There is a Tool for Everything

I was in a very intense three day jewelry class at Revere Jewelry Academy in San Francisco last week.  What I realized in class, was that some of my methods that I had been using in my studio, were not working. One of them was in the area of rings. Most of the past rings I have made were of thin gauge sterling sheet. This time, we were making a ring out of heavy gauge wire. I had tried this a while ago and had a tough time trying to get the two ends to meet perfectly without any space in between. I had tried different methods and soldered what I felt was weak joint. Low and behold….there is a tool to force the two ends together! Maybe I should have known this but I didn’t. I was originally bending around a mandrel and using a type of ring bender, but the one used in class had a 90 degree angle in it to squish the ends together. Yas Tanaka, a 6th generation metalsmith, taught us that it is the subtleties that make a true craftsman. Here is a picture of the type of ring bending pliers we used in class. I have to say, now that I know what works, I will be practicing more rings.

ringbending

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My High End Fashion Ah Ha Moment

I had a chance to see the recent Yves Saint Laurent retrospective show at the de Young museum in San Francisco. Although, never being a fan of high end branded design and dismissing it as merely a status symbol (though I do sport a pair of Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses), I have to admit I had a very big ah-ha moment come over me at this event. It occurred to me as I was viewing the lush brocades, silks, sequinced, quilted, embroidered and feathered masterpieces, I was observing the work of a master artist. Over decades, this fashion maven produced hundreds of delicately detailed dresses, suits and theatrical costumes, all the while liberating the everyday woman with classic pantsuits, work attire and the ubiquitous pea coat.

I realized in this exhibit that at the root of fashion houses is the original designer’s vision and that they were and are artists creating their unique pieces out of textiles and many other materials in the case of YSL.

After years of looking through fashion magazines and being discouraged that I would never really “get” the idea of spending thousands of dollars on a dress, I can finally appreciate that even though I will never be able to afford one myself, that designers push the limits of wearable art and create their vision for others to enjoy and possibly purchase. This is not so far off from the role of a craftsperson, although I would argue that maybe some of the houses and public has lost this perception in the chase for money and status.

Two of my favorite in this show were the Bamana inspired dresses and the “Tribute to Piet Mondrian” cocktail dress shown here.

pietmondriandress

Handmade Sterling Silver Beads

After doing a lot of pattern design in the last year for facial tissue boxes, I have been experimenting with creating patterns on sterling silver sheet and fabricating them into beads to use in my necklaces. Well, this endeavor has taken on a life of its own, so I have launched a bead line. They will be available for sale on my Etsy website.

Below is a sampling of these sterling silver beads. There will be many patterns available. Also, these can be custom designed. If interested, e-mail me at jhagey@janiceartjewelry.com for more details.

beadsamplinglr

Felting Wool

I took a Felting workshop from Yuko Makuuchi at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. Although totally removed from working with metal, I found felting to be a very wonderful process.

I made a scarf (pictured) and I am signed up for another class to make a purse at the end of the month. I have not decided if I am going to add this to new jewelry work. I do love mixing media, so it may end up being used somehow. For now, I am delighted to have learned a fun and new technique using fiber. It gives me a whole new appreciation of felted works of art that I come across at art fairs and stores.



And after seeing these pair of felted children’s slippers on Etsy, I was wishing I had a little one to buy them for… they are just too cute!! You can see this artist’s work on Etsy under Pretty Little.

Natural Dyes

I am just wrapping up my first design in the “Healing Necklace” series that I am currently working on (see previous post.) I have been experimenting with natural dyes for this.

I had my first experience with the natural dying process in a high school art class. My project was a weaving made from wool that we got from sheep and had to card and spin the wool ourselves. (It was this class that I realized I had to make things for a living.) I then dyed the wool yarn with onion skins, walnuts and marigolds. I still have this weaving and the color has held up very well over time. I always knew I wanted to try my hand at natural dying again. With that said, one of the most interesting things about the materials used for commercial natural dying is their history.

So what am I using to dye my silk thread a wonderful red? Cochineal insects! They grow on prickly pear cactus and have been used for thousands of years to get a bright red. They were originally used by the Zapotec civilization in southern Mexico 5000 years ago and then the Spaniards expanded their use and the rest is history. It is possible that the British Redcoats were dyed with these critters as the widespread use of Cochineal insects for dying is far-reaching and only stopped with the advent of chemical dyes in the twentieth century.

If it sounds yucky, just think, whenever you read Natural Red Dye on a food label, this is what it is. It is perfectly edible and harmless. Actually, nowadays, the Cochineal insects are farmed in Ecuador and Peru at fair market value which helps their economy.

I look forward to more interesting stories as I begin my journey of hand-dying silk threads for my latest jewelry pieces.

Canadian Art Jewelry (Jewellery)

I was in Ontario, Canada visiting family and was so inspired by the level of fine craft in that area. In Los Angeles, where I live, there is less appreciation for originality in jewelry and more focus on either high end gold and diamond jewelry or lower end fashion jewelry. I am not sure why. Please feel free to disagree. I would love to hear from others on this one.

So, my mother had shown me a bracelet that she bought recently from Anne-Marie Chagnon, an artist out of Quebec, Canada, and I was smitten by the fashionable, colorful and unique way the work was put together. We then went to an art jewelry store, in Guelph, Ontario and I saw first hand many of this artist’s pieces. Stunning work!

You can see where she shows her work on her website at: www.annemariechagnon.com

Sneak Preview to New Work

I am working on a line of “Healing Necklaces” meant to inspire, heal the spirit and help Americans get health coverage.

With the way things have been in the world lately, I need to do this for me, the maker, and anyone interested in having my art dangle near their heart.

The necklaces will be hatched from poetry, which I have not written in years. It is nice to get back to this part of my spirit, however I am writing in Haiku form, which I have never done before. Haiku’s are an ancient form of poetry, originating in Japan, but practiced all over the world. It is a zen-like form of writing. Simple and spiritual in a natural way.

Here is a sampling of my haiku’s.

Ponder the ocean
The vastness – the emptiness
It always heals me

Touch is devotion
Human hand to human heart
Gives meaning and life

You always guide me
You go by different names
My prayers are with you

The heat of a storm
Rises up and overwhelms
But always passes

This is a preview into the form my necklaces will take, although this is a themed piece that I came up with in June while thinking about all the June weddings out there. The “Healing Necklaces” will be made with my handmade mixed metal pendants strung on natural hand-dyed silk (using thousand year old recipes) and threaded with gemstones.

In addition, after reading the book “This Land is Their Land” by Barbara Ehrenreich, which I recommend every American citizen read, I have come to learn that 18,000 people die every year in the U.S. because of being uninsured, or are turned down by the Health Insurance companies because of prior conditions. Eighteen thousand men, women and children die every year!

I am originally from Canada and grew up with universal health care. I currently am uninsured along with tens of millions of other people and had to undergo an interview process to purchase my own health care recently. I am extremely fortunate, I am not sick, so I have a good chance of being accepted. However, feeling myself becoming increasingly more angry about the injustices out there, I have decided to donate 20% of each sale of a “Healing Necklace” to Families USA, The voice for healthcare consumers.

So, with that said…Look for the “Healing Necklaces” soon on my website at:www.janiceartjewelry.com