Monday, October 22, 2012

Paint the Sky with Golden Stars

A recent workshop with Ken Bova brought a few of us metalsmiths into an entirely new direction.  We learned how to make our own mineral pigments out of stones (raw or in bead form), how to formulate the medium needed for these pigments, and and how to gild our piece with 22K gold sheet prior to painting.  We also learned a little about narrative jewelry and cold connecting along the way.

We began with grinding up some "soft" stones, i.e., lapis, azurite, etc., in a mortar and pestle until it was as fine as we could make it.  Then we sifted it to remove the larger particles.

We then drew our design onto quality watercolor paper, and painted the gesso mixture (mordant containing Gesso, varnish and sugar water) onto the design wherever we wanted to place the gold.  Once the gesso was dry, we blew onto it through a straw to bring some warm moisture to the surface and then quickly placed the gold sheet down.  This is done over and over until the area is completely covered.  Once dry, we mixed the sifted pigment with the egg yolk mixture (egg yolk, wine, olifa oil and lavender oil) and began to add color to our piece.

22K Gold Sheet

Some of Ken's Pigments:  

Here is an example of what we were trying to accomplish (note - this is not mine, it's Deanna's).  First the gesso mixture was laid down wherever there was to be gold.  Then the gold was carefully applied.  Once dry, the paint was put into place.  Voila!  

Pam decided to gild and paint a colorful fish design.  It came out absolutely beautiful.

 Ken gave us plenty of time to work on our pieces and then also gave us a demonstration on how to make a "narrative" type of pendant using only cold connections.  Here are a couple of examples of his work:

 I like the idea of bringing a story into one's work...a feeling, memory, a marker of important times in one's life.  Ken has a chain that he has been working on for years.  Each piece attached to this chain represents something in his life that was important to him.  Here's a small section of his chain.  I can't wait to get started on my own.

We all had a great time in Ken's workshop!    He was thorough with his instructions and demonstrations, had plenty of handouts to reinforce everything we were learning, and was a complete joy to learn from.  We're all hoping he comes back soon.  Thanks, Ken!

Recommended books:  The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting by Daniel Thompson, The Bible of Illuminated Letters by Margaret Morgan

Monday, October 01, 2012

Time Travel

In September we spent a lot of time with friends on another amazing adventure.  We are so grateful to have such good friends in our lives!  We've known them forever and they will always be our favorite traveling companions. 

We began the journey in Barcelona, Spain and found the Cathedral of St. Eualalia while in search of the Gaudi Cathedral...all I can say is we were jet lagged and got a little confused.  The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times.  One story says that she was exposed naked in public square and a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring covered her nudity  The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street.  The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in a the cathedral's crypt.  

Sometimes it's exciting to travel to places you've never read about...places you've heard mentioned, but with no pre-conceived ideas in your head.  I knew we were going to be on a port in Italy and that it was a small fishing village.  But imagine my surprise when THIS is what we came upon.

Portofino, Italy...a little slice of heaven on earth.

Then there was Bonifacio on the island of Corsica, France where the language, Corsican, is spoken.  We're told it sounds more Italian than French (once I've mastered Italian via Rosetta Stone, I'll let you know).  The climb is quite steep up to the old town, but there's a small train that will take passengers to and fro if needed.  Bonifacio is the oldest town in Corsica and after touring around a bit, we stopped at a lovely little outdoor cafe and had some wonderful appetizers.

And then there was Rome.  Here I expected a loud, hot and crowded city, but was pleasantly surprised by the cool weather, the lack of crowds and the astonishingly well preserved pieces of architecture every which way you looked.  We had a wonderful tour guide who enjoyed telling us the gruesome stories about the gladiators, the vestal virgins and many other interesting fables.

The Tevoli Fountain (or Trevi Fountain) is one of the ancient aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome.  There is a belief that by throwing a coin into the fountain, you'll be assured a return trip to Rome.  Yes, we definitely threw our coins in.  An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the fountain each day.

We also visited Ibiza, Spain and Palma De Mallorca, Spain and Lucca, Italy on our visit to the Mediterranian.

For my gluten-free travelers, Silversea was excellent about making sure my meals were 100% gluten-free at every meal.  Even the morning and lunch buffet in one of the restaurants had GF breads and desserts every day.  This is a great way to travel if you're worried about traveling and getting glutinized in restaurants.  I was very careful, also, when we dined at restaurants along the way.  There was only one incident where the waiter didn't appear to understand what I was talking about.  It seems that just about everyone is aware of celiac disease/gluten-free diets these days.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

2012 Wildacres Trip

Another week up in Little Switzerland has come and gone.  I returned on Saturday, tired (as usual), but happy for having had another great week at Wildacres.  This year I took an enameling class with Pat Nelson.  I wasn't sure what to expect from this class called 2D and 3D enameling, and we ended up learning a vast array of different enameling techniques.

We started off using stencils to make designs, and later moved to using Riso Screens and Thermal Fax machines (something I had never heard of).  

 Things got MESSY!  We experimented with foils, drawing with graphite, using watercolor enamels and ceramic pencils.  We played with decals and even learned how to make our own with black and white laser copiers.  We also learned how to make our own stencils using silkscreening techniques.  Phew!  It's a good thing I take good notes because I can't remember half of what Pat taught us and I've only been home 2 days.

Karen and Alan (this was Karen's first year, and she'll definitely be back).

Then came Auction Night!  First we have a silent auction followed by the live auction where the "special" items donated by all the teachers are auctioned off.  Charlene won a gorgeous necklace made by our one of our most favorite teachers of all time, Julia Woodman.  : )

Here is Susan on the left, who taught me all my basic metalsmithing skills at Spruill, Charlene, Me and Cyndi, with Tom Beard, another teacher at Spruill sitting in front.  Good times!

 Susan and Cyndi, who decided we all needed to be fed one night while sitting out on the patio and brought out different types of cheese, crackers and dips.  Amazingly yummy.

Here are a few of the experiments we did in class, and here is Katherine and Pat up above.

Practicing "the pose" before dinner one evening (shoulder out, head forward and slightly down). 

Mary Ann Scherr (second on left) taught a class that used etching materials and also worked with the student's own body to form the metal to their personal shape.  They turned out some amazing pieces.  Here are some examples.

Some more examples from our enameling class:

Harold O'Connor was also at Wildacres this year and here are a few items his students produced.

We also had a Lapidary class taught by Helen Driggs, an Engraving class by Les Bryant and Andrea Kennington and a stone setting class by Hiriko Yamada. Everyone produced extraordinary pieces and I wish I could include them ALL here.

I will end by saying I missed a few special people this year who have been up at at Wildacres with me now for 5 years - Julia, Kathy and Maggie especially!  I hope they find a way to make it back up next summer.  Of course, we all missed Jean Stark who decided 2011 would be her last, and John Cogswell's absence was also felt.  And where were Leslie, Gail and Robert (we missed his home-made honey!)  I hope they all know that there were a lot of people who asked about them.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Quack, Quack, I was taking a bath...

We woke up on Easter Sunday to 16 baby ducks swimming in our pool with their mother.  She had been nesting under a bush in the back yard for about 3 to 4 weeks, so even though we knew the big day was coming soon, we were still surprised.  And so many of them!  This was the third year in a row that she has come to nest in our yard.  She arrives with her partner a couple of weeks prior to settling down and they can be found swimming in the pool in the early mornings.   They usually wake us up with their loud quacking and splashing about.

The mother ran out of the yard with about 6 little ones as soon as we could get them out of the pool, leaving us to fend for the others who seemed a little panicked that their mother had left them.  We were able to coax the rest of them out of the pool on a blue swim mat.  They headed to the fence, but couldn't get through, so I had to scoop them up with my hands and put them through the opening.  Mommy Duck was out there waiting for them, quacking away.  Off they waddled, single file, into the big pond in the woods.  It was an exciting Easter morning to say the least.

I've been working on forging recently.  I made these earrings from a solid piece of 8 gauge square wire (round wire would be fine, too).  After forging the ends, I ran them through the rolling mill, bringing them down thinner and thinner until they were thin enough to develop into ear wires, which I finished off with an Artifex wheel.  The entire piece was then cut in half and the earring was then made by forging a triangular design and finishing off with filing or a coarse wheel.  I shined them up by putting them in the tumbler.  Each earring is all one piece with no soldering at all.   (This technique was recently taught in one of John Cogswell's classes here in Atlanta, and he is such a master I would guess he makes the entire earring with a hammer and a file.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the class, so did what worked best for me.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wildacres, 2011

Another summer at Wildacres came and went without my remembering to blog about it here.  So I'm going back and gathering the photos and thoughts I have from another memorable adventure to share with you.  That's Donnie in the video above.  Donnie helps us with all the equipment that we need during our stay and is always there to lend a helping hand...but watch out when he's got that whip in his hand!

This year was a special time at Wildacres because it was Jean Stark's last summer teaching there.  Jean had been there every summer for 25 years!  Everyone who loved her as a teacher looked forward to this time every year, so there were quite a few tears shed this week.  Jean took a liking to Donnie's whip, trying to convince us that she was going to come down hard on us if we didn't behave.

Jean taught a class in enameling this summer and we all learned how to create lovely little pears.  She brought along lots and lots of examples:

Leslie and Karen were very proud of their creations:

Gail (sniffling a bit) and Robert have been in Jeans class without fail every summer.  I hope they come back in 2012.  

This is one of Jean's enameled pieces that I find stunningly beautiful.   Maybe someday I'll be this good (hopeful thinking).

And here's me with another one of my favorite teachers, Julia Woodman!  She's always kind, encouraging and has a magical bag of forging techniques.  I'm presently back in her class at Spruill and feel like I've returned home again.

My friends, teachers and classmates:

Would you like to see my pear?  It's amazing that it took an entire week to complete two pears (I haven't set the other one into a bezel yet), but enameling can be a very long process.  

Okay - goodbye for another year, Wildacres.  I hope to be back in 2012.