Acquiring a style of your own

Many years ago when I first began to create flame worked glass beads and jewelry I worried that as a new artist, I didn't have a style. I could not yet show a body of work that when seen, someone might say 'oh, I know that artist!'  I did not yet have a collection of pieces with an identity or a discernible similarity in each piece. A cohesiveness.
I needn't have worried. I've since learned that acquiring a style of your own as an artist is a natural evolution.

I spent some of my growing up years on a ranch in the Upper Halfway area of the Peace country in British Columbia, Canada. I wasn't really crazy about being there at the time, yet there were things about it that I loved. 
We lived on 2400 acres of pristine land that sat next to the long and winding Halfway River.  There was a natural spring of water that bubbled ..happily, it seemed to me,  up out the ground on a hill above our house, even in the dead of winter! Like some great amazing life force.
Some days I would sneak away with my battery operated radio [have I mentioned that I am 100?] on the back of Brumbee..a gentle gelding who was happiest when his nose was pointed toward the barn. Until then, he could only muster a plod, or if he was feeling magnanimous, a [resentful] trot.
I would find a pretty spot, tie Brumbee to a close bush, and lay listening to the birds and the music on the transistor radio, watching the treetops move with the drifting clouds. Plotting and Day dreaming.

The countryside in the wilds of British Columbia are compelling and beautiful. The colors of the earth are always changing. There is a distinct perfume to each of the seasons. The heady sweet scent of fuchsia colored rose hips in the Summer and the acrid smell of the undergrowth in the Fall..the new sap running through the birch in the Spring and somewhere, always a faint smell of smoke hanging in the dense icy air of Winter.
All of these elements have somehow carved their way into my bones and no matter how far I travel or how many years pass, they will forever be a part of me.

Below are a couple of my brothers photos [DC Nature Photography] of the magnificent Peace country where he and his family still live. 

Photo by Dan Cantlon Northern BC, Canada

Photo by Dan Cantlon Northern BC, Canada

In time, the basic process of bead making became second nature and I found that as I relaxed my own unique style began to emerge.  The simple things that brought me joy began to show up in the jewelry. I used rods of glass in the subdued earth colors you might find in nature..rich ochres, sage greens, the tender robin egg colored blues. I designed using texture and movement, petal and leaf curved line...always including a dark to play amidst the lights.

Recently, I took a small silversmithing class here in the Middle East..my teacher a master who has designed jewelry for some of the wealthiest Sheiks here in Doha.  He told stories of rooms built solely for the purpose of holding rows and rows of cufflinks.
I enjoyed the class and have been taking great satisfaction in constructing my own organic style clasps that mimic the curved petals that I love to design in the glass. Each are hand fabricated using mixed metals of sterling silver, copper or brass with a simple hook making them easy to do up. 
While these connectors are worked to be comfortable on your wrist, they are also rough hewn and earthen by design. I like to age them further with a patina so that they might look like they may have been buried somewhere for some time.
My makers mark the raven, is either stamped on the back or stamped on a small dot of sterling as a charm.

Detail of clasp on Art glass bracelet 'My mothers Garden'..Sold

'Of the Earth'  Available here

'Voodoo' Blue Wave Fine Art Gallery 

'Dreaming' Available here

'Yesterday' Blue Wave Fine Art gallery

Paul Coelho in the Alchemist says this,

" You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it is better to listen to what it has to say."

and in there lies your Style.

Picnicking at the river with the charming M&M's



Six ways to re-charge your imagination

1.  Curl up with some quilting/fabric, interior design or fashion magazines and just absorb the color combinations and patterns. 
Rip out the images that inspire and make yourself a wall board to keep them on. Change it often. Pottery and dishes provide a wonderful springboard for glass beads and jewelry..as are museum catalogs/online articles..look up by gone periods and ogle some of the jewels or even the vessels and dishes of that time. Art Deco. Byzantine. Renaissance. 
one of my work spaces

The Dunstable Swan Jewel, a livery badge in gold and ronde bosse enamel, about 1400.

2.  Add music to your space. 
Music can inspire and move you..be bold and listen to something you wouldn't normally listen to. Music changes mood and energies which in turn changes the flow in your environment and can definitely alter the work that comes from within.

 3. Get outside! 

Breathe in the fresh air and try to see your surroundings through child eyes. Connect with the Earth. Notice texture, line and color. Is it possible to take a rod of glass ..a brush and paint or clay, whatever you may be working in..and mimic the pattern of wood? Notice how a shade of brown may seem to change in hue up against a shade of blue..then yellow. How is it that nature never messes up a color combination? Which brings us to...

Taken while in the Boston area 2011

4.   Glorious color!  Immerse yourself/space in COLOR..

Vincent van Gogh said, "there is no blue without yellow and orange."  Its a great quote.

Play with color. No matter what medium you're working in most of us tend to fall back to a familiar palette. Explore outside of those hues..even if just for a day. Almost any color combination is possible if you're brave enough. Try changing just the tone rather than the hue itself..where there is mild melon try a vibrant saturated orange and see what happens to the entire work. 

'Avatar' by Stricher Gerar

5.  Don't take yourself too seriously. 
Pretend there is no right or wrong way. Take time to daydream. Allow yourself permission to sit and think in silence. This is different than meditating where you're encouraged to bring awareness to the breath. Simply sit in silence and allow your mind to create at will. Annoyingly, this happens for many creative types naturally when trying to fall asleep. 

Pay attention. Keep notes and draw. 

Leather bound art journal by Keativelink on Etsy

6.  Keep a notebook just for ideas. A special notebook with multi media paper where only those drawings and scribbles, ink renderings, thoughts and ideas go. I tend to work off the cuff. I feel sure that I'd be more productive if I were to keep a notebook for ideas as well as inspired color combinations that come when you're sitting in the doctors office, at the traffic light or drifting off to sleep. 

Without the notebook, you're not prepared when those ideas of genius pop up. Napkins get lost..bits of torn paper wind up in the bottom of your purse or in white papery crumbs in the washing machine. 

So, there are a six very simple methods that I've used and that I've seen work for others in the past, maybe something here will be just what you need.

Thank you beautiful people..have yourself a great week. 

Past set of handmade glass beads 

Whichever method you choose to use to jumpstart your creativity I'd love it if you'd take a minute to share it with us! 
This post was re-written from a previous post written in 2008


You may be a Creative if..

..you like a good mess.

I've often read of the connection between messiness and artists. There is apparently a direct correlation between dis-organization and creative thought. More than one study has shown that creative types prefer chaos to order. Messy desks/work spaces promote thinking outside of the box. 
In one such study, research conducted by Kathleen Vohs, PhD, of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, found that cluttered environments help induce greater levels of creativity. 
According to Vohs: “Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights. Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”

As a creative person myself, rather than bask in the knowledge that I keep great company [Steve Jobs loved a good mess. Albert Einstein, Mark Twain and Zuckerburg..all known to live in untidiness.] rather, I find these articles to be somewhat shaming. Humph! I say as I toss another bottle of ink in the general direction of the growing stack of bottled alcohol inks, tripping over my [what I thought was lost] flipflop as I do so. [tiny self deprecating joke]

I didn't grow up in a family that thought messiness was a virtue. A stamp of creative genius. I remember as a teenager, my mother pleading with me to clean my room only to come home from school more often than once to find my room as neat as a row of pins. The mirror gleaming, the bed neatly made and clothes folded and stacked in my dresser, blouses and skirts hung in the closet. 
Of course, I protested, just to protest [what snots teens can be] and for a short while, I enjoyed the order. But that night as I climbed into my carefully tucked bed I would feel like a stranger in my own room and within a few short days the floors and dresser would once again be lost to the flotsam and jetsam of teenage girls. 
You might say all teens have messy rooms. The trouble is, this love for everything where I can see it rather than put away into neat rows or stacked into cupboards has followed me well beyond the teenage years. Well beyond. For years I've been running behind myself trying to keep up a facade that is just not comfortable.

This is not my studio. It's a wish and a want. I *think I could stay neat and organized with these in my work space. Aren't they gorgeous?!

The Original Scrapbox
One of the reasons my studio can start to get out of hand is that I like to have everything out where I can see it. Colors, textures, images all serve to inspire and spark ideas. A chaotic jumble to the novice eye, but not to an artist. So, while I need to see things before me, for sanity sake, I also need to constantly work at keeping it all sort of tethered and ‘hierarchical’.

Rotating caddies, or what some call a 'lazy susan' are a wonder. They provide a spot for a menagerie of supplies while still allowing you to see exactly what's at hand. A wall of some well thought out shallow shelving will allow for this sort of management as well. Nothing so deep that things get pushed behind and forgotten. I have more than one pair of tin snips and spools of wire in gauge 20 to attest to this.

One really wonderful way to view, while at the same time providing storage, is to create displays that showcase your work in a unique manner. I make glass beads and jewelry using skinny rods of imported soda lime glass. For my work space in Canada I was lucky enough to come across an antique wooden crate previously used for shipping wine bottles. My colorful rods of glass, the exact length of a wine bottle, filled the spaces perfectly and made a very pretty display in the corner of my little studio. 

Torching work station used for making handmade glass beads

Above is a photo of my torching station here in my studio in Qatar. The ceramic tile sitting on top of the tin holds separate little heaps of crushed glass used to roll molten glass in. There are 3 different groupings or selections of glass rods laid out on my desk top, starting at the bottom right. I have differentiated them by arranging each group at slightly different angles from each other. That might be missed by those who see only kaleidoscope of glass rods. There is order to my chaos.

Sometimes the beast just cannot be entirely tamed. I have one rebellious part of my room [the making jewelry desk] that tends to fly apart no matter how hard I try to keep it in check. Keeping it all corralled and confined to one area and not the entire room is an ongoing discipline but there's a fine line between comfort zone mayhem and hair pulling chaos. That crossed line does not breed anything close to creative thought.  

Now here I am, all the way into my senior years and at last beginning to understand that messiness doesn't need to be shame worthy. 
It may not be a character flaw, but rather, a  human  characteristic to be held to the light and built upon.

Privately, I’ve always taken comfort in a quote that I came across some years ago:

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”  ~Albert Einstein 

 Enjoy your week everyone! 


The art of Connecting with your Muse

Anyone in the field of art or design will tell you that there are days when they don’t feel very creative. That can be scary.
If your rent relies on you churning out new work, it can be very stressful to go through times where you just don’t want to even think about your art, never mind actually make anything. Especially if those days stretch into weeks!
Even for those who practice art solely for their own pleasure will begin to feel the drag on their life without the joy of “making” in it.

Don’t Let a Day Go By

I had a teacher once who told his students never to let a day go by without practicing your art. Does that sound exhausting? What if it’s just sketching your ideas – big loose, messy sketches? Too much? Maybe it’s just scrolling though the many color palettes on the Pantone site?
There have been some days where scrolling has been all the creative energy I could muster. But then something in the purple and green color combination was plucked from the pages and stored in some small compartment in my tiny brain to be retrieved one day in the work studio.
Maybe recharging your muse could be as simple as keeping an open journal when you travel. By “open” journaling I mean keeping a notebook for little drawings and all those great inspirational thoughts that can happen spontaneously when we’re relaxed. My notebook is mostly written thoughts with only a few drawings, but it works for me.

Love for the Magical Colours of a New Place

My husband and I moved to Israel in 2010 for three short years. When we disembarked at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv I was delighted to find that the sky appeared pink. The color permeated the air and gave it a mystical, magical feeling. We arrived mid-summer and the air was damp; the heat was so palpable it was as though you’d opened an oven door to check the roast. I didn’t mind.
I loved the pink desert sand air and the brilliant sun and the broad expanse of the Mediterranean Sea. I loved the ancient history that was evident everywhere I looked. I loved the many colors and spicy smells of the Arab market and the incessant song of the Bedouin boy as he tried to entice passers-by to his display of tandoori pots and silk scarves. I came to love the sing song call to prayer that would waft through the air in the heat.. soft and melodic.
I began to incorporate the magic into my work. I bought strands of pinkish purpled spiny oyster and weaved those bits of sea shell amongst my glass beads. The rods of glass that I was adding to my (already large) supply ran to the blues of the sea and sky and the ambers of the sand.
Israel had begun to feed my muse.

An Inspirational Workspace Filled with Energy

I’ve always filled my work space with things that inspire me. Photos of places I love, pictures ripped from magazines for the color combinations or the image itself. Bits of quotes – even just things that make me feel good by looking at them. Here is one of my many work spaces.
Oddly, keeping your muse satisfied sometimes comes in the form of commiseration. It can alleviate pressure to perform if you realize that you’re in good company. It helps to know that other artists/writers have experienced precisely what you are going through.
Do some research and find those same souls. Find out what they do to ease their way over the bump. Will it work for you as well?
A search for ‘feeding your muse’ will reveal that it’s as we suspect! We’re not alone! The Skinny Artist and The CanDo Ideas are a couple of sites that you may find interesting.
In the end, it all feeds our Muse. For the creative person, everything is to be studied, turned over, tasted, digested and ruminated over until it has been completely processed. That may take hours, or it may feel like a dry spell and take weeks. It’s all a matter of time.
Relax, pour yourself a cup of tea and go through the latest issue of Quilts. Your next masterpiece may just be in there somewhere.