Finding My Lost Creative Mojo in Time to Help Relief Efforts in Fort McMurray

EtsyAwards_Productslide_CountrySharing news about my own work feels very strange to me. I’d share this story in a heartbeat if it was about another artist. But I’m biting the bullet and sharing a story for my local paper. I now understand that people are sincere when they say “It is an honour to be nominated”. It really is an honour! I joined Etsy in March and applied for their “New Talent” award. I’m one of 60 Canadians in the contest.

Since the demise of our magazine “Metal Clay Artist” I lost my creative mojo. I floundered in my studio not really doing much more than organizing my supplies. That was until my friend, Alabama artist Kathleen Nowak Tucci quite literally kicked me in the butt! She invited me for a visit and had planned activities to spark my lost creative mojo. Etching aluminum caught my attention. I started by etching images my kids drew and I was hooked. Of course metal clay will work it’s way back into my jewellery line…I have ideas to pair etched aluminum components with metal clay pieces. But that’s going on in the background in my studio. Right now I’m trying to establish a business with my etched jewellery.

Metal Clay Artist Magazine had subscribers from all over the world…including subscribers in Fort McMurray, Alberta. I went through our list and tried to contact some of them to see how they were after the huge forest fire that took over their city. I actually found a few who had the same cell phone number as they had when they signed up for the magazine. They were happy to chat. At the same time that I was reaching out to artists, I found out I was in the running  for a $10,000 prize…but it is a “vote for me” contest. I’m currently in 7th place out of 60. I could win it if I had help. And in turn, I could help with relief efforts in Fort McMurray. Many of you know first hand how rocky things were here after the magazine business collapsed. Your generosity and that of my friend Kathleen are inspiring me to shamelessly promote the Etsy contest as I’d like to “Pay it forward” with the prize. So please… “vote for me”.  https://etsyawards.com/ca/Finalist-33/SassyandStella

fireFor background information on the situation in Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada: 1. http://globalnews.ca/news/2679437/fort-mcmurray-wildfire-pet-owners-desperate-to-save-animals-left-behind/

2.http://edmontonjournal.com/business/local-business/insurance-losses-from-fort-mcmurray-fire-could-top-9-billion-analyst-says

Local Artist Wants to Help Fort McMurray Relief Effort as She Competes for $10,000 Prize

Froese LeBlancJeannette Froese-LeBlanc is thrilled to be one of 10 Canadian finalists in the New Talent division and she is eligible for the “Community’s Choice Grand Prize” with a cash prize of $10,000. Voting is taking place online via: EtsyAwards.com in the “Canadian New Talent” division. As her votes come in, Jeannette is dreaming of ways she could use the prize to help with relief efforts in Fort McMurray.

For the past seven years Jeannette promoted the work of other jewellery artists in a magazine she produced called, “Metal Clay Artist”. It was distributed in 67 countries and it was a growing business. “Technology made it possible for 8 people to work in 3 different time zones! It was marvelous! Our editors and designers were located in Canada, the UK, and the USA. Unfortunately, our distributor declared bankruptcy and took ours and many other print magazines down with them. We’ve moved online thanks to our fabulous artistic community and site sponsors.” The new site for jewellery artists is called Creative Fire.

“After mourning the loss of the magazine for about a year, I slowly started to get back into my studio. But I wasn’t going anywhere with my work. A good friend of mine from Alabama invited me to her studio and taught me some techniques for etching aluminum. I haven’t stopped working in my studio since” remarks Jeannette. “It’s funny how even our creative muscles can suffer and get out of shape!”

Prior to starting a magazine, Jeannette was an artist and a school art teacher. “For years I worked in silver and metal clay. But aluminum has changed how I work and how I view patterns. The process takes many steps from setting up the image on my computer to masking the metal, etching, cleaning and polishing. Each step is very different and seeing the pattern evolve is very interesting and often leads me to new ideas.”

When asked why she named her studio “Sassy and Stella” she says, “I know online well as I’ve visited hundreds and hundreds of artists’ sites over the years. But I also knew no one ever spelled my name right so I needed a simple online address. Everything I wanted was taken. I spent weeks trying new names. I asked everyone I knew for suggestions and was just about to give up when my friend’s rescue dog “Sassy” came in the room…followed by her other dog “Stella”. On a whim, I tried their names for an online shop and ‘bingo’ I could get an online site! I think the name really works for my jewellery line, plus, Sassy and Stella are two very cool rescue dogs!”

“Winning this prize could certainly be a game changer for me!” said Jeannette. “There are things I dream of for my studio work that are out of my reach. But instead I want to help someone else. My friend in Alabama was generous in so many ways and I would like to pay it forward. I have so many ideas of how I think $10 000 could help others. I named my studio after two rescued stray dogs…so I think it is quite fitting that I find a way to help some of the animal shelters in Fort McMurray. Many people had to leave quickly and some couldn’t make it home to find their pets. Some pets ran away. Others had to let their farm animals loose as there was not enough time to transport them. I can only imagine how tight resources are in that city to help animals. The prize money could go to some shelters to meet their immediate needs.”

“I also know that there are artists in Fort McMurray are who will be affected by the down time for their businesses as the city recovers. I recently talked to a jewellery artist from the area about getting art supplies in the hands of artists, art students and teachers and hiring them to give free art lessons.  A lot of the area children could benefit from art therapy.  Creativity helps with stress and depression and there is a lot of healing to happen in the Fort McMurray area. This prize money could do a lot of good there.”

etsy finalist sassy and stella dot comTo vote for Jeannette Froese-LeBlanc: https://etsyawards.com/ca/Finalist-33/SassyandStella

Metal Clay 101: Rolling Textures by Kris Kramer

index1 When I rolled my first textures in metal clay, I was excited by the results and truly amazed at the level of detail the clay picked up. Then I moved on to a stage where I noticed tiny cracks in the clay, which left me rolling a texture more than once to get the results I wanted. Time went by and I began to notice double imprints or shadows in the designs, then various depths to my textures that I also didn’t like. I was evolving into a metal clay texture aficionado. Continue reading…

Artist Profile-Patrik Kusek

 

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Patrik Kusek placed 2nd in this years Saul Bell Design Award in the Metal Clay Category.  I had a chance to ask him a few questions about his piece and his studio work.

2016_SBDA_PatrikKusekIN3 2016_SBDA_PatrikKusekIN2Creative Fire: Can you tell us about the inspiration for your Saul Bell Design Award winning piece?
Patrik Kusek: The piece if part of an ongoing series of work that deals with my mother’s dementia. Molds were made from 18th century plaster cameos called Tour Cameos. I used these to create each of the cameos in the necklace. Tour cameos were collected by Europeans while on their “Grand Tour” As long as 3 years were spent aboard learning about different cultures. I used the Tour Cameos as a metaphor for my mothers life. The fractures and spotty gold represent my mothers memory which is fading away.

CF: Could you have imagined today’s level of metal clay work 10 years ago? Do you think there will be the same level of technical advances in the next 10 years in metal clay art?
PK: I  could not have imagined the beautiful work that is made from metal clay today. When I first started using metal clay I could count on one hand the really great metal clay artists. Now we are fortunate enough to have wonderful artists world wide and the new generation is pushing creativity to it’s limits. I don’t think there will be much more advancement in metal clay. There might be smaller achievements but not breakthroughs of the past few years. Metal clay is just a material, and the focus for the future is expressing artistry through the medium of metal clay.

CF: Do you have any advice for a new to metal clay jewellery maker?
PK: Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, we all make mistakes and with metal clay you can always reconstituted, recycle or refine it.
 
CF: You teach classes on your techniques. Do you have advice for your students about the difference between inspiration and the copying your work.
PK: It’s a thin line to walk sometimes because we encourage our students to copy our work in class but primarily to learn the technique. However they should take the technique and use it to express their own vision. Inspiration is a starting point, a jumping off point to express the idea. A good artist will put there own unique voice into the piece.
 
CF: What 5 tools do you always have on your bench?
PK: JUST 5????? JoolTool, Dockyard Carving tools, Textures rollers, Water, iPad for music or movies or CNN.

CF: What is your favourite quote?
PK: I don’t really have a favorite. It’s more like my favorite for now…”Commit to Mastery” I like this because it applies to just about any medium. As adults I think we can get too bogged down with being perfect right out of the gate. We need to remind our-self to take our time to really learn the process. If we commit to mastery it becomes a life long process not just a weekend workshop.
 
CF: If you could spend a day with any artist (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
PK: Picasso, Paris, 1920’s — need I say more?
 
CF: What’s next for you? (Art shows, lectures, new work….)
PK:I have a couple of videos coming out soon with Interweave. Base metal mosaics and micro mosaics. I love these techniques used in the video they are dramatic yet straightforward.
Thank you Patrik for taking the time to share your responses to our questions.  And once again, congratulations on your award.  Your design is stunning.
Reference: To see more about the Saul Bell Design Award and all of the winners and finalists: http://www.saulbellaward.com/Winners/Year/2016

Hot Topic: Copy-Cats

copycat
Image credit: www.mostlychelsea.com
cop·y·cat
ˈkäpēˌkat/
noun: copy-cat
-(especially in children’s use) a person who copies another’s behavior, dress, or ideas
-denoting an action, typically a crime, carried out in imitation of another.

Creative Chat with Artist Anna Mazoń

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We wanted to catch up Anna since our last interview in MCAM in the Fall of 2013.
I can’t believe it was 3 years ago already! Time flies and so many things happened since then. Thanks to Metal Clay Artist Magazine I started teaching in other countries – I travel a lot ever year and meet fantastic people all over the world. I also learned a lot of new, different techniques and refined those I already have been using. Recently I also started creating a permanent collection of my designs (in addition to my one of a kind pieces) using lost wax casting technique for making pieces from hand sculpted metal clay prototypes. This medium still excites me so much! It brings endless possibilities both for hobbyists creating things once in a while and full time businesses.in_the_eye_of_the_beholder04

Tell us how the style of your work has evolved? Where do you get your design inspirations?
I get my inspirations mostly from Nature, but understood in many different ways. Sometimes just straight from it – raw impressions, forms that I simply see during my walks or hiking trips. Trees, flowers, stones… Sometimes I find my inspiration in Nature as seen through “glasses” of ancient cultures – expressed in myths, old tales, folk songs, philosophy. I am also inspired by modern Earth­-based religions and sometimes fantasy books. Everything that explores our relation with Nature is my inspiration. Recently I am also taking a little journey inward, seeing myself as a form of a microcosm reflecting Nature. I focus on my emotions, reactions to loss and this intense longing to know the answers I will probably never know. This is still before me – I mostly have a lot of sketches, but I guess that my recent piece “Natura abhorret a vacuo” shows this direction the best.index

leshy01slavic_tales_autumn_biesGenerally I feel my style and designs are much more effortless now than there were a few years ago. I focus mostly on what I want to do, what I want to say, rather than how to do that from technical point of view. I see this tendency in whole metal clay community – more and more people are becoming really skilled in metal clay. We know more, we are able to do more. But the thing is that this is the point where real journey and challenges begin. When you can do whatever you have in your mind, then you have to face the question – what do I really WANT to do? How does is it really say “me”? What I want to say through what I do? WHY I am doing this in the first place?lunula

startled strachy_na_lachyThe style and design of your work is very recognizable. How long has it taken you get to the place that your artistic voice is so strong?
Honestly I feel that finding your own style is a process which starts far before you even think about actually creating something. It’s like a potential, a seed within you which is nurtured by your upbringing, by things that happen to you, your actions and all things around you. When you start making things – bringing them from your mind into physical plane – it sprouts. For me it felt like the most natural thing in the world – like speaking my mother tongue. I knew since I made my very first piece of jewellery that this is my style. But don’t get me wrong – the fact that you discover your style is only the beginning. This is were years of hard work (and fun!) start. You have to learn to use it in a beautiful, skillful way. Just like we can speak a language just so­ so, struggling to barely communicate or to create most beautiful, refined poems, saying words straight from your heart. For me it took years, and I feel I still have so much to learn! Exercising your artistic voice is a never-ending, exciting journey. I think that my point is that your style, your designs feel genuine, truthful, only when they come from within you, from who you are, who you are becoming during your whole life, what you actually feel. Otherwise it’s just like trying on masks in a shop. The effect might be pretty, might be interesting, but will never be true.

cobalt_faeryYou teach classes on your techniques. Do you have advice for your students about the difference between inspiration and the copying your work.
Funnily, people who try to copy my style or particular pieces are not those who take my classes or even meet me in real life. During my workshops I teach skills, certain techniques which lead every student to creating a piece that is completely different, depending on who they are, what they like, where they are on their journey of creating their strong artistic voice. It’s just amazing to see how varied are pieces made during each of my classes, even though, they are constructed using exactly the same techniques. It’s also super inspiring and humbling for me. A few days ago I came back from United Kingdom, where for the first time I taught a new, two days class, I created this year. I brought some class samples as I usually do, I thought I knew what kind of pieces I might expect from students. But then – it turned out that at the end of the class I saw a whole bunch of pieces I would never even think about in a million years! This is the most rewarding experience both for the teacher and students. That’s why I always give my students time to look at the samples, to think about what they want to make, to plan a design, I encourage them to bring their sketchbooks if they have one. I always say, that spending time on designing, even during the class, is really worth it. You don’t want to spend 2­3 days working on something that you hate ;­) or doesn’t feel right, because it’s completely not you.

index22Again – I think teaching classes, in a way is similar to language lessons. I am just trying to add some new “words” or, lets say, “grammar constructions” to my student’s vocabulary. They can use them in as many different ways as possible. We are all very different and we came from different places and this is the most beautiful thing to me. But even if you attend classes where you recreate a particular project from beginning to the end, situation is exactly the same. You don’t learn a poem by heart to repeat it over and over in random moments. You learn it because it makes you a more beautiful person. It enriches you. It enables you to maybe create something on your own.

golden_roadWe have noticed that there are imitators of your style. Some people say that it should be considered flattery. What are your thoughts?
Ha. That’s a difficult question. On purely intellectual level I believe this is, indeed, a form of flattery. But it doesn’t feel like one at all. Situations when your work is being imitated are simply super stressful, hurtful and disheartening. It feels really unfair, when you know how long was your journey, how much of yourself you put in your work, and then someone just takes superficial, visual layer of it, and recreates it. Just because they are manually skilled, and for some reason they thought it would make them successful in one way or another. In such situations you just wonder if people see the difference at all. I also wonder what a copyist have to feel. I usually choose to believe that maybe they don’t really understand what they are doing. But that’s just me :­). I can’t imagine someone consciously choosing copying if they have something to say on their own. It would be just excruciating to hide behind a mask all the time. I also wonder if such situations affect me financially – I won’t pretend – my passion is also my work and source of income. Being copied not only means having your feelings hurt, but also a possible financial loss. I think that copying is not totally bad though – personally I believe it’s ok to learn by copying, if it’s your way of learning, perfecting your skills. But then just don’t publish what you make, and definitely don’t call it your own. It’s as simple as that.knotted_tree_of_life over_the_waves

Thank you Anna for taking the time to chat with us!  Best wishes on your upcoming classes!

Where to find Anna: http://drakonaria.com/
http://drakonaria.etsy.com/
http://en.dawanda.com/shop/drakonaria

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Exciting New Tool for Metal Clay Students and Teachers

13116516_10153627138506636_1460845564940822998_oaSo often, we are asked if we know of a metal clay teacher in a certain area. All too often, the answer is “no, we don’t.” When this happens, it’s not necessarily because there isn’t a skilled teacher in the area. Instead, there hasn’t been any easy way to keep track of metal clay teachers in many years. Thanks to a joint project between Creative Fire and PMC Connection, metal clay students and teachers now have a much easier way to find each other.

The teacher map on the PMCC site is based on a past project by PMCC president Jennifer Roberts and designer Scott Benton of Cmpreshn, Inc. During the Summer of 2014, Roberts was a member of the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission. Looking for a way to help convince the Dallas City Council to give more money to the shelter, she sought Benton’s help to find a way to prove to the council members that people all over the city used the shelter services more than the council believed. The map at fund- das.org was born and the pair were able to collect and present valuable data to the Dallas City Council about the location of DAS customers and the shelter services they relied on.

“We talked at the time about finding a way to adapt the technology to help put metal clay teachers and students together,” Roberts explained, “but we knew that the teacher map would need some added functionality to really be useful to students looking for teachers.” The new map combines the intuitive map interface of the fund-das site and also allows teachers to list contact information, website addresses, skills taught, certifications and other information. It can also be navigated in a number of ways. Benton, the architect of the map, described one of its key benefits. “Gone are the days of slogging through a list of teachers by state and looking for your city. With our map, you can search by zip code or navigate by using the hand tool and zooming in and out.”

There is an added bonus for teachers, who can list up to five locations. “We know that many teachers work from a home base, but also travel to teach.” By creating one main teacher profile and allowing teachers to list up to five locations within that profile, we can send potential students directly to the resources for those classes away from home. With the ability to edit and delete locations, teachers let students know exactly when and where they will be teaching.

Creating a profile is easy. Head to PMC Connection and get on the map today!

 

Are You Covered? Talking Insurance for Artists By Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

index1So as Monday’s go, today has pretty well lived up to the reputation of a Monday.  I innocently called the insurance company we’ve been with for 16 years about insurance needed for a craft show….and after an hour’s worth of questions about the shingles on our roof and the equipment I had in my studio…(I have a sewing machine, a sander/grinder and a 5 amp kiln)…my home insurance coverage was cancelled.  Awesome.  Why put me though all those questions only to cancel my policy? Was she just curious?  Maybe the agent I was on the phone with wanted to start her own home jewellery making business?

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Sample of one of the pieces of equipment used in my “manufacturing business”.

I’m sharing my story as it may serve as a reminder to check into your own insurance coverage.  Asking about coverage for a show–a show I may or may not get into–led me down the worm hole of studio insurance.

In retrospect, the questions I consider to be quite silly about my “manufacturing equipment” have made me realize that I was not insured by the right company.  We assumed going with a company that bore the same name as our bank, meant that it was part of the bank.  I’ve since learned that it is a company “associated” with my bank.  And while we saved money going with a large insurance company, we were a number and they were unknown to us. Continue reading…

Showing Up and Playing By Catherine Davies Paetz

JustShowUp_ChristinaRosalie1The other day I was at Trader Joe’s, checking out with my bags in hand. The cashier asked if I wanted to enter a drawing to win a gift card–a “reward” for bringing my own bags (as if saving our planet isn’t reward enough, but that’s another story). I almost said no, because I fill out a ticket every time and I haven’t won yet. But then I thought about the saying, “You can’t win if you don’t play,” which I often use to encourage people who ask about entering a show or submitting work to a book or event. So I filled out the ticket again.

That experience got me thinking more about entering, submitting, and the whole jury process for artists. Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.” I think that goes hand in hand with “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Many people don’t even try to submit work because they don’t think their work will be accepted, or they fear rejection. But in order to have any chance of being accepted, you have to show up and play. Continue reading…

With These Hands by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc

 

I make jewellery.  No wait.  I MAKE jewellery.  workingThese days my hands are never clean looking. Normally I don’t really care what my hands and nails look like. But recently while out to dinner with some friends I felt like the “one of these things doesn’t belong.”  Each of my friends had such nice nails.  Nicely painted nails, clean hands.  We were sharing sushi so I felt the need to announce that my hands were in fact “clean”.   As I said the words, I realized that I wasn’t ashamed.  The public announcement was to put the other diners at ease.  I am actually very proud of my raggedy nails and the permanent black stains.  To me it is a sign that I am working in my studio.  I am making jewellery. Continue reading…

Artist Profile: Michela Verani by Julia Rai

I’ve known award winning artist Michela Verani for a while now, having first met her at a metal clay conference in the US. She and I share a love of sci-fi and we are also both participating in the metal clay Masters Registry programme so we have lots in common.Verani - Phoenix full necklace

Visitor to the studio1Michela lives in Londonderry, New Hampshire with her furry friends, a dog called Tolliver and a cat called Yang. “Tolliver is a Bouvier des Flandres and Yang is a dumpster kitty,” she explains. “My home is at the end of a dead end dirt road and is surrounded by hundreds of acres of woods and my messy gardens.  Whenever I am at home Tollie and I take a daily walk in the woods.” Continue reading…