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Monday, 31 January 2022

Brain Happy

All of the pieces for the exhibit are finished. It's a good feeling and I may make one more. One of the bracelets refused to come together so I'd started over and now have an idea that may work. So maybe. If I have time. Next up is sewing the workshop wardrobe and that's definitely what I want to do first before another exhibit piece. Maybe, it'll end up as one of the wardrobe accessories. 

This piece is called At The Heart of the Matter. Above is a reminder of the starting point that I showed in Friday's post. MANY things didn't unfold the way I'd expected and in particular the beads I'd wanted to include in the chain which ended up too strong for the focal element and the hanging method which looked clunky and uncomfortable. There are new parts in my parts department. 


The two long beads right by the double hook closure have flowers engraved on them that go with the overall theme. The tiny bee was just the right finish for the focal heart. 

Here are closer details of the front and back. The piece was painted black and then highlighted with mostly bronze, some copper, and a tiny touch of silver gilding. It's finished with an acrylic seal.

The chain includes smaller topaz beads and larger faceted crystals separated with seed beads in three different tones. This style of closure is my favourite. It lays nicely on the neck and is easy to take on and off while being quite secure. 

All of the pieces have my initials worked into the design in some way. Typically, it's on the back. 

Originally, the heart was going to hang from the loop top center and be attached to a bar that went left/right with the chain attached at each end. It just wouldn't hang right so I ended up using epoxy to attach some copper loops at the back hidden with more dotted balls. I used a comb to create the lined texture around the side of the heart. 

When I went to bed on Thursday night, I'd lined up the projects in order of the work to be done and written some notes so I felt on track and focused when I woke up because I definitely wanted to be done by Sunday night... and I was... around 9:30 pm. It was a week of long days, about 12-14 hours each, and I loved every moment of it. When you're in the zone, engaged in the project, and brain happy, time flies. My body noticed though - LOL!

In the past, whenever I've worked on a large and engaging project, there's an after stage that I refer to as creative postpartum. It can be discouraging. Thankfully, this time I have two projects starting today. The first is sewing the workshop wardrobe as I mentioned earlier and the second is a 100 day project making buttons. Each weekday for a 100 weekdays - which takes me until June 20th - I am going to make one or more buttons mostly exploring polymer clay, with some epoxy clay, and whatever else shows up. I'm doing it with a friend who is working on learning about watercolour painting and we're going to support and encourage each other. We've been friends for over forty years and it's really fun to be doing something like this together. Expect to see buttons ! ! ! 

Talk soon - Myrna

- a very successful body of work for the exhibit

Friday, 28 January 2022

Find A Starting Point

When planning the pieces for the exhibit, I wanted them to both stand alone and work together. I've finished one necklace and most of another, have two rings nearing finished, have a bracelet idea gestating, and am working on two brooches. That's seven pieces in total and enough for the curator to choose from to suit the rest of the show and the available space. 

Of course, the theme - pollinators - connects the pieces however I'm also working to make sure there are common elements between pieces. The primary ones are texture and a metallic finish. The pieces are a combination of polymer clay and/or epoxy clay and found objects with textured surfaces and gilded or painted finishes. When I started this brooch yesterday, I thought you might enjoy my thinking process. 

More often than not - but not always - I know what I'm making when I begin a jewelry piece. In this case, I knew it was a brooch - a large, bold brooch and not something understated, tiny, sweet, or any of those kinds of words. I have a collection of discarded jewelry bits that I've picked up at the thrift store to use as bases to build a design on. This wooden shape was a necklace pendant. It's about 2" wide and 3" long. 

Right after I decided to enter the exhibit, I ordered a bunch of insect charms including bees in several sizes. This is the largest and I like the way it hugs the open circle and looks like it's peeking over the edge. It reminded me of a cameo so that become the working title. 

Bits like this pin are sold for twenty-five cents at the thrift store so it's both a way to repurpose something no longer loved and more economical than buying new. And the holes and curves fit perfectly together. YES YES! It's so fun when that happens. 

In terms of combining with the clay, both of these surfaces are especially workable. The pin has a grooved surface that will grab the clay as will the etched circles and drilled holes of the wooden oval. I also roughed up the surface with sandpaper. 

With these three items, the piece has a base, a pin back, and a focal point. Playing with the parts led to the working title and a concept to develop. This is a solid beginning. It's good and enough. The bee peeking over the edge makes me think of her as being on top of the flower looking into the center so peeking, flower center, and cameo are thoughts that are influencing my choices. You don't need a fully developed concept with everything from start to finish already decided. You just need to find a starting point, enough to get going, and then allow the piece to unfold.

This is another collection that started in the same way. I knew I wanted to make a necklace using the large silver heart. I can't remember the size exactly but it's about 5" across. The hand is a charm with a loop on the end that allowed me to hang something from it. Both it and the key were sent to me by a friend (in a big box of lovely things) when she was cleaning out her studio. How fun to use them and then send her a picture. The smaller heart is three dimensional and was from a necklace where the silver wore off leaving the copper colour showing. I liked the look but not the depth and later switched it out for a filigree one that also came from my friend. I've been working on this piece for the last several days and it's almost finished.

And the rings. My idea for securing the ring bands worked wonderfully. The main sections were made with polymer clay. The bands are secured with epoxy clay which can't be baked so I'll be using epoxy from now on to finish them. The exteriors are complete, the bands are secured, and I'm about to focus on the interiors. The concept is what's going on inside the flower. 

And, I have finally managed to block the pieces for the little girl sweater I'm making for one of the baristas at Starbucks. It's a size two because, with Covid restrictions and no Starbucks, I didn't know she'd had her little girl until the baby was already a year old. It's highly unlikely - being completely honest here - that it'll get sewn together until after I finish the exhibit pieces. I'm already doing way more multi-tasking than I'm used to and sewing sweaters together is not my favourite task.  

In the evenings when my brain is more than done with jewelry, I'm working on a black sweater for myself. The sleeves and one front are finished and the other front is about half done. I want it to be part of my workshop wardrobe and one of the layers in an outfit so I've been thinking about what to sew to go with it which I will hopefully start next week. 

Today, I have birthday lunch with a friend and then I'll be working on the pieces. Tomorrow as well and on Sunday I'm going out of town for another birthday lunch with another friend so if I don't finish all the pieces before then, hopefully on Monday.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a well developed, cohesive, body of work

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Getting Down To Beesiness

When a friend encouraged me to enter an upcoming exhibit, I was surprised and asked if she meant with jewelry. She - who also happens to be the curator of the exhibit - said that the bold, sculptural style of my pieces would be perfect. Wow! Her description of my work totally resonated and has become how I describe it - mixed media jewelry in a bold sculptural style.

The idea of entering kept tickling my brain and after giving it more thought, I decided it would be a great way to grow and stretch my skills since I've only been making jewelry for a relatively short time. The exhibit is called The Pollinators and runs from April 30th to July 2nd at the art gallery in Salmon Arm, BC, Canada. 

I'm really glad I entered. Working to the theme has engaged me with the pieces and the process and I've been learning new techniques while developing them. And having fun. I typically begin with a general idea and a working title and then, once the piece is far enough along that I know where it's going, I give it an official title. This first one is called Getting Down To Beesiness.

The focal element is a three dimensional daisy. I imagine that as a child I made all kinds of sculptures but this is my first one as an adult and it turned out fabulous. I was so pleased with it that I was hesitant to take it forward and practiced some of the other ideas on a bead and a bracelet before getting back to work on this piece.  

One valuable lesson I've learned with art making is the importance of sampling. It doesn't prevent all issues but it does allow me to move forward armed with information that is more likely to work the way I hope. It absolutely saves time and frustration. 

Along with the focal daisy, there are three large beads covered with flowers on each side of center and six bee beads - two by the daisy and four by the clasp. The bees are metal charms that were embedded in epoxy clay. All of the parts were painted black, highlighted with a mix of silver and antique gold, and sealed with clear acrylic. The necklace has a double hook clasp in antique copper. 

I mentioned in the last post that this feels like a pivotal piece, one that looking back will have some significance and yet I can't quite put my finger on why I feel that way. Perhaps because it seems even more authentic in some way. I remember talking to an artist years ago who made quilts, and sometimes made art quilts, and when I asked her what differentiated the two she said that the art quilts had soul. Perhaps that's it. 

I'm working on several pieces at once and have project plates laid out on my jewelry station to keep the parts separate. I picked up a pile of these at the thrift store and they're perfect for parts and for painting. When I checked the dates for the show, the description mentions only birds, bees, butterflies, and bats. Not flies. That's different than the original outline I read so I'll need to check with the curator before I use those. The key and the heart are for a piece called At The Heart of the Matter - another statement necklace. It's partially finished as is...

… this ring called Hey, What's Going on in There?. I've been struggling with how to securely attach the ring band to the main element and finally came up with an idea yesterday that is going to work. YES! I can now take this piece forward. In fact, since this picture was taken, I've added a first layer of petals around the outside. 

Other than an appointment on Friday, I've scheduled the entire week to be in the studio to working on these pieces. I've given myself until the middle of February to finish them since that's when I want to focus on sewing my workshop wardrobe however, ideally, I'll finish them by Monday. I'm in the zone right now and the energy and the flow of ideas is delightful. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - zone, energy, flow, a first piece finished

Monday, 24 January 2022

Design Details of The Trio Refashion Bag

There are endless options to use for the starting point of a new bag. The only time I've had an issue was with an old sweater I covered in free motion stitching as the first step. With use, the knitted stitches began to fray and run and the surface deteriorated badly. Luckily - not for her but for me - I'd given it to my daughter rather than sold it so I knew this was a no go before disappointing a customer. I made my daughter another purse. 

With the original textile piece, there was one large section that I cut in two to form the back and front of the bag. They were slightly too short and too narrow for the design and although I tried working with them, I was making too many compromises and eventually took it all apart and started over knowing...

... that I would need a way to add width and length. I cut each of the front and back pieces into three sections with a narrower middle and then...


... cut narrow strips for another part of the original textile piece to add the extra width. I shuffled the pieces around until I had two combinations of five pieces that I thought were the best of my options. To join the sections, they were butted against each other and zigzagged together. Before stitching, I added fused interfacing strips on the back for additional strength. 

To add the extra length, I quilted a remnant of denim that was big enough but needed to be reconfigured. After quilting, it too was cut into sections that were butted and zigzagged together before the seams were covered with additional strips of denim fused in place and the raw edges zigzagged to hold and to prevent fraying. These choices eliminated as much bulk as possible. 


The bottom looked quite plain so I unpicked some of the circles from the remaining bits of the original textile piece and re-appliqued them to the bottom. In the end, all of the sections were butted and zigzagged together to get the one large shape of the entire bag. Broadcloth was added to the back before covering the seams with fused fabric strips that were appliqued in place with a narrow zigzag stitch through all layers. This, again, added strength to the piece. 

I find a project like this tends to create a mess and occasionally I need to stop and clean things up before moving on so I'm not overwhelmed. In the image above, all of the parts are complete and ready to be assembled. The lining...

... was made from remnants left over from a pair of pants I made a few months ago as well as some fuchsia quilting fabric from long, long ago that was used as pocket linings. There is something very satisfying about using scraps of previous projects in a completely new one. It's like a free project!


I mentioned in the last post that there is one slip and one zip pocket in the lining and that the zipper is black only because that's the best choice from what I had in stash. I would have loved a fuchsia one however, I wasn't going shopping. This was an easy, yes or no, decision however, something that happens often is that I will debate how to proceed with a project and finally conclude that I need a specific something to finish it. I think I've thoroughly weighed all the options and there is no other choice so I'll go buy the item only to come home, not use it, and use something from stash. The new item does go into stash to be used at some point down the line but I'd really rather eliminate that stage and work from stash without the shopping trip. I can't figure out if this "dance" has become just one of the steps or if there is some way to break the trend. It happened again this weekend with another project I'll tell you about in a future post. 

To make the straps, I used more denim scraps pieced to the needed length, interfaced the entire width and added another heavier interfacing to half the width. The edges were pressed toward center and top stitched and then a strip of the black and white lining fabric was fused down the middle and... 

... appliqued in place with a zigzag stitch. With this method, there is no bulky seam and the back of the strap is as neat as the front. Below, you can see how they line up on the bag. 

This weekend, I worked on the pieces for the exhibit in April. The theme is Pollinators and I am making some mixed media jewelry pieces in my bold, sculptural style. I've been experimenting with ideas over the last few months and now they are coming together. One piece is complete, another is well on its way, and the main section of a third is ready to move forward.

When I applied for the show, we didn't discuss how many pieces I'd make and since it's not a solo show, I have no idea how much space is allotted for me BUT... so many fun ideas are dancing in my head and I don't want to abandon any of them so I'll make the ones that tickle the most over the next few weeks and let the curator decide. The piece I finished this weekend feels pivotal, like feel something shifted significantly. I want to show it to you but need to check with the curator if I'm able to post those images now or must wait until the show opens. I'm talking to her today so I'll ask and we'll see.  Hopefully.

Talk soon - Myrna

- a very progressive weekend

Friday, 21 January 2022

The Trio Refashion Bag

The last workshop I attended was in June 2019. Any I'd registered for in 2020 were cancelled and I didn't even try in 2021 but now, I really need a road trip, a workshop, and some creative energy. I've signed up for the Design Outside the Lines Retreat in Ashland, Oregon in March and that's already been energizing. It is FABULOUS to have something to look forward to, to prepare for. 

The workshop is always taught by Diane Ericson who I've studied with for years and by a guest teacher. This time it's Paula Kovarik, a quilt artist. To help prepare, I ordered her book and it was fun to see what we have in common and even what we don't. Before I returned to sewing fashions, this is exactly the kind of work I used to do and - like her - I was known for my threadwork only last year when I started making a textile piece, the initial enthusiasm wore off quite quickly and I packed it up and put it away with not even a niggle of regret. I am not feeling drawn toward textile art at all which makes me quite curious about what I will get out of her part of the teaching. Something for sure. There is always something. 

Although textile art feels long ago and far away, I want to be open to whatever I can use in my current work. One of the things Paula and I have in common is that we cut up previous pieces to make new work. As a way of representing my openness, I decided to turn a previous piece into a large bag to hold workshop supplies. 

This is it in progress when I initially made it for my last exhibit in January 2010. Even though it's been tucked away in my bits & pieces of potential box for quite a few years, I haven't outgrown the colours, the flowing lines, or the dense threadwork and it was fun to evolve forward. 

In the next post, I'll show some of the design steps. This one is about the finished bag. With the exception of some purse foam, I had everything I needed and all of the fabrics used were from a previous project and cleared space in my scrap basket. 

The shape is commonly referred to as a doctor's bag or a Mary Poppins' bag with a folding frame. It's one of my favourites with large pieces to design on and simple shapes to sew. The frame slides into a casing at the top that opens wide making it easy to access the contents. It's perfect for workshop supplies. 

I added one zippered and one slip pocket to the lining. The zippered pocket has a black zipper because I didn't have a fuchsia one and wanted to use what I had. The slip pocket has fuchsia edging. Both have a fuchsia lining. I really like that pop of colour against the black and white. 

The bottom and straps are made from quilted denim remnants. These circles were appliqued on the original textile art and I removed them and re-appliqued them to the bottom. And added purse feet. 

My grand-puppy Astrix as visiting when I worked on the bag. She was of the opinion that since she "made" it, she should get to take it home but that's not how it works! She left before it was completely done so there was no real debate - VBG. As you can see, it's a big bag - 16 1/2" wide by 6 1/2" deep by 18" high. I have it sitting on the sideboard in my studio and every time I see it, I'm excited about the upcoming workshop. YES YES!

The weather here - like in many places - is strange. I live in British Columbia, Canada and you may know that we had a heat dome, record forest fires, and major flooding last year and then snow storms this year so far. When I went to bed Wednesday night, the sky was clear and when I woke up, it was snowing. By the afternoon, it was all gone and they're calling for 7 degree weather and rain. SO MIXED UP. But pretty. This is the view from my living room window. On the other side of the fence is a creek that runs all year and if the studio windows are open, I can hear it while I work. Such a gift. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - the option to stay in the studio