Saturday, February 26, 2011

Paper Jewels

Marta Scythes talks about paper and ink, charcoal and conte like some people talk about fine wines and cheeses.  You just want to feel as knowledgeable about her working materials as she does.  She taught us Drawing and Rendering this week.  Other students in the class had taken courses from her before and told the rest of us, who may not feel as confident about drawing as we could, that she would have us feeling proud of our accomplishments within the week, and she did.  The course was geared towards portraying gems, pearls, and metals using charcoal, conte, pencil crayons, and watercolours.  The colour theory we learned was immediately relevant to what we were drawing and painting, which helped make it stick in one's mind.  The most important concept she shared was the primary importance of Value in a picture, even more important than Colour.  And, for me, the placement of reflected light, as well as the finished look a a shadow can give an object.  I'd like sometime in the future to find time to take a watercolour course and build on what I've learned this week.  Marta has a beautiful website that shows the broad scope of her work at , it's well worth a gander.

This was a short week because of family day falling on Monday, and unfortunately it did feel a bit rushed because of that.  It will take some discipline to practice all that was learned this week so that it doesn't fade from my mind.

I was in the mood for some poetry this week and found myself wandering around a great site:  All Canadian poets, I found a very perceptive poem about cats, as well as one about the importance of the moments in-between all the Things we think we're living for.  I suppose I should be remembering the poets names as well, but they're not on the tip of my tongue just now. 

I'll end this post here so I can get in to the studio and work some more on my chasing project.  Why oh why I was so ambitious with that design I'm just not sure.  But I keep tapping away at it in the continued hope (delusion?) that it will be done in time for our second week of Forming.  (Note to self: bite off more than you can chew only when no one else is around to see you choke...)  No choking this week though, it's Reading Week, yay, I'm off to visit dear old friends and family, perhaps I'll fit in a post about the Sculpture Forest next weekend, since I won't have jewellery tales to tell. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Creative Freedom!

Group Critique

Well this has been the best week yet!  I really appreciated Susan Butz's teaching style.  (  She introduced a technique each day and then we were able to take it in our own direction to create a piece of jewellery.  Wonderful!  I believe our whole class found it rewarding this week to have that creative freedom.  There were certainly some amazing pieces made by everyone.  I'm including a few images of my classmates' work this post.  It was great to explore my own ideas, but also exciting to see what direction others had taken with the same technique.  Monday we did samples, Tuesday we did a sweat soldered project, Wednesday a riveted project, Thursday a finding that would be the focal point on a piece of jewellery, and Friday we finished up and had a critique.  Below are some examples of the week's efforts.

Godzilla and Cityscape pendant
Dapper Octopus brooch
by Ashley Neville

Riveted Horse brooch
by Brittney Howe

Steampunk Airship
by Tomas Hiseler

And my three pieces:
a box clasp that will eventually be a pendant, featuring a kingfisher overlooking some fish,
a riveted flower brooch,
and a sweat soldered ring

I felt inspired to stretch myself a little outside my comfort zone with the box clasp.  The design came together quite well in the end, and I certainly learned some things in making it.  And while I've thought of the importance of functionality with regards to patinas, kinetic components and the placement of gems and other elements before, this week I've had to consider the practicality of different surface finishes with regards to wear and tear.  I do love the contrast of a sandblasted finish alongside a glossy one, but in fact the sandblasted areas must be protected from getting scratched, and, as seems to (mysteriously) be the case with copper, getting wet.  That perplexes me still, but I'm test driving the brooch to see how the elements will impact it's appearance.  I'd love to show a more detailed image of the box clasp, but Susan Butz still has it for grading purposes.  Often a matte finish seems the better choice when a piece might suffer occasional abrasion of one sort or another, but it does appear that sandblasted surfaces don't disguise marks easily.  Time will tell.

Friday was an especially great day this week for a few reasons.  We were served a free lunch (someone knows the way to a busy student's heart!).  The meal was in fact part of an aboriginal showcase of sorts that was hosted by the college.  There was a drum circle, and dancers in regalia, info booths, and more. Unfortunately I did have a box clasp I was trying desperately to get finished so was unable to linger and see all the performances.  The meal was delicious though; bison stew, wild rice casserole, a bean casserole under a cornbread crust, salmon, blueberries and strawberries, and cheese bannock/tea buns.  And to cap off the day I traveled down to the Big City to spend the holiday weekend with family.  Shared a most enjoyable glass of wine at the end of a great week!  Here's to many more!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Becoming a Smith


This week was exciting and challenging. Our instructor was Jeffrey Ellis (, a very skilled and patient silversmith. He introduced us to chasing and repousee. I have tackled a large and detailed project that I'll need to work very hard on in order to have it far enough along when we do our second week of study with him. We also learned about peening, making several hammers that we then used to create a tube, a spiculum, and finally a torque, which we then shaped into a necklace (above). And I finally have the basic knowledge required to sink flat metal into bowl shapes. It seems like it wouldn't take much to form a bowl shape, but from experience I can certainly say that now I know the right steps, it's a logical process to master rather than an argument with a piece of resistant flat metal like it has been in the past! It was nice to finish this week with tool making skills as well, in addition to hammers we also made some chasing tools to suit our individual needs. A very rewarding week punctuated with a lovely lunch and studio tour at Jeffrey and Susan (from week one and two)'s house. Splendid!

I've been collecting pictures of the proliferous and varied shelf fungi on my ski trips. Some of them are huge! And in winter they certainly function as shelves too. In the one photo I've positioned a dime in the tree bark so you can see the scale. Still not seeing alot of birds although I did hear one and I don't know what it is. It sounded like if you were rubbing your finger back and forth on a squeaky clean surface really quickly. I did see a tumult (my label. Read: flock) of turkeys but they retreated over a snowy embankment as I approached, so there's only a few in the picture.

I had a grand time snowshoeing and lunching with some classmates this weekend and so once again this post won't make it to my blog until Monday when I can access the computer lab at school to add the photos. I had been spending time at the school on Saturdays during open studio time, but it's great to be making memories here outside the classroom as well.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Not Clods of Dirt

On my way up the snowy lane towards my house on the weekend, I saw ahead of me on the road what appeared to be two dirty clods that might have fallen from the underside of a vehicle in this messy winter weather. But then they moved. Above are the "clods" I saw, after they jumped the bank and found a safe vantage point from which to assess the threat I posed.

This week is another one that is short on fine baubles to show you. We've been studying art history from a jewellery perspective in the mornings, and surface design in the afternoons. With the days split up like this we will have another week in the same format later in the semester in order to complete the requirements for both these courses. Our instructor for these courses is Valerie Davidson ( , she does some very creative custom work using children's drawings). In surface design we've been introduced to several ways of altering the metal's texture or colour to increase the dramatic affect that can then be incorporated into a jewellery design. Sandblasting is a texture I could see using in the future, though I'll have to research small studio models to see if they're anywhere near affordable. Heat coloring is very subject to chance and will change over time, as will the patinas we're learning. So those will require further experimentation to find ones I'm pleased with in the long run. My fusing and liver of sulfur sample came out well, (it is pictured above). And I've written down some techniques I'd like to try for using a bit of gold when I get the opportunity (and money!).

I'd like to share another link with you: creates fabulous sculptural works that often incorporate wordplay in their execution. For art history we were to choose a Canadian jeweler whom we admired and prepare a presentation of their work. I love the detail of construction in her pieces, and find the integration of wordplay and stories as part of her sculptures very appealing.


The week was broken up with a snow day on Wenesday, and a quick visit with my sister and nephew on Thursday. So it's hardly felt like a "nose-to-the-grindstone" week at all! And on Saturday I found a new painter to love when I visited the Rail's End Gallery. I only wish her blog was more current : , she has a piece called Winter Light in a group exhibit there.