Where Ideas Come From

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by visitors to our booth is how we come up with our ideas.  I can tell you they aren’t forced.  When an artist sits down to create something new, it doesn’t come out of thin air and it cannot be forcibly willed into being.  Rather, several things must come together simultaneously and that creates the magic.  For success, the groundwork must be laid and that means many hours and years of simply making—making work, utilizing tools, experimenting with mediums, drawing, painting, sculpting endlessly.  Whether the end result each time is good or poor or great doesn’t matter as much as putting in the time.  With that experience comes priceless abilities, obtainable in no other way.  It is a growth that builds upon itself endlessly.  In that process the artist develops the mental and physical tools necessary to bring ideas into the physical realm.  It makes possible the transfer of something ethereal in the mind into an object in the “real” world.

Secondly, every person is a result of their own unique physiology and life experience.  As an artist, everything you produce is a result of these two entities. All of your life experiences come together to produce the current you.  There is no way around that, for good or bad.   Every decision, every occurrence changes the person that you are.  And your own unique physiology reacts to every decision and experience further evolving your mind and body.  Therefore the art you create is a direct result of that life experience.  And it is a reflection of your philosophy, whether you consciously realize it or not.

All of that process is necessary, but it’s not enough.  Creating is not copying an idea you’ve already executed, or copying someone else’s idea.  Creating is stirring the pot and dipping out something fresh.  Of course you’re influenced by other artists.  That’s not only inevitable, but actually a good thing.  The key is to keep it as an influence not a replication.

There is a wellspring that is bottomless and it is within every person’s reach.  Tapping into it is necessary for creative growth, but the connection can be fugitive.  When it happens its magic.  This is what I mean when I say it cannot be forced.  It flows into your thoughts when you prepare the mind.  You have to allow it to come forth into the “light”.  This usually occurs in a relaxed state of mind—often when the eyes are closed and you allow unimpeded wandering. Day dreaming is not a waste of time as some would have you think. And often images come into my mind just before falling asleep.    Sometimes it’s erratic, with a quick flash and then it’s gone.  Other times when conditions are more perfect one can tap into a flowing stream of images and ideas.  Getting those down afterwards in sketches and notes is crucial to remembering the gist of the idea as well as the specifics.  And then you have the start of a series and more ideas will flow from that, if you return to that elusive universal flow of energy. We are blessed and it is important to remind ourselves of that.

New Cosmos Series

Books are the physical embodiment of knowledge and enlightenment, the teller of stories, the keeper of secrets, and ultimately the record of our history.  These sculptural icons are our interpretation of this important cultural symbol.

Our little copper books are fun to make and delightful to many patrons.  Each book is a 12″square of wood, clad with copper and then hand-hammered or embossed with texture.  On each we make little books with copper pages that are bound together with silver wire and have a colorful backing.   The pages are hammered on the edges and then usually embossed with an elusive script to add mystery.  In the case of our newest ones, the pages are embossed with readable messages.  The first new set is a Cosmos Series and shown here is the first.Other little books that go with this one say Moon, Star, Sun, Venus, Comets.

 



New Bentwoods

Robin and I are continuing our progression of the bentwoods, only now the surfaces are partially or completely clad with copper.  The contrast of the metal surface with the painted crackled wood surface is very pleasing.  This set also includes stainless steel chain, enamel on copper and hammered brass square rods with chemical patina

 

Bentwood Sculpture

Many years ago, I began making bentwood frames for sculpture.  The process involves making a framework over which a specialty laminated wood can be bent over the frame, clamped together and left overnight for the glue to cure.  Shown here are a couple of the bentwood sculptures I did in the past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More recently we’ve made some bentwood sculptures like these:  

 

“Serenity”

The water-lily boat already has a name–“Serenity”.  Robin snapped this photo as I’m refining the arrangement pattern for the 3 flowers and 2 proposed lilypads.  The flowers are unfired–the clay I use is gray while wet and fires to a snow-white.  Since this photo was taken the hull of the boat has been  crackled and awaits the painting process after several days curing and 2 lilypads, shown here are cardboard patterns I’ve made,  have been sculpted in clay also.

serenity-arrangement

The Latest Progress

Amazing what new glasses can do for you! I recently greatly increased the power of my readers and wow, that with a closer light source  has made all the difference in the world on the detail and surface work in my clay building.  Consequently, I’m discarding most of the flowers I had made and fired before the July Ann Arbor Show.  The amount of time required for each flower is three to fourfold what it was, but it is worth it.  The ability to see so much more detail has allowed my forms and the surfaces to become more refined.   I’ve slowed down and  I’m loving every minute of it.

Images here are of two water-lily buds in the drying process.   There were many hours in experimenting on how best to form the petals and then how best to construct the flower.    I’m pleased with the result, pre-firing.  water-lily-budsThis is the water-lily that will be fully open when finished.  After this photo was taken, the outer petals were propped up over night before adding more petals.  The addition of the flowers to some of the boats is both an aesthetic and symbolic choice.  I’ll have more to say about the symbolism of each flower as I write about each finished boat.water-lily-in-progressThese water lilies are designed to go on a sleek wooden boat that Robin has recently finished carving.  He decided to gouge carve the bottom of the inset deck, requiring an additional three days to sand it after the carving was finished.  img_0862

More in the next posts on the chrysanthemums, Robin’s “Life Boat Series” and my “Hanging Boat Series” which will be introduced at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show this November.

Boats: Symbols of Life’s Journey

A boat once tragically altered my life and later a canoe signaled the beginning of my life with Robin, my best friend, my husband, my collaborator.  One of the important interests that Robin and I have shared from the beginning is our love of mythology, legend and symbolism.  It’s no wonder then that the boat has come front and center of our work.

We first employed the boat shape back in the 90’s, making relief sculpture for the wall.  Some of the best of these experiments was the Goddess of the Grove series which used the boat shape as a “cocoon” to house a goddess.  There were originally five of these 4′ sculptures, two of which are shown here:

We also made a sixth one which is larger and is in our personal collection and can be seen on our web-site under collaborative work.

The boats we began designing two years ago are quite different however.  The new ones are a celebration of the many varied journeys taken by humans.  As such, the shape of the boat, the materials used, the presentation and the objects accompanying it will vary.

Our preparations are in full swing now for our participation in this November’s prestigious Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show.  In the past, all of our boats have been carved of wood.  Because together, we have skills in woodworking, painting, enameling, metalworking, metal patination and hand-building clay, we highly value the ability to utilize the materials we know and understand to produce the effect we’re after.  Because of this, we’ve been able to add clay flowers to the boat.  On one level that is just a wonderful aesthetic choice.  But on a deeper level, it symbolizes the importance of sheltering and caring for nature on one’s journey through life.  Saving the planet from man-made destruction to our environment is of the utmost importance.

Just as we’ve added clay objects to the wooden boats, we are now making some boats of clay.  The choice of whether to use wood or clay is made depending on what qualities we want the structure to have.  I’m using clay, when a more complex shape and surface is desired.  Wood is still our choice for the larger vessels and those with sleek shapes, such as this one, “Calla Lily Boat”.  People often mistake our wooden boats with their crackled finish for clay.  One artist commented recently that one of the most interesting aspects of our work is the air of mystery of how we do what we do and what we’re doing it with!calla-lily-vessel-detaileDetail of “Calla Lily Boat”