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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Coyote Pine Needle Basket


I listed this pine needle basket I made on Etsy and thought I'd write about it because I don't think I did so when I was making it.  About three years ago I took a one day workshop on the basics of constructing pine needle baskets and found that I enjoy it very much even though - or maybe because - it's so tedious.
 The needles in this basket are from my own property here, from large Digger Pine branches that came down in a big snowstorm in December 2009.  I like that I harvested and dried the needles myself. 
 When I began the basket I didn't really know where I was going - except round and round of course!  I knew I wanted an oval but that was about the extent of the "design" process.  Once I was done I knew it needed something on the top so I made this little animal out of polymer clay.  It appears that I was a bit confused about what kind of animal it was to be.  It looks a bit fox-like but the coloring is more coyote.  As always, I couldn't resist a bit of beading.

The closure is an antique copper button that I bought on eBay that has a fox's head on it.  Those types of buttons were made for hunting jackets, hunting being an activity of which I strongly disapprove.  But I buy them because I like the foxes so much.

I found it difficult to actually use the button when I made this piece (rather than keep it in my collection).  And now I've found it even more difficult to list the piece.  But of course listing it doesn't mean it will sell.  And if it does, hopefully the new owner will appreciate it.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Birth of Venus

Last weekend I gave a demo on polymer clay mosaics, so of course I needed a bit of a head start on a piece.  I decided on my theme first - "The Birth of Venus" after Sandro Botticelli's painting.  But this time Venus was to be a lovely frog arising from the seashell, and her surroundings were to be based on her pond home.
One of the things I like so much about polymer clay is the rich colors, and for this piece I picked one of my favorite color schemes - turquoise, yellow, and yellow-orange.  It turns out that I have quite a few mica powders and metallic pastes that enhance this combination of colors.
Before the demo I completed the frog, most of the fish, and the background tiles for the entire piece.  Then after the demo it took me a few days to finish it up.  Originally I had planned to use a large Czech glass button with a golden dragonfly as well as a brass stamping of a bird and more pearls and stones.  But in the end I thought it was better without so many different materials.
The two ribbon inscriptions both say "The Birth of Venus" - the top one in English and the bottom one in the original Italian.  With both due respect and apologies to Botticelli, I'm happy with this piece.  And I've listed it in my Etsy shop.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Back into the Etsy Swing of Things

After several months with nothing listed in my Etsy shop I finally got back down to business by listing this little polymer clay polar bear totem and two other pieces.  I think this bear has a very sweet face and an engaging pose, but I'll just have to see what potential buyers think.

I'm renewing the look of my shop in a couple of different ways. 

First, I created a series of backdrops that I plan to use for all of my photos.  They're simple sheets of poster board that I sealed with spray primer then painted.  For each backdrop I used two colors - a base color and a slightly lighter tint of the same color with which I added overall texture with a large fan brush.  So many Etsy sellers use plain white background and I know that there are several advantages to those, but I prefer something with a bit more color than the stark white.  So I have made six background from which to choose - taupe, gray, gray-green, purple, dark brown, and off-white.  Those colors provide a wide range of value so that I can find a ground that any piece - light, dark, or in-between - will show up against.  Also I've chosen colors that suggest nature which is the source of my inspiration.

Second, I'm going to rework my shop banner.  My current one is too visually weak.  I'm going to do a painting of foxes then take a detail from it for the banner.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

An Inspiring Experience


The arrival of the new issue of Country Magazine inspired me to do a painting.  This is a scene in Pennsylvania which was pictured in the magazine, and I adapted it for a journal cover.  It is acrylic.  It amazed me how well the painting came together, and with no struggle whatsoever.

I purposely didn't do a lot of detail in the background trees towards the middle because they will be near the spine of the journal. I also didn't do much detail in the reflections because I wanted the reflections to be less prominent that the objects themselves.  Since reflections are also slightly duller in color, I painted them more transparently than the trees themselves.  I had under-painted the water blue, so the transparency of the yellows, oranges, and reds allowed the blue underneath to dull them somewhat.

I only used five brushes on this painting: a #20 flat, a #8 round bristle scumbler,  #2 round bristle scumbler, and #s 00 and 1 script liners.  I have far more brushes than I need or use!

I'm happy with this painting, and it will make a very nice journal.  The experience makes me want to do more landscapes although that is hardly my "subject of choice!"

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Few Totems

Here's my first group of stoneware totems, including three bears on the left, a weasel in the middle, a hare in the back, a fox on the right, and a seal in the front right.  You can see their size by comparing them to the container of Chapstick.  Stoneware is a ceramic clay, and I fired these pieces to cone 6, or about 2185 degrees F.  The pieces are all different kinds of stoneware.  The beautiful black is Cassius Basaltic.  It's dark chocolate-y brown in its unfired state, then turns black with the heat.
To finish them, I'll wax them then wrap objects around them, totem-style.  I've actually finished the fox, black bear, and seal.  But they're at a show and I forgot to take photos of them before I took them in.  The embellishments on the black bear include an elaborate beaded tassel and a few other beads.  The seal has a drilled sea stone, drilled seaglass, and some stones.  The fox has stones and little chicken feathers.  I think the fox is my favorite.
I burnished the seal before I fired her.  Burnishing is rubbing the leather-hard greenware with a flat metal surface like a burnisher or the back of a spoon.  The rubbing aligns the tiny particles in the clay and gives a beautiful shiny surface.  The rest of the pieces are textured with tiny all-over marks to resemble fur.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


For better or worse, here are my finished pieces for our club's 3D and 3x3 show.  Or, actually, these are my 3x3 entries - I will be entering several 3D pieces as well.

I'm not particularly happy with these, but at least I finished them.  And even that was in doubt for a while.  As late as the week before the show I considered starting all over again.  But then sanity stepped in!

My start was a good one.  I worked the collage backgrounds on all nine before continuing, and I was very happy with them at that point.  But then I got stuck.  My original concept was to do portraits of teacups over the collage (which has many tea-related elements) but the collage portion was just too strong for that to work.  I glued a piece of torn rice paper over the centers to tone down the collage where it would be directly behind my images - whatever they might turn out to be.  But, although it was an improvement it wasn't much of one.

Finally I came up with the bird concept, which I came to call "tea-birds."  Each bird is interacting with a tag from a tea bag.  The black brushwork outlining around the birds helps them hold their own against the background.  I much prefer working with a brush than with a marker, and it's always good practice.

At least they're colorful and the whimsy is fun.  But definitely not among my best work.