The Haunted Hollow Tree: This is an original mixed media of pyrography, water color, and casein paint.
Most commonly known as “wood burning”, pyrography is the traditional art of using a heated tip to burn or scorch images onto natural materials such as wood or leather. It is a challenging medium to work in because the permanent nature of burning requires constant precision and missteps are not easily corrected. It is very much like drawing in a sense, but done with a hot wire tip instead of a pencil. The different tonal values and subtle graduations are created carefully by varying the pressure and temperature of the pen tip.
When I came upon Maria’s booth at the Fenton Street Market, I nearly had chest pains. Her lovely little space was brimming with so much prettiness, I didn’t know where to look first! As a sewer, I am always drawn to lovely things made with fabric, and Maria’s creations were the prettiest fabric things I’d seen in a long time.
Maria makes a variety of jewelry and fashion accessories for her shop, called Little Blue Studio. She uses fabric, crystals, semi precious stones, wire, and even sea shells. Every item is a little bit different from the last, because she’s always looking for something new to make, and new ways to interpret old favorites.
In addition to her gorgeous flowers that become hair accessories, brooches, and necklaces, I was particularly impressed by her mermaid lures, jewelry pieces that are created from found sea shell fragments and pearls.
Not only did I find the concept of a mermaid lure undeniably seductive (like living in a fantasy novel!), I completely fell in love with her modern and unusual presentation of pearls. It’s so easy to dismiss pearls as old fashioned, but that would be impossible with Maria’s creations.
The imperfections in the found shell fragments are what inspire Maria to turn them into something gorgeous…to force viewers to see the beauty in something that was discarded and overlooked.
Maria comes from a family of makers. Sewing, cooking, gardening, carpentry, and many other creative pursuits made up her home life. Although she started her creative career as a painter, making jewelry became more practical as her family grew, and she needed to be more flexible with time. She was drawn to using fabric, because of her mother’s skill as a sewer, but is looking forward to incorporating more metalsmithing into her creations.
Maria’s favorite thing to make is always the item she’s working on at the moment! “When you make something, it carries an intangible to your customer,” she says. “The only way to do that, is to love what you are doing.” Maria believes that when you are no longer in love with the thing you are making, it’s time to move on.
Inspired. That’s what I felt after visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery last weekend. My husband and I are members, so we’re free to pop in any time we like to check out the newest exhibition which is a great luxury. So much so that we may not even look into a new exhibit in that much detail in advance like we would otherwise, we’ll just head down instead to check it out in person. For some reason I wasn’t that excited about the WE: Vancouver exhibit. I figured, I live here already, and as much as I love it I’m not super interested in some kind of rah rah city pride type of thing. I found something very very different that encouraged me in more ways than one. (The Reclaimed Dress above is from Etsy shop, Adhesif.)
Seed Bombs from Visual Lingual
With the dawn of the internet, we’ve seen the rise of countless different types of sites – and I couldn’t help but wonder after visiting the exhibit, how this easy transmission of information might be changing our collective perspectives for the better. Now it’s altogether possible that the folks whose thoughts and work were on display came to these views without the internet’s helping hand, but there were three outlooks that I have heard expressed again and again by people online and by my own friends in the last couple of years that I can’t help but wonder if there is some kind of interplay there, and a really great one at that, that is making these types of views far more mainstream than they ever have been before.
Throughout this post, you’ll find handmade items that I feel fit the various themes of this post in one way or another!
Reclaimed Wood Vase from Peg and Awl
The first “manifesto” I came across in the gallery found it’s main focus in nature and architecture, and painted an enticing vision of individuals who find themselves deeply connected to the outside world in a sustainable way. If you’d like, read more here about Mari Fujita and Matthew Soules vision of a future where we commute by kayak and pluck tomatoes from our wallpaper, right here.
Next, a commentary on conscious consumption – reminding us to be in touch with what we eat and use in our day to day lives. Either by baking bread, or planting a fruit tree or any other number of things as Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon suggest here.
Reclaimed wood terrarium from Ecogro
Next stop – a display courtesy of Natalie Purschwitz, who for one year decided to wear only things she made herself. You can read more about her project here.
If you have a chance to read these manifestos or to peruse Natalie’s blog, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you inspired like me, or do you think these lofty ideas and ambitions are unrealistic or somehow unattainable?
Niffer of 19 Moons spends her mornings eating eggs, potatoes and toast with (veggie) bacon or chocolate chip laced pumpkin pancakes. She says, ‘You see, I really like to mix it up- that way I get the most flavor per bite of life!’ Her first pet was a dog named Ulysses: a nice mutt often dubbed ‘Useless’, but currently she has a zillion wild critters to watch in her yard in Pittsburgh, where she moved a year ago, from San Francisco. She wanted to be with her boyfriend. Ah, sweet love. You can buy directly from her Etsy store or from many stores around the US and abroad.
How did you get interested in making jewelry?
I’ve always been crafty and making things since I could walk and talk. My first jewelry inspiration came in childhood from the Native American tribes of the Southwest. Feathers, bones and beads in brightly colored patterns! I began jewelry with beading and using recycled nuts and bolts, evolving to more styles and materials over time. After years of exploration, I’ve come full circle and lately am making some Indian inspired works.
Where do you find the supplies?
Anywhere and everywhere! All my designs incorporate vintage and recycled things which I re-purpose into jewelry. I find things at Fleas, Thrifting, Antiques, online etc. New items like gold and silver chain I buy at bead supply shops and online.
Where do you get your ideas?
From the ethers! Well actually just here on Earth- there is so much in the realms of nature and man to inspire. Largely it’s the materials themselves with all the history they bring to the table.
How long does it take to make a piece? Can you describe the process?
The time required varies widely depending on the piece. But really, sometimes I feel like they make themselves. It happens like magic- I put two or more totally different things together and if they click, it’s a marriage! Sometimes I let ideas sit for a while and come back to them, a sort of fermentation process. Assembly techniques vary- I do a little of everything.
Do you have another job or is this how you make your income?
No other job for me- making things is my living!
Where is your workroom? Can you describe it for me?
My studio is a dedicated workroom in my house just for jewelry and crafting. Nothing extraordinary about it- though I have some plans for a workbench and loft. The nicest thing is that the window faces our huge Spruce trees which are riddled with little inspiring animals.
What is the difference between your different lines: PLASTINIA, ARCADIA, X-MACHINA and DIONE?
The majority of work I do these days is in my X-Machina line, jewelry that incorporates outdated recycled technology (i.e. watch parts, payphone keys etc.) The aesthetic of this line runs from Industrial to Steampunk. There is some crossover with my other lines. Dione has a space-age theme with Art Nouveau influence (think F.W. Murnau’s Metropolis). Arcadia (Paradise) is nature Victorian style- birds, gardens and the like. Plastinia is my colorful retro 60’s-80’s line featuring recycled plastics from that era, like Lite-Brites and lucite buttons.
What does Steampunk mean?
Steampunk is a subculture that is quickly gaining steam in the fashion world. I believe it evolved as an offshoot from the Neo-Victorian movement with a more mechanical focus- sort of an older industrial version of Cyberpunk. Basically technology of the future through the lens of the 1800’s, as seen in the literature of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and others.
Do you sell your items in any stores or exclusively on Etsy?
I mainly sell on Etsy but I also do shows and stores. My work is carried in several stores around the country in CA, PA, AZ, WA states, plus two abroad in England and Australia. There’s more info on these and my upcoming shows at my other website, 19moons.com.
What does the future hold for you?
That I cannot say- as long as I am still growing and learning with the creative process then it should be bright!
Mmmm, this looks fabulous. Making your own cheese? Delicious!
Choices from Urban Cheesecraft include mozzarella, ricotta, goat cheese, paneer and queso blanco. They’re also a source for cheese making supplies like vegetarian rennet, cheese salt, citric acid, and butter muslin.
A little about cost comparison:
If you choose organic milk for your cheesemaking, compare the price to organic cheese. If you buy regular milk, compare the price to regular cheese. Keep in mind however that if you spend $5 on milk, you will make twice as much cheese as you would buy for $5- organic or not! So for $5 you get two typical logs of chevre.
A little about milk:
You do not need raw milk to make cheese. You can use regular pasteurized milk from the grocery store as long as it is not ultra pasteurized or ultra-heat pasteurized. Even some of the large organic brands now do this to milk. Its only benefit is a long shelf life. They use high heat and kill the microbes that help cheese happen so it won’t work. So, find a milk that you like and works, then stick with it. Oh and this kit works with cow’s or sheep’s milk too (or you can be like Europeans and combine them to play with different tangy flavors). You can also use lowfat milk or nonfat milk (yield and creaminess will be noticeable with nonfat).
I think I’m going to have to give this a try!