I’ve always been an avid photographer, and with my graphic design background I use photography a lot in my client work. So I was excited to discover I could marry some of my images with jewelry in the form of decals on enamel. I also see decals as a way to finally incorporate some typography into my jewelry. Ideas are brewing.
I connected with enamel artist Anne Dinan who offers an online class. It’s self directed and she creates a Facebook page for students to share work and ask questions. I got a slow start because I was unable to locate a laser printer suitable for printing images on decal paper (all the information is available with class purchase). Anne was nice enough to print my images, but I’ve since found a friend with the right printer if I want to explore more.
The process is simple but has multiple steps. You do have to carve out time for this. It’s a bit of work to get the right results and I am just scratching the surface. As in most of my work, I have to embrace the failures and beautiful mistakes! Essentially you’re transferring the decal to a prepared enameled surface and firing it (either in a kiln or with a torch.) The decal substrate burns off and the toner reacts to the enamel and bonds to it. You can leave as is or play a bit more, with transparent enamels, watercolor enamel, graphite and enamel crayons. I also tried starting with a color instead of right (bottom left image) in order to get a more black image. The decal turns a rust color once it’s fired. I was looking for a black image and the orange background worked.
Although, curiously, the spore print image (bottom right) is black on white and I can’t recall now how I did that. Take notes!
Here are a few images from the process.
I’m also very excited to be taking an enameling workshop with the very talented Canadian artist Jan Smith up in Seattle this summer. The journey continues!
It was a good thing that a printmaking class started the day after election day. What would I have done with myself otherwise? Nothing good. Despite feeling a little hungover, a lot depressed and not terribly creative, I couldn’t have imagined a better place to be on that day with those people. A group of nine women in a fog similar to my own. We talked very little. We gave each other knowing glances. We understood we were all in a state of confusion and words were unnecessary.
“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”
All those years living on the East coast and I never made it to Penland, until now. It’s too easy to put off what’s most needed in life, like two weeks of complete immersion away from everyday obligations. That’s exactly what you get at Penland, or any school like it.
Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina about one and a half hours outside of arty and foody Asheville, Penland is a sprawling wooded and meadowy campus where mist shrouds the mornings and huge variety of mushrooms dot the wooded paths.
Jewelry photography is a vexing issue for people who want good images of their work for show applications and their website but aren’t ready to hire a professional. There are plenty of good tutorials such as this one also about using natural light, or this one with many jewelry photography tips, not necessarily using natural light.
I wanted to share my setup that uses inexpensive, accessible materials and natural light. In a future post, I’ll address some simple (sort of) retouching techniques for those who have access to Photoshop or similar, but for whom the idea of retouching images is intimidating. (Stay tuned.)
DIY or Professional? Some considerations
You’ll often hear that you must have professional photography, especially if you are applying to juried shows. That advice makes sense because it has to take into account the broad spectrum of applicants, which includes people who place their jewelry under a lamp with an incandescent bulb and submit a photo with harsh shadows and a yellowy cast.
But that isn’t you, right? There’s a whole swath of people in between that scenario and those hiring a pro who believe that a decent photo is within their reach if they just had the right set up. Read more
Aside from some hip and leg pain from standing for three solid days, my first big craft show was enough of a success that I’m not in the hole. After months of preparing, it was a pleasure to emerge from the studio and meet attendees and other artists. It was also a treat to wander some old stomping grounds of Baltimore, to see DC-area friends and even have some gnocchi in Little Italy.
The lead up
Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t give myself a year to explore this new venture. Instead, I applied to the show not thinking I’d get in. But I did get in, and there seemed to be plenty of time to prepare. Between my day job as a brand and communication designer, I was running around town picking up clips for lights, fabric for a backdrop, tissue to wrap purchases, then I’d go back into the studio to hammer, saw, solder, file and form jewelry. While I worked on jewelry, I worried I should focus on the display. While I fixated on the booth display, I worried that I didn’t have enough jewelry inventory. Unlike other jewelry artists, I don’t have a backlog of inventory.
During it all, I reminded myself there’s a first time for everything. By the time I got to Baltimore, it was a relief to stop thinking about it. There are not many do overs in life. In the case of shows, every new show is a do over. You just have to resist the temptation to reinvent the wheel for the next one.
Does the world need more jewelry, I’ve been asking myself. Knowing that many of our thoughts are of the devil-on-the-shoulder variety, I know not to take all of them seriously.
But as I embark on making jewelry, I fall into a familiar pattern of wondering if I’m doing any real good. I’ve volunteered steadily since my early twenties but this idea of feeling useful is so engrained in me, the source of which is not entirely healthy. As in, do I deserve to just do something that I enjoy doing? For those who can’t relate to this question, lucky you! Read more
When I first saw the work of land artist Andy Goldsworthy, I was blown away. This was followed by envy that someone wasn’t paying me to prance around in the woods collecting and assembling leaves and twigs. Then I realized I was being an idiot. You do what you love because you must, just as I do when I scour a beach or the forest floor, not for anything particular, just for a thing of beauty that captures my attention. Only no one is paying me for it.
But I do use these things, not only as inspiration for artwork and jewelry, but as an essential clearing of the head. Nothing like a humbling dose of nature to remind you of your relative insignificance. I often gawk at what’s before me wondering why I bother making art or objects when nature has already done it. But then I soldier on and tuck these inspirations away for later. Read more
I have only done a few shows in my past. Well, a couple more if you count pottery back in the 90s where I draped a table and put pots on it. The others were fairly easy to set up, but that didn’t stop me from turning the display into a project itself.
Like this one (below) for a two small jewelry shows where I painted paper maché boxes and lids with chalkboard paint (a nice matte finish). I also painted a big piece of MDF board (lighter weight and cleaner finish than plywood) for a surface for the display, which I raised up using Ikea’s Capita legs. These are great and come in three sizes (2, 4 and 6 inch) in packs of four. Read more
I admit to having a certain proclivity towards process in and of itself even though I also fret over unfinished business, the half-written story or one without a good ending, the half-finished painting. Yes, it’s good to finish what you start, but if finishing is always your goal, you’re missing out on the delights of the process. If you linger too much in process, there’s that uncomfortable nagging inside about what’s left undone.
Sometimes process and output are inextricably linked. A project can have its own unique forward momentum. At other times, the doing IS the thing. Read more