Monday, December 27, 2010

A belated happy holidays to you and yours!

I wanted to take a moment to thank Molly, who is a fellow Pennsyltuckian and crafty gal, for featuring my work in her blog Molly's Muses. She had included my Pennsylvania Wildlife bracelet in a post back in November, and her thoughtful husband purchased it for her as a Christmas gift. She's now featuring it in her post-holiday entry. I definitely have to agree with her sentiment about handmade gifts. I gave my mom an adorable Boston Terrier necklace from LuluBug Jewelry, and some of my favorite presents include the awesome Muertos the Sugar Skull plush, a Namaste rim-blown flute made by Anasazi Dream Flutes, and a pair of Mayan-style flared plugs from One Tribe.

I've also neglected to mention some Treasuries in which my work has been featured. The first one is appropriately holiday themed, evoking visions of candy canes and sugar plums. I love the combination of turquoise and red in this collection!

The second two feature my Circus Caravan cuff.
I love the Bohemian vibe of this treasury.

I've been in the doldrums as far as my artistic endeavors are concerned, and I'm hoping that the new year will bring with it a renewed creative spark and thus some new items in the Etsy shop.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Art, Craft, and Design of the American Carousel Menagerie - Part II

If a modern amusement park seeks to find an antique carousel to put in a place of honor on their grounds, they will often find themselves out of luck since such carousels are so scarce. Amusement parks will often resort to importing “mostly from Italy, new mass-produced carousel with elaborate decorations but with characterless fiberglass animals” (Hinds 123). While there are still American companies that make merry-go-rounds, their figures are all fiberglass as well. However, the tradition of American hand-carved carousel animals is not entirely lost. With the renewed enthusiasm for the antique carousel has also developed a renewed desire to perpetuate its tradition. For example, Le Carrousel de Lancelot in Europe’s Disneyland near Paris, France features an outer row of sixteen hand-carved horses designed and carved by American Joe Leonard (National Carousel...). Other projects involving contemporary hand-carved animals are also in place, including a 48-figure carousel of endangered species (Fraley 108).

The progression of techniques and technology used in the creation of the carousel animal mirrors similar progressions in other crafts and eventually develops into a more design-oriented production. Carousel carvers worked in a traditional crafts medium: wood, and, in fact, many of those carvers had previous experience in the crafts. Before immigrating to the United States and trying their hand at carousel figures, many carvers worked as furniture-makers, cabinet-makers, carvers of religious iconography. Only a select few of the notable carousel carvers had any formal fine art education, one of whom was D.C. Muller who studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Carousel luminaries including Charles I.D. Looff and Gustav Dentzel started off as individual craftsmen, producing their own carvings to adorn their machines. Since they operated the machines themselves, their creativity was not bound by the preferences of a specific client. After their increased success with their self-constructed machines, they acquired other carvers to help them in a manner similar to other crafts studios. Much like the studios and workshops of the Arts & Crafts movement, the carousel workshop was based on the medieval model of apprenticeship wherein those still learning the trade would literally work their way from the basic to more complex, artistic tasks. The carving of the horse’s or other animal’s heads was always the duty of the master carvers, while the other portions of the body were usually carved by the less experienced. Although each company often had a set of general patterns they chose to work from, individual carvers were generally given the freedom to express themselves via the animal’s trappings.

Horses from the Grand Carousel at Knoebles Amusement Resort in Elysburg, PA. This is a Kremers Carousel Works machine featuring horses carved by Carmel. It is one of the few remaining carousels with an operating brass ring mechanism. Additional photos can be found here.

A device known as the carving (or duplicating) machine has been in existence since around 1900. It consists of a series of connected routing bits which replicate a three dimensional object in wood using much the same principles as a key-making machine. A finished product is placed in a central position, while four un-carved pieces are stacked above and below it, fastened in place while the bits progressively carve away at the nondescript blocks using the finished piece as a guide. While this machine was in limited use for many years as a means to rough out figures before human carvers would refine and elaborate the finished product, it later became a means to produce the ultimate figure. The design of the carousel figure truly became separated from the actual craft of carving them when “owners of many companies then realized that they could lower their costs and become more competitive by simplifying their designs so that they were more compatible with the carving machines” (Fraley 87). In further pursuit of lower expenses and greater production, the Allan Herschell company began producing first legs, then heads, and then entire horses of cast aluminum in the 1920s. The animals produced by the carving machine and in cast aluminum were designed with the medium and limitations of their production in mind. The results were more compact, stocky horses with trappings of flattened, geometric planes. The manes of the horses were securely plastered to their necks, their ears flattened back so as to not protrude.

While the carvers of carousel animals were technically producing functional objects for a commercial purpose, their efforts go far beyond mere factory work and enter the realm of fine crafts and even art. As Fraley points out, “the drive to create, for these few select craftsmen, must have gone well past the bounds of just making money. There is no doubt that the sculpting of wooden figures represented an expression of the maker as an artist. The exacting detail, the sweeping flamboyance, and the sensuous grace and beauty of many of the figures created by these men reveal an ambition beyond the creation of a seat on an amusement park ride” (70). Despite the overwhelming demand for his work, Coney Island Style carver Marcus Illions chose to rein in the volume of production as so not to sacrifice quality and artistic expression. It was said that he personally carved all of the heads of the figures that came from his shop, and he often carved the entire bodies of outside-row figures, which was quite an uncommon practice.

The horses and other animals created to whirl on the carousel platform exhibit skill, creativity, intention, and consideration for the aesthetic principles of composition, color, form, line, etc.; otherwise stated, they possess the same defining factors as other words of art. Now that operational, hand-carved wooden carousels are becoming a rarity, even the contemporary art establishment has begun welcoming these creatures into its fold. Frederick Fried, author of the seminal book A Pictorial History of the Carousel, helped to bring the significance of the carousel as art to light:
The carousel as a work of art was first brought to the attention of the American Public in 1964. It was then pointed out that the working carousel contained all the elements of the arts - sculpture, painting, music, and motion. The first museum exhibition of the carousel was at the Museum of Early American Folk Art in New York in 1970 under the title “Art of the Carousel.” I was the curator for that exhibition. The American public since has become aware of the beauty of the carousel and has cherished it as a complete work of art. (Hinds x)

This photo is of the second antique merry-go-round, the Kiddieland Carousel, located at at Knoebles Amusement Resort. It is a smaller scale carousel created by Stein & Goldstein and most of the steeds have actual horsehair tails. You can take a virtual tour of this carousel here.

Major art museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art which counts two carousel animals in its collection, are acquiring them for display and appreciation, and across the country numerous museums specifically dedicated to the art and history of the American carousel exist. The carousel figure’s new found status as art object is evident in the prices such figures command both at auction and through dealers. According to the records kept by one major producer of carousels, the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, the “price for carving 46 animals for one carousel in 1914 cost PTC $1,716” (Manns 92). Today, a restored 1915 horse carved by Marcus Illions which once occupied a four-abreast machine at the Willow Grove Park in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania has a price tag of $17,850 (Hand Carved...). The artistic and monetary value of these hand-crafted animals is also vouched for in an unusual manner by the fact that Mexican artisans are now producing copies of American carousel figures in order to sell them to uninformed individuals under the pretense of authenticity (Hinds 104). Nina Fraley writes of the resurgence of interest in antique carousels and of the issues its recognition as art brought up: “Organizations sprang up filled with enthusiasm for history and restoration techniques. Books were published and study grants were awarded. Museums exhibited carousel art as a legitimate segment of our national heritage, and arguments ensued over ‘Folk Art’ and ‘Fine Art’ labels” (Fraley 14). Carousel enthusiasts contest to some descriptions of carousel art as demeaning, inaccurate misnomers:
The term ‘primitive’ is generally used to designate unschooled, crude, naive, or unsophisticated art. Most of our carousel carvers were unschooled in sculpture, naive and unsophisticated in their art understanding. But it can hardly be said that theirs was a ‘primitive art,’ nor because of its large commercial use, can their art be termed ‘folk art.’ Actually, theirs was a straightforward statement with a primary concern for the elemental. Nor were there any signs of crudeness in the products of the carousel manufacturers after the 1900 period. (Fried 118)

Undoubtedly, the debate as to what sort of art the carousel figure represents will continue, but it is still a great step in the effort of carousel preservation and appreciation for it to be rightfully acknowledged as art.

Fraley, Tobin. The Great American Carousel: A Century of Master Craftsmanship. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1994. ISBN 0-8118-0610-3.

Fried, Frederick. A Pictorial History of the Carousel. Vestal, NY: The Vestal Press Ltd., 1964. ISBN 0-911572-29-5.

Hand Carved Carousel Horses (& More) on Consignment.

Hinds, Anne Dion. Grab the Brass Ring: The American Carousel. New York: Crown Publishers, 1990. ISBN 0-517-57486-1.

The International Museum of Carousel Art.

Manns, William and Marianne Stevens. Carousel Art. Volume 1. Millwood, NY: Zon International Publishing Co., 1986. ISBN 0-939549-03-04.

Manns, William, Peggy Shank, and Marianne Stevens. Painted Ponies: American Carousel Art. Millwood, NY: Zon International Publishing Co., 1986. ISBN 0-939549-01-8.

National Carousel Association - Le Carrousel de Lancelot.

Weedon, Geoff and Richard Ward. Fairground Art. London: New Cavendish Books, 2005. ISBN 1-872727-74-3.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Art, Craft, and Design of the American Carousel Menagerie - Part I

My grandfather & I riding the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel (formerly called Cinderella's Golden Carrousel) in Walt Disney World which was the Philadelphia Toboggan Company's 46th machine. Photo circa 1989.

I've been enchanted by carousels since I was very young. My family and I used to attend annual holiday parties at my great aunt's house and I always looked forward to visiting her home so I could engross myself in her copy of Painted Ponies. My parents eventually purchased the book for me as a Christmas present which really set my obsession into motion. I would bring along my camera to every amusement park we went to in order to document the merry-go-rounds therein, and carousel animals populated my artwork for several years (there is a precedent for all of my recent carnival-themed jewelry!). I attended the ceremonies at the Carousel World Museum in Lahaska, PA (unfortunately now defunct) when the US Postal Service premiered its series of four carousel-themed stamps in 1995. The subject of my first research paper, assigned during the last year of elementary school supposedly to prepare us for the rigors of middle school ahead, was carousel art. This also coincided with the time period where the local Alan Herschell Company machine, the Perkasie Carousel, was undergoing restoration. I wanted so badly to assist in the re-painting of the aluminum horses and volunteered for it, but unfortunately I was not asked to participate. I did get to help with raising some funds for it at my school though which was some consolation. My obsession faded a year or so after that, but I still greatly appreciate antique, hand-carved carousels for the supreme examples of art and craft that they are. Towards the end of the Spring 2006 semester of my college studies I was struggling to determine a final essay topic for a class on the history of American craft. It dawned on me that my youthful obsession could prove of great use and the essay below was born. I hope that you enjoy it and the photos accompanying it.

Throughout the history of their creation, the lively figures of the American carousel have been embodiments of art, craft, and design. Even though during their production and in the heyday of their use they may have been largely viewed as whimsical elements contributing to the overall amusement experience provided by the carousel, it would be difficult to deny that carousel animals are indeed works of craftsmanship, artistry, and considered design. Although such delightful diversions as carousels are often ignored by art and craft historians, they can reveal as much about the overall culture and history of their respective time periods as the fine arts, crafts, architecture, etc. created during the same periods.

The carousel has its ultimate roots in feats of horsemanship and displays of martial skill. In fact, the modern word carousel “derives from the ancient Italian and Spanish words garasello and carosella meaning ‘little war’” (Fried 18). While in Arabia and Turkey, European crusaders observed a game where men on horseback were engaged in throwing and catching small clay balls filled with perfumed water. If one of the contestants happened to miss his catch, he would be saturated with the liquid and clearly marked as defeated. Once this concept was brought back to Europe, it evolved into elaborate tournaments staged by the French monarchy with each horse and rider decadently costumed for the occasion. The Place du Carousel in Paris still bears the name of the extravagant pageant held there by Louis XIV in 1662. Eventually, clay balls were replaced with metal rings and lances. The object became not to simply catch a ball while riding, but to manage a long lance and hopefully to spear a ring suspended from a tree or two posts while riding. According to Fried, “in France about 1680, the carousel became mechanical. Someone thought of suspending horses and chariots by chains from arms radiating from a center pole” (19). Powered by man, horse, or mule, this device was intended as a training tool for those who sought to hone their lancing skills. While the structure turned, an individual on their dangling horse would attempt to spear a stationary ring positioned near the periphery of the spinning contraption. This strange device ended up becoming popular not only as a means to improve one’s lancing aptitude, but for entertainment purposes as well. In the 1830’s a new method appeared which replaced the former technique in which a person or horse manually turned the center pole. This new method utilized gears so that the pole could be turned by a crank. However, the mayor revolution in carousel propulsion occurred when an Englishman named Frederick Savage decided to enlist the steam engine to turn an all-bicycle carousel in 1866 (Fraley 22). Savage is also responsible for developing a system of overhead gears which produce the classic up-and-down galloping motion used on carousels until the present day.

The carousel flourished throughout Europe, and it was only a matter of time before it spread across the Atlantic. The exact date of the appearance of the first carousel in America in unknown. While it has been typically thought that the first American-made carousel was crafted in 1878, there is evidence of carousels in the United States as early as 1825 (Fried 51). According to Anne Dion Hinds though, this date could be pushed even further back in time. She states that “primitive carousels must have been around earlier than 1784: that year New York City Common Council passed a law banning them as dangerous” (40). However, even though stream-driven roundabouts had been enamoring Europe since the 1830s, it would take another fifteen years before steam engines powered their American counterparts.

This is an outside row stander from the carousel formerly operating at Carousel World Museum in Lahaska, PA. This carousel featured a mix of animals carved by different makers. I believe this horse in particular was carved by Charles Carmel. The museum closed several years ago and a different carousel featuring hand-carved replicas of classic animals now operates in this location which is now known as Giggleberry Fair.

When Gustav A. Dentzel built his first American carousel in 1867, it was a simple construction: a series of wooden benches hung by chains from radial sweeps. It wasn’t powered by steam, or even by a horse, but by Dentzel himself. Gustav arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from Germany in 1860 and set up shop as a cabinet-maker, but carousels were in his blood; his father Michael Dentzel had built and operated several of them back in Germany. A decade later, not only did Dentzel establish his own carousel-building company in Philadelphia, but others were established by Charles Looff and Charles Dare in New York City, and by James Armitage and Allan Herschell in North Tonawanda, New York. The efforts of these early American carousel builders among others produced some of the noteworthy, longest-lived companies.

Three basic styles began to emerge during this time period: The Coney Island Style, the Country Fair Style, and the Philadelphia Style. The Philadelphia Style, exemplified by such companies as D.C. Muller and Bro., the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, and of course Dentzel’s own, is characterized by its “dignified realism” (Hinds 10). The Coney Island Style, named after the famous New York amusement hub which once hosted more than 20 simultaneously operating carousels in its heyday, is characterized by its more fanciful, flashy expressions and ornamentations. Coney Island style animals are often bedecked with gold-leaf manes, their trappings set with small mirrors and glass jewels. Companies and carvers associated with this particular style include M.C. Illions, Charles Looff, Charles Carmel, and Stein and Goldstein. By contrast with the Coney Island and Philadelphia styles and their preoccupation with highly detailed, sophisticated figures, the Country Fair Style is much more simple and less finely-rendered, and for good reason. While most companies producing Philadelphia and Coney Island style carousels were primarily creating so-called stationary or park machines, Country Fair Style companies including those of Herschell/Spillman, Charles Dare, and Charles Parker typically produced portable machines. Excessive ornamentation and delicate features are easily damaged and worn by frequent disassembly, travel, and reassembly. Therefore, many Country Fair style animals have basic trappings and decorations as well as a more rustic charm.

Depending upon who one asks, the “Golden Age of the Carousel” in the United States can be said to span a period from approximately 1880 to 1930 (Hinds 3). The statistics regarding the number of carousels produced during that time period also tends to vary based upon sources, and due to the lack of records, the exact numbers may never be known. For instance, one source states that “of more than 4,000 hand-carved wooden carousels built between 1900 and 1925, fewer than 170 survive”(Carousel Art). Although the statistics may vary, they all reveal the same basic truth: there has been a staggering loss in the number of the nation’s operating antique carousels. Traditional, wooden carousels, once a common sight throughout America in locales both rural and urban, are now an endangered species. The story of the rise, fall, and rebirth of the carousel in the US is deeply tied to the historical, cultural, and technological changes that affected its populous.

A close-up of one of the outside row jumpers from the aforementioned PTC machine at Walt Disney World. I believe this particular horse, along with many of the other more ornate horses on this carousel, was carved by John Zalar.

The real blossoming of the carousel’s golden age can be attributed to transitions brought about by the widespread application of new technology. The industrial revolution was gaining speed, bringing with it time-saving labor devices, electricity, and faster methods of transportation. These elements combined to initiate a phenomenon people today often take for granted — the weekend. Trolley companies, seeking to boost their profits on those days of less traffic, decided to devise an impetus for people to ride the trolleys in their newfound leisure time. That clever invention came to be known as the trolley park, a generally suburban or rural station at the end of the trolley line which acted as a destination of rest, relaxation, and amusement. The centerpieces of these newfangled parks were often carousels. The trolley park turned out to be a success, and as new parks were built, there was more demand for carousels to occupy them. With the growing popularity of carousels, competition between companies increased. Each company sought to outdo one another with the beauty of their carousels, and during this time period trappings became quite ornate. Another result of the carousel boom was that individual carvers decided to break away from their respective companies and forge ahead on their own.

Unfortunately, the golden age was not to last. More novel advances, such as movie theaters, radio, and the automobile began to lead people elsewhere, away from trolley parks and small amusement venues. World War I had a devastating effect, bringing the carousel industry to a standstill, and while business improved somewhat in the 1920s, the carousel would never again reach its former zenith. The carousel was once viewed as an exciting thrill ride, but by this time there were other rides and pastimes that usurped that position, the carousel was now perceived as a romantic vision of a bygone era. The people who were interested in purchasing new merry-go-rounds during this period in history were no longer interested in having a dazzling jewel of a carousel, instead they sought less expensive, basic machines whose ultimate purpose was to turn a profit. While some carousels were still hand-carved, the new desire for cost-effectiveness began to phase out individual carvers in favor of wholly machine-made figures. It would seem that the final blow that caused the demise of the golden age of the carousel was the great Depression, which forced many of the major companies to go out of business. 1930 marks the year of the creation of the last fully wooden carousel (Hinds 47). After the second World War, carousels became regarded as too decadent for the stringent budgets of the time, and were essentially abandoned. Scores of parks were compelled to close their doors forever: “the number of amusement parks has shrunk from a peak of about 1,500 in the 1920s to fewer than 200 major parks, including about two dozen large theme parks, in the 1980s. Fewer than sixty amusement parks and theme parks can offer rides on authentic wooden carousels” (Hinds 47). Many carousels remaining from the golden age were destroyed by flood or fire, and many fell into disrepair. Others were placed in storage, subsequently forgotten, and left to rot.

Decades passed, and Americans, constantly bombarded by new forms of technology and entertainment, started to reflect upon their past:
[F]orty years after the last Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel was placed, a strange and wonderful thing started happening. [. . .] [People] began to rediscover a sense of cultural heritage, craftsmanship, and design and combined that discovery with a general nostalgia for the “good old days.” [. . .] [C]arousel animals were being dug out of barns and attics and seen anew. People would scratch their heads with amazement when they realized that many of those items were “handmade,” a concept that had been lost somewhere along the line. They started looking around for the people who had created these unique parts of our historical heritage and were deeply dismayed to find that almost all of them were gone. (Fraley 88)
The renaissance of the American carousel was underway.

{Continued in Part II}

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Of ferris wheels and acrobats

I'm in good company when it comes to having a case of carnival-on-the-brain (which sounds like a medical condition brought about by staring too long at spinning lights on the Tilt-a-Whirl combined with an excessive consumption of cotton candy). My Circus Caravan Cuff was included in two fairground-themed treasuries. In keeping with my last post, there are also a fair amount of stripes to be found too!

In the spirit of the theme, I wanted to highlight the work of Carrie Boucher of Pink Crow Studio who makes wonderful use with the fairground baroque aesthetic in her jewelry. The little star cylinders within the pendants actually move with the wearer.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stripes, Stripes, & More Stripes

As of late I've been a bit obsessed with stripes. I blame it on being enamored with all things steampunk where stripes, from delicate pinstripes to broad bands of alternating color, seem especially at home. It's a relatively simple pattern but it has a lot of charm. Take for example this amazing bustle jacket, ruffled spats (okay, technically they're herringbone-patterned but they're stripes of a sort), anatomical corset, and spiffy pants.

My own contribution in leather includes a sweet pair of earrings, a festive cuff bracelet, and a specimen charm necklace:
I'm sure the stripe-obsession won't end with these three.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In the Spirit of Halloween

I decided to try my hand at making a Treasury to highlight some of my favorite dark and autumnal handmade goodies on Etsy (I wish I could have included more items but there is a limit): In the Spirit of Halloween. I like to take any opportunity to revel in some Halloween ambiance. Trick or treat!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Three Treasuries

This seems to be a good week for Treasuries. I just listed my Pennsylvania Wildlife bracelet yesterday and it already has been selected to appear in two zoological-themed Treasuries: one dedicated to deer and the other to turkeys.
My mixed-media piece Osprey Vision is also included in a Treasury related to vision.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Anatomy, Stars, and Feathers

My Anatomical Heart Cuff is currently being featured in a Treasury, the ANATOMY of Etsy, curated by JulieMarieSink:

I've also added two new necklaces to my shop. One has a hint of Native American influence and was inspired by the ghostly white of nocturnal hunters in the branches, while the other is a slightly steampunk, industrial take on a popular sailor's tattoo.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Post-Craft Show Reflections

Two days before the show I was sick in bed with a fever, major sinus congestion, head and body aches, along with a throat that felt like someone had made a few harsh passes with a cheese grater through. While I do have regular ailments (migraines, some allergy issues) it's been some time since I've actually caught a serious virus and this just seemed like a perfect case of Murphy's Law in action. The worst part of it cleared by the end of the next day though and I just had to tangle with the congestion on the day of the show.
In this photo you can see the three white pedestals I used to add some height to the display. Two were vintage finds from Etsy and the largest one is actually a cake stand from Target.

To my delight, the craft show went surprisingly well. I was afraid my inventory of prints and jewelry wouldn't adequately cover the surface of the two tables I brought, but in actuality I could have used a third table. I was anticipating one or two sales which I was hoping would cover the $40 entry fee, but I ended up selling enough to cover the investment I made in the EZ Up Tent, a sturdy Samsonite table, and the entry fee. Those items weren't all of my investments for the show of course, but they were the major ones (I probably would have ended up buying most of the jewelry supplies anyway). The overall reaction to my work was really positive and I was invited to participate in two other upcoming area shows.
In the background you can catch a glimpse of the letterpress printer's tray I used to display my earrings.

Several years experience as a customer service agent in a phone center has left me rather pessimistic and jaded when it comes to dealing with people in a business capacity, and that position made me wary of dealing with potential clients at the show. (I still have a day job with the same company but in a different department with minimal direct client contact so things are slightly better now.) Thankfully I found that the context of the show was so different than at my place of employment and I could be at much greater ease interacting with the public.
Here's a sneak peak at the necklace I was posted about two entries ago, along with some other soon-to-be-posted necklaces.

I'm planning on participating in next year's show and perhaps one of the shows to which I was invited later this year. Right now though I just want some time to be free to leisurely create for my own fulfillment again without a looming deadline, although deadlines are certainly motivating. I have been gradually adding some items from the show to my Etsy shop and there are more items to come (I still need to properly photograph some of them)! There are also a few more photos from the show forthcoming, including one of the paper bunting I made.
My print display system consisted of vintage drawers from old sewing machines. You can also see the manila tags I stamped with pricing information.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Panic Mode

The craft show I've been trying to prepare myself for the last six months is now looming only eight days away and panic mode is truly starting to settle in. In comparison to my normal, not-in-preparation-for-a-craft-show production rate, I think I've accomplished a lot, but when I think about setting all of my current items out on the display tables I feel like my booth will seem a bit sparse. I keep on consoling myself with the fact that it will be quality over quantity and I do think that is true, but I will still like to have more items to offer. I'm expecting to pull several all-nighters in order to add a selection of more affordable items like earrings and basic leather cuffs to assist with this issue. As this is the first craft show I'm participating in more than a decade, I don't expect my booth will be the top notch, most high tech, polished, and über-professional one at the event, but I hope it will rise above the amateurish, be creative, and compliment my work.

I've been planning to redesign my logo and overall "look" as I no longer think it best suits my current style, but in the midst of actually crafting work for the show I just haven't had the time to do so. This means that I'll be using my current business cards and I did not get the opportunity to have an official banner printed. So in lieu of a sleek, vinyl banner I made myself one in the form of a paper bunting. I was inspired by the photos Cathe Holden took of various booths at the San Francisco Renegade Craft Fair (oh how I wish we had Renegade Craft Fairs around here!). Almost all of the crafters featured made their own signage in the form of buntings (even the logo at the top of the post incorporates one), so I decided to try my hand at one. My work doesn't really jive with the primary colors and triangular pennant-like shape of the more traditional buntings some of the San Francisco crafters used, so I modified the design a little bit to suit my style and so far I'm really pleased with the result. I still need to string the individual flags to hang them as a unit and I want to create a spacer flag with the image of an old skeleton key to separate the two words, but otherwise it's all done. Last week my boyfriend and I wandered into Creative Inkling, a scrapbooking and craft shop in Lahaska, PA, for the first time and I bought all sorts of goodies including some gorgeous letter stamps which I used on my bunting. In addition to those I purchased some other items I plan on using for my other signage including large manila tags which have vintage postcard typography on them. I'm planning to use those as signs to list the various prices for my matted prints.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not So Frida

I started work on what I hoped would be my pièce de résistance for the upcoming craft show: a bib-style, intricately-tooled statement necklace featuring a portrait of a notable Mexican artist whose life and work I find intriguing. Although I'm well-versed in drawing the human face, this is only my second attempt at carving and tooling a semi-realistic one in leather (I would consider my first attempt to be the La Catrina necklace). I thought it was going fairly well but when I started on the painting stage I realized that the likeness was only rather vague at best. The jawline should be more square, the arc of the eyebrows is off, the nose is too broad, etc. The image itself is turning out well, but not if I expect people to immediately recognize it as a portrait of a particular person.
I guess I shouldn't be so surprised. Unless you're drawing a caricature, achieving a likeness is an exercise in subtlety. Even a small shift in the contours of the features or a minor, unintentional change that affects the proportions throws it all off. When designing and creating a piece like this in leather, there are so many stages from the original sketch to the finished piece that sometimes things get lost in translation.
(1) First is the pencil sketch which is then inked to determine the final lines (2). Then I take tracing film and trace the drawing onto it (3) to make the re-usable pattern. From here, the pattern is transferred to the cased leather with a stylus (4) after which it is carved with the swivel-knife (5) and then tooled (6).
Normally a slight change from drawing to tooled piece isn't a big deal. It happens all the time so even if I use the same pattern on multiple occasions, each version is bound to be one-of-a-kind, but in this case accuracy is vital to a likeness and I lost it along the way.

I was really saddened by the lack of likeness and I almost abandoned the project. My boyfriend said that I should just continue with it and disregard the original plan: be content with a necklace featuring a vignette of a regal Mayan woman. What do you think?

Another Treasury!

My original illustration Golden Age, Silver Screen was graciously featured in a Treasury by Janine616 dedicated to ACEOs: ACEO Mania

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Renaissance-themed Treasury

My matted print DeerWoman is currently featured in an Etsy Treasury created by Bohémienne Ivy along with some other lovlies: Vive la Renaissance.

I've removed the remaining jewelry items from my shop as additional inventory for the craft show I'm participating in next month. They, along with some brand new jewelry pieces, will most likely be returned to Etsy after the show if they do not sell.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Peacock Feather Cuff Bracelet

I'm certainly not the first leather-worker/jewelry-maker who decided to use a peacock tail feather motif in her work* so it's not an original, ground-breaking concept, but as I have several of these feathers poised at my workbench, staring me down with their iridescent eyes as I hammer, carve, and bead it's been hard not to be inspired by them. Still, I hope my version is a bit distinctive and has a different character from the peacock feathers rendered in leather by other artisans. I was really focused on the sinuous lines and shapes formed by the feather whereas the other versions I've seen tended to focus on achieving a more robust texture. You can actually catch a glimpse of this bracelet in its unfinished form posing on my granite tooling slab in this entry.

It is a fairly simple bracelet based upon the general pattern of what I refer to as my tab bracelets but with a little twist. Unlike my other tab-style cuffs, the leather tab upon which the feather is carved is in a subtle S-curve shape which looks really lovely curling across the wrist. I stamped the word "beauty" beside the feather on a gentle baseline curve to echo the feather's lines and to suggest that it too could drift lightly on the air. This also happens to be the first tab bracelet I've used sterling silver chain & wire for the clasp. In the photo below you can see some of the beads I've chosen to compliment the rich colors of the feather. They include a faceted lime green turquoise roundel, freshwater pearls, what I think is carnelian, an amber glass bead, and another small turquoise nugget.

This one is slated to be taken to the show in September. I'm hoping to make a corresponding necklace if I have time.

*Sunny Rising Leather, who has been an inspiration to me in the creation leather necklaces & bracelets, has also tried her hand at peacock feathers as well as just the "eye" of the feather. I also found another Etsyian who makes peacock earrings but I believe he or she layers multi-colored leather rather than carves and paints/stains it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Violet Charm: rediscovering bead embroidery

I returned from the Innovative Beads Expo yesterday with some delightful spoils. I purchased some of my usual favorites including freshwater pearls and turquoise but also some other lovelies including a number of very rustic, tribal-inspired clay and glass beads. This combined with my recent order from Fancy Linda of some vintage buttons and cabochons, etc. has inspired an almost frenzied desire to craft in me. Mind you, I've already been in a near constant state of blissful i-want-to-make-things-iness but this is just fuel to the fire. If only I didn't require money and sleep then I could actually heed all of my callings to make new things!

I also stocked up on Nymo bead thread and beading needles since I've recently rediscovered bead embroidery and find the hand-sewing strangely satisfying and meditative. I blame my renewed interest in bead embroidery on a bellydance belt I've been working on which involves a ton of hand-sewn beads, crystals, sequins, pearls and genuine tribal goodies like Turkman buttons and medallions. I've had to put that project aside in lieu of working on pieces for the upcoming craft show but I've still had the bizarre desire to painstakingly sew individual beads and baubles into interesting patterns. Bead embroidery does make for great late night crafting projects in comparison to some of my other hobbies since it doesn't require much noise (unless you happen to spill a whole vial of seed beads in the carpet...) versus the constant hammering in leather carving and working with sterling silver. I've started on a series of small, embroidered brooches/fascinators to satiate my sewing compulsion (although I did end up making a pair of earrings too).

In Tribal Bellydance it is common to cultivate a headdress out of a hodgepodge of various elements old and new into an intricate topiary. These headdresses can grow and change over time as dancers rearrange elements, plant new ones, and weed out others. Much care often goes into the arrangement of these temporary pieces and in fact, I have heard them referred to as hair gardens on more than once occasion and I don't believe this is just because fake flowers feature strongly in their compositions. The best Tribal hair gardens are like beautifully designed landscapes with well-placed architectural features and lovely views at every angle. I wanted to create pieces which would be perfectly suitable as compliments of complex hair gardens or as striking focals in more minimal arrangements, but also be elegant enough to wear for other occasions or potentially even on an everyday basis. I'm also adding both pins and alligator clips to the reverse sides so that they can be secured to clothing or hair.

The first in this series that I've completed is primarily in shades of purple, plum, and eggplant and is appropriately titled Violet Charm. Purple was once one of my favorite colors and I accumulated a nice little stash of beads in these hues a few years ago which I didn't want to let go to waste. The embroidery was done on black suede and it is backed in black eco-felt made from recycled plastic bottles. The centerpiece of this brooch/hair-clip is a faceted, glass jewel which is set in a peyote stitch bezel surrounded by glass beads, freshwater pearls, and swarovski crystals. I also added a ruffle I made from some metallic trim and draped two swags of beads across its surface. I think it looks like it could be a badge of glamour. While Cabaret style bellydancers don't tend to have such complex hair adornments as their Tribal cousins (they tend to have their hair down when performing and may only wear a headband or crown) this brooch/fascinator really seems to call for a Cabaret treatment with all its glisten and sparkle. The photos really cannot do it justice. I hope someone who currently adores this color scheme will give it a good home.
The next brooch/fascinator (broochinator? fascinooch?) I'm making is definitely geared towards the Tribal end of the spectrum with a nod towards the more vintage/Victorian/steampunk aesthetic that I love. It will feature warm, brassy metal, more ruffly goodness, velvety ribbon, and pearls. Yay!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Anatomical Heart Cuff

This is another teaser image of a piece I'll be selling at the show. It features multiple layers with the uppermost having a focal of an anatomical heart. The layers are secured to each other with domed rivets which I've scuffed and dented for a more well-worn look. The next version I make though will have a different spacing for the rivets, I feel the distance and arrangement of them on this one are not quite cohesive. The leather of the main cuff has also been distressed. This is the first time I've really experimented with distressing leather and I'm very fond of the results. I've also made a few simpler cuffs featuring both round and pyramid spots that I've distressed somewhat.

I was inspired to attempt the process by a gorgeous cuff featuring a large flaming heart milagro I purchased from Urban Boutique. She was successfully able to age her metal spots to harmonize with the genuinely worn milagro. They seem like they were submerged in a shipwreck or buried in the earth for several decades with their accumulation of grime and patina. I have not quite gotten to that stage but I will have to look into some other antiquing methods.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blue Lotus Blade Hoops

I need to get into the habit of posting more photos here to make this a more visually appealing blog. Even I have to admit that when I follow or subscribe to a blog that is related to someone's artsy or crafty work, what I mainly like is seeing pretty pictures of what they're making, so I should try harder to deliver the pretties on this blog too.

Here is the first of the teaser photos I'm hoping to post of some new pieces I've been creating. They are teasers because, for the moment at least, they won't be going up on Etsy: they are part of my inventory for the upcoming craft show in September. If they don't sell at the show, they will eventually find their way to Etsy though if it's any consolation.

This is a pair of leather & sterling silver blade hoops with freshwater pearl dangles. I have another set I made which are a more deeper, saturated blue. I'm not sure which look I prefer. This set looks more earthy but the darker ones are more striking. The leather portion is about 2" wide and overall each earring is about 2.5" long so they are not for the timid.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Comings & Goings

Unfortunately it looks like the gallery section of the Riegelsville Gallery & Tattoo shop didn't take off so I went to pick up my items a few days ago. One of the bracelets did sell which is great, but it turns out that I will need the unsold items in inventory for an art/craft show I will be attending in September.

This is my first show in more than a decade and I'm both nervous and excited. It's only a one-day, five hour event as they actually have to shut Main Street down to motor vehicles to host it. It's not an exceptionally large show, but it will be a good chance to get my feet wet again. I'm been working overtime making jewelry and getting prints ready, I bought myself a tent to provide some shade and a more enclosed area for my wares, and I've also been coming up with some interesting jewelry and print display items involving some vintage sewing machine drawers and an old letterpress tray. Hopefully, I'll be prepared for everything.

I haven't the slightest idea as to how much I should make/bring as I'm hesitant as to if my work will end up appealing to a wide number of people attending the event. My work (both jewelry and art) will be a little out-of-place among the handmade American Girl doll clothing, scrunchies, and silk flower arrangements. There are plenty of other jewelry-makers present at these events, but my work is very different from theirs which may or may not be a good thing. Even if it doesn't end up selling I would still like to present a wide variety of work, and what doesn't sell there will go on Etsy where it may have a better chance. I really need to photograph some of pieces I've already finished but I've been in such a "must make things" mode that I don't have much motivation to take and edit photos. Once I force myself to take photos of the new pieces, I will definitely share :)

I've recently discovered some truly amazing jewelry-makers that are inspiring me immensely. I already make extensive use of asymmetry, eclectic materials, multicultural influences, and whimsy in my own work but these artists have really pushed those elements. All of them show a really unique combination of materials and techniques, for example metal & fibers, bead weaving and fabrication, etc. and they don't shy away from incorporating precious and semi-previous jewelry materials with found objects. As a collector and appreciator of strange, worn things this approach appeals to me greatly and it is creeping more into my own designs, which is something I'm pleased with and hope to cultivate further. Below are a series of links to some of my new favorite jewelry artisans:

Fanciful Devices | Marina: I wish I knew how she was able to find so many awesome things to include in her jewelry

Mandala Jewels | June Roman: she has recently published a book which is how I initially found her work, A String of Expression

Sparrow Salvage: specializes in beautiful textile assemblage cuff bracelets and other jewelry with a beautiful, time-worn quality. She describes her work as "found object finery for feral faery folk" which is right up my alley.

Savage Salvage: another interesting artist who uses vintage finds (I'm a sucker for old skeleton keys and skullies, in case you haven't noticed)
Sweet Bird Studio | Nancy Anderson: a lot of her work has a strong Southwest current and I love her use of turquoise, silver, and coral
Susan Lenart Kazmer: makes amazing, talismanic jewelry out of ordinary objects like old pencil stubs, nuts, bolts, and other industrial debris. She authored the book Making Connections
Green Girl Studios | Cynthia Norton: She doesn't really use found objects in her work, but her book Enchanted Adornments does feature a lot of combined techniques

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Craft Show in My Future

I've signed up to participate in the 42nd Annual Gallery of the Arts, an art & craft show which takes place along Main Street in Sellersville, PA. This year it will be held on Sunday, September 19th from noon until 5pm.

I used to display my work at this show as a "Junior Artist" so it seems fitting that my first art show in more than a decade should be this event. I've been considering getting involved in local shows for a while now and this one seems like a great opportunity to get my feet wet again. I believe Quakertown and Perkasie also hold similar events so if this one goes well maybe those shows are also in my future.

It's months away, but I've already started building some inventory to take to the show. The photo above shows some current pieces on my workbench: components for a bracelet, two necklaces, and two sets of earrings. I've also rediscovered some older beaded necklaces I'm planning to bring, and I'm definitely going to be bringing prints of my artwork as well. There's so much work to do, I hope I can get enough done. My Etsy shop may be a little bare while I'm preparing for the show, but I also hope to still be adding items there if I can.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Lovely Coffin

The centerpiece of this rustic, earthy necklace is a unique coffin-shaped pendant. Straddling an odd line between creepy and cute, its motif of skull, heart, flower, and scrollwork is inspired by various forms of folk art including designs on the gravestones of German immigrants in the artist's native state of Pennsylvania and Mexican Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) imagery.

The pendant is suspended from three strands of deep brown leather cord and closes with a lobster clasp. All of the metal elements of this necklace are sterling silver which have been oxidized to achieve a dark, nearly matte appearance to harmonize with the rest of the piece.

The Lovely Coffin pendant is handcrafted of vegetable-tanned leather which has been carved and tooled into a low-relief sculpture. It was then stained to highlight the details and has been signed by the artist on the reverse. It has been sealed with a protective coating to help ensure that it retains its loveliness for a long time, but please keep this necklace dry to help ensure its longevity.

measurements • necklace is about 16.75" in overall length (an extender chain could be added for additional length: please convo for more information about this option); pendant is approximately 1.5" wide by 2.25" long
materials • hand-carved & stained leather coffin pendant; oxidized sterling silver wire; suede lace; glass beads
price • $45.00 plus S&H; Available at my Etsy shop!
Related Posts with Thumbnails