Revisiting an Old Friend, Peter Pan

June 30, 2014 at 3:34 pm (Art Unravelled, Artist Musings, Work in Progress) (, , )

IMG_1391 (3)“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” from J.M. Barrie]

In October 2007, I premièred a series of pieces inspired by J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan for a solo exhibition at Artspace entitled Beyond Neverland. Included in the exhibition was a necklace I called the Peter Pan Heart. Stamped into the fabricated silver heart pendant, in J.M. Barrie’s handwriting, is the following: “When the first baby laughed for the very first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”

A few months later, I took the piece to New York for the Holiday Crafts Park Avenue show at the Lexington Avenue Armory. There, I met a woman named Lisa who bought the Peter Pan Heart. I have always said that I never know who I make a piece for, but when that person puts the piece on for the first time, I know. The Peter Pan Heart was made for Lisa.

I duplicated the heart pendant a few times, but always wondered what happened to the first exhibition piece.

Two weeks ago, Lisa called me in a panic.  Her Peter Pan Heart, one of her favorite pieces of jewelry, had been damaged during what she called a “closet explosion”. She asked if she could send the piece back to me for repair and talked about the joy it had given her over the past seven years.

Last week, I received the broken necklace. As I emptied the contents of the inconspicuous manila envelope onto my studio table, it was like being reunited with an old friend.

Transferred to each bead is a piece of Barrie’s handwritten manuscript. There are fourteen of my image transfer beads on this piece, and as I re-strung the necklace, every bead unlocked a memory, reminding me not only of who I am at heart, an artist, but why as artists, we do what we do. Thank you, Lisa for the reminder. Your piece is on its way home.

All of the pieces created for the Beyond Neverland exhibition, including the Peter Pan Heart, were made with permission from The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London. In 1929, J.M. Barrie left all the rights to Peter Pan to the hospital. His gift is a vital source of income for the hospital. In 2007, the hospital granted me permission to use Barrie’s images in my work for a period of five years.



Permalink 1 Comment

The Only Constant is Change

July 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm (Artist Musings) (, )

This week I returned to Studio 109A after about a three month leave. The Artspace I returned to is a very different place than the one I left. First of all, so many of my friends have left the building (literally). There will be no more group lunches, birthdays in the hallway, or cakes made of tin making the rounds from artist to artist.

The studios downstairs are now filled with new faces, emerging and established artists, who bring their own perspectives to Artspace. When I first moved into the building seven years ago, I was the only jeweler in the building. Although there had been jewelers working at Artspace before me, the sounds and smells radiating from my studio were somewhat unfamiliar, and I would venture to say, disturbing to the artists around me. Today, there are four other jewelers in the building, all of  whom have studios down the hall from Studio 109A.  Sandra McEwan and Sara West moved in this summer. Megan Clark, who has been at Artspace over a year, moved from her shared studio upstairs to her own studio space downstairs.

Textile Artist Mary Kircher is the current Regional Emerging Artist downstairs. She is joined by two other Regional Emerging Artists (Nancy VanNoppen and Scott Welsh). Andre Leon Gray and Emily Howard also moved into the building as The Community Artists in Residence. The Summer Artist in Residence is  Jonathan Brilliant, working in Gallery One.

Catherine Thornton, Talking Heads

Of course, there are still remnants of my friends, great artists who I have come to respect and know, lingering in the hallway, the lobby, and The Upfront Gallery. If you happen to make it downtown in the next couple of days, don’t miss Catherine Thornton’s solo exhibition, Talking Heads, a humorous commentary in clay on today’s election cycle. Also, be sure to catch Marriott Little’s Four Decades of Art exhibition, a retrospective highlighting her forty year career. And you can still find Ann Harwell’s work displayed outside her old studio, as well as Addison Paige’s art quilt hanging outside of Studio 109A.

I must say, the day I returned to Artspace, all of the changes were a bit unsettling. As the week has passed though, I have seen some of the old, familiar faces and have reacquainted myself with Studio 109A. It is true that the only constant is change. I believe how we react to the change reflects our character. It would be easy for me to be fearful, angry or even paralyzed by all of the changes around me. However, in the last couple of days, I made a conscious decision to embrace change and live by the immortal words of Alan Watts: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Permalink 1 Comment

An Artist is Like an Athlete…

January 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm (Artist Musings)

An artist is like an athlete… An athlete does not dive into a sport without some sort of warm up. I am the same way. When I haven’t been working in the studio for a while, I do a warm up project before diving into new work.

So, after taking time off during the holidays to be with my family, I returned to Studio 109A earlier this month, dusted off my tools, and started working on my warm up project, a carpet bag.

When I think of carpet bags, I think of Mary Poppins  pulling her umbrella, a lamp, and even a hat rack out of her magical, red bag of tricks. I always wanted a bag like that, so I decided to make one.

Sew 70's Project Runway Studio 109A Purse

When I visited Mary Jo’s Cloth Store last fall, I purchased a cordurroy fabric with that Mary Poppins  image in mind. I used some of the fabric on the Sew 70’s Project Runway Studio 109A purse but saved the rest. The end result is my version of the carpet bag, which like Mary Poppins’ bag did for Jane and Michael, opened up my imagination to all sorts of possiblities.

With Project Runway Studio 109A behind me, it is  now time to look to the future and design my first collection, Arm Candy, which will be on exhibition at Artspace in May. I will continue blogging weekly as I did during Project Runway Studio 109A to document my progress and look forward to sharing my new work with you.

Carpet Bag

Permalink Leave a Comment

Back to School and Blogging for The National Postal Museum

November 11, 2011 at 2:42 am (Artist Musings)

I think it’s really important to give back, especially as an artist. Today’s elementary, middle, and high school students become tomorrow’s art collectors. This week I had the opportunity to blog about my experience teaching fourth grade art on The Smithsonian National Postal Museum blog. Below is a copy of the post. The original post can be found at the Pushing the Envelope Blog. This is the third time I have had the opportunity to be a visiting artist in the schools. I was proud to be a Visiting Artist in The Dade County Public School System in Miami for two consecutive years as part of my participation in The Coconut Grove Arts Festival. I spent a day each at Southwest Middle School and Pincrest Elementary School (the elementary school I attended).

Fourth Graders at Partnership Elementary School Love the National Postal Museum’s Curriculum

By: Guest Blogger Lauren Van Hemert, Parent Volunteer Teaching Art

I am a parent volunteer teaching art to 57 fourth graders at Partnership Elementary in Raleigh, NC. Like many schools, we don’t have a large art budget or even an art teacher, just a team of enthusiastic parent volunteers who coordinate art projects on a bi-monthly basis.

I am always on the lookout for free resources I can bring into the classroom. Since the fourth graders love using technology, online games, activities and slide shows are a big hit.

So, I was thrilled to find The National Postal Museum’s Design It! Giving Voice to America curriculum for upper elementary school students. Since we only have art twice a month, I was not able to divide the curriculum into four lessons, but used the online resources to create a 60 minute lesson plan, at the end of which the students designed their own North Carolina state commemorative stamps.


The Postal Museum’s curriculum and online resources not only reinforced the elements of art the students have been learning since the beginning of the year, but also tied into the Wake County’s Fourth Grade Social Studies curriculum, a bonus not only for teachers, but also for home school parents as well.




At the end of the lesson, one student suggested I call The National Postal Museum to say that this was a ‘fun and great’ class. The students were so enthusiastic about the lesson that one of the fourth grade teachers even asked me to provide her with a link to The National Postal Museum’s Activity Zone so that the kids could complete some of the online activities during their free time.

Many of our students may not ever have the opportunity to visit a Smithsonian Museum. My goal this year is to bring our nation’s great museums, like The Smithsonian, to them, a kind of virtual field trip made possible through the use of free, educational lessons, materials, and resources like that of The National Postal Museum.

As for me, a mother of two, I can’t wait to visit the museum the next time I am in Washington, D.C.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Debriefing: Through the Looking Glass

August 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm (Artist Musings)

Through the Looking Glass is now finishing its second week at Artspace, and if you haven’t seen the show already, you have a week left. On Saturday, August 21st, Artspace is having its Family Fun Day to celebrate the end of The Summer Arts Program. This summer, Artspace offered about 50 classes to over 500 students. Come celebrate  in a carnival-like atmosphere and check out the Through the Looking Glass exhibition at the same time.

During the opening of any exhibition, I feel like I am standing naked in the middle of Times Square. You pour your heart and soul into these pieces for months and then it’s finished and out there for the public to consume. The night Through the Looking Glass opened, First Friday, I was able to stand in the lobby, like a “fly on the wall” (I even wore black and white to blend in) and see  the reaction and hear the comments, and fortunately, the response was favorable.  Although our lobby exhibition wasn’t eligible to win Artspace’s monthly “People’s Choice Award”, many people did vote for Through the Looking Glass.

After the opening reception, many other artists who I have come to like and respect came to see the show. Artist Lisa Stroud called the exhibition “creative” and “inspiring”.

“When I walked into the Artspace lobby Friday afternoon, I could almost hear the incessant chatter of Tweedledum and Tweedledee!”, she said. “Your exhibit was just that fully realized. What a wonderful exhibit by you great artists.”

 Another well-respected and fabulous artist, Gerry Lynch called the show “exciting” and “powerful”.

So, what happens after an opening? One artist asked me if I was in a post-show slump. Although that could happen, especially after a very long installation week leading up to the opening, I had to get back to work. I shipped Arhaus an order of ROMA earrings and a luggage label bracelet, made another bracelet for a commission client, and now I’m getting ready for Cary’s Lazy Daze Arts Festival next weekend. No rest for the weary here.

So, until next week…

Permalink 3 Comments

Through the Looking Glass: Installation Video

August 9, 2010 at 1:08 am (Artist Musings)

First, I want to send a special thanks to all of the people who came last Friday night to see the Through the Looking Glass exhibition at Artspace. If you didn’t make it Friday night, the show runs through August 28th at Artspace. The building is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. I want to send out a special thanks to Jim Millay who filmed the entire installation (and even helped install the show). Amazingly enough, even though Jim spent three days filming last week, he put together a video loop of the installation for First Friday that is currently running in the lobby of Artspace. Here is the video of the installation. Later this week, I will post more video footage and finished photographs.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Appropriation: Beg, Borrow, or Steal

July 6, 2010 at 12:30 am (Artist Musings)

When I first started making jewelry six years ago, I purchased a CD Rom full of “copyright free”  images to use in my work. On the CD Rom, were posters, including both American and foreign Casablanca movie poster images featuring Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. The woman who sold me CD assured me that the posters were in the public domain, and I could use the images in my work. I proceeded to create a Casablanca necklace incorporating the supposed copyright free movie poster images, and subsequently received a cease and desist letter from Warner Bros. Pictures.

Last Friday night, a young artist asked me about the legality of using images of other works of art in her own work.  As an artist who has been appropriating found objects, namely old advertisements, labels, and photographs, in my work for the past six years, I am ever mindful of copyright restrictions.

“Appropriation art is where an artist takes newspaper articles, product packaging, postcards and just about any imaginable kind of found objects, including the artwork of others, and assembles them as their own work of art. The found objects are frequently the subjects of copyrights owned by someone else. The found objects might also be trademarks, or the name and likeness of celebrities, both of which are also personal property like copyrights. The work is called appropriation art because the artist ‘appropriates’ the property of someone else and puts it in their artwork. Appropriation art is increasingly common, and without doubt it can be very creative. However, it clearly bumps into the exclusive rights of owners of copyrights, trademarks and names and likenesses. While lawyers may consider it infringement, it has become so common and widely accepted that it is the law which may have to catch up.” [FindLaw Knowledge Base by JACOBOWITZ & GUBITS LLP]

So, what is a young artist to do who wants to appropriate images in their work but not infringe on copyright?

1. Educate yourself about Copyright Law and Fair Use.

In general, copyright laws protect the creator of an original artwork with some exceptions. Understanding what factors a court must consider in  determining whether the use of an image is “fair” is key in determining whether or not you can use a copyrighted image in your work.

“The fair-use doctrine permits others to use copyrighted material in a reasonable manner without the owner’s consent for purposes such as criticism or commentary (including parody and satire), news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 includes examples of factors a court must consider in determining whether a use is ‘fair.’ These factors include, but may not be limited to: (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” [Intellectual Property and the Arts, College Art Association]

2. Determine  what is and isn’t in the public domain.

“Public domain definition: The public domain is generally defined as consisting of works that are either  ineligible for copyright protection or with expired copyrights. Public domain refers to the total absence of copyright protection for work The public domain is a range of abstract materials commonly referred to as intellectual property which are not owned or controlled by anyone. The term indicates that these materials are therefore ‘public property’, and available for anyone to use for any purpose.” []

Reproductions, including photographs of artwork, as well as originals, may be subject to copyright depending on what year the work was produced.

“…artworks created in the U.S. since 1978 and fixed in tangible form are currently protected in the U.S. even without a copyright symbol or formal registration with the Copyright Office. Works created between January 1, 1924, and December 31, 1977, may also be under copyright, depending on a number of conditions… Works in the public domain are free and clear of copyright, but they may still be protected by other laws governing property, contracts, and licenses.” [Intellectual Property and the Arts, College Art Association]

The chart below illustrates when works pass into the public domain [Lolly Gasaway, University of North Carolina]:

Created 1-1-78 or after When work is fixed in tangible medium of expression Life + 70 years1(or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation2
Published before 1923 In public domain  None
Published from 1923 – 63 When published with notice3 28 years + could be renewed for 47 years, now extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years. If not so renewed, now in public domain
Published from 1964 – 77 When published with notice 28 years for first term; now automatic extension of 67 years for second term
Created before    1-1-78 but not published 1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life + 70 years or 12-31-2002, whichever is greater
Created before
1-1-78 but published between then and 12-31-2002
1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life + 70 years or 12-31-2047 whichever is greater

 3. Use only reliable sources and/or  published public domain images in your work. 

In general, to save myself hours and hours of research, I stick to using images that are in the public domain, such as the royalty free images found in published, reliable sources like the Dover Publications books and CD Roms. I would never again rely on another artist or “fly by night” vendor at a scrapbooking convention to sell me a “copyright free” CD Rom. 

Wikipedia also lists a number of sources for public domain images, however the presence of a resource on this list does not guarantee that all or any of the images in it are in the public domain. You are still responsible for checking the copyright status of images before you use them in your work. Click here to link to Wikipedia’s list of Public Domain Image Resources.

4. Alter images to make them your own.

The downside of using published public domain images out of books like the Dover Publications is that many other artists also use these images in their work. The trick is to use these images in a new and inventive way. Generally, I don’t just cut and paste entire images to use in my work. I alter pieces of images to transfer to the clay before I hand-form them into the beads.

"H" stands for "Hotel", as in Hotel Casablanca on this monogrammed bracelet

As a side note, after I received the cease and desist letter from Warner Bros. Pictures regarding the use of the Casablanca movie posters, I found a “Hotel Casablanca” luggage label that was in the public domain. I consequently used it on my first monogrammed bracelet, with the initials “HC”, which stood for Hotel Casablanca.

It should go without saying, that I am an artist and not a lawyer, and that the information contained herein is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular copyright issue, question, or problem.

Permalink Leave a Comment

It Is By Teaching That We Teach Ourselves

June 13, 2010 at 6:07 pm (Artist Musings)

Last week, I mused about the apprentice/mentor relationship and two artists I had the privilege to mentor, Cynthia Luhrs and Kimberly Hodes. While I was happy to help both Cynthia and Kimberly by giving them advice and feedback on how to start their craft businesses, neither one of them ever worked with me in the studio.  However, one other young artist did.

Garden Scape Ring by Jessica Papke

In 2004, I met NC State Design student Jessica Papke, also known as Rosy Revolver. Jessica purchased a bracelet from me at Cary’s Ole Time Winter Festival and later contacted me to see if I would meet her for coffee. What started over coffee, ended up being a two year apprenticeship, in which Jessica not only helped me in the studio, but also accompanied me to shows, including the American Craft Council Baltimore Fine Craft Show.

JJ Papke, Valediction Earrings

Today Jessica runs a successful jewelry business, mostly selling her wares to an international audience on Etsy and branding the Rosy Revolver name. She is in the process of building a studio space in Fuquay-Varina, which she calls “heaven on the top floor of an old bank on Main Street.”

Jessica says that working in the studio with me was a dose of inspiration. “I think it was mostly just about learning to pay attention to detail, focus on quality, and constantly striving to expand and improve upon skills,” she says.

“Some of the best advice Lauren ever gave me was to toughen up,  stand by my ideas and not care so much about what others may think,” she adds.

There is no question about how the apprentice/mentor relationship benefits the apprentice. But there are few words to describe how much of a positive impact that relationship has on the mentor.

According to, “Mentors have the potential to not only pass on their skills but to give those who could never have the time or the money or the know-how, the ability to invest in their passion. They can ensure that crafts stay alive and vibrant for future generations.”

In my case, teaching Jessica, Cynthia, and Kimberly enabled me to take a fresh look at my own business model, re-evaluate what was working and not working, and re-invest myself in my work.

I think Swiss Philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel said it best.

“It is by teaching that we teach ourselves, by relating that we observe, by affirming that we examine, by showing that we look, by writing that we think, by pumping that we draw water into the well.”  Henri Frederic Amiel

Permalink Leave a Comment

We Are All Apprentices in a Craft Where No One Ever Becomes a Master

June 6, 2010 at 11:40 pm (Artist Musings)

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Ernest Hemingway

In 2003, I met polymer clay artist, teacher, and author Irene Semanchuk Dean. I brought her to Raleigh to teach a workshop for The Capital Area Polymer Clay Guild, which I helped establish. Irene became my friend and mentor, and I credit her for encouraging me to sell my work and helping me become a professional artist. Irene spent a lot of time giving me the advice and tools necessary to start my business. I knew then that the best way to pay her back was to pay it forward.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to help several other designers start their own businesses. Most of them sought me out and asked for help or advice. Many of them have since become my friends. 

"Letters" by Cynthia Luhrs

“Lauren’s advice and experience helped me from making newbie mistakes so I was able to focus more on growing my work,” says Cynthia Luhrs. “Having someone to bounce ideas off and provide feedback was also invaluable to helping me grow my career.”

Artist Kimberly Hodes says that one of the most valuable pieces of advice I gave her was, “decide what you are going to do and do it better than anyone else.”  She adds, “Success does not come without hard work. Once it comes, there is no resting on your laurels, it’s a continuous and ongoing struggle to keep your name and work in the public eye.”

Kimberly Hodes Designs

Both Cynthia and Kimberly say that I helped them, just as Irene had helped me, by giving them the tools necessary to properly price their work.

“Just starting out, I was much too low and Lauren really helped me out there,” says Cynthia.

“Price everything so that if someone approaches you about wholesale, you are ready,” adds Kim. “Don’t undersell yourself!”

Now Polymer Clay Artist Celie Fago and her apprentice Jennifer Kahn have made it easier for potential apprentices and mentors to connect by creating

“There’s a generation of established, successful, working crafts people who are trying to grow their businesses, to change with a changing world. There’s also a younger generation, brimming with potential, with native web skills, who are also seeking sustainability in a changing world, and a way to make a living from their hands but lacking the skills to do so. So it seems there should be a place where these folks can connect. Where symbiotic relationships can be formed. This is that place.” []

I know first hand the benefits of being both the student and the mentor and applaud Celie  and Kahn for creating an online “meeting place” for mentors and apprentices to find each other.

Both Cynthia and Kimberly say I taught them to push themselves to be better artists, and I have to say they both have done the same for me.

“I learned to trust my instincts in my work and continually push myself to better,” says Cynthia.

“Keep evolving, if you don’t change and grow, your customers will get bored and move on,” says Kimberly.

Lesson learned. Mission accomplished.

Permalink 1 Comment

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »

%d bloggers like this: