Thursday, June 23, 2011

Annual Member's Exhibit: 20/20

Another summer is here!  Although the weather is determined to convince us otherwise, the plants are defying the odds and turning green, the grass is growing, and that means the Annual Member's exhibit is once again upon us.  This is the 20th Anniversary of the Craft Council Gallery, and so the theme for this year's show is 20/20, with the idea of the submissions reflecting a vision of where we're headed as individual craftspeople.  The pieces I have in this year's show are a reflection of some of the brand new skills I've acquired during my studies in Haliburton, and are a glimpse of my intention to take my work up a notch to a new level of professionalism.  I'm really pleased with these pieces, they are truly one-of-a-kind.  And I'm thrilled to have them included in this year's exhibit alongside the work of so many truly talented and inspiring craftspeople.  The exhibit opens this Saturday, June 25th at 2pm and runs until September 4th.  Drop down and visit!

Meanwhile, I'm keeping busy in my studio with a commission for a 25th wedding anniversary.  It's keeping me on my toes.  Commissions seem to be a great way to step outside my "box" and make something different, and in the process, I'm tackling things from new angles and finding exciting possibilities for future projects as well.

I'm also working on components for an open studio collaboration I'll be doing with Alexis Templeton at her studio on July 8th & 9th.  I'll post more about that next week....  Should be lots of fun!

And I'll leave you with two links that are exciting me today.  The first I will peruse in more detail as time permits.  It's called the National Parks Project, and is a joint undertaking between musicians and filmmakers that focuses on  many of our beautiful national parks.

And the other link is to a nifty little house-ish structure that would make a great studio (my second choice studio since stumbling upon the  Tiny House Blog, the first choice was a straw bale construction).  I think I'd need a cat with a crooked tail to go with it though!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


"Finished" is a very subjective state of existence.  In getting a handle on my inventory these last couple of months, and in choosing which new directions to pursue first,  I've been looking at my jewellery with fresh eyes.  I've created pieces that seemed truly done at one time.  I thought through the design process, I did the work, I polished the final result.  But then, given some distance in time, I'm seeing new directions for some things.

At left is a bangle I made in Haliburton.  I wasn't overly thrilled with the final shape.  Granted, it was an exercise in technique, more than design, but I finished it the best I could.  Then the inspiration of last week's etching workshop at the printshop hit me.  And so the bangle I didn't love became the cuff above that I absolutely do.  Now I see the infinite possibilities for this bangle design.  Absolutely infinite!  And narrower ones in silver and brass....

Another design I put together quite some time ago was a series of earrings like the ones on the right.  I had quickly sold a similar pair at Devon House and thought I'd hit on a design that appealed.  So I made more of them.  But they have not proved as popular as the first pair.  What to do?  I exposed them to different audiences, still no takers.  But then I saw them in a different light one day.  Less as a failed design, more as components that could be reinvented.  I've had customers ask if I make earrings on posts.  And it was then I saw the potential in these to reconstruct them into something my customers might be looking for.  The results are below, with the spin-off bonus that I like the look of the remaining copper cups on their long shepherd hooks so much that I've claimed a pair for myself!

Aren't they cute?  I'm really pleased with them.  And even if I'm the only one who thinks so, I can hopefully learn from this experience, so that what initially seems like a dead-end design suddenly does a cartwheel, and voila!, become something new.

Friday, June 10, 2011

THAT is an etching.  It is not a piece of jewellery.  I was very excited this past week, to take an etching and aquatint class from Philippa Jones ( at St. Michael's Printshop here in St. John's.  Etching in jewellery making is one thing, but I suspected that etching in printmaking was entirely another.  In fact there are a lot of similarities.  But the differences are what have excited me to now bring this new knowledge across the chasm into my jewellery making.

Here's the process, abbreviated.  At right is the drawing I prepared ahead of the class.  We were instructed to utilize both line and tonal values.  If you are a regular reader, this image may look familiar.  I do not count myself amongst the talented draw-ers of this world.  I can however, given enough time, produce a reasonable replica from a photograph.  This drawing is an amalgamation of three pictures I took during our studio tour on the Southern Shore, and some of which I shared in my last post.  I had sincerely hoped that there was a way we would directly transfer our drawn image to the copper etching plate, but that was not the case.

The copper plate is coated with "ground" (resist in jewellery-speak), and then I redrew the image onto it using the tool pictured (which is just a sharpened piece of steel).  It is only necessary to scratch through the ground, not into the copper.  And then it is etched.  Once it comes out of the acid you apply ink to the plate, and then "pull a print".  Simple as that.  The result is the image at the top of this post.  Etching reproduces the line values in a drawing, not the tonal values.  For that you then do an aquatint. This is a secondary process done on the same plate.  Using a "painterly" technique, ground is applied in stages to the plate, blocking out the lightest areas, then the next lightest, and the next, and so on, with a brief etch happening in between each.  (I likened it in my mind to making Ukrainian easter eggs.)

At right is the plate after a couple of these layers of ground have been applied.  The ground is the dark brown part, and they are covering the areas I wanted to remain the lightest in the finished print.  It was difficult to separate in my brain the application of a dark brown covering that would result in a light area when it was done.   Philippa emphasized the importance of realizing that the aquatint would not exactly replicate my drawing, no matter how hard I tried!  With an aquatint I had more freedom in the application of the ink to the plate than with the etching, so the image can be more or less dark, as desired.  Below is the finished plate and aquatint.

I loved the workshop.  I think my patience lies more with the etching than with the aquatint process, I would prefer to take more care with my line values to convey the illusion of tonal values, rather than go through the repetition of painting ground and etching required to create an aquatint, but I have only done it once, so with practice the aquatinting might become easier.  

But this blog is about jewellery, so now what.  Well!  I loved the detail I could get with the printer's ground, and I intend to seek out some of that so I can refine my etched designs in jewellery.  That is the biggest and most immediate result of this workshop.  Down the road I may try making mini etchings that become art jewellery in some way, or the mini etched plate would become a piece of jewellery, and in partnership with it maybe would be a print from the plate itself.  So many possibilities....