Monday, March 28, 2011

Art exists where the heart is...

Justin Young's "Prairie Wings" at Lamar's Centennial Park
Art exists where the heart is; it manifests itself wherever there is a passion for life and beauty… even at the core of the dust bowl.

Lamar, Colorado is located at the crossroads of two national highways (Hwy. 50 & 287) that bisect our nation North/South, East/West; from coast to coast, and Canada to Mexico. Lacking in both rugged mountains and scenic seascapes, we have had to find other ways to celebrate our existence through art. The locals have shown themselves to be worthy of the challenge.

So how do you celebrate a little oasis along the Arkansas River nestled inside a hot, windy, arid and largely barren landscape? Begin with talented craftsmen who are driven to display their passionate love of the area.

We know how to incorporate the wind into artistic masterpieces. Throughout the town, monuments have been built to the wind. A 60’ blade from a wind turbine points the way to the local Chamber of Commerce. A massive and mobile pair of metallic wings flutter above the college. The Emick family has dedicated itself to the preservation of historic windmills, located strategically throughout the town – both North and South of the railroad crossing, and at the Court House square.  On his ranch south of Lamar, Bob Emick has created a veritable museum of wind machines, juxtaposing his own salvaged and restored windmills within the giant wind turbine farm that he helped attract to the area.

Windmill, tank and train at the Lamar Welcome Center.

Local artist Justin Young’s “Prairie Wings” sculpture on Main Street marks our area’s critical flyway for migratory waterfowl. His 1 ½ times lifesize antelope welcomes visitors and students to the college.  Local artists have utilized vacant walls and windows to paint murals that illustrate our area’s heritage. Artistic monoliths created by each High School graduating class populate the median of Savage Avenue.

Justin Young's "The Sentry" at Lamar Community College.
Become a follower and check back often, as I'll be featuring other creative local artists/artisans and their projects regularly!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A challenging project...

The recent sale of one of my bronze-art necklaces at the Manitou Springs gallery has presented a unique challenge – and provided me with a project for this weekend.  The purchaser, a spring bride, wishes to present each of her two bridesmaids with a bronze pendant to commemorate her wedding: she has asked me to make a duplicate of the original!

As an artist who creates mostly one-of-a-kind jewelry, I had never considered the difficulty of duplicating an original piece. Not that I’m comparing myself … but, just imagine Picasso, or Michaelangelo trying to duplicate one of their original artworks! For the bronze-clay artist this becomes especially challenging because there are certain unpredictable aspects to bronze art that one who is unfamiliar with the process would not expect – things like an unpredictable texture, SHRINKAGE, and the kiln-fired PATINA.

Since I have agreed to venture into this brave new world, I thought it would be interesting to document the process for my blog.

When I made the original, I made a mold (luckily, I still had it) of the button-like bezel piece. The pendant consists of a plate, a fancy bezel and a round bail, each of which are made separately. These components are then combined with the stone before firing. Did I mention that because of shrinkage during firing, extra space must be allotted, and movement of the stone during firing is to be expected?  If it is too tight, the stone can be crushed.

Images show the original necklace, a lump of Bronzclay (below), components in their leather-hard state before assembly, and the pendants before firing.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wayttyn's Owl

A few weeks ago, with hints of spring in the air, and the return of songbirds to the yard, I had this idea to freshen my jewelry offerings to reflect the return of life to the environment. I picked up a few bird books at the local library and began making sketches as patterns for bronze pendants. My thought was to capture the essence of what appeals to us, and attracts us to the shape of birds, not unlike the way cartoonists create cuddly caricatures.

One afternoon my granddaughter saw my bird sketches on the table and thought the design process was a wonderful idea. She took my sketchbook and proceeded to draw some owls for herself. She informed me that since she was only a few days away from her 6th birthday, she was requesting an owl necklace for her birthday.

Imagine her satisfaction when she saw her ‘sketch’ fired into timeless bronze. 
(The bird on the right was made from her drawing.)  Years from now she will see this piece in her jewelry box and remember it with the same wonderment that we view our own hand-prints stamped into concrete  when we were children.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Allergic to Orange?

Sometimes it seems that if it weren’t for sunsets, citrus and pumpkins we’d have hardly any orange at all in our lives. A quick scan of the globe reveals a single orange stripe in India’s flag (they call it saffron); the official color of the Dutch royal family; and a cell phone company in France. Poets gave up on orange hundreds of years ago, whining that it doesn’t rhyme with anything. Even the Denver Broncos appeared to have thrown in the towel on the color.

  So it has been fun to see the reappearance of orange lately in the fashion world. Designers from Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, and Celene have begun to dabble in the color. Estee Lauder’s new Orange Crush shadow made its appearance last week on the runway. Brooks Brothers and J Crew even added a few orange offerings for men.

Not to be late to this party, I have decided to brighten my spring offerings with orange.  As a dominate color in my enameled “Lacey Leaf” pendant, it demands to be seen.  And it is certainly strong enough to stand alone as evidenced in the earrings and disc pendant.

After a long, cold winter I think we’re all ready for this hot, vibrant and energetic orange.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Our Four-Pound Family Member

Everyone who has brought a Yorkie into her life will know exactly what I’m talking about.  The distinction between man and beast begins to blur.  Arguments about whether animals have true emotions, or mere response mechanisms, end.

The cats are different, with cats, it's all about them.  But our Yorkie, Kujo, knows that he is a full participant in our family life.  He communicates with us through distinctive little barks, snorts, growls, or whines.  When he wants to be picked up to share in adult conversations he uses a little bark.  To wake us in the morning he quietly snorts or coughs.  He loves to answer the door, and keeps us advised when the cats (in his opinion) misbehave.

Kujo simply cannot understand why we have to go on vacation, and tells us over and over again how much he missed us while we were gone.  In fact, he can’t imagine why we need to go anywhere without him.  To prove it, he takes the lead when we go walking, clearing a path free of danger and vermin – especially those Labs and German Shepherds!  He dares them to come out from behind their fences, to step outside their protective castles.  “Don’t make me come over there and shut you up, big boy!  You’re not going to like it!”

Unlike the birds and squirrels we enjoy seeing in the yard, our pets are incorporated into our lives like family members.  We know they’re totally dependent on us but they give back as much as they take.
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