Monday, March 30, 2009

Image Transfer Solution Tutorial

In an earlier post I mentioned my experiments with Image Transfer Solution. I really love this stuff--you can now transfer laser printed, toner-based images onto just about anything incuding metal. Since my post I've been asked by ArtChix Studio to create a tutorial of the process and I've included a pdf version here (you'll need Adobe PDF Reader). I created a simple locket pendant using a pre-fab brass locket and images from ArtChix. ArtChix has such great collage sheets, all are laser printed and work well with ITS with a few minor adjustments. Take a peek, then get yourself some ITS, visit ArtChix, and make something amazing!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Please Pardon My Mess...NOT!

If you've read more than one of my artist interviews you will see that many of the questions I ask are often the same. I think it's facsinating to see the similarities and differences among artists regarding interests, influences, and style. One question I always ask is what type of studio they work in--Is it organized and neat, or controlled chaos? I initially asked this question just to assure myself that I'm not the only artist whose studio/workspace often looks like a bomb went off, and I am relieved to know that I have yet to interview an artist who keeps their workspace neat as a pin!

My husband, a brilliant scientist/mechanic/fixer-of-all-things finds my workspace horrific. No matter how technical or difficult a situation is for him (working up to his elbows in the guts of a tractor, or rebuiding a delicate parrot egg incubator) he somehow manages to keep his workspace organized and, dare I say, tidy. Every tool has it's place, whether in the box or laid out for immediate use. I've tried to explain the whole right-brain, left-brain artist thing to him, but I believe he just thinks I'm hopelessly disorganized.

BUT, we creative types know better, right? How can you really explain the artistic process? I try, I really do, to keep my space organized. Every few days (okay weeks) I actually sit down and clear my workspace. Tools put away, beads back into boxes and trays, bits of scrap metal into other storage, patinas and paint on the correct shelf, right down to the bare wood on my table-top. Then I get an IDEA...and the process begins. No matter how detailed a design is in my head, the process of laying it out and actually creating it is as organic as the design itself. I imagined turquoise, but what about carnelian or coral?? Lay that out. I need a opossum tooth, but found vertebrae I forgot I had. Lay that out. Beads, wire, beads, feathers, beads...lay them all out. Inevitabley, while pulling together all the elements I think I need for a design I find stuff I forgot I even had! Might as well lay that out, too. I'm sure you get the picture...the messy, messy picture.

Once, I knocked a small box of 3mm faceted gemstones off my table to the floor, where they scattered hither and yon. I found myself on my hands and knees, flashlight held tightly in my teeth as I searched for anything shiney. I found the gems, and a package of pheasant feathers, a bone moon face, several long-lost silver beads and a length of sterling silver chain I had given up ever finding again. And that was just in the immediate area around the chair I sit in...Ah, the thrill of the hunt!

In all honesty, I LIKE having a crazy workspace. It's like a freaky treasure hunt, and for the most part I do know where everything is....sort of. I like looking at the chaos and digging a design out of it. Where in nature do you ever see neat and tidy?? Look out your window--unless you live in a formal English garden, everything you see is gorgeous, unplanned, natural chaos. I say, REVEL IN IT!!!

Artist Interview - Payton Jett of Green Glass Cafe

I discovered Payton Jett on Etsy, when I came across her amazing lampwork glass bird beads. I've collected several of these impossibly cute, wonderful beads. I encourage anyone interested in nature-themed, unusual and beautiful glass beads to visit her Etsy shop, Green Glass Cafe, and her personal website, The selection is fantastic, from elaborate and detailed focal beads to tiny birds including owls, chickens, and my favorite, fat little songbirds. What I like most about her bird beads is that she has captured the complete essence of a bird in a simple, elegant design. The color choices are fantastic and each bead has a unique personality. Her imagination, and skill evident in every creation she makes. Payton graciously took the time to answer a few questions for me and I hope you will all visit her shop and website SOON! Thanks, Payton!

KM: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

PJ: I've been an artist for as long as I can remember. Before lampwork beads, fine silver, jewelry and photography, I was a graphic artist/web designer. That's how I learned about lampworking. I did a webpage for a local lampwork artist and got the torching bug! I still like to dabble in graphic arts but hot glass is where my heart is at!

KM: When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?

PJ: I never wanted to be an artist, I just always was.

KM: What is your favorite medium and why?

PJ: Hot glass. I've thought a lot about what it is about hot glass that makes me so crazy about it and the one thing I consistently come up with is that it's always a challenge. There is so much chemisty and fine skill involved and I am a pretty competitive person so that seems to work for me. There is a bit of mystery too--glass changes a lot from flame to kiln--the colors seem to almost morph and it's always a guessing game as to what you will get out of the kiln the next morning!

KM: What other mediums have you tried, experimented with, etc.?

PJ: I think I've tried everything less glass blowing from a crucible or glory hole and throwing pottery. I really enjoy balancing out my hot glass world with drawing and photography and even making cards! We have a pretty extensive stamp collection and it's nice to just sit down and put little paper bits together sometimes!

KM: What inspires you to create?

PJ: Just about everything I see. I'm always putting designs together in my head or in one of my hundreds of little sketch books I keep around the house, in the car and in my purse! The need to create never really leaves me so I try to stay prepared!

KM: Who are your personal favorite artists?

PJ: I have so many it would be hard to list them all! I am inspired by my fellow lampwork/jewelry/silver artists for sure!

KM: You obviously love birds...what is the story behind your bird beads?

PJ: The bird beads, ah! Well, I've always loved birds. My friends always tease me that I'm not supposed to like bird watching until I'm getting on in years--ha! I always tell them that I am an old soul, so that counts for something! The first bird bead was born last January. I made "love" birds for Valentines day. I wanted to design a bead that was different from anything anyone had seen and with a whimsy and folk feeling. My inspiration came from this really adorable bird I saw at an orchard in Peoria, IL called "Tanners". They've got this great little gift shop that we like to go to and there was this cute, fatty little bird that really got me going. I was in love! So I used his shape as a basis for my designs.

KM: How would you describe the link between art and nature, and how does this influence you?

PJ: For me, art and nature are really one. Everything I do is really taken from or inspired by nature. Obviously I'm all about organics and nature as that's the basis for my business name, GREEN glass cafe. I always try to encorporate organics and metallics or organics and bright colors. If you look around you, everything is organics and metallics. Think about tin roofed barn and a large, open field of swaying wheat. It just works.

KM: What is your studio/workspace like? Neat and clean or controlled chaos?

PJ: Completely controlled chaos. I have two 8-foot tables and one 6-foot table that are partitioned into spaces, if you will. The 6-foot table is the "packing and shipping" area and houses all my beads, both sold and unsold. Then you've got the bead cleaning station, fine silver station, lampworking torch, and workbench. To the right of that is a 6-foot tall shelf with about 500 cardboard tubes that hold all of my glass. Then the kiln sits to the right of the torch. The last table has the picture taking set-up and jewelry area. Under the tables is all my storage for things that don't fit in the three shelves we have here and there! It's complete chaos, but I know where everything is! Most of the time.. :)

KM: What advice can you offer other struggling artists out there, especially during these tough economic times?

PJ: Be original. Find something that works for you that is different, original and fun. If someone else is making the same pink bracelets, do something different.

Be courageous. Finding that one of a kind design that sells often takes courage because you're pulling from a place inside you that is almost always private and vunerable to criticism. But if it is unique it will always feel scary. Since no one has ever done what you're doing you don't know how it will be received! Just do what feels right in your heart and when you find something that works make the heck out of it until it stops selling.That last bit of advice is a new way of thinking for me. I'm always about original and unique but in these hard economic times you have to have your mainstay and that means that one really great thing that you make and that people know you for and that sells!

Always, always always be open to custom order work. This is a great way to form connections with your customers and to learn more about them. Custom work is challenging but way more rewarding than anything! And I find that I always learn something new when I take on custom work--Not just about my customers, but about design. It's a great experience for anyone!

Finally, ADVERTISE in ANY way you can. Blog, connect with other artists in any way possible, network heavily. Stay in touch with people! Update your site or Etsy store often. Have a newsletter that you can involve people in what you're doing. They wont read it every time but most will read it most of the time! Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and a personal site are all really great ways to advertise.

This Guy is Sort of Talented...

I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the cover of the latest issue of Art Jewelry Magazine. The cover-shot is of metal clay work by Gordon Uyehara, an uber-talented artist that has taken PMC to a whole new stratosphere. UNBELIEVABLE. I've been on the edge of actually attempting to work with metal clay for years. Frankly, I'm intimidated. BUT, seeing Gordon's work is so inspiring I just might finally take the plunge. Anyone interested in PMC must get this issue of AJM. Metal clay has come leaps and bounds since it's inception. Now you can choose from silver, gold, brass, and the soon-to-be-available COPPER metal clays. How cool is that??? Also, this issue has some great profiles and information about working "green", which is, of course, close to my heart. For more information visit AJM's website. Also, you can visit Cool Tools, my new favorite product/tool supply website, for metal clay, and much, much more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What do you Mean it's Almost APRIL???

Holy-moly the time has flown by...Obviously, I've been busy. Spring is FINALLY in the air and the animals are all going baby crazy. The parrots are nesting, the marmosets are having babies everywhere and the bongo are thriving. In the midst of all this I have a real case of Spring Fever and have been creating lockets and necklaces in bright colors (with just the right amount of weird, of course...). Playing with mica powders mixed with chemical patinas and acrylic. Loving the results!!! A picture included here of a necklace I made using patina, copper cups, mica powders and a glass coyote eye I found on a taxidermy website...

New lockets are also my obsession, thanks to influence from one of my all-time favorite Etsy artists, Tessa Rickard. Her lockets got me inspired to try to make my own...the latest is below. I'm calling these "Poetry Pieces" because the each come with an original poem I've written based on the locket design. I've discovered the fantastic world of Image Transfer Solution for metals and have been working with vintage photos from ArtChix transferred onto sterling silver, copper and brass. If you haven't tried this DO!!! The possibilities are ENDLESS. I love using these images in my lockets--they inspire the stories and poems I write...

More to come...I promise!!