Blue Fin

Jim_and_WendyDid you hear that I was at Times Square the night of the failed car bombing attempt?  My husband and I had just attended a live performance of Prairie Home Companion.  We left the theater on West 43rd and planned to head north through Times Square to reach the restaurant where we had dinner reservations.  The crowds seemed quite thick, and we confirmed that something was very wrong when we hit the barricades and the line of police officers.  At the time, we were told that there was a “suspicious car”, so we took the long way around and made our way to the restaurant.  We didn’t know just how serious the situation was until we saw the news that night.  Scary!

But, this isn’t a story about car bombs, closed streets or close calls.  This is a story about a wall with an incredible texture and the jewelry it inspired.

Our dinner at Blue Fin was excellent.  In between savoring the delicious food and gazing into my husband’s eyes, I spent a good part of my time there staring at the wall behind our table. It was covered with ridges that undulated like ripples on a lake or gentle waves lapping at the shore.  I could hardly look away, so captivating was this wall. My trusty travel sketchbook (always in my purse) captured a few quick ideas, and this great photo of us (see above) provided a permanent reference.

Once we returned home, I couldn’t wait to get my hands in the clay to explore ways to interpret this look in metal.  I did a quick prototype in copper, just to work out the kinks.  This was the first piece I created in silver.  It includes several topaz czs, which were fired in place.  Since this creation, I’ve made several more in different shapes, and I’ve further refined the technique.  You can expect to see more of this look from me in the future as it just keeps bouncing around in my brain.  I’m thinking of developing a full line with pendants and earrings in both organic and more formal shapes.

Blue Fin 1

One of the really cool things about this piece is the heft of it.  Once the ridges and spheres are built up on a thin foundation, the piece is quite substantial.  I also LOVE the way the colorful patina settles into the crevices of the design.  The photo doesn’t entirely capture the gorgeous golds, purples and blues that live in these nooks and crannies.

Perhaps you’ll become the lucky owner of one of these pieces from my new “Blue Fin” line, but don’t count on wearing this one.  It’s dedicated to my personal collection to help commemorate a very special night.

June 27, 2010

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Chickadee Swirl

Chickadee SwirlYeah, I know.  Everyone makes birds and birdhouses.  There’s nothing truly original about these motifs.  But, they just keep calling to me.  And, my customers love them.  So here’s another chickadee for your viewing pleasure.

This one has a couple of special features.  It’s formed over a polymer clay armature, which means I sculpt the form in polymer clay and bake it, then drape the sheet of metal clay over the polymer clay bird shape.  It’s tricky to get the metal clay to take just the right shape, especially at the points of the beak and the tail feathers.  The reason for all these steps is to have a dimensional, rather than a flat piece.  Much better.  I use syringe clay to form the swirling surface pattern.  I like to lightly sand my syringe work down so the top of the syringe line is flat. I’m not sure why.  I just like that look.

The most special and unique feature of this chickadee is the bail.  I just love this flowing shape,which echoes the shape of the bird’s body so nicely.  I’m jazzed about how it just flows into the head and tail of the bird.  You know, bails present some unique challenges.  I’ve started making more of my pieces with hidden bails on the back so they appear to float on the chain.  So often, a visible bail just seems to be stuck onto a piece.  It’s there out of the necessity of having a structure from which to hang the piece on its chain.  And that’s why I was so pleased with this bail, which I think enhances the design of the pendant as a fully integrated element.

I usually tumble my pieces to a high shine.  This piece was made shortly after I took a workshop with Gordon Uyehara, an artist known for his gorgeous matte satin finishes on silver clay.  I was inspired to leave this chickadee with a satin finish, but brought out the shine of the swirls by burnishing just those lines.

What do you think?  Do you use polymer clay forms in your metal clay work?  I ‘m looking forward to hearing from you.

June 23, 2010

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