Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


Au Revoir Tour de France; Now Back to Work

Every July I lose myself to the Tour de France.  I know it will happen and I accept it.  It is like losing yourself in a good book.  For 21 days I follow the race as it travels through France and the surrounding countries.  Each morning I watch the live coverage and in the evening I listen to the recap which usually includes interviews and historical information on the tour. 

The Tour de France is a stunning athletic event in beautiful surroundings.  It is about teamwork and sacrifice.  It is artistry on wheels.  I know of no other sport where nine players truly work together as a team to support the team leader.  Each team member has a specific role; to go back to the team car to get provisions; to set the pace for the team leader as they ride up the mountains; to protect the team leader in the peleton.  And these roles may change during the race depending on the stage.  And then there is the individual time trial, the “race of truth,” where the rider tests his skills against the clock riding as fast as possible to the finish.

The support the team members give each other is not unlike the support artists give each other.  We cheer each other during our successes and support each other when we’re down.  We share our experiences and mentor those who are new in the field.  We push each other up the mountains that challenge us and help each other through the slumps when we “hit the wall.”  We may work independently but we wouldn’t survive without our team, our network of artist friends.

The 2007 Tour has finished.  For the eighth time Discovery Channel (formerly Postal Service) put a winner on the podium in the yellow jersey.  For the ninth time an American stood on the podium, also from the Discovery Channel team, in third place.  In fact, Discovery had three team members in the top ten finishers and won the team compeitition  Now that is team work.

The Tour is a diversion and diversions can be good. Diversions allow us down time; time to re-group and refresh.  But now it is time to get back to work.  So au revoir, Tour de France, until next July when I will lose myself for 21 days in the whirring of bicycles against a backdrop of sunflowers.

 TdF Sculpture

A Tour de France Sculpture in Pau, France (from the TdF blog).

To see some of the best pictures of the Tour de France, other bike races, and cyclists, visit Graham Watson’s site.

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Friday Folly


Along the Royal Mile
Edinburgh, Scotland (2004)

Please to bend down for the one called the Greenman;
forever to him you’re tied. 
Please to dance round for the one called the Greenman;
dressed in the fruits of the wild. 
Lay your head on the Greenman;
build a bed out of oak and pine. -XTC



Talking Stick Art Doll Round Robin: Part 1

The Talking Stick art doll round robin has begun.  Yesterday, Karen, Judy, and I exchanged doll heads in part one of our round robin.  The goal of this first exchange was to create a doll head no longer than 2″.  Color, facial design, and head shape were all up to the artist.

We agreed to “hide” the doll’s head by wrapping it and placing it in a bag or box or both.  This made the “unveiling” a bit like Christmas or our birthdays.  We also bought or made journals to accompany the dolls on their journey.  The journals will be used to document the creative process which can be written in either the doll’s “voice,” our voice, or both.  We can also put pictures, poems, words cut from magazines, and so forth in the journals.  And the journals may be altered by each artist if they desire.

The hardest part of this first exchange was deciding whether or not we would open the packages in front of each other and reveal the heads to each other or if we would open the packages privately at home.  Anticipation and excitement won out.  Below are pictures of the doll head I created and the doll head I received.

Amy’s RR doll head  Judy’s doll head

And here are additional shots of my doll’s head, sideviews and rear.  Poor guy looks like he is submitting to mug shots.

Doll head left  Doll head right Doll head rear

The next step in our round robin is to create a body for the doll.  The bodies must incorporate polymer clay but other media are encouraged.  We also have permission to alter the doll head we received which could include adding hair, a hat, another head or whatever the muse tells us.

We meet again in four weeks for the next exchange.  I already have some ideas for transforming my adopted doll.  And I can’t wait to see how my doll will be transformed. 

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Art Date-Peabody Essex Museum

Beauty should be shared for it enhances our joys.  To explore its mystery is to venture towards the sublime. 

Today was an art date to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.  The PEM is a wonderful museum that has one of the best Asian art collections in the area.  Today’s visit, however, was not for Asian art but to view the Joseph Cornell exhibit.

 Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) was a mixed media/collage/assemblage artist in New York.  He is best known for his box assemblages that featured interesting collections of items such as birds, balls, pipes, assorted images, and other bits of ephemera.  His work was greatly influenced by nature, science, memories of his childhood (e.g. box assemblages that resemble penny aracade games), and his religious/spiritual conversion to Christian Science.

What was curious about Cornell’s work was his use of unaltered images such as portraits by artists from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, images taken from popular magazines (e.g. National Geographic, Scientific American), and pictures of famous celebrities (e.g. Lauren Becall).  I kept thinking about the potential copyright issues artists face today if we use such images.

His box collages/assemblages were my favorite pieces.  Some were humourous (dancing plastic lobsters in tutus).  Some made me say “huh?”  I enjoyed his use of repetition of images, his subtle commentary on events of the day, and the blue glass that covered several pieces.  The blue glass gave these pieces a calming and ethereal feel.

I was fascinated with Cornell’s detailed and perhaps obssessive documentation of his pieces.  He kept numerous journals and folder after folder on his work; folders filled with images; folders filled with notes and thoughts on many pieces.  It was stunning and spoke to his devotion to his art.

And the picture of his studio filled with boxes (all labeled) of all the items he collected was quite impressive.  I thought that it gave new meaning to the term “pack rat.”  It is believed that at the time of his death he had amassed 3000 books and magazines, record albums and vintage films, diaries and letters that now fill more than thirty reels of microfilm and tens of thousands of pieces of ephemera.

And I think I have a lot of stuff!

The Joseph Cornell exhibit at the PEM is the most comprehensive display of Cornell’s work.  It is a fascinating exhibit of a pioneering collage artist.  If the exhibit ever comes to a museum near you I highly recommend that you see it.  But be forewarned: Viewing this exhibit may motivate you to visit the nearest flea market to buy ephemera.  I know that is what I want to do…because one can never have too much stuff.

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It was fun yesterday to look up some older work and remember how the particular piece was created.  One thing that I noticed in most of the pieces that I chose was an underlying spiritual and/or female/feminine theme.  The spirit doll necklaces have a female-like form and the name itself implies something otherworldly.  The Buddhist Prayer for Peace necklace.  The British women pictured in the tile bracelet.  Curious.

Today I’ve put together some pictures of work that compares “then” and “now.”

Early Wine Bottle Stoppers (2003-04)BS Trio 1
When I started making wine bottle stoppers, I made them in both round and cylindrical style tops.  Depending on the surface design, the round ones looked like either golf balls or ice cream.  Someone even joked that they’d make a nice gear shift.  In reality the round tops were not easy to cover with polymer clay resulting in air pockets that bubbled to the surface. 

 BS Trio 2

Current Wine Bottle Stoppers (2005-current)

Music Trio

Since 2005 my wine bottle stoppers are all cylindrical.  It makes production work much easier.  The new stems are slightly longer and the smaller gasket rings give a more polished look to the finished piece.  Instead of a melange of designs, I offer several starter sets in various colors and designs. Sets are presented in a display handmade by a fellow Bolton Artisan Guild member, Paul Casco.  When I’m in the midst of filling wholesale orders, it is jokingly referred to as BS day.

Grapes set    Mixed Set

Early Business Card Cases (2003-04)

Early card cases

I approached my first card cases much the same way I did my early bottle stoppers; a variety of colors and designs but not a very cohesive presentation.  I was really stuck in a neutral color zone.  Not that this is a bad thing yet when I look at these cases I no longer find them visually appealing.  Perhaps the presentation takes away something from them too.  I think I’d call this my early faux stone stage.

Current Business Card Cases (2006-current)

Collage card casesMy how things have changed.  I now approach my card case designs as I do my bottle stoppers; starter sets in set colors and designs.  I’ve learned that vibrant colors sell better and selling each piece (card case and pen) separately results in better sales.  The addition of a frame to my card case surface designs provides a finished look to the piece.

So there you have it.  A “then” and “now” comparison of my functional art work.  Looking at my early work gives me a chuckle.  It is also a humble reminder of where I started and how much I’ve improved.


Progression-A Look Back

Libby Mills posted a “challenge” on her blog Libzoid to polymer artist bloggers to post some images of past work.  The impetus was an earlier post on Libzoid about the progression an artist makes along the way to new and beautiful pieces.

In the spirit of looking back in order to move forward, I’ve pulled out a few pictures of older pieces that I really liked when I made them.

British Ladies Bracelet BritishLadies Bracelet(2003-04)

Following what I learned in Gwen Gibson’s workshop I created several tile bracelets.  I love these images and that you can reverse the bracelet to wear the textured side out for a different look.  However creating successful image transfers on a consistent basis was, uhm, inconsistent.  I trashed a number of bracelet tiles.  I also frequently tied my fingers in knots trying to knot the stretch elastic that joins the tiles.

Cinnebar Laughing Man Amulet Necklace (200?)

Cinnebar amulet

This piece was inspired by an article Nan Roche wrote on creating faux cinnebar.  The amulet was created over an empty matchbox.  The top slides up and you can put small items into the amulet.  I love the mold for creating this face.  I found that both men and women liked the amulet necklaces.

Buddha Peace Necklace Buddha Peace Necklace(200?)

This special piece was created for our yoga teacher for her birthday.  The text on the focal medallion is a Tibtian prayer for peace.  The full prayer was broken into two pieces and two necklaces were created; one for our yoga teacher and one for myself. 


Snow Spirit Necklace Snow Spirit Necklace(2002-03)

Here is one of my spirit necklaces, my first art doll creations.  This piece is created from pearl clay that was dusted with micro pearl Pearl-Ex powder.  The face was created from a push mold and antiqued.  I admit that the face is a little scary.  I remember the number of times that strand of beads broke apart sending seed beads across my work table.  And how I struggled to wrap the gold wire around a skewer to create those caps which hold the satin cord.  Funny how some of your first creations are more involved in their execution than they probably need to be.

I Shine Spirit Necklace I Shine Spirit Necklace(2002-03)

For some reason this little lady is one of my favorites and I refuse to sell her.  I think I felt sorry for her when I pulled her head from the push mold because she only had one eye, hence the eye patch.  As she came together, I saw the beauty in her face.  To me she is a symbol of strength when facing adversity.  It didn’t matter if she could only see with one eye because what she saw was clearer than those with two eyes.  I think that is why I chose the words on her body, “I Shine.” 
Some think those words represent some strange sense of humor (the eyepatch, “I Shine,” a “shiner.”)   However, she and I know the truth.

So there are a few examples of my early work when I was focused on jewelry.   It was fun to remember what inspired me to make certain pieces.  Though I no longer make jewelry, I’m glad I gave it a try.  I still have several of these pieces and they still make me smile.

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Favorite Sounds

1. Birds chirping in the morning.  Getting up early does have its benefits.

2. Cats purring.

3. Our backyard owl hooting.  He is a Bard owl.  We named him Shakespeare. Get it?

4. Elk bugling. An eerie sound; one you’ll never forget and will miss when you don’t hear it.

5. Peepers in the spring.  You know spring is here when the peepers start their symphony.

6. Crickets.

7. Skis cutting through fresh snow.  Or in the case of the East Coast-freshly groomed snow; ah corduroy!

8. Bicycles whirring through a road race.

9. Water hitting the shore.  The lake or the ocean.

10. OM. Say it a few times when you’re feeling stressed and see if you don’t feel better afterwards.

11. Eric playing piano.

12. Woody serenading us with his stuffed mouse George.  Woody is one of our two cats.  This is known as “being Georged” and it is an honor! 

Woody has a toy mouse named George that he likes to carry around the house.  He mews while carrying George in his mouth and then presents George to us.  Because we are such terrible hunters, Woody feels it is his duty to bring us “food.”  Oh, we named the mouse George.  The name comes from a classic Bugs Bunny episode where Bugs meets the Abominable Snowman.  Abominable picks up Bugs, holds him tightly and states “I will hug him and squeeze him and call him George.”  Nuff said.

13. Silence.

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Developing a Line of Work

Sometimes it takes a while to develop a line of work.  It is so much fun to experiment and try different techniques.  You want to make one of every thing and you want to try and sell it all.  Yet, when you set up at a show or take your work to the local gallery and present a jumble of art the visual impact can be confusing or distracting.

When I decided to pursue a line of functional art, starting with wine bottle stoppers, I had a bit of fun trying different designs and bottle stopper shapes.  It was a good time to experiment and to learn what designs and colors sold well.  I also added business card cases and pens to my line and, sometime later, perfume pens.

As my line of functional art grew I began to sell my work in more consignment galleries and at local retail shows.  After some encouragement and lots of questions, I decided to enter the realm of wholesale sales with  This is when I realized that I had to choose a set of designs in order to provide some cohesiveness to my work.  My best selling items weren’t necessarily related to each other.  However common designs or patterns would give the items some unity. It would make production runs easier.  But which designs to choose?

I always enjoyed the Japanese metalworking technique of Mokume Gane as it was applied to polymer clay.  In one version in polymer clay you layer thin sheets of clay in a stack and press shapes and designs into the clay stack.  With a sharp blade you slowly remove portions of the impressed clay to reveal a new design.  Along with the mokume gane technique, I chose another surface design technique that involves the crazing of metallic acrylic paints on the surface of the clay.  I then applied these two techniques across my line of functional art. 

Now I had a line of work that looked cohesive because of the common designs and patterns.  Though each item was different individually, when they were displayed together the common designs gave a nice visual presentation.

Mokume Gane Stoppers  Mokume Gane card cases  Mokume Gane perfume pens

When developing a line of work, consider what techniques you like to use and your favorite colors.  What common denominator can you find? Can this be applied across the items you want to create?.  Think about the artists you like and what it is that makes their work look cohesive.

By providing cohesion in your line of work with colors and designs you can make and sell a variety of items that are not necessarily related.


Heads Up!

As often happens at art retreats, committee members spend a fair amount of time socializing, running the weekend’s activities, and ensuring that attendees are having a good time; clay time is sometimes limited.  Along with three business card cases, I was able to create two new art doll heads and started working on a doll body.

Here is the unnamed head and Green Man: KK 07 Heads 

Green Man was taken from a mold.  The “wall” behind him is hollow.  The green on his face is embossing powder mixed into TLS.  I’ve got a couple ideas in my head for what the body will look like.

And here is Quark:  Quark 

Quark’s head was made a few months ago.  The lower dress on his body has an underwater scene impressed into the clay.  The clay was then accented with various colors of acrylic paint.  He needs more embellishments before going into the oven.

And as always happens at art retreats, just as I was getting into a groove creating, the weekend came to an end.