Sunday, April 19, 2015

The making of "Drifting" for the Great White North Exhibit

Winter is a hard time to keep up on blog posts for two reasons: first, many of the projects I'm working on are commissions and I just can't spill the beans on my customers by leaking images of the works in progress, and secondly, this is the time of year I tackle my submissions for the annual national jewellery exhibition in Toronto and it's verboten to reveal the finished piece before the jurying is done.

But the jurying is done!  And this year my piece has been accepted into the show!  Yay! 

The national jewellery exhibition has been hosted by Zilberschmuck Gallery for the past ten years, but with the unfortunate closure of that spectacular space last year, the torch has been passed to 18 Karat Studio and Gallery, also in Toronto.  They have taken on the not insignificant challenge of this exhibition and have run with it! 
Red Maple, A.Y. Jackson

The show now has a name that will carry it from year to year: The Great White North Exhibition.  This year the chosen theme is The Group of Seven.  Participants were to choose a painting or artist from the Group of Seven and make their work based upon it.  I chose Red Maple, by A.Y. Jackson.  And my neckpiece, Drifting, imagined a moment in time after the one depicted in the painting, when a stiff breeze had lifted the turning leaves from their branches and set them floating on the churning river beyond. 

In making this piece I began with the leaves, so as to establish the scale of the piece overall.  I roller-printed a skeleton leaf into copper, before sawing out each shape by hand.  Then I heat-coloured the copper with a torch, quenching them in boiling water.  This gives the copper a bright red colour.  Using my dapping block, I then put a gentle curve into each leaf.

I referenced the river in the painting to create the sterling silver swirls that suggest the eddies in the fast-flowing water.  These I etched, and shaped using my dapping block.

Because the neckpiece would require quite a quantity of silver, I did a mock-up first in copper, to determine the length of wire I would need, and to establish that the design I saw in my head would actually look the way I imagined.  Once the copper necklace was made I laid the leaves in place to see how the proportions were working out, and I also marked where I'd be soldering on the silver "eddies".  Then I twisted silver wire, soldering it together, and giving it a hammered finish so the light would bounce off it in a pleasing way.

All in all it came together much as I'd hoped!  And crossing my fingers for yet another year, I mailed it off to Toronto.  I'm so happy that it was chosen by the jurors to be included in this year's exhibition.  And I'm even happier that the tradition of this national juried show will continue with the enthusiasm of 18 Karat Studio and Gallery behind it.  I'm looking forward to seeing the exhibition in its entirety, and seeing the inspiration other artists drew from The Group of Seven.

If you are in the Toronto area, you can see the exhibition this coming week, as it is to be included in Toronto's Art and Fashion Week, April 21st-25th, 585 Dundas St. East, 6-12pm.

In the month of July the exhibition will be on display at 18 Karat Studio and Gallery, 275 Dundas Street West.  A reception is planned as well, and I will pass along details as they become available.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

It's February. There's no denying a new year is well underway.

This year I'm once again attending Gallery @ ACTS (Atlantic Craft Trade Show).  This is a wholesaler's event, for craftspeople from all four Atlantic provinces to market their wares to buyers from across the country and the US.  The Gallery portion is a smaller venue alongside the main buyer's marketplace, where artists who wish to solicit gallery interest in their one-of-a-kind work can display it for the visiting gallery reps who come to the event for this purpose.  I participated in Gallery @ ACTS in 2013, and found it very educational.  Last year I didn't want to take time away from preparing my work for my gallery exhibition in St. John's in order to attend, but this year I am returning - with some of my more sculptural work.

The first year I attended gave me lots to think about how I would approach it the next time I attended, and improving my gallery displays was one area I wanted to do differently.  I've probably mentioned before that I love thinking up and designing new displays, and if I weren't so far down this jewellery path I might just go into display creation simply for the never-ending puzzles it presents!  Portability is always a huge factor for me, and since I am transporting my display to Halifax, on a plane, I had to think "lightweight", and "disassemble-able".  I settled on shaping blue insulation foam and using dowels to create platforms.  These are then covered in a stretchy black fabric held in place with pins.  The photos (above, and at right) are not great, but hopefully you get the idea.
February also brings with it that ultimate of heart-encrusted holidays - Valentine's Day.  It's difficult as a jeweler to let it slip by without producing something for the occasion.  This year there is a perfectly timed exhibition opening in the Annex Gallery at the Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador entitled All Kinds of Love.  I don't do much wire work, but the idea of a bleeding heart necklace has been rolling around in my mind for some time, and this provided the perfect reason to execute it.  

I am also happy to be invited to be a studio guest at Alexis Templeton's annual February hearts event.  On February 14th I will be doing a demo on how to create your very own bleeding heart charm out of copper wire.  This event will run from 12-4pm, please drop by and visit!  Alexis' studio is at 75 Quidi Vidi Road.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Crying "Baubles! and Linos! for sale, for sale oh"!

The Big Season is upon us! 

I’ve been working hard on my submissions to the Comfort& Joy exhibit.  Here’s a couple of sneak peeks (above, and at right).  This exhibition runs November 29th – December 19th at the Gallery of the Craft Council of Newfoundland& Labrador.  Always an impressive array of fine craftsmanship, it is sure to put you in the spirit!

Between now and Christmas, there are four venues where I will be selling my wares in person. 

At three of them I will be selling my jewellery (and my beaded wire trees if I can find room to incorporate them into my booth).  I’ve made a lot of brand new work this year, using etched antique maps, tree branches, and barnacles.

Come and find me with my jewellery at the following locations:

·      Craft Council Christmas Craft Fair, November 20th – 23rd at the Art & Culture Centre.
·      Quidi Vidi Plantation Christmas Open House, December 6th (10-4), & 7th  (12-4).
·      Anna Templeton Tea & Sale, December 12th – 14th.

Exciting news this year is my foray into the world of printmaking! 

A few years ago I took an etching workshop to learn how printmakers etch so that I could bring some skills from a different artistic avenue back to my jewellery practice.  I love crossing disciplines with technique in this way – I find it gives me a fresh angle to tackle my designs from. 

However, since that workshop I’ve wondered about trying out printmaking simply for the sake of printmaking.  Over this past year I’ve been excitedly exploring this new medium, and am thoroughly enjoying it!  The dilemma is that by its very nature, printmaking results in quite an output of prints (who knew!).  So, in the spirit of embracing my inner business-person, I thought I’d try selling some of these prints.  I’d love for them to find a home, and in the ultimate spirit of critique that is the public marketplace, I’ll learn if the prints I’m making appeal to others. 

I don’t have much in the way of teaser shots to show you; it turns out photographing two-dimensional prints is a whole different kettle of fish from photographing jewellery!  I will have to work on that.  This image is of a print I had in the Annual Member’s Exhibit at the Craft Council this summer.  Using a map that relates to the location of the image depicted in the print I hand-stitched topographical details as well as rivers and marshes into the paper.  It will be available for sale at The Printer’s Fair.  Please drop down and have a look at my latest endeavors:

·      The Printer’s Fair, November 16th, 11am – 4pm at the Rocket Room, upstairs from Rocket Bakery. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Not Christmas. Yet.

Nothing Christmasy to see here. ;)

August is an ancient memory, and September did a clever vanishing act, which means we must acknowledge that we are now officially engulfed by Fall.  This is my favourite season. 

And yet I find I am as nauseated as most people are by the appearance in many stores of "Seasonal Items of a distinctly Christmas Persuasion".  It feels far too early.  And they seem to appear earlier each year.  For me, it dilutes the significance of any holiday when we are inundated months in advance with the commercial garb that now "must" accompany its celebration. 

I love Thanksgiving, and I think its because it, as yet, seems to have escaped this smothering pressure to purchase plastic doo-dads and sparkly ghee-gaws to herald its imminent arrival.  Thanksgiving is what you make of it, as any holiday should be.  The emphasis there is on the "you" and the "making". (And preferably with an emphasis on "local" too!)

Just some totally un-Christmasy new earring designs.

Perhaps I am more sensitive to this commercialized pressure because I am already spending most of my time and energy in my own studio thinking and working towards the Christmas season well in advance of its arrival.  Obviously I cannot wait until November to start making products that might appeal to the Christmas shopper.  Christmas is the biggest time of the year, in terms of sales, for a craftsperson, and adequate preparation is essential to my sanity.  I like to be the tortoise in this race towards the gift-giving season, and so I have been puttering away making some new jewellery designs as well as re-vamping my booth display for "The Big Fair".  I enjoy the Christmasy season when it arrives, but right now it's just one foot in front of the other, one project at a time, so that when November and December arrive I am ready.  Then and only then will I rouse my celebratory spirit of the season.

Adding grommets to what will become an earring display.
Aerosol glue is a wonderful thing as long as the rest of the room doesn't get sticky too!

Stacks of new necklace displays, and finished earring display.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Midsummer events!

Here comes August, folks!  Don't ask me how that happened but it did.  

I've been totally engrossed with incorporating maps into my jewellery lately.  Above is an etching in bronze from a 1932 antique map of this lovely city of St. John's.  Can you see all the finger piers that originally decorated our harbour?  I've also been working with a 1794 map of the island of Newfoundland.  From that one I've extracted images from the coastlines to use in my designs.  I love the texture the maps give to the metal, and how incorporating the local imagery can tug at the heartstrings of those of us that love this place so much, yet without the jewellery becoming too kitschy in a souvenir-y way.  Below are some earrings I've made in sterling silver and copper using these antique maps.  Depending on which map I've used, I'm titling them Streets of St.John's, and Coastlines of Newfoundland. What do you think?

I first began exploring the use of these maps with my submissions (pictured below) to "Your St. John's: Our Stories", now on exhibit (until August 29th) at the Water Street Gallery above the Heritage Shop downtown.  These particular pieces are one-of-a-kind, and I will be speaking about my process and inspiration this Saturday, August 2 at an Artist's Talk along with Carolyn Morgan, Kelly Jane Bruton, & Dora Cooper who also have beautiful work in the show.  The talk starts at 3:00 and goes until 4:30.  Refreshments will be served.  I hope you can join us! 


Only one week later on August 8th, the fabulous Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival begins!  This is the highlight of my summer.  This year promises to be another stellar line-up of musical acts, tasty treats, and of course, great local craft.  Starting Friday, August 8th at 6:15, and continuing all day Saturday & Sunday until midnight, Bowring Park is the place to be.  Share the event on Facebook with all your friends, and come visit me in the craft tent to take a look at my new Streets of St. John's, and Coastlines of Newfoundland jewellery for yourself!  

  In the great spirit of collaboration, the Historic Sites Association has partnered with the Folk Arts Society to offer a 10% discount at any Heritage Shop with your Folk Festival ticket stub!  Sweet deal!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Memorial Day to some, Canada Day to us all.

The sense of history in Newfoundland is very fresh.  Within living memory this little island was its own dominion in the British Empire, and not yet a part of Canada.  At the beginning of World War I in 1914, the population was around 250,000.  That's less than today's population of cities like Victoria, BC, Halifax, NS, or Windsor, ON, but when called upon to serve, Newfoundlanders stepped forward in remarkable numbers.  By the time the war ended in 1918 35% of the eligible men had served overseas.

 As 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI, The Rooms has undertaken an extensive program of exhibitions to honour the Newfoundlanders who served.  This programming will culminate in 2016 as we mark the 100th anniversary of the tragic Battle of the Somme at Beaumont Hamel.  On July 1, 1916 780 men from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment went "over the top", and within half an hour the battle was over.  Only 68 men were in attendance at roll call the next morning.  So on July 1st, while the rest of Canada revels in a holiday that celebrates this great nation, here in Newfoundland the day is also allocated the respect it deserves as a day of remembrance for those who gave so much to protect the freedoms we all share.

The poppy as a symbol of remembrance was adopted by servicemen and women from America, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, and Australia.  But in Newfoundland the forget-me-not was chosen as the flower of remembrance, and today many still wear it on July 1 as a tribute.

I am honoured to have been asked by The Rooms to create a line of jewellery based on the forget-me-not flower that memorialized the sacrifice of so many Newfoundlanders.  The design I have used was found on a set of cuff-links that belonged to a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.  This line of jewellery is available exclusively at The Rooms Gift Shop

Further reading about the events planned to memorialize this anniversary:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Settling into the homestretch; reflections.

There is one week left until we'll be taking down Elemental Nexus in the Craft Council Gallery.  What a ride it's been!  I've learned a heck of a lot in a very short time.  Knowing the exhibit would be on for over a month seemed like a long time but it has flown!  Some things I'd do differently next time, while others worked out pretty much as I expected.  Most surprising have been the things that, although I'd wish for them to have been different, seem to be left up to the fates, and there's just no real altering that that I can see.

Alas, a Forest of Glass
 The installation went very much as I'd expected, which got things off to a good start.  I had really put a lot of thought into how I'd display my work, and there really weren't any major glitches putting it all in place. 
The opening was a lovely, and other than becoming a touch emotional in my remarks that day, I wouldn't change a thing.  It was wonderful to have my family come, and then spend some time in St. John's. 
Throughout the month the work has been on display I've been pleasantly surprised by the queries about how the show is going when I run   into folks around town.

Of the things I'd change, well, I must confess one glitch in the very-well-planned-out installation of my jewellery.  I had been conscious of the need for a secure way to display my work, and I'd certainly thought of how I wanted to display it without using typical jewellery busts and ring holders and the like.  However, I neglected to consider how a potential customer would try on a piece of my jewellery if they expressed an interest in doing so.  I had everything suspended "just so" with invisible thread, but the only way to try it on was to cut the thread and I would then have to tediously re-install it.  Oooops!

Another genuine surprise was scale.  I knew of course how small jewellery can look in the gallery space, and had consciously made some larger (for me) sculptural items to help bring some visual weight to my pieces as they sat amongst the larger glass work.  And still they looked so small!  Next time, I will challenge myself further in this regard. 
The last surprise was colour.  With this being a group show, we had of course been in touch regarding our themes and, in some respects, the construction of our various pieces, but it wasn't until all the work arrived in the gallery that I realized we had been working in very different colour scales.  Not that I would want all the work to match per say, but Heather Mills and I worked with subtle earthier colours in contrast to the vibrant and boisterous colours of Colette Samson and Urve Manuel's work.  It did pose some challenges to the installation, but in the end I think the arrangement served to create a variety of moods which kept visitors on their toes as they moved through the space.

"Greedy" Seal
"Problem" Bear


Two things that really seem to be in the fate's control, are the weather and the media.  While we did have an adequate turnout for the opening, it was also one of our first lovely spring Saturdays this year, after quite(!) a winter.  If it hadn't been my own opening, I might well have seized the day to awaken my garden too!  The upside of the gallery not being jam-packed though, is that the folks who did come had the opportunity to actually see the work, not just the heads and shoulders of the people around them, in what can be a very stuffy space on a warm day.  

Heather Mills & I - not anxious at all before our artist talk.
Our gallery coordinator, Sharon LeRiche, did her utmost to secure us some media buzz.  I am unsure of the protocols of these things, and so did not want to appear overly pushy in a process I'm unfamiliar with and I left it all in her capable hands.  I undertook the task of extensively postering around town twice during the exhibit - once for the opening, and again for our artist's talk.  Nervous as I was about it, I had hoped we might secure a little interview spot on the Weekend Arts Magazine, (or as they are more often calling it now, Weekend AM).  This city has come alive with artistic endeavors in recent years.  There is barely any time at all left in the year that has not been seized by one festival or another, not to mention all the other gallery openings, concerts, films, and dance events that happen in between times.  I'm thrilled of course to be living in such an artistically vibrant community, but it does mean we can't all get a piece of the media pie sometimes.  Just when I was giving up hope that there would be any media coverage at all of our exhibit, along came Tara Bradbury, the arts reporter from The Telegram.  Hallelujah!  I was not even aware that the article had been written until the day after it was published.  I am thrilled, probably even more so than if we'd had a radio interview since paper has permanence!  You can read her article here.

Mounting an exhibition is no small feat, and I didn't expect it to be.  The challenges were well worth the learning experience, and I truly am looking forward to the next opportunity to tackle such a large body of work.  I am so grateful to everyone who visited the gallery (or will do so in the next week!).  Thank you!  And thank you to the entire staff at the Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador for making it seem easy in ways I can't even begin fathom.  Sincere thanks also to the Arts Council for their support of this project.  Now, please be in touch with your feedback once you've visited the exhibit.  Don't dilly-dally, there's only a week left!

Some time with loved ones, not spent in the gallery - rejuvenating.