Journal

Art Camp for Big Kids

Left: the pond that I awoke to each morning from my tent. Right: my work station for the week.

This August I was fortunate enough to be one of 38 artists participating in the 11th Annual Frogwood Collaborative. Frogwood started in 2007 as a small gathering of woodworkers wanting to get out of creative ruts and stretch the artistic possibilities of their work. It has morphed into a community of artists working in a variety of mediums—paint, fiber, wood, metal. And within those mediums there are coppersmiths, blacksmiths, jewelers, weavers, printmakers and painters. The idea is to spend a week collaborating on projects.

Given that most of us work alone, the idea of collaborating can be a challenge. Even if you crave an exchange of ideas and diving into a new medium, knowing how to start a project with someone you don’t know isn’t easy. One place most of us started was a huge table piled with donated items from participants. Fine wood scraps, project boo-boos, plastic, animal bones, glass, you name it. It was all there for the taking.

What struck me over and over is how similar our tools and materials were even if they were at a different scale or malleability, such as these metal scraps and weaving materials.

Veterans came with ideas. Newbies like myself wondered how to start a project. Not to mention the pressure (self-imposed) of creating a piece worthy of sale at a silent auction that took place at the end of the week in Portland. On this Frogwood auction information page, you’ll find photos of all the completed projects at the bottom.

Watching people work is a delight, and hands can’t escape your attention.

Like most experiences that involve people, it’s the people that make it memorable. I don’t know if every gathering of a few dozen artists and craftsmen always yields good results. But I have a pretty good idea that it does. One thing that kept coming back to me during the week was this feeling of relief, of being understood. While there was little time for much in-depth conversation, I took comfort knowing I was surrounded by people who obsessively absorb their surroundings, wondering “what if,” dreaming up that next creation. Check out the 2018 participants.

2018 Frogwood Collaborative participants.
An amazing tribe of familiar strangers.

We were in the beautiful wooded setting of Camp Colton in Oregon. Even being in cell phone range, it felt like the middle of nowhere. Time was divided into clear chunks—breakfast, work, lunch, work, dinner, work, sleep. I never slept so well in a tent as I did at Frogwood. Working 12-hour days helped. I kept thinking I’d want to wander the woods, sit and read a book or sketch. But all I wanted was to return to my bench and keep working every day.

I didn’t expect such a professional set up. The big modern barn, with concrete floor surrounded by enormous patio space, was filled with every tool imaginable. Nothing like this comes together with ease. Thanks to woodworker Tom Willing at the helm and his trusty board, there wasn’t a single thing lacking in this space. Well, except for nails when it came to securing hanging devices on the backs of finished pieces. All those tools and not a single nail!

Woodworker Jesse Felling and jeweler April Ottey at Frogwood Collaborative.
At left: Woodworker Jesse Felling, with mixed-media sculptor Carole Murphy’s assemblages in the foreground. Right: Jeweler April Ottey pours molten bronze into a casting mold.
Left: Printmaker Palmarin Merges discovers paper cutting with a pasta machine. Right: Woodworker Tom Willing takes over carving a whale started by wood carver Rebecca Welti that later became an instrument. Whale song anyone?

I went with a goal, despite not knowing how the collaborations would work, that I wanted to work with wood. I’d been craving working with a more gentle material than metal. Most of my collaborations involved self-generated projects, getting inspiration from materials I found on the table and getting invaluable help from others. Without exception, someone would drop what they were doing to show you how to use a tool, hammer a copper head for a spoon or help figure out how to connect materials. My go-to wood guy was instrument maker Adam Mendel of Joyner Instruments. Having been a teacher, he would sprinkle each interaction with invaluable tips that I know I’l tap into if I get more serious about wood. Below are a few projects I worked on with his help on the wood parts.

Sculpture and necklace collaborations.
Left: A bleached madrone tube discarded by wood artist Christian Burchard, snatched by me, that I attached pierced copper pieces and a padauk wood foot to. Top: Copper spoon head by Greg Wilbur that I pierced antlers into and attached to a bone handle. Bottom: Pendant assembled with glass piece by artist Angelita Surmon, padauk wood and silver-inlaid ebony with sterling silver hanging mechanism and choker.

In all, it was a truly memorable experience that I recommend to any artist if you can find a collaboration near you. Or better yet, start one in your community. The rewards of having three dozen new artists/craftsmen/makers/friends in my circle who I know I can reach out to is invaluable. I’m inspired to keep experimenting and being open to new materials and processes, not to mention collaborations when we’re not at Frogwood. Once a year isn’t nearly enough!

 

Earrings Galore and More

Earrings by Jane Pellicciotto for Heidi Lowe Gallery "Earrings Galore" exhibition

I grew up on the East Coast and spent many summers kicking up sand on Rehobeth Beach. Just writing this makes me hunger for a Nic-a-boli. So it’s fun to be able to circle back and be part of the Heidi Lowe Gallery annual “Earrings Galore” exhibition featuring work by 30 artists from around the U.S. and abroad.

The show will be up for the whole year with an opening reception on June 29 from 6-8pm. But it’s coming to Portland as a pop-up exhibition as part of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) annual conference. The exhibition is open to the public, so if you’re in the area, please stop by.

Portland pop-up location: 219 SW 9th Ave. in Portland, OR.

Opening night: Thursday, May 24, 3–6 pm

Additional hours: Friday, May 25, 3–6 pm and Saturday, May 26, 1–3 pm

 

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Gallery Crawl

There are many more exhibitions going on as part of the SNAG Conference, not all of which involve metals. Here is a list of happenings that are open to the public. I’ll have work on display at both Alchemy Jewelers and Annie Meyer Galleries.

Thursday, May 24th
Pearl Arts District Galleries
5 pm–8 pm

 

 

Powell’s Books Group Show

I’m honored to be in a group art show at one of my favorite places in Portland—Powell’s Books. The show, entitled “Edges,” includes work from seven Portland artists working in a variety of mediums, from found object assemblage to collage to painting. The show will be up till the end of November. Check it out while you’re there loading up on holiday gifts. The four collages on the right are mine. Enjoy!

Powell's Books group art show "Edges"

3rd Annual Studio Holiday Pop-Up

Join me for the 3rd Annual Studio Holiday Pop-Up. Each year I include other makers for a unique shopping experience. All local, all handmade goods. Shop jewelry, paintings and organic chocolate candy.

Meet artist Consu Tolosa whose tiny personita paintings on reclaimed wood make for a joyful gift.

Oregon Bark‘s Anne Smith makes all-organic peanut butter flake candy bars and Hazel Jones, candied hazelnut butter and rosemary candy bars. She’ll have gift packs and samples on hand.

Avoid the crowds, enjoy some refreshments and give the gift of handmade.

Saturday, December 2 from 11 am–5 pm.
1915 NE 12th Avenue

“Likeness” Exhibition

So nice to have a photo to share of an exhibition in which I have about 13 pieces of jewelry. Very cheerful! The title of the exhibition is called “Likeness,” and is on view till October 1 at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s ARTSpace in Wisconsin.

From their website:

As part of our yearlong celebration of 50 years of art at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, ARTspace connects works by five contemporary artists to works housed in our collections. These works were not created in reaction or response to our collections; they were made unbeknownst to it in a separate time and space. However, the work bears a resemblance, a likeness in style, material, or concept. 

I was very honored to be invited into this exhibition, a first for me in my fledgling jewelry endeavor. I’m familiar with the work of a few of the other artists, but a lovely surprise was being included with Ayn Hanna, whose work I’d admired at the American Craft Council Baltimore show in 2016.

All work is for sale.

Prepped copper discs with decals ready to fire.

Merging photography with jewelry

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.

Some fired copper pieces. The decals started on a white surface. This set uses transparent enamels on top.

 

Photo decals on vitreous enamel. Necklaces by Jane Pellicciotto
These are two finished pieces. On the left is an image from the town of Orvieto in Italy. The grid of boxes are holes that pigeons roosted in. On the right is a photo of a mushroom spore print I did some years ago.

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!

Staying Sane through Art

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.

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Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”

Twyla Tharp

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The Gift of Immersion

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.

Penland School of Crafts

 

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DIY Jewelry Photography

Simple DIY jewelry photography setup

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.)

But first…

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

ACC Baltimore Wrap-Up

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.

I made it on someone's list.Me? Not very hip or pop  Read more

Just Making Versus Making for Good

Weathered wall with texture and grafitti. Jane Pellicciotto

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

The Land Is the Muse

“My art is fed by every emotion.” 

—Andy Goldsworthy

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Andy Goldsworthy leaf and twig land art

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