From Studio 109A: A Grin Without a Cat

May 31, 2010 at 9:05 pm (From Studio 109A)

Cheshire Cat Neckpiece

“Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin; but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!” [Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland]

Typically, my design process starts with a vision, a snapshot in my head of what I want the piece to look like. Once I have the initial idea of what I want the piece to look like, I can then figure out how to make it.

While writing up the exhibition proposal for Through the Looking Glass (a three-person exhibition to open at Artspace in August),  I had a vision of what the Cheshire Cat neckpiece would like like. I envisioned an enameled black and white cat’s face with its tail wrapping around the neck like a snake.

To create the neckpiece, I first had to make a wire armature, which I covered with Ultralight Clay. Several years ago, I had the pleasure of designing for Polyform Products (makers of Sculpey clays). In fact, some of my earliest polymer clay designs can be found on the Sculpey website. I must admit that back then when Polyform sent me a sample of Ultralight Clay to try, I didn’t quite see  its use and benefits. I do now. According to the Polyform website, “UltraLight is a great replacement for tin foil armatures, offering a smoother base for clay projects to be built around. Because it bakes so hard that it won’t crack, larger sculpting projects are finally possible with UltraLight foundations.””

The Ultralight fires at the same temperature as Premo clay (275 degrees fahrenheit), which is what I used to cover the armature. Both initial firings were done in the Artspace kiln, since the tail, which is all one piece, is too large to fit in my toaster oven. 

After those first two firings, I made a series of four black and white striped canes. According to Polymer Clay Central, a cane is “a term borrowed from glassworking referring to glass rods either plain or with a pattern running through them, to be used as an addition to glass pieces. Canes were used to make millefiori beads.”  

Once the cane/decorative layer of the tail was fired, I sanded and buffed the piece using my Foredom Flex Shaft to give the tail a polished sheen.

The face of the cat was drawn by Emily Cash Wilmoth, one of the Artspace artists with whom I am collaborating for this exhibition. I wanted the cat’s face to look as if Emily had used pen and ink to draw it directly onto the piece. To achieve this effect, I copied Emily’s initial drawing onto acetate, traced and fabricated the face out of copper, and then painted the copper with enamel and used resin to affix the acetate drawing to the enameled metal.

The end result is better than I initially envisioned it would be. Last month at Artsplosure, The Cheshire Cat neckpiece stopped passersbys. If you missed seeing the finished piece at Artsplosure, stop by Studio 109A this Friday from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. during the First Friday Gallery Walk. I hope to see you there!


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Fashion Focus: Sex and the City 2

May 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm (Fashion Focus)

The movie officially opens on Thursday, but already the internet is buzzing with what Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda will be wearing. “The fashion really is another character in the movie,” says Sarah Jessica Parker.

It has been reported the Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie, has over 40 costume changes. “I think I have about 48,” Parker says. “We started off with 60 and I think scenes were cut and scenes didn’t make it. So I think between scenes being cut prior to shooting and us not being able to find a good enough reason to change clothes on camera, which is what I would do if they would let me, I think we end up in high 40s.”

While I am not a die hard Sex and the City fan, I cannot deny the impact the movie will have on style and accessory trends. I anticipate that the jewelry trends that will come out of this movie will be cuff bracelets, big earrings, crystals, and of course, statement necklaces.


Solange Azagury Partridge Necklace

I have spent the better part of my career making statement necklaces, and this statement necklace by Solange Azagury Partridge (worn by Sarah Jessica Parker) does not disappoint. This 18ct blockened white gold piece with diamond, emerald, sapphire, ruby and fire opal jewels costs reportedly $200,000.

“Ms. Azagury-Partridge, according to her publicity material, has had no formal training in jewelry design, but she didn’t need it,” writes Cintra Wilson for The New York Times. “Her work explodes with energy, brilliance, sensuality and courage. It is thrillingly exuberant, scary-smart and intensely personal.” Parker models Azagury-Partridge’s necklace not only in the movie, but also on the movie poster.

Jimmy Choo Cuff Bracelet

Despite the striking colors of the gemstones in Azagury-Partridge’s necklace, white is a dominant color found in the movie’s costumes and accessories. Costume designer Patricia Field has confirmed that white plays a large role in the movie because the action takes place over seven weeks during the summer. “I’m going for a new look and new elements,” says Field, which brings us to another trend, the cuff bracelet. Compared to a $200,000 necklace, this Jimmy Choo white cuff worn by Parker is a bargain at $285.

The movie takes the girls to Abu Dhabi (actually filmed in Morocco), and fashion insiders predict that Moroccan-inspired jewelry, prints, patterns, and fabrics will be a huge trend this summer. Kim Cattrall’s earrings, including the Cleopatra earrings designed by Wendy Brandes, give new meaning to the term “shoulder dusters”.

Wendy Brandes’ Cleopatra Earrings


Of course, Parker and her crew are the queens of cross-promotion, and Swarovski “sparkles throughout the film, adding glamour to Carrie’s closet with the Kiosque Evening Bag, setting the scene with Crystalline glasses, and shining light from Swarovski Crystal Palace chandeliers on the movie’s chic sets.”

Swarovski Evening Bag

Now, if these pricey baubles don’t fit into your budget, here are some more affordable options from Only Lauren.

Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a multi-strand white necklace with vintage focal point.

Only Lauren Five Strand White Arithmetique Necklace with Marcasite Focal Point Clasp

Jimmy Choo White Cuff Bracelet

Only Lauren White Tile Cuff Bracelet

Only Lauren Silver Earrings

And if all else fails, you can Bag, Borrow, and Steal. The Avelle Collection, made popular by Jennifer Hudson’s character in the first movie, rents accessories featured in the movie by the week or by the month. Take Carrie Bradshaw’s Eiffel Tower Bag for example. You could purchase this bag for $2000, but you could rent it for $60 a week.

Timmy Woods Eiffel Tower Bag featured in the first movie

Need a dress to go with that bag?  Try Rent the Runway, where you can rent an array of A-list designer dresses.

No matter what floats your Manolos, there is no doubt that over the next week, we will all be hearing about Sex and the City 2, and more to the point, what or who the girls are wearing.

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Happy Anniversary to Me!

May 17, 2010 at 8:00 pm (Artist Musings)

Cigar Label Necklace

It wasn’t that long ago that somebody gave me a stack of cigar labels and asked me to make something. I had read about an image transfer technique using gin and polymer clay and decided to try it. My kitchen table gin transfer experiment produced less than stellar results, but as I went to crumble up the clay to throw it away, I realized that if the clay was pliable enough to crumble up, I could probably also wrap it around a bead. The end result was the first of many Cigar Label necklaces.

Trapeziste Necklace

Almost two years later, in February 2005, I was juried into the Artspace Artists Association (AAA). That May, five years ago this month, I moved into the building, which was the catalyst from me being a kitchen table crafter to becoming a professional artist.

When I moved into Artspace five years ago, I had no idea the impact that Artspace and the artists who worked within the four walls of the historic City Market building would have on me. In 2006, Artspace hosted my first solo exhibition, Transitory Treasures. For that exhibition, I collaborated with fellow Artspace artist Catherine Thornton to design the Trapeziste necklace. That was the first of several collaborative projects with Catherine, and two years later, that necklace won second place at The Coconut Grove Arts Festival in the mixed media category. In 2007, Artspace hosted  Beyond Neverland, for which I created a series of pieces inspired by J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. A year later, I exhibited my Out of the Box series in the Upfront Gallery, for which I created the Artspace Talisman, a piece inspired by the historic building in which I have worked for the last five years and the artists who work around me, who inspire me to get better and better everyday. 

Artspace Talisman

Not only does this month mark my fifth anniversary at Artspace, but also the first anniversary of this blog. I started the blog in April 2009 with a post called Constrained Chaos. Since then, the blog has been viewed over 4,000 times. Last November, over 500 of you visited this blog after Cynthia Tinapple published Van Hemert’s Ephemera on  Polymer Clay Daily. That day marked the busiest day on this blog. While a lot of you check in weekly to read my new post or to take a peek at the gallery (the blog’s home page and gallery page are the most visited pages), Fashion Focus: Couture for a Cause, Materials Messages I: Allure of Language, and Fashion Focus: The September Issue are consistently the most read posts.

Many of my artist friends use Facebook and have created art/fan pages. I too have a personal and fan page on Facebook, and see the value of using Facebook as well as Twitter in an overall marketing plan. However, after one year of blogging, I have to say that no marketing tool allows me to communicate more effectively with my target audience than the blog. Thanks for reading, and here’s to another good year.

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From Studio 109A: Alice, Artpace, August

May 10, 2010 at 1:34 am (From Studio 109A)

Through the Looking Glass Brooch

I have spent the last month working on pieces for my Through the Looking Glass series in Studio 109A. I am inspired by Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations and challenged by how to make paper jewelry durable and sustainable. At the same time, much like my Beyond Neverland series, I am energized by Lewis Carroll’s characters, inspiration, and pure genius.

But, as I wrote in a post called Makings of an Exhibition (January 24, 2010), I am not falling down this rabbit hole alone. Fellow Artspace artists Susan Parrish and Emily Cash Wilmoth are on this journey with me. Susan has been busily making tea cups and working on an oversized teapot for the exhibition and Emily has been feverishly drawing the pictures which will eventually infuse the Artspace lobby walls.

Susan Parrish, Teapot (work in progress)

Emily Cash Wilmoth, Mad Tea Party

Emily Cash Wilmoth, Cheshire Cat

The biggest challenge over the last month has been The Cheshire Cat neckpiece, which will ultimately be displayed on the same wall as Emily’s Cheshire Cat drawing (above). I envisioned a one piece neckpiece in which the cat’s tail wrapped around the neck like a snake. I spent the last few weeks of April making an armature for the structure of the cat’s tail and covering it with polymer clay canes. The end result, which is in its finishing stage and will be on display at Artsplosure in Downtown Raleigh next weekend, turned out better than I initially imagined it would.

In any case, if you come to Artspace over the next month or so, be sure to stop by Studio 109A to check out the new work, and also be sure to stop by Susan Parrish’s Studio 103. You might even want to bring Susan a found object. You never know where it might end up.

Alice in Wonderland Brooch

The Through the Looking Glass exhibition will be on display at Artspace in August 2010.

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