Monday, January 31, 2011

Fragility - Edna Dickinson

As I went to Fabrica La Aurora today for  a class, I stopped in to see a new installation called "fragility" by Edna Dickinson.  She has created open fragile white procelain structures, built from multiple pieces with the idea of cellular growth and forms that build slowly, one piece at a time.  She includes broken pieces on the bases of the installation....It made me think of the fragility of nature.

I love the simplicity the white color gives to the pieces. What do you think?  I'm glad I'm not packing one up to bring home!!!

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I've loved seeing all the burros working hard in San Miguel. They don't even get Sunday off as I saw these four this afternoon.  What sweeties!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekly Bird in the hand

Gosh, the week has gone quickly! Can't believe it's Saturday already and time for another "bird in the hand" - my list of things I'm grateful for this week.
  • Hospital staff that are taking care of my brother in law in England. Hope you improve quickly Robert.
  • Being able to live in San Miguel for a few weeks and already bump into people we know. Then having the time to sit and chat with them over coffee or a meal.
  • The joy of being in a class three times a week - like my sculpture one - and really feeling I am making progress.  
  • Doing art and craft with other people. At home, it's just me alone in my studio working away.  I am really enjoying the interaction and being able to bounce ideas off others.
  • New friends.
  • Warm weather - especially grateful when I hear about bad weather elsewhere!
Hope you've had a good week.

    Friday, January 28, 2011

    Merry go round - Compass words for 2011

    As it's the last Friday of the month, it's time to jump on the Merry go round for the first time this year!  We have two new members, Laura and Monika so I hope you'll check all the links. Our merry go round is where a group of 10 artists/craftwomen link together around the world and tell you a little about their art and craft, through blogging on the same topic.

    This month's topic was to come up with three "compass words" for 2011.  Tonya Davidson from Whole Lotta Whimsy came up with an exercise that helps you reflect on what you've done and then contemplate your future - but using the written word instead of just in your head. By writing the exercise down - and publishing it here in my blog - it shows a greater commitment to change, rather than just a casual exercise.  The "compass words" then become a focus for the year ahead -whether they apply to your business or home life or both or whatever.  I hope you'll take the time and find your own compass words by clicking on the above link.  If you do - please add them to the blog post in the comments section.

    Photo by geebee2007
    The three words that I came up with for my compass words this year are: Grow, Explore, and Confident.  They apply both to my art/craft work and also other aspects of my life.

    Photo by Johan J.Ingles-Le Nobel
    As I mentioned in an earlier post this year - I really feel a push, a need and the enthusiasm to try some new things. This is the "grow" and "explore" words.  I want to explore different techniques and media.  As I was a scientist before finding metal clay, I feel that "art" never played any significant part in school or work,  so I want to grow as an artist and feel like an artist. If you've been reading my blog recently, you'll see that my stay in San Miguel has really helped kick start my "grow" and "explore". I've been trying lots of new things and still have a week left....with some new things coming up.   I want to keep this up through the year to find new ways of doing things and grow from this exploration.

    The "confident" compass word relates to several aspects of my life....I can feel quite confident in something one day and then have no confidence the next day.  So this is definitely a good thing for me to focus on.  My singing in the quintet particularly comes to mind with the "confidence" compass word when I frequently feel inadequate.

    An idea that Tonya suggests you do when you identify your compass words is to write them down and put them somewhere where you will see them frequently, as a constant reminder.  I'll definitely be doing that when I get home.  Maybe we'll have to do a follow up blog post at the end of the year and see if change has happened in relation to our compass words.

    I hope you have time to click on the links of the other merry go round team and see what compass words they all came up with for this year. We live in all different places around the world, so time differences may impact when we all get our blog post up.

    Laura at Blue Terracotta -
    Monika at Red2White -
    Ruth at Birdland Creations -
    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 -
    Mitsy at ArtMind -

    Or else you can follow the links to the actual blog post below:

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Work in progress

    Phew! I've taken on a tricky project.  I'll tell you more later but right now, here is part of the work in progress!  It's life size.  More later if I actually make more progress!!!

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    4/52 Bird a week - Sitting Pretty

    For this week's bird, I used my aluminum.  I drew three little birdies "sitting pretty" on anodized aluminum and then dyed the aluminum and sealed it and shaped it into a bangle.

    You can see one birdie from the front:

    and two from the back:

    The inside is colored a nice teal color.

    Happy little birds, sitting pretty. I hope you are sitting pretty too. There's still time to join in our bird a week challenge too - check out the flickr group link below and get birding.

    If you are part of the Bird a week challenge, please add your link here:

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Spring Flowers or Ice cream flavors?

    Spring in San Miguel begins next week - on February 2nd - my birthday! So today I finished a couple of "spring flower" aluminum bangles ready for spring.

    Happy cheerful colors.  I also did a bird bracelet - ready for my "bird a week" challenge so I'll show that tomorrow.

    Are you ready to think of spring yet?  It's lovely and sunny here - cool mornings and evenings but the afternoons are delightful - sunny, ice cream sort of weather.  It seems that San Miguel has become an ice cream place for me. I normally don't eat ice cream - only occasionally when I make it myself - but in the square there is this one ice cream maker whose ice cream is just divine.  Hmmm, maybe these are ice cream bangles, not spring flower bangles....tutti frutti and blueberry freeze!!!    What do you think? Spring flowers or ice cream?

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    The Aztecs

    The Aztecs are still very evident in Mexico City.  After visiting the Metropolitan Cathedral in the Zocalo district, we found many Aztecs at their market stalls nearby.  This area, by the cathedral, is a vast open plaza that was once the ceremonial center of Aztec life.  What colorful people! And how happy they all looked as they danced.

    You will probably not be surprised to hear that we didn't sample the typical Aztec foods however - which we saw both in Mexico City and in some restaurants in San Miguel.  It includes such delicacies as escamoles (ant eggs), chapulines (crispy fried crickets) or gusanos (worms of the maguey cactus),  rolled up in a fresh tortilla and eaten live with salt and lime.  I blame my dad. He had food poisoning from the night before from just eating chicken so it didn't encourage us to be adventurous!!

    Any of you eaten the eggs or worms before?  Lorena - is it one of your favorite dishes??? :-D

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Teotihuacan Pyramids

    On the way to Mexico city with my parents this week, we stopped to see the Teotihuacan Pyramids.

    Our trip there began with some Papantla Flyers - "Voladores de Papantla".  This is a group of 4 men dressed in traditional Indian costume gathering around the top of a tall pole.  They climb the pole and one plays a flute. Then they all "fly" down the pole, supported by a rope connected to their ankle.  The guy with the flute keeps playing all the while.

    The origins of Teotihuacan are uncertain but it is thought that construction of the city started in the first two centuries BC.  The civilization reached its high point around 500 AD.  One of the great mysteries is that no one then knows where the huge population that lived there eventually ended up.

    The original city was about 10 square miles but the ruins are now about one square mile.  There is citadel, the main avenue "Calzada de los Muertos", Templo de Quetzalcoatl and two large pyramids - Piramide del sol and Piramide de la luna. 

    The citadel, city and avenue of the dead
    The pyramid of the sun is the third largest pyramid in the world.  You can climb to the top of it - so both John and I did that. Mum started the climb but felt a little uneasy without handrails. And dad stayed at the bottom taking photos!  The climb wasn't too bad - easier than I had thought - and the views at the top - along with a nice breeze, were definitely worth it.

    The sun pyramid
    The moon pyramid
    It was a great place to stop so if you are ever in Mexico city - make sure you take in the pyramids.
    They are only 30 miles northeast of the city.....While that sounds like nothing, it wasn't quite our experience however, as it does help if your driver knows where he is going!    Hours later....we arrived at our hotel in the city - all with crooked necks from trying to peer out of the van to look for signs to at least the district we wanted! But that's another story.......

    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    Weekly Bird in the hand

    It's Saturday - so time for my weekly bird in the hand - the things I am grateful for:

    Photo by PinkStock Photos! 
    • The metal clay community.  We visited Mexico city this week and while there, I managed to meet up with a metal clay friend - Rosa Martha!  How amazing that I can be miles from home and still manage to feel part of the metal clay community. Rosa Martha and I did our certification program together a few years ago, and then met up again a couple of years ago at the PMC conference.  Maybe we will meet again this year in July.....  Great to see you Rosa Martha.  How wonderful to have such a group of friends with a common interest all over the world.
    • Mexico bus service - we took a First class bus from Mexico City back to Queretaro last night. It was wonderful! So comfortable, showed movies (albeit in Spanish), and efficient too.  I think we might be using the buses again while we are here!
    • My parents.  Had to say goodbye to my parents  yesterday as they flew back from Mexico city to England. We had such a good time with them  and they were real troupers - giving everything a try! Poor dad even tried food poisoning on his last night here!  An experience he could have done without. Hope you are feeling better dad. Miss you both already xx.
    • My friend Sharon.  Unfortunately I heard this week that my friend Sharon from Sonoma died.  I got to know her while on the board of the Sonoma Newcomers.  She was lovely vibrant person with so much style and joy!  I will miss you Sharon - as will so many other Newcomers.
    • Guacomole.  I just love it! Could eat it every day!
    • The opportunity to try so many new things in such a short time - from encaustics, to clay sculpture, to acupuncture (receiving not giving!!! :=D), to........
    Hope your life is as rich as mine is!

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    The Sistine Chapel of San Miguel

    My parents and I went out to El Santuario de Atotonilco at the weekend to see what is called "sistine chapel of San Miguel". The church is a place of pilgrimage and penitence and people travel from all over the country to pray and meditate here.

    The building of the church began in 1740 and took more than 35 years to complete.  All the walls were painted by one local artist at that time - who worked there for 30 years!  I can't imagine working on one project for all that time!

    The church is dedicated to Jesus of Nazareth and the priest and painter seemed to prefer the bloodier events to depict so there is a heavy focus on suffering and blood!

    For centuries the church was then neglected until about 15 years ago when the World Monuments Fund added it to its list of "100 Most Endangered Monuments".  With money from American Express and the state, the building's facade and murals are now being restored.  The church is now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    The day we were there, there were two weddings taking place. It was lovely to see.

    The restoration is still in progress, but you can get a real sense of all the work that has gone into it.  I still can't get over how one man would keep painting there for 30 years!  I get bored on one project after a week!!!

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    3/52 Bird a week - Love bird

    I did an encaustics class with my mum this week.  You'll see the first painting I did in an earlier blog post but just before the end of the class, I asked the teacher about adding metal leaf to the paintings.  She had some aluminum leaf and so I quickly use the last few minutes we had to make my bird for this week.

    Love Bird
    The lime green is the beeswax with pigment and resin which I applied in a few layers.  I fused each layer and then scraped it flat with a razor blade.

    I asked the teacher if I could cut up the metal leaf - which was actually aluminum.  She said she had only ever applied it whole - as a square on the backing material.  I had nothing to lose, so decided to cut out shapes of aluminum leaf and apply it to the solid green wax.

    To do this, I had to warm the wax a little, apply the leaf and press/brayer. Then you add water and gently rub off the backing sheet. It worked just fine with the shapes of metal leaf - no problem at all. I then fused the leaf to the wax and over-fused the birdie to try and get a crackle effect in the metal to indicate a feathery feel. The result is:  Love bird or I love birds or ???

    If you are part of the bird a week challenge, please add you link below to this week's photo or blog post.  If you want to join in our challenge, please visit the flickr group for more info. You can join at any time.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    The poppies blow.....

    Here is the first picture I did in yesterday's encaustics class.  I've entitled it "the poppies blow" which is a phrase from the famous "In Flanders Field" poem.

    What doesn't really show up in the photo but was my idea behind the piece is that the amount of texture increases as you come down the picture. So the sky has no texture, the green fields increase in texture and then the corn field with poppies has the most texture in the wax. 

    It was created with beeswax, pigment and resin using some over-fusing for the sky to create a blend of colors then minimal fusing for the highly textured areas.

    I also rubbed some oil paint into the corn field area to give a little more depth to the texture.

    It taught me a lot; I got to try different techniques so was happy with it as a sampler.

    My mum's first encaustic was entitled "Sun Rise". Hers seems more watercolor in style to me and she did some removing of wax and scratching in the wax for the trees, and then rubbed in some oil paints to highlight the branches etc.

    In our last few minutes of the class we both also tried applying aluminum leaf to the wax. Here is mum's and she also applied graphite:

    I'll show my aluminum leaf painting on Friday for my "bird a week" challenge - although you can get a glimpse here, in a photo of me and my mum.  It was great class to share together.


    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Another new class today - Encaustics

    I'm keeping up with my New Year resolution of being more experimental and trying lots of new things! Today I took a class in encaustics at Fabrica de la Aurora - something I haven't done before and never really knew that much about.

    My mum and I took the class together, taught by Rae Miller.  She is a delightful teacher and made the morning a real pleasure.

    When you look at the pigments you can use - who could resist:

    Such rich colors
    We learnt how to apply the wax with pigment and resin to create different effects - working with textures or smooth, over-fusing or regular fusing, adding metal leaf, adding oil paints, etc etc.

    It was fascinating and a good chance to just give it all a try.

    Tomorrow, I'll show you one of the paintings I completed using the colors above.   I also did a quick painting at the end of the class which was for my "bird a week" challenge, so I'll show that on Friday.

    I love giving all these new techniques and media a try!  This afternoon I had another class too - but more on that later......  You just can't keep me down!!! :-D

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    The Colors of Guanajuato

    We went on a tour of the city of Guanajuato this week.  Silver was discovered in Guanajuato in 1552 and it was considered to be one of the top three historic silver mining districts in Mexico.  At it's peak in the 1700's, the silver mines of Guanajuato were considered to be the largest and richest silver mines in the world.  It is estimated as having produced 1.2 billion oz silver and 6 million oz of gold.  But silver isn't the attraction of the city nowadays.

    The city is described as one of the most picturesque cities in Mexico and is now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It resembles many European Cities in that it seems to have grown up without a plan.

    It's streets are a maze of pedestrian only walkways, that were never designed for cars.  The cars travel instead through underground tunnels, which were built to deal with flooding.  The narrow winding cobblestone streets lead to alleys, stairs, dead ends and hidden churches and plazas.

    Wandering the streets practically guarantees that you will get lost and only then do you realize that being lost is a journey of discovery!


    Since it has been designate a UNESCO site, property owners have been encouraged to paint their homes in bright colors (unlike in San Miguel where the color choice is controlled to include only earth-type colors).  The effect is gorgeous.

    All these wonderful colors made me want to repaint our home when we get back....hmmm.. maybe lime green and turquoise!!  Shame we only just repainted it before we left!!

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Weekly Bird in the hand

    Here is this week's list of things I am grateful for - my "bird in the hand"

    Photo by '|'||'| '|'[]||{
    • Laura - the massage therapist at the spa in San Miguel.  She gives the best massage I have ever had.  I had one after our horse riding which totally revived me and then had another one yesterday which was just so relaxing.  To have someone take that much care and pay all that attention to you for two hours was just amazing. 
    • Mario - a great guide who took us to Guanojuato on Thursday.  I'll show some photos of the trip in the next couple of days.
    • Rita - my sculpture teacher - for being so encouraging and a wonderful, fun teacher.
    • My parents for being willing to get out of their comfort zone and join us in San Miguel and try lots of new things too.
    • Bright colors.  You'll see when I post photos from Guanojuato just how wonderful the colors are here.  It just makes me happy to see all these colored houses and bright's a taster

    • The "bird a week" challenge group. We are now up to 18 members! It makes me so happy that others want to join in the challenge. Thanks all of you who are participating.  Two weeks down, fifty to go!!!

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    2/52 Bird a week - the girl with a bird nest in her hair

    For the second week of the "bird a week" challenge, I sculpted a bird using clay.  He sits happily in a nest made of hair on the lady I sculpted.  This is my first clay sculpture ever.

    For those of you who have followed my creation this past week, the lady now has her neck hollowed out (!) and I also gave some more attention to her eyes and hair, and added some eyebrows. 

    I thought I would finish this sculpture off on Wednesday but I tried to "dress" the lady a little and didn't like the result.  So today is the end of the wet clay phase - hopefully -  and then the little lady and her bird get to dry out for a few weeks before firing. Fingers crossed they fire well....

    If you are joining in the "bird a week" challenge - please add your link to your blog post or flickr photo below and then add the link list to your blog too.  If you haven't joined and would like to - please go to the flickr group. 

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Cactus grow everywhere!

    The cactus grow everywhere around here! After my close encounter with one while I was horse-riding - I keep a warchful eye out for them - but as I'm not inclined to walk on the roof, I think I'll be safe from these!!

    The pigeon who didn't want curly hair!

    Did your mother tell you that if you didn't eat your crusts from your sandwiches, you wouldn't get curly hair?  Mine did, but it didn't work!  I still have straight hair!

    I think this pigeon wants to keep his feathers straight - so is working hard at avoiding the crust! What do you think? 

    Thanks Jennifer, for sending on the photo to me!!!

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    The girl with the bird nest in her hair

    As I've been working on my clay sculpture, I wanted to bring a little bit more of myself into the piece - make it definitely a "Ruth" piece - and so, did you guess from yesterday's photo?  I purposely cut the top of the photo off but wondered if anyone would guess.....?

    Yes, I made her hair into a nest and put a bird on top!  Now I feel it is a Ruth sculpture!!  What do you reckon?

    I had a vague memory about a story from my childhood about a girl with a bird nest in her hair.  Did you ever read it?  The story goes that a little girl grew her hair long but then didn't want to brush it. You know how little girls' hair can get so tangled so that it hurts when you brush it? Well, that was the case with this girl.  So she told her mother she wasn't going to brush it.  The mother said she had to, otherwise birds would come and nest in her hair....

    But the girl ignored her mother's warning and didn't brush her long hair.  Sure enough, as warned, little birds came and started nesting in her hair.  They were just tiny little songbirds to start with and so the girl actually quite liked it.  However, after a while, bigger and bigger birds came along and also wanted to nest and then it got quite painful.  The girl didn't like the big birds trying to nest in her hair - and so eventually, she had to admit that her mother was correct - and so, with her mother's help, got rid of the bird and began to brush her hair regularly.

    And so, here is my sculpture now - with a little bird nesting in the top.

    I also hollowed out her shoulder area, added eyebrows.....and in my next class I have to hollow out her neck, but then she'll be just about done and will need to be left to dry.

    Hope you like how she is coming along.  I haven't thought of a name for her yet? Any ideas?  "Nest" is a girl's name apparently - it's Welsh - but I don't think that's right for her.  I'll have a think today and see what I come up with......