Friday, July 30, 2010

Merry go round - Does geographical location affect your art/craft?

It''s time for another ride on the merry-go-round! Jump on and join a group of 9 artists/crafts-women as they link around the world and tell you a little about their lives in art and craft.

This month's question that we will answer is: How much, if at all, does your geographical location affect your art/craft?
A bird in the hand.....
A piece that reflects how fortunate I feel to live in such a wonderful environment.

 I feel so lucky to live in a lovely rural environment in Northern California.  The scenery, the birds, our vineyard, the wildlife, are all so beautiful and inspiring so it naturally plays a huge part in my creations. Also the fact that I feel so comfortable, happy, and at ease here frees my mind so that I can be creative.

The only grape design I've ever made!

We have many lemon and citrus trees in our garden

While I have done very few obviously vineyard inspired pieces - ie only one grape necklace, we named our vineyard Birdland Vineyards for a reason! We get lots of different birds visiting us all the time - building nests, bathing, eating, singing, growing....  And if you've ever seen any of my jewelry - you'll know that birds feature in more than 50% of my work!

We built a duck float for our pond one year and thus came this ring!

There is a certain tranquility to our home.  When people come and stay, you can see a visible difference in them after they've been here 2 or 3 days. Their shoulders drop, they relax, they breathe slower and more deeply......The wonder of nature is all around and you can't fail to be affected by it.  It is a little piece of heaven. 

In terra pax - On earth peace

And when you live in this environment,  it seems obvious that I would categorize my jewelry in terms of "playful, happy, serene, homey, and comforted".   Those are the emotions that surround us and thus my work reflects that.

"Songbird" - we  are lucky enough to share our property with countless songbirds everyday

So yes.  My geographical location - my little slice of heaven - plays a huge part in all that I create.

I hope you'll check out how the geography of the other merry go rounders affects them by clicking on the links below.  We live in many different places around the world from Singapore to Turkey to the Outer Hebrides, to the Netherlands ...... so it'll be interesting to see how these places affect the artist who lives there. (Remember that this also means that we live on different time zones so some may post later than others.)
Thanks for looking.
Alison at Tweed Delights -
Mitsy at ArtMind -
Kim at Vilt a la Kim -
Sara at Crafts of Texture -  
Fabienne at Easterya Jewellery Creations -
Mariana at Florcita -
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent -
Lily at Lily Pang Art and Design -

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Petal the donkey

I've been trying a few new techniques and practicing some others that I haven't used much.  The result was Petal the Donkey.

This was my first attempt at engraving - just some lines for the mane, mouth, nose, tail etc (doesn't show up much in the photo I'm afraid  - it probably needs a bit of patina). I used a Dremel engraver and it was pretty easy.  Also engraved my initials on the back. I also made my own pin findings and a few other techniques that were good to practice.

Hope you like Petal.  A simple but happy little donkey.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mixed Media Mystery

Here's a mixed media piece in progress.....

I thought I'd put out a little challenge to go along with it.  What is the brown material that forms the top part of this?

Any ideas?  Go on - have a guess!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Here's a brooch that I worked on at the mixed media class last week using nuts and bolts.  Not my usual style but good for techniques. 

Gosh, I really don't enjoy soldering on those fiddly little brooch/pin findings.  Definitely not my number one task!

I love the colors in this - and the blackened copper sets it off nicely.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mondays with Marly - Three Metal Collage

You can see more of Marly's work at Studio 28 - Waterloo,  Canada.

Oh dear! We’ve been so busy with summer projects and get-aways that I almost forgot that its THIS Monday that my next guest blog is due. Where does the time go? Its been fun having time for new projects like updating the little kitchenette in the front apartment and putting in a perennial garden in the front of the house. And we had a little get away to see Sting perform with the London (England) Symphony Concert Orchestra here in London (Ontario) on Wednesday night. Wow! What an amazing concert!

Not much time for the studio these days, but I’ve managed to create a few new pieces in the last while that I thought I’d share with you. I’ve grown to love working with copper and bronze clay along with fine silver clay. Although bronze and copper can be a bit more difficult to work with sometimes, the result of three metal colors in one piece is really worth it. Both Angie and I have found working with Hadar Jacobson’s bronze and metal powders to be our preferred choice. You can mix just the amount that you need, and the clay when it is first mixed is supple and very easy to work and manipulate. I currently am working with the three metals in a collage form that looks like a little temple. I like the form and hope there is lots of room for playing with texture and shapes within this format. Here are some of my initial pieces using this format.

I purchased some tree stamps at the art clay conference last year and decided to make a few pieces using this tree design.

The next two pieces incorporate some “Lake Huron Series” earrings that I had left in my “odds and ends” box.

I’m looking forward to playing with more copper, bronze, and silver soon. Just a few more clearing some space in the studio and I’ll be on my way!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday's Spotlight - The Photography Walk


For my Fathers' Day present, Ruth had booked a photography excursion for us both in a nearby vineyard.  It was a good day out, but unfortunately, although much larger than Ruth and John's the vineyard was no where near as attractive.

There were 5 of us in the group - led by Dave from Rohnert Park, who had been a wine maker.  It was a bit disappointing that he spent so much of his time telling us about grapes and wine-tasting and very little about the art of photography.  That could have been because 2 of the 5 participants weren't photographers and came to accompany their photographer daughter. 

Ruth and I enjoyed the day and found some great shots to take.  I overdid the bunches of grapes photos but with a digital camera that's not at all important.

Almost unbelievably, it was a cloudy day.  This was fine because the lack of sunlight made the taking of photographs a lot easier than in conditions of bright sunlight and dark shade.

About three quarters of the way through the tour, Dave reminded us to look out for snakes, adding the rider that they wouldn't be out in the overcast conditions anyway.

Some of the most interesting shots were the rows of vines leading the eye up to a feature in the hills beyond.

The vineyard - B. R. Cohn - is situated just out of Sonoma.  Bruce Cohn, the founder and owner, had at one time been the manager of a group of musicians - The Doobie Brothers. The group had broken up and Bruce had then bought the acreage for the vineyard.  A few years later he arranged a charity music festival and his old group reformed for the occasion in order to take part in the concert.

That night was so successful that the group have stayed together and the one off concert is now an annual event.  The vineyard is a perfect setting in which to enjoy music.

When we returned to the visitor center a huge lunch was given to us. I'm sure that my lunch along would have fed all 5 of us!

After lunch, Ruth and I took some floral photographs and also four unusual and attractive fun sculptures by an artist living nearby in Sebastopol - Patrick Amiot.  If you are ever in that California town - hunt out Florence Street where the sculptor lives. Almost every house on that street has a piece of his work on display in their gardens.

A good, enjoyable, fun and even unusual day. And the sun broke through the fog at lunch time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Songbird festival in San Francisco

I'm going to be a songbird on August 8th - along with  Karen Clark, Lindsey McLennan, Celeste Winant and Joyce Todd McBride.

It is the Songbird Festival in San Francisco and Vajra Voices - the new quintet I sing with - will be performing that day along with Katy Stephan and pianist Allison Lovejoy.

The concert starts at 4pm and we will be singing the early music of Hildegard von Bingen and St Martial.

If you around SF that day - it would be great to see you at the Community Music Center, 544 Capp Street, SF.  Check out the website as the festival runs for five weeks and we are in the fourth week so there are a lot more other songbirds before us!

Hope to see you there.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Eggshell Mosaic

As part of my mixed media class, we learnt a technique using eggshells on metal.

First - eat the eggs!

Then the tricky part is taking the membrane off from inside the egg shells.  I hadn't realized it, but the membrane on the inside of an egg shell is pink in color - just a pale pink - but definitely pink. As you remove it - it's actually a few layers - the shell gets more and more fragile.

We then learnt how to apply the eggshells to the metal to create a really tough surface and also add some color.  I used a turquoise/blue color for mine, but I'm afraid the photo doesn't really show that as the lighting wasn't good in the studio.

It's an interesting technique and here's a couple of examples of how Diane - our instructor - has utilized it in created two brooches.

I wonder how I will ended up using it????

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mendocino Art Center

I'm in Mendocino (northern California) this week, taking a mixed media class at the Mendocino Art Center with Diane Falkenhagen.

It's a great class. There are only 4 students and we are getting to try lots of different media and techniques.  The aim of the class isn't to make something, but rather to play and try a few samples and see what we like and see what inspires us.

Here are some of the samples that I made on the first day applying pictures to polymer clay.  The one on the far right is on liquid polymer clay. 

I'll show you some others as the class progresses.

It's a great place to come for classes. I am staying at the art center housing - and good sized room - basic but shares a tiny kitchen too.  The whole place - town as well - has just a great feeling to it. I really like it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Master Muse Challenge 3 - Faux bone rings with metal clay

My third Master Muse challenge is up on Tonya Davidson's blog for Whole Lotta Whimsy today.

Our challenge was to combine metal clay with a faux bone ring blank.  I've had some faux bone sat in my drawer now for probably a couple of years - never touched - so this challenge finally got me to give it a try.  I really enjoyed it - apart from cleaning up after sawing it as it does generate lots of little tiny white bits!!

As Tonya's blog described, I did the challenge in the run up to the wedding at our home.  During that time we were just hoping that all our flowers would keep flowering and stay looking good for the wedding - and so I made two flowerings - (flower-rings) for this project - ones that would keep flowering!

The first one is an interchangeable ring - where you can make multiple components and swap them in and out as you choose.

A lot of the fauxbone things you see, utilize the "bone" like coloring, adding browns and blacks etc to create the look of an "aged" piece - but if there is one color I avoid and don't like, it's brown!!!  So I decided to brighten up the faux bone with some pretty colors!

Yes - it is a large ring! Here are some variations:

The second ring I made for the challenge was a flowerpot!

Each flower is "planted" into the flowerpot and left to grow! 

Happy rings that I hope will encourage the wearer to "keep flowering"!

Tonya's blog shows a brief synopsis of how to create the flowerpot ring.  Full step by step instructions with around 70 photos will be available from Whole Lotta Whimsy shortly. I hope these will inspire you to give faux bone a try! I'm certainly glad mine finally came out of the drawer!! 

Every Wednesday Tonya posts another Master Muse challenge on her blog - and the next few are all faux bone rings - so pop by and see how others interpreted the challenge.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fields of Lavender

Our lavender is just perfect right now - and we have a lot of it.  It is full of busy bees - lots of different species of bees. Did you know that in California alone there are 1000 species of bees!

We always gather some and dry it for baskets etc, and I've made quite a few lavender wands in the past.  While my mum was here - she decided to make a large wand as she'd told some friends in England that I'd made on with 90 stalks of lavender one year so she set about to make her own large one.It's pretty fiddly with that many stalks - especially the first couple of rounds.

And each year I always dry a little of the Provence lavender.  We have a few different varieties of lavender but the Provence is the one that is good for cooking and eating. But remember - a little goes a long way!  I even have a lavender cookbook - bet you didn't even know such a thing existed! A friend bought it for me a couple of years ago.

The best lavender recipe I have ever made is lavender and honey ice cream.  To say this ice cream is rich is an understatement! If I recall -  you use 8 eggs in it!  But it certainly is yummy and one of those things saved for a special treat.  Last time I made it with lavender shortbread.

What is your favorite use for lavender? Is there something new I can make this year with it?  I'd love to hear your ideas....

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday's Millinery Musing - France on Foot - part 1

By guest blogger Jennifer

In 1999 a friend at work dropped a book on Dave's desk and said. "You and Jennifer should do this." The book was France on Foot by Bruce LeFavour. It completely changed our view of what a vacation could be. It changed us.

We bravely ventured forth in 2000, armed with our map 903, France Grande Randonee or France Long Distance Walking Paths. This map traces nearly 37,000 miles of trails in France alone, and as Le Favour points out this is more than one and a half times the distance around the world at the equator.

The French trail system was established in the 1930's by the FFRP(translation: French Long Distance Walking Federation). This group of activists along with other individuals and preservation organizations were concerned because the paths, which had always been  open to everyone, had fallen into decline and were being swallowed up by the automobile and modern agriculture. In 1999 there were about 6,000 volunteers who did the hard work of maintaining these trails. The trails are not only maintained, they are meticulously mapped in the IGN Serie Bleue maps.

We have never rented a car in France. We fly into Paris, take the metro from the airport to one of the train stations, and a train to the area where we want to walk. To avoid the highways and traffic we take a taxi to the trailhead. This always entertains the taxi driver who invariably gives us outstanding recommendations for local restaurants, wines, and on occasion, excellent recipes. He basically drops us in the middle of nowhere, waves cheerily and shouts, "Bon Courage!" We love that. It's always the same.

At this point we are out of touch for several weeks. We carry everything we need in backpacks. We have maps and a compass.

Once we are within the trail system we can walk locally or regionally. The pleasures of walking through the French countryside are infinite whether it is through the lovely villages, vineyards or forests. We rarely see other hikers. Dave walks faster than I do so we are often far apart, meeting up several times a day. On the silent path one can hear the cuckoos in the forests, pick wood violets and wild geraniums, and hear the sound of ones own breath and footsteps. It is deeply relaxing.

We are often asked why we don't ride bikes instead of walk, we could cover more ground, get to places more quickly etc. For us it's too fast. Life whizzes by on a bike. When we walk we can really see where we are and an intimacy with the countryside develops. It is a friendship that is slow and welcoming with not only the land but with the weather and bird life.

At the end of the day there is always a good meal and a real bed. You may be wondering, "Where do you sleep?"  Stay tuned!