Repeating Yourself

Eva Ehmeier Artichoke Drop NecklaceIt’s been a week of seeing something new in something you already have in front of you, and I have been having a lot of fun with the ideas while readers have been getting quite a kick out of what we’ve been sharing. So, let’s do this one more time, but with a twist. Let’s try out repetition and pattern.

Nature is full of repeated elements all brought together to create beautiful and perfectly formed patterns. If you follow nature’s guidelines, you can take any form or element and make it in the same or graduating sizes and repeat them side-by-side, over-lapping, sitting on top of one another, or all in a row. The formation is not as important to these beautiful patterns as the precision and consistency of form and placement. Apparently, an artichoke suggested the placement of the beautiful pieces that make up this necklace by  Eva Ehmeier. Or maybe she created them and it made her think of artichokes. But the natural repetitive element is there, echoing that recognizable natural beauty.

This technique of layered, folded, and repeated elements has been a common approach of Eva’s in years past and she has plenty of examples of it on her Flickr photostream and her website.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Find a natural repeated pattern that intrigues you and try recreating the pattern using a favorite element. Nature has patterns everywhere. You might find yours in your fridge, a garden, on a hiking path, or something you see at the zoo. Recreate the pattern, not what you were inspired by.  You don’t need an element that will recreate the look of that turtle shell, just something that can be fitted together in a regular pattern, like the hexagonal sections of the shell do. Or layer your favorite bright blue and purple canes slices in that similar overlay pattern you found in a pine cone you picked up. Try to see only the pattern and bring that into the studio or your sketchbook.


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An Artist’s Tail

ClayByKim on Etsy Mermaid tailBefore I get into my little thoughts about today’s intriguing piece, I wanted to put out a couple of thoughts for all of you who are attempting to do the challenges. I’ve had some questions and concerns about getting them done. First of all, you don’t need to do all the challenges presented to gain insight and benefit from them. The goal is to push yourself to look at your work differently, to explore, and to see what there is to discover. A regular challenge will certainly help you do this because you would have committed to a particular goal. But you do not have to do 3 a week. Some people have the time to do so but certainly not all of us. Maybe just one a week, choosing whichever challenges I post that appeal to you most. Or take one night or one day a month and choose a couple to explore. Make your goal reasonable for you and your schedule. I can already tell you that three a week is really taxing me. I am barely managing the sketch suggestions and I have yet to take photos so I can share, but I do plan on doing it. If you thought you’d try to do them all and can’t, readjust your goal to something manageable.

Also, remember that these challenges do not require that you finish a piece each time. Being able to finish is extremely important and that is where sharing on the Flickr page can be a motivator. But maybe you do one challenge a week and aim to have one completed piece to share come the end of the month. Do what works for you and, please, do not give yourself a hard time if you are not able to keep the goal you set. Readjust and just keep trying. Keep your personal end-goal in mind. Mine is to have more regular studio time and, although I haven’t completed anything yet, I have at least been at my work table a lot more than I had been. Those are small steps, but they’re important. As long as you are moving forward and not stalling or going backwards, those are accomplishments to be happy about.

Speaking of small things, do you see what small adjustments were probably made here to create this mermaid’s tail? I am guessing, from the look of Kim Detmers flowers petal canes, that these cane components started out floral but, somewhere along the way, they suggested fins to Kim. I chuckled at the form being just the tail of the mermaid. Did she shed this when granted a wish for human legs? Is this the mythical aquatic version of a rabbit’s foot worn for good luck? I don’t know but I liked the whimsy and the re-purposing of the canes, if that is what she did.

Kim is all about fancy and fantasy as you can see in her Etsy shop. And what is fantasy but re-envisioning our common world?


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: If you want to try a challenge today, how about taking a cane, a motif, a form, or some element that you regularly create with and try to imagine it as something else. A bead could be a dolls head with the addition of a body and a hat. A heart motif could be petals on a flower or cut in-half to become tear drops. I’m looking at my vine motif that I usually use vertically and I’m thinking I could set them horizontally to become stylized wind motifs. But that is just a first thought. Let’s see where I can go from there. How about you?


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Material Suggestions

Silvia Ortiz de la Torree Paisajes agrestes012116If you read Friday’s post about the fashion illustrators who used what we see around us every day to design their images of women’s clothing, then you might see the connecting thread to this week’s theme. I thought we’d explore the idea of the outcome of a technique suggesting the form and imagery of art work.

Crackle techniques and approaches to treating cracked clay have been rather popular the last few years, but they have been primarily used as surface texture in abstract and contemporary jewelry. I can almost see Silvia Ortiz de la Torre looking down at a conditioned sheet (you know how they get those cracked up edges after running it through the pasta machine) or one she created using a cracked clay technique, and with the sheets edge sitting horizontal on the work table, she saw the suggestion of a landscape. Or perhaps she saw crackle work created by other artists and she saw the landscape come out of those pieces. However it came to her, I think we are looking at an example of inspiration coming from the look of the material.

Just as we might look up at the sky and see animals in the clouds, we do also see imagery in what we are creating, unbidden and often unexpected, but it’s there. It’s hard for our minds not to try to create imagery in what it sees. The question is, do you let it guide your work? It is neither right or wrong to explore the imagery you see in the scraps before you or in the treated surface of the clay. It’s just another way to let the material guide what you create.

Silvia is definitely a texture enthusiast. These pieces are actually quite a departure from her bold and highly saturated colors. but the exploration of texture is certainly alive here. You can see more of her textural explorations and other ‘material suggestions’ on her Flickr photostream.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Take a look at something you worked on but didn’t complete or pull out some scrap and start playing with it. Don’t try too hard, just turn it this way and that and ask yourself what you see in it. Do you see faces, animals, objects, places, or patterns you hadn’t seen before? Find something intriguing and let it lead you in a little playtime or into working towards a finished piece.


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Outside Inspiration: Burning Up and Looking Through

paper-cutout-art-fashion-dresses-edgar-artis-47__700These little unexpected beauties are brought to us by Debbie Crothers who just dropped them onto my Facebook page last week. These were created by Armenian fashion illustrator Edgar Artis who uses common objects and scenes to take some basic fashion concepts beyond the ordinary. The matches dress illustration is so simple, but between the heavily directional lines and the ‘hot’ implication of the material, it is a rather arresting image. The cut-outs, however, are simply a fantastic way to test out color and texture. Edgar was not the first to do this, so to give credit where credit is due, you’d want to also check out Shamekh Bluwi, an architect and fashion illustrator living in Jordan, who shows off the potential for women’s dresses with his very intricate cut-outs.

But besides these just being a fun bit of illustration to admire, I was thinking the cut-out-and-view-through process could be an excellent springboard or tool set to help you work out your own polymer designs. You can take sketches you have (or make copies of them) and cut out the essential mass of the design, then hold it up to various colors and textures.  I just got my pack of Tracy Holmes’ Colour Cards today and placing a cut-out over selected solid-colored cards would be so much more telling than just holding them up to a sketch. Don’t you think?

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Trace a favorite form or shape, cut it out so you have a stencil, then take it on a walk with a camera of some kind. Hold it up to various colors, textures, patterns, etc. as you go. Take photos of what you find. Go home and put those photos up on a bigger screen and save or print out the ones you really like. Now … can you create artwork from what you found in that empty space in the stencil?


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Creatures from the Deep

AHumpert deep-sea-creatures-10As artists, we think of our imagination as a major muscle, if not the primary one used when we’re creating. But how much do you stretch that muscle?

In craft art, because we also have to create steps, a process, and consider function and durability, our minds spend a lot of time in the purely logical, problems solving sections of our brain. Not that the imagination and problem solving are not connected; they absolutely are. But pure imagination is something we don’t always practice. So, here is a little something to push you to do so.

These fun bracelets are the work of the ever creative Anke Humpert. Using translucent clay in a unique design and decorating it with sea creatures she made up is just the start here.

As she explained to me, “The bracelets have a design that glows in black light! That is why they are called deep-sea creature bracelets. You would not normally notice the night side of them, only if you go to a night club or something similar. They also have a special hinge. Most of it is made with polymer only very little metal involved.”

These bracelets, as it turns out, are the centerpiece for one of the three classes she will be teaching at the Cabin Fever Clay Arts Fest next month. In describing the class for prospective students, she says, “Since we do not know much about the deep seas, we will have fun and let our imagination run wild creating plants (or even animals?) as we imagine them.” And that freedom and use of the imagination is what inspired me to share this today and create a bit of a different challenge for those following along.

By the way, I do have a Flickr page for sharing the results of the challenges I’ve been posting, only I haven’t had time to snap pics of what I’ve done, so there’s nothing on it yet really. But if any of you want to get on while I catch up over here, I would love to see what you’ve been up to. Go here to join in!

Does Anke’s class intrigue you? She is also teaching her Big Beads and fun hand tool texturing techniques. She’s joined by a slew of amazing talent including Lisa Pavelka, Maureen Carlson, Dayle Doroshow, Lindly Haunani, Doreen Kassel, Jana Lehmann, Ann and Karen Mitchell, Nan Roche, Lynne Anne Schwarzenberg, and more. There is still room in almost every class, so, if you are interested, jump in while you have your pick of classes still. You can find the classes on this PDF and registration on their webpage.


Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Let your imagination run wild and recreate an image, motif, shape, or a faux effect you might otherwise recreate as it is seen in nature or as we expect it to be, making your own version. A rose with black petals, a plaid cat, turquoise in pink, purple leather, a square pendant with a chunk missing in the corner, or a peace symbol with Mickey Mouse ears. Just change it up and make it your own.


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Going Half Round

Бижутерия своими руками мастер-клаThis week, I have pieces to share with you that have unexpected additions or changes. I think it is fantastic to mix things up, not only in our own world and work, but to step outside the expectations of what we think certain types of pieces should be. For instance, does a bead really have to be round? No, of course not. But should it at least be three-dimensionally symmetrical? Not really.

Katerina Sidorova has taken the round bead and literally reshaped it for this bracelet. The beads here were created by making perfectly round balls, cutting them in half, and adding thick cane slices on top that were carefully smoothed in to blend with the cut halves. The result is an off-balance half-round shape, or you might say it’s a ball half smashed, or you might call it acorn shaped even. What it is, though, is an unusual shape for a bead, which makes the gathering of the beautiful blue details quite intriguing. And really, the idea is pretty simple, but just that change makes us look twice because it does go beyond the expected round form.

Katerina has generously shared how she created these in this tutorial. She is the shop owner at Russia’s online polymer and jewelry supply shop KalinkaPolinka, which is also a great website full of articles, free tutorials, and links to other tutorials to explore.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Consider a form you regularly create and consider how you can change it to make it more interesting or intriguing. Sketch, cut, or sculpt your ideas.


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Outside Inspiration: Elemental Variation

jacquesvesery spoonsSometimes the thing that binds a varied set of art or craft work is not visual elements but the concept they encompass.

The spoons here, created by Jacques Vesery, are bound by the fact that they are spoons, naturally, but every detail beyond that makes them look so different, including the fact that it appears each spoon could be made from different materials, or by different artists even. Of course, they are by the same artist and they are all the same material–carved wood.

The binding concept here is nature and its broad elemental categories, but not the traditional Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire. Rather, Jacques combines the idea of nature with a bit of myth.  The spoons are titled, from left to right, “Barking at the Moon”, “Fair Tales”, and “Seaspoon”. I like that the sea is red for a change, perhaps to convey the energy of the ocean, with the idea more directly conveyed in the undulating and repeated lines.

His work originally caught my eye because I thought it could be polymer. I think many of you will find his beautiful forms and the delicacy of his carvings quite inspiring. You can find more of his work on his website.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Choose a concept and use it to design and create variation between the elements in a single item or in a series. Sketch or write out your ideas if you do not have time to create.


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Variation Within

FordFolano Polymer earringsIn Monday’s blog post, we looked at how changing up a few elements in a design can change the entire feel of a piece. Variation from one similar piece to the next can push your creativity, but if you want something that challenges you even more, try variation in every element of a single piece of art you create.

That is what Ford and Forlano did here, with each bead different from every other one in the set. Because every piece has a common design element–that being an elongated bulls-eye–we see them as belonging together despite the fact that there are no two slices alike in one earring and they are not even arranged the same between the pair. The wide variation in color and size of the bulls-eye center achieves cohesiveness through its constant variety as well as the common shape.

Perhaps Ford and Forlano successfully control variation so well because they themselves are a mix, being two people living in two different states but collaborating to create their art. Each has their own strengths and interests, and they combine their efforts, skills, knowledge, and interests to create beautiful and intriguing pieces. You can see their most recent projects, as well as learn more about what they do and how they do it, by visiting their website.

Inspirational Challenge of the Day: Sketch or create a piece from new or already created components where every element is different except for one aspect. Remember that one common thing can be any design element–size, shape, color, texture, motif, etc.


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Variation by Numbers

Natasa Kutin pendantsSo, how has everyone been doing on New Year’s resolutions and new challenges? I have been keeping up with my sleep and exercise (but just barely), however, I only managed to do 2 of the 3 challenges that were posted last week. I have to admit that it makes me feel like this is just too much, but just because something doesn’t go quite right does not mean you shouldn’t keep trying. So, I am going to keep trying. And I will get that Flickr page up, too. I will let you know when it’s good to go and I hope you will all post results of your personal challenge pieces, whether you are following mine here or your own.

I thought I’d throw out an easy idea today. Variation. One of the best ways to nudge your creativity is to simply change things up. These pendants by Natasa Hozjan Kutin show you how an oblong design can be switched up by changing just a couple things. In this case, she changes color, texture, the shape of the forms, how many elements are layered, and the size of the layered forms. They are small changes but they make a big difference in the feel of each piece.

Inspiration Challenge of the Day: Create a piece of an element you have already created but change 3 things about it such as form, color, line, texture, image, size, motif … just three easy changes. Keep good design in mind when you make those changes or listen to your intuition. Don’t be blindly random. Create something you like.


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