From Studio 109A: Artist to Advocate

June 3, 2013 at 9:15 pm (From Studio 109A)

artspacehighresLast month marked my eighth year at Artspace. At the end of this month, I will move out of a building that has come to mean so much to me personally and professionally.

In 2005, Fiber Artist Sharron Parker and Linda Ruth Dickinson welcomed me into Studio 217 with open arms. Madonna Phillips encouraged me to take my “funky” art on the road and apply for regional and nationally known juried shows.  Max Halpern gave me a crash course in art appreciation and history. Judy Crane encouraged me to develop my leadership skills, welcomed me to The Executive Board of Artspace, and exposed me to the business side of Artspace.

Catherine Thornton encouraged me to visualize outside the box. When I moved downstairs from Studio 217 to Studio 109A, Ann HarwellPat Scull, Susan SoperSusan Parrish, and Marriott Little  transformed a building into a community and a workplace into a home away from home.

Trapeziste Necklace, Collaboration with Catherine Thornton

Trapeziste Necklace, Collaboration with Catherine Thornton

One of my fondest memories and truly one of my finest hours professionally was the collaborative Through The Looking Glass exhibition with Susan Parrish and Emily Cash Wilmoth.

Alice in Wonderland Brooch

Alice in Wonderland Brooch

And not a First Friday has gone by in over a year when somebody hasn’t talked to me about the Studio 109A Project Runway Challenge, a project which marked my transition from jewelry designer to fiber artist.

The Art of the Matter - Episode Six

The Art of the Matter

I truly could not have taken this journey without my family’s love and support. When I moved into Artspace, my son was six and my daughter was two. My son is now entering high school and my daughter is ten. As I mentioned in my last blog post, my daughter was diagnosed with autism last February. The last few months have been challenging. The love, support, and friendship from my Artspace family and some new friends have made these last few months bearable.

In the art world, there are no labels and the artists within these walls, have been non-judgmental and accepting. The real world, unfortunately, is not so kind, especially to those who color outside the lines, march to the beat of their own drum, or are truly exceptional in their own right. A friend of mine says I have found my voice. I suppose that is true. Of course, I will always be an artist. But I am first and foremost a mom and now, an advocate.

So, with that, auf wiedersehen from Studio 109A. See you soon!


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From Studio 109A: And Now For Something Completely Different

May 5, 2011 at 6:50 pm (From Studio 109A)


“All artists get discouraged. All artists have deep inner wells of self-pity into which we periodically dive. All artists specialize in self-doubt. It is how we hone the creative imagination.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Last August, I documented in great detail the evolution of “Through the Looking Glass.” The work I created for that Artspace exhibition was some of my best work. I recently told an artist friend of mine that “Through the Looking Glass” was my finest hour, a highlight of my career. So what’s happened since? Absolutely nothing.

In December, I decided that it was time to step away from jewelry for awhile and add an accessory line to The Ephemera Collection. The problem was that I never learned  to sew. In January, my husband bought me a sewing machine, and I started plowing through a book on sewing. Five months later, I have something to show for all my hours sewing fabric together and ripping seams apart.

This evening bag is inspired by a French circus poster. Fellow Artspace Artist Catherine Thornton made a mold of the Trapeze Artist for me, which I cast in polymer clay, painted with oil paint, and made into the handle. The rest of the bag is made of dupioni silk and satin.

Intended as a natural extension of my jewelry collection, the accessory line will incorporate vintage images along the same lines as the jewelry… luggage labels, French labels, and postcards and letters.

I am in the process of designing fabric that will feature some of my favorite images. In the meantime, come see The Trapeze Artist Evening Bag during The First Friday Gallery Walk, May 6th at Artspace in Downtown Raleigh and stay tuned for more From Studio 109A..

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Not Your Ordinary Day in Studio 109A

April 17, 2011 at 6:56 pm (From Studio 109A)

Ten years ago this month, my husband and I moved to Raleigh from Florida. In that time, my husband and I bought a house, had our daughter, and I launched my career as a professional artist at Artspace.

So, yesterday was just another ordinary Saturday. I woke up and had breakfast with my family and headed down to Artspace to work on a new, circus inspired piece. There were Earth Day celebrations planned in and around the NC Museum of Science  and the SPCA of Wake County’s  K9-3K Dog Walk in Moore Square. It was just an ordinary day.

Around 3:00 p.m., the skies over Artspace turned black and artists started gathering between Studio 109A and the downstairs bathroom. One artist brought her pillow. Another brought snacks and a radio. Ten of us huddled in a circle in Studio 109A, while many others stood in the hallway and others filled the bathrooms to wait out the storm. The power went out, and there in the dark, Studio 109A, my personal art space, became a safe place.

When the storm passed, reports started coming in that a tornado had damaged businesses just two miles away. On my way home, having to dodge downed trees along Blount Street near Shaw University, just blocks from Studio 109A,  I was reminded of the first time I returned home days after Hurricane Andrew (1992) destroyed my family’s home. I realized the tornado had come close, too close for comfort, and that this was not your ordinary day.

This morning, many downtown Raleigh businesses, including Artspace, remain without power. Many homes around Studio 109A were damaged or destroyed. Shaw University has cancelled classes for the rest of the semester, and The American Red Cross has opened shelters providing warm meals and a shoulder to lean on for those with immediate, disaster-caused needs.

After Hurricane Andrew, I started working for The American Red Cross and know first hand that they need monetary donations and volunteers to continue serving the victims of this and other disasters.  To make a donation, or for more information, visit The Triangle Red Cross. For a time lapse video of the tornado coming towards Downtown Raleigh, click below.

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From Studio 109A: The High Price of Commissions – Part 2

December 10, 2010 at 2:41 pm (From Studio 109A)

Last Friday during the First Friday Gallery Walk in Raleigh, another artist asked me if I was still blogging. She said that she reads the blog and missed it. I suppose I could say the blog posts have been less frequent because I have writer’s block, and over the last few months, I would say I have artist’s block. I have been spending time in my studio to meditate about the direction of my work. I said to my husband, “I am trying to figure out what kind of artist I want to be when I grow up.”

Typically, Christmas is not a big season for me. My collectors buy my pieces mainly for themselves, not as gifts. Occassionally, I do have a panicked husband who calls me on December 23rd and asks me if I still have that piece his wife saw at Lazy Daze two years ago. But most years, December is a slow time in Studio 109A.

This year, however, I am seeing a trend in customers looking to commission affordable, personalized gifts. Several  customers have contacted me to commission smaller pieces using their own handwritten letters and manuscripts.

Now, Last April, I blogged about the High Price of Commissions and a particular commissioned bracelet for a high maintenance customer that went very badly.  After that bad experience, I swore off commissions altogether. However, the customers who have commissioned pieces this Christmas have made me have a change of heart.

Last Saturday, one of my long-time collectors braved the snow flurries and came to Studio 109A with a collection of letters from her mom. The notes were short and sweet. “Don’t worry. Love, Mom and Dad.” “We are so proud of your accomplishments…” “Happy Birthday!” Although most of the notes were written by her mother to her, one letter she wrote to her mother when she was a child. She commissioned me to take pieces of the letters and transfer them to the beads to create a simple sterling silver and beaded necklace. Since I work from color copies, the originals remain preserved for her to pass down to her daughter. Her mother’s letters moved me and reminded me of the notes my grandfather wrote to my grandmother (see The Love Letter blog post, February 2010). The beads and the necklace turned out very sweet, and more so, will be a wonderful, lasting way to let her mother know how she feels about her at Christmas (and all year long).

The second commission came from a new customer who met me at Lazy Daze last summer. She commissioned me to transfer her late husband’s math thesis and notes to beads for her daughter. She was also looking for gifts for her two sons. After thinking about what I could make using her images for her boys, I approached her about making a pen set. When I first started making jewelry in 2004, I created a series of fine writing/luxury pens using cigar labels. For this Christmas commission, I created a pen/key chain set, which turned out better than I could have imagined. Be on the lookout for more pens in Studio 109A.

As for me, I also love giving personalized gifts. Over Thanksgiving my family visited my sister-in-law in Indiana, and I made her a bracelet/earring set using cigar labels from her husband’s collection. Seeing the expression on her face when she put on the bracelet was a testament to how personalized gifts make the best gifts.

For a personalized gift you can make at home using your own images, check out my blog post A Holiday Tradition: The Heirloom Tablecloth (posted November 2009).

So, this holiday season, make it personal. Better yet, this weekend abandon to mall altogether and find the perfect gift during Downtown Raleigh’s Shop, Sip, and Cinema. Hope to see you soon!

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From Studio 109A

November 3, 2010 at 3:24 pm (From Studio 109A)

Sorry for not posting this past month, but family distractions got in the way. This month, however, I am back in the studio.

Last month, I donated a bracelet to the SPCA Fur Ball. I have been supporting the Fur Ball for several years now. Founded in 1967, the SPCA of Wake County is a non-profit animal welfare organization whose mission is to protect shelter and promote adoption of homeless animals; to provide education about responsible pet ownership; and to reduce pet overpopulation through spay/neuter programs.

The Face Bracelet

The Artspace Annual Collector’s Gala will be held November 20, 2010. For the last six years, I have supported Artspace, an organization that has done so much to help me grow as an artist. This year, I have donated a The Love Letter necklace. For this piece, a love letter from Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett Browning is transferred to clay and hand-formed into the beads. The beads are strung with Swarovski crystal spacers and an onyx, heart shaped clasp. Tickets are still available for the Collector’s Gala. To see photos of all the silent auction and live auction pieces, click on the Artspace link.

The Love Letter

Later this month, my ROMA earrings will appear in the Arhaus Christmas Catalog. Last summer, Arhaus Furniture started carrying The Ephemera Collection in their Legacy Village flagship store (Cleveland) and the Tyson’s Corners (McLean, Virginia) store.

ROMA Earrings

Of course, if you are in the Raleigh area, feel free to stop by Artspace Studio 109A for holiday gifts ideas. I look forward to seeing you soon.

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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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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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From Studio 109A: Altered States

March 1, 2010 at 3:07 pm (From Studio 109A)

    This month, I have been working on my second altered book, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. For this project, I started with an oversized book (an  atlas), carved a niche, glued the pages together, and started weaving together pictures and text. Like my Out of the Box series, this mixed media composition contains an element (a brooch) that can be removed and worn.
    Most of this month has been consumed creating the structure of the book and the pages. For the brooch, I have been experimenting with a new approach to my image transfer techniques, canes, and found objects. The brooch is a work in progress.
    This Friday is the First Friday gallery walk in Downtown Raleigh. All of the Studios, including Studio 109A, will be open from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. I hope you will come take a peek at my altered book. In the meantime, check out this altered book project I created several years ago for the Sculpey web site.

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Live From Studio 109A

January 29, 2010 at 1:28 am (From Studio 109A)

Chelsea Amato wearing designer Kat Schamen's dress for Adopt-a-School at Couture for a Cause.

Two weeks ago, North Carolina State UniversityGraphic Design Student Chelsea Amato interviewed me for a class project. I met Chelsea at Couture for a Cause (she modeled for the Adopt a School garment). Later, she visited my studio during one of the First Friday Gallery Walks.

So for her project, Chelsea came to Artspace, video camera in hand, asked me questions and documented me working in my studio environment. Chelsea interviewed me for about an hour. One of her questions pertained to whether or not technology had a direct connection to people making or buying handmade goods. It was an interesting question, and considering Chelsea picked this portion of the interview  to edit into her final project, I assume my answer was equally as interesting.

My feeling is that technology has less to do with people making or buying handmade goods than the economy and overseas manufacturing practices. 

It is no secret that over the last year, the economy has receded and more and more people are out of work. I think unemployment has a direct connection to more and more people making handmade items. I can speak from personal experience, that my career as a professional artist began when my husband was out of work six years ago. He had more time to help me around the house and with the kids, which gave me time to launch my jewelry business. I also think that many people who have a “real job” and only pursue art as a hobby, might try to turn their craft into cash if they find themselves out of work.

I also think that there is more of an appreciation for buying handmade items due to questionable manufacturing practices, particularly overseas. Last month, The Ecology Center, a U.S. Consumer Group reported that a third of the most popular children’s toys in the United States contained harmful chemicals including lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. I think consumers are more aware of the items that they bring into their homes and expose to their children and families, which has a direct connection to buying handmade.

So, below you will find Chelsea’s finished project and an excerpt from our interview. Hopefully, if I uploaded correctly, you will be able to see the video and take a peek inside Studio 109A. Special thanks to Chelsea for letting me post her project on the blog.

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From Studio 109A: New Work

January 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm (From Studio 109A)

Tomorrow night, January 8th, is First Friday in Downtown Raleigh. Artspace Studio109A,  and many of the other galleries will be open late. Artspace will be open from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

My newest work features one of my favorite images, excerpts from a 1942 French arithmetic book originally used as a movie prop in the movie Chocolat that I transferred to clay and hand-formed into beads. I have used the book to create the Chocolat Lariat and a tile bracelet.

Last November I used the Chocolat book to create a piece to wear to the Artspace Gala. Come see the piece this Friday night.  I hope to see you there.

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