Not all those who wander are lost.

The next year or so will be my wandering time.  Travel is my only true luxury.  I don’t drink, smoke or buy coffee at Starbucks.  I don’t have a car or own a home.  But I do have what I want the most – the freedom to choose my own schedule and with very careful planning to travel to places that I’ve always dreamed of.  Starting in October I’ll be journeying to places that I’ve always been fascinated by but thought I’d never reach.

My first trip will start in France.  I’ve been to France before but it was a long, long time ago when I was young enough and brave enough to just quit my job and take off with no money.  I put everything on my credit card, travelled through Europe with the ubiquitous backpack and then lived on $5 a week when I came back to pay it off.  And yes, that $5 had to cover groceries and everything other than rent!  I get tired of people saying you have to be rich to travel.  You don’t, you just have to be determined and decide what your priorities are.  My priority in the next year is to travel.

From France I’ll be journeying southward to Spain.  I visited Barcelona in my younger days but then detoured into Italy so I’m looking forward to exploring more of Spain.  I’m debating whether to go to Madrid or go along the coast to Valencia.  It’s such a beautiful country it’s hard to decide.  But my end goal in this installment of my wandering is Morocco.  Oh Morocco!  The colours, the sights, the architecture!  The markets!  Now this is a country that embraces colour.  Even something as mundane as cooking pots are glorious.  It’s also known for centuries of craftsmanship.  Shoes, ceramics, leather, copper ware, textiles.  These are all handmade with skills that have been passed down from generation to generation. I’m already incredibly inspired just by looking at pictures, I can’t imagine how it will feel to be there in person.

Unfortunately I can’t stay in Morocco forever and will be back in Canada in December in time to fit in some holiday shows and do all the Christmas family visiting.  I won’t be sitting still for long though and in January the grand plan is to head to India!  Yes India, another country with a love for jewel tones.   I find the idea of India both exciting and daunting.  It’s a whirlwind of colour, hectic cities, stunning landscapes and beautiful palaces.  But it’s so big!  And I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to go again so I want to fit in as much as possible.  So far I’m looking at the Golden Triangle, Goa and Kerala.  I also have the delusional idea that I might make it to the Himalayas but I have my doubts about that.

So needless to say I’m going to be a very busy girl.  I will have to make enough pieces before I leave to keep all the stores that carry my work stocked and have enough inventory ready for December shows.  I’ll be teaching classes on a regular basis until June, and possibly a few in July and August.  But there will be no classes from September until March of 2016.

My itinerary is flexible so if anyone has suggestions for places to visit feel free to let me know!!

Holi, the Celebration of Colours Festival in India.  Photo by Poras Chaudhary

holi

Market in Marrakesh.  Photo from Pinterest.

morocco mrkt

Inspiration – Red Rock Canyon and the Grand Canyon

One of my biggest inspirations in my work is the amazing colours found in nature. Sometimes they seem surreal because it’s hard to believe anything could actually look so beautiful.  I certainly found that was the case in two of the places I visited over the holidays this year – Red Rock Canyon and the Grand Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon is in Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas.  It’s hard to understand why people would choose to sit in a gloomy, stuffy casino instead of seeing this marvel of nature.  The drive there is through desert scrub, which is beautiful in it’s own way with Joshua Trees, yucca plants and cacti.  The mountains look stunning even from a distance but as I got closer I could see the most amazing colours in them!  White, black, brown, oranges and reds!  Each was unique and amazing and every time the light changed they looked entirely different.  And the closer I got the more beautiful they got as I could see the curve of the hills, the roughness of the rock and even more variation in the colours.  This particularly colourful area is called the Calico Hills.  A very apt description.  It was wonderful to be able to get out and walk on the hills for a bit and admire the textures and up close minutiae of pattern and colour.  It was hard to leave and I would love to return and be able to explore the area further.

My other destination this season was the Grand Canyon.  And grand it is!  It’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  The weather was very cold and the trails were snow and ice covered so I could only see it from the top observation areas, which gave a stunning panorama of the South Rim.  It’s otherworldly, like being on some unknown planet.  There are so many layers of reds and oranges and browns, and the rock formations themselves are fascinating.  I could have stared at it for hours and everywhere I looked I saw something new.  Unfortunately I was only there for a short time.  For anyone planning to visit I would recommend going when it’s warm enough to hike and staying for a few days.  It is truly, truly breathtaking!

Needless to say, both of these journeys will be inspiring some new work, both in my jewellery and in my enamel art panels.  Stay tuned to see the results!

Here’s a couple of pictures to  give you a taste of what I saw.

Red Rock Canyon, The Calico Hills

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The Grand Canyon

 

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How I make stuff.

Many people don’t realize quite how many steps are involved in making my enamel pieces.

First I take plain copper and heat it in my kiln.  This cleans all the grease off it.

Here’s the before shot.

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Here’s the copper in the kiln.

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Here’s the copper after heating.  It’s a bit dirty looking, that’s oxidation and needs to be cleaned off.  When I clean metal I use salt and vinegar rather than chemicals.

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If I’m making domed pieces this is the time to form them.  The heat of the kiln makes the metal softer and easier to bend.  I used a dapping block, dapping punches and rawhide hammer to shape them into curved domes.  After doming they need to be cleaned again.

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Then I fire a layer of enamel onto the bottom/back of the copper.  These will be bezel set so the backs are plain.  If I’m doing regular pieces I always make sure both sides are attractive.

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My kiln is nice and hot.  This shows the temperature at 1433 Fahrenheit but I often fire at higher temperatures than that.

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After firing the backs I sift enamel, which is very finely ground glass,  onto the top/front.

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This is after one firing.

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This is after several firings.  You can see how much smoother and brighter the colours are.  These are ready to be set, they just need a bit of filing at the edges where the enamel stuck to the trivets (the metal stands I use for firing).

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The little domes are now earrings!

 

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And the big domes are necklaces!  Pretty!

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Vintage or modern?

I have to admit, my tastes have always been fairly eclectic.  Maybe it’s a short attention span but I like to think it’s a love of diversity and finding beauty everywhere.  On a less philosophical note, this leads me to the decision of whether to make vintage or modern designs.

I have always loved gothic, curving lines.  Art Nouveau, swirly, dark, beautiful things.  Deep jewel tones, brass and tarnished silver.  Things that would look at home in a Dracula movie or Pride and Prejudice.  This leads me to make some pieces that have a vintage look and feel.  Still with clean lines, but with a warmer tone.

However I also love the mod look.  Not specifically 2014 modern  but Art Deco and 1950’s modern as well.  Minimal, sparse designs.  Chrome, simple, shiny, bright and bold.

So, normally this is not a big deal.  Most people have a variety of tastes.  But as a jewellery designer I have been told that I have to choose a style.  Create an image, do everything the same so you have a “line”, brand, brand, brand!  Being contrary, to this I say “phooey”.  I make what I love.  If it happens to be trendy, so be it.  If it isn’t, that’s just fine too.  I think when choosing  jewellery, clothes, etc it should be the same way.  Wear what you love.  Don’t worry that your favourite colour isn’t “in” this year.  Or that all the magazines feature short skirts.  Don’t cut your hair because your stylist told you to.  Do what YOU want.  Not what others, the media, or advertisers tell you to do.

Here are a few of the things I like, and make.  They may not all be the same, but they all make me happy.

 

New class – how to make a band ring – textured and/or enamelled

NEW CLASS!
How to make a band ring

I’ve been very well known for my enamel band rings and I’ve decided to share the secrets :)

In this class you will learn how to form a band ring from copper.  Two rings will be completed using filing, sanding, annealing and texturing with a rolling mill. You will also have the option of learning to use a disc cutter to add to your design.  You have the choice of enamelling one or both.  Rings not enamelled will be adjustable (unsoldered).

No experience is necessary for this class.  Please be aware that this only covers very basic enamelling, those who want to learn full enamelling techniques should take the beginner enamelling class.

October 29th
10:30 am to 2:30 pm. $125.00 all inclusive.
Please contact me at torchedstudio@hotmail.com to register.

Classes are held at my studio near College and Ossington in Toronto, Ontario

band c

Africa

I was lucky enough to get to go to Africa this year.  I visited South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

First up was Cape Town, South Africa where the highlight was taking a rather daunting cable car ride up to the top of Table Mountain.  I also saw some adorable penguins and brave baboons (one stole someone’s cookies).

Then it was off to Namibia to embark on a 4 day boat journey up and down the Zambezi River.  The banks of the Zambezi abound with elephants, cape buffalo, warthogs, giraffes, impalas, hippos, baboons and more.  I also went out in a small boat for water safaris where I got to see  animals quite close up.  The variety of wildlife is amazing.  This part of my journey also included a day of going to the Chobe National Park in Botswana for a land safari.  Even more animals!  The jeep had to stop to let elephants cross the road, and zebras, and giraffes!

The next part of my whirlwind tour was Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  This is the highest water fall in the world, and it was very impressive.  This was one of the most exciting parts of my trip because I got to ride an elephant!!  The place I went for my elephant ride is an elephant sanctuary.  All of the elephants there are either orphans or they were born there.   They have a huge reserve that they live on when they’re not giving rides to lucky people like me.  I know the reserve is big because I rode for over an hour and there was no boundary in sight.  There are many completely wild animals there as well, such as cape buffalo, warthogs and impalas.  The elephants are very relaxed and you can tell their caretakers are very fond of them.  I was quite nervous when I first got on (they are huge!) but quickly got used to the height and loved the experience.  After the ride I got to feed them.  They have two ways of taking their food.  If I said “trunk up” they put their trunk up and I threw the food in their mouth.  If I said “trunk down” they curled their trunk down then the end up so the tip points up like a bowl and I put food in the trunk, then they transferred it to their mouth.  And then, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, I got to pet a cheetah!  The cheetah’s name is Sylvester and he was orphaned as a baby after a lion killed his siblings and chased his mother off.  He was originally raised in a regular home with house cats but when he got big he was too rough to be kept there so he went to live at the sanctuary.  He roams around the reserve when he’s not getting attention from visitors.  There are wild cheetah there but Sylvester doesn’t think he’s a cheetah, he thinks he’s a house cat, so he ignores them.

The last part of my journey was back to South Africa, to Kruger National Park.  I stayed at the Manyeleti Private Game Reserve concession, which is a private area attached to Kruger.  I went out in a jeep every morning and afternoon to look for animals.  All the favourites were there, elephants, zebra, warthogs, giraffe, impala, etc.  Far, far too many animals to list them all.  Even walking around the lodge I would see kudu or duiker antelope happily munching on leaves or elephants strolling by my window.  Sometimes while in the jeep the elephants got a little too close and we had to back up pretty quickly to get out of their way.  This is where I finally got to see lions.  A pride of lions had killed a cape buffalo not far behind the lodge I was staying in.  The lions were so beautiful!  Although it was a bit gruesome to see them tearing apart their breakfast of buffalo.  I also got a brief glimpse of rhinos.  It’s so sad that these huge animals are terrified because poachers are constantly killing them for their horns.  They have patrols that search for poachers but Kruger is the size of the country of Wales, so it’s a lot of area to cover.  They have recently decided to move over 500 rhinos to smaller, more easily patrolled reserves.

Here are just a few of the many, many, many pictures I took!

 

How to Make a Wooden Box

I’ve done a lot of crafts in my time but one I had never tried was woodworking.  I love wood.  The look of wood, the smell of wood, the feel of wood.  But for some reason I’ve never worked with wood.  So when I saw that Site 3 CoLaboratory was offering a Basic Woodworking class I was eager to check it out.

Site 3 is a workspace which provides members with access to tools and equipment for working on projects.  It’s a pretty impressive list of equipment including a laser printer, welding equipment, a 3D printer, woodworking equipment and much more.  As well as memberships they also have open nights on Thursdays where anyone can stop in to use the shop.  And they have a variety of classes to choose from.

The project for the woodworking class I took was making a wooden box.  The instructor is Marc Reeve-Newson.  He is a very knowledgeable and affable teacher, and very brave to trust a bunch of newbies around large power tools, lol.  We used  a planer to take a piece of rough lumber and turn it into a usable board.  To do this we put a board through the planer and it skimmed off the rough surface.   We used the table saw to cut the pieces into desired sizes and the chop saw to cut the lengths. We used a router to cut the grooves where the lid would slide in.  And then we clamped the boxes together and used the brad nailer to put it together.  Lots of work and lots of measuring!

The end result is very cool, a box with a sliding lid.  I didn’t quite finish mine because I had a prior commitment and had to leave, but the others in the class stayed and did their final sanding, staining and even had a beautiful Celtic design put on the lid by a Site 3 member.  Gorgeous!  I’d definitely recommend the class.  Just make sure you get there on time and give yourself some time after the class (Marc lets you stay until you are finished the box) because there are a lot of steps involved!

Besides making a beautiful box you also get a great intro to using the various woodworking tools.  I plan on using this for some of my future projects.

Marc is offering the class again in July.  Here’s the link:

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/basic-woodworking-with-marc-reeve-newson-tickets-11819890611?ref=ebapi

woodworking woodworking1 woodworking2 woodworking3 a woodworking4

 

Enamelling at the Yonge St. Mission

Last week I had a great Friday teaching some people to enamel at the Evergreen Centre for Street Youth, which is part of the Yonge St. Mission.  The centre offers a safe place where homeless and street-involved youth can rest, eat, obtain health care and counselling and get help with finding a job or a place to stay or pursuing education.

I taught the enamelling class as part of a program that was started this year by some friends of mine, Michele Witt and Ivanne Binetruy of Connect Studio.  They and other volunteers teach a different jewellery making technique each week in a two hour class at the Evergreen Centre.  There is no charge to the youth and they can drop in at any time during the class.  Techniques including how to make a copper bracelet, wax carving for casting, enamelling and more have already been taught and there’s more on the agenda!

Teaching the class was great, there’s always something new to try with enamelling and each person had a different idea of what they wanted to create.  One person wanted initials of her family to give as gifts, another was finishing up a ring they made the week before and did some fantastic designs with hearts and dots, another did a great collection of earth tones to wear together.  One young man did some very impressive designs that included a lot of glass beads, which were melted into the enamel.  He showed me some of his other pieces that he’d done in previous classes and told me he wants to start making and selling jewellery on a regular basis.  I hope he does, it can be a very rewarding career.  And that’s one of the great things about this program, not only is it a fun way for street youth to spend the afternoon but it also shows them some possibilities for the future they may not have thought of or had access to.

 

The Evolution of a Bowl

I thought it might be interesting to show some of the steps in making one of my little bowls.  There’s a lot of steps between beginning and end.  I won’t show all of them but here’s the basics.

I start with a flat copper circle.

copper circle

Then heat and form the piece until I have a shallow form with gently fluted edges.

halfway

 

I further shape the copper until I have a deeper inner bowl and strongly fluted edges – it now has a flower-like shape.

final copper form

I start firing layers of enamel – this is after about 6 firings.

bowl

The finished pieces – several more layers and firings of enamel have produced beautiful shading, colour variations and bubbling.

blue flower

purple flower

 

 

 

1000 Beads

It’s so funny, this is one of the most exciting things to happen for me business wise this year and I forgot to post about it!  I found out on October 31st that one of my big enamel focal beads was chosen to be in Lark Crafts new book “1000 Beads”!

The Lark Crafts books are absolutely gorgeous.  Each page is a full shot of some stunning work, whether rings, glass, enamel, ceramics, etc.  They have quite an extensive series.  I’ve always admired them so when I saw their call for entry I thought I would give it a shot.

The piece that was chosen is called “Lava Flow”.  It’s a very large focal bead I made using plumber’s pipe and a LOT of layers of enamel.  I think this bead went through about 50 firings before I was happy with it.  Because I fire each layer flat it’s hard to realize that each of those firings was an additional layer of enamel, with a  total of about 10 or 12 colours (maybe more, I lost count!).  It also takes a careful burn firing to make the colours blend this way.  And because there is so much enamel I had to keep flipping it each time I fired so the enamel wouldn’t all slump to one end.  So a lot of work for one bead ;)

I’m really looking forward to April when the book comes out and I can see my piece and all the other  wonderful creations by artists from around the world!

Here is my lovely Lava Flow :)

larkfinal lavaflow