Archive for January, 2011

One of my new, colourful Carnival masks

Gold and purple Venetian masquerade mask, "Mauve"

is on the front page of Artfire right now! It’s in a collection called “February Baby“.

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I decided to skip the Framing Trade Show and Expo this year in Vegas

silver Venetian mask with blue feathers, Teal

and to instead, stay home and make sure that I was ready for Mardi gras. With Shakespeare seeing most of our visitors while the Stratford Festival is on, it seemed like a good time to get some work done, get back on track with mask making as well as getting them written up and listed on-line. Things haven’t been a quiet as expected, so I’m really glad I stuck around, but I have been able to get to get a few things finished. Last summer I came across some batches of feathers that were already dyed at one of my suppliers. Typically, the types of feathers I like to work with are exorbitantly expensive for well coloured dyed ones but these were reasonable enough that I could use them without having to raise the prices on the ruff masks. I picked up four colours, two in ostrich and two in coque. So far, I’ve tried both of the ostrich and only the hot pink coque. (yes, it is hot pink!) I was also lucky to have matching rhinestones on hand as well. I was concerned that they might turn out to be, well, a bit on the tacky side, but the gilding and lace is opulent enough that they just ended up feeling very rich and vibrant. They do pop though! Actually, they have a bit of Vegas showgirl feel to them and would look amazing and perfectly at home in any Carnival event.

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While Mother may be our primary hunter, (or picker is another term)

steampunk necklace "Black Vacuum"

I do sometimes manage to get out looking myself. I got really lucky in late November and found what must have been someones collection of Victorian glass buttons. They ranged from ornate singles over 2” across to sets of tiny ones. It was hugely inspiring and many of the pieces I did over the holidays were designed around specific ones. This particular necklace was the first I did with the buttons and is, so far, the only one I’ve done using a vacuum tube. The central metal piece has been in my stash for years and I understand that it is an engine part that has has had a hanging loop soldered on. I always felt it was too plain but couldn’t see how to use it. With the black glass button added to the center and the tiny tube suspended below, it goes from too stark to something bordering on post-apocalyptic. The double, black leather thong it hangs on helps that feel. Totally not my usual thing, but I loved the Mad Max movies and it was a fun departure. Now I just have to find someone who’s got enough fashion moxy to make a piece like this work!

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Masquerade ball in Texas

I started selling the masks on-line, therefore getting them into the US market, late in 2009

Ronnie and mask, 2010

and have had a few little mysteries and surprises pop up since then. I had expected that the masks would do better in the large, urban centers that there are so many more of in the US than here in Canada. They have the vibrant and eclectic communities and events that attract the sorts of people who would want and appreciate my style of work. Fairly early on I had a great response to my work from the state of Texas, specifically around Houston. I’ve never visited Houston,

Ronnie unmasked, the full gown shot! 2010

but was surprised that I was sending more masks there than San Francisco, LA and New York combined. I suffer from very severe curiosity so I was really interested in finding out why so many masks were going there. A few months ago it was all explained. Ronnie, a resident of the Houston area, had seen a mask she liked and called me so we could discuss some details of the fit and shipping options. (this is exactly why I like to make it easy for people to talk to me directly since it saves time, frustration and possible confusion) She was having a masquerade party for her 40th birthday celebration and it was a perfect compliment to her dress. After confirming that I could arrange guaranteed shipping to arrive in plenty of time she also filled me in on why masks were popular there. She was formerly a resident of New Orleans and, like so many others, was relocated to Texas after Hurricane Katrina. The result is a lively

at the party, Ronnie, 2010

and active community of expat, Louisianians who have made new homes but still keep their culture alive. After the party she also was kind enough to send me a few of the accompanying photos from the bash. The mask was a perfect match to her stunning dress and she looked fabulous in it. (as well as amazing for 40!) Everyone wishes they could have birthday parties as fun as this, or at least I do!

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Here’s the second piece I did using the other brass parrot.

parrot necklace, "Green Heart"

All of the lower dangles have green glass beads and assorted faux coins in graduated sizes. (they are all modern but look vintage) The key, at the bottom centre is vintage. The large green heart is an exact match to the eye rhinestone and was made from a separate salvaged jewellery piece. The chain is in a gold tone and modern as well. (it also has an easily adjustable length so it can be worn a few different ways) Again, this piece is much more colourful and has an almost Bohemian feel to it that’s not typical for my work.

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This is another piece of my nature/steampunk jewellery batch.

Steampunk necklace "Green Parrot"

It’s actually one of a pair of coordinated necklaces since I had two of the pressed brass parrots. They were a pair of earrings and I think they were probably from the 80’s. (I think that mainly because they are quite solid and very well made on the detailing, many more modern pieces are thinner and not their level of quality) I loved the detail on them and their little green emerald rhinestone eyes. This one sits on a larger openwork brass ring. The large lozenge that hangs beside him is a salvaged piece of abalone shell that has been dyed the same rich green as his eye. The three lower dangles are all glass beads and the brass piece at the bottom is from an antique clock. So it the gear that is on the left chain. The decoration on the right I constructed by adding a matching green rhinestone to a (modern) brass filigree flower. This is far more colour than I had ever considered for a “Steampunk” piece, but I think the mix of modern and traditional is a good balance.

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The past two evenings, here in Shakespeare, the Ontario Ministry of Transport has been having public information sessions about the proposed highway expansion between New Hamburg and Stratford. What they want to do is widen the highway from two lanes to the standard four. Their initial “preferred” route was to go right through the middle of Shakespeare! Naturally this caused a huge outcry among those of us who live here and there has been a well organized push to get the decision reviewed, (Jonny, of Jonny’s Antiques has been leading the charge) and this presentation was for the revised route. I was a bit pleasantly shocked to see that they got it right. The new route veers off to the south, just before town, parallels the train tracks for  a ways and then swings down to Pork Road to go around the bottom end of Stratford. As a resident and a business owner, I think it’s great. We’ll get to keep the charm of the hamlet as well as the residents safe. As a resident I love that it will let all the heavy truck traffic veer off and keep moving at full speed so there should be very little of it coming through the village any more. As a business owner, I think it’s great that Stratford is being bypassed as well so, if you’re going to the Festival, than the route to take is through us. No trucks, a pretty and quiet country road with some fun and interesting shopping/dining along it, why would anyone want to get there any other way? As with anything involving road development, nothing is fully set, but we are pleased that it looks like they are moving in the right direction and that so many peoples hard work paid off. We’ll just have to stay active as it moves forward.

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As I said when I started to talk about the recent rounds of jewellery,

steampunk necklace "Feathered time"

I tend to go with themes and this batch seems to have had a strong tie to the natural world. With this piece the most noticeable part is the large pressed metal feather plume. It’s been in my stash for a ridiculously long time but I never found a way to use it on a mask that properly showed it off. I’m glad I waited since this is a far better use. Hanging from the bottom is a vintage jewelled clasp that had lost its matching “tongue” piece long before it came into my hands. I think it’s from the 30’s or 40’s and it’s so pretty that I think it works well as an accent piece. (I added a tiny bead and rhinestone dangle to the bottom of it to make a bit more dressy) Beside it is a small silver key, but that can barely be seem in the photo. It must have been either for a case or padlock since it’s a real one, but very small. (I’m thinking it’s circa 1970’s) The side piece I constructed from a watch component and face. This kind of strongly asymmetrical design hasn’t been typical for me but I think it worked in this case. It’s something I’ve been playing with more but this was an easy way for me start since the softly consistent colour palette evens out the feel.

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The Journey Home

Most of the time when doing my design work, I’ll either have a concept and then hunt

watch case art piece, "The Journey Home"

down the various parts or I’ll have a component I want to use and then I’ll play around with other bits and bobs until it gels for me. Sometimes however, the process of creation is easy. The whole thing comes comes together as if the piece is making itself. This was one of those times. A friend had a watch that she had worn for years, clipped to a belt loop on the outfit of the day. The glass face got cracked and, after some water exposure, it finally gave up the ghost. Having seen my other watch case pieces she handed it over for parts with a request that she get first refusal on anything I did with the case. The cracked crystal wasn’t really removable and it was a small flaw so I left it in place. The background is a map piece that centers on her home and has a small scrap of the faux velum with the quote “The journey home is never long” written on it. The little black compass actually works and matches the edge of the case really well. A tiny silver heart and feather surround the compass and complete the design. (it also exactly fills the room available in the closed case which was really small) It’s now, once again, a functional piece that’s easily carried or worn. (admittedly, it’s a different function, but a function none the less) Considering how personal a piece it turned out to be I wouldn’t have felt comfortable offering it for sale so it became the perfect Christmas gift.

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This past fall I designed a new line of pieces using the traditional

Jen photographed by Joel Montes

Venetian techniques I’ve been using on my masks. They are headband style crowns. The bands are made of salvaged leather with lace detailing and gilding and they tie on with an assortment of ribbons. Unlike the masks, they are something that I can duplicate, in at least some of the cases. One of the the ones that I can make more of sold quickly and it’s new owner was kind enough to send me a picture of the photo shoot she used it in. Jen was shot by photographer Joel Montes in Florida (you can check out some more of his work, including a couple of other shots of Jen, at his flicker stream) and looks just stunning wearing the delicate tiara style band. I’m always amused by the fact that the owners of my pieces always seem to come up with ways of using them that wouldn’t have occurred to me. I had envisioned these crowns as bridal headpieces or the finishing topper on a luxurious costume of silk and velvet. She’s gone for a more casual and modern look having paired it with the corset over the loose top and jeans. The effect is a fantastic juxtaposition of styles that looks like it just walked off a fashion runway. I’ve completed another one of this piece and relisted it and now can’t wait to see what gets done with it next!

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