Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dear Studio

You have always been with me in one form or another—for many years and in many homes. You have been my port in a storm. You have been my salvation. You hold everything that I cherish—my art supplies that let me create. You hold my finished and unfinished projects keeping them safely tucked inside your belly until I am ready to start again—or not. However, you don't mind, you understand. Throughout the years you've been hospitable to my muse—that elusive one. She shows up unannounced and leaves without warning. You support both of us and never complain when we leave you messy. Oh so messy—for days. Sometimes weeks. You know that I will return. We decorate you unmercifully and you just smile and take it, in fact, you seem to thrive on the attention. In this date and time, you have red walls, green and yellow walls. You have writing on your ceiling, you have electronics and you have music. Thank you studio, for being there when I need you the most.

In artful love, Sydney

Saturday, February 27, 2010


In the Hebrew Bible, Esther appears as a woman of deep faith, courage and patriotism, ultimately willing to risk her life for her adoptive father, Mordecai, and the Jewish people.

In Judaism, the book of Esther is read on Purim. It tells a story of palace intrigue and plotting to kill the Jews thwarted by the Jewish queen of Persia.

The story opens with an account of King Ahasuerus' royal seven-day feast to display the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor of his majesty.

Drunk with wine, the King ordered his queen Vashti to appear nude in front of his drunken guests. Vashti refused (apparently she didn't like gang rape) and this pissed off the king. He then demanded that a new queen reign in Vashti's place and then had her killed to make her an example for other disobedient wives. (I hate when that happens).

A Jew named Mordecai presented his beautiful niece, Esther, not revealing that she is also a Jew. Enchanted with her charm and beauty, King Ahasuerus chose Esther to be his wife and queen.

Soon after this, the King gave Haman, his prime minister, power and authority—the people would bow to him. (Yeah, right). Everyone bowed except Mordecai who refused to bow to anyone but his God. This pissed off Haman, and he plotted to massacre all Jews, including Esther. That night, over the banquet, Esther told the king about Haman's plan and acknowledged her own Jewish ethnicity. The king then ordered Haman to be hanged! (Na-na-na-na-na!)

Jews established the annual feast of Purim in memory of their deliverance. I created this collage to illustrate the story.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

First Steps into Polymer Clay

The year was 2001. I bought my first packs of polymer clay. It was Sculpey and could hardly believe how happy it made me--put me right into THE ZONE. I sat and played for six hours non-stop. At that time I had no idea of the unbelievable possibilities ahead of me.

Enter the giraffe. This was a gift that my friend Phyllis gave to me—a whimsical giraffe sculpture. Inspired by the cuteness, the words, “I could make that!” just flew out of my mouth.

Over the next several days, I was still inspired and while pondering my options, I concluded that people were more interesting than animals. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE animals, but the character possibilities of making people were endless. I bought Maureen Carlson’s book “Sculpting Friends and Family” and started experimenting. Here was my very funny first attempt - Suzanna Liberty.

Not long after some experimenting was I hopping on a plane to take the class from Maureen at her most excellent Center for Creative Arts  in Jordan Minneapolis. Thanks, Mo! The instruction was excellent but I was a slow learner. This was the sculpt of Mary in her garden holding a primitive weeder thingy.

So, that was then. This is now. Two of my 18" art dolls. On the left is Queen Mama. "She" is not exactly gender specific and lounges on a fainting couch. On the right is Lady Marmalade. Their heads, hands, and feet are sculpted from polymer clay. The bodies are soft sculpted. The costumes are my original pattern designs (and I really hate sewing).

And to think it all started with a Giraffe!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Art Journaling

Years ago when I started sculpting art dolls I wanted to document the process in a journal. But, of course being somewhat of a perfectionist (somewhat?) I just could not use any old journal it had to be unique—and that quickly added another project to my plate. I constructed a simple journal, ala Teesha Moore. I was happy with the outcome,  so the process and continued to make another art journal for general daily art journaling.

After traveling with a journal for the first time, I quickly realized that the size was too cumbersome to pack so I scaled them down to a packable size to be tucked inside my backpack and my travel purse. They fit beautifully with a little room left over for a few pens and markers.

I continue to make journals for special trips and occasions. This journal traveled to Italy. She (all my things are gender-specific) had an excellent time with me journaling at the Coliseum in Rome, and in St. Marks piazza in Venice. Oh the blissfulness!

These are the journals that I use to make art, experiment, write, or just doodle. I can get lost in the process--the zone. Stay tuned for the inside journal pages...where most of the fun lies.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My BFF = Art Supplies!

My art supplies are definitely mixed mediums. I don’t think there are too many artists that use one media exclusively. We love to experiment. I have gotten comments from well-meaning non-artists to the tune of “why don’t you stick to one medium and get really good instead of switching all over the place?, or "You should focus on one thing to perfect it." They don’t get it, but they mean well. It's the creative personality that comes into play. In his book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi (pronounced "chick-SENT-me high"), said, "creative people want to do it all, they love what we do and invent for the hell of it." I simply call it playing.

Here’s a partial list of what I like to play with in no particular order:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Purple Barn Studios – The Concept

I alluded to this in my previous post. The purple barn that now only lives inside my head. Purple Barn Studios is real, but not quite. The name exists, the business exists...kinda. The physical 5-10 acre property is probably somewhere in North Carolina....I think. It may be in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Raleigh, or even Charlotte. Not too far from civilization, the airport, (or Nordstrom's)! I am building a new home and a barn to house Purple Barn Studios! Unless the world comes to an end, I will finally have my barn. My BIG BARN!

The name Purple Barn Studios is plural because of the different "studios" standing for the different medias and artists. Polymer clay studio, bookart studio, textile studio, journaling studio, painting studio. You get the idea.

The business. It's simple - all things art. Creating, collaborating, teaching, selling, and forever learning.

The plan. First, this is my creative space to create. In addition, I will sponsor visiting art instructors to hold workshops and they will be able to stay in their own loft bedroom with full bath and kitchen area. I will open the studio for Open Studio nights. This will be for local artists to stop by and work on their UFOs, schmooze, collaborate, or walk the backyard labyrinth under a full moon (next to the fairy garden). I also plan to teach workshops in each "studio". Or in whatever mood I happen to be in at any given time. ;-).

Target date: Spring of 2012.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

February 5, 2010 The Perfect Storm

Not perfect by any stretch of my imagination. On Friday afternoon, Pittsburgh was experiencing full blizzard conditions. Nor'easter. At 8pm, our power went out. Using a cell phone, we called the power company. ETA 12:30am. VOIP phone service means no power, no phones, either.

1:00am. Called again, this time no ETA. Our gas fireplace is keeping us relatively warm after closing off the upstairs. We fried eggs on our gas stove burners that we could light using a gas match. OK. Fine. Surely, the power would be back on Saturday, and the outside thermometer read 30ish. Not too terrible. I couldn't sleep on the sofa and listen to soulmate snore so I got up to peer out the window. The silence was deafening and the view was surreal—that of a nuclear winter. The only life were two deer in the yard bobbing their heads into the 15 inches of snow. What the hell could they possibly be eating? Annoyed, I go back to sleep to the soothing snoring rhythm. Forget it.

I nap, waiting. Napping. Waiting. Up to pee. Still reasonably warm. Waiting. 7am. The light of day lessens the bleakness of the 24 inches of snow. Still snowing. No power and no plow, we are officially snowed in.

Sat. 10am. Enter the neighborhood army of snow blowers. Soulmate praises the size of his because it is the only one actually working. Size. Hummpf. 11am. The power company declares a state of emergency. Still no ETA. Still no plow. But we can drive in the driveway! I can boil water, so I make hot chocolate and wait.

2pm. Nothing. My cell phone battery is waning. I think about my overstocked freezer and put my refrigerated food into a box outside on the deck.

4pm. No power, no ETA, no plow. The snow stopped. We call the power company to hear about 300,000 customers without power. Crap. We eat tuna fish and leftover cold rice/beans. Down to one English muffin. Darkness envelops our makeshift sleeping/living area. Another night and the outside temp will plummet to 5 degrees. I think about our water pipes. Crap. I make the executive decision to abandon ship and after several tries, we get a reservation. 8pm. It is no longer warm enough inside; I put on another layer and lay down on the rollaway mattress that is now in front of the fireplace. I nap anticipating packing up in 10 long hours.

Sunday 2am. I wake to beeping. The security system finally gave up hope and died. We stagger upstairs and snuggle underneath 3 layers of bedding. 7:30am. Still no power, no ETA.

That's it. With water pipes drained, fireplace off, we head north on icy roads to a hotel.

Long story shorter. Tuesday 9:00am. Home sweet home. Power was restored on Monday night. Another nor'easter is on the way into Wed. to add another foot of snow.
Round two. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


So, the other day I mentioned the purple in my hair. Last night was my monthly “do” at the salon. However, the strangest phenomena...she took on a life of her own...

I am Sydney’s hair. Some would say that I am high maintenance, but hey isn’t all hair? I’ve been around for a long time and all things considered I’ve been good for her over the years. I may be thinner now, but most women would kill for that. I may be losing my color a tad, but that’s easily fixed. And I ask you, what hair doesn’t need to be cut and styled occasionally? But I digress. This is my account of it—m y detailed perspective of the whole damn salon thing.

Its torture I tell you. Sydney actually enjoys it. Getting me “done”. From the get go, I gear up for days to be drowned, soaped up, belittled, and embarrassed. Then I’m hung out to dry. And this old broad can work up a sweat! Last Tuesday was no different. Enter Kris. I will admit he’s a cutie pie and remarkably, not gay. I have to face him already wet, plastered down to her head. She’s sitting on the brown faux-leather chair in the narrow room, facing the mirror that reflects two of wet me. In front of cutie pie Kris. He’s cutting me. His hands are large and swift and my mind is racing. I hear them talking about me. Sydney wasn’t happy this time with my color, she wants more variation. Ha! Don’t we all? She’s never happy, this one. First I’m black, then I’m red. Red, black, red, black, brown, black, red, purple. What the fuck? Back in the 80’s I did time with “eggplant.” Lovely. Come ‘on, Syd! The cutting has stopped and part of me stays on the floor. Now I’m being walked into the other room for the nastiest component. This part stinks. Perched in another matching salon chair, assistant Jen carefully parts me in sections and slaps on a disgusting, cold, slimy chemical with the smell and look of crap. For thirty minutes I’m forced to remain exposed and degraded in this huge, although I will say tastefully, decorated room. Shivering, I attempt to ignore my quandary and start gawking around to amuse myself. I’m hair after all, what would you expect?

Jen set the timer and I’m marinating. 29 minutes. The sink area is eye-catching with the cherry cabinets—too bad they only hold tubes of torturous chemicals. Every shelf holds at least two hundred lined up like Nazi soldiers lying in wait to attack. Brushes soak innocently in blue Barbacide solution— waiting for their call to duty. 20 minutes. Sydney can’t resist the candy bowl on the small glass table in front of me. I see mini Snickers, Twix, Tootsie Rolls, whoa, girl, enough! Eavesdropping, another hair is being cut and his kid is flapping his jaws. Blah, blah, blah. Jesus kid, take a breath. Nobody cares. The stylist is nodding in their noncommittal way, “yeah, oh, uh-huh, yeah” trying to focus so she doesn’t lop off an ear. 13 minutes. Above me, I hear the radio in the ceiling performing an ironic tune. “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. How annoying is that? Like I have a choice here! 8 minutes.

Across the room I watch more hair being cut. This time it’s on a middle age white woman wearing athletic shoes. Ha! Don’t they all? The scanty hair looks embarrassed, too. All stuck down. What we go through for them. Her stylist is wearing beach pants with black patent high heels. What? “Fuck-me” shoes to cut hair? Get a life honey, go dangle your leg at a bar. 6 minutes. Still shivering. The ceiling radio now sings “Head over Feet.” How appropriate. Kris walks back in the room to mix more torture chemical. The tubes perk up. The brushes stand pathetically erect. 4 minutes. The woman behind me is yakking about her hair to the stylist. “Color, no layers this time, need a trim, looks awkward, I want it more straight”. Man, her hair looks mortified. Ding! That’s me! Into the sink I go to get this shit off. I love the fact that the hard sink hurts her neck. Sweet revenge. What? That’s it? I still have some chemical on me! Off we go back into the narrow room for the blow job. What? Manly Kris points the heat gun at me. Luckily I’m thin and this only lasts a moment. Cough, cough. That damn spray. No wonder I’m falling out. I’m done. Sydney smiles into the mirror. She likes me. Whatever.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

PCCMM Retreat = Polymer Clay + Everything Else!

I am very proud to write about this because it has been a labor of love from the start. Four polymer clay/mixed media artists –Anne Bowers, Mona Kissel, Heidi Spicer, and I are the founding “mothers” who formed the annual Polymer Clay Collaborative & Mixed Media Retreat at Shepherd University in beautiful Shepherdstown, WV. This year it is scheduled for July 19 - 25, 2010.

The weeklong retreat is open to the public and offers a workspace, daily demos, and numerous optional workshops taught by art instructors from California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington. Registration is open now until June 1, 2010. For more details such as pricing, photos, and workshop descriptions, take a look at the retreat website

The polymer clay community and most artists in general know the value of retreats. The uniqueness of this retreat over other polymer clay retreats around the country is the inclusion of mixed media. The other unique feature of this retreat is the inclusion of optional workshops. You can choose to work at your art and UFO's in the workroom, take workshops, or do both, it’s your option, it’s your week to relax, to make art, and to make friends. We make it easy for you! Just show up!

And Shepherdstown is the best! A most excellent artsy bohemian atmosphere with the coolest shops to explore on the quaintly tree-lined streets—jewelry, clothing, shoes, art, bakery, coffee shops, restaurants...oh, stop me now!

The instructor lineup for this coming July includes Meredith Arnold, Anne Bowers, Debbie Jackson, Marie Segal, Ellen Marshall, and Meta Strick. Each instructor brings their own unique talent and it will be difficult to choose between the workshops they are offering. Every time I think I've got the right ones selected I change my mind! Three times now.

The retreat is open to everyone. Crafters and artists of any medium are encouraged to attend. Even if you are a retreat virgin, you will be hooked and sure to return year after year to this excellent event! “The people at the mixed media retreat are all incredibly talented and the variety of skills was amazing, said one participant. I wouldn’t miss this event for the world!"

Is it obvious that I’m a proud parent?