Friday, August 31, 2012

The Janet Yang Picture of the Day

You Do Not Want to get lung disease from doing your art!  Trust me on this.  Here's a shot posted in honor of Janet of my industrial quality mask, which I use for CARVING AND CUTTING SHELL AND BONE, as well as enameling and other things that produce fumes and particles.  Matter of fact, if my hay fever gets much worse, I'll consider wearing it all day, so maybe I should add a ruffle or some sequins.  Looks very spooky on, but it is tres chic when you think of the alternative:  interstitial lung disease, for starters.

The Good, The Bad, and the WTF

I finally succumbed to the lure of a grab bag at St. Vinnie's.  Maybe because I couldn't see the all the stuff inside now matter how much I shook it and ya just never know . . .

Yesterday, I settled down with a good cuppa and began sorting -- picker's Nirvana, better than drugs!  It turned out to be a magical mystery tour of weird jewelry concepts and strange senses of style and scale, but you have to remember that I like to make jewelry outta bones and bullet holes, so take it cum grano salis, so to speak.  Now, that it's all sorted, I think there are awards to be awarded:

The Yuppy Preppy Republican Convention WTF Award:

I mean, really, do take your time, but can you tell me what are they?  Tie tacks for the ears?  To make a statement, wear them with a pink pin striped starched shirt and a white pleated skirt and saddle shoes.  White roll down sox optional, as are the pop beads.

The Saturday Night Fever Pie Plates and Door Knockers for the Ears WTF Award:

Well, with all those shoulder pads and dropping hemlines, the larger scale was sensible, and we did think our waists seemed smaller by contrast.  But, please.  Extreme exercise of the imagination may provide a way to upcycle these, but it may take a while.

Baby, You've Withstood the Test of Time Award. 

There's some appeal here, and they will destash or get ripped up and turned into something else.  If I could read the maker's marks, I'd tell you the brands, and that could add to their vintage value.  BTW, even the WTFs provide good parts.  You get to make the choice -- go up to the first pic and let me know which ones you would choose.  I would award some sort of pissed-off award to that brooch with the blue headlights and the Whiting-Davis mesh that is ham-fisted soldered to the back so I can't get at it without damage.   The big tiger-striped squares may have some use for a bracelet once Pam sends me the animal cracker tin.  All in all, this sort of thing is a good exercise to give your imagination a chance to get up and get out of the box.  The box being your idea of ugly.  You know, really, what's ugly?  If it is, can you redeem it?  Can you make a silk purse out of a sow's ear?

PS:  Follow the links in this post, dears -- they are interesting and edifying!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sea-themed Jewelry Art

Maybe because my happiest childhood years were spent in Panama City, Florida, before the Gulf got polluted, on untamed sand dunes and shores that bore treasures after every storm, yes, I think so.  I remember walking along the tideline with my brother and popping Spanish Man o' War casualties with my bare feet, finding small hammerhead sharks, myriad shells, and horseshoe crabs tangled in the seawrack.  The memories evoke so much: Treasure Island fantasies, great sailing ships, strange and exciting sea creatures.  Just the thing to inspire jewelry making, now that I am (relatively) grown up.

Last spring, after a storm on Puget Sound, I took this shot of beautiful seawrack, and, unfortunately, I passed on the antique sole from a lady's shoe.  My imagination wasn't working that day, or perhaps I was thinking to leave it for someone else to enjoy.  I went back for it later, but it was gone.  The tide or another beachcomber took it away.  I could kick myself!
But that was before I made this piece, from a wad of wave formed aluminum (? I guess it's aluminum) and layers of antique handwriting, fabric, and sea-skate leather.  It's just been relisted in my Etsy shop since I've decided I can part with it.  I call it the Wreck of the Hesperus since it's possible that wad of aluminum came from a smashed boat.

Oh how I wish I had picked up that sole !

It would have stacked and riveted into another one of these gorget style neckpieces and made for a very interesting stack of associations, for instance, sole (foot) to sole (fish) and whatever narrative twists and turns it might take to explain the thing.  Alas, another lesson learned the hard way:  if it catches your eye, pick it up!

And then there's this handy way of getting the eggs and bacon remains off the plate; it's an ecological, natural prewash cycle, which I have added here just for Marina, of Fanciful Devices!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Namib Nomad Fantasy Tribal Fusion Tassels

I have a weakness for tassels, and also for deserts.  I have been puttering with kumihimo braiding and natural dyes.  At last they have all come together in a neckline ornament with shells and beads and beach glass, named for the Namib, the most ancient of deserts, a place where life subsists on fog from the sea.

The hook began as a shard of bone found on the Oregon coast, mammalian, but what mammal, I cannot say.  I cut out the hook shapes with a jeweler's saw (the spiral plastic blade worked best), and trimmed the edges with my Dremel burs.  Beware!  Wear a mask if you are doing this.  It smells bad and is probably bad for you.  But the results make me happy;  I love the texture. Finished it off with a good coat of polyurethane and wax for a soft shine.  The effect of the dyes on shell fragments is quite delicious, too.
I used an 8-strand braid pattern and bamboo fiber crochet yarn.  The tassels were died separately, in madder and alkanet, with an alum mordant.  You'll see details also of Himalayan nettle yarn, netting the large, nacreous bivalve shell.  The shell picked up some of the madder dye, which makes it look opalescent in moving light, and the sea glass fragment above also took on some color.  I don't think either actually absorbed the color; it's just that they were porous from sea tumbling and the color settled into low spots.  The bead is a precious antique Molkowane palm nut bead from Africa, the Kalahari,  most likely made for home use, not trade, and thus it's just oozing mana.

There's no reason to restrict the piece to the neckline -- it could be part of a headdress or looped onto a bag or belt.

The thing I love about tassels and hanging beads is that they fuse movement to ornamentation.  In this piece, as the parts move, different things are seen, so it is multi-dimensional.

Here's a detail shot of the bone hook.  It looks fabulously old, right?  I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for more material like this as I walk the tide line.

It's always good to explore new directions and think of far-off places.  And use alliterations like Namib Nomads.

Now available in my Etsy shop!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Two Good Reads

It's not too late to string up a hammock, take a glass of tinkling icy lemonade with a spring of spearmint, and settle down in the shade for a long, good read.  I recommend two that I found in a thrift store, which is no indication of their enduring charm and value:  The Ptolemies, by Duncan Sprott, Vintage Books, June 2005, and The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Penguin Books, translation 2004, by Lucia Graves, daughter of the great poet, Robert Graves.  Both will have you reaching for your pen and notebook, to write down beautifully crafted and trenchant sentences to savor later:

"A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept."   (The Shadow of the Wind)

"... and their stories are full of lies, because a story full of lies makes a better story -- Thoth swears it."  (The Ptolemies)

Well, lies and secrets, and each book a healthy dose of magical realism, a marvelous way to beat the heat!

Arsinoe IV, the sister of Cleopatra, whose tomb is believed to be at Ephesus, one of the last of the Ptolemies, a dynasty rivaling the Medici for plots, counterplots, and assassinations.  For the story of the last days of these rival sisters, view "Cleopatra, Portrait of a Killer," from the BBC.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pansy and Nasturtium Petals for Dye

On linen after only 24 hours tightly wrapped with mordant still in, and dried pansies and nasturtium petals.  Next time I'll be more patient and wait a week, if I can manage it!

Grunging Up the Inner Child

Quite by accident I discovered a faboo distressing technique for these dollies.  Should I share it, hm?  Oh, sure, we each have our own vision, so here it is:  The dolls are stuffed with sawdust from the lumberstore scrap pile (some of it is cedar and smells divine).  As I understand it, the tannin in wood helps mordant dyes.  Thinking the little dears were way too pristine, I dipped them in a weak walnut dye solution and set them out in the sun to dry.  The dye wicked up into folds and seams and high places and created these splotches that look like foxed paper and very old.  Sure, some of the color from the delicate natural dye pastels was lost, but I just love this look, as though they were forgotten in an attic for a generation or so.  Isn't it evocative; can't you just picture the little pinafored, sausage curled girl feeding them mudpies?

And I think the grunge adds alot to the character of this bad, really, really bad pirate boy with a tattoo and raggedy shorts; he looks like he may have jumped ship.  If you look closely, his black silk eye patch has a button eye under it.

It all reminds me of that song from Peter Pan -- "I don't wanna grow up, I don't wanna wear a tie, or a serious expression in the middle of July."

Let's hear it for the inner brat who can help us to savor summer and not take life's nasty surprises too seriously.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Public Gardens, Summer Shadows, Dye Experiments

A visit to Volunteer Park, a beautiful Frederick Law Olmsted park yesterday, in late summer, had me noticing the beauty we don't usually consider -- textures, and the way shadows flow over them.  These  make inspiration for dye works.

More on this glorious public park later, but just a short sentence to tell you it reminds me of the great gardens of Beijing, and offers much that they do, and it features the Seattle Asian Arts Museum, also a beautiful conservatory now in its 100th year.

The views there are exquisite, near in minute detail, farther and through lacy branches of a rare blue sky.  It is restorative to walk slowly and contemplate, to have a good long think about what is beautiful and necessary.

Here are some of the results of my puttering with natural dyes, showing soft hues of alkanet, madder, walnut and osage orange.

The yellow is osage, the blues and lavenders are alkanet, the pink is madder, the tan is black walnut bark.

The center swatch here was great fun -- it started with a compost dye of pansy blossoms over a walnut base, which gave me enticing splotches of greens, yellows, surprising reds, purples and blues.  They would have been much more obvious if I could have waited longer (1 week only -- longer would have been much brighter).  I then covered the swatch with a paste resist, crackled it and painted over with India ink.  What fun -- and in the sticky, hot days of late summer, dye work and splashing water seems just right.

You can make a paste resist of equal parts water and flour, spread it on the cloth and let it dry completely, then crackle it to let the next color seep through.  Next time I'll make a paste dye with gum tragacanth and walnut.  I think the ink was a bit too heavy and it obscured those subtle pansy blotches.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dye Baby Brothers and Sisters

These dye babies are 10 inches long and based on the pattern I made for the little ones, below.  They are made of recycled, hand dyed textiles, old buttons, and stuffed with sawdust from the local lumber store.

Oh dear, it's so early this morning and the coffee hasn't taken effect, so if this seems rather dull, that's how I wake up.  Dull until the miracle of caffeine.  Better living through the rain forest.

Those brown corduroy shorts were made from an old handbag and the wear and tear on them is excellent.  All the fabrics were over dyed in a bucket on my back porch, a perfect hot weather thing to do, with walnut, alkanet, osage orange and madder.  When the blackberries ripen, I'll use them for dye, too.

The next batch of sisters will be tomboys, I promise!  The aprons are cute, but ...  Why would a girl need an apron?

Brother playing pirate, with a tattoo and eye patch.  He is the last one I made of this batch and reminded me that I had my own pirate fantasies as a kid, so let's rethink those aprons and skirts.

Still, you have to admit that girly look is cute.  Here's a Sister with quilt scrap dress and a bow.  She looks happy enough.  Definitely pre Title Nine, though.

Okay, this Brother is a smirky little bratty type but he's a mid-century modern innocent.

Here's that Sister you may remember, always in the prettiest dresses and just right.  Good grief, I can remember the days when girls wore dresses every day.

We've come a long way, dye baby!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Dye Babies and Lap Top Teddies

Now I have added to the pile of putter work these  itty-bitty bears with old mother of pearl button joints, stuffed with sawdust and just the right size to sit on the edge of your lap top to soften up the environment a little bit.  Again, they're made with bits from my experimental dye pot, so I am calling them, along with the little scrappies,  dye babies, at least for now.

They're so small, all the stitching is by hand, but the little pinches and puffs of fabric really add personality.

Another wonderful source on dye, and especially on all the different techniques possible, such as composting (yes, vegetable peels and all), you must visit Kimberly Baxter Packwood.  I recommend her tutorials available on line as .pdfs, excellent guides for exploration.  Imagine dyeing in a wheelbarrow, in a plastic bag with banana peels and rusty nails, the microwave or freezer -- these are all definite possibilities!