JUST IN TIME FOR THE KEENE ART TOUR!

I’ve been collecting ancient glass for awhile now. There are sites of old glass factories in Pakastan, which are 1,000 to 2,000 years old. Modern folks are gathering the glass shards from broken bowls and bracelets, and reshaping them into wonderful, beautiful beads.

I love the colorful tube beads made from ancient glass bangle bracelets.

Retooled beads from ancient glass bangle bracelets. Miniature works of art!

Retooled beads from ancient glass bangle bracelets. Miniature works of art!

But I especially love the translucent shards make from broken vases and bowls. They have amazing patina, and I can hardly bear to cut one from its strand and use it in jewelry.

I am haunted by water these days. I dream of the Pacific Ocean. I’m obsessed with those old Japanese fishing floats.

Probably not authentic, but I don't care, the color is right!

Probably not authentic, but I don’t care, the color is right!


And I’ve been working almost non-stop with these old water-color glass shards and semi-precious stones–apatite, amazonite, peridot, freshwater pearls–in aqua, pale greens, turquoise, teal and blue.

Here are some images of necklaces I’ve made. To give them that old, collected-over-time look, I’ve used antiqued brass chains and findings, bronze metal beads, recycled found metal beads in copper, brass, silver. Every single one is different.

Ancient glass, prehnite, peridot, apatite, pearls.

Ancient glass, prehnite, peridot, apatite, pearls.


Repurposed stone pendants from antique Afghani necklaces, ancient glass, pearls, kyanite.

Repurposed stone pendants from antique Afghani necklaces, ancient glass, pearls, kyanite.


Some are bronze rings with multiple drops--lovely!

Some are bronze rings with multiple drops–lovely!

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Of course, you can’t have a signature necklace without coordinating earrings, can you? I’ll try to post pics of those, too, before the big weekend.

Enjoy!

LUANN’S CABINET(S) OF WONDER

You asked for a virtual open studio tour–YOU GOT IT!

Every year, I send out invitations to my open studo.

Every year, I get a slew of emails from folks faraway, wishing they could come.

This year is different. This year, I made a video!
Yes! From the comfort (and safety) of your home, you, too, can visit Luann’s cabinet of wonders..

See! The Jar of Many Big Scissors!
See! The Bunster-Chewed Leopard Sofa!
See! The Blue Bead Drawer!
See! My new Antique Box Series!
and much, much more.

Enjoy!

MUSEUM CLASS: Observations on Mounts at an African Art Exhibition

December 22, 2012
Saturday

We spent last weekend in Ann Arbor, MI to attend Robin’s graduation from the University of Michigan. She now has a master’s degree from the School of Social Work, aka the School of Social Justice, with a specialty in geriatrics and hospice. So very, very proud of her!

I also had time to visit the University of MI Museum of Art (UMMA), which I practically lived in as an undergrad, and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, ditto. This time, I not only enjoyed looking at the art and artifacts, I paid special attention to how the items were displayed, and how the mounts were constructed.

It was eye-opening! Lots of thoughts spiraling in my little brain this week….

First, the UMMA. They had a semi-permanent display of a private collection of African art, mostly wood carvings: Masks, sculpture, fetish figures, ceremonial canes, etc. These objects are from UMMA’s own collection, and borrowed from other museums and from private collections.

The exhibition is called “African Art and the Shape of Time”. I bought a copy of the exhibit catalog. Interesting read (though, of course, dense writing and slow going.) Having just spent 14 hours in a car with my daughter, who is extremely sensitive to issues surrounding culture, class and gender, I was struck by the attitudes toward the continent of Africa popular in European and American academia in the mid- to late 20th century. In 1956, one writer states that there simply was no African history before European contact and colonization. In the ’60’s, when a notion of an African oral history was forming, many Western academics still dismissed the idea of an African history prior to a European presence there. All was “darkness”. Of course, this makes sense. If you want to exploit a continent’s resources without regard for its many cultures and people, it’s easier if you refuse to acknowledge them as “real” and instead portray them as “primitive”, “less evolved” and “timeless” and “unchanging”.

I’d never thought of that before. It makes me uneasy, which means my own prejudices and thinking patterns are being nudged (if not outright walloped.)

But that’s a conversation to have with my daughter. For now, I describe some of the artifacts that caught my eye aesthetically, and how their mounts were constructed. Although ribbons of these past considerations show up clearly in how the artifacts themselves are treated when mounts were made.

I’m going to republish these observations and musings in my blog, too, with pictures of my truly awful drawings. (Note–as soon as I FIND my drawings….) No photography was allowed in the gallery, and I’m not sure it’s ethical to even reproduce the images in the catalog. I may eventually contact the publisher (UMMA) to see if I can use the catalog images, but for now, you have to make do with my scribbles.

General observations:
Most mounts were created to “disappear”, as Tom and Brad mentioned many times. Brass rods were painted one color to blend with the object where it made contact, and another to blend into the display background.

Most of the mount bases seemed to be made of wood.

Most astonishing for me was that many of the mount structures appear to be embedded into the wood of the artifact itself! So bizarre to see that, after all our lengthy discussions and readings emphasizing that the artifact we display must be protected and preserved–it is our first priority. First, do no harm.

I also wonder if all the mounts were made created for the exhibition, or if each donor had provided their own mounts. It occurred to me that most of this collection had been procured in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s–around the time one of my art history professors urged us to enter the field of African Art as a specialty, as it was “wide open”. Not much was known about African art, and it was a field we could make a name for ourselves in.

I’m guessing many of the mounts would have been made in a (relatively) haphazard fashion. That is, made by an blacksmith, perhaps, commissioned by the collector(s), but not necessarily with the tenets now held by mount-makers. That could account for the somewhat brutal drilling of the artifacts to accommodate the mounts.

More disturbing was the thought that maybe nobody thought of these objects as important historical relics, but more as attractive, beautiful “folk art” pieces. Just as I might hammer a nail in the wall and casually hang up a strand of antique trade beads….

OTOH, I gained a great idea on how to create mounts for my artwork that wouldn’t compromise the outside of my display boxes. Some of the mounts for smaller artifacts had bases that were screwed into the floor bottom of the display case. Aha! I could attach my mounts to a base, then install both object and mount into the case. No exterior bolts! I could stabilize the interior mount foundation with screws just long enough to engage the box’s wood bottom, but not penetrate through to the exterior. Yay!

The first artifact that caught my eye was a mask depicting perfect female beauty–almond-shaped eyes, delicate nose and chin, lips slightly parted, with braided/knotted “hair” made from what looks like a combination of cloth, string and fur.

The mount was a simple thick rectangular wood block, with an especially sturdy wood upright. This upright held a half-done block. At first it looked solid, like a hat block, but then I saw it was actually hollow. For all the world it looked like half a coconut shell. The upright fit into another wood cross-piece that held the actual dome. It was really hard to tell if this half-dome was part of the mask, or simply supporting the mask. I was the only person in the room trying to peer behind the artifacts, and up into the artifacts, and I got quite a few curious looks….

The second item was a ceremonial carved wood staff just under 4 feet tall. It was displayed in an upright position. The mount seemed to be free-standing–not bolted into the floor of the display case, nor attached to the back wall. It was a painted metal base, about 4″ square and 1/4″ thick, with a single rod upright about 6-8″ tall. The upper set of arms completely circled the staff. The lower set completely circled….a large 2″ “nail” that had been drilled or hammered into the tip of the staff!

This mount was unobtrusive, painted black to blend in with the staff color. But it seemed like this might not be a particular safe treatment in the case of an earthquake or the case being whapped. I know from experience that even a a 4″ square steel base can be knocked over pretty easily, especially if the object is top-heavy (like this staff is, with a carving of a seated young female figure.) My cats do it all the time!

I think a taller upright, with the arms supporting the staff in a couple of places along its length, and perhaps underneath the carved figuring, and a bigger base (in thickness, and in area) might have been better choice….

Another item, a wood headrest, had a beautiful mount. It was a simple T-mount, with the upright modeled to match the shape of one curved leg! It was almost invisible from the front view. The weight of the item was supported by the curved arms of the T crossbar. I thought it was simple, elegant, discreet, and seemed to cause no damage to the artifact.

But the next display was disappointing. To display two carved wood puppet heads (a ram and a hyena), the mount had been inserted right into the wood base of each mask! I kept looking to see if the base was actually a part of the mask, or simply a well-formed wood support. It really appeared to me to that the mount maker had drilled into the wood artifact. Oy.

Another mask mount showed me how even the same set of artifacts (in this case, wood masks) called for unique supports. One mask had a simple painted steel stand (flat square base, single upright.) The topmost arms (the T cross bars) fit into the small holes that were drilled along the back rim of the mask. (I believe these were holes fro either lacing the mask in place on the bearer’s head, or to attach cloth or some other covering so the back of the bearer’s head wouldn’t be seen.) Another arm below the T stretched forward into the face of the mask, so that the mask would tilt back slightly.

I don’t know what to think about this method of display. This is pretty standard in contemporary mask stands. At least no new holes were drilled into the mask. I decided it’s okay. Not the best solution, but not the worst, either.

I have to say, I found that looking carefully at how the objects were displayed, and how the mounts were made, really enriched my experience at the museum. It’s like watching a movie–yes, the actors are the focus of the film. But appropriate costuming, great sets and backgrounds, powerful music and special effects add immensely to the total presentation. They shouldn’t overshadow the actors and the story, but they do contribute heavily to the total experience.

DRIVING IN THE FOG: Guest Post from Paula

Intuitive and creativity coach Paula Chaffee Scardamalia, that is.
I met Paula years ago, when she wrote an article about me for a magazine. We had a lovely chat–she is certainly an intuitive interviewer!

How amazing is she? Well, during the interview, I inadvertently insulted her medium, saying something like how “everybody was making x and it’s hard to stand out from the crowd when everyone’s doing the same thing.”

How did she respond? She could have been snippy. She could have been defensive. She could have seethed silently, and told all her friends what a bitch I was. Am. Never mind.

Here’s my highest praise for another human being: She did not take it as an insult, but as an observation, and an accurate one at that. She actually agreed with me, saying she’d been feeling it was time to “move on” for some time, and she was glad I confirmed that. Whew!

She said she had something else in the pipelines, something totally different. I was surprised (but not really) and delighted (totally!) when soon after, she announced her creativity coaching practice and writings, The Divine Muse

So today, from an evolved human (Paula, not me), a message that resonated with me today. If you are lost in the fog, too, take heart. Paul has good advice for you!

3 Steps to Find Your Way through the Fog
by Paula Chaffee Scardamalia

Emergencies have always been necessary to progress. It was darkness which produced the lamp. It was fog that produced the compass. ~ Victor Hugo

I woke the other morning, and saw that the rich gold of autumn leaves was dimmed by a thin layer of fog, a not unusual occurrence here.

The interesting thing about fog is that even though it is considered a type of stratus cloud, it is a cloud that is low-lying and its moisture is usually generated locally from lakes and oceans or other bodies of standing water like marshes or moist ground like swamps. And it often occurs when cool air meets warmer water.

Because I live in the back of beyond, driving in a fog at night can be a real challenge. There is nothing so dark as an overcast night in the country where houses are stretched out over miles instead of blocks, the infrequent car is going the other way, and visibility is down to 20 feet ahead.

Have you ever had that experience? Remember the feeling of alienation and hand-clenching stress? Time slows. Distances seem to stretch like taffy. And you wonder if you’ve accidentally driven off into a new episode of the Twilight Zone.

You can’t say you’re lost, because when you hit the fog, you knew where you were going and you do, really, know where you are, even if in the halos made by the car lights, and the narrow field of vision makes everything look suddenly distorted and unfamiliar.

Have you ever had this experience with your book or other creative project, or even your creative career?

As a writer and a creative entrepreneur, this is not an uncommon experience for me, but fortunately, because of where I live, I’ve had plenty of opportunity in the physical fog to teach me what to do in my creative fog.

Slow down!
Sometimes we get into a creative heat where words pile upon words. We’re speeding along, eating up the miles and suddenly… fog. If we don’t slow down, we run the risk of crashing. When this happens, it’s a good idea to take a deep breath and slow down. But don’t stop, either. Someone could ram into you from behind.

Dim your lights. I know this seems counter-intuitive. When our visibility is diminished, our instinct is to brighten the lights to pierce the gloom. In normal darkness, this would work, but in a fog, all those droplets of water act like mirrors, reflecting back light and making the fog appear even more dense. If we want to increase visibility in the fog, we have to be willing to dim the lights, to release the desire to see farther and more clearly. We have to be willing to allow things to get fuzzy for a while, to only focus on what is just in front of us instead of further down the road.

Keep your eyes on the road not on the shadows.
Because of the nature of fog, shadows can take on a 3-dimensional quality, distorting reality and perspective. If you take your eyes off your road to focus on those shadows, you could run off your road or not see other hazards coming up. Our fears about our creative work can turn shadows into 3-dimensional monsters, throwing us off our path and causing real damage if we aren’t careful. Another reason, too, for dimming your lights. Those shadows won’t appear so large and intimidating.

Making it safely home, moving through the fog to reach the end of your creative journey requires patience, presence and faith that you can and will get home…

Keep the image of your goal firmly in the forefront of your mind and just keep going. Don’t stop.

© Copyright 2009-2013 Paula Chaffee Scardamalia, all rights reserved.
About Paula: Paula has a passion for helping writers and others tap into their creative power and bring their creative gifts into the world. Using her unique blend of the ancient tools of dreams, tarot and other intuitive tools, Paula helps writers, creatives and spiritual entrepreneurs get inspired, break through blocks, and write that book or create that product or special event. For a free 15-minute consultation with Paula on how you can move from Inspired Idea to Creative Action, email Paula at paula@diviningthemuse.com

REVIEW OF THE RE-DO OF THE TO-DO LIST

Not as silly a title as it sounds. Okay, it does sound silly.
I’ve reprinted an article I published nine years ago, and it still holds true today…
Today’s comments are in boldface.

RE-DO OF THE TO-DO LIST originally published October 1, 2004

I start most mornings with my schedule book (a student composition book with daily to-do list) and my journal. I try to start with my journal, because as I write, the process helps me sort through the to-do’s and establish real priority.

A to-do list is great for making sure you accomplish what you set out to do in a day, but they have a few drawbacks.

First, it gets cumbersome to constantly move unfinished tasks to the next day. It doesn’t allow you to easily set daily goals vs. weekly, or even longer-term goals. Everything seems to have the same urgency. “E-mail Tiffany about wings” (Note–this one TOTALLY baffled me today–Tiffany? Oh, she’s Teo now. Wings? Wha….?) until I read through.) seems as crucial as “mail past-due insurance premium.”

Also, no matter how much you accomplish, there’s always something you didn’t get to. So you never feel you really “finished.”

And then there’s the feeling that tomorrow, it starts all over again.

This morning I wondered if I instead I could view the day as an opportunity to fill certain “cups” of my life that need care and attention.

One cup, “family”, was easy. Jon and I had had a great morning. And I needed to make sure I spent time with my kids later after school. “Make chili with Doug and Robin” (they love to help me cook) and “movie night!” went at the top of my list. (You know you need to cook more often when you make a pot of soup one weekend and both your teenage children THANK you profusely….how embarrassing!)

Under “friends”, I made a note to e-mail my friend Tiffany to see if she could meet for wings and a beer (oh, those wings…!), our weekly Friday ritual. And to call another friend I hadn’t seen in a few weeks, to see if we could get together.

“Professional” cup next. “Clear a space so I can do card project for Katherine’s book”.

I stopped and looked at that entry. “Clean the studio!!!” has been on my to-do list for weeks. (Actually, I write about cleaning my studio a lot….!)

Breaking down “Clean the studio!” into a smaller step (“Clear a table”) was a good strategy. But I needed something else today. Life’s been overwhelming lately, and I just wondered if there was another way to look at all this.

Actually, the main reason I "borrowed" my friend Gary Spykman's wood studio to work on boxes? There was no room to do it in MY studio!

Actually, the main reason I “borrowed” my friend Gary Spykman’s wood studio to work on boxes? There was no room to do it in MY studio!

I remembered the “Handmade, High Tech” conference (see the article CRAFT IN THE DIGITAL AGE from April 2004.) One of the speakers, Lynn Martin Graton, Traditional Arts Coordinator for the NH State Council on the Arts, talked about how differences in how language is used can reveal fundamental differences in culture.

She said, “If I want to say, ‘Warp the loom’ in Japanese, it actually translates to something like, ‘In order for the cloth to be woven, the loom will be warped.’ It’s a totally different way of viewing the action needed and the person who acts. The loom has its own importance, its own part to play. It’s not just about YOU, the artist.” (paraphrased greatly)

AHA!

If I say “Clean my studio”, it’s a huge task that lies on me and me alone. I must accept total responsibility for doing that. There may be very American, can-do solutions: I can suck it up and do it myself. I can get friends to help (barn-raising!) I can hire someone else to do it, putting a value on my time and/or deciding how I want to spend my time. And my favorite, ‘you can accomplish anything–even eating an elephant–by taking many small bites one at a time.’ It’s how I’ve accomplished everything I have in the last five years, breaking every monumental task down into more manageable little steps.

But what if we’re in a place where even these strategies just seem too overwhelming?

What if we could speak Japanese sometimes? What if we could tap into an even softer, Zen, wholistic, mindful approach occasionally?

What if I recognize that, if I do my part, then the creative “thing” will do its part? What if I could trust that process?

I rewrote the task: “If the cards are to be made, a space must be cleared.” (Even better, “If the cards are to be made, the space will be open…”

It’s still the same action resulting in the same conclusion, but the perspective is different.

It’s still up to me to take the action that makes it happen. That table won’t clear itself! (Oh, I WISH!!) But now I have a partner in the process, so to speak.

I started with the analogy of a baby, but that got too labored (ouch! Sorry…) But like a baby, certain things have to happen in order for the baby to appear. Once started, the baby pretty much develops and grows on its own schedule, and appears in its own good time. But certain things have to happen, and a place has to be made.

Martha Graham’s famous quote, in part, acknowledges this: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.”

Blocking the creative act can be as simple as not making a place for it. The creative process is a dance between you (a conduit and a source of action), and a partner (the creative force that needs to appear). The result, whether its a card project, a song, a poem, a garden, a painting or a child, comes from that dance.

Once that creative thing is in the world, it takes on a life of its own. It can be seen and experienced by others in their own unique way. Some people will be inspired by it, some will be angered. Some will be moved to tears and others will wonder what all the fuss was about. That’s why the rest of the quote goes on to say it is not the artist’s place to judge it, just to make sure it gets out into the world.

So take another look at that to-do list. Look at the ways you may have unconsciously taken on more than you need to handle with your art. Start with the small but critical step of making room for it, literally and figuratively. Then step back and see what happens!

I’m off to clear a table now. (And on that happy note, I am off to help a table be cleared.)

I WONDER WHAT LUANN’S UP TO?

Oh, yeah! She has that Open Studio thing next weekend!

Yes! Yes, I do. And you’re invited!

I’m on the Fall Foliage Art Studio Tour (aka “FFAST”). Next weekend, Saturday and Sunday, October 12 and 13, from 10-5, here at 271 Roxbury ST in Keene NH. (1/2 mile east of downtown Keene, long tall white house with pillars, studio is in the big red barn at the end of the driveway.)

Me and my studio, we clean up good!

Me and my studio, we clean up good!

Come see new work: Refurbished antique box displays with art jewelry and sculpture. You can wear it, and you can display it, it looks GREAT either way.

The art-in-a-box presentation has been getting rave reviews!

The art-in-a-box presentation has been getting rave reviews!


Every time I set them up, it changes. Fun!

Every time I set them up, it changes. Fun!

In addition to the my usual work, I will have work for sale I don’t have at the League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair (aka “Sunapee Fair”)–monoprints, gemstone jewelry, vintage button jewelry.

I will demonstrate simple jewelry-making techniques. In fact, if you have a favorite piece of jewelry that’s broken or you’ve lost a favorite earring, bring in the survivor. Maybe I can turn it into a pendant or a bracelet for you.

I always have interesting snacks (rarely healthy, but I may have some carrots & stuff for you more disciplined folks.) And I always have coffee, hot cider, tea and W*I*N*E.

We are moving to California, hopefully before next winter. I can’t possibly move my entire studio. So there will also be some sale items, giveaways, odds and ends for sale. If we drink enough wine, who knows what I’ll be selling?? :^)

Come browse, hang out, chat while I work, eat, drink, the merry-making thing. Bring your friends! Bring your co-workers! Bring your family! Bring your dogs! (Wait. Don’t bring dogs.)

See…All my scissors in one place!

These aren't actually ALL my scissors. Just the big ones. Yes, I have more.

These aren’t actually ALL my scissors. Just the big ones. Yes, I have more.

See….More beads and buttons that you’ve ever seen! See…A clean studio! (No fair peeking behind stuff or underneath stuff.)

Buttons?  Yeah, I got buttons.

Buttons? Yeah, I got buttons.

Yes, Bunster is still with us. She’s not loose in the studio too more–she kept running into things. But you can still visit her in her big comfy cage and feed her Cheerios.

I'm so blessed to still have Bunster! She still loves her Cheerios.

I’m so blessed to still have Bunster! She still loves her Cheerios.

Hope you can come!