Saturday, May 30, 2009

Commitment Issues

I fell in love with the unglazed, unfired pot and have had such a hard time commiting to a finish on this one. So finally I dipped into my sorceror's cupboard of abandoned glazes and said it is time. Four hours later and the glazing on this one is finally done. Each little barnacle is glazed individually. I have this never ending fascination with the transformation of glazes from a dry powdery state to a glassy surface in the magic of the kiln. And the colour change is often quite dramatic as well. For example, this pot is not really going to be pink. It should come out with quite a lot of white on the barnacle part. The rim will go to a deep glossy brown. Pure magic. I'm just hoping the magic will work the way I anticipate. Monday. It will come out of the kiln Monday.
Now I'm off to perform a little magic on the front garden. I do wish I could just wave a wand or snap my fingers at those weeds.
Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Alchemy Gone Awry

Iccckkkk.....I debated with myself whether or no to post this disaster. I fired these a couple of days ago according to the firing schedule I used for the first test batch of bronze clay. But things went way a miss of the mark. I didn't control the firing schedule as well. I overshot the mark on temperature in the kiln. A patient person would have just let everything cool off and started over on the first phase of firing. So what you see here is bronze pieces that did not fully lose their organic binding material before they went to temperature (actually over a bit). What you see is the product of impatience.

But a couple of pieces came out OK. The one on the upper right of the first frame is made from copper clay. It fired beautifully! On the bottom left is one of the bronze pieces that are alright. Bit of LOS and scrubbing with steel wool and these pieces are fine.
Conclusions? Well it seems the copper clay is much more forgiving than the bronze clay. Will I keep pursuing the bronze? You bet. I love a challenge! And I love the colour of the bronze.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Musings on Remembrance and Poppies

Prompted by Sharon’s post yesterday on LiveWireJewelry, I looked a little more closely at the origin of using the poppy as a symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers and those who’ve given service to their country during war. I read ‘In Flanders’s Field’ and some of the history of the movement. I read again about poppy seeds growing in disturbed soil. I spent much of the day thinking about this and my own son’s service in Iraq.

This photo is one my son sent me from Mosul. These two little boys are in hamming it up in front of a market that my son’s platoon patrolled. If you look very closely at the little boy in the red shirt’s right index finger you will see a band aid. That’s one my son applied when these little boys begged to be treated by the medic. After that, we sent many boxes of children’s band aids in rainbow colours, patterned with dinosaurs and sponge bob.

This is another photo from my son of the Jonah (Yunis) Mosque. Built in the 8th century, BC, here it sits relatively untouched among the rubble of war. These little boys have never known anything else but war. Yet here they are hamming it up for the camera, laughing, joking, and behaving just like other little boys all over the world. I can not help but think of them as poppies rising up from disturbed soil. Who knows what will become of them? But it comforts me to think that they are the future and that as children they laughed. And that my son for one brief moment could share a band aid and a laugh with them.

Many thanks. to the many of you, who remembered our soldiers on Memorial Day. Remembering their service helps those who, like my son are fortunate enough to return, to heal from the many memories they must now carry with them. As the mother of a soldier, I am truly touched.

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Stuff & a Rare Sight

I've been playing with lifting patterns off this Victorian door lock. The lock is from our old Melbourne house. Actually I should clarify that it was destined for the front door of the house but never got re-plated before we sold the grand old 1880's girl. Just as well because I am quite fond of this lock. I've made (and re-made) a texture plate and am experimenting with different parts of the pattern as pendants and buttons. It's coming along but I'm not satisfied yet. I'm not sure if there is a satisfaction point on this. It seems that there endless ways to take a slice of the pattern.

Now this might no look clean or organized to you....but to me, this is a little slice of heaven. It is a rare glimpse of my studio bench with more than an 18 inch square useable work space. Late last week I had been reduced to about 10 inches square of free work space. Not joking. I measured. It was time to make a fairly major clean up. Now what you can't see is the behind the camera mess. Another day. I'm ready for a marathon button, pendant, pot making session this week. So by this time next week I am nearly certain this will be a changed space. But I thought that I ought to document, for the world to witness, that there was one time when I attempted to clean something.

Hope you've all enjoyed the weekend!

Cheers, LeAnn

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another Little Jizo

I was very excited late yesterday when my friend Petra showed me this little Jizo that she had made using my button. It's a little cotton mobile with a piece of Tibetan prayer flag for the back of the doll. The face of little Jizo is her own water colour painting.

Some of you may recall from my previous post that little Jizo is a Zen bodhisattva usually protrayed as a child monk. He is thought of as a protector of children, women and travellers. It just seems so appropriate that this child bodhisattva would have a playfull button belly button. I love this and I am quite taken with little Jizzo.

You can see more of Petra's work on Etsy and more of the stories on her blog.

Thank you, Petra, for using the button in such a special way and introducing me to Little Jizo.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


After more than a week of being under the weather, I managed to spend an entire day in the studio without having to nap. That felt good especially since I was able to move forward with some ideas I’ve been thinking about for a series of sculptural forms.

Last weekend I went to a rock and gem show. And just by chance I came across a table of fossils, including ammonites. Umm, maybe Peter is the one to first have spied them. But for now I’m taking credit. I have always had a fascination with ammonites. I think it’s the spiral form of them that I’ve been so attracted to.

A few weeks ago, when I was wandering the internet, ostensibly doing research, I ran across this representation of ammonites in Wikipedia. I did not know that they are thought to be more closely related to octopi and squid. But it does fuel my imagination when I think of the vast prehistoric inland sea that lies beneath my current near desert home. The glaze palette I've used for some of the earlier tests and pieces I've done, is directly inspired by this painting. I love the idea of a hidden world under my feet. One that was once alive, breathing, flourishing.

It is interesting to me that the name ammonite comes from Pliny the Elder who called them ammonis cornua (horns of Ammon) because the Egyptian oracle god, Ammon, is often depicted with ram’s horns. Ammon was the lord of good counsel, and the spelling, by the way, is the Greek version.

The ammonite fossil is widespread both in time it occurred in the fossil record and distribution across the world. In medieval Europe ammonites were thought to be petrified snakes and were considered to be evidence of the actions of Saint Hilda and Saint Patrick. Some Hindu believe that the ammonite is a manifestation of Vishnu.

I could get quite lost in researching the place of the ammonite in history. I find it quite a fascinating but it is time to move on to using this form in my work. Maybe I’ll come back to it later, some rainy day when I’ve no inspiration.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Brass, Bronze, & Porecelain

It all started when I was cleaning up the dining room table, which yet again has become my "temporary" workspace. The porcelain 3 hole connector is one I made with no particular vision in mind. In my sorting through the bits and bobs, it ended up next to one of the bronze charms I made last week. And it sort of clicked. But alas, I had no proper oval jump rings that I liked. So one thing led to another and I made them from 18 gauge brass wire. Now if you had told me 6 months ago that I would make jump rings, I would have laughed. Politely of course.

Once I hooked everything together, the top of the pendant looked unfinished. Nothing scattered around the table appealed to me to finish this off. And then I thought, if I can make jump rings, I can fashion some sort of hanger thing for this piece. I have found I really like bending wire then flattening it out. There is something deeply satisfying about this.

I don't actually consider this a finished piece. The bronze clay work really is in early development. But I do see some possibilities in combining these different pieces and different methods of working.

By the way, the dining room table looks much like it did when I started cleaning. But I have decided that living with chaos on the table is a good thing. It encourages serendipity.

Happy Sunday and have a good week


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kreative Blogger!

Sandra over at Marbella Designs has given me the Kreativ Blogger award. I am indeed touched. Thanks, Sandra!

Now I get to list 7 things I love and then pass this award on to 7 bloggers. Narrowing either of these down to 7 is going to be hard because I like a lot of things and there are so many bloggers out there that I love to keep up with.

So here goes, in no particular order

1) I love peanut butter

2) I love my family, the whole lot of them not just the children and my partner. Seriously, all of them, well maybe there are some I love more than others.

3) I love my dogs (equally)

4) I love the smell of rain

5) I love black, deep purple, and green, often in combination

6) I love books

7) I love rainbows and dragonflies ( I know that is 2 things, but they are similar,really)

So here are 7 bloggers that I'm passing this on to:

Prarie Emporium

Put a Little Magic in Your Life


Back Yard Beads

Every Heart Crafts



Friday, May 15, 2009

I am speechless

And Peter would probably love to be here to see that.

Heather of Humble Beads wrote a post over on ABS encouraging people to enter the Bead Star contest. Largely, because of those words, I did. And guess what? My bracelet is a finalist in the under $25 section. Thank you Heather!

In fact I am so surprised that I truly am finding it hard to find words to write here. But my immediate reaction to this is how grateful I am to all of you who have given me so much encouragement and support over the last few months.

Thank you!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

More On Bronze

WARNING! Even more technical content than yesterday. But it's my blog and my little record and I know some of you are fascinated with science. OK maybe not, but you tolerate my dalliance.

These are the bronze clay pieces I fired yesterday, all cleaned of carbon, and shined up with a wire brush. What I didn't mention was that these were fired in coal based activated charcoal. In the literature (which is actually scanty) the patina you get with this firing medium is unpredictable, partly because of the mineral impurities in the medium. I actually suspect it is a combination of both the reduction firing and the impurities. This reminds me a lot of the flashing you can get on raku with copper glazes/washes when you apply post fire reduction. Given that bronze alloy has a large component (majority) of copper this makes sense. At least to me.

I'm liking the surface of these pieces now. They have a sense of antiquity, of old coins. And unlike raku they have a permanence. How long? Don't know. These are definitely a time will tell thing. There really is that little experience with the long term stability of surfaces in this kind of work. I do know that really vigorous, really rough wire brushing does not remove the patina and does not scratch the surface. This stuff is tough!

One of the pieces I made was a tiny little disk, purely for potential experimentation with etching. I cleaned the piece up, used a marker to apply a resist. Then suspended it in 'Etchant' for 30 minutes. (I have 1 of 8 bottles still on the shelves of Radio Shack as of 3 weeks ago here in my small community). Nice job of stripping away the patina! And the resist. Nothing.
I really, really wanted to see what it might look like to contrast that dark patina with fresh raw bronze. So I flipped it over and used acrylic paint. Thickly applied acrylic paint left to cure. Well I got etching, but it seems that it eats under the patina surface. The surface just peels off. Oh well. More experiments, maybe? Any ideas out there?

Just one last little note. Even though I fired these pieces as best I could with the standard firing schedule. I think they are just a wee bit over fired. There is just the tiniest bit of pitting in the surface and a wee bit loss of detail. They are fully sintered (fused together) but a little overdone I think. Kind of like cookies that get a bit tough because you've over baked them by 2 minutes.
Off to the porcelain tomorrow. But more development of this in the works!
Cheers, LeAnn

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bronze Age

WARNING! Techinical content may appear when you least expect it!

I've had a little 100 gram packet of bronze clay sitting in the fridge for a little over a week. Today was the day. No porcelain clay day, too much wind, too much pollen blowing around, too much asthma, to go out into the studio.

This is a new adventure for me. I love fire. I love the alchemy of taking ground up bronze made into a pliable mixture that resembles clay and turning it into metal. Actually, it is already metal just not solid. It's not really clay. It just works a little like clay. I've read a lot about this stuff. Its pretty new in terms of metal clay. Most say that it is sticky to work with and dries out quickly. Well, I gotta say those people have never worked with the porcelain I use. This stuff was very pliable and really did have quite a long working time.

So what I did was use some plaster moulds that I use for porcelain and make a few test pieces. I dried them in my dehydrator (no I'm not a full on crunchy earth mamma, I use it for hiking and back packing food). Once dry, I sanded them with emory cloth, and then packed them in activated carbon, according to the directions.

Five hours firing later and a couple to cool this is what came out of the kiln. Definitely metal. This stuff is tough. I can't bend it. I can't break it. Surface? Yuk. There is a lot of carbon built up there. A quick cleaning with a wire brush shows the metal beneath. Tomorrow I'll be taking a brillo pad and brasso to these pieces to see what happens.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Minor Obssesion - Oh No

It all started a couple of weeks ago with trying with wanting try out some of my components in earings. I found a couple of tutorials on line for making ear wires. Ahhhh, they are fun to make. Then it moved on to these new oval connectors. Could they be used in bracelets? Could I actually make my own clasp?

Then I found this square bead that I made, who knows when. And I looked at it and said what on earth would you use this for? Then my mind wandered back to my childhood wish to be Catholic. I was fascinated by rosaries back then. Actually, I am still fascinated by religious iconography. So wire wrapping away, I put this necklace together. But I cheat and connect the pieces with jump rings.
These are really done for my own amusement. And I must say that brass wire is a whole lot more challanging than the copper or sterling that I've used in the past. Who knows where any of this will go?

I credit this jumping from one thing to the next to my Dad. He was a mechanic, silver smith, roof builder, welder, lead lighter, wood carver, pipe layer, cabinet builder, lapidarist, much of it at the same time. A Renaisance man at it's best and pretty good at most of what he turned his hand to. Although to this day my Mother regrets letting him alter the roof line over the sun porch. But Dad always took pride in what he did and nothing left his shop half done or shoddy.

Another part of the legacy. These things were fun. I'll probably do some more. The brass wire is an enjoyable challange. But they will stay with me for now.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Bowl of Beads

The first monthly Downtown Art Market last Saturday, opened on a cold windy overcast day. (It was a dark and stormy night…. kind of weather) Not the best looking weather for kicking off the primarily outdoor market. But despite the weather, more than 250 people made their way down to the event. I was happy to be among 19 vendors spread through Tornado gallery, its courtyard, and workshop. I was even happier to be one of the vendors inside the gallery. It helps to have only a 4 foot table and no EZ UP tent. Sorry no pictures, the camera got left at home. I am not in my best state of organization at 7 am.

Lynn has been posting about the meaning of success over on her blog here and here. It’s interesting that one of the organizers of the market and I had a conversation just last week about what would success for the new market mean. Obviously sales and attendance are necessary to keep the market going. But the organizers hope for something more. They would love to see the community embrace the market as a social event, a meeting place, something they look forward to each month. It is also hoped that it will be a learning experience, where people can get to know local artists and learn about the art that is made right here in our own community. This is a vision for the market that I share and am committed to.

At the community level the market was a great success. People seemed to enjoy themselves. They chatted with each other and the vendors. They mingled, they laughed, and best of all they were looking forward to coming back next month. Yippee!

For me the market was more than just a success in sales, which were good (better than expected). Most of my work is sold online and only a wee little bit of it goes out to local venues. And I almost never have face to face interaction with the people who buy my work. Most of my work is designed as components that people use in their own art, buttons for a lacy crocheted jacket, a closure for a felted bag, a pendant or bead in a necklace. I actually think of myself as more of a maker than an artist. And I am always thrilled when I get to see how my little piece is used in someone’s work.

I think of art as narrative. Someone may tell a story in a painting or piece of jewelry, and that story becomes something bigger, something longer when it is shared and others add their own meaning to the piece. At the market I had the wonderful experience of seeing that in process with my own pieces. A little dish I designed thinking that it was perfect for soy sauce went home to hold daily vitamins. A woman with 2 small children in hand carefully selected charms and beads to make earrings as a gift for a friend.

But my favourite was the woman who came back to look through a bowl of colourful beads. She is not a jewelry maker. But she saw something in the bowl of beads. She carefully selected a little row of beads, arranged the colours and shapes in a way that pleased her. Put some back, selected others until she was happy with what she saw. Now we both have different but shared memories of the event and those beads. A new story.

My pieces go out into the world and become something else. I happily let them go with no further thought to how they might be used. The art happens not when I make something but when it becomes a part of someone else’s story. If I had to define success, it would be continuation of the story.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

It's a special blessing, an honour, and a whole lot of work to raise children. My children are grown and scattered to the wind. Off creating their own lives and, maybe, one day families of their own. While I will not be spending the day with them, I did arrive home yesterday to these beautiful tulips from my children. A little part of each of them will be with me today as I gaze at these tulips and reflect on their time with me as children and feel great pride in the adults they have become.

And yes, that is a fine layer of dust up there on that cabinet the tulips are sitting on. I've always felt that dusting was not a definitve measure of a good mum. Despite the fact that I am a less than stellar house keeper, my children still told me "Mum, you're the best! We love you!"

I hope all of you mothers out there are celebrating the special blessing of your children.

I also know that many of you who do not have children of your own, have young people in your lives, god children, nieces, nephews....This act of mothering is not something we do alone. So I hope you too will celebrate your own special touch on the lives of our children.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lorelei & Cristi and thank you my friends

I know I've said it before but each time I see one of my little pieces in your work my heart skips a beat. It is that vision that is expanded beyond my small view that I find inspiring. Recently Cristi and Lorelei posted images of their designs using my components. Beautiful. Clearly both are very talented designers and I feel honoured to see my components used in their work.

I'm starting a montlhy art market this Saturday. It is daunting. I've never put my jewelry components and buttons out locally. Often when I'm asked what I do and tell people that I make porcelain buttons and jewelry components, I am met with a blank stare. Not everyone. I do have dear friends here who understand what I do. Each time I see one of my components in your beautiful work, it is like a gift.

It is late. I should be in bed. But I am truly grateful to all of you that I've had the good fortune to know here. I'll be carrying that with me into what I am finding a bit of a scary adventure.

Thank you

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Art Market and a Lot of Work

Whew, it’s been a busy couple of days! I’m getting ready for the first, as in inaugural, Down Town Art Market, this Saturday. So that little kiln of mine is scheduled for 2 firings in 2 days. I don’t normally do this. In fact I have a larger kiln but it is too large for what I want to have for the market.

This pile of bisque has yet to be glazed and will get finished tomorrow. She says with much optimism.

I’m actually very excited about this new market. Not that I think I will sell heaps of things. Many years ago I along with a 2 others started a a farmer’s market in a little town of 2500 souls. It was a lot of work but oh so much fun. This was a weekly seasonal market and people gathered to chat and to buy the fresh produce and freshly made jams, sweet rolls, and breads. And I love the idea of producer/maker meets the consumer. This market is being done in all the right ways for the community I live in. There will be no resale, all items must have been produced by the vendor or a group of producers. Like many rural downtown areas, ours is a barren sort of area most of the time…people having shifted their shopping out to malls. So I’m super excited to see this market happen and have great hopes for it being a meeting place for the community, much like our First Friday Art Trail is.

Meanwhile I am shifting into relaxed mode. Bob and Alice have given up the enthusiasm a long while ago.

More later…..


Saturday, May 2, 2009

More Art Cars

The Modrian.

The Yarn Car-each strip of pattern on this car is a single bit of yarn, worsted weight I think.

The Pico de Gallo. A local muscician performed on top of the car on Thursday evening.

Llano Estacado Clay Guild Car. The wood structure on the top will be a mini - cantenary arch kiln.

Detail. We team with a local winery for a wine tasting and pottery show each year. So there is lots of wine themed motifs happening on this car. It's under construction on site right now. Yesterday was the day that elementary school kids from all over have a field day at the Arts Festival. They loved this car. It's the only one they can get right up to and touch. Everyone looks in the back seat. I'm not sure what they are looking for back there. Bodies????

Off to do my last booth duty at the festival. I have no idea where the key to the cash register is.

Have a great weekend everyone