Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Poetry in Motion is now on DVD!

I just couldn't be prouder to release my new DVD workshop set, POETRY IN MOTION: Making Marvelous Mobiles. Forget what you think you know about mobiles - this is a thrilling creative journey that will have you flying, literally.

It can be purchased here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Story of a Shadow, in progress.

During the taping of my latest online workshop entitled 'Getting Attached: Rivets Revealed' (to be held again next July, for those who want to join me then), I began this piece in order to demonstrate some creative riveting techniques on film. What resulted is The Story of a Shadow.

I begin the journey with a beautiful century-old Japanese book, to be treated as the vessel and starting point.

After sitting with it for a while, I spot an item in a 'Stuff' box that has been loitering for over two decades in my studio, so patiently waiting its turn. A silver trophy plaque.

Out comes the saw to make it fit the book.

Now the book is hollowed out to make a chamber.

The interior is built with the windows of the plaque in mind...

......and the book is clamped into a block.

The top of a dried pitcher from one of my carnivorous pitcher plants will be removed and used inside the book structure. The delicate ribs are captivating.

Washers are cut out of heavy brass sheet to make rivets that will secure the book shut.

One washer cut and shaped.

As much of this piece was made while being filmed, the body of the piece is completed without further still images.

The chain I decide on is a new one for me, made from heavy square steel wire. It's challenging to work with this wire because of its heavy gauge and the fact that it is half-hardened off the roll.

Hand-polished and ready to mount to the pendant.

Please visit my website to view the finished neckpiece here.

I'll be back in the studio soon for the next work!




Friday, February 21, 2014

The Watcher, In Progress.

One of my New Year's resolutions has been to dig deep into my trove of treasures, and to pull out those things I've coveted but held back for something 'special.' Turning 50 in January has brought home what I knew intuitively all along:

It's all special.

So out comes one such piece ready for transforming:

An 1890's swivel locket by Pinchbeck. I'm determined to use the original ambrotype portrait within as part of the final piece.

Ambrotypes are emulsion on glass, and must be backed with black for the image to be seen as a positive.


Checking out the swivel action.

The missing side, lost to time.


Out comes the ambrotype... This one is indeed unique as it was hand-colored beautifully and subtly.


The black paint is scratched off the back of the glass, thereby making all parts of the image that would be black become transparent.

Leaving a bit of black behind the face to keep it readable from the front.


My title for the piece is now chosen and I fit it to the oval.


As these brooches were used as mourning pieces, usually enclosing hair of a loved one, I decide to plait a waxed-linen border around the image.



Turning my attention to the empty side, I settle on a spectacular gilt book cover from the early 1800's as my palette.


Cut and edge-painted, I then burrow two recesses to hold jewels.


Gorgeous opals peer out.


A resin lens is prepared and attached.


A brilliantly colored lithograph lends me the face to be seen under the lens.


Almost ready to attach.


First the back must be prepared, as I'll be able to see through the ambrotype to this side of the book cover. I choose some exquisite robe detailing from an 1830 engraving. This texture will reveal itself as the jacket detail of the photo portrait once it's in place.


To secure the glass ambrotype in place, I use more of the thick engraving paper as a 'washer' - this was a practice actually used during the period.


I'll have a shallow space for material to move behind the photo image. I choose to fill this space with tiny tourmalines and mustard seeds.


The edges of the book cover, which are beautifully dense cardboard, are hammered hard to round off the edges, giving the panel a finished quality I'm delighted with.


The panels all in place, the last step is to embellish the exterior frame of the brooch. I choose more of the crimson waxed linen thread, and it imbues the piece with a crude hand-hewn aura.

Now, if you'll saunter over and view the finished piece here.

Or, if you're feeling your oats, you can see how much it costs to wear it yourself here.

Thank you so much for looking and for your feedback below!



Monday, January 27, 2014

Four, and What They Did, In Progress.

There are pieces of artwork, once things are in full swing in Studio Stuffsmith, that seem to make themselves as I stand, conducting the players but bystander to the unexpected outcomes.

This is such a piece.

I select this magnificent steel spigot handle, layers of paint exposed through years of weathering the elements, and it sets me in motion. I've wanted to tuck into this particular object for about ten years, and this is the time to act on it. I also mentally take note of a very special object that I'd like to use as a 'chain', but it's too early to think about just yet.

The spigot handle is pretty heavy, so I decide to remove the center struts and therefore take half of the weight with it.


The removed element is beautiful on its own, and will be saved for a later opportunity. Rummaging through my trove, I carry my newly-liberated spigot with me to see what transpires.


It doesn't take long: a beach-worn aluminum bottom of a soda can, encrusted with fragments of sea life, catches my eye.


 I will never tire of this work, for it is this 'click' moment that energizes each act in the studio. The fit is exact, and they speak to each other like old friends.

And so they are lashed together, these survivors of the scrap heap.



 I then decide to make a chamber inside which I can build my composition, and it must be watertight, as I have the thought to encase the center in resin.

I select four of my precious 'gem' size tintypes from the 1860's, each one-of-a-kind image no bigger than a postage stamp.

Two men and two women, all from the same photo album (family? good friends?), who will also be tied to each other with thread.


As a central focus, this is so strong for me, that I stop and begin to search for a title. An hour or so later, I've found it, and it too is one I've hoped to use for many years.

Some epiphanies over the course of making shout loud and clear; others are quiet but no less powerful for their impact. This is the first time I've chosen, instead of tearing my title organically, to carefully cut it out in a 19th-century fashion. I'm a bit shocked this has never crossed my mind to do, with the thousands of pieces I've made in the last quarter-century!

The first layer of resin is poured.


The title is laid, and will float, suspended, in the center of the mix.


48 hours later, I can continue work on the piece. I drill recesses into the four main compass-points of the spigot in which to set opals.


The opals in place. Now to complete the resin structure.

A large mold I made earlier will become the dome of the lens.

It's a delicate operation to join the two resin halves together without air bubbles being trapped.


Pressure is applied and the piece remains clamped to set for about 72 hours.

My attention can now turn to the delightful, if extreme, choice of hanging elements: a Victorian-era masonic ceremonial sash, which I slightly modify to feature the spigot as its 'medallion.'

The almost impossible intricacy of the sash seems to lend the focal point a pathos it didn't have on its own. I love them together. After completing the back of the piece (I sadly did not have my camera to record this part), it calls itself done.

To view the finished piece:

Or, for purchasing information:

 Thank you for joining me!