Happy Halloween

I hope you enjoy your Spooky day. I’ll be passing out candy and reveling in my little one having the time of her life as she wears her pretty Elsa dress with the flowing snowflake train. Ahhhh, to be young again. Whatever your plans are for this Halloween weekend, I hope it’s full of joyful bliss!

DayoftheDeadJen

To be an observer

Jen Cushman Breaking Out of the Mold Class Sample

I have a fully developed observer side to me. It’s an inherent trait I possess and it’s one of my qualities that made me a good reporter and also serves me now as an artist.

I’m keenly aware of details. How my children are doing when they come home from school each day, what color people are wearing or other outwardly ways they choose to express themselves. I notice body language. I notice facial expressions, like a slight down turned mouth or knitted eyebrows — both which tell me something about what’s going on inside the person. I always make a mental note to myself when teaching to be aware of micro expressions so I can look for clues as to what my students are experiencing and if I can possibly help them through any bumps in the class — emotional or technical. Art is an expression of one’s soul and, sometimes, it’s messy in there!

I also notice shapes and colors and oddities – natural or man made.  I love to see shapes layered on top of each other, like the way leaves on a tree are all similar but still unique and the depth and dimension they have when the sunlight filters through them. While I have never had any formal training in drawing (yet!), I taught myself to sketch by breaking the whole into individual shapes and building from there. It’s the way I look at an art piece. I see the whole and then begin breaking it down to the details. Once I’ve seen every small mark and studied it. I zoom back to the whole picture so I can fully appreciate the work and thought that the artist has put into his or her work.

My husband says my brain never stops. It’s true. Life is just too interesting and there are too many details.

Recognizing this inherent trait has allowed me to hone it over the years. Like a muscle one builds. I want to keep my brain sharp, and I believe that noticing and remembering details is a way to accomplish this. I even do it with my children. Not so much my son any more because he’s not into my “pretending” games that we did when he was younger, but my little one is all for it. When she notices something in the store and says, “Mama, I like that lady’s pink shirt.” I respond with a question that makes her study further. “Do you like it because of the color, or is it the lace detail on the sleeves you like? What else do you see in this store that you like?”

I want her to see that color, shape, form and beauty are everywhere. When she grows up and people ask where she gets her inspiration, I hope she replies “everywhere.” It doesn’t matter if she chooses to be an artist or a teacher or truck driver or an at-home mommy. What I want her to understand is that happiness is found in the details.

I’m sure most of you can relate. Being an observer of life is not a unique trait to anyone who makes art. While it’s always been part of me, I sincerely believe it’s a skill, and a vital one at that if you work in a creative field. Being a good artist, or dancer or musician means doing your craft so well that micro details are executed so seamlessly that the big picture of your work is ultimately flawless. Not perfect, but flawless. Perfection is overrated. A technically perfect piece with no soul can leave one feeling as cold and flat inside as a three-day-old dead fish.

If this is a new concept for you, think about it. Try it on for size. On days that might be a bit slower, use the extra moments to flex your observation muscle. Take a new route home from work, try a little harder to notice your coworkers’ expressions. Take a few more minutes to be fully present in whatever mundane task you always perform and notice how expertly you’re executing the details. If you’re not already doing this, it will become second nature if you wish it to be. Soon, you’ll notice the integration of this into your art. Trust me, it’s a very cool thing!

I’m curious. Do you consider yourself an observer? What are your favorite things to notice?

JenSig

 

Mixed media art journal with Tombow XTREME

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I think I told you about Tombow’s Sticky U program where the company contacted various artists and asked them to participate in a new marketing campaign using the Xtreme glue runner. For a quick refresher, here’s the post I wrote a few weeks ago on it.

Well the deadline has come and I’m excited to share my mixed-media art journal on my blog and also over on Tombow’s blog.

A couple weeks ago I was teaching in Dallas, Texas at a CREATE event. One of my workshops was my Art Journal Jewelry one, where we explore collage, color and mark making and then turn them into one-of-a-kind art jewelry. These images were the pages I created throughout the day as I demoed the techniques and each step in the process.

As I was unpacking my instructor’s box and repacking for my next art retreat in Seattle (Oct. 22-26), I came across my class samples. It seemed the perfect art focal as my Sticky University thesis.

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A plain black Moleskein journal became the substrate. I cut down the collage painting on the left of the beautiful Geisha and then attached it quick and easy with the Xtreme glue runner. Wanting to test the company’s marketing information that this new glue is 5x stronger than standard tape runners and will work on everything from wood to acrylic to metal, I cut a strip of vintage measuring tape and glued it down.

Next, I wanted to test the boundaries of this glue with delicate objects so I pulled some beautiful Guinea Hen feathers a student of mine in Dallas gave me and attached them with Xtreme too. The feathers are perfectly adhered and there is zero glue showing through, which is pretty cool if you ask me. I’ve worked with real feathers quite a bit and they are a pain to get right with wet medium.

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One quick tip: When using the tape runner be sure to end the gluing motion with a side swipe. This stuff is so wonderfully sticky that if you just lift it off your substrate, the glue will pull up and you’ll have strings to deal with. A quick side swipe cleanly breaks the sticky film. Here’s a good video from Tombow showing how to use it if you’re interested in seeing more.

So now that I’ve had time to play with the product my conclusion is that the Xtreme really is perfect for mixed-media artists. I give it two thumbs up and will continue to use it in my work and keep it as an adhesive staple in my studio.  Sure, it’s nice to be a Sticky University graduate, but, really this is a product review and what’s most important to you is to know that it’s simple, easy and works.

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Tell me, are you a glue aficionado? What’s you favorite adhesive for your mixed-media work?

JenSig

Sweet Halloween Necklace

Halloween is one of my kids’ favorite times of year. My teenage son is into scary movies (yikes!) and my little one keeps asking me how many days until she gets to wear her Elsa costume from Frozen. I’m going public with a confession right now; I bought my daughter a costume because refashioning a dress seemed like too much work for this non-sewing mama.

People think because I have the crafty gene that means my kids get handmade costumes every year. I have hot glued like a banshee in past years, particularly the year my son was in sixth-grade and saw a DIY costume idea online to dress up as a used Q tip (it involves batting, yellow paint for ear wax and white sweat pants/sweatshirt). This year, however, I can say that I’m using my crafting skills for good and not evil to make a few sweet Halloween necklaces.

Here’s a quick tutorial to make this vintage little girl necklace when you want to be Halloween festive but not too over the top.

Jen Cushman Halloween necklace

Supplies:

Filigree brass stamping (my friend Brenda Sue from B’Sue Boutiques has a lovely collection of stampings and jewelry findings on her website. Here is a similar stamping to what I used.)

Art Mechanique Long Rectangle Hobnail Bezel

Silver German Glass Glitter

Clear Brads

ICE Resin

Brass chain

Vintage Halloween image (The Graphics Fairy has some nice images) As always, please review copyright laws regarding images if you are selling your work. You will want to ensure royalty free or check out a company’s Angel policy.

Directions:

Size and print image using a photo manipulation program. I happen to use Photoshop Elements but there is a great online website called PicMonkey that I use for frames and other quick effects. There are some frightful Halloween features on the site right now. As a matter of fact,  I used the little spider and ghoul images to dress up my photo above.

Copy images onto toner based paper at your local print center.

Cut image to fit inside your bezel. Seal front, back, sides with a paper sealant or white glue and let dry.

Place image inside bezel and add a sprinkle of silver glass glitter

Mix up half a calibrated mixing cup (1/2 ounce) of ICE Resin and then slowly drip mixed resin into bezel. Let dry 8-12 hours.

When your bezel is dry to the touch, use crystal brads to attach it to the filigree brass stamping.

Attach a rhinestone or another spooky charm to the bottom with a jump ring.

Attach pendant to brass chain with a jump ring. Keep the chain long so you can pull over your head and eliminate the need for a clasp. If you want a shorter necklace, attach clasp to chain using jump rings.

Put on a cute top, a pair of orange or black earrings and your new necklace and you are tres festive!

Hope you are having a very Artful week!

JenSig

 

October Cloth Paper Scissors on Newsstands now

2664_Cover_web2_jpg-350x0The newest issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine is available now at your local bookstore and online. My Mixed Media Metalsmith column this time focuses on a project that is decidedly not Fall like, but it is a fun one. I made a Cold Enameled copper bookmark using Iced Enamels, ICE Resin and some stamps and words from an old book. This is a project that is simple to do, fun to make and would make great gifts. Who doesn’t love a book with a brand new bookmark for birthday or holiday prezzies?

I sincerely love writing this column for CPS. I’m also happy to say that new editor Jeannine Stein asked me if I wanted to stay on board for 2015 with my column. You can bet I emailed her back with a very quick YES! And, as far as columns go, stay tuned for a future announcement from me. I’ll be writing a new business advice Q&A for Interweave in a new magazine very soon. I’ve turned in the column, but it’s now in the editing and graphics phase. I’ll post more on my blog when I can.

Here are pics of this issue’s column:

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Here’s wishing you a very Artful day!

JenSig

Craft Your Stash Blog Hop

craftyourstashbookcoverWelcome to the Craft Your Stash book tour. Fellow designer Lisa Fulmer has written a new book to inspire crafters to start using all the goodies and treasures we ALL hoard in our art making spaces. While it’s true some folks have dream studios with perfectly matched curtains, cute painted furniture and lots of unique vintage storage options that make for great vignette photo ops on their Instagram channels, many working artists I know tend to choose function first and then constantly battle the creative chaos that ensues.

This book couldn’t come at a better (or maybe worse) time in my life right now. If you subscribe to my blog, you know I’ve been on the road a lot teaching lately. In between gigs, I’m home for about three weeks, which seems to be just enough to unpack, tackle the publishing deadlines at hand and then pack again for the next event. I’m so blessed my jewelry had been selling really well, but it also means I’m constantly working on new pieces. This all adds up to my dirty little secret; my studio is a hot mess right now. While I’m definitely crafting my stash, the bad news is that I haven’t had time to put things away. Honestly, it’s no big deal but…..since Lisa asked me to participate in her book tour, I had to ‘fess up and show the world my studio. Arghhhhhh……I think I’m starting to hyperventilate.

My friend and fab fellow artist Jennifer Priest is also taking part in Lisa’s book tour. We got to chatting on the phone about the things in her book that resonated with us. We both agreed the concept is awesome and wanted to give Lisa big, giant kudos for making us think about our stuff. Jennifer, being the brilliant social media expert that she is, says to me, “Hey, let’s do a Google Hangout for the hop.” I think I answered something equally brilliant like “OK!”

Take a look at our Craft Your Stash Book Review Google Hangout where we talk different ideas in Lisa’s book that resonated with us.

Want to win a signed copy of Lisa’s book for yourself? Head back to her blog, leave a comment and enter her Rafflecopter giveaway. Be sure to check out all the amazing artists also taking part in the Craft Your Stash book tour.

In addition to Jennifer, be sure to check out Vicki O’Dell (The Creative Goddess) and Craft Critique who are also on today’s schedule.

Mon Petit Coeur workshop

I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be teaching at one of my favorite guilty-pleasure vintage shops in Southern California called Gilding the Lily. Every time I go to the Orange County area, I always find a way to sneak over to this little slice of retail therapy Heaven. Owner Nancy Jamar is a beautiful jeweler herself and, wow, does she have an eye for quality. The vintage beads, the rosary chain, the millenary items, the lace, the trim..swoon…my heart is beating faster just thinking about it!

gildingthelily

I created a brand-new class just for Gilding the Lily and called it Mon Petite Coeur, or My Little Heart necklace. I’ll be teaching how to use ICE Resin with backless bezels and how to train your artistic eye to design for both positive and negative space. The necklace includes three beautiful Rue Romantique by Kristen Robinson bezels, vintage bits and bobbles, one-of-a-kind transparencies, some lovely Connie Crystal beads, as well as gorgeous tattered ribbon and gilded rosary chain found only at Gilding the Lily. Students can easily bring a family photo or a vintage tin type to include in bezel if they wish to personalize it.

I adore the store in Fullerton and the people there so much I wanted to make the class special. It’s a deal at $115 for the day and includes everything you need to make your unique piece of art. This is my last teaching gig of the year and thrilled to finish off 2014 on such a beautiful note.

You can sign up now. Space is limited to 15. I hope you see you there!

JenSig