three books

three books

Monday, 23 April 2012

Polka Dots

It's time to take a break from manufacturing polka dots. That statement will make more sense later on but I want to start with something else. Retail guilt! I believe this attitude was born from working in an art supply store for years and watching the vast amounts of hugely over packaged stuff coming in (mostly manufactured in countries with questionable labor practices) and going back out destined, at least an unfortunate amount of it, to become un-biodegradable garbage once the customers were done mucking about with it.
As a result I have become almost maniacal about avoiding the purchase of any kind of art supplies. I confess that I do have stores of accumulated stuff to use up but to add to that stuff it is just much more satisfying to seek out and re-purpose materials from the junk shops than it is to buy manufactured goods.  More and more I am moving toward what could best be described as “food grade art”. Not readily biodegradable because the beeswax could conceivably last for centuries but at least non-toxic and largely made from recycled materials. I think my karma is slowly but surely healing.
This latest series I am working on is all about process and technique. Several facets are coming together in these pieces. First the attitude reflected in the first paragraph affects the choice of materials and is best summarized by the statement “I have everything I need” (a recurring thought/affirmation) the question then is “what can I do with what I have”? I have been experimenting with a variety of techniques that incorporate the use of magazine ink, toner and found object print transfers, collage elements etc and all this has lead me to return, in thought process, back to my years as a potter during which I did endless tests for glaze and surface treatments. I used to do these on test tiles approximately 2x3 inches. This is how I approached the issue of chalk paint samples in beeswax.
I don’t think you can see it in the picture but the paint formulas are printed in the side margins. I really enjoyed making this piece so I had to think a bit on why I found it so satisfying and again I came back to pottery. You would think that the endless acts of repetition that are a very large part of a potters life would be unbelievably boring and there were times when that was true. Most of the time though, the simple rhythm of doing one repetitive thing at a time, changing from day to day and week to week, was a meditative exercise and hugely satisfying because I could see the result stacked up on the shelves. The act of rolling and cutting clay for the test tiles then measuring and mixing the formulas to coat them was a study in Zen and it often lead to some very interesting discoveries. A similar approach will allow me to study endless variations of technique in miniature and avoid creating too much garbage. The “tiles” are so lovely I can think of a dozen ways to put them on display. Thus the prints on polka dots. I can't wait to start putting them together.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

one of those

I am having one of those weeks. It zipped on by and I felt like I was super busy but then someone asked me what I'd been up to and I realized I hadn't actually accomplished a thing of worth. On the other hand I made some interesting discoveries about wax techniques so even if the actual pieces are crap they did teach me something so all is well. This one has some embedded wire and a print on mulberry paper that worked very well. I used the golden open instead of ink. The wax soaked right into the paper and it seemed to disappear but the paint was unaffected so it is just happily floating in there. It was a good one to start with because it sits on my shelf to remind me that I do have everything I need and I have to stop procrastinating by running out to fetch this or that.

I like the fact that the added elements are super stable and so I could keep right on adding, subtracting and generally messing about with impunity. The same cannot be said about this other process which is an series of ink transfers on to the wax using magazine photos. It creates some interesting effects, and I have seen some nice stuff done with it but you have to plan ahead because the ink is just sitting on the surface and is very delicate. Too much heat or rubbing and it's gone.
I also learned that I can't avoid putting the damar resin into the beeswax. I was really hoping to get away with it but these processes just don't work as well on the pure beeswax. It is just too soft on its own and a bit sticky. You can see on the crappy little one below that that the oil stick won't wipe off very cleanly. Next up are toner transfers which I was going to try this evening. Or, I could do something useful and get some more stuff ready for the yard sale we are having tomorrow morning. Hmmm. Toner transfers it is!

Friday, 6 April 2012

I love Annie Sloan

I love Annie Sloan! She'll never carry my groceries in and I'll never buy her paint but I will pay homage to this amazing decor diva who has validated my love of the sweet perfection of slopped on, scraped down and otherwise abused painted furniture. I used to hesitate about painting furniture first because of all that nasty prep, then the tedious attention to detail in making sure the surface was nearly perfect and finally being somewhat disappointed in the result because the paint looks so plastic. Annie, and I think I can call her that because we would naturally become BFF's if she were to stop by and see what she has inspired me to do, has introduced me to a whole new way of looking at paint. Okay so I guess chalk paint isn't new but our Annie is making it her own and that has inspired me to do the same...only different.

Don't get me wrong Annie is fab but her stuff has two obvious flaws. One, it stinks (the wax), so it can't be used indoors without major ventilation and that's a problem for apartment dwellers like me. Two, it is freakishly expensive. So what is a redneck reno queen like myself to do? Figure out how to make it cheap of course. Now I'm not saying that I can make Annie Sloan chalk paint because I haven't got a clue what her formula is but if you follow my kind of logic paint + chalk (calcium carbonate) = chalk paint. The first piece I painted with the real deal cost me about $14.00 in paint. The second cost about $2.00 because I added chalk to some paint leftover from painting my living room and tossed in some Golden acrylic for pigment. I couldn't tell the difference between the real and the homemade as far as how it went on, sanded etc, it behaved beautifully. If you want to give it a go I mixed it two parts paint to 1 part CC and then threw in a couple tbsp of water to smooth it out. I have experimented with mixing up batches of various leftover paints and it doesn't seem to alter the premixed colour dramatically with the exception of reds, which do appear to lighten up quite a bit.

Next I had to solve the issue of stinky wax so back to Google and wow, so many choices. Basically you can take beeswax, melt it down and add an oil or a solvent - presto furniture polish. I've experimented with several recipes posted but my favorite one so far is purified beeswax melted and odorless mineral spirits (organic solvent derived from paraffin). This works super well and can easily be tinted with acrylic to make a darker or coloured wax. It may not be the environmental choice though and I am going back to experiment some more with the beeswax/oil mixes when I need another batch.

So there you have it, Screaming Mimi's yes-you-can in a can and Buff Mimi sealer. So far my colour choices are: Mimi's little red rooster, Magic Beans, Fowl Eggs and Screaming Green. So far I have just been altering ready mix paints or tinting with acrylics but I just picked up some powder pigment and we’ll see how that mixes in next.

I can't wait to take this latest little project outside and nestle it among some potted plants.
But right now BooBoo is looking at me like this.
So it must be time to go for a walk before dinner.