This month has been a blur. I have been working towards a 2 woman gallery show with artist friend Joanna Barnum. We installed the show yesterday – more on that in another post! It looks amazing and I am beyond excited. But it made me late to this reveal….
When the theme was announced – it dovetailed perfectly into a piece I was working on for the show. A piece involving foliage, goddesses, and owls.
I am calling this series “Animal Icons” and you can see here 2 awaiting cold finishes in the studio. The owl is inspired by the Welsh goddess Bloddeuwedd. She was magically created from 9 plants, although some retellings of her tale simplify to three.
In her tale – she is created as a bride for Gwydion. She was supposed to be the ideal docile wife. Well… she ended us having an affair, and in some ways awakening as her own independent entity. She and her lover plot to betray and kill her husband. ( You can read her whole tale here. ) I think this quote from Journeying to the Goddess sums it up: “After Llew is killed, She is pursued and as a punishment, turned into an owl. Owls are associated with wisdom. Blodeuwedd has become the Crone. She has learned what happens when She accepts Herself and turns against what others want Her to be. Blodeuwedd was ‘transformed into the diametrical opposite of her previous self. From a meek, gentle, smiling, benign, beautiful and perfect Mate, She became a solitary night predator, maw gaping in silent flight, screech cutting through the forest. In a positive sense, we may say that She became assertive, independent, self-realized – and wise.’
The base of my ceramic piece is carved with 8 of the 9 plants. ( It was crowded, and bean wasn’t as photogenic… ) I have finished the piece with multiple thin layers of acrylic washes, and then a sealer.
The owl perched atop, also finished with acrylics, is affixed with a dowel for stability. The niche holds moss and a moonstone egg.
Claire has a deep love for octopus. If you know her – you know this. So it wasn’t a surprise when this was her selection for the theme this month! Personally I find them alternately beautiful and creepy, yet utterly fascinating. They are chameleons, and very intelligent. (Image from this NY Times article)
I sat down to bead – to bead a tapestry with the perfect enameled Octopus by Anne Gardanne.
I was thinking. a felted and beaded tapestry .I tried out ideas for an embellished frame that wold have embedded shells in Apoxie clay. I wove ribbons of hand dyed French silk ribbon amongst the tentacles….. Nothing. The Muse was not a-mused. ( I set this aside for another day. )
See what I kept thinking of was a mermaid. Who says they all have to have fish tales. I mean, Ursula the Sea Witch was an octopus. So I went to one of my all time favorite artists for inspiration. Alfonse Mucha.
This is “Dance” completed in 1898. It was the figure reface I needed – clearly Mucha in style, with clear lines to alter the lower half of the figure. And I traced it – full disclosure!
I drew my own decorative elements, and did line work in sepia permanent marker. I painted happily one afternoon – a break from the studio – red hair, aqua waves, and a mottled background.And then tackled those tentacles!
I started a base coat of watercolor. I had masked off the edges a little…. I planned on using salt in a wash to get speckles. But I had small salt, and it wasn’t dramatic enough – so I started shattering! What a wet mess and SO much fun. Then I added some Brusho pigment crystals…
I had thought about drawing in the suckers with white Gell pen? Or painting a hint of them in watercolor… but the Brusho are so intense they kinda ruin a piece for working back in. They also splattered past where I had applied Maskit and are very hard to cover! ( They reactivate with anything wet…) SO I think I am done!
This was just what I needed – to paint for pleasure. Thank you Claire for a great theme. Oh – Zoey wanted in on the octopus action too:
Don’t forget – this is a hop! Take a look at other creations from the Art Elements team and our guests this month!
Departing from Ruthin, we leave North Wales behind us and head south. Our route took as along the border with England, on the eastern edge of Wales. As we trundled along… we decided to stop at Powis Castle!
Powis is a very Manor house type of castle. There has been a castle on this sight since the mid 1200’s, when Powis was built by Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn. This was never one of the castles intended to control the wild Welsh hoards – as so many of the castles Edward I built in that era. Rather this was a Welsh prince, changing allegiances and building on land given to him by the Crown. Harumph. The two large drum towers date from 1312, and the majority of the construction was renovated in the 1530’s.
Powis is famous for its tiered gardens – sadly we only overlooked them… as it was a grey and rainy day. I loved the Medusa details on the sculpture. (“Fame”, attributed to the workshop of Dutchman John van Nost )
I apparently snuck a few pictures inside, not knowing it was not allowed.
These fantastical creatures date back to the period 1587-1595 when Lord Edward Herbert had extensive renovations done to the castle. They are in the Long Hall – the only surviving room from that era.
Our second destination was Cwmcrwth Farm, near Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire. Utterly charming, this working farm has down sized its flocks and herds, and converted many of the original stone farm buildings to cottages. It is still a farm, however – and Rob and Fiona are amazing hosts.
One of the highlights for my nephews, I think was feeding the animals. There are Highland cattle, alpaca, goats, sheep, donkeys, pigs, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs… and Bryn and Meg the working border collies!
Cwtch Corner (cwtch is Welsh for cuddle) was a big hit. Not pictured are the rabbits – Snowy and Sooty who were fed many handfuls of dandelions…
While we were based at Cwmcrwth Farm, my sisters and I had a simply amazing experience! Billed as a cooking lesson, it was a day of food and camaraderie with Lisa Fearn at The Pumpkin Patch.
Lisa is a chef, author, and television personality – regularly appearing on S4C’s Prynhawn Da program. She teaches cooking classes for all ages, and welcomed us into her home for a day of traditional Welsh recipes. We made bread ( something I have never attempted) Welsh Cawl and Welsh cakes. Oh – Lisa whipped up some Welsh rarebit to go with our bread…
While our dough was proving ( don’t I sound ready for the Bake off? Ha) Lisa showed us her new addition Y Sied. This newly renovated barn now houses the cooking school as well as a coffee shop and cafe! I was excited to see this new space before the unveiling – and am only sad I don’t live closer. I wish Lisa and her staff all the best in this new venture!
The Farm was a lovely respite in the middle of our trip. And we had such delicious offerings from our cooking class to take back to our self-catering cottages! So delicious!
From our home base near Carmarthen – up next was a day trip to St Davis and the Pembrokeshire coast!
Part of my heritage is Welsh. The Davies name/blood on my paternal side held on tenaciously amidst the German and Irish, waving the surname like a flag. I have always been called to this aspect of my diverse Celtic heritage. So last holiday season the family started planning an epic trip. My family has had its fair share of grief and trauma in the last year and a half. So this trip was much needed – to celebrate life, and be together, and get a feel for the country of our ancestry.
To me – and for the writing here – I will treat Wales as its own country. While it is officially part of the UK, it has its own language, and strong independent cultural identity. The fact that the latter has survived amidst great prejudice and pressure to assimilate is remarkable to me. (Wales lost its last prince in 1282 when Edward I defeated Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. Then became part of the UK in 1535, early enough in UK history that you don’t see Wales represented in the UK flag, nor in the coat of arms. * See below )
Our trip started in early July ( the irony of landing in the UK on July 4th was not lost on any of us) and the 7 of us flew in from Delaware, Texas, New Mexico… Landing in Manchester and heading to Ruthin Wales. I was traveling solo – sadly my spouse had to work New job= no real leave time…. But I got to hop of the train in Warrington to have coffee with Caroline!
Caroline and I are both artists and writers for Art Elements blog. We have known each other for like 8 years? And this was our 2nd in person! She and I share a love of myth and magic, and hours passed in the blink of an eye and a few sips of latte. Then I was on the train – headed to Flint Wales with lunch – thanks to C! Although the windows were dirty, the view still made my heart happy.
Can I just take a second to appreciate al the bilingual signs all over Wales?! This (below) was at the tiny, gritty train station… where I waited for a taxi able to take me the rest of the way, a good jaunt, too Ruthin.
When I arrived – I had a few hours to myself. I set off to explore the grounds, and walk in to town.
Also on the grounds of Ruthin Castle is a Gorsedd stone circle. These circles are constructed for the ceremonies of the National Eisteddfod. The Ruthin circle was constructed in 1973, commemorating Ruthin hosting the festival. While it is a modern circle – walking amongst standing stones as tall as me, in the morning dew and mist, was a magical experience.
Now – true to form I am always looking for myth and magic. SO I present Maen Huail – where folklore says King Arthur ( yes, that King Arthur) beheaded the giant Huail. While the stone has been moved in town, from outside the bank to now outside a pub, it remains in the town center, and well marked! ( information here and here.)
Ruthin is a really charming market town. People were exceptionally friendly – and even more so when we told them about our trip. That we ranged in age from Dad at 81 to my nephews at 5 and 9. That we were “Davies” and interested in the land of our heritage, even though we weren’t conducting research. And our attempts and pronunciation and a few Welsh word – patiently well received.
The Ruthin Craft Centre was on my list of “I-hope-I-can-go-there” places. And it did not disappoint! Galleries, local artists work in the shop, artist residency studios, and classrooms – this place was hub of arts and learning. My sister and I went to see the exhibit by Primmy Chorley. ( see the image below for a quote on her work.)
One thing we had planned while based in Ruthin was a day trip to Rhosllanerchrugog. (Rhos – moor. Llanerch – glade. grugog – heathery. “Moor of the Heathery Glade”). We didn’t have a destination in mind specifically, so we did a drive through town. Rhos was a minion town, and seemed to be in a bit of a decline/hard times… We opted to continue on…
The afternoon was spent exploring the defunct Mineral lead mine, and lunch at Llandegla. Llandegla is a trout fishery, with a stunning camping area and a wonderful cafe. The boys fed some trout – and we ate some too. My obsession with elderflower started here…
Diolch! As in – thank you for reading the first installment of this amazing trip. More to come – stay tuned.
I left for Wales as the month began… on a trip with family that was part heritage tour and part vacation. ( In depth Wales posts are coming shortly.) I kept flowers in my mind as I was touring castles, exploring old seaside villages, hiking in the national parks…. It was an amazing transformative trip, and I will be feeling and seeing the creative effects of it for a long time coming.
But after returning home, and catching up on sleep, laundry, household chores… there was very little of July left for me. I offer you some works in progress for this month – inspired by the theme.
The first showcases these vintage glass pieces. I do not know anything about their original purpose – but when I saw them – I saw frames. ( Sadly there was a blue one too. The set of 4 made me think – 4 elements. I was only able to procure these three.) They have no holes or fasteners/bails of any kind. What do you think they were?
After sorting through many folders of vintage and antique papers ( did you see my post on my paper class with Keith LoBue?) I found some images in the right scale. Two were antique cigarette cards, the other an image from children’s illustrated encyclopedia. ( Yes – mine form my early childhood) I added gesso to the images outside the window area to cloud the colors – I didn’t want them showing through the glass.
Above you can see the copper piece engineered to fit the glass. I had not picked up the jewelry saw in months? a year? and it was so wonderful to be back at the bench pin! Below you can see the piece assembled – well, how it will be.
Currently – the images are drying – a coat of Diamond glaze to protect them. And the copper is in the tumbler – left bright, no patina. I plan to add 3 jump rings from the top arch/bail to add the connection point, and a little movement.
I have missed seed beading in all my travels this month – so I prepared a bead piece, wanting to sit and chill and bead. Well, you can see how far I got:
I hope you have had a wonderful July – whether you traveled or not…
For now – please enjoy a bit of armchair travel as you visit the blogs of my team mates and our guests. Thank you Marsha for a fertile theme, where I am sure many ideas have taken root !
This month I dove into a subject I adore for the theme challenge at Art Elements blog: selkies. While this month was full of travel, shows, and just life! I have two creations to share. And I am beyond excited to see what my friends ant team mates have created! But first? A guest artist:
In my original post I shared an artist’s doll by Ellen Paquette. Ellen has joined us here to talk of her fabric sculptures and her inspirations!
I can’t remember exactly when my fascination with selkies and their related folklore set in. It’s certainly an obsession deeply tied to my love of seals and Celtic folklore. By my early 20s I was painting selkies, gathering as much written matter about them as I could, and watching for seals anytime I was near coastline where they could be found, especially on some serendipitous trips to Scotland, which is truly my heart home.
I’ve sewn since a very young age, and experimented with constructing dolls, puppets and fabric creatures and their clothing and accessories throughout childhood. In addition, a love of historic clothing and much time spent doing theatrical costuming made the fact that I would eventually decide to design a selkie who would fit inside her sealskin inevitable. Creating selkie dolls is a miniature manifestation of some of my favorite aspects of creative sewing.
The sealskin is constructed from upholstery weight plush fabric which I line with a satiny cloth. The pattern for the seal is something I designed through a process of much trial and error. The doll body is a design which I arrived at after much tweaking of a tiny doll pattern I found in a vintage doll making book in the local library. I scaled the design to result in a doll that is about 13″ tall. A simple method for constructing a yarn wig for the doll was a helpful technique I also gleaned from this book.
The dolls are customizable, from hair and eye color to sealskin color to style and color scheme of clothing. I offer a traditional Scottish costume, as well as a “from the sea” costume, which I like to style as if the selkie has come ashore and had to create something wearable out of whatever bits of fabric and net she could find. Tiny details which I love to add are beading, jewelry, shells, and seaweedy yarn embellishments. The faces are hand drawn and painted, using a combination of fine point ink pen, colored pencil and acrylic paint.
Each selkie asserts her own personality as she evolves, and the process involves a considerable amount of intricate hand sewing. I’ve made male and youth selkies as well. The fact that so much is customizable to the customer’s wishes makes each selkie utterly unique when she is slipped into her sealskin and launched to her new home.
For me? My inspiration came this month in the form of “fish leather”. My friend Lisa Peters Russ ( Lisa Peters Art) has begun importing – and each skin is more beautiful than the last. Seeing them – and dreaming up ideas happened at Bead and Button recently. (Learn more at Art Elements blog on July 1 as I interview Lisa! )
This scrap of wolffish made itself. With its organic shape and irregular edge it was the perfect size for an amulet pouch. I was thinking of a pouch a selkie might wear… in the deep or on land… but that has a watery element to it.
I stitched a soft leather to the back, leaving a flap to hang over. I debated a closure, but did not wan to detract from the skin pattern. The sides are embellished with beaded dangles – I even used the (dreaded!) C-lon thread for more drape. Shells, labradorite and sea urchin spikes – treasures from the deep. The cord is a simple loose braid of sari silk.
With a larger piece of the same type skin, I was envisioning the actual drape of a selkie’s skin. I wanted to try wetting and molding the fish leather. ( Note from Lisa – this works best with the scale free texture of the wolffish. ) Here is the finished selkie sculpture:
My polymer figure was a challenge. I strove to truly sculpt the face, building up the planes and facial features. But the scale was challenging. She has inset onyx eyes – a visual link to her seal self. Her skin is soft ivory, sage, grey… definitely adding to her otherworldly appearance. I am not completely happy with her face – and find her a bit to aged and severe. I do like the contrast and the flow of the composition – from beads to leather to larger shell.
The fish leather looked SO different wet – and dried to its same finish. Here is the WIP shot where. pinned the wet leather in place to dry in the folds and undulations.
The entire piece will be displayed in an old wooden drawer – that may get a darker stain – or may get sanded back a little for a more weather ed wood look. What do you think?
I am so excited to see the ideas and creations of my Art Element team mates and our blog guests! Thank you all for joining me on this mythic journey this month! Please take a look around via the links below!
This is what it looks like when you are packed and waiting to fly to your first non local bead show: Bead and Button. With much coaching from my bead sisters (Marsha, Diane and Nikki) I was packed and as ready as I would ever be.
Bead and Button is a large retail and wholesale trade show – literally beads and buttons. But also so much more! Jewelry supplies – and the classes! Oh the classes! I haven’t ever attended for pleasure or education, but this year I decided it was past time for me to vend!
Those 2 suitcases contain trays, table cloths, lights, packaging materials, all the display items, and a few of my cabochons I ran out of room… The green backpack? ALL the beads in my carry-on! Heavy, but safe. It all turns into this:
My bead sisters have a routine – and welcomed me into the schedule, and the shared hotel room with open arms. Without them I would not have attempted this! We had a day to explore the city a bit… say Hi to the Fonz – as you do! Milwaukee has some gorgeous Art Deco buildings and a lovely River Walk. We headed to the Historic Third Ward for pedicures, and lunch at the Milwaukee Public Market.
A had a stowaway – and Mendel the Mandrake did get up to some hijinks while I was busy with customers!
And there was a little shopping. No really, not too much!
But I think the most exciting new thing was the FISH LEATHER! Lisa Peters is importing this stunning material. I will be interviewing her for the Art Elements Blog in the near future. We were designing with it at once! Stay tuned!
Welcome! This month Lesley tasked us with something a little different – she challenged us to reuse, recycle, and reinvent. While that wasn’t a new idea for some of us – it was a really fun challenge to try something new, to make new from old. It was perfect timing with Earth Day falling in the month to make use of exiting materials, in an effort to reduce waste and consumerism.
My first piece came to me filled with delicious British chocolates. Jenny Wren to be exact. They arrived perfectly intact from my Secret Santa Caroline – that tiny wren flying thousands of miles with the assistance of the Royal Mail. We ate the chocolates carefully, savoring the treat over a few days, and yes – I did share with my husband.
The box fascinated me. I loved the engineering, and the size. The colors aren’t my personal palette – so for this month’s challenge I decided to give it a make over. ( Sadly no process pix. Oops) I based my palette on paste paper I had made with my Book Arts group a while back. It was my favorite aqua greens, but with gold and burgundy. I covered the hot pink, but let the yellow peek out at the edges. I wrapped each drawer, and lined the inside. I knew I had to use thin paper, and leave certain areas alone – to as not bulk up the form and impede movement.
I am really happy with the box – it may live on my bead table, holding artist beads that are too pretty to put away, or that are in my line of vision as I contemplate what their future holds.
My second re-use project uses old wool sweaters. Unlike many of my team mates here at AE, I cannot sew. Nothing functional that it. I can embellish and embroider, but no patterns or machines for me. Old wool sweaters from the thrift store shrink and felt into lovely fabric – one simply needs to wash and dry on hot! These felted pieces I have used as the basis for tapestries, for pouches… This month I tried a goddess art doll of sorts. There are some issues – but I liked embroidering while watching tv – having something to do with my hands. The goddess shape I drew onto the felt, and did lose some definition of shape when I turned its and stuffed it – due to the thickness of the fabric. I think I will play with this idea more.
Ok – this is the big reveal. This is a thing I actually found in an antique store in Maine last October! When I saw it – I had a plan!
It is an antique mens travel grooming case, in great condition. I clean it up, threw put the brushes… and refilled it!
While it isn’t the most streamlined travel art studio – its unique and makes me happy! The soap and toiletries boxes have all been reimagined:
There are travel scissor, brushes… I need to find a plastic travel bottle that fits in one of the open loops, and I have a watercolor tray that may fit in as well. I went to find a sketchbook to fit inside – but they were all too thick. So I made a folio – to hold loose paper. It will serve as the work surface as well. It is covered in Tyvek painted with alcohol inks – so it won’t be harmed by the occasional splatter.
Before I go – a few process pix. The watercolor pans are all in place with magnets. Magnetic tape not eh bottom of the box, and a round magnet on each pan. Easy to remove, rearrange, refill. And the Tyvek? It was simply a USPS mailer envelope cut open, and painted on the clean white inside. ( Free and durable)
Thanks for stopping in – I am off to dabble with my watercolors for the #100 day project. But please – take a look at what creative re-use solution are going on on the other blogs!
The Luna moth – elusive, poetic, and so vibrant! Jen gave us a wonderful theme to work with this month! I knew from the start that I wanted to stretch myself and allow myself to play a little simultaneously.
I recently posted about my new-found toy: Brusho watercolor crystals. So I sat down to play in my art journal with the theme on my mind… The stages of the drawing are shown above and the very colorful piece is below. I wanted a more mellow blue background so the luna moth would pop more; but I am happy with my composition and inks!
The challenge I set to myself was to do something in leather. I have a diverse collection of pieces gifted to me, and purchased from friends who are leather clothiers. ( Think Renaissance fairs) My original plans were to paint on leather, but I found this glossy yellow-green piece that team mate Lindsay had sent me! Perfection. A few You Tube videos later – I was stitching.
The whole piece was inspired but he Luna moth shape – as I could see the tail tucking into a loop or fold. the band closure was a little too loose – so I fabricated 2 stamped staples to tighten it down, making the closure more secure. The luna moth is glued down and stitched using forest green 28 gauge wire. I burnished the ends into the flap so they wouldn’t catch on anything.
I dont know what I will use it for – the size was determined by a scrap of natural leather that I stained dark brown. In a perfect mixed media moment – I took out my linoleum carving tools to score/carve the designs into the moth’s body. I accentuated the carved lines with acrylic. The whole experience was so freeing – to do something very different and solve the myriad small creative problems that one faces when working outside of their regular medium. More leather work soon!
Now please feel free to explore the other pieces this month – by my team mates on the blog and out guests!
Welcome to the reveal! This month Cathy challenged us with “Birds of Prey“. I found it to be extremely inspirational. I really wanted to work with osprey – as they nested on the river where I grew up, all along the Chesapeake Bay, and I still see them often at the Delaware beaches. But the owls had their hooks in me…
First are these mixed media focal pendants. This is a style I am diving deep into pf late – getting ready for an online show, a local show, and then.. .Bead and Button! ( details at end of post.) These polymer assemblages feature found OOAK images, and antique lenses. Optometry lenses or watch crystals – I am not sure. The image is sandwiched between polymer and lens. The bezel – for lack of a better term – is sculpted. All are hand painted! ( I may have to keep that Barn owl… )
Polymer and mixed media pendants.
The polymer station is simply staying set up in my studio. I have ideas bubbling up all the time! After a lovely day crystals shopping with Staci – These owl were born. I want to sculpt similar pieces with goddesses and other animals as well.
Crystal owl prototype!
2 crystal owls, one with a loop. Coming soon to “One Sweet Bead Market” on FB.
The image in Cathy’s original post haunted me. Zoomed in, cropped… I decided to try translating it to beads. I want to experiment with some beaded paintings, of a sort… I made the conscious decision to use only size 11 rounds, keeping the surface uniform. Then color and direction of stitches would take precedence…
Beaded painting in progress
At the same time – I was working on this cabochon – a barn owl. So often I am caught up in the cycle of production, being efficient, producing more. That is a cycle I strive to break this year. This piece was very satisfying to sculpt in detail, and i used antique jet beads as eyes. ! I knew it was destined to be paired with flowers. I was inspired by the Welsh goddess Blodeuwedd – who was created from flowers and later shape shifted into an owl…
New cab, colored with pastels, amongst vintage lucite flowers.
Here are these 2 bead embroidery pieces finished! I am happy with how they both came out – but thrilled with Blodeuwedd, if I do say so.
Completed as a brooch, shown in hand for scale.
Beaded piece measures 3 x 3″ , framed in a birch panel frame.
This was a great theme, and a very productive month, especially for a short month! Please take a few minutes to visit my team mates, and out guests this month. Thanks for stopping by – see you in March!