit different than previous stones, as the stone itself is the found object. This particular stone is a Petoskey stone, fossilized coral from the ancient reefs which once existed in the shallow seas that covered this part of Michigan. I intentionally left a large portion of the stone uncovered to show the distinctive mottled pattern. 

I tried to emulate this pattern with beads on the bottom of the stone.

The focal point is my representation of a single coral polyp in three dimensional beadwork.

Only one more month to go !!!

Friday, November 23, 2012


"Tri-Level" is my entry for the November Art Bead Scene challenge.... and it most definitely was a challenge!

Here's the inspiration image:

It's "Three Worlds", 1955 by M C Escher; "Three Worlds" depicts a large pool or lake during the autumn or winter months, the title referring to the three visible perspectives in the picture: the surface of the water on which leaves float, the world above the surface, observable by the water's reflection of the forest, and the world below the surface, observable in the large fish swimming just below the water's surface.

For me, the biggest challenge this month was the lack of color, for me, neutrals are just a necessary evil that I need to use to make my beloved colors pop.

I used three of my own images that fit the theme, taken as part of a photography challenge years ago, to create three pendents. I transferred portions of the images onto silk fabric, attached the fabric to thin metal and then finished the edges with beaded bezels, all in shades of grey and black.

I decided to join the pendents into one, large, over-sized pendent and mounted it on a simple Italian mesh base.

This is very different from my usual approach, very modern and stark, but I'm very pleased with the pendent technique - I'm sure I'll be using it more in the future.

Available for purchase here.