Tag Archives: ontario

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.

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Ripley’s Aquarium

I finally made it to the new Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto this week!  I love aquariums, from the small home version with guppies to the huge Osaka aquarium with it’s whale shark (yes, I was lucky enough to visit that one a long time ago).

The aquarium has very strict guidelines for animal care and is involved in a lot of research and conservation projects, including the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.  They have many educational programs for those visiting and for teachers to share with their classes.

I like the fact that the Toronto aquarium has native species as well as the more exotic and colourful varieties of fish. The tanks are large and beautifully presented.  The Pacific Kelp Exhibit even has a wave maker to simulate the surge conditions of the British Columbia shoreline – it’s mesmerizing to watch the kelp and the fish swaying back and forth!

It’s really hard to pick my favourite part of the aquarium.  It’s amazing watching all the different species of rays in Ray Bay.  There’s such a hypnotic effect to seeing them gliding gracefully past.  But of course Dangerous Lagoon is so amazing too, I swear those sharks are watching me as they swim by!  And the jellyfish!  Oh the jellyfish!  I could stand there all day watching them undulate and change colours with the light.  I think I took about a hundred pictures of them!

Needless to say I enjoyed my visit.  Apparently they have sleepovers in the aquarium too.  I can just imagine going to sleep while watching sharks swim over my head!  Magical 🙂

If you’re interested in visiting or more information here is their website – http://www.ripleysaquariumofcanada.com/

And here is a little slideshow of some of the pictures I took.  I have some amazing videos too but they’re a bit large to put on line.

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The Pipes Are Calling

I’ve been busy making new things again!  Here is my guest post on the Freedom Clothing Collective blog that tells you all about it!

http://freedomclothingcollective.blogspot.ca/2013/10/made-in-canada-series-pipes-are-calling.html

enamel and concrete vase

Fire and Fusion

There are a tonne of events happening in Toronto in May for TIJF – the Toronto International Jewellery Festival – and for the big SNAG – Society of North American Goldsmiths – conference.  But the one I’m most excited about is Fire and Fusion: a TIJF Enamelling Exhibition!

I’m super excited because my Tide Pool enamel bowl has been accepted for the exhibition, whoo hoo!  And I’m also excited because I will get to see the work of 30 other enamel artists from across Canada.  Enamelling isn’t an incredibly common skill, so sometimes it feels a little lonely in front of that kiln, and it will be wonderful to see what other people create with enamel.  The best thing for me about enamel is that it is so versatile, you can do a different technique every day and never run out of ideas.  So I’m sure there will be a lot of variety in the art that is presented.

The exhibition will be on from May 1st to 30th at the Rainbow Gallery, 80 Front St. East in Toronto.  The opening reception is May 1st from 12:30 to 2pm.

Here is a video of the artists involved.  If you know anything about enamelling you will realize the crazy amount of work that went into some of these pieces!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5EOrRmvAZE

Here is the Facebook link for the Fire and Fusion exhibition –  https://www.facebook.com/FireAndFusion?fref=ts

And the website – http://fireandfusion.wordpress.com/

And the TIJF website – http://tijf.info/

And the SNAG website – http://www.snagmetalsmith.org/events/conferences/

And of course, here is my bowl 🙂  I hope you make it to the exhibition to see it in person!!!

Tide Pool Bowl

HOME

My lovely little enamel art panels will be getting a little exposure this holiday season.  They’re part of an art exhibition at Elephant Shoes, a store/gallery that also carries my enamel jewellery.  All of the everyday items (including my jewellery) will be put away so that owner Cheryl Lim can turn the space into an art gallery.

It’s a group exhibition and will feature the work of Madelaine Lyons Cooper,
Laura Stitzel, Dara Gold, Doris Purchase, Michael Mackid, Amanda Lee,
Xenia Vakova and of course, me!

The exhibition goes up on December 1st and continues until December 9th.  The official reception will be on December 7th from 7pm to 10pm and all are welcome!  You can visit the exhibition during regular store hours which are listed on the Elephant Shoes website – www.elephantshoes.ca  It’s located at 1342 Bloor Street West, Toronto, which is just west of the Lansdowne subway station.

Here’s one of my art panels that will be featured in the show.

Photo shoot

I finally had a little photo shoot with some of my pieces on a model.  My friend Amy was gracious enough to help me out by posing in several pieces from my various collections.  And I must say they certainly do look stunning on her!

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