Thursday, January 8, 2015

Layla Among the Stars

Layla is a pit-bull/dalmatian mix who was adopted by a friend of mine. She's an incredibly sweet dog and I wanted to make a keepsake for my friend for the holiday. Being a classic rock fan, he named her after the Derek and the Dominoes tune. The reference wasn't lost on me, but as an amateur bellydancer and fan of Arabic music, my own mind went to songs like "Laylet Hob" ("Love Night") and "Auf Layla Wa Layla" ("A Thousand and One Nights"). That's where the stellar theme originated and why I decided upon using the Middle Eastern-inspired frame.

This is the reference photo which I used for the portrait. It was taken with my cell phone so it's not spectacular in quality, but it sufficed. I decided to change the angle of her neck to suit the composition.

Here she is carved and her name pyrographed into the lower banner:

The leather stains were applied to lay in some base shading and coloration:

Acrylic paints were layered over the stain to add highlights and more prominent color (although you cannot see in the photo, some metallic gold was added for the stars and to accent her name):

An acrylic resolene finish was added to provide some protection and seal the piece. It ended up a little more glossy than I had anticipated. The higher gloss finish really upped the contrast and allows some of the more delicate sculpted details to catch the light:

This is the completed ornament with the leather cameo layered over felt and embellished with bead and thread embroidery. Three little sequin stars are sewn near the top to continue the stellar theme:

I really enjoyed creating this ornament, and I'm considering offering the occasional custom pet portrait in the future via my Etsy shop. Would anyone be interested if I presented the option for pet portraits similar to this piece and the one I previously did of the thoroughbred Tully? I would probably set it up where an initial deposit would be due to get the project started and then the remainder would be due upon completion.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A New Version

I had a few people ask me about when I might be making a new Lost & Found necklace. The design itself was in desperate need of refinement and I've finally gotten around to working on the redesign. The new sketch (on the top) is a bit more naturalistic and a lot less wonky, in my opinion.

A Winter Blessing

The All-Seeing Eye brooch has been completed and is now available in the shop. I'm really pleased with the layered look and all the media I got to incorporate into it. This was the first time I used the blanket stitch on a larger scale, really putting the final seal on it and making it a pleasant little packet that feels good resting in the hand, which I think is a good trait in an amulet.

I also added a new necklace to the shop with a more seasonal vibe: Winter Blessing Necklace. I subtitled it on Etsy as both "rustic" and "runic" because the birch bark texture, hand-stitched detail, and warm red felt lend it a bit of a Scandinavian cabin aesthetic and a bindrune forms the main graphic element. I designed and crafted three of these pieces for the Winter Solstice/Yule and gave two of them as gifts to dear friends, but I decided to offer up the last one for sale. Although all of my work is infused with care and intention and I enjoy working with symbols and esoteric themes, this is the first specifically charged, magical creation I've offered in my shop (it will likely not be the last though). It's not as technically complex as some other pieces I've made, but it has that extra charm that comes with a piece of this nature. You can read more about the purpose and elements of this talisman in the Etsy description.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Horsing Around

I've been plugging away at some projects for the shop but have been remiss in sharing them. This one in particular is not for sale as it was created as a gift for someone in particular, but I wanted to share it anyway because I took photos throughout the entire process. Since it was a Christmas present and I found myself a little bit rushed for time, I didn't have the opportunity to have a proper photo shoot so unfortunately these iPhone photos will have to do.

I've toyed with the idea of doing custom pet portraits in leather and I decided to try it out. I asked my fiancee if he could take a picture of his mom's favorite horse the next time he visited his parents' house, and he brought me back a nice, though slightly blurry, photo of Tully the thoroughbred.

Normally I start by making a sketch which is then turned into a pattern. The pattern is what I use to inscribe the basic design onto the leather itself. This time I used the photo reference from my iPhone and sketched with an awl lightly onto the leather. After cutting the major lines with a swivel knife and some tooling, I was really happy with the dimensionality I was beginning to see.

I didn't want to complicate the background too much as it is a small piece and I didn't want to distract from the portrait, but it definitely needed something. I decided to pyrograph some Celtic knotwork to add some interest. I also used a matting stamp around the horse's head to help visually separate it from the smooth background. I later found out that Tully was born and bred in Ireland, and my fiancee's mother had actually met the breeder there when they visited many years ago.

Then it was on to painting! The photo was a bit overexposed so it was even harder to get a true-to-life color match, but I know that Tully is a bay with a white star.
This photo really clarifies the scale of the leather cameo (I forgot to take actual measurements but I'm estimating that it was about 1.5" wide by about 2.5" tall).

It was originally intended to function primarily as a brooch, and it does in fact have a pin back attached, but after I was laying out the felt and other fiber notions I wanted to use, I realized it would make a good ornament, so I added an eyelet to the top so it can be threaded with some ribbon and hung.
Here's what it looks like as an ornament:

My future mother-in-law really liked it, and I freely admit it made my inner, 12-year-old, equine-obsessed self very happy to make it.

A (slightly belated) Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The All Seeing Eye . . .

watches me make things :)

Here is an in progress photo of another brooch in what I'm planning to be an occult/esoteric imagery themed series. The mystic ocular symbol which forms the basis for the design has intrigued me for a while, and I've found that eyes are really fun to tool in leather (I've already started a second version of the central leather cameo). I've layered the carved leather over some tea-stained lace. It's accented with various sized eyelets, some of them set with glass pearls, and three spots. I still need to do some more hand-stitching, attach the pin back, and secure the backing layers together.

The symbol can be traced back to the ancient Egyptian udjat, also known as the Eye of Ra or the Eye of Horus, which had solar associations. It was a favorite apotropaic amulet in that culture. Many later depictions feature the eye surrounded by a halo of rays of light. It was then adopted as a symbol of the all seeing eye of the monotheistic God and came to be known as the Eye of Providence. At some point, it was overlaid on a triangle, which could suggest a link back to its Egyptian origins, but according to some sources the triangle was said to represent the Christian trinity and thus was widely used in a Christian context over the past few centuries to represent their God's omniscient nature. This is rather ironic considering that if you do a search on "all seeing eye" it brings up many links from conspiracy theorists who claim the symbol, which appears on the Great Seal of the United States, is a Satanic/Pagan/Masonic/Illuminati/Insert-Your-Boogeymen-of-Choice icon and indicates their subversive nature.

Monday, August 27, 2012

New in the Etsy shop

We've been having some strange weather today. Just moments ago it was torrential downpour, now it's bright and sunny.

As promised, I've finally added some new items to the shop. One of which is the aforementioned Verdant Skull brooch which turned out very nicely. It's actually available in time for my favorite holiday season: Samhain, Halloween, El Dia de los Muertos, Winter Nights, etc.

The other piece I'd been keeping to myself for a long while. One of the towns which I pass through en route to work holds a yearly carnival. From the road, I can see the tops of the striped tents and that is what inspired this design. It took a while for the whole necklace to come together as this was really the first leather/fiber/metal/bead experiment I've done, but I'm pleased with the results. Since the carnival is in town again, it felt appropriate to post it.

There are additional photos of each piece on Etsy :)

If you've been to the Phée Adornments Etsy shop recently, you may have noticed that something is missing. I'm trying to grow towards a certain aesthetic for my jewelry and leather craft which doesn't exactly mesh with the artwork I am offering at the moment (I'm also a little OCD and like things to be organized into sensible categories!), so I decided to make a separate shop for my art prints and originals. You can now find my available work at In addition, I moved the bellydance-specific art (namely ACEOs) to my bellydance shop:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Verdant Skull Brooch in progress

I know, I know... I've been a very bad blogger. I apologize and hope to do better in the coming months. At the very least I'm hoping to provide more in progress photos and visual insights into my design process, so there will be some more images to enjoy. I recently joined the current decade by purchasing an iPhone (the photos it takes are much better than the ones my iPod Touch generated) so that means it will be easier to document new creations before taking the more official, polished photographs for the Etsy listings.

Case in point is a design of a Verdant Skull cameo for a new series of brooches influenced by esoteric and occult imagery.Since the brooches will be relatively small (at a certain point large brooches become too awkward to be functional brooches, in my opinion), it also gives me the opportunity to use up some scrap leather from other projects. I try to always be cognizant that leather was once part of a living being and I don't want to be wasteful. I did some preliminary sketches which were not to scale in a notebook before drafting the design, but the photo below shows the progress from a pencil sketch at the appropriate size, the pattern which I use to transfer the design to leather, and the actual design realized in leather. I recently acquired a new friend for the studio, a Razortip SK pyrography tool, and this is the first time I've combined pyrography with the leather carving I typically do. Now that I have an idea as to what it can do, the possibilities are making me a bit delirious (in a good way)!
What I'm really loving about this brooch series is the prospect of combining leather with various other media. I have some weird fondness for sewing things by hand that I'll get to indulge since I'm going to be layering the leather cameos with felt, lace, trims, etc. Some bead embroidery may also be in the forecast for these. Below you can see the progress made on assembling the actual brooch. I've layered the leather over some vintage lace which I tea-stained, striped trim, and a velvety millinery leaf. I sewed a lovely patina-ed brass key charm below the cameo and added an eyelet so I could dangle a turquoise nugget from the bottom.
I want these brooches to resemble some antique, intricate medals I have seen and I'm really pleased with how this particular one turned out. What the above photo doesn't show is that I've tried to lend a more aged look to the fabric by staining the edges with a sepia-toned ink. I attempted to take some better photos today, so hopefully it won't be long until this piece is listed on Etsy.

Although my time is still divided between a full-time job, an internship, and my various other hobbies and interests, things are slowly falling into place for me and that means I have more motivation and energy to make things.

Truth be told, I've also been holding out a bit on listing some new items until I figured out a new logo and identity for this endeavor. My work has changed so much since I first starting making jewelry several years ago, and I've outgrown my old branding. There were some items I did not want to present until I had something new to replace it. I think I've finally hammered out a design I'm pleased with although I still need to do some additional work before finalizing a new business card, etc. but I feel more comfortable posting those items.

I wanted to share the second version of my Peacock Feather cuff bracelet as an opportunity to discuss reserved listings. I had just carved and tooled the leather portion of this cuff when someone contacted me to ask about the previous version I had made. The timing worked out perfectly. I finished the cuff and listed it on reserve for her, and hopefully she's wearing it right now :)
While I'm not taking custom orders at this time, if there is an in progress piece shown here that hasn't yet been posted on Etsy which catches your eye, I'm willing to temporarily reserve it for you once it is listed for sale. Please contact me via email or Etsy conversation to discuss this option. Reserves of this kind are on a first come, first serve basis and if you do not purchase the item within the specified time period, I will remove the reserve so potentially anyone can purchase it.
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