What can I say? My Muse has a mind of her own.
Over the years, and even before my most recent post about Toby the Bird Dog, former collectors have reached out.
“I bought the cat you donated to Sac SPCA and my housekeeper broke his toes. I tried to glue it myself but…”
“Someone stepped on my pendant. Can you replace broken stones?”
“You made some custom pieces for my mother but they aren’t my style. Will you buy them back?”
In the minds of some collectors, art comes with a lifetime-satisfaction guarantee, not to mention lifetime warranties.
When restoration issues arise, galleries habitually suggest that their clients contact the artist. I know this because I’ve had these conversations:
“Hello, I bought one of your pieces from The-Gallery-That-Must-Not-Be-Named and they say I should call you…” (No commission on repairs, perhaps?)
I find this so ironic.
When it comes to their clients, galleries are possessive and, sometimes, downright paranoid––yet with good cause. I’ve seen artists handing out private business cards at gallery openings.Not at all respectful to those who ponied up for the wine and cheese!
Here’s where possessiveness is a problem, though. Until an artist gets paid––and let’s be honest here, some galleries are less diligent about fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities than they should be––and, unless the artist is in the habit of popping in and out of galleries, performing inventory checks (instead of being in her (or his) studio, making all that good art) the artist doesn't know what a gallery has sold until she gets paid.
Imagine this scenario: Artist goes to a party and sees her (or his) painting on the hostess’s wall. “Oh! didn’t The-Gallery-That-Must-Not-Be-Named tell you?” says the hostess, “I told them we knew each other when I bought it. I’ve had it for a couple of months now!”
It’s awkward. The artist is left thinking, “Gee, I should have called to thank her,” and “Wow, I thought I had a good working relationship with my gallery, built on mutual respect and trust––hey, wait a minute, I know why I didn’t call her! I still haven’t seen a check!”
The terms “client” and “collector” and their relationship to “gallery” and “artist” can be explained like this: the people who buy art are, first and foremost, the galleries’ clients and, secondarily, the artists’ collectors–– and with the exception of a gallery event (an opening or private show) never the twain should meet.
Unless something needs fixing.
But I digress…
As a creator, am I not bound to my creations? After all, they are my children.
But what about someone else’s child?
Recently, I was asked to to restore a treasured totem gifted by a soul-dear friend. A poor little angel who had lost both wings and foot.
My challenge: I couldn’t be sure what the sweet little creature was made of. It seemed to be cast out of resin, finished in a stone-like texture. I'd never worked with resins and I knew fired clay wouldn’t work at all, so off to Michaels I went, in search of inspiration.
Paper clay! Easy to work, adheres to surfaces, dries in a few days with paintable surface–– at least that’s what the package said. I’d never worked with paper clay either but, being a kids’ craft product, I felt reasonably confident stepping outside my comfort zone.
Paper clay is great for kids’ purposes, not messy and easy to work with. It sticks to itself (and to other surfaces) so I was able to build the angel’s missing back and foot onto her original form.
When I came to the wings I learned the drawbacks. Paper clay doesn’t hold an imprint like sculpture clay (it’s like pushing into bread dough) so I had to wait until the wings totally dried before adding detail. For this I used a foredoom and pumice wheels
Finishing and painting followed. Golden Acrylic clear granular gel for texture followed by a combination of grey and bronze acrylic paint, softened afterward with a wash of Titan buff. As an afterthought ( or, perhaps, my signature) I silver leafed her flower.
I suggested earlier that, for some, art comes with a lifetime guarantee. After working on this cherished angel, who wasn’t even my child to begin with, I understand. Art that someone loves is eternal.
This is Toby. He's a Bird Dog. Once upon a time I was pretty well known for clay critters like Toby.
Recently, I got an email from Toby's owner who explained that Toby has been a cherished member of their family for many, many years. The owner's son’s real-life dog was even named after Toby––and if that isn’t a Velveteen Rabbit moment, I can't say what is.
The owner shared that Toby’s life experiences had taken a toll. Toby had withstood curious grand-child hands, plethoras of enthusiastic pets, and three separate household moves . Toby's Bluebird of Happiness' tail-feathers had been snapped off multiple times, and finally, during the last move, Bluebird cracked clean off Toby’s nose. Toby’s owner wanted to know: could Toby be fixed?
Just to clarify, by “fixed” Toby's owner meant “repaired” and, as a long-time supporter of Sacramento’s SPCA, I feel it’s important to highlight this distinction.
I asked if Toby could come to my studio and we’d see what might be done.
When Toby arrived later that day my first thought was, "Damn! He looks pretty darn good for an old dog." His tag told me that he’d left my studio in 2002––which would make Toby about ninety-something in dog years yet , ironically, a mere pup in pottery years. Fun fact: the earliest known crockery dates back 20 millennia to what archeologists refer to as the Upper Paleolithic or Late Stone Age Period.
After a brief examination––let’s call it a CAT scan, or would you prefer Toby’s “Lab” report?––besides the overall fading of his original copper color, the tip of Toby’s ear, one eyebrow, and part of his tail had been "docked", Bluebird had no tail feathers, one of her toes was missing, and her beak had been badly chipped.
Artistic choices were made. As Toby's coat had faded to a lovely shade of platinum-gold, I decided not to return him to his original copper. Besides, isn't it unnerving when old-timers dye their hair to the colors of their youth? To my eye, it rarely translates well.
My final thought: years from now, when all of us are dust, might a future archeologist unearth Toby-shards and wonder about the civilization that produced him? Who can know? What I do know is this: as a living artist I’m grateful that a creation of mine has been loved both long and well. It was a pleasure to assist in Toby's preservation.
About a month ago, I got a call from my sister-in-law’s youngest sister.
“I have this friend Nick,” Bethany began,“His wife, Suzy, is the sweetest, kindest person in the world and they have twin daughters who were born on Suzy’s birthday. I know! Can you believe that? What are the odds? Anyway, Nick was saying Suzy’s so devoted to being their mom it’s like she doesn’t get to have her own birthday anymore and Nick wants to do something really special for her this year. He wants an artist to…”
I suggested directing Nick to my website and, if he liked my work, he might contact me. Nick emailed the very next day. Nick wrote that Suzy loved all things Day of the Dead and what he was hoping for was her portrait in full Day of The Dead regalia … and he needed that painting to fit into a 36” x 28” niche.
“Hmm,” I said, “that’s an odd size and I don’t stretch canvas but maybe there’s a work around. Are your okay with gold leaf and rhinestones?” Nick said the Magic Words.
“You’re the artist. I trust your judgment.”
Here's the work-around I came up with: one 24” x 24” canvas flanked by three 8” x 8” canvases. Suzy’s portrait would fill the big canvas and the three smaller canvases would be sugar skulls. As you can see from this mock-up on the floor of my studio, they nicely fill the 36” x 28” footprint. (Yes, visual pun intended.)
Once Nick gave the thumbs up I put on my smock. I started with black underpainting. Then I did a rough sketch of Suzy. Gold leaf came next. Then the portrait. Didn’t quite nail the angle of the head but, in my defense, I was working from a teeny tiny image and hey, it’s art, and art is subject to the artist's interpretation. Then I started in on the sugar sculls: black underpainting again, gold leaf, and iridescent pearl acrylic layered with glass bead gel, for texture and luminescence.
So far so good! Now for the embellishing. Nick said that red roses were Suzy’s favorite flower so that’s how I came up with her crown, Then I worked on her “make up”. I used pearl and glitter dimensional fabric paints for the facial tattoos because I wanted the textural quality, then I hand applied scads of tiny colorful rhinestones to the golden ribbons flowing from her crown. "Crystalizing” the sugar sculls followed after that.
The red background that I’d floated around the sugar sculls didn’t work as well as I thought it might so I covered it up with more gold leaf. (No, there’s no such thing as too much gold leaf.)
Below: the completed “La Raina de Dia de Muertos” with Suzy and Nick. Happy birthday, Suzy! And The Thoughtful Husband of the Year Award goes to ...
On Wednesday this week I was a guest on Capitol Public Radio's" Insight" hosted by Beth Ruyak. When Beth floated the invitation, it took me by surprise. When she called a day later, offering me a slot for the very next day, I was terrified. Still, I said yes. Something about stepping outside my comfort zone…
Tuesday afternoon, Beth followed up with a “chat map” with questions that would guide to our conversation. I read Beth’s questions and wrote clever, thoughtful responses to each and every one. Who could predict that, when that techno-curtain lifted, foot-in-mouth would meet brain-in-fart?
Historical Flashback: At the beginning of each and every performance I’d ever been in, I always fumbled my lines. And, of course, there was that painful appearance during a KVIE art auction...
On Wednesday morning at 9:50 a.m., Beth began with this : "Have you ever been in those conversations where you find yourself thinking of the silver linings of the stay-at-home experience or those unexpected plus-times and good that come from unexpected outcomes? UPLIFT, every day, celebrates that kind of spirit. Today's guest, Sacramento artist Caren Halvorsen, seems to be in the midst of that part of the experience. Joining us by phone from her home studio today…”
Somewhere between “Hello, Beth,” and “Thank you for inviting me,” the adrenaline hit. Inexplicably, I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around Beth’s first question. A question I already knew! A question I had a pretty solid answer for!!!
Allow me to describe the experience: in the moment, it feels like being perched on the rim of a gigantic blender while an unseen finger pokes “frappe”. There’s a momentary free-fall right before the blades…
But then I remembered. I ALWAYS falter out of the gate. It’s part of my “process”. I admit it’s a flawed process, which I call "frappe or fight".
Beth Ruyak was amazing! Sensing her guest was about to self-liquify, she pivoted her approach, which got me out of the blender and lurching toward topic. Because of Beth, the rest of the interview went better. Beth gets an A+ for her performance; I'll stick with pass/fail.
Retrospectively, this is where I goofed: “me” got in the way of the message.
And this is the message: If an #artgurlartifacts no-strings, free donation could help your business, contact me.
Here's the backstory: full disclosure, Beth Ruyak and I live on the same street and, in a recent and perfectly appropriate socially distanced conversation last weekend, I mentioned I’d been making so much jewelry during our shelter-in-place time that it would be great to do something helpful with it. I might have even have floated a “Bling-it-Forward-” hashtag. I confided to Beth that, in the prior week, I’d sent out letters to seven or eight self-employed and small business owning friends asking if I could donate some of what I'd been making, but hadn’t heard much back. That’s when Beth suggested a wider audience…
My sincere thanks to Beth "The Bridge-Builder" Ruyak, and the amazing "Insight" team : Cintia Lopez Montes, Kyle S. McKinnon, and Aram Sarkissian.
At first I found it entertaining ––the solicitations that my recently deceased father-in-law. received. Last November, after he passed, we forwarded Roger's mail in order to pay his bills and settle his estate. Since then, we’ve been barraged with the postal equivalent of late-night television-advo-mercials–you know the ones–– cures for erectile disfunction, hair-loss, and weight gain, images of battered puppies and disabled kittens with Sara McMcLachlan soundtrack, Peter Popoff's "Miracle Water".
How do I say this? Roger had his causes and he wished to be well thought of. I say this with only a trace of judgement. My grandmother was the same. Her five and ten dollar donations, written at the end of each month from the reservoir of her modest household account, allowed her to feel “philanthropic”. Yet, with each stroke of her pen the hydra's head bisected and two new charities cropped up, pleading for aid. Not to be deterred, Grandmother sent additional checks, in incrementally diminished amounts.
Often times, non-profits send "gifts". In my grandmother’s day, those gifts were mailing labels but today this unsolicited bounty has exploded. When Roger was alive he garnered laundry-loads of patriotic t-shirts from multiple veterans groups, a drawer-full of personalized notepads from law-enforcement organizations, a cluster of refrigerator magnets from Boys Clubs of America, stacks of overly-sentimental all-occasion note cards from Easter Seals, and my favorite, two pairs of blue and yellow butterfly-flower ankle socks, courtesy of the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.
Can you imagine a ninety-four year old man wearing these?
It begs a fund-amental question; what comes first? The check-N-the mail or the egg?
Seven months ago, Roger left us yet his mail continues on. After his contributions stopped, most of his non-profits "got it"––but not the Republican party! Just in the last week, Roger has received solicitations from: Melania Trump, Mike Pence, Newt Gingrich, Senator Todd Young of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, The Remembrance Project, The Heritage Foundation, and Judicial Watch. There've been a slurry of surveys as well. Just today we received the 2020 National Illegal Alien Election Impact Survey, the Fair Oaks Tax Increase Impact Survey Registration, the Sacramento County Republican Party Area Assessment, and the 2020 Republican Voter Confirmation Card, In all these correspondences two themes are consistent, politically charged rhetoric and monetary requests .
Ah, the opportunities that Sheltering At Home supply! I considered filling out Roger's surveys, just to mess with their statistics, but his signature is required and, even though I'm a "leftist-liberal", I do know right from wrong. Still, it seemed a shame to let those tax-payer-funded prepaid-return envelopes go to waste. So, I've been using them to send these:
To Whom It May Concern:
This is to notify you that Roger Halvorsen is deceased.
As Mr. Halvorsen has no further need of your well-intentioned gifts (including but not limited to: mailing labels, t-shirts, greeting cards, calendars, note cards, refrigerator magnets, certificates, and shopping bags) his estate requests that you remove him from your mailing lists and, please, discontinue this barrage of bounty.
If your solicitations are political, keep them coming. Requests on behalf of Donald Trump and those who promote his agenda will be shredded. No thank you for squandering tax-payers' dollars. See you in November!
I think my project is working. Here's what came today.
Until a month ago, did any of us imagine that a trip to the grocery store would become a Thrill Seeker’s Event? I didn’t. Until today…
In the Bel-Air parking lot, a woman––in full COVID armor (kitchen-gloved and face-masked)––stopped me…
Wait. That isn’t exactly how it happened.
I’d stopped first, when I saw her coming toward me on the narrow sidewalk. Thinking to offer her the “socially distanced” right-of-way, I stepped sideways into a planting bed, so I was surprised when she stopped, too.
“Where’s your mask?” she said. Her tone seemed strident.
“Sorry. ” I shrugged amidst the shrubbery.
With anxious eyes she, stood her ground.
“I don’t have one,” I said.
She fired back. “Why not?”
Where to begin? That medical grade masks are in limited supply and desperately needed by our health-care professionals? Or those with underlying health conditions? That most lay-people are careless (or clueless) about wearing masks correctly? That masks are not a panacea nor are they meant to assuage the importance of appropriate social distancing, like the kind I'm performing right now by standing in a freaking hedge? And, while we’re on the subject, why are you wearing a mask ? Is it to protect you from me or me from you?
What I said instead was, “Sorry.”
Her tone upshifted from strident to desperate.
“You need to be wearing a mask! Every time you go outside! My daughter is a doctor …”
It was a cough-into-the-hand instead of elbow reaction, which I immediately regretted, when I said, “My husband is a doctor, too."
The sidewalk separating us became a chasm.
“How could he!” she said. “He … let you out of your house? Like that?” Shocked, perhaps horrified––hard to fathom what was going on behind that mask of hers––she pushed her cart past me, living the acrid scent of hand sanitizer in her wake.
An acknowledgement: I suck at confrontation. Ever since childhood, when met with anger I find myself in The Place of Shame. It was in that Place––while slinking my cart alongside the aisles and avoiding eye contact––a voice nearby asked, “How’s your day going?”
There was something in that voice, something friendly. So I looked up.
A white-jacketed (and mask-wearing) Bel-Air employee was standing next to a non-masked female co-worker. Perhaps it was their juxtaposition that prompted me to answer candidly.
“I just got Mask-Shamed in the parking lot,” I said.
The man and his co-worker laughed. “Yeah, we’ve been seeing a lot of that. Don’t let it bother you. You aren't required to wear a mask to shop here," he said. "Some people,” he added, "It makes them feel righteous."
The co-worker offered up a compassionate smile. “They’re afraid,” she said. I could tell from the creases around the masked-man’s eyes that he was smiling, too.
"So, tell us what you've been doing to stay sane? Any projects you’re working on? What are you watching on Netflix? Got your garden in? Drinking more than usual these days?” The smile behind his mask became a grin.
Which made me grin.
And the Place of Shame fell away.
“So… How’s your day going, now?” he asked.
"Thanks to The Masked Man and his Trusty Companion, absolutely terrific!" I replied.
Artifact: an object made by a human being.
Artgurl: a human being who makes art.
A sad reality, worldwide pandemics and social distancing are good for just two types of creatures: dogs and artists.
The former are currently enjoying multiple daily walks, unlimited treats which, unlike toilet paper, can still be found on the grocery store shelves, and, desperate for interaction, their sheltering-at -home parents now fully appreciate the moniker "man's best friend".
Artists, as a general rule, do well with social-distancing. Solitude, for most of us, is a necessary component for creativity. Sure, artists can be social creatures but when inspiration (our Muse) smacks us upside the head, we prefer hunkering down.
Speaking for myself, social distancing has become an opportunity to tackle some back-burner projects.(All artists have them.) First, I started sewing again.
Then I did appliqué. Very handy for covering up stains and moth holes, by the way.
That got me through my first week of social distancing.
Since then I've been working my way through decades of back-burner projects. I'll be posting those "artifacts" on Instagram and Facebook under the hashtag #artgurlartifacts. As you hunker down, both for the protection of yourself and others, I invite you to follow along.
And please, STAY WELL!
While listening to NPR this week, I caught a segment of This American Life*. The piece was entitled “The Show Of Delights” and in the prologue, Ira Glass opens by saying,” In these dark, and confusing, and combative times, where in just one month-- and it's a month that doesn't feel that atypical-- we have impeachment hearings, and Australia on fire, and a near war with Iran, and a deadly virus spreading around the world. We thought here at our show, we would try the most radical counter-programming possible. So today, we bring you our show about delight.” He then passes narration to his co-worker Bim Adewunmi .
“ So there's this poet that I discovered a couple of years ago.” Adewunmi says. “He's called Ross Gay, and he's written a book where he basically keeps track of the things that delight him. And that's things, that's people, that's moments, whatever… the word he used was "negligence." He said it's a negligence if people don't take the time to honor the things that they take delight in, but more importantly, that they share the things that they take delight in. And if you don't do that, there's a loss there. You have to do it to achieve humanity. You have to share delight.”
NPR calls it a “Driveway Moment”. Oprah calls it an “Ah-ha!” Even the ancient Greeks had a word for it. Epiphany. Whatever it’s called, I had one.
Only three days earlier, I’d set up an Instagram account. I’d done it because one of my fellow wizards suggested that it was a “good platform for creative people to share what we do”. I still wasn’t sure how it applied to me…until I heard this NPR broadcast.
During my time on this planet, I must have taken over a gazillion photographs. This is because, each and every day, I see things, which ––to me––are beautiful
After hearing about the poet, Ross Gay, who, for an entire year, charted and wrote about the things that delighted him, I thought about all the images I’d taken that filed me with delight, yet seldom shared.
I thought I might build on Ross Gay’s work by introducing the concept of “delightenment”, which I define as “the sharing of images, thoughts, and experiences with the sole purpose of connection rather than disaffection”.
Hello Instagram! And if you like the idea of #seekingdelightenment" , come follow me!
* Take this link to enjoy This American Life’s “The Show of Delights” for yourself.
It's Fall again. Leaves are turning. Branches will soon be bare. Perfect time to revisit the Out On a Limb Series.
This broach was cast in sterling using the lost wax method. I soldered 3, 4 and 5 mm tube settings to the "twig" then set them with raspberry garnets and an amethyst. Then I fabricated and soldered the bezels before setting them with boulder opals.
Here I combined a Chinese writing rock set in sterling bezel with gold chain and lost wax cast sterling twig. The 20" necklace was made from freshwater pearls.
A lost wax cast acorn cap set with a Tahitian pearl topped with a 14k loop to accommodate any size chain.
Lost wax cast pendant with Australian boulder opal, synthetic emerald set in gold, with 14k gold accents.
Lost wax cast branch with drusy leaves, wrapped in sterling wire. Chain of fancy pearls on hand forged chain. Below: A matching bracelet extends the necklace.
Happy October! Thanks to Sue Knopp's magical enamels here's some eye candy to inspire your seasonal mood.
To make this bracelet: I used blueish pink boulder opals (from Tucson Gem show 2008) which perfectly (and magically) matched the sky, and vivid green turquoise. Coiled gold-fill wire suggested branches. Then stones and the enamel were set in textured sterling silver. Adjustable link chain with rock crystal drop.
This was the first bracelet in a series of four.
Pumpkin and Black Cat Cuff. Beneath a black cat's shadow, a pumpkin grins.
Inspired by the tree branch motif (it reminded me of Briar Rose held captive behind the hedge of thorns ) I wrapped each bezel with gold fill wire. Spoiler alert: the wire-wrap also allowed me to disguise some particularly ugly soldering––the result of too much metal and not enough heat. My wire wrap solution is what we artists call "a happy accident".
A caramel colored druzy (to compliment the pumpkin) and a faceted blue topaz balanced labradorite and green turquoise cabochons . The three sections were then hand crimped for texture and polished. A hand forged chain and hook makes this cuff adjustable.
Witch Star and Pumpkin Bracelet.
Blue drusy and enamel are separated by faceted Iolite, green tourmaline, and spessartite garnet accents. The Gold drusy, green turquoise, and blue mabe pearl were bezel set onto crimped and polished sterling silver. Sterling and gold fill chains were hand forged.
Witch Sun and Pumpkin Cuff:
Green turquoise and faceted blue topaz/boulder opal ammonite and Mexican opal/enamel of witch sun and pumpkin/blue drusy, gold coated drusy and pink tourmaline. Alll set in polished and crimped sterling silver. Joined with hand forged gold fill links and hook.
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