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Adventures in Negative Space

Apparently, I’m still on a cuff kick. I’ve made a couple new ones since my last cuff post, and I have more in the works. Not that I’m cranking them out or anything. If you’ve ever done beadwork, you know — it is simply  impossible to “crank out” quality beadwork.

These are a bit simpler than my filigree cuffs. I’ve been using them to explore my aversion to negative space. To be clear, it’s not that I dislike negative space… it’s just that when I get in the beading groove, sometimes it’s hard to stop myself from filling everything up with color and texture.

So I’m consciously trying to leave some open space with these. It amuses me to notice how challenging that can be. It takes conscious effort for me not to bead every square inch of the cuff!

I suppose that I’m improving, though. This brown and green cuff is my second attempt at deliberate open space. The smaller purple & teal cuff below was my first try, and as you can see, the ends are really the only areas that leave any open space.

The one that I’m still working on is primarily open space, with just a beaded focal and edging. I like it, but I’ve got the nagging feeling that it isn’t finished. Once I complete the edging, I’ll post a picture here and on my facebook fan page. It might be interesting to see what kind of response it gets. Maybe that sense that’s it’s incomplete is just a manifestation of my compulsive desire to bead everything? 😉

 

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Evolution…

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I was recently searching through some old files, and I came across this picture (to the left) of one of my imp masks. It may be my original prototype, which I created around 2001.

The reason it caught my attention is that I still

create this style of mask today. The picture at the right shows the current version. I’ve made some minor modifications to the original pattern, such as lengthening the tips and horns, and rounding out the cheek area at the bottom – but for the most part, the pattern is still the same. I think the biggest changes are in the intangible factors, like time and skill.

In the 8 or 9 years that I’ve been making this particular styleof mask, I’ve honed my skills and learned better techniques for shaping and coloring. In addition, I’ve had the benefit of a few mistakes along the way, which have taught me which paints and sealants to use. It may not have felt “beneficial” at the time, but the knowledge has really helped me to improve the quality of my work.

I still have much to learn, and I view my work as a constant process of experimentation and evolution … which includes plenty of mistakes. Still, it’s nice to be able to look back and realize that I’ve made a bit of progress along the way. Here’s hoping that my work will continue to improve and evolve over time.
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Formative work

When I was little, I dreamed of being a professional artist like my father. I had this vision of myself as an artist (ahhtist?) — hair blowing in the wind, heart brimming with inspired, mystical energy that would move me create exclusive masterpieces in my large, brightly lit studio.

While that’s a lovely vision, it really doesn’t jive with my reality as a working artist. Putting food on the table via my craft means working as efficiently as possible. It means being disciplined and working every day (even when I’m not particularly “inspired”). It means balancing creative time with administrative time — and it means doing some degree of production work.

When I started selling my handwork, the mere mention of production work bothered me. I dislike repetition and the idea of assembly line art. “Producing” seemed counter to “creating”.

My dad had a different take. Rather than production work, he viewed it as formative work. He saw value in those little projects, and the way that repetition hones your skills.
As I grow older, I realize how much I agree with him.

Many of my simple designs remain popular — but I still enjoy (and learn from) creating them. Each time I make one, it calls me to focus on shape, color and detail. It challenges me to improve my existing ideas, and to explore new lines that are more graceful or expressive. This study, these skills become the building blocks (and often the inspiration) for my larger/more involved work.

I’d love to tell you that every time I sit down to my workbench, a brand new design masterpiece just leaps off the table — but that’s not how it works. For me, “inspiration” is most often a gradual process that evolves from simple (and consistent) work.

When I was a kid, I imagined that this lifestyle would be far more glamorous than it is. What I could not have imagined, is how much satisfaction I would find in the ‘boring’ parts ;o)


This is a sample of what my worktable looks like right now:

(okay — my worktable isn’t really this tidy, but it *is* piled with masks!).

At any given time, I usually have several masks & crowns in various stages of completion. The ones shown have been sculpted & painted with a base coat; they’re now awaiting finishing details like accent colors, glitter, beadwork & feathers.

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Letting go & enjoying the rain…

I had big plans to catch up on my photography this week, but I guess the universe had plans of its own. On a good day, it can be tricky to for me get decent pics. Natural light seems to work best for shooting my beads & handwork — but my condo sits on a heavily wooded lot. Great for nice cool summers, not so great for sunny photo spots :o/

Unfortunately for me (or at least, for my photos) it’s been rainy and overcast all week. I made valiant attempts to get some pics taken anyway, but it just wasn’t in the cards.
The rain kept dumping, and the phone wouldn’t stop. The cats absconded with my DIY light box , and no matter how hard I cranked the gamma, there was just no hiding the fact that they were lousy shots.

I got intensely cranky before it finally dawned on me that the best thing would be to just let it go. I gave myself permission to stop worrying about all the zillions of beads & cabs I need pictures of. The new masks, crowns, cuffs and hairclips … they’ll keep 😉

Instead, I put finishing touches on the masks I need to send to NOLA — and played with some new designs I’m hoping they’ll like. I worked on my pages for the Bead Journal Project, and doodled & sketched new book/journal ideas which was fun and productive.

My books are rustic looking, which is the polite way of saying that they’re a bit crooked and bent

my 2002 journal ~ buffalo hide w/beaded fabric inset:
my daughter’s beaded/long stitched book

These new sketches are for more polished/precisely crafted books, but they should still retain that … special wobble that says hand crafted.
I’m so glad I started keeping a sketch book again, so that I can hold on to ideas that inspire me. I’m excited to try them out, but summer & early fall should be very busy for me. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to explore them again this winter.