Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit

Leave a comment

Friday Featured Artist: Finnabair

They say it’s nice to share. So with that in mind, I’m starting this new feature-The Friday Featured Artist-a periodic blog post on Fridays on a new-to-me-artist.

Today’s featured artist is Anna Dabrowska also known as Finnabair. She is an artist originally from Poland now living in Ireland. I love her melding of Steampunk, mixed media, and collage, and her use of color.

Check out Finnabair’s blog and portfolio here.


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 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 2

Anemia-Detail 2



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?


“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.


“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:


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?

1 Comment

Anemia: An Art Doll Work in Progress

I’m often asked about my process for creating my art dolls. While the first step is sculpting the head, putting together the body varies. It mainly depends on whether the art doll will hang on the wall or stand freely. Then I have to decide what type of armature I will use for the art doll’s body. Will it be a hollow form, solid form, wire, cloth, or a combination.

In the video below, I share the process that I’m using for my most recent art doll, tentatively known as “Anemia.”



Testing Vintaj Patina Inks on Polymer Clay

Now that the holiday show season has ended and the last of my special orders have been delivered, I am taking a well-deserved break and playing in the studio. On Monday, I stopped by Ink About It in Westford to do a little artsy-crafty shopping for myself. I bought some Copic  markers, a handful of Colorbox chalk ink stamps, and a package of Vintaj Patina inks by Ranger.

I decided to try out the Vintaj Patina inks first. I’d never heard of them before Monday. They were originally created to use on metal. I wondered if they were anything like the alcohol inks I’ve used. Let’s find out.

Vintage Patine Inks

Vintage Patina Inks


Before you use the Vintaj Patina inks, a few recommendations:

  • Grab a handful of paintbrushes to apply the paint.
  • Have a cup of water handy for rinsing your paintbrushes. The inks dry quickly. If you spill any ink, wipe it up immediately.
  • Paper towel. You need paper towel to either wipe your brushes, wipe up your spills or dab the inks.
  • Gloves. Wear gloves when using the inks. They’re a bit messy. (Really, it’s not just this artist!) You need to shake the bottles to mix the ink. The ink tends to spray into the cap. When you remove the cap, the ink drips from it. Be prepared.
  • Odor. I noticed a spray paint-like odor when I opened the first bottle of ink. It seemed to disappear over time and I didn’t notice it with the other bottles.  If you’re sensitive to odors, use these inks in a well-ventilated area.

Okay, onto the play and testing the Vintaj inks on polymer clay.


The colors inks I tried out were Ochre, Agate, and Onyx.

Vintaj Patina Inks: Onyx, Ochre, Agate

Vintaj Patina Inks: Onyx, Ochre, Agate

I conditioned some Premo black polymer clay and pushed it into a mold from my collection. I decided to test the inks on two samples of raw (unbaked) clay and two samples of cured (baked) clay.

Clay samples

Clay samples

Can you guess what item I used to make the texture in this mold?

Raw Clay and Ink Test

In this first sample, I applied the agate ink, two layers, and hit each layer with the heat gun in between applications.

Raw clay with agate ink

Raw clay with agate ink

Then I brushed on a small amount of the ochre ink, dabbed the ink with paper towel, and hit with the heat gun. (NOTE: I used the heat gun to slightly dry the inks between applications. I didn’t run the heat gun long enough to cure the clay. I’ll do that after all the inks are applied.)

Raw clay with agate and ochre inks

Raw clay with agate and ochre inks

The last application was the onyx ink over the previous two colors. I dabbed the ink slightly with a paper towel to remove some of the excess. To keep the confusion to a minimum, this first sample will be known as AOO.

Raw clay with 3 layers of ink

Raw clay with 3 layers of ink (AOO)

On the second piece of raw clay, I applied the ochre ink first, then the agate ink, and then the onyx. I dabbed all the ink lightly with a paper towel and then hit it with the heat gun. This second sample will be referred to as OAO.

Raw clay with ochre ink

Raw clay with ochre ink

Raw clay with ochre & agate

Raw clay with ochre & agate

Raw clay with final layer-onyx

Raw clay with final layer-onyx

Both pieces of raw clay were cured (baked) in a clay dedicated convection oven for 10 minutes at 275 degrees. After baking, I let the pieces cool completely. Then I lightly sanded both pieces with 800 grit wet/dry sandpaper.

OAO (ochre, agate, onyx) on leftAOO (agate, ochre, onyx) on right

OAO (ochre, agate, onyx) on left
AOO (agate, ochre, onyx) on right

Sanding removed most of the top layer of paint in the OAO sample on the left. It also left some interesting scratch marks on the surface which I kind of like.

If you couldn’t guess it earlier, now can you tell what item I used to make the mold?

Cured Clay and Ink Test

While I worked on the first set of samples, I cured the other two pieces of clay. Those pieces were in the oven for 15 minutes at 275 degrees and cooled completely before applying the inks.

On the first cured sample, I applied the onyx ink first. I mixed the agate & ochre inks together and applied this combination on top of the wet onyx ink. Then I dabbed the wet ink and hit all layers with the heat gun. I repeated the process with a second layer of the agate/ochre mix.

At this point I was so absorbed with what I was doing that I forgot to take a picture of this sample at this stage! Sorry.

With the final sample I was feeling a little more daring, so I started by spraying the cured piece of clay with rubbing alcohol and then applying the ochre colored ink. The Vintaj ink immediately ran off the alcohol soaked clay. So I wiped off most of the mess with paper towel and dried the piece with the heat gun.

These inks do not react like Ranger’s alcohol inks.

On the next attempt I applied thin layers of the ochre ink. I mixed the onyx and agate inks which resulted in a rather ugly battleship grey color. I put the battleship grey color on top of the ochre ink. Dry this mess, I mean mix, with the heat gun.

Okay, now I’m starting to get bored. The resulting color combination is rather “meh.”

Off Come the Gloves

At this point, the gloves came off. (They’re too big for my hands anyways so I really needed to take them off.)

I don’t like how either of these cured samples is turning out. They’re both look dull. They need some bling. Some spark.

I sand off the top layers of ink on both pieces using 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper and pull out my Lumiere paints. On the first cured sample, I apply a layer of  pearl turquoise paint, wipe it off, and dry with a heat gun.

Cured clay with Vintaj patina inks and Lumiere pearl turquoise paint

Cured clay with Vintaj patina inks and Lumiere pearl turquoise paint

The Lumiere pearl turquoise paint gives the first sample a little more depth.

On the second cured clay sample, I applied Lumiere super copper paint, dried and sanded it. A lot of the paint came off when I wiped the still wet clay. (The clay was wet from the wet/dry sandpaper.) I put on another layer of super copper paint followed by more ochre ink and wiping in between layers.

Cured sample #2, sanded copper

Cured sample #2, sanded copper

Cured sample #2 with copper paint & more ochre ink

Cured sample #2 with copper paint & more ochre ink

You know how a teacher will tell you beware of turning your piece into mud? I’m starting to feel that way with this sample.

Finally, I decide to apply a very light brushing, almost a dry brushing, of Lumiere pearl white paint. I wipe off the excess, dry the sample with a heat gun, and then use 0000 steel wool to sand the piece followed by a very light run under the buffing wheel at low speed.

Cured sample #2 with many layers

Cured sample #2 with many layers

It’s kind of gone from “meh” to “maybe.” Not sure if I “saved” it or not. But this is just an experiment. There was no planned destination.


Well, I can say that the Vintaj patina inks are nothing like Ranger’s alcohol inks. The word “ink” is a little misleading. The Vintaj patina is more like a paint. There is a mixing ball in the bottle to mix the pigments. And there is that slight “spray paint” odor.

On the raw polymer, the paints appeared more vibrant after the curing process. On the cured polymer clay, the patinas were not so vibrant. Now this could be due to my color choice in both the clay and in the patina color combinations. I would definitely try this again on other colors of clay to see what happens.

In general, I think the patinas have potential to be used with polymer. They make an interesting alternative to the standard acrylic paints we often use to antique or stain cured polymer clay. I did like the layering affect that happened with the patinas. It reminded me of the results you get using the mokume gane technique.

Now there is something to consider. Using the Vintaj patinas in the mokume gane technique. I sense another test coming on.

If you’re interested in using the Vintaj patina inks on metal, you’ll find numerous videos on the Vintaj website as well as on YouTube. These two posts on Ink Stained Roni’s blog were also helpful (note-these titles are my synopsis titles, not the original post titles): Samples of the line of Vintaj inks (there are some very pretty colors) and Answers to questions about the inks & that messy ink bottle


New Art Friday: Birds of a Feather

A quick check-in this Friday with a few more new Ornimals.

Some of my favorites ornies to make, and also some of the most popular, are birds. Living in a house that is surrounded by woods, I have lots of inspiration right outside by window. We have cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees, and goldfinches, juncos, and titmouse. We occasionally see grosbeak, towhees, orioles, and cedar waxwing.

And then there are the big birds-sharp shined hawks, red-tail hawks, owls, and vultures and the occasional heron.

Last year, my bird Ornimals featured just the head of the bird. This year I’ve expanded my sculpting so the bird Ornimal has a body and feet. Some come with additional embellishments like hats and ear muffs.

Cardinal Before (2011 version)

Cardinal Ornimal 2011

Cardinal 2012

Cardinal Ornimal 2012
Amy A. Crawley (2012)

Chickadee Before (2011 version)

Chickadee 2011

Chickadee with Earmuffs
Amy A. Crawley (2012)

Baby Chick

Over the summer, I ordered 2″ glass balls. Another slight error on my part-ordering the wrong size ornament because I still couldn’t find the ones that matched the ornaments I used in 2011. These glass balls sat in the box they were delivered in for a few months.

Then I found inspiration in a few pictures on a great blog, My Modern Met. The post included pictures of baby chicks. They were the perfect size critters for sculpting on these smaller bases.

Baby Chick Ornimal
Amy A. Crawley (2012)

What do you think?

Do you prefer the “full bodied” birds or the “head-only” birds?


As much as I enjoy sculpting the Ornimals, I find myself yearning to return to some art that I dabbled in last year: encaustics and my polymer focal disks. I took some time in October to dig out the disks I made and laid them out on a work table. It was fun to shuffle them around, lay them out in various patterns, and think about how to assemble them into wall hangings.

Focal Disks

I pulled out several books on encaustic and watched part of a DVD on the medium. Sometimes we all need to take a break from the art we currently make and rejuvenate with a different medium. I hope to work a bit more with the disks and encaustic after I finish my last holiday show in December. Who knows, maybe I’ll combine animal sculpture, encaustic, and wall hangings.

Focal Disk on encaustic paint background

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great weekend.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 358 other followers