Tuesday 31 December 2019

Holding Back and Falling Off a Cliff

This Holiday/Christmas/Other break, as well as being a pleasant bit of family time and chilling out time, has been quite useful as regards the space it provided for contemplation and for gaining perspective about creative work. For me anyway.

I don't feel massively renewed and refreshed necessarily, but I do feel that I've gained a bit of insight into my creative process that might help me, 'going forward' as they say.

I have come to realise that I hold things back. This seems to be out of a sense of anxiety.
It appears that I need to have something 'in reserve' to bring out if 'all else fails'. Something that serves, in my mind at least, as a kind of creative insurance policy. A fence between me and the void. . .
It's not the most sensible thing to do, as whatever it is that I have in reserve may not be the killer sure thing I imagine it to be at all. And if it fails then that's my supposed parachute shot full of holes and me making an unpleasantly close and very swift acquaintance with the cold hard ground. . .

It all comes from fear I think, deep down somewhere there is a fear of . . Well, I'm not sure quite what. Not failure as such, maybe fear of finding out that I was delusional all along and really my work is total rubbish ;-) Or that those that have approved of and followed my work will suddenly realise that they were also delusional. . .
(Actually that fear, at various levels of severity,  is quite common amongst artists I have spoken to over the years. Rationality is not us. . .)

This revelation regarding undue and unnecessary retention of creative work came about from a growing and persistent feeling of being blocked, by myself. Not wanting to make something because it wasn't what I felt I 'should be' making. Or not wanting to put something up for sale as 'nobody would like it' or 'it doesn't feel right' or because now is not the time somehow. Though exactly what I think I am waiting for and why is by no means clear.

(Beware of the concept 'should be', it's you imagining an outside observer judging your behaviour and output. No such judgemental outside entity exists and even if it did, you could never accurately predict such an entity's opinions. So don't go there. . . Easily said mind. .)

This led me to notice that I was holding various components back when making pieces, being retentive about some particular found or made object because whatever idea I had at that moment about how to use it might not be the best use for it. It wouldn't be using it to its best advantage. Maybe I would have a better idea at some amorphous and unspecified time in what is generally known as 'The Future'.
Anyone else do this?

It all comes from a place of fear and lack, as if I will never find or make another object as good. As if the supply of interesting and usable objects in the world will run out, or as if inspiration is actually finite.
This mindset is obviously unhelpful, but thankfully, once noticed can be combatted.

In future, I intend to be less uptight about what I make, I shall use that 'precious' component and then move on. I will always have new ideas and find interesting things to mess around with. The world is an abundant place ;-)
And if I am delusional about my work's value to anybody other than me, well so be it. I'll fall off that cliff when I come to it. . .

I think these creative semi-crises are part of the creative process to some extent, and follow the classic bell curve of slow build up, tipping point/revelation and then slow build up again. Despite the psycho drama, work gets made, some of it not bad, I hope ;-)
Happy new Year,
Jon x

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Well, Well. . That Went Well. . .

So after all the hand wringing and anxiety about the showcase thingy, it turned out to be a big success. A bit nuts to be honest, but in a good way ;-) So I shall most likely do another one, but not for a couple of months I don't think. Meanwhile I shall carry on listing a few things on Tuesdays and Thursdays, without expecting much to happen, it being holiday season and all.

As for us, we have no plans for Christmas yet - no idea what to get anybody for presents and no idea what we want them to get us. So no change there ;-) Funny how when you're young, you have a list of wonderful things you desperately want, but when you get older, there really isn't anything much (in anyone's price bracket!) that you want at all. Hence all those 'Gifts' you see everywhere. Things ultimately destined for the back of the cupboard but which at least tick Auntie Emma off the Xmas prezzie list. . . Cynical? Moi?

And of course we have this bleedin election coming up. I shall vote but it will be a waste as 'the other lot' are very safe in this neck of the woods, (whatever a neck of the woods actually is).

It amazes me that with all the headline writers in the world, that nobody has used the phrase 'Brexistential Crisis', not that I have seen anyway. Slackers. I thought of it on day one. God I'm so witty. . . ;-)

Meantime I shall ignore the News and stick to acceptable music radio stations like 6 Music (a UK thing) and occasionally check the BBC World Service, which is a good reminder that there is a World out there full of people with very different concerns to us, but which are just as valid. He said, piously polishing his halo.

Bead and component work wise, just to wind down from the showcase frenzy of a few days ago I have been making a few simple, textured disk beads using one or two of the small, wooden, Indian printing blocks I have accumulated in the last few years.

My simple technique was to squash a small ball of poly clay into one tex block with the flat, reverse side of another one to give me a deeply textured, slightly irregular, disk with a flat back. The inspiration being those old stamped coins from Roman and Saxon times (or before in other parts of the world).

On some of them I pressed the back of a block onto the raised texture to flatten it out slightly and to give it a faint wood grain texture.

After baking, I messed around with alcohol inks, gilder's paste and maybe some discreet sanding and waxing and some rubbing to emphasise the resulting textures. In case you were interested. . .

No domestic drama on the home front since the 'wheelbarrow incident', thankfully. Though the down side of life being relatively uneventful is that it doesn't make for very interesting blog posts. . .

Though, as we appear to be living in 'Interesting Times' right now, uneventful is good.

Until next time, Jon x


Monday 25 November 2019

The Ups and Downs of Retail, A New Venture and The Wife in a Wheelbarrow. .

A bit of a gap between posts again, so sorry about that. I am slowly getting into the habit of blogging again. I heard on the radio that blogging is becoming more popular again, I wouldn't know about that, not exactly having my finger on the pulse of these things these days, but if true I applaud this trend.

Anyway, having been thoroughly spoiled by my work selling really well on Facebook over the last 12 months or so, I have had a couple of evening listing sessions that have been somewhat lacklustre. Not that I actually expect to sell out of my ten or twelve items every time but I must have got used to it at some level because I felt rather bereft when only two or three things sold. Bloody artists fragile ego again ;-)

Well, retail has its ups and downs I'm told.

The worrying part of this for me is that I just signed myself up for a 'Showcase' on the 26th at -


And if levels of interest are as low as the last week it could be a bit of a disappointment.

Distressed Digital Mid Century pus LEDs

The other thing is that it starts at what is a reasonable time for those in the USA but a silly time for me here in the UK. I'm not going to be kicking off my show at flamin midnight, thank you very much. I'll be in bed asleep! So I will list when I get up in the morning, which will be when most of my USA buyers will be in bed asleep. . . Sigh. . . And it finishes at midnight the next day, which is early evening for USA people, and probably the time they start to go online. Moan, groan, whinge. . .

Simple rustic spikes

So not ideal but we'll see what happens. I have made some very nice things to list so if you are around on the 26th Nov any time between 7.30 a.m. UK time (2 or 3 a.m. approx. various USA time zones) until midnight UK time (6 or 7 p.m. various US time zones) check it out.

Another model railway figure piece

Just to add to stress levels, my wife slipped on a bit of tiled floor and hurt her foot badly, she couldn't put weight on it and it started to swell up. As it was Sunday night we decided to wait and hit the A&E dept at the local hospital the next day if it was still bad in the morning. The thing was, she had to get over to her studio, across the yard to use her computer to email an Art group that were expecting her to take a workshop the next day. Obviously it had to be cancelled.

We don't have any crutches lying about the place, so we tried a walking stick, no good, a broom, improvised as a crutch, no good.  . . I was debating trying to give her a piggy back across the yard when we remembered the wheelbarrow ;-)
So I trundled her across the yard. Luckily it was a clean wheelbarrow, and luckily we are not overlooked. . . It did add some levity to a somewhat fraught occasion.
We got to A&E the next day and she had x-rays etc. Nothing broken thank heaven but she needed crutches for a day or two.
I also managed to put my back out helping her get around, but not badly. . Fun times ;-)

Is it a Bird?

Anyway, on a positive note, our pond has been refilling in all the wet weather we have been having. it almost completely dried out in the summer, which was worrying. The geese weren't happy either. So now we have a reason to feel pleased when it rains, and so do the geese ;-)

Digital Mid Century. .

Wish me luck with the showcase, and have a good Thanksgiving all you USA folks.

Jon x

Friday 1 November 2019

Zen Chickens and Polymer Clay Comparisons. . .

A few weeks ago I was running low on Cernit, my go to Poly clay brand, (go to for no other reason than I tried it out and thought it was perfectly Ok so I stayed with it), but there was none to be had from my usual suppliers for some odd reason.

So, undeterred, I bought some Fimo pro instead, as it's well thought of etc and a bit cheaper than Cernit I think. I would check that last statement but can't be bothered. . .

Whatever. . . I thought I would just give you my thoughts on Fimo Pro vs Cernit if you are interested. Well, you are going to get them even if you're not interested. .

Cernit is a very tough and flexible clay, it has a fair amount of give to it and can be used to make quite thin things without becoming too fragile to work with. Fimo Pro is also tough, but has a different feel. It's less flexible, stiffer without actually being brittle.
I would be wary of going too thin with it though perhaps.

The two types of bead I have been making recently have been my 'Turned Look' spikes and 'spindles', and my image transfer tile beads. I am finding that I have to be a bit more careful when using Fimo for my turned beads than I do when using Cernit, due to its less forgiving nature.
I think I will use Cernit for those type of beads going forward.

I found that Fimo Pro was nice to use for image transfer work on flat, tile beads due to it's relative stiffness and tendency to let me produce slightly more refined edges when shaping them. Cernit's more 'chewey' quality made it feel a bit less exact somehow.
A subjective view for sure and not really discernible to the eye I don't think, but that's how it felt when working with it. I will use Fimo Pro for my image trans work in future. Truth to materials and all that ;-)

They both take an image well enough, Fimo perhaps needing a more gentle touch to avoid the image coming away when transferring using the water and rubbing method.
The issue of the image getting sticky while transferring is slightly less of an issue with Fimo than Cernit, (though a mixture of Cernit Trans and regular Cernit takes an image well. The image seems to stick to it better. I must try some Fimo trans sometime).
Fimo produces finer dust when sanded I think, it seems 'dryer' than Cernit. I wear a facemask when sanding whichever brand I am using.

Dunno if this has been of any use to anyone, it's all subjective stuff and your mileage may vary of course. I was surprised that I noticed differences in brands of poly clay, I must have developed an unconscious Cernit bias in technique over the years ;-)

I like both brands and now I have located some more Cernit, I can use them to their particular strengths. I did try some Fimo Soft, but that was pretty horrible, on a par with Sculpey Original in my opinion, only more brittle and 'dusty'. OK for bead cores but not anything that needs to be robust I don't think.

Oh yeah, Zen Chickens. . . No not a new band I discovered or a name for people afraid of particular meditation philosophies, let me elucidate. .

Our 4 chickens have the run of the garden and the orchard and are very tame. They like to gather around our feet if we are sitting on the terrace to eat, like we do in summer quite often. My wife has a habit of giving them her almost empty cereal bowl to finish off. They love this and all tuck in. . .
I noticed that there is one particularly resonant ceramic bowl with a pleasing note to it. When four chickens are pecking at it at random intervals it sounds like one of those 'singing bowls' you can get in those new age shops, as an aid to meditation, only not as soothing ;-)
Anyway, I think I should record it or film it sometime and put it online as a meditation aid ;-) So there you have it, Zen Chickens.

see you next time, Jon x

Monday 14 October 2019

Been a long "Month". . . ;-) The Perrennial Sticky Subject - Pricing - Greed, Guilt and Overthinking

Well, I signed off my last post with the words, 'See you in a month' or something along those lines. Yeah right. . .  ;-)

I kind of lost a bit of enthusiasm and motivation for writing about what I have been doing. I just settled in to making stuff and selling it on Facebook, and repeat. . Things I could have talked about but never felt the urge to do so. I still posted on Instagram, and kept my Etsy shop ticking over but my blog was sidelined.

So, six months later, I am making the effort to post again.

Why? Well. . .

I am overthinking myself into a semi-catatonic state about pricing and the seeming necessity to justify same. And I need to work out what is bothering me and why. . . And I need to bore you with it too.

The trouble is that when I make one of my larger, assemblage style pieces, and feel that said piece is extra pretty damn special I want the price to reflect that, but don't feel I can get away with charging the price I feel like charging. Often I end up not putting the piece up for sale to avoid having to worry about how much to charge etc. . . Then it just sits there looking at me. . . ;-)

It feels like I am literally asking too much of my buyers. It doesn't feel 'right'. That it's somehow mercenary and demeaning to link financial value to my subjective opinion of a piece. I'm an artist, I should be above that worldly commercial stuff ;-)
But then again that is a pretty silly, naive, and unrealistic angle to take on what is a commercial decision. It betrays contradictory emotions about money and creativity. I make stuff in order to sell it, or at least with that possibility very much under consideration, I enjoy the process of selling and get a kick out of making, not huge, but certainly useful amounts of money every week, so why do I feel it is somehow wrong to want to ask for more when I deem it appropriate?

Is it lack of confidence? Because I might be wrong, and the piece in question is actually a load of rubbish and not special at all.
In which case nobody will buy it of course. .

Who do I think I am? Do I have an over inflated idea of what my creative efforts are worth?
Same answer as above.

Not wanting to appear greedy is definitely one reason. But then who is judging?
If something is considered too expensive nobody will buy it. Duh. . .

Another reason is that I seem to closely identify with the commercial consideration of the buyer. After all, they have to sell whatever they make using my work, at a profit, and I worry that they will be left with an expensive piece of jewellery that nobody will buy due to the price they have to charge, which will be all my fault! ;-)
In which event, of course, they will curse my name forever and never buy from me again.

So I feel somehow responsible for other people's actions and decisions, which is also silly, naive and unrealistic. . . though possibly faintly endearing, or just annoying. It annoys me!

So where are we? In a tangled mess, that's where. .

As you will no doubt have worked out ages ago, the obvious course of action this hand wringing and overthinking is pointing to is to shut the heck up, get over myself, charge whatever I feel is right and take the consequences.

Sorted. . .

Thank you for indulging my tortuous mental processes, it's been useful for me anyways ;-)

See you next time, could be sooner than you think. . Less than six months anyway.

Jon x

Saturday 23 March 2019

Spikes Revisited, It's Not The Putting On It's The Wiping Off, More Beads and Happy Accidents

After a few months of working on other things, I had an urge to make some more spikes using my turned look technique. They always sold well so that was another reason to return to them. 

I never quite know what colours I will use until I start painting, and because I use alcohol inks I have the option of layering colours and diffusing them with rubbing alcohol. You can get nice blends this way.

The other cool thing about alcohol inks is that they subtly and not so subtly change colour when diluted. They seem to be dye based and have a sort of base colour that lies under the main colour which is revealed when you paint over it with rubbing alcohol, or a paler ink colour. For instance, some shades of brown revert to a sort of light blue, which seems strange but can look good.

I also find that wiping the ink off gently with a cloth reveals this under/base colour too. It also is a way of softening the hard line that forms where two areas of ink meet. It's fun to experiment with this, and that way learn a bit about the quirks of the medium. You can then use said quirks to your advantage.

I have been messing about with acrylic paints and acrylic inks too. Combining them with alcohol inks and wiping bits off here and there. An idea triggered by what turned out to be a happy accident with some rubbing alcohol ;-)
It's a bit drastic at first but a gentler touch makes the effect a bit more subtle. I'm a bit obsessed with it right now so various distressed looking beads and spikes will no doubt appear in my listings before long. . .
Oh yeah, and I also found a good background to photograph things against. An old roofing slate from the treasure trove of inspiration that lurks behind our shed. . ;-) It makes colour matching in Pshop or equivalent so much easier too, white backgrounds are OK but they are a pig to get right colour wise. So many of my shots against white had a pinky tinged or a bluey tinged background even though the bead colour was pretty accurate.

Thanks for checking out the way my work is heading. More in about a month's time.
Jon x

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Bugs and Birthdays, Image Transfer Revisited Yet Again and Necklace Prevaricating. . .

It seems that Monthly posts will be the way to go for this blog. I intended to keep the posts coming every ten days or so, but that hasn't happened, so monthly it is. I hope. . .

There has been a particularly nasty flu bug going round our part of the UK this year. And although normally I am one of those people who 'Doesn't get ill', it knocked me for six. Admittedly, not for long, It was an intense night of constant coughing and no sleep at all, followed by a day of feeling 50% less ill but very sleep deprived, then a slow recovery over the next two weeks. I am back to about 85% normal but my work, the celebration of my wife's birthday, Valentine's day and my birthday were seriously disrupted. . .

But we did manage to get away for a night on Valentine's day, to this place. . .

And the weather was bright and clear, if a bit chilly

Anyway, back to something approaching normal now, cross fingers.

I have been getting back into making image transfer tile beads using my digital images. Trying to let the images speak for themselves a bit more than I used to. I made some bigger, more confidently patterned beads.

My idea was to sell them as plain tile beads, without bails or frames etc. This wasn't entirely successful. I think buyers like the extra element that a wire frame can add. I admit that I do too.

I tried deliberately not distressing the images, in line with my intention to let them speak for themselves as mentioned above, but I couldn't ignore the fact that my image beads look so cool when they have been knocked about a bit and scratched up, so I gave in to my instinct and gave them the treatment.

The black and white image beads seemed to respond best to this treatment. Especially once attached to a suitable upcycled wire frame.

same as the first image in this post in case you were wondering

I did discover something faintly interesting though. I had a small, bright, abstract, printed image in my image drawer that I thought would make a good tile bead. So I did the usual thing of placing it face down on poly clay, wetting the back and rubbing to transfer the image. it was only then that realised that it was an inkjet print and not a laser one. It was on high quality matt paper so the image stayed crisp and didn't run. Once all the backing paper was rubbed off I was left with a very thin but dull looking layer adhering to the polymer clay. It didn't look very good so I picked at a corner and found the whole layer just peeled off leaving the image on the poly clay. Unfortunately the image left on the poly clay was only about half as bright as the original print, but at least I got a result from inkjet paper, which I didn't think was possible. So image trans from inkjet paper is possible by the wetting and rubbing method, up to a point. As the tile bead looked quite old already I distressed it up a bit, which made it look like a very battered artifact from an alien civilisation or somesuch.

I know, but I did say only 'faintly interesting'. . .

On the necklace front, I made some somewhat more conventional bead ones, using some of my seriously grungy, rustic, crackle glaze effect, ancient look technique beads. I am quite pleased with them, and will probably try them for sale quite soon. Most likely in my own Facebook selling group, once I have created one that is. . .

Until next time. .
Jon x