Portland Open Studios Time!

Portland Open Studios! It’s almost here! Every year that I participate it eats up my Oct. I always miss the apple tasting at the Portland Nursery (both weekends, even!) , I scramble to figure out how my kid is going to be entertained for a whole weekend while I am working, and I always replenish my chalk collection.

Did you wonder about that? Chalk collection? What does that have to do with Portland Open Studios? ¬†I’ll tell you at the end of the post. ūüėČ

Because before I can get to the chalk, there’s so much more to do to be ready for PDXOS.

See that? You can even get your map for the show on mobile devices! =)

The big one is cleaning the glass studio. It needs to be safe for people to wander in, no sharp bits anywhere, floor swept and as clean as possible, work bench cleared and filled with finished jewelry and glass for sale. It takes a bit of work to make this mostly no-frills glass shop comfortable.

It’s a long, narrow room, with my back facing the door so that cross breezes don’t make my torch flame waver. Which makes it fairly unfriendly, relatively, to someone walking in. I put a monitor up with a camera shooting my workstation from the side, feeding to the monitor, which is sitting on my Big Mama kiln, which allows people to see what I am doing without craning over my shoulder.

Every year my son gets older, he’s ten now. He could amuse himself all weekend, I think, but I would rather he have something fun to do than be home in the house by himself. So I am working on playdates and whatnot.

And of course, the work to sell. Since what I demonstrate during PDXOS is glasswork, even though I am starting to work in metals as well, the focus of the show for me is glass, so I have spent a lot of time in the glass studio these past weeks making pendants and other glass components for the jewelry. The weather has been lovely this week, which makes time out there so much nicer. I hope it holds for the show, because people really slow down on traveling from studio to studio when it rains. Who wants to get in and out of a car over and over getting it progressively wetter inside each time?

Snacks! Gotta get snacks for hungry art lovers! Again, no rain helps with this, my studio is so small, that a sunny day means I can put a table outside with water and cookies. And I will need to set up a pandora system for music within the little room so it’s not just the sound of the ventilation and oxygen concentrator.

So,  yeah, all these things. Plus putting the signs out both Fridays nearby for people to find me, and taking them back down both Sundays.

And the chalk? It’s how I involve my kiddo. Since my studio is around the corner of my house down in the backyard, ¬†folks need to know to walk around the house past the garage into the back garden. Nothing does it better than ¬†fun chalk directions on the path and driveway and side of the house… unless it RAINS. Which makes only stuff on the garage door stay. But my son loves helping out with this every year, and it takes a lot of chalk, so that’s why it is the annual replenishing of the chalk time come October!

Catchup

Summer got away! Every year I try to keep it around enticing it with froofy drinks and such, but it always wants independence.

It sure took up a lot of my work time this season, I realized it had been weeks since I posted.

But that’s how summer should be, perhaps, full of memory making. But now my son is back in school, and Portland Open Studios is around the corner, and inventory for that is my priority, once I finish a commissioned piece. It’s a lovely hollow form, like my Infrastructure line, but with a personal connection to the subject matter. It’s also more complex than any of the hollow forms I have done in terms of overall elements of design.

 

Each side is part of a horizon line. Inside, glass holds sand from beaches found on that horizon line. The pendant is a memory of a place soon to be left for new adventures, but never forgotten.

I have enjoyed it immensely, and hope to have it complete by the end of the week. After that, it’s headlong into inventory for Open Studios, and the holiday season.

Plus icicles! It’s time to make the stash of icicle ornaments for my vendors! It’s going to be a busy rest of September and Fall.

But, I hope to be making memories too, just like in summer. Maybe apple picking, or at least, apple pie baking from the small tree in the backyard. Halloween. The usual fall enticements. Maybe it’s not so bad summer didn’t stick around. I wouldn’t want fall to feel lonely. =)

Let the Monkeys In!

I love summer. Long, lazy days, warm evenings, lots of ice cold drinks. But, like all of those who work and are parents, I recognize and must work through the harder parts of summer…keeping your kiddo entertained and enriched, to at least a degree, during the time school is out.

So while I love the summer adventures, camping, travel, making popsicles and ice cream, riding bikes, going to the beach…. all those things do take up time when I am in the studio during the school year. It’s a lovely thing, but I am eager to get back to work. ¬†There’s deadlines ahead!

The second and third weekends of October are when Portland Open Studios happens, and I am participating again this year. Being that I just dropped off a lot of my inventory at various places in the past month, there’s not much of a buffer of pieces for display during those two weekends. So, once school starts next week, that’s part of my priorities.

Another one is completing a full collection of work, which is not something I have done before. Most of my work has been OOAK (one of a kind), and that is something I will continue, but I also want to start working on jewelry collections. Pieces that have something in common, while running across price points. The first collection is going to be an expansion of my Infrastructure pieces. So that also is something to work with in the fall.

 

And lastly, always, learning. Taking what I have learned this summer in Andy Cooperman’s class, plus learning to use a new tool I invested in recently. I don’t know how to track progress on those things, but I will try to devote time to “play” to expand my skills and voice.

 

So, can class be in session please? Soon?! School’s in, school’s in, teacher let the monkeys in! ¬†One week from today, it’s back to the desk ¬†(bench) for everyone in my house. =)

Bit the bullet…..and then… I must wait.

Tools. They come in handy. They can change how work is done. In my work, tools can be physical objects that help me bend metal, form it different ways, polish and sand it faster than I could with files and sandpaper.

Last year, my big tool purchase was a flexshaft, which is used in so many ways to work with metal more efficiently. It’s like a stronger, ¬†metalsmith-centric Dremel tool. And it did change things for me. I work faster, and can make things with more control and dexterity, which increases the quality of a piece by the time I am done with it.

This summer, ¬†an important tool was purchased in the form of a class. While I can’t hold it in my hands, I can hold it in my brain, and slowly, with discipline, watch it work in the same way, improving how things are made.

The class was held a couple weekends ago with Andy Cooperman, who is a metalsmith out of the Seattle area. Andy’s work is always incredibly well-made, clever, and shows a clear mastery of his vision and his materials.

It’s the best class I think I have ever taken, in terms of being an instructional course on how to do something. And, he didn’t specifically teach us how to DO something specific, other than a few rudimentary building blocks, like creating a pin mechanism for a brooch. With the basics out of the way, the class was more about how to put things together, especially in ways that don’t use heat, or soldering. Cold connections, ways to trap things within a piece.

This is information that is particularly valuable to me as a glass artist. Some stones that people use can go straight in to fire, like diamonds. You can solder around them on a piece and they don’t care. Other stones can take heat, maybe not direct flame, but can take some warmth.

Glass can’t really do any of that. When I work with glass, any large temperature change can and will cause it to crack. Up until now, I pretty much worked with traditional bezel setting for my glass in my work, which I enjoy and an always improve upon. But glass, for me, has a way to free me from such traditional settings, if I can figure out HOW. ¬†And so, this class appeared to be a door into the how.

On the other side of it now, my brain is slowly percolating what I took in over the four days of the class. Unlike a physical tool, this one won’t do what I want it to from the starting gate. My brain is the tool and it has to learn how to use the information, and then, refine my movements to the point of using it well. It’s going to take time, and practice. But that is the only way with this tool. Practice, until my brain starts to take it in and work well with the information as a tool in my arsenal. And the only way to that is through it.

My work is in front of me. Even with all the info in front of me, I need to learn how to add it to my work, how to make it work for me, how to think ¬†from within what I have learned. That’s tough stuff for me. I think I need to master some techniques before I can call upon them as solutions.

But all this slows me down in getting work OUT THERE. But that has to be ok. The work that I have mastered can still go out in the world, as it evolves. Evolving doesn’t mean the present work disappears. It feeds the future. I’m struggling with creating a schedule for all this. I’m working on it. It feels deceptively simple to do, but it isn’t. At all.

The next month is hectic for any of this. There’s a trip with family, my sons 10th birthday (Which is on the eclipse, whee!) and then starting the search for a new family cat. But I will try to squeeze in moments of learning, trying, creating, and failing. ¬†As Andy taught us, what’s the worst that could happen?

 

Fish Fry

I look forward to summer a little more each year, I think.

Today it’s raining here in the Portland, OR area, and I kinda like it. Soon the rains will stop for a few months and things will heat up, and while summer is a wonderful time to enjoy the sun while surrounded by the greenery that the rain provides, it does mean watering the garden and turning on fans. Most folks here do not miss the rainy months, but there is something about the dripping lushness of the trees and world when it rains.

Plus, strawberries. It’s STRAWBERRY time and it only lasts literally a few weeks, for the best ones of the season. They are so fragile they can’t ship anywhere and are a completely different experience than the ones found usually in the supermarket. A container must be eaten the same day it is bought, so I usually buy one at least every other day and chow down until like that, they are gone until next year.

So fleeting. But maybe why they are so delicious, and perhaps summer is the same, so fleeting compared to the rainy months.

Anyway, the long days are great for good light in the studio, and I’m trying to get back to work in earnest. It’s been a hard month, as the last blog post alluded to, and things are slowly moving forward in life, as they always do. I have found it hard to settle in at the bench, I miss my shop cat, who was there with me most days. It is just so very QUIET, with no other soul there with me. I was avoiding the studio at first, but work demands I keep going.

It’s a bad idea to have one’s heart set on a specific show, or gallery, but I have for awhile. I’ve applied a few times and gotten rejected, and that’s something I expected. It is a HARD show to get in. My new strategy is to find a different kind of work to submit each year. And it involves… fish.

These are the first two, ever, that I have made. They are pretty small, less than an inch across. I have a long way to go with them before they look the way I want. And then, once they do, I need to sort out ways to incorporate them.

I am hoping to have a few decent ones to take to my Andy Cooperman class in July, which is about setting oddly shaped things.

So I expect a lot of fish to line up around here. I’m using enamels and powders with them, something new for me. I don’t have it all managed yet to keep things clean and not wasted, in terms of excess powders that are sifted over the glass but fall off the sides, etc. I also have to wear a mask while using them which looks very fetching indeed.

Would you wear jewelry with fish on it? Do you  have a soft spot for certain species? Salmon might do very well up around here, for example, but some folks enjoy the more domestic species like the two goldfish above.

With that, I have a lot of glass waiting for me to be set, incorporated, used. I ¬†hope to do that with the next week or two. Show up, get it done. Back in the saddle. It’s kind of hard, but I’m working on it.

And I dream of the new bench companion. By summer’s end, a new furry cat fuzzball will be here, another rescue. My son wants another black one. If we can find a great personality, I’m agreeing with him.

Death and Art Therapy

I am much in need of some art therapy this week. The unexpected death of my deranged yet beloved cat has left me reeling, and I fled to the coast for healing.

It’s not a story I want to hash out in my art blog, ¬†but it is a huge event in my life and has colored this past week, as it will for weeks to come. It’s unavoidable and I am just surfing on the pain and sadness, as life goes on, and joy slowly trickles back in. Art helps.

I spent a few hours at Alder House Glassblowing this morning just watching the glass move and flow. Glass always makes me feel better, it is such a wonder to watch what it can become. Pressure, heat, fire, stress… all shape it, the way life shapes us. All I know is it helped a bit. I am grateful to the art space ¬†found at Alder House to watch… and feel.

This place has been in business for decades, ¬†I think it is the oldest glassblowing shop on the coast. The years of work hang deep and rich in this place, and you can see it even in the tools. The edge of the bench, with the metal worn away from years and years of work… you can’t get to this shape without time, and mountains of work,¬†which brings this bench, to me, to a state of beauty visible in the proof of years of creation.

I was the only one there for the first hour, and a few others trickled in over time. ¬†It felt like time for me to leave at that point. Grief can be private or public, and while no one could look at me and know, ¬†I was indeed grieving, even in the soothing happiness that glass gives me as I watch. It felt good. It felt like forward motion, but it wasn’t something I could continue to experience with a small crowd, but I also do so love watching people be amazed by glass. That part was good too, watching those less familiar with the medium be mesmerized by the material I love so much myself.

I bought a small piece when I left, that I hope to hang in the garden as a memory for my cat. It’s beautiful and will catch the light in a lovely way, but also is a sad piece, with a dollop of glass on the bottom that looks like a tear drop. There’s nothing else I can do but remember and love, and be gentle with myself as best I can. I have no alternative route around this.

Thank you, Alder House. You gave more than you were expecting to this morning. Art helps heal.

Hollow Form Pendants, Rose Cut Gemstones, oh my!

Hi everyone!

I really hope that this spring has been a time of joy for you. The world, at least here in America, is pretty tumultuous right now, and I am finding solace and calm in my immediate surroundings of friends, family, my pets, the flowers and trees coming into bloom, sunshine on my face.

It’s time to look towards summer almost, can you believe it?

I dropped off a lot of work at the Jennifer Sears Gallery in Lincoln City the other weekend, and hope to have a little more to bring out for them next weekend. And after that, I start working on website stuff, creating a method to sell directly through juiceglass.com. And getting a schedule together for that. All the while still creating, still making. Scheming.

A new seaside ring is almost complete.

 

I’m working on some new price points for my infrastructure collections. The hollow pieces have had great reception, but they are on the high end due to all the silver involved, so I am working on ways to make versions that aren’t as silver heavy and still delightful.

Also, I purchased my first gemstones ever! To set in my work! I am hoping to use them as accents to my glass “stones” to add extra sparkle and shine. This means they are fairly small, which makes them a challenge to set, but I am working on mastering it. I love the look of larger gemstones, but for now, I will keep them small for my work, so it’s not all crammed with gems and glass all over the place.

My son got on my glass torch for the first time! He did an excellent job and is showing interest in working with glass, which is delightful to me. ¬†I love working on him with new things and if he wants to keep learning glass, I’m all for it. Maybe sometime he will try metalsmithing, too!

Wind Turbine pendant from the Infrastructure collection at Drift Creek Falls, OR. Renewable energy!

We are due a stretch of sunny days here in the Pacific Northwest, starting today, and I am looking very much forward to my morning coffee in the sun, a few moments of calm before digging into the work every day. I hope the sun is shining in your life as well, and I should have lots of information about buying my work online by midsummer, which isn’t that far away!

Can I take a breath?

Gathering of the Guilds is done for another year.

Phew.

It was fun! But it did have challenges for me this year.

 

Moving my booth to CMAG, the Creative Metal Arts Guild, was going to cause some steps backwards in my business, as far as the show was concerned. I had new people to introduce myself to, new procedures for guild workings and show flow to learn and figure out, and I had to present my work in a new way, and offer it within a different context from previous years. Plus, I’d lose people. They wouldn’t know where I went, or wouldn’t recognize me surrounded by metal work and higher end jewelry vs. the glass artists making dishes and bowls and clocks I used to be surrounded by.

In some ways, it was starting over. I have to regain my ground of loyal fans, to a degree. Not as much as if I was just starting out completely for the first time, but I have lost some momentum by switching it up. It will take time, years, probably, to regain a following like I had before, when it comes to this big show that I love.

But it’s just one venue, one show a year. So much room for growth and new venues, and new work to fill them! And when the show rolls around next year, things will look very different. Different price points, different types of work, different levels of complexity of work, and new skills, always adding to the toolbox. I’m eager to see where I am a year from now.

So now my hands and eyes and designs and work swing towards the summer. I’ve got a couple galleries to get to work to, and I need to start thinking about what comes next. What skills I want to add and what new visual components to my work. And I am eager to dig in.

And I’m so excited the days are longer, the trees are bursting into greens and the flowers are throwing their riots of colors around. And, a big deal here in the northwest… it’s almost STRAWBERRY TIME.

I can’t wait!

Metalsmith Adventure

I’ve done something this week that I haven’t in a long time, and something else that I had been talking/thinking about for a few years now. The two things coincided nicely in the second half of this week.

 

One: Having a solo adventure. It’s been awhile since I did any sort of small trip alone. Traveling with Grant, my partner, and/or ¬†Derek, my son, is really fun. I look forward to when we go new places, kid-friendly, romantic, both, whichever! But traveling alone does have it’s own appeal. Stay where you want, eat where you want, stop for rest breaks whenever you want, fill the days with your own agenda.

And with Grant doing his own travel adventure to Baltimore this week, the timing was perfect. My son is with his dad for a few days in the middle of each week, and so the days and road were open… so I went to Bend, Oregon to visit my friend Jim.

Several years ago I met this guy sitting in a bar on the east side of Portland, just a gathering of friends of a friend of mine that I went to. I was just starting my glass journey, and he was a full-on metalsmith, making high end rings for couples and clients. We talked a little, and stayed in touch. He used to have his studio in Portland, and I visited a few times. The bench block and chasing hammer that I own were gifts from him that I still use.

Anyway, a few years ago, when my divorce was final and the coparenting relationship had settled into the new, amicable reality that ¬†was the way our days went, Jim and I were talking, and he mentioned he had taken old jewelry of his and melted it into something new. I wasn’t ready at the time, both emotionally and from a knowledge perspective, but I kept the idea in my head.

And finally, that’s what my agenda is on this metalsmithing journey, both literally and figuratively. I’ve brought some rings, more than just my wedding ring, an old gold ring that housed the diamond that my wedding ring had in it, a gift from my Mom who didn’t wear the ring anymore. Together, with the diamond, which has been freed from its setting, and a couple new stones, something new will be created from something old. I hope that the piece honors its past, the relationship it came from, and brings the material into the hopeful, optimistic future, which now contains the most precious thing I have ever created in my life, which was only possible with that relationship: my son.

I melted the platinum yesterday, which was intense. Silver needs relatively low temps to melt, platinum must be taken to over 3000 degrees F.  Three Thousand.

After that, Jim showed me how to use his rolling mill with a motor, something new for me, to start turning it into raw stock wire. Today work will continue and I will get as much done as I can, before going home tomorrow. My hope is to get things at least to the point that I can finish them properly in my own studio at home, with my own experience.

Jim helped me think and take my ideas I had been mulling over for several weeks. A few choice comments and questions helped, as well as his prescribed walk along the Deschutes River, which I did for about an hour, thinking, feeling, being present. This project is exciting but it is intense. It’s hard to let go of things, let them have a new shape. It requires looking straight at what dream failed, and acknowledging once again one’s own shortcomings and failures, even when doing the best one can, sometimes it isn’t enough to make a hope hold. But that’s life, and if you are always trying, that is all you can do. But it still was an intense moment taking that torch to the ring.

And now it’s a lovely wire, that is a start of something new, freeing it to have new life instead of sitting in a drawer for decades. I’m making something new, and learning things, and so grateful to Jim for his time, his knowledge and his willingness to take me in for a day and a half and guide me on this.

Right now I am at my Airbnb, which had a wonderful coffee machine as a selling point, and yes, it’s amazing coffee. I’ve got my wire to hold and ponder, and the idea is pretty solid in my mind for the piece. In a couple hours work will be begin, and we will see how far I get today.

 

Here’s a video about Jim, and shots inside his wonderful, cozy, creative studio where I will be today, overlooking the Deschutes River.

Gathering of the Guilds 2017

It’s about a week now until I will be ready, or not, hee hee, for this year’s Gathering of the Guilds at the convention center in Portland on April 21-23.

Show info.

I’m feverishly working to finish my pieces, and hopefully will get started with final pricing and making sure I have things like sales receipts, by Monday.

This year is different, as I am participating in the show as part of the Creative Metal Arts Guild this year. I am excited to see how things go, and honestly nervous. But, I am glad to have made the move, and consider this the year I learn the new ropes.

Those of you in the Portland area, I hope you can come! If you are looking for me, I will be near the silent auction and gallery area of CMAG, NOT in the Oregon Glass Guild. But do stop by all the guilds and see all the wonderful work. I am happy that the Oregon Potter’s Association is also back this year, it should be a really wonderful event!