New Floating (rain) Clouds

Last September, with fall coming on, I designed a new version of my popular Floating Cloud earrings. I guess these should be more more properly named Floating Rain Clouds.  In California seems we can only hope for rain.

The original Floating Clouds were in silver and used commercial beads. Then I made them in white on white translucent polymer. And last fall, a Black on Black with red edges! Very sophisticated. A woman bought a pair last week and they looked great with her black sweater.

And that was the month I took out the desk in my studio in exchange for my Cozy Corner, a wonderful excuse to bring some of my Indian textiles to warm up and soften my fairly stark white studio. Even better is the pleasure of plopping down in the corner to read or visit with a friend.

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Variegated polymer with silver leaf – cuffs and earrings.

varigated-silver leaf cuffs wI keep being drawn to making Skinner Blends. Then adding silver or gold leaf is irresistible! The latest set of bracelets is in warm colors from deep red through orange, sunny yellow to chartreuse. The bracelets are edged in medium soft green or dark fuchsia.

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Each bracelet has a unique design on the interior that only the wearer can appreciate or choose to share with admirers.

Here is one of several different earring designs from the same blend with silver leaf. Some earrings are spirals. Much fun!

photos: thanks to my iPhone 4s.

Beginning life in my new polymer studio

In late February I returned from an inspiring week of polymer clay workshops on the East Coast. I was chomping at the bit to get to work in my newly remodeled, enlarged studio at Art Works Downtown, where I had been in a smaller studio for seventeen years.

As I began my this new phase of my polymer adventure, my greatest surprise was the direction my work took as it didn’t seem to have any direct connection to my week studying with some outstanding polymer artists. It turns out that what the week had given me was the confidence to take risks and be open to new ideas my muse might bring. I suddenly found my self using gold and silver leaf with my polymer. Glitz and glitter! That is something I hadn’t been into before. It almost seemed to be a new reality, a new way to look at the world!

Ideas for new bracelet/cuffs began emerging. I started with a Skinner blend and then ran it through my pasta machine with gold leaf a few times. The final touch was the royal purple extruder-produced edges. This was the first time I had found a use for extruded clay. And it turned out to be only the beginning!

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Early opportunity to study polymer with the best of them

In the first half of February, early in my polymer explorations I was fortunate to be able to participate in a week of polymer workshops in Laurel, Maryland in the middle of snow storms. They call it Cabin Fever for a good reason. Workshops, food and lodging all under the same Holiday Inn roof for a week!

For me the biggest draw was being able to study with Jeffery Lloyd Dever for two days. I was not disappointed. I knew I had chosen the right teacher when Jeffrey began his class by saying he would share his process and as we explored our own direction, he would be happy to answer  general questions but not not tell us what he though was best in our own artistic direction.

As it has turned out, four months later I find I have, in fact gone in my own direction. What I learned from Dever was a number of general techniques which I have found useful in my own work. More importantly, I came away with a sense of confidence about launching into this new material with imagination, following my muse and without fear of making mistakes. Along the way I’ve made many mistakes and, I’d like to think I have learned one thing or another from all of them.

During the week I also had workshops with Jana Roberts Benzon, Marie Segal and Nan Roche. Nan’s workshop explored techniques using an extruder. I left thinking that was something I would not have any use for. The irony is that today I use an extruder often  in my work, but not in the way it was used in the workshop. What I learned there was that you never know when your creative direction will take you to a place where a tool or technique you may have been exposed to in the past will turn out to be perfect for something in an unforeseen future.

Though it is possible to learn a great deal about working with polymer clay on the internet, a benefit that could not be gleaned on the web was studying with and personally getting to know some of the true masters in this polymer arena which is so new to me.

 

Design Inspiration for a Special Wedding Bracelet

Having found my online shop while planning her wedding, Ghazal and I communicated off and on for a few months regarding which earrings she would get for her wedding in Tulum, Mexico. She ended up ordering two pairs. This one and also this one, not being sure exactly which she would want for that special day.

We also had much conversation over how best to send them from the US to Canada. When they arrived, I got this lovely note from her . . .

“I’ve received them! They look just great, thanks! I love the earrings I ordered first. My fiance likes the 2nd look. I guess I’ll have to see what they look like on the day. I will definitly send you a photo.” You can see which pair she wore at the bottom of this post.

Then Ghazal added, “Was just wondering, is there any way you could make a bracelet that would match?” Well, that got my design juices going that very night. By the next day, after several iterations, this is what emerged. And you can see it and another view here in my online shop.

And here is Ghazal, radiant on her wedding day in Tulum, Mexico!

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Jewelry Photography with an iPhone!

www.annbrooks.net-silver Tibetan Butterfly pendant on shell mala necklace

 

 

For several years I’ve used my Canon 40D on a tripod to photograph my jewelry. Recently I’ve been getting lazy and sometimes use the camera in my pocket, my iPhone 4s! Here’s my latest necklace and the photos which I’ve used in my online shops.

Have to confess I’m thrilled with the way this necklace turned out. Loved the design challenge of how to show this gorgeous Tibetan Butterfly pendant off to it’s best. Actually, before I was out of the gem show where I found the pendant, I knew I had to find a shell mala with beads to harmonize with the beautiful old shell cabochon at the center of the butterfly.

Turns out that shell malas are getting a bit rare but I did find one. Unfortunately the one  I found had been stained and covered with a very shinny clear coat. I wanted natural shell – which happily got solved by putting the beads in a tumbler with sand for a few hours.

You can see the necklace description and all the photos I used for it at my online Zibbet shop here.

Further confessions. I still think the jewelry photos I’ve taken with the Canon 40D are better but, hey the Apple 4S works! Take a look around my Zibbet shop and see what you think – the Tibetan Butterfly has the only photographs I did with the iPhone.

For another comparison, on my website, www.annbrooks.net, all photos were taken with the 40D or one of the Canon Digital Rebel series.

At De Young Museum’s 2011 Ethnic Textile Bazaar with jewelry

Ann Brooks with Jeanmarie Nutt at De Young Museum's 2011 Ethnic Textile Bazaar

Ann Brooks and Jeanmarie Nutt (seated left) at the De Young Museum’s 2011 Ethnic Textile Bazaar in San Francisco.

Sunday, for the second year, I participated in the De Young Museum’s Ethnic Textile Bazaar, selling my ethnically inspired jewelry from my World Peace Collection.

Book and fiber artist Jeanmarie Nutt was, again, a great assistant. In the spirit of the day, we both wore Guatemalan hupiles we had purchased in Oaxaca. Mine is an “eagle” style from the village of Chichicastenango with it’s sunburst around the neckline.

Some of my most popular items at  the Bazaar were my Tibetan Buddhist mala earrings, and red vulcanite (vinyl) bracelets from Africa, one with turquoise, Baltic amber and Tibetan mala beads, and another new design, red with black and “silver” Fulani tribe prayer beads from Africa.

You can see more of my jewelry at www.annbrooks.net or in my online zibbet shop.

Creating jewelry to deal with grief

In the early 1990s a dear friend of the family’s passed away. He had been in college with my parents and had known me since I was born. When Bob died at a ripe old age, I was disconsolate!

I had recently given up weaving and, continuing to honor my love of the fiber arts, had just begun creating whimsical brooches, hand knitting hardware store wire!

In the middle of my grief, it occurred to me that it might be eased if I made a brooch to honor my grief and love for Bob.

So “Bob’s Gone Fishing” came into being with his blue eyes and big heart, the rancher in coveralls who loved fishing.

My creativity had eased my grief then and over time it had been forgotten. Yet finding this old photo inspired writing this post and in the doing, more than fifteen years later, I find my grief is not gone. Like picking a forgotten scab, it can still bleed.

. . . a reminder that bleeding and healing are part of life and loving.

[ Please click here to see the archive of my knit wire jewelry. ]

photo: Kate Cameron

1950s North African market influences my jewelry today

The North African souq which was to influence my travels, my photography and my jewelry for years to come. Taken with a Kodak Baby Brownie.

I was a very impressionable teenager in the 1950s, when I first set eyes on a North African souq.

My grandmother and I had been traveling independently in Europe, from Ireland and Scotland, south through England, France and Spain. It was not all that long after World War II and Europe, itself seemed very “different” to this American teenager.

But I was in no way prepared for what I would see across the Straights of Gibraltar in Morocco, in Tangiers. The French were still present there and it was not unusual to see a European woman pushing a stroller on the same sidewalk with an Arab woman, covered from head to toe, with a toddler in hand. And Coca-Cola signs in both French and Arabic — on the same sign! The snake charmer! I found it all quite amazing.

But it was the sight of the the Arabs gathered in a souq, that North African market, that sunk deeply into my psyche. That view would influence where I chose to travel in future decades and even the jewelry I make today, a half century later!

It was my first view of how other people in the world lived that seemed in no way connected to the life I had known growing up in California. It stirred my my curiosity, my passion. I knew I wanted to see, learn more about other people, far away lands.

But then, time out to marry, raise a family and I was pretty tied down for two decades. I did manage to take my own children to Europe in 1973.

The yearning did not go away. Mexico was near and satisfied some of that need. Finally, in 1989 I saw India for the first time, but it was not till 2005 that I was able to return to India and made contacts with a Muslim family in Rajasthan that I would end up doing a photo documentary about their teenage daughter the following year.

That North African souq had a major influence on my current jewelry World Peace Collection ” . . . Creating a vision . . . beads from the world’s cultures and religions coming together in harmony.”

Here’s our next Ornament Magazine ad!

Jewelry of Barbara Cromer, Sharon MacLeod and Ann Brooks in Ornament Magazine

Gotta love teamwork!

Once again three of us, jewelers who met while participating in the forum of an online site where we all had shops, coordinated our efforts to come up with new work that would harmonize well in another, our third Ornament Magazine ad.

The new issue of Ornament will be out in early March. We look forward to seeing where our ad will be placed among the ads of many  jewelers we find very inspirational.

Also in this beautiful magazine will be new features showcaseing some of the top jewelers and other wearable art artists from around the world. The current issue has a feature about North African jewelry.

Additionally, we’ll be checking out reviews of exhibitions in top museums and galleries in the US and Europe.

You can see more of Barbara’s jewelry here, and Sharon’s here. The two necklaces of mine are part of my World Peace Collection and you can view them here and here.