Friday, April 29, 2011

Featured Artist: Becky Grant

Becky Grant is an amazing ceramic and jewelry artist living in Humboldt County. I met Becky while taking jewelry courses at Humboldt State. She had a lot of energy and always brought creative ideas to the discussions and critiques. But it wasn't until she presented her portfolio that I began to understand the breadth of her creativity and artistic skill. Whenever I see one of her ceramic pieces I am blown away by the detail and life that she brings to her work.

 1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I live in Petrolia with my husband and two of my sons on 40 acres.
My oldest son is gone to college. We have 29 goats, 3 cats, 1 emu
and a puppy named Oscar. The hundred year old hay barn in the
middle of our land is now my husbands woodshop and my studio.

2. Describe your work in one sentence.
How about a sentence for each medium?
Ceramic sculpture: My love for all that is cast-off or time worn is
reflected in the aesthetic of figurative pieces which are usually
autobiographical or referencing my alter-egos.
Metal: My spontaneous working style results in simple, and often
whimsical pieces.

3. What pieces are you most proud of?

In my third semester of Small Metals and Jewelry at HSU I made a
hollow-form ring that had the tiniest hinge and latch on a lid that
opened to a compartment holding a writing surface. Within the lid,
another compartment with a hinged door held miniature pencils. I
never got a good photo of it but whenever I looked at I couldn’t
believe I made something so tiny and precious and complicated and
even clever. I was very proud of it but still decided to trade it for a
gorgeous ceramic abalone shell made by Malia Landis that I will be
using as a basin sink in one of the bathrooms in the house we’re

4. What are your favorite materials to work with?
Low-fire clay, silver

5. What direction do you see your work going in?
Both mediums should become more involved as I make more time
for them as I settle into routines at home and my kids get older. I’ve
been a mom for my entire adult life so I’ve always had to rush to
finish projects. Just having more time influences my work heavily
because I can either work more elaborately and detailed, and I can
also refine and perfect it as well.

6. Who or what is your biggest artistic influence?
How can I choose one of the many artists that I love- Beatrice Wood
(for her ceramic and the jewelry she wore); Janis Mars Wunderlichallowing
her motherhood to inspire rather than inhibit; Louise
Bourgeoise for her guts; Kris Patzlaff for teaching me how to really
work hard; Keith Schneider for keeping it real and spontaneous; My
Husband for being methodical and constantly perfecting his craft.
Sorry- can’t choose just one.

7. If you could have your work critiqued by another artist who
would it be and why? 

Ceramics: It would be a group of women at
the same time- Gerrit Grimm, Lisa Clague, Margaret Keelan, Janis
Wunderlich, and Chris Antemann. Okay- if I had a one-on-one I
guess any one of these women would be great too- sorry I’m really
indecisive. It would be fun to have you critique my jewelry, Erin!

8. What is the best advice you've ever been given?
I’ve been going to a really great Alexander Technique instructor and she’s been
talking quite a bit about not reacting and just allowing thoughts to
happen and see what comes of that- even with my art. I think it’s
going to take me to new places and is excellent advice for me
because I over-think most every situation.

9. If you could add one tool to your collection what would it be?
Oohh- sorry- indecisive here as well. A rolling mill for metal; a slab
roller for ceramics (and possibly to use for print-making as well)
and a sand-blaster for both.

10. What do you listen to in the studio?
Books usually. Lots of
books- all different genres but mostly I love historical fiction.

11. What is your most prized possession? 
The Yellow House! It’s the
1888 Carpenter’s Gothic Revival we’re restoring, and it’s absolutely
a dream come true. I drove past it for about seven years at least
once a week before we were able to buy it. I sometimes get a bit
panicked that it will burn down, or there will be a huge earthquake
that flattens it before we’ve even finished. I hate to feel so
possessive but my heart just melts when I cross the footbridge over
the babbling creek and climb the hill and it just seems to be waiting
patiently for us to mend its broken parts. We’ve recently restored
two of the original casement windows and I almost cried when I first
opened and closed them and they worked like new. The views are
gorgeous from every window but they seem especially lovely
through the old wavy glass with fresh paint on the windowsills. See-
I’m obsessed with it!

12. Do you collect anything? If so, do you display your collections?
Okay- I’ll have to keep this to a minimum too so I’ll just list my
most favorites: old buttons, vintage suitcases (which are great to
hold my antique dolls and vintage fabric collections) antique jars
and bottles (most of them were found digging in old dumps in
Petrolia and around the house we’re restoring), beach glass (which I
like to store in the old jars) and art books. I have a few small
displays but since we’re living in a little cabin while we restore our
house we don’t have much space for collection display but I look
forward to using these collections in the house when it’s finished.

13. How do you spend most of your free time? 
Since I have a job (I’ve managed for 13 years), my art is in my free
time but my other free time I use to work on the 1888 farmhouse
we’re restoring. It hasn’t been lived in since 1972 and although
we’ve done the big projects such as putting a new foundation under
it and a new roof on top we’ve still got lots to do in between. Since
my husband is a woodworker and restoration is his passion and I
wanted an old house to restore since I was a young girl it works out
perfectly- now I just need a bit more patience.

14. What do you wish you were doing with your free time?
It’s hard to put off opportunities to show and sell art so I like to keep up
with that. I do like to slack-line too and love to SUP so I hope I can
do that often this summer.

15. If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
I have some close friends and family with cancer- I’d love to see a
cure for that. I would also like to level the playing field for the little
people by spreading out the wealth that’s so concentrated amongst
such a small minority, while the majority are hardly making ends

16. Where can we see your work?
I have a show at the California Ceramics Conference this
weekend in Davis and a piece in the California Clay Competition
there as well (The Artery, 207 G Street, Davis, CA 95616).
You can find some pieces on my etsy site- gypsygyrl
and this summer I’ll be in the HSU First Street Gallery in the Summer
Alumni Exhibition.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's All About the Process: Sanding Sticks

Sanding is not my favorite part of what I do, but it's got to be done. In many cases I opt to use my flex shaft for most of the work. Maybe I'm just not great with the thing, but I can always tell the difference between flex shaft sanding and hand sanding, so I always follow up by hand. One of the many useful tricks I learned from my college jewelry professor (Thanks to Kris Patzlaff!) was to make my own sanding sticks. They really speed up the process and have saved me a lot of hand ache I'm sure! There are many sanding sticks and sponges available on the market but who has time to order a sanding stick when they're in the thick of it? Not me, besides, it's nice to reuse some items that I usually have in the studio anyway.

What you need:
Sand paper (320, 400, 600, 1500)
Popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, dowels of various sizes, yard stick, wooden sculpture tools, etc
Masking Tape
Sharpie or other writing implement

Step One: Cut (or rip) the sandpaper to size.
    Cut the sandpaper a bit shorter than the length of the chosen stick.

Step Two: Attach the paper to the Stick
    Fold the sand paper over the stick and tape along the entire edge.

Step Three: Wrap the stick up!
   Tightly wrap the sandpaper around the stick. About 6 inches of sand paper should be plenty.

Step Four:
   Wrap tape around the outer edges to secure the sandpaper.

Step Four: Label the sticks and sand away
     Using a Sharpie label the sticks with the grit so you know what you're working with.
     The best part about these sticks it that as the paper begins to wear down one just rips a bit away to reveal
     fresh paper!

Here's a look at some dowels. Great for sanding inside rings and long enough to have two grits on each stick.

Get creative! If you'd like a larger stick, a yard stick is perfect. Just cut it into 1 foot lengths and wrap as above. If you're looking for something with a sharp edge, wooden sculpture tools work great, although the wrapping is a bit more difficult.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Sunday Search for Inspiration: Eggs

Every year we and I head over to Aunt Judy's house the evening before Easter to dye some Easter eggs. No one hides them these days, although I never said I was too old for an Easter egg hunt. Every year we eat something tasty and just when I feel like it might be time for an after dinner nap, the yellow tablecloth comes out and the fun begins.

Mismatched cups are filled with bright colors, dipping wands collected over the last 20+ years make their annual debut, along with crayons, stickers, glitter, glue, packages of egg dye decorated with fuzzy bunnies and chicks, and last but not least, the eggs. 

A child like atmosphere spreads through the room as everyone scrambles to get their egg into the most coveted colors. Later, when no one is looking my mother in law, Carol, slips some oil into half of the cups and is met with cheers from those who love the effect and grumbles by those who hate the mess.

The Birth of a Peep
 Others opt for making hollow eggs or experimenting. Last year the room was filled with the smell of melted wax and burning egg shells that met their fate at the end of a dremel.  This year was a little more subdued, as we competed to adorn our egg with the best flower. I don't think a winner was ever chosen and I'm not sure it really matters.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Featured Artist: Erin House

I met Erin House in the jewelry studio at HSU. We share a name so things could get a bit confusing from time to time. Our jewelry prof always referred to me as Erin A and she still does, even when Erin House isn't around! Erin's work is stunning in it's detail and meaning and has always been quite an inspiration.  Her ability to problem solve and her willingness to bounce around ideas and share techniques always makes working with her a pleasure. She's pretty funny too.

Sun Worship

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Erin House. I am 31 years old. I have a BA in Studio Art from Humboldt
State University and my emphasis was in Jewelry and Small Metals. I live on the Pacific
Northwest Coast in Loleta, CA. I make jewelry out of my home studio and I try to live
simply and enjoy myself.

2. Describe your work in one sentence.
I strive to create sophisticated and elegant designs while exploring archetypal themes that
can speak to a wide audience.

3. What pieces are you most proud of?

I am not sure which one I am proud of, but my favorite pieces are “Tzab’ek Rattle Ring”
and “Sundial Ring”

4. What are you favorite materials to work with?
I love to work with Silver!

5. What direction do you see your work going in?
I could see myself creating objects or small sculpture. It’s hard to say. I am open to
anything the universe throws at me.

Sundial Ring

6. Who or what is your biggest artistic influence?
I am influenced by architecture and nature and pretty much whatever I think is visually

7. If you could have your work critiqued by another artist who would it be and why?
Bob Ebendorf. I love his work and he is very respected in the jewelry world.

8. What is the best advice you've ever been given?
To change my major from Botany to Studio Art. I am so happy I did!

9. If you could add one tool to your collection what would it be?
I would love to have a Hydraulic Press.

10.  What do you listen to in the studio?
I like talk radio, like This American Life. I know it sounds boring, but, that’s what I like.

Tzab’ek Rattle Ring

11.  What is your most prized possession?
I have a ring my Grandfather gave to my Grandmother a long time ago and I love it!

12. Do you collect anything? If so, do you display your collections?
I collect antique mirrors, and yes, they are hanging on my walls.

13. How do you spend most of your free time?
I like to be outside when the weather is nice. I take my dogs to the beach and on walks.

14. What do you wish you were doing with your free time?
Making cool stuff.

15. If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
I would end all the wars and feed all the people. Maybe that’s two, but that’s what I
would do!

16. Where can we see your work!
I have jewelry in Origin located in Old Town Eureka, which is having an “I Heart Indie
Fashion” event on May 6th from 6pm to 9pm. People can come in and meet some of the
makers/designers and have drinks and fun!
I also have an Etsy page.
And a blog.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

RAW: Featured Rings

As you may have noticed, I haven't been keeping up with RAW at all! tsk, tsk, is all I've got to say about that.  So today I thought I would take a look at some of the rings the other artists are coming up with. Talk about inspiration. It may be enough to get me back in the game. We shall see.


RAW52/15 Marquesan Tides Series

 e-bu Jewelry: RAW52/15 Marquesan Tides Series


From Rae The Smithy: In Between


 From lorahart: Raw 16 (Japan Donation-click here for more info)


From mairedodd: Raw 15-Urban Posey

From Lorena Angulo: Raw 15


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's New: Books, Buttons and Japan

Wednesdays are hereby dedicated to What's New! This week I've got three new pieces in my Etsy shop that have interesting stories. The first is a pendant entitled "Lost" and was inspired by the novel "Lost", by Gregory Maguire. "Lost" was the first book chosen for the Etsy Metal book club jewelry challenge. Check out what the other readers came up with by clicking here!

Brass, Copper, Sterling Silver

I've also added some buttons to the shop and there will be more to come! I was preparing a new batch for an event at Origin in Eureka that's coming up next month and I decided to go ahead and make a tutorial on the process. It's my first one! You can check it out here!

Assorted Buttons

Lastly, some of the folks at Etsy Metal are putting together a charm bracelet to help raise money for Japan. We've each made two charms, one for the bracelet which will be available through the Etsy metal shop when it's assembled and another to put in our own shops. I chose to use cherry blossoms in my charms to signify unity and the ephemeral nature of life.

Cherry Blossom Charms
Sterling Silver, Garnet, Copper

What's going on in Japan affects us all and we have a long road ahead of us. If you are not interested in charms please consider making a small donation to the Red Cross. Every little bit helps! 

Thanks for reading and please do tell me, what's new with you?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's All About the Process: Making Simple Buttons

Button Collection above my bench
I love Buttons! My grandma had a huge box that I would spend hours sifting through as a child. When she passed many of those buttons became part of my collection and several years later my mom and I spent an evening during one of her visits sorting them by color or material so I could display them in my collection of bottles.  A while back I decided to make some simple buttons of my own using some 20 gauge brass that had been sitting around for a while. The process is perfect for someone just beginning to manipulate metal and can be modified for much more complex buttons if desired.

Tools and Supplies:
Goggles and Face Shield (Safety first!)
Metal (I usually go with 20 gauge or heavier)
    A 1" x 3" piece will yield 12, 1/2" square buttons or  6, 1" X 1/2" buttons
Texturing tools: hammers, stamps, etch bath (whatever you use to mark up the metal)
Bench Block or anvil 
Pencil or Sharpie
Center Punch
Drill press or Flex shaft (whatever you use to drill holes)
Jewelers Saw or a Shear if you have one
Patina (optional)

Step One: Create some texture on the sheet metal using hammers, stamps and a bench block
   *Annealing first is helpful but not necessary 
   For these buttons I used a variety of hammers and stamps. This would be the time to etch!
   For a great tutorial on Green Electro Etching check out this tutorial by Inbar Baraket.

Step Two: Using a ruler and pencil map out the desired shapes including hole placement.
   I went with squares, rectangles, and triangles with varying numbers of holes.

Step Three: Using a center punch and chasing hammer create a starting point for each hole.

Steps 1- 3

Step Four: Drill out the Holes using a drill press or flex shaft (Face Shield!).
Drill Holes

Step Five: Cut out the shapes using a jewelers saw or shear (wear goggles or other eye protection).

Step Six: Filing and Sanding: Round out the edges and corners using files and sand paper.
  When sanding I usually start with 350 grit and work down to 600 (using a flex shaft and a split mandrel
  really speeds this up, sanding sticks are also great).

Row 1: Cut out, Row 2: Filed, Row 3: Sanded

Step Seven: patina and wax!
   I went with Midas Black for this group (Please make sure to read the directions and wear eye protection!)
   A cloth, Sand paper, or scotch bright can be used to relieve the patina (I went with 1200 grit sand paper)
   *If you are going for super shiny buttons you would probably want to buff the little guys before waxing.

Row 1: dark patina, Row 2: patina relieved, Row 3: Waxed

This collection of buttons is going into the goodie bags for the I Heart Indie (fashion) event at Origin Design Studios of Eureka, CA from 6-9 on May 5th. If you are in town be one of the first 30 people to arrive and one of these little guys will be all yours!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Sunday Search for Inspiration: In the Garden

As an artist I definitely have my ups and downs. One week the ideas are flying out so fast I can barely get them down and there just isn't enough time in the day, then the next week it seems like everything has been done before and that there must be something I'm missing, if I could only find it. This emotional struggle is something that I've come to appreciate as part of the process, but for those times when I've really lost my motivation, I need to go to an outside source. And so, in an effort to remember that there is an entire world outside of my head, I'll be devoting Sunday posts to inspiration.

A great deal of the time that outside source is literally outside. I spend a lot of time in my garden when it's not raining and a lot of time looking out on the garden when it is. It's been raining this weekend, but I did have a chance to get out between the drops to snap some quick photos of the first blooms in the garden. Even the weeds, spiders and slugs have me inspired today. It's nice to see the signs that summer is just around the corner and sunshine will soon be on its way.

This year we've got plans to plant three raised beds in an effort to grow our own vegetables and add to our herb collection.  We're also going to cut down a tree that was planted too close to a fence, work on my pond project that I started last year, and build a pit for firing ceramics.

So how does this all relate to art? Many of the forms in my work are drawn from nature so the more I get to know the natural world, the more the ideas grow. Sue Amendolara is an artist who creates phenomenal works based on nature. Her work is a true inspiration.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Etsy Metal Blog Carnival: Tools are cool

I want I want I want. This months topic: most coveted tool.

Until this week a rolling mill would have been on the top of my list, but alas, my flex shaft broke (Super Sad Face)! I'm not surprised, it was a cheapo model that I've had for almost four years. I never knew how much I loved my flex shaft until I had to work without it. The things we take for granted. So for now, my most coveted tool is a new Foredom with all the bells and whistles, but at this point I would settle for another one from harbor freight.

If I want to wish really big I'll go ahead and wish for a rolling mill, guillotine shear, hydraulic press, set of stakes and a kiln wrapped up and delivered to my door along with my new and never again to be undervalued flex shaft.... it's always nice to dream! And what would I do with all those shiny new additions? I would surface detail to death. Who knows where they would take me, but I'm sure it would be wonderful.

Check out what other Etsy Metal members have their eyes on: