Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


Darwin Receives An Honorable Mention

It was quiet a surprise and an honor to return home from France and learn that my Spirit Messenger “Darwin Explores” had received an honorable mention. The honorable mention was awarded by the jury for the Fitchburg Art Museum’s 76th Regional Exhibition of Art and Craft. Darwin Explores and The Green Man Spirit Messenger are both on display in this exhibit.

Darwin Explores

Thank you to the jury and staff at the Fitchburg Art Museum. The 76th Regional Exhibit runs through September 4, 2011


Roman Pillar Face Earrings

In the run up to the Bolton Artisans Guild’s 7th annual holiday show this weekend, I found myself playing around with the idea to make earrings.

Yes, earrings. Something I have not done in several years. Perhaps it was working with the students in my Polymer Clay Boot Camp class that triggered this idea. Or maybe it was my desire to try something different.

Whatever it was, I did indeed find myself sketching an idea for earrings. Earrings that were inspired by our recent trip to Italy and influenced by the ruins of Rome and all the sculpture.

The result are these Roman Pillar Face Earrings.

Roman Pillar Face Earrings

Each earring features a face taken from a mold of one my hand sculpted faces or from one of many face molds I’ve collected over the years. The face is mounted to a background of textured pearl and black clay and framed by a rope of twisted black and white clay. After curing and sanding, I applied a patina of black acrylic and then buffed each piece to a nice sheen.

The earrings are 1.5″ long and .5″ wide.

I created two pairs with each face. What I found intriguing was that even though a particular face mold was used multiple times, no two faces ever came out the same. Each pair has its own personality and distinct qualities.

Venetian Mask 1

Venetian Mask 2

Roald 1

Roald 2

Buddha Face 1

Buddha Face 2

Creating these earrings has been a lot of fun. It feels good to create something different from my usual small scale sculptures. Sometimes stepping out of the box and trying a new (or returning to an old) format can ignite ideas for future work as well.


Puppetry & Storytelling Exhibit

Earlier this year the New Art Center in Newtonville, MA had a wonderful little exhibit: Extraordinary: Puppetry, Storytelling, & Spirit. The exhibit featured puppets, marionettes and characters created from a variety of materials. It was an interactive exhibit that allowed visitors to manipulate several of the puppets and invited children (of all ages I assume) to create and play with hand puppets and put on your very own puppet show.

Here are some pictures from the exhibit.

First up: Puppets from Bread & Puppet in Vermont (did that sound redundant?)


Bread and Puppet


Next, paper dolls on rods in a slide theatre. These were fun because you could move the dolls and create your own story.


Slide Puppets


Jeff Sias’s “Victor Contained” is a puppet theatre contained in a vintage RCA television.


Victor Contained: TV Puppet Theatre


Here are marionettes by Donald Saaf and Julia Zanes. The marionettes are part of the Bluebird Theatre.


Bluebird Theatre Marionettes



More Bluebird Theatre Marionettes


Next are amazing puppets made by Ashley Bryan. Bryan crafts his puppets from detritus he picks up on walks along the beach. These puppets are homely and magical at the same time.


"Odion" First of Twin



"Oinwokhu" Second of Twin



"Natambu" Man of Destiny



"Babutu" Peacemaker


And last, Tolu Bommalata shadow puppets from India


Shadow Puppets from India



Tolu Bommalata Shadow Puppet


This was a fun exhibit because it brought out the child in everyone.

Do you remember the first puppet you ever made? I think mine was either made from a sock or a brown paper bag.

What is your favorite shadow puppet to make with your hands?


Artist Demo, Art Exhibit and An Interview

Artist Demonstration

On Sunday, June 13, I am demonstrating how I create my artwork in polymer clay at Fruitlands Museum as part of Fruitlands 2010 Artisan Series.

I will show you how I create my Klimt and Craze Collage patterns as seen on my business card cases, perfume pens and wine bottle stoppers. I will also demonstrate how I sculpt both my primitive and more realistic spirit messenger heads. To help me explain the sculpting process, I put together this storyboard.

Head Sculpt Storyboard

The demonstration runs from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm

I will also have free mini-bookmarks for people who stop by and a listing of my current workshops.

Art Exhibit

Sunday will be a full day. After my artist demonstration, I head over to the Nashoba Valley Winery for my art guild’s artist reception. The Bolton Artisans Guild has a new exhibit, Summer Dreams, on display at the winery. Summer Dreams captures the colors and memories of summer in the several mediums, including photography, fiber, polymer clay, paper, watercolor, and jewelry. The exhibit runs June 6 to July 5, 2010. The artist reception is Sunday, June 13, 3:30-5:00 pm. Light snacks and a wine tasting will be provided.

An Interview

Last Monday, I was interviewed by the Bolton Common for their Uncommon Conversation feature article. The interview appeared in this week’s edition and is available to read online here.

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A Good Day For Balloons

The fourth cat head that I sculpted last fall has received his new body. This cat spirit messenger is inspired by our youngest cat, Pippin.

Tabby with Balloons

Tabby: A Good Day for Balloons is made from polymer over a foil and wire armature. His whiskers are Beadalon stringing wire. The balloons are made from air dry clay. His blue chair is polymer over a cardboard and foil armature.

Sealed inside the chair is this quote from Mary de La Valette:

Blessed are the animals
for they shall lead us back
to our lost innocence.

Tabby: A Good Day for Balloons makes his debut this weekend at the Paradise City Arts Festival (3/19-21) at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlboro. I’m in booth #432. Stop by and say ‘hi.’


Darwin-Part 2

First, a brief summary. Darwin, originally named Hybrid, has a head that was my first attempt at sculpting cat heads. To me, he looked more like a cross between a cat, a rabbit, and a horse. However, he was still destined for greatness in the form of a new animal spirit messenger. You can read about my process in creating his body and how he got his new name here.

When we last saw Darwin, he looked like this:

Darwin-core polymer clay body

Feeling a little naked, I think.

I left some of the wire uncovered thinking that I might change the angle of his arms and legs. However, I quickly learned that in order to do just that, I should not have covered his shoulders or neck or hips. Repositioning him now would be like moving a super model bound tightly in vinyl. Ain’t gonna happen.

So, I covered the exposed wire and started to make Darwin’s clothing. Yes, I made clothes for Darwin from polymer clay. I traced his trunk, arms, and legs to make patterns and then “cut” the pieces from the polymer fabric.

It was starting to feel like an art doll version of Project Runway in my studio. Only I didn’t have Tim Gunn telling me to “make it work.” (Though I did hear him in my head….)

Here is the finished version of Darwin. More information on this piece follows the pictures.


Darwin-side view

After Darwin was clothed, I realized the area between his waistline and his crotch was rather large and blank. (You could say he has a very high waist.) So I sewed a sporran for him to wear around his waist. A sporran is Scottish Gaelic for “purse” or a pouch. It is a traditional part of Scottish Highland dress, usually worn as part of a kilt ensemble. It functions like a pocket on a pair of pants.

Darwin’s sporran is made from felt with whipped stitched edges and a tiny button sewn on the flap to secure it.

In Darwin’s hands is his field notebook. The notebook opens and contains scribblings and pictures of the curious creatures he has found on his travels.

Darwin’s base is made from air dry clay applied over a box. The air dry clay went on a bit lumpy and I used this to my advantage to create a “dry earth” surface. The air dry clay was painted with several shades of acrylic paint and sealed. The wild flowers (star leaf species) are polymer.

Darwin is attached to his base with a small amount of apoxie clay. Including the base, Darwin is 13″ tall.

Inside the box I placed the following quote from John Muir. Mr. Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist and explorer. He is credited with promoting the cause to make the Yosemite Valley into a National Park. He founded the Sierra Club in 1892 and served as its President until his death is 1914.

This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere:
The dew is never all dried at once:
a shower is forever falling, vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunshine, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming,
on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls.

Note: It is only as I write this that I realize the curious connections in this piece. When I made Darwin’s pants, I knew they had a creative plaid pattern. That is what prompted the idea for the sporran. When I gave him the name of Darwin, I knew he would become an explorer. That prompted the field notebook. As the piece came together, including the “dry earth” base, it all felt very serendipitous. I chose the quote from John Muir because I knew he was a great supporter of nature and the environment. It was only when I looked up his biography that I learned he was Scottish. Ironically, Charles Darwin was English, a naturalist, and studied at the University of Edinburgh.


The Beebles Are Coming…

I’ve been offline these last few days as I am getting ready for the Paradise City Arts Festival, March 19-21, at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlboro. I’m looking forward to exhibiting at this location because it will introduce my artwork to a new customer base and it is less than 30 minutes from my home!

My goal this week is to post some of the new work that I’ll be bringing to the show.

Introducing the Beebles

The Beebles made their “soft” debut at a small art show last December. It was a good place to present them and gauge customer reaction.

At that time, their working name was “Bulbies” which many people found hard to pronounce. (A frequent mispronunciation was “bubbies.”) The name wasn’t a success but reaction to these tiny sculptures was positive.

My inspiration for the Beebles is the Japanese netsuke. Netsuke are small sculptural objects or toggles worn to suspend objects hung from the sash of the kimono.

In my interpretation, the Beebles are formed over used nightlight bulbs. This is my way of upcycling an item that would end up in the landfill. Beebles, therefore, are good for the environment and a great way to start your art collection!

The Beebles


ArtSpace Maynard Holiday Art Show and Sale

My final holiday show for 2009 is this weekend at ArtSpace Maynard. ArtSpace is a great artist studio building, a converted school building, in Maynard. Personally, I think it was one of the best things the town ever did…and I can say that because I used to live there.

Anyways, there are 30 artists, both in-house artists and invited artists participating in this show. I haven’t done the show in a couple years and it will be fun to return to a show with a great group of eclectic, fun artists.

If you’re in the area, stop by and say “hi.”


Art Show Post-Mortem

Art Show Post-Mortem

I’m mostly recovered from the Paradise City Arts Festival show this weekend. As I’ve done in the past, I wanted to share my impressions with you.

First, thanks for all of your well-wishes for a good show. Your encouragement is always appreciated. And there is good news: attendance was up this past weekend as compared to the May show. Saturday and Sunday seemed much busier. Monday, however, seemed slower than in previous years. I guess two busy days plus one less busy day balances out.

Yes, people are buying. I observed more people paying with credit cards versus cash or check during this show. (In the spring the trend was the opposite.) However, I believe the recovery will be slow and gradual. Many people looked at my work, took a business card, and moved on. Sometimes all the talking in the world doesn’t result in a sale.

So I did something different this weekend. I listened. Really listened to what people were saying about my work. I asked them what drew them to my work. If they bought a piece, I asked them what they liked about it. It was an opportunity to learn about how my work impresses people. I know people like my work but I never delved deeper into why.

And what did people say? That my work “has a calming influence.” That my work is “very serene but there is laughter in there too” and that my work “has a healing quality.” Wow. I was honored to hear these statements. My plan is to use these comments for marketing my art work.

I also upgraded my booth design for this show.  In the past, I rented pipe and drape (either black, white, or gray) and used height adjustable tables, a pedestal, and a bar stand for my display surfaces. Here are some before pictures from earlier shows.

Booth Shot May 2008

Booth Shot May 2008

Booth Shot May 2009

Booth Shot May 2009

The old design tended to be a little cluttered and caused people to look down at my work instead of looking up even with pedestals at various heights on the table.

This year, I rented a pop-up wall display from Skyline Boston. These are the trade-show wall displays you may have seen at conventions. They are slightly curved with a heavy fabric wall covering. The rental package included shelves and lights. The cases which hold all the components converts into a desk/pedestal. Here is how my booth looked for this past weekend’s show.

New Booth Display Wall

New Booth Display Wall

Pedestal and Wall

Pedestal and Wall

Bar Stand & Wall

Bar Stand & Wall

The new display definitely made a difference. It allowed me to have most of my work at eye level. At eye level, people could see more detail and get close to my pieces. It also looked less cluttered. Less clutter means people have someplace to fix their gaze. The other thing I liked about this booth wall was the way it directed people into my booth. The slight curve in the wall allowed people to walk toward the center of my booth, turn to their right to see what I had on the center pedestal, and then follow the flow out of the booth.


This show was an improvement over the May show. Attendance was up, people were paying with credit cards again, and my revenue was up. However, renting the pop-up wall did increase my expenses. I did cover the cost of the rental but did not cover all my costs. I think it may be some time before that happens. I have decided not to do the spring 2010 show partly due to the expense but primarily because I decided a few months ago to take a break from retail shows. My goals for 2010 are to focus on making my art, working on new sculptures, getting my fine art work into more galleries, and to start teaching and coaching.

Physical Therapy

As part of my healing for my herniated discs, I had a physical therapy evaluation on Wednesday. The plan is to have therapy 2x/week for strengthening. My first assignment is to do “press-ups” 10x every 2 hours. Press-ups are like cobra pose in yoga. I’m also tracking any pain I have during these exercises and at other times during the day. Next week I visit the neurosurgeon.

Standing at Water’s Edge

I’m a bit behind in my own reading of this book. I started Chapter 2 before heading off to Paradise City but did not take the book with me. I started reading again yesterday and will post the Chapter 2 a-ha’s and summary in a few days.


Come to Paradise…

the Paradise City Arts Festival, that is.

This weekend, October 10-12 marks Paradise City’s 15th Anniversary in Northampton. The show runs Saturday and Sunday, 10-6 and Monday, 10-4. I’m in booth #733. I have a new booth design that I’m excited to debut. I’ll have new Soulful Sprites and Heart in Hand Talisman as well as new cat sculpts.

It is a wonderful time of year to venture to central Massachusetts. The leaves are changing and the colors are quite vibrant. What better way to spend the day than viewing beautiful handmade art along with the beautiful fall colors.