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.

Summer when you are an Artist

I love summer. I daydream about it when February gloom has been hanging around for most of the month. Winter is a fine time to burrow in, and dream of gardens, sunshine and the buzz of cicadas in the drowsy noonday heat.

As a glass artist, summer is practically a shill when it comes to inspiration. Trips to the coast, bright sunlight making things glimmer, the abundance of animals and life, the ripe fruits bursting with taste at the farmer’s market…the list can go on for some time.

Summer also means no school….and that does dig into studio time. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the extra time with my kid. When it comes to childhood, the days can be long but the years are short. I am happy to give up the studio time in the summer, even if it makes fall a bit of a crush.

Portland Open Studios in October, a solo show at a local gallery in November, plus just trying to find time to work on my jewelry skills…. it is kind of dizzying.

This week is the holidays for me! I’m working on creating versions of ideas that a company is interested in, so it’s icicles and ornaments for me later in the week. I have a bunch of swizzle sticks in the kiln right now, or I’d be sitting in front of the torch instead of this computer.

And hummingbirds. I found a lovely tutorial on hummingbirds and have been playing with them, trying out different color ideas and sizes. I see them often in my backyard and making them in glass is an intriguing idea.

Maybe this little guy will bring in the real ones to my fountain in the backyard.
Maybe this little guy will bring in the real ones to my fountain in the backyard.

 

Yes, Wednesday will be a day of borosilicate glass, and early, as it’s slated to be in the 90’s by the afternoon. I have a small heater in my glass studio, but no AC. Once I drop the kiddo off at summer camp for the day, it’s going to be glass, glass, glass until I can’t stand the heat anymore.

 

Well, I can’t make glass today, but I can work with silver, so I had best get to that while the time is available….even in the depth of summer.

 

It’s a 100% fail if you don’t try.

electroform bath

I’m doing something a little new with my focal beads, trying to evolve. Of course, this step makes things take longer, more detail. And I have no idea if it’s going to work, in the end.

I’m impatient. Stuff is in the electroforming bath, but I hopefully will know by nightfall if I like it. Which doesn’t mean customers would.

Going a new direction, even if it’s just a small trail running alongside the main road that you know, can be nervewracking. Especially when it looks like such a good trail from afar.

I think my soldering station is finally usable. Good thing, too, as it’s hot this week. When the weather is baking it is actually better for my glass work, I have more time to work the glass before having to make sure it’s all heated up in the flame again. But sitting in front of fire when it’s 90 degrees out isn’t so fun.

electroform bath

So, I am hoping to get some soldering time in this week, perhaps, instead. It’s a busy week, as they always seem to be. And my son has only one and a half weeks of school left.  There’s camps and trips in there but also a lot of time where I will need to work with him home, with no camp at all.

Friends visiting, summer adventures, all sorts of things ahead in the short term, and I need to keep on keeping on in the studio. Make a schedule of times to work, when to work, what to make, who to drop them off with.

I am excited for the soldering station, and to see what happens next, there. But, now, I wait on the blue bath, to see if what comes out is anything interesting as wearable. I hope to have photos here of the direction soon… if… it works out.