Kintsugi – Creative Minds Art History Project

I’ve always loved Kintsugi pottery not just for its striking visual interest but also for the symbolism behind it. Kintsugi means “golden joinery”, and is a practice that started as early as the 15th century in Japan. With Kintsugi, artists fix broken pottery by using a special lacquer mixed with powdered metals to join the pieces back together. Influenced by the Japanese philosophies of wabi-sabi (seeing beauty in imperfection), mottainai (the regret of wasting), and mushin (the acceptance of change), Kintsugi pottery highlights flaws rather than hiding them, showing each piece’s unique history and turning brokenness into beauty. Our experiences, mistakes, scars, and the things that make us different are what build us into who we are, and beauty can be found in all of these things as we move forward.

I knew I wanted to incorporate learning about Kintsugi into my Artshop class, but the question was how? In this class, we typically do different small projects each week, so it would need to be something that could be completed in an hour and a half. Additionally, I have no background in pottery or sculpting (100% 2D artist over here!) and wanted to use supplies our studio already had on hand without depleting our clay class’s supply. A couple of months ago, a group of friends I do crafty girls nights with and I found an idea to make small, marbled ring dishes out of polymer clay on Pinterest. This craft got me thinking … why not make sculpey pottery?

It took some trial and error, but I ended up coming up with something that works using sculpey, a cool whip container and some 4″ diameter and 3-3.5″ diameter oven safe glass storage containers, hot glue, and broken teacups.

The first step was to roll out a sheet of clay to the desired size. Students mashed, twisted, and striped their different colors together and then rolled them out to about 1/2 cm thick. We happened to have acrylic polymer clay rollers, but a rolling pin would work just as well – Just make sure to put a piece of foil or parchment paper over the clay so it doesn’t actually make contact with the rolling pin if you ever want to use it for food again. Next, they cut out a circle by tracing around a template using an xacto knife. We used an empty cool whip container as a template for students who wanted a 4″ diameter bowl, and a 4″ glass container as a template for students who in the end wanted a smaller 3.5″ bowl.

IMG_20190528_150010Once everyone had their flat circle, we placed our chosen glass containers open side down and centered the circle of clay on the base of the container. We then gently guided the sides of the circle  down to form a bowl shape, being careful not to press the clay down too tight (This makes it easier to remove later!), and not to press hard enough to leave fingerprints.

After this, we made a selection of teacup fragments from our stash. We then laid them where we wanted on the surface of our clay bowl shape, and traced around the fragments with an xacto knife, cutting out an empty space into which we could glue the piece once the clay was baked. Some pieces were more curved than others, so this also influenced placement. The holes can be a bit bigger than the piece, because we can fill any gaps with hot glue – You just definitely don’t want the hole to be smaller.

Once the spaces were cut we baked the clay on the oven safe glass containers, still open side down, in the oven per the instructions on the sculpey package (275 degrees for 15 minutes). After letting the hardened clay cool, we were able to use hot glue to fill in our bowl with the teacup pieces. Once the glue has hardened and is painted with metallic gold acrylic, it looks just like the fusing used in traditional pottery!

These make for interesting decorative bowls or catch-alls, and though our process and materials were quite different, it was a fun way to reinforce the history lesson. My hope is that these tiny vessels will sit out somewhere as a reminder for people to love themselves, cracks and all, and remember that no one is ever broken beyond repair.



Alexander Calder – Creative Minds Art History Project

09e5c065d1594c85473cc0f55bc4e082I’m a bit behind on sharing my art history projects from Express Yourself Artshop … This one is from the first 5 weeks of the Fall semester! But, never fear, they will all be posted in due time! I am not really a 3D art person (love looking at it, hate creating it!) but even I enjoyed coming up with this upcycling activity based on Alexander Calder, the inventor of mobiles.

The great thing about this project is you can use scraps of literal junk that you have just sitting around the house (or if you are super cleanly and don’t let junk collect, start saving with this idea in mind 😉 ). We used primarily painted embroidery hoops, shower curtain rings, hardware odds and ends, painted toilet paper rolls, and the cardboard part that is left when you’ve finished a roll of colored duck tape!

Students were instructed to pick out a variety of small, medium, and large items that struck their fancy from the pile of supplies, and then start laying them out flat in front of them on the table so that they could plan the basic composition they wanted. Calder’s big focus was kinetic sculptures, which led to his eventual mobiles. These babies are meant to shift and move as they hang (part of why I couldn’t get very clear pictures … That and the fact that there is NO dead space to use as a backdrop in our art studio!). Once they had a layout they liked, they could start tying their most prominent “anchor” pieces together using fishing line with a dot of hot glue on the knot to secure it. After the main components were attached, they could focus on adding smaller pieces both to achieve the balance and/or movement they wanted and add visual interest.

If you have a spare hanger or anything else that you can hang your mobile on to step back and look at how it’s hanging while you create, this helps a lot. As they held it up, it bobbed and shifted and was a great opportunity to play around with some simple physics, adding different smaller weighted objects to either balance or cause purposeful imbalance to their growing mobile. Glass beads attached by making eye-hooks through them with jewelry wire made great counterweights if a student didn’t want to add anymore major elements to their design, but wanted to adjust how the mobile hung.

I work with adults with disabilities and some have dexterity issues and needed a bit of help from time to time with the knots, but this project is for the most part something that all ages can do relatively independently.  When you are done, you will have a dynamic piece of modern art that you’d never guess was made out of castaways!

Doll Repaints – My Addictive New Hobby!

I first heard of the art of doll repainting when I came upon an article about Tree Change Dolls. An Australian mother, doll lover, and recycling enthusiast had begun repainting discarded dolls found at secondhand shops and giving them a new life. Word got out, and her hobby took off in a bigger way than she ever expected. She primarily works with Bratz dolls, giving them her signature make-unders to make the dolls bare a closer resemblance to the kids that likely play with them.

By the time Bratz dolls came out I was already in 7th grade and getting out of playing with fashion dolls, though I did still covet the collectible, for-display Barbies with elaborate costumes and often retro styling. Still, I always thought Bratz dolls’ over-the-top iridescent makeup and decidedly not vanilla clothing was a lot of fun. These girls were definitely not going to a yacht club or garden party. Dolls for girls do tend to either look like either teens/young adults or babies, with a curious lack of dolls that resemble the age girls that play with fashion dolls usually are, so I can definitely still get behind what this mom is doing. Also, watch the video – she is just having a blast, hoping to make people happy along the way, and her enthusiasm for her craft is contagious :).

I very recently was commissioned by a regular ebay customer and art doll collector to draw an ACEO illustration of one of her Monster High Doll repaints she purchased from another artist. Monster High Dolls by Mattel are another line that came after my childhood, but that I always wished I had been young enough to play with. Their colorful, surreal appearance coupled with the fact that they use a wide variety of facial sculpts (i.e. not just offering the same basic mold in different skin tones and eye colors) attracted me right away. The more I looked up other repaints on ebay and etsy, the more I was convinced I absolutely had to try this myself. I bought a lot of 4 previously loved dolls, and stayed up until after midnight working on the bulk of my first doll, originally a MH Operetta model, completely lost to time.

I used nail polish remover to clear off all the factory paint, and gave her hair a good brushing and a new ponytail. I used a translucent metallic copper paint first to add shading and give her the look of a fantastical creature made of a merging of metal and skin.  I dry brushed more heavily over the side of her body covered in the embossed swirls to emphasize this unique design feature, using a clear matte medium along the edges of the wet paint to blend. I mixed a peachy acrylic with matte medium to add blush to her cheeks, and then used acrylic on her eyes and lips, covering both with a gloss medium to give them a moist, realistic appearance. I used a detail brush to paint her teeny tiny fingernails and toenails. I too love recycling, and used a variety of lace, ribbon, and cotton fabric scraps to craft her gown. The velvety strawberries and leaves are from a lot of vintage millinery florals I’ve acquired, some from ebay, some from antique sales. And thus, The Princess of Strawberries was born!

My style definitely leans more towards the fantasy couture, and this doll is a display-only unlike the creations of the fun mom above. Maybe for one of my others I will make a more every-day version for play, who knows!

My princess is for sale, and you can see her in more detail here.

New Job + Adventures In Upcycling

Many of you who have read my blog before have probably heard me talk about Express Yourself Artshop, an art and wellness program open for adult students of varying abilities, especially those with disabilities. Artshop is one of the programs I have taught with since its beginning a little over 2 years ago. Our Program Coordinator moved out of town last month, and being that Artshop has always been my favorite out of all the programs I teach with, I applied for the position. This week it is official, from now on I will be with Artshop full time. I have a lot of ideas, a ton of brilliant people helping me, and I cannot wait to see how the program grows and evolves. I dare you to watch the video below and be in a bad mood.

Life is funny, and I never ended up actually working “officially” in the field that I went to college for, but am now doing something I never would have imagined. I’m not one for cliches but the old saying “Knowledge is never wasted” certainly rings true, and I see my interior design background creeping in in little ways throughout my current work. In my new DIY Decor class this semester, I’ve been exploring creating classy, elegant and beautiful decorations for the home using cheap, everyday materials. My students and I have combined my two loves; stylish and artistic decor, and recycling, or up-cycling in this case (basically never wasting anything). They have blown me away with their fantastic vision and their own unique style that they bring to the projects. There is a lot going on, and I’m excited to share more with you in the coming weeks and months.

Coasters by Lori : Wood Samples (It pays to have a boyfriend who works at a furniture store ;)) covered in book pages and magazine cutouts accented in metallic acrylic. Felt is applied to the bottom to prevent scratching. Sealed with mod podge aka my lifeblood.

Coasters by Lori : Wood Samples (It pays to have a boyfriend who works at a furniture store ;)) covered in book pages and magazine cutouts, accented in metallic acrylic. Felt is applied to the bottom to prevent scratching. Sealed with mod podge aka my lifeblood.

Salt and Pepper Shakers by Amber : Empty glass spice jars with holes punched in the lids. The tops are painted with enamel and the jars are wrapped with fabric and ribbon accent, sealed, again, with mod podge.

Salt and Pepper Shakers by Amber : Empty glass spice jars with holes punched in the lids. The tops are painted with enamel and the jars are wrapped with fabric and a ribbon accent, sealed, again, with mod podge.

Abstract Wall Art by Lori : Modern art using Sharpie pens and cutouts from transparent file folders

Abstract Wall Art by Lori : Modern art using Sharpie pens and cutouts from transparent file folders

Decorative Terrarium by Colleen : It's amazing what you can do with some fake plants , ribbon, and raffia.

Decorative Terrarium by Colleen : It’s amazing what you can do with an olive jar, some fake plants , ribbon, and raffia.

Decorative Terrarium by Michelle : All you need is an empty salsa jar, some fabric flowers on stems, ribbon to wrap around the lid base, and a little bit of creativity.

Decorative Terrarium by Michelle : All you need is an empty salsa jar, some fabric flowers on stems, ribbon to wrap around the lid base, and a little bit of creativity.

Art and Furniture … It’s That Time of Year Again!

Since I first learned about the opportunity back in 2012, I’ve looked forward to participating in the Midland Area Homes furniture art auction every year. The organization assists in finding safe and affordable housing for low-income families, or those currently at-risk for homelessness or already homeless. I am not the richest person in the world, and I know many people who think if they don’t have dollar bills bulging out of their pockets like Mr. Monopoly, they can’t do anything to help. Anyone can give, because there are more things to donate besides just money. For me, it happens to be time (which I happen to also greatly enjoy spending – bonus!) and some of the extra paint I have lying around from previous projects. For you, it may be something else. Yes, we all have our own problems to deal with, but if we think we have to wait around until our own life is perfect before we are willing reach out and offer help, I have a sinking suspicion that we never will.

This year I’m working on upcycling a donated sofa table that used to have that horrible, 1980s bright orange oak stain. It is now covered in lovely gold, white, and grey retro flowers and since I can’t keep it, I am most definitely planning to smooth talk my boyfriend into letting me refinish his/our? coffee table like this. I really don’t have a definitively “feminine” decor style AT ALL, yet he is still always accusing me of trying to make his stuff *foofy*. I am literally staring at a t-rex skeleton home decor accessory as I type this right now. I am so not foofy.

I adore any opportunity to combine my two deepest loves of art and interior design, and I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing my pieces over the years! Hint hint, if you are desiring a cool design over any boring old piece of furniture you own that’s seen better days, I’m your girl.

2012 Wizard of Oz children's picnic table

2012 Wizard of Oz children’s picnic table

2013 Whimsical Under The Sea  Adirondack chair

2013 Whimsical Under The Sea Adirondack chair

2014 outdoor coffee table accented in graphic diamonds and cameo decoration

2014 outdoor coffee table accented in graphic diamonds and cameo decoration

Upcycled sofa table for this year in golds and greys and retro-fantastic flowers!

Upcycled sofa table for this year in golds and greys and retro-fantastic flowers!

No Canvas, No Problem! – Using Unexpected Materials

I first discovered my love of corrugated cardboard when the movie “The Science of Sleep” came out. If you haven’t watched it, it’s an extremely visually fun movie and you should check it out. If you have, the various imaginary cardboard-based sets depicting the main character’s dream worlds, such as the car chase sequence or the cardboard cityscape, attracted me to corrugated cardboard’s simple, whimsical, DIY charm. I started using it for projects in college not only for the charm itself but for utilitarian reasons. After having to buy so many canvases and large pieces of illustration board for studio assignments, by the time I got around to my own personal projects I simply didn’t want to have to buy another damn thing! It was light and easy to transport for painting outdoors on nice days, and was readily available at no cost.

Cardboard also offers more easy textural options than canvases simply by layering or ripping away at its surface. Tearing away at the cardboard’s outer layer reveals the interesting ribbed texture beneath to be used as a design component. Layering torn edges automatically gives your piece an industrial, time weathered feel like the monochromatic cityscape below. Scraps can even be used to roll, crinkle, and fold 3D elements, such as the rosettes at the bottom of my fish bride piece. There is a story to this one; my roommates and I had 2 feeder goldfish we rescued from the tank at the grocery: Mr. Mustache and Mistress Bouffant. This is why I don’t have pets. Even the death of this tiny, normally dinner to bigger fish, goldfish caused distress, and I decided I needed to immortalize her. I used broken glass as bubbles due to the clear, reflective nature of the pieces. I still remember smashing bottles with a hammer on the front porch of our apartment. A neighbor asked what I was up to, to which my quick answer was, “Our fish just died.” I only realized in retrospect how that must have appeared, me furiously hammering away with that statement as my only explanation. No wonder they were never too chatty with us.

I’ve included some photos of my own experiments as well as some cardboard art by other artists as inspiration. The next time you get a package in the mail and have some extra cardboard laying around, I’d encourage you to give a project like these a try.

RIP Mistress Bouffant, Mr. Mustache will morn your absence. (A side note, the other goldfish really did have a black marking above his lip that looked exactly like a drawn on mustache.)

RIP Mistress Bouffant, Mr. Mustache will morn your absence. (A side note, the other goldfish really did have a black marking above his lip that looked exactly like a drawn on mustache.)

Painting on layered cardboard, using the texture of the corrugation as part of the design.

The flawless, traditional black and white portrait contrasts with a work surface left rough; with dents, tears, and even leftover paint smeared here and there as if the artist was cleaning off their brush.

Valery Koshlyakov – High-rise on Raushskaya Embankment (2006) – Tempera on Cardboard

Retro Barbies, acrylic on cardboard

My retro Barbies, acrylic on cardboard

Textured Painting With Mixed Media (Or, The Upside of Hoarding)

Express Yourself Artshop, the art program I work with focusing on providing art instruction for adults with disabilities, runs mostly on donations. Because of this, I’ve gotten used to brainstorming how to transform materials not commonly used in art into something awesome. Though I appreciate sculpture, my passion definitely lies in creating 2D art. However, 2D doesn’t always have to mean “flat” – and that’s where mixed media comes in. Mixed media literally means “the combined use of 2 or more media”. Many times, it involves assembling multiple non-flat elements to a drawing or painting, working them into the overall composition. Knowing how to add all these extra elements in an effective manner, as well as recognizing when to stop so that the piece doesn’t become a massive junk pile, can be intimidating on the first go. An easy way for an artist who has never worked in mixed media before to dip their toe into the genre is by simply creating texture on their work surface, and then drawing or painting over it as they would were they using a flat canvas. The effect is something far more extraordinary that draws the viewer to come closer and really examine the finished piece, touch it even (if you allow it).

The main component you will need is a bottle of gesso; a white, thick, paste-like paint that can also be used to cover over used canvases. It can be pricey, but lasts a long time. This is the only thing you will need to purchase. Everything else used to create texture can be common household materials. Paper towel, especially if it has a pattern imprinted on it (you can use that!), is great as well as tissue paper. Are you an avocado or citrus fruit enthusiast? You know those net bags they come in at the grocery? Those are simply fantastic. Once you have your materials, lay them out on your canvas and pile on the gesso. It will act as a glue, but takes awhile to dry so don’t hesitate to manipulate, move, crinkle, your materials as you are covering them. After a few coats, you will have a paintable surface. For the octopus painting shown below, I used liquid watercolor. Watercolor is great because it will show darker on the textured areas and lighter on the flat areas, accentuating the visual texture. This next piece I’m trying with the black background I’m doing in acrylic this time. Play around, make some samples on cardboard until you find something you like (old cereal boxes work great to experiment on), and keep on the lookout for interesting textures in your everyday environment – they could come in handy for your next masterpiece!

New textured work, in progress.

New textured work, in progress.

Closeup, texture achieved using a net fruit bag and wrinkled tissue paper.

Closeup, texture achieved using a net fruit bag and wrinkled tissue paper.

Gilded Creatures, 16x20 mixed media - Behold, the wonders of gesso!

Gilded Creatures, 16×20 mixed media, and one of my more popular pieces – Behold, the wonders of gesso!