The Agony of Writing an Artist Statement by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

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It is very hard for some artists to write an artist statement and it is sometimes equally hard for others to read.  It is easier to write a bio and to tell others where you’ve been and what you’ve done.  But it is so much harder to explain why.

Having an artist statement prepared is a great way for customers to connect with your work and it gives shops and galleries “sound bites” to use to promote your work. After having suffered through the agony of writing my own artist statement I can tell you that the most important thing about an artist statement is the process of writing one.  I found it helped me sort out my own artistic history and methods.  It has helped me to  clarify the direction of my work and it has jump started a new body of work. Despite already knowing how important one was to have, it’s not something I’d written for myself.

calvins-artists-statementI was recently in the position where I had to send in my artist statement.  500 words.  Five.Hundred.Words. OY! I procrastinated for a few days.  Then I cut and pasted bits of things I’d written.  I sent it in.  And was told, “This is not an artist statement”.  I knew that, but found the exercise very difficult.  I’m not one to ever stand up and say, “I did this and it is awesome.” I needed help, so naturally I did some research.

A friend of mine pointed me to this site: http://www.gyst-ink.com/artist-statement-guidelines/ this one is good too: http://www.artstudy.org/art-and-design-careers/sample-artist-statement.php

I rewrote my artist statement. (After I raided my kids’ trick or treat bags, walked the dog, tidied my studio…procrastination is one of my rituals before writing.) I read some guidelines about artist statements and I started over. I hope my new version is a real artist statement.  And I hope that when you need to write one you can remember that they are very hard for most artists to write—give yourself a break.

 

20161025_1410491Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is a studio artist living in Rural Ontario Canada.  She is inspired by the landscape and history of Canada.  The structure of trees inspires her as much as people’s portraits.  Both are re-occurring themes in her jewellery and photography. To see more of her work please follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sassyandstella/

Metal Clay 101- Carving Metal Clay by Dona Miller

mountain-ring-wet-carvedWet, dry, push, pull. Whatever method you choose, with time and a little practice you can create beautifully carved metal clay.

Carving in wet clay can give you curved edges and a sculptural feel. (See opening photo.) The clay is wet and the tools used are generally soft and rounded.  Wet clay added to wet clay can be shaped by pushing the clay into place.  Large amounts of wet metal clay can be cut off and small amounts brushed off with a wet brush.  Often artists working “wet on wet” will simply brush each side of clay to be joined with a swish of water from a paint brush. Just about any tool can be used with wet metal clay and most people like to use traditional clay carving tools. In general carving wet clay involves a pulling technique, where the tool is being pulled toward you to remove clay. Another way to think about it is that the clay you are removing is moving toward you. Fortunately, clay carving tools are readily available and inexpensive.

catbones-broach-dry-carvingThe method that I prefer is carving dry clay, which creates crisp, clean lines even on textured surfaces. (See Cat Tail Brooch photo.)I use micro wood carving tools to do this. When using a wood carving tool, you will be using a pushing motion to remove clay. The clay you are removing will be coming off the tool in front of your tool. Keep in mind, you can achieve a slightly different result depending on whether you carve into leather hard or fully dry clay. Fully dry clay will create more resistance which can give you more control, especially when you are first starting.

I generally use a pencil to draw my carving lines if I am doing a detailed carving or I want very crisp, specific cuts in my clay. If I want a more organic look, I will only mark starts and stops for my lines. I will then do a very shallow carve to create a guide for the tool when I am carving deeper. This allows me to move the first cut along a line, easily seeing my marks in front of the tool. After the shallow groove is in, I let carving tool to track in the groove while making the deeper cuts.

The trick to nice clean carvings is to remove a little clay at a time. You can always remove more clay, but it is often difficult to cleanly add clay back where you have removed too much. Also, make sure your piece has good support under it where you are carving. If you are carving a domed piece, leave the piece on the form while carving.

As always, safety is key when you are carving. Clay carving tools can be sharp and pointy and can easily injure if you are not paying attention. If you are using wood carving tools, note that these are extremely sharp and placement of your hands so the tool is always moving away from your fingers is important.

Once you have control of your carving technique, you can carve shallow, intricate designs. You can also take a completely different approach and create negative spaces by carving all the way through a layer of clay to make an open space. The sky’s the limit. Enjoy!

donaDona’s love of jewelry began as a child, sitting on the floor for hours with her mom’s jewelry box. She began designing her own jewelry in high school and spent time studying the work of a jewelry designer and family friend. During her career in high tech, Dona traveled the world fascinated by the cultures and their use of color and texture.

After leaving the high-tech world, Dona returned to her love of jewelry design. Her work is influenced by the places she has lived and traveled, bringing the textures of nature into her designs. Her love of stones is featured in her one-of-a-kind pieces which showcase the stones she has collected.

Dona currently teaches classes in jewelry design and techniques. Her students continue to be an inspiration to her, fascinating her with the unique perspective each student has conceptually and artistically.
Dona is an award winning artist. Her work is featured in stores and galleries throughout the Northwest and in print.

Tutorial: Fine Silver Leaf Earrings by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

leaf-beauty-shot-4x4I live in rural Ontario, Canada where autumn is the most glorious and colourful season. Once the leaves turn many colours, I start to think about making leaf jewellery. I was inspired by oak leaves for this project. Follow along with me and you can easily use your own favourite leaves to make earrings or a necklace pendant.

 

Here’s a link for the project: https://pmcconnection.com/education/projects/guide/name/fine_silver_leaf_earrings_by_jeannette_froese_leblanc.php

Thank you PMC Connection for sponsoring this project! Please note…the photos in the project link are tiny.  To enlarge photos please click on the image.

Enjoy!
Jeannette

P.S. If you make this project I’d love to see your work!  Send me an email with your image to: cre8tivefire@gmail.com

 

So you wanna sell your jewellery?? (Part 1)

12552325_163727650661795_2052323012_nLast month we ran a survey for our readers and there were some really great comments and questions.  One theme that repeated itself was about “making a living” at selling your work.

Here are a few of the reader questions:
“How can I make a living at my art?”
“How do you balance a personal life, regular work and creative time?”
“Does anyone make a living selling metal clay jewelry?”
“Can you make a living as an artist when you work with metal clay? This question could be asked to any “regular” person, like you and me ;)!”

I could have asked any of these questions! So I’m not the expert with the answers.  But I have done a bit of research and I have some resources to share. The first thing I’d like to address comes from a conversation about these very topics with my father.  He told me to “never pay too much for an income” and to “make a life, not a living”.  Sage advice from a person I admire.  I think his words address the question someone had about balancing work life and creative life. You can become a slave to your work even if it is your calling and by consequence miss out on family and friends. Many artists throughout history have sacrificed for their art. I have struggled with “work-life-balance” myself.  I’ve had to choose what is the most important–not just to me but to my family and so creative time often gets missed even though working in my studio is like breathing for me. I decided that I’d never regret giving the time to my children.  They won’t always be around but my many unfinished pieces of “art” will be there.index4

Question: “Does anyone make a living selling metal clay jewellery?”
Yes, I think there are artists who do!  However, given that the job of “artist” lacks a regular pay check, artists have to rely on many revenue streams. Artists living off their craft work hard at marketing their work, they sell on many platforms such as shops, online and shows, they teach, and most have varied jewellery lines and some sell products.  I would encourage you to find artists pages online, their sites and so forth and see how hard they work at “making a living”.

Question: “I would love to ask many of the high profile artists for more detailed information on how they achieved such name recognition/built their business in this community. And, if it supplies their full income, possibly even in the absence of a lot of travel teaching.”

This short talk by Paul Klein about finding your niche, removing obstacles and finding a mentor provides a great answer to the above question.

“Artist and career advisor Paul Klein emphasized the importance of being different.  He insinuated that distinctiveness generates sales–even more so than quality.  “Can’t all of us name artists who are doing really well monetarily, whose work we think sucks?”  The branded artist doesn’t necessarily produce better work, but more bankable work.” Quote from this article in Forbes.

In “Part 2” I’ll find answers to the questions about the nuts and bolts of business such as inventory, tracking, descriptions of work.

quote-to-make-living-itself-an-art-that-is-the-goal-henry-miller-130-94-16My closing comment is to be yourself.  I know that sounds so cliche. But it’s so true. I’ve been looking at metal clay jewellery for over a decade. (gasp) and I can almost without fail look at a photo of a piece of metal clay jewellery and tell you the name of the artist (and if I’m wrong–usually that person was the “inspiration” for the work). We need more work that stands out.  In another article I found on Forbes by Jessica Hagy she shows why weird can be bankable. Yes…be weird, but let your own distinct artistic voice show in your work!

Image credit for opening image: Location Pillar in the stairwell of the UT Austin Art Building was up for two weeks

JFL HeadshotJeannette Froese LeBlanc is working on becoming a distinct and profitable jewellery designer.  From her studio in rural Ontario, Jeannette tries to balance life as a mom of two (very) active children and earn a living from her jewellery.  You can find her work online and in several boutiques. www.SassyandStella.com

Artist Project Series: Gordon K. Uyehara

unnamed“The Artist Project Series” will feature 12 artists over the next year or so.  Each artist will let us look over their shoulder while they make a piece of art using EZ 960™ sterling silver metal clay.  As the master artists show their methods for making a piece, I hope that you are inspired and learn a new way of looking at metal clay. With thanks to the artists participating and to our corporate sponsor, Cool Tools.

Our first artist is Gordon Uyehara from Honolulu Hawaii. Recently he was interviewed by UK artist Julia Rai. Read her interview here.

In Gordon’s project, he shows how to make a Pangolin ring. It is an awesome piece of jewellery modeled after a very interesting animal. His project is quite timely too as countries have started to come together to sign a trade ban on Pangolins. (NY Times article.) Learn more about this animal. (Telegraph UK article.) Continue reading…

Artist Profile: Gordon K. Uyehara Interviewed by Julia Rai

indexMetal clay artist Gordon K. Uyehara has been a well-known presence in the metal clay community for as long as I can remember. He was always one of the first people to offer help and advice to newbies through the Yahoo metal clay forum which he also helped moderate. When I was setting up the Metal Clay Academy website in 2007, Gordon was one of the first artists I approached for permission to use images of his work on the site and he was instrumental in helping to get the project going.

e616081b3da1c51c74fa9dc2f9b82910The first time I actually met him was at a conference in the UK in 2008. Taking a class with Gordon is a study in clean and neat working! My workspace is always chaotic but my over-riding impression of watching Gordon’s demonstrations was how cleanly he worked. He is a quiet, thoughtful artist and teacher and being in his presence was a lovely, calming and supportive experience. Continue reading…

Artist Profile: Cindy Miller Interviewed by Julia Rai

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I’ve been an admirer of Cindy Miller’s work for a long time so I was really happy to have the opportunity to find out more about her for this profile.

(Photo: “Branch with Labradorite and Drops” Necklace by Cindy Miller)

Raised in Alabama, Cindy is now a full-time studio artist. “I’m single and live in Athens, Alabama with my Maine Coon Cat Taz – she’s a big girl and ‘helps’ me a lot,” she smiled. “I have also been adopted by several feral cats that live in the neighborhood so I always have an escort to my car. I live on the Tennessee River next door to my sister and her husband.  They have created a beautiful retreat at the river and being there is very relaxing.”

cindy-miller-taz-helping(Photo: “Taz helping”)

Growing up in Huntsville, Cindy credits her parents for nurturing her creative spirit. “I’m not really sure how old I was but it must have been around five years old because I was sleeping on the top bunk bed (my sister got the bunk below),” she began. “I woke up one morning and decided to draw eyes all over the wall.  I can remember being fascinated with the shape of eyes and I guess this was how I was working through it in my mind. There must have been 50 eyes on the wall.  You can imagine the surprised look on my mother’s face when she came in to get us up for the day.  Luckily I had parents that were very patient when it came to creative expression.  I never got in trouble for drawing on the wall or cutting off my mom’s drapes to use as material for my doll’s clothing, or any number of things I did as a sprouting artist…they just made sure I had more art materials around.”

cindy-miller-french-court-necklace(Photo: “French Court Necklace” by Cindy Miller) Continue reading…

2016 Metal Clay Survey

12I have a very short survey for metal clay artists.  This information is only for Creative Fire so that we can better plan out our next year and bring you the articles you’d like to read!
Thank you!
Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, editor Creative Fire

Update: We have reached the maximun amount of responses for the survey.  But have no fear–you can fill out this word doc and email it back to me. survey-2016

 

 

 

Product Review: OneFire Sterling PMC

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A beautiful bracelet by Terry Kovalcik made with Sterling PMC Photo: Corrin Jacobsen Kovalcik

I was recently asked by PMC Connection to test the new sterling metal clay by Mitsubishi.  I was excited, but also a little intimidated when I thought about all of the beautiful pieces made by testers of PMC products over the years: Hattie Sanderson’s rings, Celie Fago’s rings and charms, Terry Kovalcik’s bracelets. I worked hard on my experimental test pieces, but I didn’t end up with anything that will grace the posters and ads for the new clay. I did learn some things that I’m sharing in the hopes that my mistakes benefit other metal clay artists.

pmc-onefire-sterling-45g-50-6g-clay-weight-2962-pThe new “OneFire Sterling PMC” is a marvelous new clay.  Celie Fago’s idea to combine metal clays into a sterling 960 was a brilliant twist for metal clay artists.  And now Mitsubishi has taken the clay one step further and it can be open shelf fired. Continue reading…

Every Breath You Take by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

fan3So what’s it like in your studio?  How’s the air you breathe? I work with many different media types and use several different processes. For example: metal clay, metalsmithing, metal etching, polymer clay, paint…and sometimes my work makes me feel ill.  Sometimes I’m affected by just the smell of certain things in my studio. So I started to think about installing an exhaust fan.  I looked at some “industrial” options and found most to be out of my budget.  Then I came up with an idea-and it cost $43.  Can’t beat that!

I bought a brand new kitchen stove exhaust fan at a “Habitat for Humanity-Re-Store”. Then I brought it into my studio and realized I had no wall space where I needed the fan.  My solution was to take the fan out of the range hood and to put it in a box. Below I show the steps I took to install a fan to help with drawing out the air in my studio.  I always try to have a window open a bit to bring in fresh air (even in the dead of winter) but I didn’t feel the air in my studio was being changed fast enough. Continue reading…