Friday, February 28, 2014

Why Handmade: Balancing Art and Motherhood

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

It’s 2:30 pm. An order has come in for a pair of earrings. The convo received notes the recipient’s birthday is in two days. The customer realizes it’s last minute, but if there’s any possibility they can arrive on time… I turn on my torch to anneal the metal. Really, these earrings take thirty minutes, and I most likely can at least come close to getting them to her on her birthday. I know enough not to make any promises.

Earrings by Prunella's Workshop

The baby gate comes crashing down. This one piece of plastic separates my two-year-old daughter from meeting up with my torch. It has never come down before, but she decided it was time to climb it, as “Baby” doll “fell” over the gate moments before. The torch is turned off faster than it takes for me to write this sentence, and no harm comes to anyone. However, this is only one example of the struggles we moms face when we pursue a career in the arts. There is no office daycare, and daycare centers are expensive. What would only take thirty minutes can take hours due to interruptions through out the day. It becomes easier to stay up and work to the wee hours of morning, or wake up before the crack of dawn to accomplish anything, especially when the kids are still toddlers.

K trying to get a closer look at mommy's work

Bev of Linkouture points out that while they are still infants it isn’t so difficult. There are
interruptions to meet with the baby’s feeding schedule. However, babies can be worn. They aren’t mobile yet; therefore, they are limited in how much trouble they can find.

They don’t stay small and immobile, though, as Jessica Burko can tell you. As a mother to two small children ages 2 and 4, Jessica notes and it has been a real struggle to maintain an erratic and intense work schedule since becoming a mother. She suggests to mothers to remain organized. Keeping a really accurate and detailed calendar that includes both work and family activities and deadlines can help a mother plan ahead and make sure child care is available as necessary as well as balance family fun time with work life. Jessica notes that having a husband who is understanding of her scheduling needs, who shares in the responsibilities of family and home is beneficial.

Jessica Burko's daughter Naomi painting pumpkins

However, dads have to go to work too, and at some point we need to get our work done with the little kids under foot. Jessica Burko says when her two toddlers are home climbing the mama mountain, and she has work to complete, she gives them a project of their own so they can "work" in tandem. Jessica explains in her house this is often something mildly destructive/messy like painting with glitter glue, using the paper slicer (for the 4 year old) or drawing with the "big markers" (for the 2 year old). 

Susanne Guirakhoo of Enchanted Hue has older kids, now; however, she points out not all kids are the same. Her eldest, not dissimilar to my oldest child, was content to sit and play quietly. If you told him not to do something he listened. Susanne had seventeen rooms to paint from floor to ceiling, including the trim of an old Victorian, and her toddler cooperated. Her second son was more like my second; he was filled with unending energy, and constantly in to something. She assures us, there was no way she could have accomplished the same quantity of work she was able to do with her first. Furthermore, Susanne and her husband are not native to the United States, and they don’t have family who could watch the kids on occasion. She notes she utilized a local babysitting exchange. Now her oldest is in college, and her husband is working abroad. She is running her business while caring for her teenage son on her own, in addition to a part time job. While he is far more self sufficient than a two year old, her son still has needs and demands on his mother.

As much time and effort as I put into being the primary person running Prunella’s Workshop, I am in charge of running my house and caring for my children. I am fortunate my husband also makes jewelry, and he takes on certain roles in the business as well. When we have a deadline to meet he burns the midnight oil fabricating. He fluctuates in how much responsibility for the house he needs to take on so I can do what I need to do. He also is my constant reminder that I have in fact accomplished everything I could do on a day I
didn’t make it into the workshop due to child issues. 

My son C helping make some earrings
I also make it a point to leave the house almost once a day. Sometimes it is merely the grocery store. I have joined a MOMS club, where I meet with other moms who are home with their kids. Perhaps they cannot relate to what it is like to try to work metal while their child is trying to climb the baby gate, but they understand so much of what goes on in the day-to-day life of a mom. It takes me away from my work, but it provides my daughter with
much needed socialization and exhausts her. I can get that Etsy order done during her nap and mail it before the birthday after all.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Time for a brand new bag

curated by Sharon, Stray Notions

1. Handwoven Clutch Purse - Woodland Stripe - Linen, Cotton, WeaveLea
2. Red Faux Suede Hobo Bag, Lida Brooke Designs
3. Market tote - Red, black, grey and white - buttons, dots, flowers, Stray Notions
4. Red Blue Teal Stripe Pleated Leigh Wallet Gadget Case, AbigailLeigh

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why Handmade: How We Make Earrings

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Earlier this month I was at the JP Centre/South Main Streets Valentine's Day Pop Up shop, where I was selling my jewelry. I was again surprised by how many people are surprised to know that I make all of my handmade metal jewelry. I do not purchase components and attach them, and finished product was not made in a third world country and shipped to me. I realize, however, prior to eight years ago, I would not have believed I really made everything myself, either. As such, I have decided to share a bit of the process in making heart-shaped earrings for the holiday.

  1. In my studio, we have the capability of casting our own sterling silver ingots, forging, anneal, and then rolling the ingot through our rolling mill to the desired thickness. For earrings, I typically use 20-gauge thickness, or thinner. Earlobes can be fragile, and rip from earrings that are too heavy. By keeping my metal thin, my earrings can be larger.
  2. Hearts are fairly easy to draw. I take a scribe, and draw a heart on the metal to the desired shape. If I’m uncertain, I can start with a black sharpie. I pierce the shape with a well-waxed jeweler’s saw.
  3. I file the edges of the heart, to smooth out any wobbles or sharp edges caused by the saw. Once the shape is perfect, I trace the heart with my scribe on the metal, so that the second earring will match the first. If I prefer the earrings not to match, I can just scribe the second heart. I pierce the second heart, and file the sharp edges.

  4. I drill a hole with my flex shaft in the earrings where I want my ear hooks to attach later.
  5. For this design, I am going to give the earrings a slight dome. Even the slightest dome makes the earrings stronger, and less likely to face damage. Presently, it is likely the metal is work hardened. To dome it in it’s present state, I run the risk of cracking the metal. I will need to anneal the earrings with my torch.
    1. I flux the piece with boric acid to prevent fire scale
    2. I light my torch and heat up the earrings with a small circular motion so that the heat doesn’t get directed to one spot and melt the silver.
    3. I quench the metal in cold water, and place in a pickle bath.
  6. Once out of the pickle, I stamp the back of the earrings with a .925 stamp and my maker’s mark; my way of showing that the piece is sterling silver and made by me.

  7. I can dome the earrings, using a doming block, punch, and hammer. Sometimes the first shape achieved is sufficient depending on the design. However, for a higher dome,
    additional annealing can be required.
  8. I bend my earring wires with sterling silver that we drew down to size with a drawing plate (and lots of annealing!)
  9. The earrings and ear wires are placed in a tumbler with water, soap, and steal shot for a few hours. When it comes out, it is work hardened, and unlikely to bend. The earrings are attached to the ear wires, polished, and ready to go!
There you have it! I’m ready to wear heart earrings on my date tonight with that special someone.

*Disclaimer: These directions are not written with a true beginner in mind. I do not recommend attempting this project, unless you have knowledge of proper torch use, and some direction in using a jeweler’s saw. Furthermore, sterling silver is available in sheet and wire, without making it myself; however, there is no better way to have a great variety of sizes in stock, once one starts working in any quantity.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Maine Tourmaline in Handmade Jewelry

by Laurie Lynn of Beryllina

Just yesterday I finished handcrafting another round of jewelry for the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum (MMGM), which will be opening in Bethel, Maine later this year. The tourmaline that the MMGM sent me to work with is so beautiful! These were all mined at the same quarry, the Dunton Mine in Newry, Maine. The Dunton Mine sits on Plumbago Mountain, and is a beautiful place that I had the great pleasure of visiting in 2013. The view from the mine was spectacular!

Here's what tourmaline looks like "in matrix", aka in the host rock where it grows. This is black tourmaline, also called "schorl". Pink tourmaline is also called "rubellite" and blue tourmaline is also called "indicolite". Pink tourmaline with a green tourmaline outer layer is called "Watermelon Tourmaline"!

I'm looking forward to spring when the ground thaws and it will be time to go mining again. Maine has a lot to offer, including beautiful gemstones, don't you think?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Burst of Color

curated by Susanne from enchantedhue

The East Coast of the US has been pummeled by yet another snow storm.

I for one crave some warmth and color.

So let's see what members of the Boston Handmade Team have to offer:

Poppin-220 Yards of Peruvian Yarn by ladydyefiberarts
Felted Wool 9x9 Inch Squares by straynotions
Paper Quilt Art Collage by JessicaBurko
Large Striped Beach Tote Bag by LidaBrookeDesigns

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine Be Mine

by Jessica Burko

I used to make cards, gifts, cookies, cupcakes, and all kinds of valentine everything for everyone. Friends, family, coworkers, classmates, you name it. From mid-January through February 14th I was pink, red, and all sorts of hearts and lace, cupids, and kisses. Oh the days of endless crafting. They are far behind me.

These days, I help my kids make valentines for their teachers and everyone in their classes, for their Nana and NingNing, Aunties and Uncles, and random siblings of their classmates that for some reason they insist on making valentines for. Since they are two and four years old the help I provide is largely in the form of making sure no one eats the glitter or grabs, well, anything after putting their whole hand on the ink stamp pad. I try to provide a wide variety of supplies and then step back and let them explore their creativity however they choose.

Sometimes I miss my extreme crafting days of the past, but seeing my children explore what they can make with their own tiny hands is pretty amazing, and knowing that I am helping them develop a love for all things handmade warms my heart. On this snowy Valentine's day, that is an especially welcome feeling.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Joy of Dyeing Silk. Part II: Commercial Dyes

by Susanne Guirakhoo of enchantedhue

Commercial fabric or silk dyes give a different dimension than natural dyes. The colors are more vibrant and more stable than some natural dyes, and different techniques can be used.

As with natural dyes (as explained in Part I), patterns can be achieved by different Shibori techniques: binding, stitching, folding, pressing according to ancient Japanese traditions.

The soft texture of silk lends itself to aquarelle painting. Silk paints are thin liquids and will flow and melt into the silk, feathering out gently. To prevent the colors from migrating too far, a hair dryer can be used to quickly dry the paints and stop further flowing.

Another traditional technique is called Serti or gutta resist. Gutta is a rubbery, solvent based resist that is applied with a squeeze bottle. Gutta comes in black, gold, silver, and clear and is used to outline the pattern, which can be very detailed, on the silk. When it is completely dry, silk paints are applied to the outlined areas. Instead of gutta, I prefer to use water-soluble resists, which are easier to use and can be tinted to any color. The finished piece can have a look similar to stained glass.

And then there are less precise techniques that yield more organic patterns.

Commercial silk paints can be manipulated in a number of ways while still wet. Salt, grains of rice, or small beans soak up some of the paint and give starburst-like patterns. Alcohol drops lighten the color. Water sprays dilute and give the appearance of soft waves.

Snow dyeing is one of my favorite dyeing methods. The serendipity of the outcome is truly fascinating. A piece of wet silk is put on top of a grate set on a container, piled high with snow, and dye is generously drizzled on top of the snow. The snow slowly melts, letting the dye hit the fabric at different times and concentrations. Rate of melting, temperature, amount, solution, and even color of dye influence the pattern. My most surprising piece was achieved with only the color black. During the melting process, the black was fragmented into its individual pigments, resulting in muted reds, blues, and browns.

The next technique to experiment with? Sugar syrup resist!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Newest Member of Boston Handmade: Early Bird Designs

BH: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background?

Jill Burns: I studied painting in college and after graduating went to work in the museum field. I was the registrar at the Worcester Art Museum, which was a wonderful environment for inspiration. Not only was I exposed to the great works in the gallery, but my favorite places were the storage areas. Lots of treasures there. I took ceramics classes several years later and was hooked!

 BH: How long have you been doing your artwork?

Jill Burns: I have been working in ceramics for over 20 years. About 12 years ago I was an artist in resident at the Worcester Center for Crafts so I could devote full time work at my craft. At the end of that I was awarded the Worcester Arts Council Fellowship. It was a marvelous validation to what I was doing and it gave me the courage to start a ceramic studio called the Fire Works, a suite of studios and shared equipment for ceramic artists.

BH: Tell us a little bit about Early Bird Designs. How did you come up with name?

Jill Burns: Early Bird Designs is my line of functional pottery and personal accessories. I am, in fact an early bird. Always have been. I could never sleep late even though the teens years. Plus I think it reflects the sort of fresh and playful take on the porcelain work that I have been doing for the past few years.

BH: Tell us about your work. How is it made and what are your inspirations?

Jill Burns: Most of the pieces start as porcelain slabs and are formed into functional ware, such as cups, platters, vases etc. When the clay has stiffened I inscribed a design and inlay a dark slip. That forms the base drawing, so subtle color can be added later in the process. The ware is very durable and can be used everyday and is fine in the dishwasher and microwave. Images are lively versions of grandmother’s bone china and 18th-19th animal and plant engravings. It is a marriage of my early training as a painter, with my love of clay.

BH: What can we expect from you in the next couple of years?

Jill Burns: I am always creating new forms and designs, but I have been thinking about doing a pottery subscription of some kind. Maybe a “Cup-of-the-Month”! I also have a small line of porcelain jewelry and accessories and I’d like to expand that as well. I usually post updates on my Facebook page, so check it out.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Hang it up!

curated by Sharon Fischer, Stray Notions

1. Fiber Art Wall Hanging in an oval hoop - the Zakim Bridge in Boston, Stray Notions
2. Original encaustic art collage, Jessica Burko
3. Nighttime at Jamaica Pond- 5x7 Photograph- Matted Print, Lucie Wicker Photography 
4. Tropical Paradise- Original Mixed Media Collage, McDonald Mixed Media

Saturday, February 8, 2014

SOWA Wearables Market - Today!

by Liz Stewart of Lush Beads Industrial

The SOWA Winter Market started on February 1st, and this coming Saturday is a special market - the Wearables Market!  This market focuses specifically on jewelry and other wearables, and is timed perfectly for Valentine's Day gift-giving.  Be sure to stop by and see the work of these Boston Handmade artists on TODAY, Saturday, February 8th, from 11-4 at 1500 Washington Street in Boston!

Chainmaille bracelet by Bev Feldman of Linkouture

Bev Feldman of Linkouture  is a jeweler who makes modern and elegant jewelry for women, featuring chainmaille jewelry. She is excited to be selling her newer line of sterling silver bracelets, made using rings made from recycled metal.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Linkouture will  be selling delicate heart post earrings made from sterling silver and 24k gold plated copper. They are so sweet looking!  And for the month of February, Linkouture will be donating 20% of sales for any heart jewelry to Friends of the Center for Families, a nonprofit that holds a very special place in Bev's heart.

Fiber artist Leanne Tremblay of Loomination will be bringing handwoven scarves of all colors and styles. She will have cowl infinity scarves, traditional full length scarves, and her newest creations, double infinity scarves.

Cowl infinity scarves are worn by simply pulling them over the head, resembling a cowl neckline, and double infinity scarves wrap around the neck twice or can be worn long, for a wider variety of looks.  In addiiton, she has just completed several menswear inspired full length scarves that can be worn by either men or women that will debut at SOWA.

Finally, I will be debuting my new Industrial Swarovski stud earrings at SOWA!  Under my Lush Beads Industrial umbrella, I use new and repurposed hardware in unexpected ways, creating earrings, necklaces and bracelets. I work out of my studio at the Western Avenue Studios in Lowell.

I am best known for my Morse Code jewelry, which was recently featured in The Lowell Sun.  Morse Code necklaces use hardware to represent dashes and dots, spelling out a word or phrase.  The one pictured above spells "love".

This is sure to be a great market, so stop by 1500 Washington Street in Boston from 11-4 today!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Why Handmade: Valentine’s Day

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

I don’t care for Valentine’s Day.
There. I said it.

I don’t necessarily buy into the idea where one day a year someone buys me jewelry, chocolate, and flowers to tell me they love me, because their calendar told them to. I do, however, think on occasion we should do something for the people we love, simply because we can. Despite my opinion, on February 14, men everywhere will be looking for gifts for the woman in their life, and as a professional artist, it is essential I am prepared with possible trinkets for their perusal.

Textured Heart Earrings by Prunella's Workshop

I am considering whether my line of jewelry supports a lot of heart-shaped items, or if simply having merchandise is sufficient. I do have some hearts worked in here and there, on a piece or two. Fortunately, unlike other holiday-themed items, such as Christmas trees or pumpkins, hearts are acceptable year-round. It is when we add wording such as “Be Mine,” that our work becomes specifically tied to Valentine’s Day. From a design perspective, hearts are fun to work with, as they come in more than one shape. There is the round plump heart, the asymmetrical heart, and the long narrow heart, just to name a few.

Day 46 - Valentine's Jewelry by slgckgc

It does bring me back to a time when I was younger, in elementary school. Everyone brought in a shoe box decorated with red, white, and pink construction paper, with a little slit on the top. We’d walk around the room, sliding handmade Valentine’s Day cards into everyone’s boxes. There were fewer commercial cards back then and more heart-shaped white doilies. You went through each and every one of those cards looking for the one from a special friend. To capture this feeling in a piece of art for the holiday; that would bring back the spirit of what Valentine’s Day should be.

Monster Truck Valentines by Janet

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Joy of Dyeing Silk. Part I: Natural Dyes

by Susanne Guirakhoo of enchantedhue

While I am experimenting with yet another new technique to coax color and pattern out of plant material onto silk, I am reminded how very versatile and fascinating this medium is. In this Part I, I will talk about natural dyes. Part II will be about commercial dyes and ways to manipulate them.

In the beginning, I decocted dyes from coffee, tea, onion skins, turmeric. Predictable and easy, yet with interesting results.

Next I discovered berries, which are bit more fickle. Then black beans. Then came plants, roots, bark, berries, flowers, nuts, and leaves found on walks or in our garden. Whatever I thought holds potential for yielding color made its way into the dye pot.

The patterns were achieved by different Shibori techniques: binding, stitching, folding, pressing according to ancient Japanese traditions.

My research brought me to Kimberly Baxter Packwood’s blog. She is a mixed media artist specializing in surface design using natural dyes, rust, and wax. From her, I learned how to dye with rust and compost (well, the compost one went a bit wrong in the beginning. Kimberly lives in the desert, she leaves her fabric bundles in the compost pile for months. Doing the same in New England humidity results in complete disintegration and decomposition of the fabric. Not a thread was left after 3 months!). These techniques leave unpredictable patterns and colors, a surprise every time a bundle is opened.

Another one of my favorite fiber artists is India Flint. She describes herself as 'maker of marks, forest wanderer & tumbleweed, stargazer & stitcher, botanical alchemist & string twiner, working traveller, dreamer, writer and the original discoverer of the eucalyptus ecoprint'. Her approaches to dyeing with natural materials and achieving stunning patterns are unique and very inspiring. Her work touches me as being very poetic, as fragile and grounded at the same time. I have tried a few of her techniques with more or less satisfying results. And this newest one I am experimenting with has also been inspired by her.

So what is the new technique? Canning! Yes, canning! Stuffing a piece of silk with plant material, rolling it up and tyeing it tightly, putting it in a glass jar filled with boiled water which may or may not have been infused with other dye material, closing the jar air tight and letting it steep for weeks.

Can’t wait for the outcome!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Are you on Instagram?

by Lucie of Lucie Wicker Photography

Are you on Instagram? You should be! I'll admit it- I was hesitant to join. With so many people of varying photographic skills, I just couldn't see myself getting into it. I was wrong! I started by following people I know which I enjoyed immediately- I love seeing how my friends capture their daily activities, especially the ones who live far away and I don't see often. 

I then started following people or companies I'm interested in to see their updates, anything from new products to just plan gorgeous photos. I've found that I really enjoy connecting to people through imagery (much more so than wordy Facebook posts). I suppose this makes sense considering my line of work!

Are you on Instagram? What do you think of it? 

Looking for people to follow? Here's a list of BHer's who are active on IG: 

Abby, Abigail Leigh Handbags abigailleigh20
Bev, Linkouture: linkouture
Diane, Lady Dye Yarn: ladydyefiberarts
Kerrie, Cody's Creations: codyscreations
Laurie, Beryllina: beryllinalove
Leanne, Loomination: loominationstudio
Lida, Lida Brooke Designs: lidabrooke
Liz, Lush Beads: lushbeads
Lucie, Lucie Wicker Photography: luciephoto
Shannon, McDonald Mixed Media : mcdonaldmixedmedia

Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday Mosaic: Happy Chinese New Year of the Horse!

curated by Susanne from enchantedhue

Horse Cowgirl Horseshow Wallet Gadget Case by abigalleigh
Satin Flower in Red for Dog Collar by codyscreations
Carousel Garden Print by thepatterenedpeacock
Red Dragon Kenpo Inspired Pendant by cristinahurley

The horse is part of a 12-year-cycle of animals that make up the Chinese zodiac. These interact with the five elements: wood, metal, fire, water, earth.

2014 is the year of the wood horse, taking over from the year of the water snake.

It will be a fast year full of conflicts according to some astrologers, who see wood as providing fuel for the energetic horse sign. The later part of the year is “yin fire”, increasing the potential for heated clashes even more.

The upcoming Horse year is a 'yang wood' year, when people will stick more to their principles and stand firm. Negotiations and compromises are difficult, as people tend to fight for their ideals.

If your art involves wood or fire, you will do well. Metals and waters will do badly: this will, unfortunately, affect our artists who work with precious metals. Although some of you also work with fire, so it could go either way...
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