Thursday, December 10, 2015

Kate Church Workshop

This November I took two of the three 2-day Kate Church polymer sculpting workshops put on by my doll club, Flying Phoebes, in Hayward, CA. Kate, who is from Nova Scotia, is well-known internationally for her whimsical sculpted figures she creates in all sizes, especially for the ones she creates in conjunction with Cirque du Soleil. I had met her at a NIADA Conference in Marin several years ago, and found her to be the sweetest, down-to-earth person, and an extremely talented artist. Some Phoebe members have taken classes from her in the past, and now it was going to be my turn. The first class was entitled "Dancing Fools" and would be small table top figures featuring what Kate is most famous for... expressive faces and amazing poses.

Above and below are photos of her small expressive figures, similar to those we would make in class.

Below is a photo of her larger pieces from one of her exhibits. 

And below are three examples she brought to class for us to use as inspiration.

Kate's workshop, we all unanimously agreed, was the most educational, most inspirational, and most fun class we had ever taken. And, some of us have taken quiet a few different ones. Kate has a way of simplifying techniques in amazing and ingenious ways. She is so sharing of her knowledge and so generous with her materials, and her personality is so warm and engaging. Above she shows Geri the tricks of sculpting expressive hands.
Below are the two "Dancing Fools" I completed in Kate's class. I can't say I ended up with much expression in my faces, but Kate lit a passion and desire in me to work on my techniques and try to hone my skills into something I hope to be proud of. After the holidays, I plan to dive deeply into working with polymer clay to make pieces and parts to incorporate into the assemblages of metal, wood and found objects I hope to make for Alameda Open Studios next summer.

The first figure is French inspired—dancing with joy to be in Paris—leaping from one exciting point of interest to another. There is a small battery operated votive candle that illuminates the picture of the Eiffel Tower in the base from the back.

My second figure is enjoying the great outdoors—running barefoot through the grass—while trying to catch butterflies.
The second workshop I took from Kate was "Transformation." Below is an image of Kate's original figure which hangs on a wall.
Below are photos of my finished figure. Most of us did not stray far from Kate's original concept. I did not use her push mold for the face... this one I sculpted from scratch. Again, I learned so much knowledge on working with polymer from her. I am so very, very happy I got to spend some time with her, and to have the opportunity to learn so much. And, as I said before, while some of the time it was a lot of work in a short span of time, it was so much FUN!

Hands, feet and shoes all made from polymer... flesh color blend, black, white and transparent.

Kate supplied the butterflies which we decoupaged with a paper layer and recolored. We used pan pastels and PearlX powders to color some of the transparent parts... in this case, the gold on her head covering. I used parts from cut-up cut velvet scarf for her cloak.

 She seems to be very happy hanging on my living room wall. She also is, quite appropriately, representational of a personal transformation I am presently going through!

A Venture into Altered and Assembled

In June of this year, my artist friends and I once again participated in the East Bay Open Studios event at Wanda's adorable home/studio, Goose Cottage, in Alameda. We have been participating in this two-weekend sale and open house for several years, and it has proven to be an amazing success each time. We have a loyal following of fervent followers and buyers who make our success possible.
Our group of about 14 artists meets twice a month on Sundays at Wanda's to work on our individual projects, share ideas and inspiration, offer advice and support to each other, and enjoy a delicious Asian lunch at a nearby restaurant. We try to do something a little different each year at Open Studios. After enjoying success with yoyo necklaces, and items in an assortment of other media, I decided to follow my desire to make some assembled pieces out of up-cycled metal and wood, Altoid tins, and various found objects. They turned out to be very well received and a great success. Below is one assembled from a spice tin, small copper mold, rolled paper bead arms and legs, a head from a dollar store doll, which is embellished with a napkin ring.

I also made an assemblage from a push mold clay head, a piece of a wooden louvered shutter, a tiny Altoid tin, a vintage nutmeg grater, parts from an old vegetable steamer, an ornate drawer pull, and a brown seed bead bracelet, which I used for hair.

I made another spice tin figure with a polymer face I had sculpted, and a small gelatin mold.
 Then I used an Altoid tin to create a wall hanging of a prince with a sculpted clay head. 

 When the tin is opened, small objects relating to his life and loves can be found inside.

Another Aaltoid tin turned into a small soldier, shown below. His hat is part of a small tea caddy, his shoulders are wheels from an old comptometer, and his face is also from sculpted polymer. His upper legs are bullet casings and his hands, of course, are patina coated keys.

When his tin is opened, he also reveals hidden treasures. 

I made a small wall hanging from half of an Altoid tin, with the message "Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss, you will land among the stars."

And, I made other Altoid tin figures that open up. Examples are the fairy and fortune teller that are pictured below.





Remembering the Lisa Litchenfels Workshop

While creating my last post on the Betts Vidal Frog Prince Workshop, and contemplating my next one, which will be on the Kate Church Workshop, I reminisced about the amazing Lisa Litchenfels Workshop the Flying Phoebes put together in 2013. Lisa is extremely well-known internationally for her often life-size cloth sculptures of human figures. She often spends a year working on the completion of a single sculpt, and her work has been sold in galleries around the world. Google her and you will be amazed. Actually, we were amazed when she agreed to fly out to California from the East Coast to conduct a workshop for us.

This group photo shows most of the people who attended the 3-day workshop. Lisa is pictured on the left, followed by Maudell, Mary, Elizabeth, Tani, Colleen, Geri, Marcella, Donna, Daisy, Stephanie and Diane. On the table in front of us are the figures we completed. The figures were from a pattern Lisa had given us, and it was not intended to be accurately proportional to the human body. It was only a small reasonable facsimile, to be used to practice techniques of  needle sculpting nylon (like in pantyhose and nylons) over a padded base. We soon found that dry, rough hands were a terrible detriment to our results. 

Lisa was the most patient and thorough teacher and demonstrator ever. Her work is meticulous, and she was most understanding of our lack of skill... always encouraging us onward. I was most fortunate to be able to spend extra time with her before and after class, as she stayed at Kelly's home in Livermore and they rode with me to and from the Tri-Valley to San Leandro, where the workshop was held. And, we spent some time in conversation at dinner after class. Lisa shared many of her life stories with us and it was truly amazing to be able to learn so much about her. Actually, I would have to say she is a very interesting and amazing woman!

Daisy, ever the over-achiever who always finishes multiples in any workshop, completed these two adorable hand-holding "golden-agers."

This photo is of some finished and unfinished figures. Mine is second from the right. Close inspection would show that I was one of those people with rough hands from household chores, and my figure has a very bad complexion. Lots of snags in that very thin and delicate nylon.

More photos of finished and work-in-progress figures.

Lisa had agreed to return to California to teach another class if we had enough people interested. Many voiced interest, but I must admit, while I loved the class experience with Lisa, I don't think I have enough patience for this type of fine needle-sculpting, or the inclination to pursue working with nylon material.

Betts Vidal Frog Prince Workshop

In August of 2015, members of my doll-making club, The Flying Phoebes, set up a one-month window display at the Book Shop in Hayward, CA, featuring our Frog Prince figures created from an original Betts Vidal pattern. Betts is a long-time Phoebe member and an internationally known and published artist and doll maker. She has taught Frog Prince workshops several times over the years. The one I took was in 2014, and I loved every second of it.
Above and below are photos of my prince.

He is cloth sculptured and embellished with dried flowers that my late mother once collected.

We met at a quilt store across the bay, and here Betts (center) is shown with Zanaib, Elizabeth, Suzanne and Stephanie.

The quilt shop's workroom was the perfect venue.
Here Stephanie is shown happily working on her prince.

Betts brought a few samples of her figures to give us inspiration.

Above are two figures Betts made... the frog prince and the princess in metamorphosis with intertwined arms. The one below shows the seaweed staff Betts gathered from her favorite, secret beach on the Pacific Coast. It is the only place she has come across this particular type of seaweed, and she braved rocks and tidal surges to claim it. As part of the kit she provided, she gave us each a piece to use with our figures.

Zanaib is shown diligently working at her machine to create her prince, shown partially completed below.

Stephanie brought lovely upholstery sample fabrics to make her prince's cloak.

Two more samples show the various interpretations of the figures. When we had the window display, the Book Shop informed us that the frog display was far and above the most popular exhibit we had ever displayed in all the years we have been doing so. In fact, it was the most popular window display they had ever had. Not just customers, but people passing by came in to comment, pick their favorite prince, and leave us notes of praise. This has all been possible, thanks to Betts, her amazing pattern, and the wonderful and fun workshops she has conducted for us.

This very "dandy" frog was created by Elizabeth, who is well known among us to often think "outside the box." Her frog was voted the number one favorite of the window display by all those people who ventured inside The Book Shop to express their admiration.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Back to Altered Books

 The Phoebes had another challenge for us to make... something with an altered book. This time I decided not to make something solely decorative, but something utile as well. So, I deconstructed a book and its cover and reconstructed into a hanger that would hold calendar-related items over my wall calendar. Items such as tickets, directions and maps, appointment details and information, etc. I had found a wonderful metal butterfly at a garage sale, so I decided to repeat my fairy theme.

Above is a close-up of the top piece. It is a collage of scrapbook papers, a graphic, lace, ribbon, metallic trim and a fairy charm and ribbon rosette. I decided to make another one with a French theme, shown below.

Someone years ago had given me some wonderful colored glass lenses and I used one over a frame from a broken purse-size hand mirror to cover a picture of a vintage lady. 
The one I kept... the fairy one... is so helpful for holding "stuff" related to appointments and dates and my calendar hangs underneath it.