Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Art of the Bead: Polymer Clay...

Last year, we had an art exhibition at Allegory Gallery called, "The Art of the Bead".  The aim of the show was to showcase the diverse approach to bead-making and feature the pieces as works of small-scale artwork.  Really, what are beads but small little sculptures that we wear?  We had 50 different artists participating from around the world.  The artists represented a wide range of different techniques and materials.

Back in November, there was a pop-up exhibition called, "Into the Forest" organized by Julie Takes, Emily Squires Levine, and Laura Tabakman.  The show was in a gallery space in Pittsburgh and featured the work of polymer clay artists from around the world.  They also had a guest speaker during the opening named Brigitte Martin.  Brigitte Martin is a goldsmith and the founder and editor of Crafthaus.  During her presentation, she talked about how we can elevate polymer clay and further the artistic dialogue about polymer clay as an art medium.  And it got me thinking... how can I help the conversation?  And it dawned on me that I have a unique position as a gallery owner and creative director to use my influence and put my stamp of approval and say, "this is art".  In the grand scheme of things, I don't know really how much my "stamp of approval" is worth, but I still wanted to do my part.
Polymer Clay beads by Andrew Thornton
So, we decided to do a follow-up exhibition that focused on polymer clay as the primary medium.  We asked 13 different artists to participate.  Instead of having each artist show just one bead, they created a collection of 12 beads.  This multiplied the beads of exhibit threefold!  We wanted each artist to have the opportunity to show a range of their work and represent their point of view as polymer clay bead artists.  The show features the work of Christi Friesen, Pamela Wynn, Ann Marie Donovan, Terri Powell (aka Artsy Sciencey), Brooke Bock, Erin Prais-Hintz, Heather Powers, Jenny Davies-Reazor, Kelly Russell, Rebecca Watkins, Wendy Wallin Malinow, and me!  The show will be up until May 18th, so if you're in the Ligonier area, you should definitely stop by and see the collection in person!  If you can't make it to Southwestern Pennsylvania, you can see all of the amazing submissions, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Memento Mori Pendant...

Finished Memento Mori Pendant by Andrew Thornton
I've long been fascinated with reliquaries.  There's something about the veneration that happens when something... whether a little finger bone or an ordinary object... is placed in a frame.  It's a declaration. It says, "THIS IS SPECIAL!"

Resin Raven Skulls
A few years ago, I ordered these miniature cast resin raven skulls from Europe.  They've been languishing in a box in my studio for far too long.  I wanted to actually use them and I thought that this was the perfect opportunity!

Unpainted laser-engraved wood pendant by Andrew Thornton
With the laser, I've been dreaming up ways that I can push the capabilities and work more sculpturally.  There's definitely learning curves, but I think I'm making progress.  I guess the key to working three-dimensionally with the laser is to think about things in terms of layers.  It's not so different from learning Modernist drawing philosophies and collage.  (Though re-learning Photoshop and Illustrator can be a bit frustrating at times.)

Memento Mori Pendant before clear resin
I still have kinks to work out and the creation of this piece was a whole lot of trial and error, but I'm happy with it and I'm learning a lot.  It has definitely sparked more ideas and I want to shirk all my other obligations and just play!  (I won't though, as tempting as it may be.  I'm using it as a reward system for finishing other projects that have been waiting in the wings.)

To capture the raven skulls, I took my drawings and transformed them into a pendant frame, layer by layer. Once I had all the pieces fitted together, I painted them and played with various surface treatments. (Though I kind of dig the natural wood look. But maybe it's just because I'm smitten with the look of laser-engraved wood right now.)  Then... once I had the finished frame, I adhered the skull and then poured resin.  In hindsight, the resin has its pros and cons.  In the pros category is that it has a watery, optical feel.  It also protects the little skull.  (Though since it is recessed, it's pretty safe!  But if I wanted to, I could rivet on a piece of mica and channel my inner Daniel Essig.  If you don't know his work, you should check it out!  CLICK HERE to take a gander.)  In the cons section, it deadens some of the effects I worked to achieve with the surface treatments AND since the skulls have a lot of negative space, air bubbles can get trapped easily and often.  Also in the cons column is that if you're tired and not paying super close attention, you can mix up the opaque resin with the clear resin and you end up with a highly venerated blob.  At least it's a SPECIAL blob!

Special Blob Pendant by Andrew Thornton
Normally folks share all their glorious triumphs, but sort of gloss over their mess ups.  But in an endeavor to be real... here's photographic evidence that it's not all rainbows and kittens in Studio Thornton.  Luckily with the new laser, my mess (which in the privacy of my studio is pronounced with an "f" and ends with an "uck" sound) ups aren't quite as earth-shattering, as I can make another in short-order.

Back of Memento Mori Pendant by Andrew Thornton
To finish it all off, I laser-engraved the words, "memento mori" on the back.  It means, "remember death".  But really, it means remember LIFE!!  Live life each day to its fullest and try always to learn more and do more and be more.  Death is also not the end.  When the Death card is drawn in tarot, it sometimes is a welcome card.  It symbolizes the  end of one phase and the beginning of another.  It's a harbinger of transformation and change.  It embodies letting go... and flying free.

I think I'll hold on to this little gem for myself.  But if you're interested in one, contact Allegory Gallery via EMAIL or convo us through Etsy and make sure to specify that you're curious about acquiring a Memento Mori Pendant and I might be able to whip one up for you.

Monday, March 05, 2018

New Doors...

A few years ago, I had a realization.  I realized that I couldn't keep the pace up that I was going at.  All-nighters and forgetting to eat from being distracted by my work and constantly being plugged into the internet, answering questions at all hours of the day and night was starting to take a toll on me.  The most scary thing was when I started to notice that my vision wasn't as good and that my hands were hurting more and more.  Granted, I think my sight is still pretty good and my hands aren't that bad if I take care of them.  But still.  I realized that I couldn't keep things going as is.

The trickiest thing is that I enjoy my work.  I am happy to stay up all night and immerse myself in what I call the, "Deeper Well".  If I'm enjoying the project that I'm working on, I will push through achey hands and a stiff back.  I can be a little obsessive.  But there came a point where I was constantly sick and I was emotionally drained and not enjoying it so much anymore.  I was spread thin.  William forced me to go to bed and he took away my devices, so I couldn't pretend to sleep, but actually work, and we had a conversation.

Basically, we talked about ways that I could take the burden off of me and prolong not only my life, but my career as a maker.  At that point, we were just spitballing ideas and that path ahead was still foggy.  But then things started changing.
Intaglio etching by Andrew Thornton
I did a lot of research and tried to figure out what was actually doable.  We tossed around so many different ideas.  We knew that we wanted to take the burden off my hands, so we spent a great deal of time looking into ways of replicating my work and maintain the integrity.  One of the things that I've been intrigued by is prints.  In college, I did a lot of work with printmaking.  I worked with artists like Gunars Prande, Charles Yoder, and Dominick Rapone.  And it really changed my way of working.  There was something magical about multiples and it was a gateway to working in collage.  The thing about printmaking is that it's actually quite a lot of work and is very demanding.  I used to call my classes my Tae Bo workout, particularly when we were working with lithography.
Intaglio etching by Andrew Thornton
One of the thing that I enjoyed the most about printmaking (particularly intaglio printing), which is something that is hardly ever seen, are the plates.  I loved running my fingers over the etched plates and feeling the subtle textures.  Etched metal is a beautiful thing, but I didn't want to work in just metal.  So, the idea of a laser came to mind.

Silkscreen print by Andrew Thornton
Lithograph print by Andrew Thornton
I liked the idea of a laser, but the ones we looked at were cost prohibitive to say the least and actually quite complicated to operate.  But then, as we continued our investigations, we found a new one that met our needs.  It wasn't in production then and we would have to wait for it to be built.  We also found a generous investor who helped make it possible.

A lot has happened in the three years since we made the decision to get the laser.  We moved into town and William quit his full-time job.  We are now homeowners and are planning on opening another store.  And now, after three years... we have our laser!
Laser-engraved Botanical Pendants by Andrew Thornton

Here are some of our first pieces that we made with the laser.  We took some of the Strange Botany pieces that I made for a little zine and used those botanical images for the first pieces.  We wanted to test the capabilities (and still are) of the laser to see what kind of line-weights and shadowing we could achieve.  I'm quite taken with how they turned out.

Laser-engraved King Kitty Pendant by Andrew Thornton
When we decided on getting the laser, I didn't want to make it just a tool to make multiples and work out the issues of production... but as a new medium that could help me connect to my 2-D artwork and to expand my current ways of making things.  I'm always curious how something will push my creativity and open new doors.
I really love the sepia tone look of the laser-engraved wood, but I also have a little bit of a love affair with color and surface treatments.  So with these Abracadabra pendants, I experimented with different ways to alter the surface of the laser-engraved wood and add a little bit more of the artist's hand back into the pieces.

All of the pieces are available in-store at Allegory Gallery in Ligonier, PA.  But if you can't make it out to Southwestern Pennsylvania, we'll be adding them to our Etsy shop as we can.  CLICK HERE to visit our Etsy shop.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Fusion Beads 30 Day Bead Challenge: Day 2...

Chain bracelet by Andrew Thornton.
I don't know about you, but I have a little container filled with all  kinds of bits and pieces of chain that I've collected over the years.  I hate to throw anything away that might be useful one day.  Between samples from chain companies, to leftovers on the roll, or jewelry that I've taken apart, the chain box is brimming.  (Allegory Gallery also sells mixed lot baggies filled with assorted vintage chain.)  This little stash is surprisingly useful!  Sometimes I'll need a jump ring made out of a particular metal with a specific patina and these chain remnants can be cannibalized to yield up the perfect match.  And sometimes you just need an inch or two for an extender chain and my little collection always delivers.

For the second prompt of the Fusion Beads 30 Day Bead Challenge, we were asked to create a piece that had chain as the main component.  I decided to go all mixed metals for this challenge and dug through my chain stash.  I took various bits and connected them to form wrist-length pieces and then bundled up the chains and connected them with jump rings.  When I get around to it, I'll solder the rings shut so that they're more secure.  (You know, in that imaginary someday timeline where I've got extra time to solder jump rings for personal projects!)

I added an extender chain so that it can be adjusted according to wrist size.  I also used a larger size chain for this purpose and a larger brass lobster claw clasp so that in theory it can be clipped onto the end of another chain to transform it into a necklace!  I like pieces with versatility.

And because I needed a little bit of something to jazz up this bracelet, I dangled a little bezel-set eye charm from the extender chain.  It adds a lot of movement when worn as a bracelet and it actually hangs correctly when the bracelet plays Transformers and morphs into a necklace.
Fusion Beads March Bead Challenge 2018
There's still time to jump in and play along!  CLICK HERE for the full calendar in PDF form.  And really... I know it's fun to post things each day matching up with the prompts, but really who is to say you couldn't hop around the calendar if that's what moves you and your nonlinear sensibilities?  Personally, I think the set timeline is helpful to establish a helpful baseline, but really these challenges are just supposed to be fun and are about personal growth.  If you do make anything, I'd love to see!  So comment with your creations.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Fusion Beads 30 Day Bead Challenge: Day 1...

Earrings by Andrew Thornton.
One of the things that I always look forward to this time of year is National Craft Month!  To celebrate, Fusion Beads holds an annual Bead Challenge.  Even though I'm crazy busy, I always try to squeeze it in, because I always grow so much from the challenges and I really enjoy participating in them.  I'm not always successful in getting everything done, but I try and usually I get a majority of the daily projects completed.

For the first day of the challenge, we were encouraged to create a simple pair of earrings.  I had these pegasus bronze charms that I made hanging out in the studio.  They're based off of ancient Greek coins.  I've been wanting to do something with them, but hadn't found the right project.  I thought this would be perfect for them!  So, I double drilled them out, and added Czech glass dangles and Czech glass wire-wraps.  I paired them with some vintage lever-back earwires.  Presto!  Day One is complete!
Fusion Beads March Bead Challenge 2018
If you want to play along, you can certainly try to challenge yourself with the the whole month or just pick and chose prompts you can fit into your schedule.  Also, I think the most important part is to have fun!  Don't get stressed out about it!  Try to enjoy the acts of crafting and have a ball!

If you'd like to find out more, including downloading the calendar of projects, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Dissolvable Clay Body and Faux Roman Glass Vessels...

Cynthia's Ancient Roman Glass Vessel
While Cynthia and I were in Tucson, we saw some really lovely ancient Roman Glass vessels.  Unfortunately we couldn't work out a deal on them.  It was sort of a bummer, but our friend surprised Cynthia with one.

Both of us have been obsessed with the patina of Ancient Roman Glass and we have tried different techniques over the years to replicate the effect of being buried for centuries.  We realize that eventually the supply will run out and this finite resource will be no more.  Plus, once I've cracked the code, I'll be able to make shapes and forms that either didn't exist at the time or are cost prohibitive to obtain.

Cynthia's new treasure inspired me to dust off my notes and dig up my recipes and try my hand again at making some Faux Roman Glass.  This time I wanted to tackle vessels.

What follows are my experiments and my trial-by-error attempts.  There are probably easier ways of doing this and if you have suggestions that you've tried, feel free to leave helpful recommendations.  If I do this again, I have a feeling that I'll tweak the recipes and adjust amounts.  I'm getting closer and closer!

So, the "directions" aren't really "directions".  Let's get that out of the way.  What follows are pictures that I snapped and things that I've gleaned from my notes, but they are NOT step by step recipes.  Everyone has their own way of working and what works for me might work for you.  So feel free to explore and experiment and if you make anything using any of these notes, I'd love to see what you made.  I know it can be frustrating... but I work intuitively and that's just how I work (and cook as a matter of fact).

Chances are, the original Roman Glass Vessels were blown glass.  I wanted to work with polymer clay, which has its limitations in regards to replicating this process.  I remembered when I was making lampwork glass beads, and one of the tutorials I came across talked about creating vessels without blowing them.  It entailed wrapping steel wool around the mandrel and then coating that in bead release.  So, I knew it was possible to create these core vessels and that I could probably create a variable process for polymer clay.

The question became... what to use as a core that could be malleable, but would also dissolve and come out relatively easily.  The answer came by way of middle school earth sciences!

Powdered Eggshells can be surprisingly useful!
I tried to think of things that dissolve and I instantly thought of bath bombs.  Looking up bath bomb recipes, I thought about the volcanos that we had to make, where we combined vinegar and baking soda with a fizzy result.  I also thought about dissolving eggshells in vinegar, leaving behind a rubbery membrane encased egg.

One of the things that I keep from the kitchen are eggshells.  In the garden, I use them to enrich the soil and in the studio, I grind them into a powder and use them for all sorts of projects!  Eggshells are calcium carbonate, which has all kinds of applications.  Old recipes for gesso for egg temperas include ground up eggshells.  Calcium carbonate is also used for archival purposes and to create plaster recipes.  So, I have powdered eggshells in my studio pantry... you know, just in case.

To prepare the eggshells, clean them thoroughly and allow them to dry.  Roast them in an oven at a low temperature (around 200 degrees or so) and that will make them more brittle and easier to grind.  You can use a mortar and pestle or an electric grinder (for a slightly coarser texture).  For super fine powder, use a solid glass muller with a little bit of distilled water.

Removing lumps in the dry ingredients makes a smoother clay.
I tried several different variations of this recipe and this one seems to work the best (at least of the combinations that I tested).  I wanted to keep it as streamlined as possible and use materials from my cupboards.  (Though I would like to try and add citric acid for extra fizz next time.)

Dissolvable Clay Body
2 parts eggshell powder 
2 parts baking soda (baking powder will NOT work)
1 part cornstarch
2 drops dish soap (adjust amount in relation to the amount)

Combine dry ingredients and sift.  If you don't have a sifter or want to sift them, use the back of a spoon and crush any lumps and thoroughly mix.  Add water SLOWLY.  Once the clay is malleable, add soap and knead until smooth and the clay holds it's shape.

Drop by drop, the water should be added.
It's important to add water a little at a time.  You want the clay body to be on the drier side, but not crumbly.  Depending on where you are and the humidity and how much clay you're making, it'll change how much water you need to add.

This is an example of TOO much water!
To add the water, I mounded up the mixed dry ingredients and created a well in the center.  I added the water a little at a time, mixing from the center outward.
If you add too much water, it'll turn into a mess!  It reminds me of another science experiment that we did where we made our own slime.  If there is too much water, the clay will not hold its shape and will melt into a puddle.

If you add too much water, you can still get it "right" again.  Add more dry ingredients until the clay and be rolling into a ball like dough.  Too much eggshell powder will make the clay grainy. Cornstarch is a thickener, but it also makes the clay smoother.  Too much cornstarch and water will make the clay slump and melt.  Too much baking soda will make the clay brittle and cracky.  Too much flour will result in mini bread loaf cores that will be hard to remove later on.

The dish soap will save your hands and make the clay smell better!
The addition of the dish soap is debatable.  I think this clay can be somewhat drying on the hands and the soap helps your hands from drying out.  Additionally it smells better, which later on will matter if you're sensitive to scents.

A good clay will be smooth, but hold its shape.
You'll know that your clay is ready when it can be squeezed, and it'll hold its shape.  Walk away and come back after a few minutes and check to see if it's still holding.  Also you'll want the clay to be smooth and not super cracky.

In early versions of this recipe, I didn't include the flour and I found that the clays were not ideal for shaping.  They were fine for pressing into molds or to take impressions, but not suitable for shaping.  They didn't have the elasticity that the flour glutens add.
The cores don't have to be too elaborately sculpted.
Form the clay into the shapes that will become the hollow cavity of your vessel.  You can powder your work surface with baking soda to keep your pieces from sticking.

Once you've formed your cores, it is VERY IMPORTANT that they are completely dry.  You'll see later what happens when the dissolvable core is not fully dry.  It's also important that you dry them slowly. If they dry too fast, they'll crack and split.  To insure that they are dry all the way, I suggest putting them on paper towels and turning them from time to time.  The paper towels will help wick off the excess moisture.  Once they are dry to the touch, usually overnight, they would benefit from being put in a dehydrator or in an oven set at a low temperature.

Smooth the clay around the cores evenly, but not TOO evenly.
Transluscent polymer clay is worthy of an entire post on its own.  I won't digress too much here, as I have hopes to do some videos on my much neglected YouTube channel about it.  CLICK HERE to check out my YouTube channel.

For this project, I used Viva Decor Pardo Translucent clay colored with Ranger Alcohol Inks.  I used a mix of Mermaid, Stream, and Lettuce.  In hindsight I would have added only two drops each of each color for more translucence, as the inks are very saturated and the finished pieces are a little bit darker than I had originally intended.  I'll do a follow-up post or video on how to add alcohol inks to your clays.

As a variation, you could use Sculpey Premo! Opal Accent Clay.  It has little flecks of iridescent transparent film.  It's a wee bit trickier to work with, as the clay can sometimes want to reject its inclusions, but it creates a pretty magical result.

Roll the clay out on the thickest setting and wrap the core.  One of the things that makes the Ancient Roman Glass Vessels special is that they are all a little wonky.  They're irregular and a little thicker in places and thinner in other places.  Celebrate that.  If there's a crack, just patch it with extra clay.  Make sure all the seams are covered and that there is a ALWAYS a hole.  If you want the piece to not have a hole for whatever reason, like in a rattle, you can fill them in later.

Once everything is shaped, roll the pieces in big flake sea salt and bake as directed.

Dunking hot polymer in a cold liquid is a tip to increase translucency.
When all the pieces are cured completely in the oven, drop them in distilled white vinegar.  Leave them overnight.  If you're impatient, you can help loosen the material with a bamboo shish kabob skewer and gently stirring the core material.  The salt that you rolled your pieces in will have also dissolved, leaving a stippled, pitted, ancient texture on the polymer clay surface.

Here's a video of the process in action!  It's actually pretty exciting.  It's kind of like doing a science experiment for ART!

You might need to use a straw brush used to clean pipes and tubes and some dish soap to clean any residual core material that didn't dissolve completely.
Cracks aren't the end of the world with this project!
Remember when I mentioned that it's important that the core material be COMPLETELY dry before you cover it in polymer clay and bake it?  Well, if it's not dry, this will happen. The excess steam will expand and cause the clay to crack.  The translucent clay seems to be more brittle than the other clays and therefore it's more susceptible to these kinds of breaks.

But it's okay!  Actually it adds a little character.  Polymer clay is actually very forgiving and can be easily mended.  For minor cracks I used Sculpey Bake and Bond.  For bigger cracks, I coated the edges with the liquid polymer clay and then smashed a small piece of clay until it's mushy and squishy.  Once it's got a soft consistency and slightly sticky, I smear it in the cracks.  When I re-bake the pieces, I make sure to wrap them up tight or tape them together, so that the cracks fuse together and don't continue to split while the clay is hot and pliable.

These are the finished Polymer Clay Faux Roman Glass Vessels.
Now is the fun part!  One of the things that truly set Ancient Roman Glass pieces apart from other old glass is that it's a little bit crusty and has the telltale signs that it was excavated.  It's a little bit like cooking when you're coming up with your own particular recipe for how you want it to look.  Liquid Polyclay is the base.  From there all sorts of things can be added.  You can add things like marble dust, plaster dust, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, mica powders, and iridescent pigment powders like PearlEx.  Mix it into a thick paste and glob it on.  This is particularly useful if you've got any cracks to cover.  Smear it on so that it adheres to the vessel.  Be random about it and think about it laying in the earth.

Once you've figured out placement of your ancient crustiness, I powder on a little more iridescent pigment powers and then embed salt.  Cure the pieces in the oven and then dunk them in water to dissolve the extra salt.  And when everything is cool and dry, embellish your pieces with pearlescent and opalescent paints.  I suggest having a piece on-hand for reference, but you can go as wild and fantastical as your heart desires.  Really, it's all about having fun and putting your own spin on it.  These are just some tips, tricks, and techniques that I've been working on for the past decade or so, but you might have a different recipe or idea or way of doing it!  Mother Nature has had millennia to perfect her recipe!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Desert Blessings...

We saw these seed pods on a tree while we were parked in a parking lot.  After doing a little research, we discovered that they are from a "Bottle Tree" or Brachychiton tree.  It's a native to Australia, but thrives in Arizona.
Our first full day in Tucson started out by running errands and collecting things for the upcoming show.  Despite the best of intentions and preparation, there is almost always something that was left behind or needed on location.  It's always a blessing to have this day to ease into these types of work trips.

One of the things that I love about Tucson is how different the plant life is.  This time of year in Southwestern Pennsylvania can be awfully dreary and monochromatic. I can appreciate the beauty of snow and blustery winter, but generally by this point in the winter, I'm pretty tired of it.  So seeing green and big bright blue skies was a welcome shock to the system.

Kelvin cholla at dusk at the Catalina State Park.
We were fortunate enough to finish our preparation work early and were able to go on a short hike!  Cynthia and I headed north towards Oro Valley to the Catalina State Park.  As soon as we pulled in and stopped to pay, we saw a coyote slink across the road.  It was an absolutely majestic creature.  Both of us sat there in silence, observing this beautiful animal.

Panoramic shot of Catalina State Park.
Neither Cynthia or I are of the sturdy variety, so we did a pretty easy hike.  Around us was a garden of cacti.  Reaching up to the skies, the saguaro stood like praising sentinels.  Flanking the path were a smattering of prickly pears, different varieties of cholla, golden flower crowned barrel cacti, and pink blossoming hedgehog cacti.  We walked through creosote bushes that smelled of rain.  When most people think of the desert, they imagine a barren place.  But, to me, it's a place of hidden beauty and strength.  Sometimes you have to look a little closer, but when you do, you see an amazing array of diversity and interesting characteristics that make the plants able to survive the extremes of the desert.

I would definitely like to go back and explore more!  We just scratched the surface of the park and there's so much more that I'd like to take in.  Next time I'll bring a field guide.

Cynthia Thornton at the Catalina State Park.
Being out in nature was nice, but even better was sharing it with Cynthia.  We haven't been able to see each other as much as either of us would like, so it was nice to be able to talk and catch up and dream up new ideas together.  We marveled at the architecture of "cactus bones" and would show each other interesting rocks we found.  I laughed myself hoarse when Cynthia moved a branch with her foot and out oozed this black goo that smelled like rotting fish!
As we made our way back to the car, taking in the technicolor sunset, we heard singing in the distance.  At first it was one voice and then there was a chorus of haunting yips and howls.  It sounded like laughter.  It sounded like crying.  The coyotes were singing their twilight song and blessing us on our way.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Kindling Sunshine...

I recently returned from a stay out in Tucson.  It was a little bit of an unexpected trip.  With everything going on and finally closing on the house, I didn't really think that it was in the cards this year.  But a few weeks before the annual Gem Shows began, I talked with my sister and we figured out a way to make the adventure possible.

It ended up being one of my best treks out to Tucson and I've been going for over 13 years!

Keeping up with all our activities and work obligations and updating other social media platforms for myself and the business, I've neglected updating my blog about the experience.  (In case you didn't know already, you can keep up with me on Facebook and Instagram.  I try to diversify the content, so it isn't rehashed in triplicate.  I also contribute to the Allegory Gallery Facebook page and Instagram account.  OH!  And don't forget Pinterest!  I've all but abandoned Twitter, but every once and awhile, I'll pop up on there as well.)

It's cold and rainy and I'm longing for the big desert skies.  I thought I would take the opportunity to slowly update the blog with the adventure and hopefully kindle some of that sunshine here in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  At first, I pondered doing one BIG post, but I was gone for two weeks and we fit a lot into the trip.  Instead, I'll try to update a little each day and bask in the glow of the journey as long as possible.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Pantone's Fashion Color Trend Report London Fall/Winter 2018...

About a week ago, Pantone announced their Fall/Winter 2018 Fashion Color Trend Report for New York.  The report included their top ten picks and a Classic Color Palette featuring five neutral colors that graced the runways.

They just announced their Color Trend Report for London.  Everything is pretty much the same, except the London report includes TWO additional colors.  The London report includes Mellow Rose and Pink Peacock.  Again, these aren't your "traditional" fall/winter colors, but underscore the desire for individuality and experimentalism seen on the runways during London Fashion Week.  To read the full report, CLICK HERE.

What's your favorite color?  Do you like or dislike the additional picks that were spotlighted in the London report, but not in the New York report?

SCORE American Small Business Championship...

The public voting round of the SCORE American Small Business Championship is now over.  William and I are blown away by the support Allegory Gallery received over the course of the voting.  We received 6,855 votes!  That truly is incredible and we are humbled by the outpouring of love and support.  THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to vote and share about the competition.

I know that I ask a lot of our support network.  Each day we put a flag out in front of Allegory Gallery, welcoming visitors and patrons to stop in.  Each day we strive to do our best to provide good customer service and offer up unique and interesting items that will appeal to customers.  Each day, we hope to create an experience both online and in-person that will leave the world a little bit more beautiful.

I'll admit that even though we put forth a considerable amount of time and energy into making these goals and aspirations manifest each day, somedays we miss the mark.  Some days are harder than others and it's hard to rally.  Small businesses face an enormous amount of challenges and sometimes those challenges get the best of us.  We're not perfect.


We still keep trying.

I start my day off looking through the news.  My inner peace is conflicted between staying well-informed and the sinking feeling of dread that can result from such information.  But in the end, I want to stay abreast of what's happening and often times I find inspiration in unlikely places.  So, I read the news.  When I read about so many tragedies... so much loss and grief, it breaks my heart.

In the grand scheme of things, what we do is complete confection.  It's the icing on the cake.  But, I'd like to think that it's more than that.  When the world is filled with so much hurt, it is art and how we express ourselves that help offset the anguish.  It won't make the world all better.  It's not going to solve all the problems, but it helps.

So while we may not succeed every day, we keep trying.  While the little things might not answer all the big questions, they help.  And what is life, but a struggle to keep going?  To be more than what we were the day before?  To make the world better, little by little.

I started this post with the idea that I would thank people for voting for us in a small business competition.  And while there is gratitude for that... there is more. There is a deep appreciation for allowing us this gift – to do what we do and to keep trying to be better each day.  Thank you for allowing us to help in the way we can by small degrees.  Thank you for letting us be apart of your lives.

In regards to contest, there's a long way to go before the winners are announced.  Whether or not we win, know that the gratitude for your support is there.  Will we win?  Maybe.  We've done our best and put ourselves out there.  Will we lose?  Maybe.  Either way, we tried and will keep trying.  William and I feel like winners by being allowed to continue serving our community and creating beauty in the world. We are so fortunate and it amazes me each day.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Pantone's Fashion Color Trend Report New York Fall/Winter 2018...

Have you seen Pantone's Fashion Color Report for Fall/Winter 2018 yet?  It's an interesting mix that has a line-up that I normally wouldn't peg for autumn.  With the exception of Red Pear and Martini Olive, the selections are very bright, chromatic, and/or pastel.  Usually when I think of the "traditional" fall colors they pick, they're a little more subdue (being a shade or two darker) and more earthy than their spring counterparts... but this palette is pretty bright!  The foundation of the palette is the primary colors with an assortment of pastel secondary color friends.  These more vibrant colors are played off of clean neutrals.

As with the spring color report, they also included their Classic Color Palette.  It's pretty close to the spring line-up, however, they did add Meerkat, which is a warm caramel brown color with a spicy orange undertone.  It sort of reminds me of roasted butternut squash soup!

You can CLICK HERE to read the report for yourself and find out more about their picks.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Polymer Clay Daily...

What a wonderful surprise to wake up to!  Thank you, Cynthia Tinapple for spotlighting my coin pendants and for all that you do for the polymer clay community! I appreciate the mention and all your hard work! CLICK HERE to take a gander at the article.

What are some words that you hold dear as words of empowerment or encouragement?  Are there any sentiments that you love and have a special meaning for you?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New Horizons...

On Sunday evening, the Golden Globes award ceremony aired.  A highlight of the festivities included Oprah Winfrey receiving the Cecil B. DeMille award and giving a poignant and timely acceptance speech.

Now... before I continue... if you're looking for an article about whether or not Oprah Winfrey should run for president in 2020, keep on scrolling.  This is not about that.

This IS about finding inspiration in her words.  If  you missed it, you should definitely search it out and watch the video.  If that isn't an option, here is an excerpt from the transcript:

"In my career, what I've always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave.  To say how we experience shame, how we love, and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome.  I've interviewed and portrayed people who have withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.  So I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon... and, when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody every has to say Me Too again."

I watched the speech several times, allowing the rhythm of her words and the cadence of her voice stink in.  We live in a very exciting and scary time, a time when silenced voices are finally being heard.  The conversations aren't always easy.  Sometimes they're acutely difficult, rehashing some of the most traumatic experiences a person has carried with them.  Some may argue with my usage of the word "exciting", but if you've ever been told to sit down and shut up, being able to finally speak your truth is very exciting.  Allowing your voice to be heard is empowering and cathartic.

After I let the speech soak in, I was inspired to create something.  I believe in the power of creativity and how we can craft better lives for ourselves through the things we make and how we express ourselves.  Again, it goes back to allowing your voice to be heard, even if it's spoken in the language of images and adornment.  I made this polymer clay coin pendant with a quote from her speech.  I carved the mold, pressed each one out, and then finished them with coats of paint and protective sealer.  In the design, I wanted the daybreak to peak up over a jagged horizon, a symbolic mountain range, because we as a society have certainly had insurmountable obstacles in the past that were once thought to be unscalable.  The light still comes and the clouds depart.  Hope persists. #timesup

If you're interested in acquiring one of these as a personal talisman for yourself or for someone you love, they will be added to the Allegory Gallery Etsy shop soon.  So keep your eyes peeled for them to debut.

Temperance & the Bat...

1/10: Temperance,  The Wild Unknown TarotBat The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Good News...

Yesterday, over on Facebook, I teased that I had some good news!  I had all kinds of guesses about what the news actually was.  Lots of really interesting thoughts!  The actual good news is that I'll be going to Tucson for the annual gem and mineral shows! With all the house stuff, I didn't think I'd be going this year.  With the rare exception, I've been going almost every year for over a decade.  So it'll be nice to go back.  I really like Tucson and think it's a great city!  Plus it is made even better with the influx of some of my favorite jewelry-making people.

So... where will I be?  I'll be at the Whole Bead Show at the Viscount Suite Hotel.  I'll be helping out at my family's booth.  So, come see me and Cynthia at the Green Girl Studios booth!  I'll have a few of my goodies available as well.  If there's anything you want me to bring, make sure to let me know! I'll do my best to accommodate!

The show looks like a really good line-up.  Carl Clasmeyer, Anne Gardanne, and Brenda Schweder are just a few of the artisans that will be represented.  There will be bunch of other vendors, including Ava Motherwell and all her vintage treasures (and more).  So make sure to come and see us!

Seven of Cups & the Horse...

1/7: Seven of Cups,  The Wild Unknown TarotHorse, The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck.