From (Muddy) Rags to (Ivory) Riches….

Just a few hours of my studio work today. From (muddy) rags to (ivory) riches, and the small miracles that keep me going.

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Faux ivory artifacts, shaped, carved, and baked, ready to “mud.” Scrimshaw is the technique of used by 19th century whalers, sponging ink onto a freshly-carved whalebone carving, then wiping off the excess. My process is “earthier”, but brings about the same desired results. Here are shaped, carved, and baked artifacts, sanded and ready for their close-up.
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“Mudding”. Paint, and fine silt from our old neighborhood in Keene, NH. I rub this mixture carefully into every crevice and crack of the sculpture. I used to wipe it off while still moist in NH, but in California, it dries a heckuva lot faster. Not a bad thing. Just….different. I have to use a damp rag, which takes off more paint and leaves the faux ivory “brighter.”
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Then a wipe with a damp cloth…..WOW! It gets me, every single time. It’s like magic!
The details I so carefully inscribed suddenly pop into existence.
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The scrimshaw technique brings out the details I etched. You can see the hundreds of pin dots in the handprints.
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Then a thorough buffing to make them shine.
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A formidable bear, as my friend Ivan calls them.
I’m making sculpture-sized artifacts this week, for a small wall-hung shadowbox I’m working on–a herd of running horses.
No, the bear won’t be in that one! In my imaginery paleomythic world, all animals are at one and at peace with all the others, just for that moment of creation.
Of course, five minutes later, all hell breaks loose, and nature runs its course.
But for today, there are no bears hunting horses, no people hunting bears, no animals being harmed in the making of my little artifacts.
Just a quiet, deep-thinking day in the studio.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

10 thoughts on “From (Muddy) Rags to (Ivory) Riches….”

  1. Luann = always love your bears! I will have to catch up with you and see what new bear critters you have. A shrine of bears sounds interesting too – and wrap in some of the my Native American tribe’s colors (black & red). Keep up the great work. Santa Rosa is so blessed to have you relocate here.

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    1. Nice to hear from you, Dale, and thank you for your kind comments! A lot of my work is now in area galleries, but I try to make a few new animals every week–sometimes every day! I have three new ones in the window as I speak. :^)

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  2. The eternal inner child in me that still has a fascination for pirates, led me to all kinds of creative nautical things lately, including scrimshaw. I spent a good bit of time looking at some of that. So it’s especially nice to know you use that technique. It also gives me a better way to describe your work when somebody sees the one you’re working on for me.

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  3. What a great set of words and images to wake up to. This foggy morning has been one of the only mornings I can say, I am glad I checked my email first thing in the morning BEFORE writing.
    Thanks,Thea

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