Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Handmade Chic Interview

I invite everyone to take a good look at Rachel Baron's blog, Handmade Chic. Rachel is a wonderful glass artist (Inferno Glass Beads) and a staunch supporter of handmade art. She graciously interviewed me for the blog--THANKS, RACHEL! So, stop by and visit with Rachel for a few moments when you can, and visit her website for lovely glass creations!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wonderfully Weird - Using the Unusual in Jewelry Design

If I were to write a book about jewelry design, the title would be the title of this post. I really love incorporating unusual elements into my work. There are many names for this type of design--mixed media, altered art, assemblage jewelry, and found item jewelry are but a few. I'll go with assemblage jewelry for the purposes of this post.

Assmeblage art is very big right now. Artists like Susan Lenart Kazmer, Tessa Rickard and Stephanie Lee and have pioneered this artform, bringing everything from doll parts and old dominos to burnt out miniature lightbulbs into fine jewelry design. If it can be bezel set, then by gosh BEZEL SET IT! The results are stunning, as you will see on these amazing artist's websites.

I am a collector of oddities, I always have been. My passion for wildlife conservation and animals is evident in my collection of "weird" which covers everything from glass taxidermy eyes to animal bones of all kinds. I especially love working with animal bones. At my work station I have several boxes and containers of bones from raccoons, opossums, and most recently, an iguana. All these items are found on the 30-acre wildlife preserve in which I live. Sunny south Florida is a great place to bone hunt and I often find great, bleached out bones from animal visitors long past. I've collected bones forever, even as a little kid. I like to think I honor the animal by turning their bones into something unique and beautiful to live on in their memory.

I never really considered this all that strange, until my sister visited me recently and discovered my bucket containing a complete opossum skeleton. I could tell she was simultaneously interested and grossed out. I remember she said, "Oh, I bet you'll do something really amazing with this." I immediately started telling her my plans for the vertebrae and teeth--I use these smaller bones in rings and pendants. She nodded politely and then said, "That sounds really cool. But, when you're planning Christmas gifts, remember this isn't for me!" She was trying to joke, but was also deadly serious. That got me thinking--one woman's weird is another woman's wonderful.

I've been lucky. I have created animal bone jewelry that has been appreciated (and actually PURCHASED) by many people. I've never thought twice about using bone or animal fur/feathers in designs. But I wonder, is there such a thing as too weird? Tessa Rickard, I'm sure, would argue and emphatic, "NO!" Some of her work incorporates human teeth for crying out loud! AND, the results are GORGEOUS as you can see in the Lark book 500 Pendants and Lockets, which features her designs.

I guess it's all about having the courage to put your work out there and not be overly influenced by those that may not "get" it. Art is fluid, constantly changing and open to interpretation. Most of all, it's EXPRESSION that matters. Yes you can use a clasp created from your Grandmother's beautiful vintage button collection to finish a necklace made from copper electroformed iguana vertebrae.

So, do you agree??? I've included a few photos here of some of my "weirder" work and ask that all you assemblage artists out there to send me images of your "wonderful weirdness". I'll post them here with links to your web pages.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

OUCH! I Guess I Don't Really Need That Finger Anyway...

So I'm teaching myself cold connecting with rivets. I have some great books that illustrate the process (Susan Lenart Kazmer has a FANTASTIC book illustrating all the ways to cold connect), yet I continually go it alone. Why is it that sometimes you just have to figure things out on your own, even when you have great information at your fingertips? I find that I work this way often. Not sure if I'm just too stubborn or impatient to open a book first, or if this is just part of my "creative process". At any rate, my fingers bear the brunt of my self-taught "lessons". My left hand in particular, the hand I use to hold the teeny-tiny elements I am attempting to rivet together with a steel riveting hammer held firmly in my right hand. I've whacked the crap out of my fingers. Sigh, there goes my career as a hand model.

That being said, I love riveting. It is very easy once you have the right tools, and you practice a bit. I got my rivet hammers from Burnt Offerings Jewelry and Adornment. FANTASTIC mixed media artists, and they have great tools and supplies. VISIT THEM!

Here is my first cold connected bracelet. I made it using copper disks colored with patinas, layered with hammered copper washers riveted with sterling silver wire. I connected each disk "sandwich" with black rubber "O" rings. This took forever, I was learning as I went along, and I have to say that I was quite proud of myself when I finished. Now I know I can rivet with much more confidence and I'm already working on new designs.

So, don't be afraid to try something new--even if you don't think you have the perfect skills. Of course, don't be totally stupid--I'm not suggesting anyone teach themselves how to use a blowtorch! But, don't be afraid to pick up a hammer, or a book for that matter, and teach yourself something. Remember, Band-Aids come in the cutest colors and patterns now-a-days!