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Archive for February, 2010

cat and bird

The front of the store has a covered porch. With the prevailing winds I get almost no rain blowing under it but, in winter, a bit of snow will drift

cat and bird footprints in snow

onto the floor, if it’s been blowing around. This morning when I came in there were some footprints in the snow that seem to tell a bit of a story. I have no idea why a birdy would be walking near the door, since the seed treats are on the tree, a fair ways to the east of the building, but it must have been looking for something. As for the cat, there is a small black one that I’ve seen a number of times, but it is very skittish and I’ve never gotten all that close. (I’m not sure if it is actually feral, but it seems to be being fed somewhere and looks healthy) There were no signs of interaction between the cat and bird. The bird prints start, go around the side of the store and stop while the cat clearly came back to check out either the bird or the prints, instead of just passing by the front as is typical. It just amused me to see them this morning.

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Granito typically uses a very fine granular surface, under the gilding to make up the design. We didn’t have time, in the workshop, to actually explore the technique.

gilded frame corner detail

What we did do was to learn how to produce a tone-on-tone effect in gilding. As I mentioned earlier, the frames we were working with had already been prepared with full gesso grounds and then had been gilded in 23K gold. Some of them had also been burnished, which is a typical step, before an other effects are done to the frame. A number were left unburnished and they were the ones we used to achieve the effect you can see in the photo. It’s a very simple process, we just used the template to burnish the pattern. The rest of the frame is left in the more matte finish and then the whole thing is sealed. These frames were made for use in training, so they were not terribly careful about making sure that the gilding was all that evenly applied or avoiding the light scratches you can see. (and at least one of mine has two different tones of gold used on it!) I was pleased to be able to try the techniques out, but I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing with my finished frames. I’ll need to play around with them a bit more and will probably end up just putting some small mirrors in them. All in all, I really enjoyed the workshop, but it should probably have been an all day thing so we could have covered things in the needed depth.

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Quite a while back I had mentioned some antique lantern slides that we had acquired. We have several sets, but the ones I found the most intriguing

set of digital Milton images

were a group that were illustrations from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. They were the images done by Paul Gustav Dore, that had been hand-tinted. I’m still pretty undecided about what to do with the actual slides, since there are so many possibilities for them it’s almost impossible to make a decision. What we did do, in the meantime, was to take some very high quality scans of the group. I just listed them on Etsy as digital files. We broke them into three sets of four images with discounts if you buy two or all three sets. I like the whole digital file concept because it means that people can control how they print and use the images for themselves. We might do a similar thing with the “Robinson Crusoe” slides, but we’ll wait first to see if anyone is interested in this format.

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The term “scraffito” comes from the Italian “to scratch” and that is basically what it involves. Layers of paint are built up, over the gilding

scraffito decorated frame corner

and then it is carefully scratched back off, in the desired pattern. We didn’t really have enough time to layer the paint in the ways I would have liked. The result is that my frames paint is a single solid colour. Even if I had gone for black, I would have liked to have had a chance to develop a bit of variation to the finish. Once the paint was dry, I used the template and scratched it away to leave my design on the corners. The next step will be to finish the other four corners and seal the finished frame. (no time for any of that during the workshop either!) There was an amazing range of designs and colours used by the group, so we got to see a number of different ways the techniques could be used and the results they would produce. I was moderately happy with my own piece and I’m looking forward to playing a bit more with the process, because I have some ideas about things I could create using it that I’m pretty excited about! The other frame I finished used a different technique that I’ll cover in the next installment…

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One of the things we spent a fair of the time working on was how to create our own stencils. Working from some classical images or simply drawing

frame design stencils

freehand we all came up with patterns that we used to decorate our plain gilded frames. I chose to go with two different designs that would work in the corners of my two frames. One was based on gothic styles and the other was much more of an Arts and Crafts (with a bit of Moorish influence) type of design. We worked first with a semitransparent paper and then transferred the images to a cardstock weight paper that was cut to produce the finished stencil. The two stage process allowed me to make sure that my design was properly symmetrical by being able to draw only half of it and then mirror it for the other half. It vastly speeded up the time it would have taken me to achieve symmetry freehand, since it’s not one of my drawing strengths. These are the two stencils, ready to move on to the next stage!

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I just realized that I had yet to get around to introducing the O Canada Etsy Team. I’m finding it really nice to have a group of fellow Canadians with which to discuss the challenges of being part of the Etsy community. It’s a diverse group that covers the whole country. There is also a blog for the group, which I’ll be adding to the blogroll, on the sidebar.

I also missed another Mardi Gras feature on my masks! It’s at the Sweetest Occasion and shows a choice quartet of my pretties…

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We had picked the courses/workshops we would be attending at the Art and Framing Show well before we left. Having a bit of time to think about it,

blank gilded frame

I was pretty hyped about one workshop. It was dealing with two specific techniques used with gilding; Scraffito and Granito. Both are very traditional techniques that, while I have long admired the way they look, I had no idea how to create. We were provided with frames that had already been fully prepared in the traditional way. He started with some small, premade frames. (it was mentioned that, for these types of workshops he actually picks up the plain frames, pre-made, since his workshop couldn’t cut and join them for the same cost) They had then sanded them down and covered the frames with several layers of gesso to produce a proper, smooth surface for the leaf. They were then gilded using 23K gold leaf. Some were burnished, to make them shine, (like the one in the photo) and some were left with a more matte finish. The instructor spent a fair bit of time making sure that we understood, and could do, the basic steps needed to create our own designs and templates in both styles.

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Mardi Gras has just ended and things have been busy on the mask front. One of the newly-listed masks, “Graph” made an appearance on the

silver Venetian mask with white feathers, Graph

Etsy front page yesterday. It’s always a thrill to make it. The same mask was also featured at Barbed Lotus’s Workshop in her Mardi Gras Mayhem selection. I also just listed the first of my fully gem covered birds, Roseus, and it’s part of Pink Dandy Chatter’s Celebration: Mardi Gras collection.

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With today being Valentines Day, I thought it appropriate to talk about what is arguably my most romantic mask. I tend to think that all of the

copper venetian mask, "Heart in yourEyes"

pretty style masks qualify as romantic, in the sense that they gives one a feeling that you are part of a world where mystery and romance await around every corner. You could be anyone, under that mask, and who knows who you’ll meet? This mask, on the other hand makes the wearer the personification of the line “his/her heart was in their eyes”. The metal findings were just such a perfect size for making the eye holes that I couldn’t resist using them. Once I knew the look I was headed to, I decided to run with it Smaller pressed metal hearts make up the eye-brows and the whole mask is gilded in the soft pink colour of copper. The ties are a bright red. Yes, it does walk the edge of silliness but, when thinking about romance, it’s often better not to take yourself too seriously. Have a happy V-day everyone, however you choose to celebrate it! (or not)

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This is another case of atypical use of a heart motif. Collage is a medium I still feel like I’m exploring. The first few pieces I did all were for very specific

collage detail

occasions or people. They also walk the line between collage and calligraphy. I choose to call them collage, even thought they typically have large amounts (and are mostly designed to display the written components) of calligraphy text. This is a detail from one I did for my parents. I had originally intended to make it as a two-part piece where they would get one half on Mother’s day and the other on Father’s day. As it turned out, it couldn’t be divided so it was given in between the two occasions. (yes, we tend to not be terribly rigid about observing most “gifting” holidays) The poem I built it around was part of Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet”, the section “On Children”. (the full text that I used follows) The text was written on scraps of a handmade paper and the centerpiece of the background was a bow with a golden arrow. The bow shape was made by cutting out a large number of heart shapes from an assortment of different coloured and textured papers, in a range of sizes and shapes. They were laid down and overlapped to make the bow and then covered with an almost-sheer layer of torn paper to tone down the brightness and tie it together. I was pretty happy with the effect and the parents liked it. Hopefully, by next Valentine’s Day, I’ll have time to actually make a few cards for friends and family since it’s a design concept I want to explore a bit more.

excerpt “On Children” from “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

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