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423 Southeast 69th Avenue
Portland, OR, 97215
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on etching......

Jo Brody

I have been learning the art of etching (a very traditional way of printmaking) over the past several years and am coming to find my way, slowly. I write about the technique here because it is one of those art forms which I will probably always be drawn to. I love small etchings, in little frames with lovely inked areas of color and delicate lines. Most of the famous artists whose work I love to look at have  found their way to etching. Richard Diebenkorn, one of my favorites, made many beautiful etchings, many of them at Crown Point Press, a legendary printmaking studio in San Francisco. I will likely not become an etching expert (an "etch-pert?) because there are lots of other forms of printmaking that I prefer--monotype, collograph, and relief printing. Less process, more spontaneity. But I am enamored with the etching results and find I am really enjoying the review class/open work session I am enrolled in right now at  my local art center

Etching is, in it's most commonly known form, a copper or other metal plate that has been incised with a drawing or ink painting, using line and built up tonal areas using crosshatching, oil paint, or even photos burned into the copper. The plate is then dipped into an acid bath(and later dipped again for darker tones) as the acid bites away at the copper( the word "etching" means "to eat" in Dutch) , leaving a series of deep grooves and carved away areas. Later, these "bitten" marks will hold ink and appear as a positive image when printed on paper using a printing press. The areas that are to remain untouched by ink are protected with a material that is acid resistant. This material is called "ground" and can be made of asphalt, rosin (from the sap of a tree) or wax among other substances. There are many steps to etching and one must be mindful of the amount of time the plate is left in the acid bath, the way one rubs ink on the plate before printing, and the order and time one leaves the plate in subsequent acid bath dips to make darker areas.

After my first class in this process I swore I would never do etching again. It was complicated and I couldn't understand my own notes scrawled in my notebook. Even now after a couple more classes I consistently forget the order of things, and which liquids are used to take off ground and clean plates. It's not an intuitive process for me but I am drawn to it anyway! I have made a few little pieces I like and see improvement in my process and technical abilities. I think as an artist one of the most pleasurable things is to learn how things are made, the Magical Secrets of the story behind the works of art we know and love. Then, even if that technique or medium doesn't become our favored medium, we have gained a deeper knowledge about the work we enjoy. Maybe later we'll become the "etch-pert"....ya never know! 

Boro, my Indigo fabric crush…….

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I have been making jewelry from a magical material that infuses my work with a tactile and ancient quality that I love. "Boro" is an old Japanese patchwork fabric usually made from cotton or other natural materials. It is dyed with Indigo and the pieces that we see today are scraps from old Japanese country peasant farming clothing, kimonos, tatami (household floor mats) and bags. The material was expensive, so the objects and clothing were used and reused, then patched together to be used again. This fabric usually comes from the period of 1850-1950, and is quite rare and special. It is prized today for it's lovely color and delicate hand stitching. 

The earrings I have been making with Boro are embellished with my hand made silver charms and hand-sewn knots, little bits of red silk that I feel accent the rich blues and grays. The Japanese aesthetic concept of Wabi Sabi, which roughly means an elegant state of imperfection and impermanence, really is at play in my Boro jewelry. Holes and patches add to the sense that one is wearing a delicate heirloom or piece of history, however rough and worn.   I plan on continuing to use this material, allowing it to imbue my jewelry with a little Wabi Sabi. I will be selling my wares next at the Buckman Art Fair, March 7 and 8th in Portland.   Tune in for more posts in 2015! I got something to say about a lot of stuff, what I am making, and what I have seen and done. I have a perfect place to say it on my blog so why not! Comments(and complements) are always welcome, except the bizarre Spammy kind with very funny English!

Jo's Spring '14 events: BUCKMAN Art Fair, MT. TABOR Art Walk & 3 all new Art CLASSES!

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MARCH 8 (11-7) & MARCH 9(11-5), at Buckman Art Fair: I am pleased to be selling at Buckman again and hope you will join me in supporting this great arts elementary school. 30% of every sale goes to the school's arts programming! Come and find my table and shop for new Jo Brody jewelry!   MAY 17 & 18, 10-5 on the Mt. Tabor Art Walk: a wonderful way to see inside artists' homes and studios and shop extremely local! Mark and I throw open our doors wide, and share our passions for 3-D mosaics and handmade silver jewelry! 

CLASSES: register at https://jo-brody.squarespace.com/classes/Carved ErasersBasic Beading and Found Treasures

 

Timeless

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Well, it sure has been a while since I posted and I have no excuse except that as the saying goes, " life is for living". To my knowledge no one ever said, " life is for blogging", so there's my excuse. I been living! Art school at PNCA ( much drawing, some painting), jewelry design( yes I'm still at it so look for a post next week about my upcoming December shows) . Oh yes and parenting two teen boys. Whew! That's the real work and I love every minute of it ( on good days).... Please look at this incredible video my husband Mark Brody made for our 20th anniversary which we celebrated this August. My eldest son had a party for us. We were not invited. I digress. The pictures in "Timeless" are mostly mine. The editing genius and musical timing is all him.... I love you Mosaic Mark!  

Felting Fun

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I was driving along SE Burnside the other day and I pulled the car over abruptly to inspect a curious and tactile piece of street art: a crocheted tree whose trunk was covered in rich green circles of granny-esque doilys knitted together with expertise and Portland DIY humor. The tree had been attacked by yarn bombers. The yarn bombed tree was right outside Gossamer, a shop that has been celebrating the art of felt making and other yarn-y crafts since its arrival in 2007. The crocheted tree? A gift from local knit and crochet artists to the humored shop-owner in honor of Gossamer's 5th anniversary. Granted Gossamer's relative longevity in the world of SE Burnside shops might be attributed in part to the rise in the early 21st century of Portland, Oregon as the world epicenter of homespun craft-makers. Still, Gossamer has all of the elements of a mainstay supplier for crafters working in the fine art of felt making: a knowledgable and kindly founder/owner, Rose Sabel-Dodge, well-stocked supplies with surprises and necessities alike, exciting exhibits demonstrating accomplished work in the felted arts, and intermittent classes ensuring a new crop of felt-makers will be grown right here in Portland.   I was in the shop that day to source organic-looking felt for earrings I make using hand-stamped silver discs. The earrings are like little billboards for quirky two-word sayings. A way of wearing one's sentiment on the ears. I make a crop of these earrings periodically to satisfy my love of working with felt.   I have high hopes of working more in felt, having learned several types of felting techniques already at the healing arts workshops I facilitated when I ran the breast cancer healing program I co-founded. I plan on taking a needle felting class as soon as possible. Mostly I love knowing that there's a shop in Portland for every creative pursuit under the sun. Or clouds in the case of my dear hometown of Portland. Let your felt flag fly, Portland crafters! And make it out of felt, please!

Cloudspotting and Monoprint Magic

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I had the opportunity to spend the weekend on beautiful Bainbridge Island near Seattle with my friend, the talented artist, Wendy Orville. We have been planning this visit forever but our busy lives kept conspiring against us. Finally, though, the clouds parted and we made the time. Funny that I mention clouds. Wendy has been making quiet, powerful images with trees and clouds as primary subjects for some time now and I really loved the chance to see her current work up close and learn some of the techniques she uses to make her elegant and spare monotypes and discover more about her passions and her process.

I love taking photographs of clouds. I do it almost unconsciously as I whip my iPhone out and record a fleeting moment in the sky, making a monotype of sorts, recording an image never to be repeated in quite the same way. That Wendy and I have been obsessed by clouds at the same time is no accident. Ever since we met around 15 years ago in Taos, New Mexico while selling our wares at a craft fair on the central Plaza we have been kindred spirits, seeing art in the sky and speaking the same language of the heart. Our mutual move to the Pacific Northwest has allowed us to keep our friendship alive, even while separated by a long stretch of highway and the demands of family and work.

Our planned weekend of making monoprints in her spacious and well-equipped studio was only enhanced by the presence of her easygoing kids who knowingly steered clear of the artists at work. Wendy was so generous with her time, especially considering her life is about to get much busier with new gallery representation at Prographica in Seattle and being deeply involved with the soon to open Bainbridge Art Museum. We managed to steal 5 hours in the studio and I am pleased with the results.

Using a photograph I took (while attending the Crested Butte Film Fest last month) as reference, Wendy showed me how to lay down stripes of rich Prussian Blue ink, one stripe being pure ink, one stripe having transparency gel mixed in and one stripe just transparent gel. This technique allowed us to make a ground of gradated color, a way of expressing the sky, the horizon, and the land. After using the brayer roller to pick up the ink and rolling it onto a plexiglass sheet, Wendy taught me how to scratch in my design of clouds, wiping off ink to leave a band of bright white and bringing in darkness and depth to the belly of the clouds with an inky rag and my fingertips. Wow--I was having serious fun! After making the plate of clouds and printing it on her large Takatch etching press I inked a piece of mylar shaped like a mountain with deep dark Prussian Blue ink and printed that onto my piece of paper onto which I had earlier printed my clouds.

Can you see the image is reversed from my photograph? Can you tell that I am hooked on monotype printmaking? It is so meditative and direct. There are definitely many techniques to learn and Wendy is a master! Check out her work on her website and watch her at work in this video chronicling the making of the Bainbridge Museum of Art. As for me, I'll continue learning to see, draw and make prints along with making my jewelry. I guess you could call me a Jo of all trades. Maybe one day I'll be a Master of One!

Silver Lace--new line for December

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  I landed on the idea of lacy silver accidentally, when I was fooling around with Precious Metal Clay(PMC) in a syringe. This is a form of PMC that is most often used to repair cracks in metal clay work or to join one piece of silver to another. I like the look I discovered after squeezing the clay out in long squiggly lines to form irregular and lacy patterns. The best part comes after the clay has been fired in the kiln, necessary for "sintering" or fusing the silver particles together and burning off the organic clay binder. After firing, I work harden and texture the lacy fine silver pieces at my jewelry bench. Hammering is wonderful for stress relief and has the added benefit of making divets and grooves in the metal in which to concentrate the darkening or oxidation. I darken the clay using the organic & very smelly product, Liver of Sulphur (neither word is nice alone and together, well, can you say STINKY??)   I had the chance to see some actual lace work in Brittany on the West coast of France this summer and I was very inspired to incorporate some of it's delicacy and beauty into my own metal work. The most remarkable manifestation of Breton lace is the "Bigouden", a tall cone of white lace that sits atop the head of traditional Breton women. Apparently the height of this extremely tall bonnet has kept getting taller and taller through the centuries, topping out in present day style at a foot tall!   The local costumes of Brittany are one of the many charming things about the region and I recommend a visit, especially the perfectly preserved medieval market town of Quimper, where we visited the family of our former exchange student. The cathedral in the town center is thought by many to be more majestic (certainly easier to gain access to!) than Notre Dame, it's contemporary.  

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Carved Eraser Printmaking Oct 11 6:30-9:30PM
Basic Beading Oct 13, 10-2
Found Treasures Oct 14, 10-2

Far Away in Portland--theater you can be in

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"I saw you looking at that fair boy's hat. I hope you told him it was derivative."

-Todd, played by John San Nicolas, in Shaking The Tree's play, "Far Away"

 

While not the most important line in this brief and intense play (playing Thursday-Sunday at SE Portland's Shaking the Tree theater company until September 22nd), it was a hilarious delivery and made the audience laugh. A lot. That's saying something, given the serious nature of the play--a dystopian (I looked for another word for this cliché but this was the best one) war piece with little in the way of pat resolution. (The "derivative" line was all the more funny to me, having worked as a silly hat maker for 7 years).   The line was delivered during the second of three scenes and takes place in a silly hat factory where Todd is woo-ing Joan, whom we saw as a younger girl in the first scene. In that first scene, young Joan uncovers a dark reality--she is living in a time of world wide war and no one is to be trusted, even family. Although the specifics of the war are left vague, we know that Joan's Aunt Harper is involved, along with her husband, and that abduction, torture, and deaths are becoming common place. I saw the play twice, and found the following review in the Oregon Arts Watch website very helpful, in order to get a framework for the nature of the storyline and more information about the English playwright, Caryl Churchill.

Upon further investigation, I turned up this review in an online science fiction journal, of the play itself rather than a particular production. It gives an incisive look into one man's passion for the play and it's staying power.   I strongly recommend seeing the Shaking The Tree production of the play before it closes. Director Samantha Van der Merwe's staging is incredibly fresh and creative, especially given that Churchill gave no stage directions at all in her manuscript. The four actors, Annabel Cantor, San Nicolas, Beth Thompson and Patricia Hunter, are all wonderful. The talented and experienced ensemble does an admirable job of delivering brilliantly Churchill's lines and insinuations about war, corruption, and brutality, infusing them with wit, mystery, and raw emotion. It is an intriguing and thought-provoking play, particularly if you have ever railed at the absurdity of war and it's trappings.   Here's one of the most original moves Director Van der Merwe makes in her staging: she opens up the cast to local artists and community members who wish to participate as set designers and casting extras! What fun! She put out an open call this spring and summer for artists to make preposterous hats to be used in a "Spectacle March" during the September run of "Far Away".

My husband and I couldn't refuse and contributed an enormous dragon hat made out of a 5 gallon jug for the head and eggshell cartons for the teeth. The hat is worn by means of a bicycle helmet to which the dragon sculpture is attached. This outlandish collection of hats are then parceled out to a gathering of local folks who show up each night of the play's run. After choosing a hat to wear and being given drab prisoners' costumes, the "prisoners" parade through the play led by a surly drummer, cigarette dangling from mouth. The audience sees the fruits of Joan and Todd's millinery labor in action. Death marches dressed up with couture. No matter how artfully designed the propaganda is for war, it still comes down to blood and guts.   Portland's small theater scene offers up some surprising and iconic gems. Get to "Far Away" before it closes for some dark yet tasty food for thought.  

Dreaming of Paris...Going to Paris!

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At home in Paris I take a milk bath two times a week, but here on the road it is more difficult. I miss them.

-Anna Held

 

I have always had an obsession with Paris, ever since I went there as a 16-year-old high school exchange student. Never mind that I was housed in a dismal suburb with a dysfunctional, anti-semitic girl and her family. I learned all sorts of obscure or embarassing words in French (squirrel, pregnant) and begun to dream in French. I continued my French studies through Freshman year of college and have made many French-American friends with whom to practice my French, and bought scarves a plenty since then. I have always aimed to capture that elusive French style in my own dress and lifestyle. Can you say "coffee in a bowl"?   Not that I have ever taken a milk bath but, Damn, those French just have a way of taking care of their sensual side. Whether it's cooking simple and delicious food seemingly effortlessly or throwing a scarf on without thinking twice about how to tie it, the French just seem to have style in spades.  

I haven't been to Paris in 25 years and I think it's about time. I have been to France several times, when we exchanged our home with a Barcelona couple for a month two summers ago. We went to glorious Provence, and to under appreciated Toulouse, to see the Tour de France. We got "stuck" in Toulouse when our car died and had to wait for repairs. Toulouse is beautiful, the real, un-touristed France. But now it's time for Paris! I am celebrating TEN YEARS cancer free and we are GOING TO PARIS! I am so excited I am jumping out of my skin! We will be staying with dear friends who have moved to Le Marais, an historic and central area known for it's gay bars and orthodox Jews. Perfect! I will be sketching in cafés with my husband, and eating amazing food with our friends who have been scouting out the best créperies and bistros for a year. We'll also drive to Brittany for 3 nights, staying in the beach town of Concarneau and visiting the rustic and traditionally Breton town of Quimper. I'll let you know if I take a milk bath. I will definitely eat crepes! Au revoir!

Betty Love!

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I went on an artist's date today. An artist's date is a concept from Julia Cameron's Artist's Way, a runaway bestseller that promotes, among other nurturing practices for artists' block or insecure artist syndrome, the taking of a couple of hours for oneself, alone, to be inspired and re-filled when the cup hath run dry. The idea is that during an artist's date, simply spending time visiting an art gallery or museum, or walking in the forest, or eating brunch at a cute diner with only your sketchbook for company, provides inspiration and self soothing that is often missing in one's busy life.  

This is exactly what I did today, when I visited Portland's wonderful Museum of Contemporary Craft to see the Betty Feves exhibit. Betty Feves(1918-1985) was a pioneering modernist ceramicist living and working in the Pendleton area of Eastern Oregon. Her use of local clays, colors and monumental landscape forms put her at the forefront of the "think globally, act locally movement" that has morphed into the regionalism that is all the rage in nearly every art media today. Her humble persona as a farmer's daughter and a working mom is appealing and down-to-earth, but it is her mastery over form, color and texture that make her a giant in the world of modern ceramics. Some of her works are lighthearted, almost humorous, with big faces and a clash of textures that make one smile. Much of the work is so large and muscular it feels as if it were forced up through the ground by a seismic event. Namita Gupta Wiggers, the museum's curator and now, Director, has done a marvelous job of elucidating Ms. Feves' artistic process and personal voice, as described in an informative article in Oregon Arts Watch.   My artist's date was a huge success.I feel inspired, moved to make work that is truly me, as Betty Feves insisted upon throughout her career. Fortunately The Contemporary Crafts Museum on the Park Blocks in Portland's Pearl District will be open through July 28. Please go!

Mt. Tabor Art Walk Is Coming Up

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  How do I love Studio Tours? Let me count the ways: 1. You can peek into other artists' houses. 2. You can peek into other artists' houses. 3. You can peek into other artists' houses.   Seriously, walking around different neighborhoods is always interesting, especially in a city with as wonderful neighborhoods as Portland has. But when you add the added bonus of having a map which shows you dozens of artists' homes that are open to the public, with artwork for sale and working art studios cleaned up, and demonstrations of their work process happening, this is the simply the most fun that I can think of!   Mt. Tabor, my neighborhood for the past 12 years, is a leafy, elegant old 'hood with loads of classic bungalows and other cool architecture. Mt. Tabor Artwalk has been an event for the past 7 years, but this is the first year that I have shown my jewelry! My husband, Mark, has been a part of the art walk for many years, showcasing and selling his mosaics and it has been a great time to meet and greet neighbors and art enthusiasts as they walk from artists' home to artists' home, checking out (and buying) art.   If you live in Portland, please make time to jump into the Mt. Tabor Art Walk and make sure you visit #8 on the map! That's us Brody artists, making good use of our huge bungalow basement, cranking out jewelry, mosaics and other works of art! See you on May 18th and 19th! Visit the Mt. Tabor Artwalk website and download a copy of the map today!

Silver Clay is Cool!

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 I spent this past weekend selling my jewelry and prints at the Buckman Art Show and Sell, a fabulous annual fundraiser for the only Arts Elementary Magnet School in Portland. My silver jewelry was of great interest to my customers, because the details and textures you can get in a small, intimate scale are almost like little prints and tiny things always charm people! I love the metal clay work for this reason--it is akin to printmaking, a discipline I am in love with and am continuing to learn about in my 2-year Fine Art Certificate Program at Pacific Northwest College of Art, here in Portland, Oregon. Currently I am taking an etching class, learning about the techniques the old masters used to make intimate and intricate artworks that we still admire and emulate today.  

When I form a lump of Metal Clay into a piece of silver jewelry, I start by rolling out the clay to make a flat ground, much like a prepared substrate for the printing press. Onto this surface I push textured material from diverse sources, including rubber stamps, polymer or fiber. In this sense, I am working the surface into an intaglio print, with the indented surfaces being able to take a darkening agent, or patina, so that the image or texture comes into sharper focus. The result is a miniature etching, a small piece of unique art, because each image is printed individually and is one of a kind. Each time I press my texture into the clay, a different result happens.   The piece pictured in this blog post is a thistle, one of my favorite flowers. The thistle is the symbol of Scotland, where I spent a semester in college. The thistle and other wildflowers feature in my artwork regularly. I was happy when I found I had an old rubber stamp with the image of a Celtic tree, including thistles, a bird of paradise and other flora & fauna (I love using that phrase!). I use this texture plate frequently since there are so many little areas from which I can grab a texture. Do you see which thistle I used?

Volunteer Today!

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A year ago I was laid off from a job I had for six years, a job I created because I felt a need in the community. (You can read all about it in the Healing Arts section of my website.) It was sort of an accident that I ended up getting paid for work that felt so good to my core. The Healing and Empowerment Program at Quest Center for Integrative Health served many people but it also served a need in me, the need to express gratitude for having made it through cancer treatment and for getting a big reality check every day about how lucky I was /am to still be here, living my life. That's what volunteering can be like! Not only are you helping others, you are getting something out of the bargain! 

CHAP Volunteers! from Celine O'Malley on Vimeo.

  Recently I have been volunteering at Portland's Children's Healing Art Project, a very cool organization that brings the joy of art making to sick kids in area hospitals and their families who are needing support too. You might think that I am working directly with kids, stringing golden beads with them for the Million Bead Project or getting messy with paint and glue side by side with smiling kids hooked up to IV's. Nope! The way CHAP differentiates those people who just need some extra community service or school credits and those who are going to be able to make longer term connections with the kids is to have volunteers make a 6-12 month commitment to working on projects in the CHAP art-y offices, gathering up art supplies, splatter painting their signature envelopes for event invitations or, and this is the fun activity everybody loves, gluing sequins on the brightly kid-painted items to be auctioned off to further support CHAP's mission. My 16-year old son has started accompanying me to volunteer, needing to do some volunteer hours for his High School Honor Society Club. I am trying to model how it's not the glamourous work that really needs the getting done but the behind the scenes work that any service organization runs on. And it's fun!   SO.... here's my pitch: Want to feel good about a couple of spare hours during the week that you weren't using any way? Volunteer Today! Maybe at CHAP or maybe at some organization whose mission you can really get behind. It feels good and makes the world a better place.

The Most Astounding Fact

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  You know how sometimes the most random things can "come across your desk" and shift your perspective just a bit? I think if you watch this video it will help you understand that we are all here on the planet to connect and support those around us by virtue of the fact that we are all connected, literally, not just by the same DNA but more elementally. We are all connected by the same matter that makes up every living thing on the planet. This means that what we each say and do is not separate and different and therefore "other" but we each affect every one and everything else with what we do or say. Whoa!!! That is some serious sh*&%@!!! I have been feeling a little adrift lately, having suffered a car accident at the hands of a young guy who didn't stop long enough at a stop sign and look carefully. It could happen to any one of us and I truly forgive him. I am just trying to get myself better and slowly, surely, I am. I have felt, though, as a result of this big whack, that my life is out of sorts and that while "everyone" else has a plan and is on the right path, I am drifting. I couldn't be further from the truth, it turns out. Because I am connected to everyone and everything on the planet, my being here now in this way, doing what I do, is part of what holds the entire thing together. Without me, a little chunk of "it all" wouldn't be complete. Ponder on that for an afternoon. Who YOU are means so much to the whole thing.  

Getting My Gem Geek On

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This weekend I am teaching a workshop at my home studio, "Let's Get Knotty", focusing on perfecting the art of knotting gemstones and pearls on silk thread. I love this technique because the softness of each silk knot really highlights the beads and the spaces between each bead allows the piece a gentle movement.I love sourcing gems from all over, but I especially love getting my inner Gem Geek on by going to the gem and rock fairs around the Portland area that pop up in County Fairgrounds and other quirky locales. These Fairs are often held in parking lots encircled by chain link fences and featuring other glamourous trappings like craft tents and fry bread!This weekend will find me at one such event, the Tualitin Valley Gem Club show, where my Gem Geek will be raging and my wallet will be frequently opening to purchase some really special gems and stones.Ordinarily I would give you a hyperlink to the show here, but these Rock Hounds are so serious about their rocks and gems that they simply have NO time to update their skeleton of a website. Anyway, if you want to go, meet me there on Friday, Saturday or Sunday at the Washington County Fair Complex

It is at these fairs that I really learn about the stones I am buying. I can usually see an example of the stones in their natural form and I can often meet the people that carve the beads and stone pendants themselves. This proximity to the stone's source adds a great deal of character and connection. Then, when I am stringing the beads or knotting them on silk, I have a better idea of the journey the bead or stone has made to get to me, and then to the buyer of the piece I am making. Another wonderful place to learn all about stones and gems is the fantastic Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. I was first introduced to this cool and extensive museum located in Hillsboro (very near the site of the Tualitin Valley Gem Club show!) on a 5th grade field trip with my son's class. I think I had the most fun of all the kids, seeing the endless rooms of a former private home in the forest encompassing vast quantities of examples of all kinds of fossils, petrified wood, huge meteorites, amazing fluorescent rocks, and a wonderful agate gallery. My personal favorite is the display of giant chunks of amber with real bugs inside! One of the highlights of the museum is "Alma Rose", the rhodochrosite from the Sweet Home Mine in Alma, Colorado. Rhodochrosite is one of my favorite stones, having a lovely pink hue and many shades and forms to choose from.  

Portrait Night at Drawing 101

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It wasn't just me that was sweating this evening after all! I got to the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) on a rainy night and found that nearly all of the 10 or so adult students taking Kurt Holloman's Beginning Drawing Perceptions class were rather dreading the evening with our first live model. It's one thing to attempt to draw a vase or a lamp. Those objects, when drawn using some of the left brain's devilishly rote ideas about the subject, can simply look a bit "off". But in drawing a portrait or, more difficult, the whole figure, the lapse in careful observation becomes very obvious. We know what a human should look like, we are observing them everyday all day in close quarters and have been looking at faces and their expressions since we were babies. My efforts to draw the face previously have been somewhat successful and I have been encouraged during the first 5 classes of this course to continue my pursuit of drawing. I am contemplating following this effort into the world of painting.    

One thing I have noticed during the brief time that I have made looking and seeing and drawing a priority is the way I look at the faces and figures around me. I am looking for a sense of mass and shape, line and expression. I effort to slow down and observe the details and individuality of what I am looking at, really seeing someone or something and not simply drawing what my automatic or "left brain" sees based on habit, judgement or simple inattention. This new emphasis on attention and reportage of details infuses everything I do with a sense of the artistic beauty that exists within the human form and in the human spirit.   In the depth of winter, there is still presence and power of line and shadow all around. This elemental beauty in a time of darkness reminds me of the utter beauty that flowed from the tortured soul of Vincent Van Gogh and how he sold one solitary painting during his lifetime but felt compelled to paint and draw the beautiful world and ordinary people around him. And oh what paintings he did!I will keep drawing and painting until I am old because I want to see the world as it really is and honor it with my attention.  

Valentine Video From My Sweetheart

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  My favorite thing about Valentine's Day (this is one of my fave holidays & there are a lot of things I love about it--heart socks, lacy pink teddies, chocolate all day long) are the beautiful handmade cards my husband makes for me. They are insanely romantic, hand-painted and the sentiments are truly unique; funny and quirky, just like him! I have them saved in a pretty, hand-made box in my bedroom and I often take them out and remind myself how lucky I am to have Mark Brody for my Valentine!   This morning at our annual Valentine's Day family breakfast, which I started years ago as an excuse to shower my boys with stuffed animals and Dutch baby pancakes, Mark told me that he was sorry, he didn't have a card for me but that he was sure I'd like my present if I could find it. Later in the day, he asked if I had read my emails and I said no. He told me to do so and I found a short email telling me to check my computer desktop for my gift. There I found a link to my first ever video Valentine's Day card; not just any old commercial video card but one made on iMovie, pieced together lovingly with a song by his favorite band, Gomez, made with a sense of musical timing and a lover's eye. There are dozens of family photos, mostly taken by me, pictures of the two of us, or of myself (hand-held self-portraits) or with friends or my kids.   I love that my man is a romantic. Thank you Mark! Happy valentine's Day, y'all!  

Collagraph Maniac!

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The Printmaker is a most peculiar being. He delights in deferred gratification and in doing what does not come naturally. He takes pleasure in working backward or in opposites: the gesture that produces a line of force moving to the right prints to the left, and vice versa; a deeply engraved trench in a copper or zinc plate prints as a depression in the paper. Left is right. Right is left. Backward is forward. The Printmaker, peculiar as he is, must see at least two sides to every question.

-Jules Heller

 

I have enjoyed some version or other of printmaking since high school when I took a silkscreen class and made a print of a cat in a window. It took me 20 years to find my way back to art making as a discipline as opposed to a high school elective but I have chosen my path and it definitely involves the process of making version after version of the same image, slightly altered by the winds of fate and a misplaced ink smear. I have dabbled in a variety of forms of printmaking, from Moku Hanga, or Japanese Wood Block printmaking (which I love), to Gocco, a now nearly extinct form of silkscreen, a medium in which my friend Shu-Ju Wang is a master.

I happened on the printmaking style of Collagraphy by chance when I signed up for a class at the Multnomah Arts Center in SW Portland. I loved the class, taught by a spunky printmaker and educator named Palmarin Merges. Although I explain the collagraph process in detail in the "What I Do" section of my website, I will say briefly that collagraphs are prints made by making a collage with textural materials on a printing plate and then inking and printing that sucker up! I fell in love with the spontaneous and irreverent way that collagraph prints are made. There is an endless variety of material you can use to texture the plate for printmaking and the results have a three dimensional and tactile quality I have seen nowhere else in printmaking. Like other forms of printmaking there are the marks that come out of seemingly nowhere and the reversal of the image upon printing. Unlike other forms of printmaking, anything goes in terms of what you apply to the plate and that leaves so much room for playfulness and experimentation. "Can I put this chunk of bark on the plate?" or "What about the hair from my last haircut?". Seriously, anything goes and that rebellious approach to printmaking sort of sums up what I love about it.   My go to place for printmaking in Portland is Atelier Meridian. I plan on spending much more time there in the future, like when my kids leave the nest and I can stop folding laundry that isn't my own. The Atelier, which is in North Portland in a suitable gritty 'hood, has gorgeous printmaking facilities and a wonderful community of convivial folks. Art should not be made in isolation, unless it is by choice. And I really like people. So long! I am off to make art in isolation today, by choice!  

Kiffa Beads-Design for the Ages

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I have been fascinated with these colorful beads from Kiffa, Mauritania since I set eyes on them at a bead show years ago. I bought a whole strand simply because I loved the story of how they are made using the most rudimentary techniques and yet look incredibly complex and modern. They are valued as representing the highest level of artistic skill and ingenuity among bead makers anywhere.    "Kiffa" beads (a name only attributed to these beads in the second half of the 20th century by bead dealers) are made by women using a wet inlay technique, in which monochrome, imported glass beads are crushed to powder, creating a palette of powdered colored glass. This powder is then transformed into a moist paste by mixing in a binder. This binder can be made of sugar, gum arabic or, most elementally, the women's own saliva. The colored powder is then spread with a needle over a core bead made from plain glass. This process, kind-of like needle felting, allows the designs to be carefully controlled, resulting in beautiful, intricate striped or dot patterns. Each bead is heated in a simple charcoal oven and sometimes polished after firing.

The result is a bead with a depth and personality as unique as it's maker.   These beads have been collected and traded for centuries. Each bead is described by a vocabulary that includes descriptions of color, material, shape, decoration and size. Many of the Kiffa beads have a polychromatic color scheme of blue, red and white and are decorated with triangles and chevron stripes. Eye-like circles are a common design feature. The diamond-shaped beads are often made into bracelets or sewn onto strips of leather in a specific ratio of blue to red to polychrome. Some of the patterns are believed to increase the fertility of their wearers.   Bead collectors are in love with Kiffa beads, because they represent what is special about old beads: they are/were made using simple techniques to achieve stunning and timeless designs. Click here to eavesdrop on bead collectors geeking out in an online discussion about Kiffa beads.