Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Art I Created This Summer

I’m embarrassed to see that I haven’t posted an update since the beginning of August. The month passed quicker than I expected. And though I thought about posting something here or there, my priorities were focused elsewhere. So, much like that first essay the teachers used to make us write in grade school, here are some pictures of art that I worked on this summer.

Anemia

Anemia is an art doll that I first wrote about in June. Here are a few pictures of the finished piece. I hope to some day share more about the process of Anemia’s creation.

Anemia-Detail

Anemia-Detail

Anemia-Detail 2

Anemia-Detail 2

Anemia

Anemia

Trees Through The Forest

This piece was first introduced to you during the month of July.

More progress was shared in the early part of August

This piece now hangs at the Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, MA in the Bolton Artisans Guild’s display “Themes From Our Town” as part of Bolton’s 275th anniversary celebration. A few pictures of the finished piece is below. (Click on the first photo to start the slide show.)

Inspiration From Nature

As summer moves forward in our garden, I often find interesting mold and fungus sprouting on the mulch. Some of it can be both intriguing and repulsive. For a long time I’ve wanted to make something inspired by these molds and fungi. And this summer, a technique I found in Cynthia Tinapple’s new book, Polymer Clay Global Perspectives, made creating these fungi pods a lot easier.

For lack of a better phrase, as this work in progress as no formal name, this piece is simply inspired by nature.

The Inspiration-Pod Fungus

The Inspiration-Pod Fungus

Creating Hollow Pods

Creating Hollow Pods

A Few Pods with Texture

A Few Pods with Texture

What did you create this summer?


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“Trees Through The Forest”-Part 2, The Progress Continues

Though I had all good intentions of posting more frequent updates on the progress of my new wall art, I just wasn’t feeling it. My goal is to write one post a week that is published on Wednesdays. But, to be honest, when I don’t have anything to say, I stay quiet. To paraphrase that old saying “if you don’t have anything new/interesting/inspiring to say…”

In my absence here, I’ve been busy planning a new teaching gig, writing the content for a free tutorial, and videotaping another tutorial. Writing the free tutorial is a whole new experience. Develop the idea, write out the process, take pictures of the steps, edit the pictures, write the process in Keynote (that is what I’ll use to convert the tute into a PDF), proof read, publish. I’ve set a date of August 15 as my deadline and have been working backwards from there to manage the various steps in the process.

Makes my brain ache some days.

BUT! In between all that I have made progress on “Trees Through The Forest.” You can read about the origins of this piece and see its beginnings here.

Part 2: Progress Continues

After I created the disk shapes and added texture to them, I baked them in the oven for 15 minutes. Then I had to decide what paint colors to use as a patina. This helps make the texture marks pop on the clay. For some unknown reason this felt like an agonizing process. Is this what they mean by “suffering” for your art?  No, I didn’t think so.

After the patina process was completed, I used liquid polymer clay to secure any piece that had multiple disks or other components. I let all the pieces sit for several hours while the liquid clay set up. Then everything went back in the oven for one more baking.

Here are the polymer clay disks placed on a blank canvas. The popsicle sticks mark where the tree trunks will eventually be painted.

3TreesThruForest_Polymer Disks

And some detail shots of the disks. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Now the fun begins with creating the background for this piece. I decided to use a 10″x8″ canvas.

Preparing and Painting the Canvas

First, I applied two coats of Gesso to smooth the surface of the canvas.

10Ready to Gesso the Canvas

While that dried, I picked out the colors for the background. Here I tested them out in my sketchbook so I know they’ll look nice together.

11Color choices for the canvas

Once the Gesso completely dried, I held my breath and applied the paint colors. I’m working intuitively here but still felt a little nervous.

12The painted canvas

Before even painting the colors onto the canvas, I looked at several surface techniques in the book Surface Treatment Workshop by Darlene Olivia McElroy and Sandra Duran Wilson.

I decided upon the plastic wrap resist technique. With this technique, you place a sheet of plastic wrap over the wet paint. You can stretch the plastic into linear patterns or pat it smooth.

Plastic wrap over canvas

Plastic wrap over canvas

Plastic wrap over canvas-detail

Plastic wrap over canvas-detail

See all those lines and bumps? The trick with this technique is to let the paint dry before removing the plastic wrap. The drier the paint, the crisper the texture.

And now the big reveal…..

Paint texture

Paint texture

And a detail shot of the texture:

16Paint texture detail

I was pleasantly surprised with how nice the texture came out.

I’ll leave you with this piece, “Trees Through the Forest,” almost finished.

Almost finished

Almost finished

The edges of the canvas have been painted. Since I took the above picture I removed the popsicle sticks and painted in tree trunks. I’m not sure if I need to add anything else to the canvas, so I’ll let things sit for a day or so. If the muse tells me the piece is done, I’ll put a hanger on the back and attach the polymer disks to the canvas.

I’m going to install this piece on Monday, August 5 so there isn’t much more time to agonize think about it. I’m meeting my deadline which was most important.


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“Trees Through The Forest”-New Wall Art Work in Progress

This year marks the 275th anniversary of the town I live in. The celebrations and commemorations started a few weeks ago with a parade, historical tours, hikes on conservation land, bike tours, and a pipe organ dedication at the First Parish Church.

As part of the celebration, members of the Bolton Artisans Guild decided to create artwork inspired by the town’s history. I loved the idea but came up with a big blank slate in the idea department. I thought, “What can I create using polymer clay and mixed media that is inspired by our little town?”

(Why the conundrum? The art is being displayed at the Nashoba Valley Winery and the display space is one wall in the shop. An art doll didn’t seem to be a good match and, the way I sometimes work, it would probably take too long to create.)

Then an idea came to me the other night. I could make a piece of wall art and use pre-stretched canvas as my substrate. Using a design concept that I saw in a Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine over a year ago, plus my love of circles and disks, I drew my idea in my sketchbook.

Trees thru the Forest Sketch

Trees thru the Forest Sketch

One quality that Bolton is known for is preservation of land. We have a lot of conservation land with many hiking trails. That is the inspiration for this work in progress.

My intent is to depict trees through the four seasons. In order to get the colors I want, I’ve had to break out my color blending notes from the workshop I took with Lindly Haunani several years ago. It has been a good way to get the creative juices flowing too.

This is where I’m at so far in creating the trees:

TreesThruForest_Day1Progress

The “spring” tree will have three different shades of green in flat and concave circles, plus a small bird. “Summer” is represented with similar colors, two birds and baby birds, “Fall” has a Skinner blend convex circle and tiny concave circles representing apples. (Bolton also has several apple orchards.) “Winter” tree will be interpreted with varying shades of green in a scribble cane.

This piece is more contemporary that my usual work. Another good way to stretch that creative muscle. Of course, since I’m doing something that I don’t do all the time, construction of the piece is moving along a little slower than I envisioned. (Isn’t that always the case?)

How much longer? Well, I spent the better part of two hours trying to recreate a particular color for the scribble cane that will become the “winter” tree.

I have no idea what I’ll do with the canvas. Right now I’m thinking a light wash of paint may be enough. I don’t want the background to clash with the trees.

What are you working on these days?


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How To Sharpen Polymer Clay Slicing Blades

If you work with polymer clay on a regular basis, you may find that your slicing blades get dull over time. In the video below, I share an easy way to keep your slicing blades sharp. So stop throwing out those dull blades! Sharpen them and keep on slicing that polymer clay.

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A Special Request

How do you spark the creative muse? When you’ve run out of ideas, hit the wall, or are just BORED, how do you find your mojo again?

I am writing a new blog post on sparking the creative muse and I want your help.

Specifically, I’m collecting tips from my friends and colleagues on how they spark the creative muse. You don’t have to an artist to participate either. We all use various techniques to keep ourselves moving forward in our endeavors.

In the comments section below, please share 1-3 tips that you use to spark the creative muse. Also include a link to your work, if you want. (A website, blog, Pinterest, Etsy, or ArtFire page, etc. One link only please.)

Your tip(s) and link will be included in the upcoming blog post. You have my deep gratitude and thanks for participating.


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Expressions of Love Exhibit-Handworks Gallery of American Craft

I took a leap this month and entered one of my Ornimals into an exhibit. I haven’t entered any art into an exhibit in over a year due to some less than favorable experiences. But the exhibit at Handworks came at the right time.

The Expressions of Love exhibit focuses on art made out of love. Love for a family member, a friend, an acquaintance. Someone or some event that represents love in its many forms. Each piece is accompanied by a story. Some are funny. Some bring tears to your eyes. All are heartwarming.

I entered an Ornimal I created in honor of our first cat, Ren. We adopted Ren shortly after getting married and moving to Massachusetts. She was a beautiful calico who traveled with us to five homes and brought us years of joy.

Ren (1985-2010)

Ren (1985-2010)

Ren Remembrance Ornimal(Amy Crawley, 2013)

Ren Remembrance Ornimal
(Amy Crawley, 2013)

Here is the story I wrote to accompany this piece.

I caught your eye at the shelter as I rubbed the cage door. “Take me home” I said. And you did. I cried all the way to my new home.

We lived in a couple of apartments. You let me play in the sink water and sit on top of your fish tank. I told you I was a good hunter.

I cried when you tried to keep me out of your bedroom. You gave in and I slept on your head. From then on we always snuggled at night, keeping each other warm.

Sometimes you would take me on road trips to visit your family. Remember the time I sat on your lap and stared into your eyes while we waited to pay the toll? You got the message.

One day we moved into a big house and I had more places to run and hide. That other cat you adopted scared me. But I forgave you and still slept on your bed.

I got older and my body changed. Some things inside weren’t working right. You found a nice doctor and he tried to make me better.

You were good at giving me shots and feeding me whatever I wanted. But over time, it wasn’t enough. My body was telling me something. It was getting close to my time to leave.

When the end came, you held me close and that nice doctor gave me a shot. My fur felt warmer and my breathing relaxed. And then you helped me cross to a place where I run freely, catch fish in a big tank, and wait to snuggle on your bed again.

Ren Ornimal & Story

Ren Ornimal & Story

ExpressionsOfLoveExhibitEntry

The Expressions of Love exhibit at Handworks Gallery is on display February 2-24. The opening reception is Sunday, February 3, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. If you’re in the area, stop in to see all the great pieces.

Note: Pieces in the exhibit are not for sale.


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Using Vintaj Patina Inks with the Mokume Gane Technique-Part 2

Welcome Back!

When I last posted we were discussing Part 1 of the Mokume Gane technique using Vintaj Patina inks. You can read that post here.

By the end of Part 1, I had showed you the conditioned clay sheets, painted and stacked the sheets. You learned how to texture the clay stack, called a “billet,” and saw what happened when a release isn’t used with rubber stamps.

After the billet was textured, we let it rest. Letting the stack rest means setting it aside for 30 minutes or so. If you don’t want to wait that long, put the stack in your freezer for several minutes to firm up the clay.

Here is the textured stack of clay.

Fully textured clay stack

Fully textured clay stack

Revealing Layers

After you have textured the stack of clay and let it rest, it is time to reveal the layers underneath. To reveal the layers, you need a sharp cutting blade. Why? Because you’re going to start slicing off the top layer of clay.

Yep, after all that work poking and pushing and tickling that stack of clay, you’re going to remove layers in what might feel like the destruction of hard work. Removing the layers is how you’re going to see just what all that poking and prodding did to each successive layer.

This is an exciting and sometimes nerve wracking process. I love it because of the element of surprise. You really never know what patterns are going to emerge each time you slice off a layer of clay.

Okay, I’ll stop my yammering and show you the patterns that were revealed in my stack of clay.

Word of warning! As I said, you need to use a sharp blade to make it easier to remove the layers. You also want to make sure the billet is secured to your work surface (either a ceramic tile or acrylic work surface) before you start slicing. If the stack of clay isn’t secured to your work surface, it will start sliding around when you make your slices. Not fun.

To take a slice and reveal the layer, hold your blade with both hands. Place the sharp edge of your blade at the top edge of the billet. Bow the blade slightly and start to pull the blade TOWARD you.

Don’t press down too hard or deeply. You’ll end up with a crater in your clay and a thick slice.

Don’t worry if you pull through and only get a small piece of the clay. Put that slice to the side and keep going.

Layer One

This is what appeared after removing most of the top layer of Vintaj Patina onyx ink. I like how the onyx ink pull into the circular holes. The ink is a little crackled as well. Often, for me, when I remove the top layer, I get lots of little bits of clay coming off. Never can seem to get a nice completely intact layer.

Layer one revealed

Layer one revealed

Layer Two

After taking off a bit more, here is layer two poking through the clay. This second layer is the ochre ink.

Layer two revealed

Layer two revealed

I like this subtle color shift as the ochre ink is revealed. But remember that word of warning earlier about applying too much pressure when you slice through the stack? I did just that on layer 2.

MokumeGaneLayer_Crater

Now don’t fret when this happens. The simplest solution is to take small slices off the lumpy side until you even out the surface of the billet. Easy peasy and you’re back in business.

Here are some of those smaller slices that came off the first two layers.

MokumeGaneLayers_BlogPost

These slices are what I’ll use to create my final piece. You can see that as you slice through the layers, you start to reveal the colors of paint. The textures you applied way back in the beginning help compress the stack and drag the colors through it.

Your texture tools createt these very organic patterns in the clay. What’s neat is you often have two very different patterns on each slice. A front side (the top layer you see as you slice through the clay) and a back side (the pattern on the back of the layer.) Now you can choose which side to use in your finished piece. Inevitably, one side is going to be more interesting than the other side.

Final Layer

This is where I stopped slicing through the billet. I loved how the ochre ink circles surrounded the black dots.  I like this pattern and haven’t decided what to do with it yet.

Final layer (for now)

Final layer (for now)

So What Did I Make?

About a year ago, I became quite fascinated with circular shapes. I’ve always liked circles. But this time I started making a variety of circle or disk shaped pieces. Some had patterns, some had faces. I haven’t done much with them, just tossed them into a box for future inspiration.

And that is what I decided to do with the layers of patterned clay that I sliced off my clay stack. I applied the slices to white clay, cut out circles and oblongs, and then formed the clay over domes.

Five Disks

Five Disks

You can see how taking your slices and re-arranging them onto a sheet of clay once again changes the original pattern.

Convex, Concave, and Oblong

Convex, Concave, and Oblong

The oblong piece was created with a shaplet template. The slices were put on textured black clay. The gold is Rhine Gold mica powder.

More circle love

More circle love

VintajInks_Test2_MG_4Disks

And this is as far as I’ve gotten with these pieces. I would like to mount them onto a board. Wood? Cradle board? Something with encaustic? Not sure yet.

Disks on Green

Disks on Green

Well, I did have one idea of incorporating wire, maybe copper, into the design. But that is just a spark of an idea in my head. I haven’t sketched out the full design yet.

So there may be a Part 3 still to come in this adventure.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about one approach to using the Mokume Gane technique. Now it’s your turn to give it a go.

If you do make something with the Mokume Gane, please leave a comment on this post and include a link to your blog post, Flickr page, or website. I’ll post your links in a separate post so we can see what you created with this fun technique.


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Using Vintaj Patina Inks with the Mokume Gane Technique-Part 1

A couple weeks ago I wrote about my first experiment with Vintaj Patina Inks on polymer clay. You can read my initial impressions here.

This time around I wanted to try the inks in a popular polymer clay technique called Mokume Gane (moe-koo-may gah-nay). Mokume Gane is a Japanese metal work technique where thin sheets of metal are stacked (called a “billet”) and fused by heat and pressure. The metal is forged and carved to produce unique patterns.

In polymer clay, we use a similar approach using thin layers of polymer, stacked one upon the other, and then textured with a variety of tools that are pressed into the layers of clay. This is one variation of the mokume gane technique applied to polymer. Other variations include using texture plates to impress the clay and placing small balls of clay under the billet to create a bumpy surface.

So let’s see how all this worked with the Vintaj Patina Inks.

Materials

For this test, I decided to use

  • white Premo
  • onyx and ochre Vintaj Patina ink
  • an umounted rubber stamp
  • assorted texture tools

I also had on hand a cup for water, paintbrushes, gloves, paper towel, and wore an apron.

Inks, stamp, clay, paintbrush. Ready to Start!

Inks, stamp, clay, paintbrush. Ready to Start!

Creating the Billet or Stack of Polymer Clay

I conditioned the white clay using a Atlas pasta machine and rolled it to a #4 on the machine. Then I cut the sheet into 4 equivalent squares.

VintajInks_Test2_MG_4SqsWhite

I painted two of the squares with the onyx ink and two squares with the ochre ink. I used separate paintbrushes for each color. Be sure to rinse your paintbrushes in water as soon as your done with the inks. Then I let the inks dry for 10 minutes. I didn’t pick up any residue when I touched my finger to the ink. The finish is shiny and not tacky.

Painted clay

Painted clay

I mentioned in my first test with the inks that they are rather messy. Here’s proof. The ochre is the worst of this three pack.

Messy bottle

Messy bottle

Once the inky squares were dry, I stacked them. I put one ochre sheet on the bottom then the onyx sheet on top. Alternating the remaining sheets, I ended with the onyx sheet on top of the billet.

Billet

Billet

At this point if your billet gets a little distorted, you can trim the edges to square the stack. You can also use a straight edge to even the sides by gently pressing the clay with the straight edge. A ruler or old plastic card works well.

Now, before you put texture to the clay, it is important to have your stack of clay firmly secured to a surface. I use either a ceramic tile or an acrylic work surface. Securing the stack to a surface reduces distortion and helps when you start to slice off the layers of clay.

Adding Texture to the Billet or Stack of Clay

Putting texture to the clay is one of my favorite parts of this technique. It’s easy to go a little crazy with all the tools. I had one polymer clay teacher tell me she spent a half-hour adding texture to a stack of clay!

I made the first impression in the clay with an unmounted rubber stamp. Here’s a trick for getting a good impression with a rubber stamp: stand on the stamp.

Yes, stand on the stamp. Put a ceramic tile on the floor with your stack of clay on the tile. Then put the stamp on the clay and stand on the whole thing. Give it a good press with your foot. If you practice yoga, you can use this time to practice your best flying ballerina pose.

Standing on the stamp to put texture in the clay.

Standing on the stamp to put texture in the clay.

When I removed the stamp, I realized I had made a mistake. I should have put a release on the stamp. A release is used to prevent the stamp from tearing away the clay or paint. You can use a light spritz of water, a mix of baby powder & corn starch, or a spritz of Amour-all as a release. Apply the release to the surface of the stamp then press the stamp into the clay.

Here is what happened when I pulled the stamp away from the top of the clay stack.

MGStack_PaintPeeledOff_Text

See that white clay peeking through about 1/4 of the way down? That is where the onyx Vintaj Patina ink peeled off and onto the rubber stamp. It’s possible the ink was not completely dry in that particular spot.

Onward….

Then I added more texture with a few favorite texture tools.

Texture tools

Texture tools

Here is the stack of clay with pokey holes, squiggly lines, and other fun stuff pushed into the clay.

Fully textured clay stack

Fully textured clay stack

Word of warning! If you use a cookie cutter or straight edge to texture the clay, don’t press the tool right into the middle of the stack. Odds are when you pull the tool out of the clay, the clay might come right out with it. This can happen with circular tools, like a cookie cutter.

To avoid this, lightly dust the cutter and press it closer to the edge of the clay stack. If the section of cut clay separates from the stack, gently press it back into the stack with your fingers. Let the entire stack of clay rest for a few minutes before adding more texture or before you start to remove the layers of clay.

Removing Layers and Revealing Patterns

Now that you’ve pressed tools into the clay stack and made a groovy pattern on the top of the clay, you’re going to start removing layers of clay to reveal patterns underneath.

But first we’re going to let the billet rest. It’s all warm and soft at this stage from all the pushing and prodding with the texture tools. If you start removing layers now, you’ll smear and smush the clay.

So take a break. Grab something to drink or eat. In the next post I’ll show you the patterns that emerged when I removed a few layers of the impressed clay. I’ll also share what I made with the slices.

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