Hopping down the trail necklace

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Happy Easter weekend everyone! Since Spring is in the air, I thought it would be fun to make a brightly colored hopping bunny necklace using pieces and parts I have lying around my studio along with Iced Enamels.

Like everyone who makes jewelry, I have odds and ends of things I’ve picked up at bead shows throughout the years. When I was rummaging around in my charms, my fingers found this sweet little rabbit. I had originally planned to drill though him so I could make a pendant dangle, but I just never got around to it. A quick hunt in my brass box yielded this red brass medallion.

I knew I wanted cover the brass with Raspberry and Ivory Iced Enamels and then add some fun “grass” of our new Art Mechanique German Glass Glitter colors (coming next month) under his paws. I Cold Enameled the medallion and let the metal cool. Then I mixed up some ICE Resin and took out my trusty disposable paintbrush and brushed on a thin sealer coat to seal the Iced Enamels. ICE also provided the perfect amount of “glue” to hold the glitter I sprinkled on the bottom. I painted a dab of resin to the back of the charm and placed the bunny right on to the medallion. Resin as an attachment creates a strong, long-lasting bond.

After the piece was dry I took one of my fab crystal drops from Connie Crystal and wired it up organic briolette style and attached to the bottom of the charm with a jump ring. Lovely pink and bronze ribbons added more color and completed the necklace.

My daughter has a brand new Easter dress to wear. Me? I’m trilled with my new festive Cold Enameled necklace.

Just a little side note: Iced Enamels are amazing! They work on every type of substrate. How many tired old charms do you have in your studio? Think about giving them a Spring makeover with some quick Cold Enameling.

Jen Cushman Bunny Necklace Full

An Artist’s Heart

 

Coral heart rock my son found and gave to me

I’ve been exploring this idea in my studio the past few weeks; The Artist’s Heart is markedly different from the hearts of others. This is not a judgment call. I’m not saying in any way that artists’ hearts are better (or worse) than people who are say, doctors or lawyers or accountants. I’m simply saying, in a great big sweeping generalization, is that artists tend to hold their hearts as their emotional centers — looking at them as the genesis of their genius. There is no doubt by anyone who creates, or appreciates the arts, that art definitely comes from the heart. For me, the best work is not always the most technically perfect. I’m drawn to imagery and ideas that capture an emotion, an intangible feeling – or a tumbling of feelings - that takes me on a journey.

I have found that artists, again in general, are more sensitive than non-artists. More in touch with their emotions — more vulnerable. I  have come to believe it’s a genetically coded to see and feel the world differently than left brainers. I know that I grew up feeling different from the other kids. Silly things kids do, like stepping on an already wounded butterfly or making fun of someone who was nerdy or chubby or gay, would upset me so badly that I would come home from school and cry. I never just sat and cried. I worked out these emotions with my paints and crayons; I cried quietly as I drew. Even my childhood drawings were different because at a young age I put my heart into hands.

I know I’ve professed this about a zillion times, but  the heart shape is a personal Talisman. I see them everywhere; clouds, a leaf, rocks, cracks in the sidewalk, pieces of shell. I’ve been looking for a new shape, experimenting with hexagons and shields. I’m excited by the triangle, but it just doesn’t have anywhere near the comfort vibe for me that my faithful hearts give. While it still has the pointy bottom, there is something about the softly rounded humps on a heart that continue to inspire.

Original coral heart (top) along with an already cast piece in ICE Resin that's just waiting for surface application of color (left) and a finished pendant ready to be made into a necklace (right).

Original coral heart (top) along with an already cast piece in ICE Resin that’s just waiting for surface application of color (left) and a finished pendant ready to be made into a necklace (right).

I had a particularly rough week recently. Personal issues surrounding my aging parents and trying my best to take care of their needs despite a huge weight on my heart that feels and knows my options have narrowed. To counter balance the sadness, I went into my studio and found my small collection of heart rocks and crystals. My husband and children collect heart-shaped rocks and give them to me as love tokens. I save these as Talismans.

During Spring Break this year we took a Disney cruise. An offshore adventure at a beach in the Grand Caymens yielded the most amazing natural treasures. Gorgeous white coral and shells. My son found a piece of white coral in the shape of an asymmetrical heart with a natural vertical fissure in it. I tucked it into my bag, counting the moments I could get into my studio so I could mold and cast it. When we returned home, before I even unpacked our suitcases, I went immediately into my studio with my new treasure. I have no problem these days of waiting for my resin to dry, but not this time. I dreamt of the piece when I went to bed that night and woke up with no other thoughts on my mind but finishing it. I knew I needed copper to accentuate the red of the piece and a few rivets for more texture.

My original inspiration and the finished necklace.

My original inspiration and the finished necklace.

This little heart rock my son found and gave to me on our trip is now my literal touchstone. On days when I know I need a little extra positive energy, I either wear my necklace Talisman or slip the coral heart into my pocket. My plan is to cast at least 2 dozen of these rocks and turn them into necklaces this year. I know it’s not a perfect, smooth heart by any means, but I think my rock as a Talisman will intrigue others. For now, I cannot think of a better representation of my Artist Heart.

2014 Workshops

I just now finished updating my website listing my 2014 workshops. I’m thrilled to be traversing the country to show all the amazing techniques and art making that can be done with ICE Resin, Iced Enamels, bezels, metal sheet, wire and a handful of good tools to make the magic happen. I’ll be on the West Coast, Pacific Northwest, Florida and the two times in the Midwest this year. I’m also thrilled to be teaching 3 of the four CREATE Mixed Media Art Retreats this year, including two new locations Dallas, Texas and Seattle, Washington.

For those of you who ALWAYS attend the fabulous Bead and Button Show in Milwaukee every year, I have some brand new workshops for this event as well. I’m teaching how innovative your jewelry can look when you make your focals from wire, resin and paper. These pieces seem so delicate that people often ask if they hold up with wear. Heck yes! This is a playful workshop where students will learn to not only create basic shapes with wire, but see how easy it is to hand sculpt dimensional forms. All you need to know is exactly where to bend the wire, and I’ll be the helpful guide! I’ll be talking more about this on my blog and show some other images that I’ve created with wire, resin and paper. Instructors are only allowed to upload one image for the Bead and Button classes so that’s why all you see are the earrings. Trust me, this class has legs!

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There are so many classes to choose from at Bead and Button that it can be a little hard to find the instructors you are looking for. Here is a direct like to my workshops: Cold Enameled Cuff * Cheerful Charms * Layers and Depth * Mix Your Media; Resin, Wire and Paper

For the CREATE retreats, my Links, Clasps, Components and Chain class comes from my students who last year requested that I teach how to finish off their beautiful resin pendants with some of my organic wireworking techniques. I’m truly psyched to teach this workshop because, honestly, twisting and bending wire into components feels like play to me and not work. It’s so meditative once you get into the rhythm of wirewrapping that I often sit cross legged on my sofa with a small piece of wood on my lap for a table top, my Wubbers pliers, snips and a roll of wire while I watch a movie with my family. I make a pile of components and then finish them off later in my studio with my hammer and steel bench block to give clasps, especially, a bit of work hardening or a little bit of torch work where I want to draw a bead. Take a look at the PR Interweave put out this week announcing that registration of Chicago is now open. Love the honor of being among this particular company of artists — Jane LaFazio, Helen Schafer Garcia and my dearest Kari McKnight Holbrook.

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This is just a little taste. To learn more, head on over to my website and click on the Workshops page. You can scan the different venues. Remember, sign ups for Milwaukee and Chicago are going on right now. Space is limited!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m gonna put on my, my, my boogie shoes

Remember last summer when ICE Resin and Susan Lenart Kamer participated in a celebrity gifting suite the Saturday before the 2013 Primetime Emmys? No worries if you don’t remember. I told you all about how the question of what to wear to the event came up almost immediately. My answer was to alter a pair of Steve Madden wedge shoes using Iced Enamels and ICE Resin — of course! — so I could be fashion forward and still comfortable at the same time. I think I showed a sneak peek of the shoes and then never got around to a full reveal. My bad!

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A little brag here, but my shoes really did turn out fab! All of the art techniques I had in my head translated beautifully to the heels. Iced Enamels worked like a dream as did my cute little heart bezel embellishments at the peekaboo toe cutout. I wore these shoes for the full 8 hours of the event. I even loved them so much that I wore them to a friend’s wedding a couple of weekends later. My Cold Enameled shoes have not chipped, or cracked or needed any repair at all. I think that’s pretty amazing.

Thrilled with the outcome, I sent an email to my favorite editor at Stampington & Co. Cynthia Levens in not only the editor of Belle Armoire Jewelry, but she also handles Belle Armoire and Altered Couture magazines (whew!) pitching an article on my Cold Enameled shoes. She liked the idea, so I sent them off to Southern California. They made it through art selection and I was asked to do a write up on them. Most magazines are working six to eight months ahead. That means the issue of Altered Couture with my shoes is just now available for pre-order. I received the Creative Impulse newsletter this morning and, viola! a picture of the spread is part of the issue’s sneak peek:

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Take a look at the entire sneak peak of the upcoming Summer 2014 issue. That altered denim skirt is so stinking cute. I want to make one…if only I could sew.

Since I never did do a full reveal of my shoes on my blog, here are some pics of them that I took. The magazine article teaches you exactly how to achieve the same look. And remember, you can Cold Enamel canvas sneakers just as easily as you can do high heels! Come on and join me. Let’s make some fun and festive boogie shoes!

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My Talisman Word for 2014

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New Year’s resolutions are just too hard to keep. Like most people, my good intentions the first week of January quickly go out the window long before Valentine’s Day. So when I saw a group of scrapbooker start word of the year projects a while back I, too, decided to skip the whole resolution idea and instead focus on a power word for myself for the year. Being a wordsmith, I responded well to this idea and have incorporated it into my life for past five years now.

Picking my power word is a process of reflection that usually happens the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I tend to go over the big events of the past year in my mind’s eye. I think about all the things I’m truly grateful for and send this love and gratitude into the Universe. I also think about what I’d like to accomplish in the next year and write down a list of goals in one of my art journals. Then I pick a word that helps me set my intention for the year. A word that sums up what I hope to accomplish on an individual level and also in my career. For 2013 my word was “Focus.” As you know, there’s a lot going on right now with ICE Resin. My word was appropriate because last year was another huge building block year for our company.

Jen Cushman Talisman necklace

I thought really long and hard about my word for 2014. I thought about the things I love in my life, the challenges I’d like to address and what I want to draw more to me. I’ve been working so much that I really miss spending time with friends and family. My girlfriends have been patient the past couple of years as I’ve been running too hard and fast to get together. I want to make more time for personal connections and real intimacy with the people. On a business level, I’d like to start working a bit more with other likeminded companies and other artists. Being asked to participate in Seth Apter’s book last year was really enjoyable because it made me feel part of a community rather than always working along in my studio/home office. What I want to draw to me in 2014 is to once again feel this strong sense of community the mixed-media art world offers. My word for 2014 is “Collaborate“.

To that end, I made a necklace using ICE Resin, Iced Enamels, our fab Art Mechanique Hobnail Oval. Since hearts are still a huge symbol in my life, I hand-formed a Paperclay heart and painted it with acrylic paints. That gorgeous texture you see was made by adding delicious Relique German Silver on the surface and then a coat of ICE Resin for permanent color.

I hope you read more about our Talisman project over on the ICE Queen blog. There you will learn about the project, who is participating and how you can get involved if you wish. I’m truly hoping this will resonate with you as an artist and that you take the time to make your own power necklace this year. After all, it would be an awesome thing for us to collaborate on!

Here's a selfie of me wearing my new power necklace. Yep, lovin' the red. When it comes to your chakras in the body, red is your base chakra and it represents you family and tribe.

Here’s a selfie of me wearing my new power necklace. Yep, lovin’ the red. When it comes to the body’s  chakras, red is the base chakra and it represents your family and tribe. A great power color and also goes well with my 2014 Talisman word of “Collaborate”.

A great online resource

I’m probably a little slow on the uptake here, but I recently ran across a great online fashion resource in Imogene Lamport’s blog. Be sure to check Inside Out Style; Where Science and Art of Style Collide. I wanted to share with you today one of her awesome graphics that easily points out how to choose a necklace to flatter the neckline of your top. Most artists and fashionistas know the pairing of shapes and colors by instinct, but I thought this was a really handy guide for those on-the-go days when you don’t have time to think or when you’re traveling and need to pre-pair outfits.

As a jewelry artist, I can see using this little style guide in my studio for days when I’m feeling like I’ve made too many of the same shapes and need to step out of my box. Last week, I made a triangle pendant that came out fab. Thanks to this graphic, I’m inspired to break out some of my beautiful beads from Connie Crystal and lots of little ICE Resin charms for a new asymmetrical statement necklace.

Imogene Lamport's Fashion Guide

Goodbyes are always hard

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Some of you may know that’s I’ve been writing a business advice column every issue of Belle Armoire Jewelry for the past three years. I still remember when the invite to write a column came into my email from Cynthia Levens. It was one of those moments where you read something and then pause a moment because the news can’t immediately sink in. I clearly remember reading the email, tilting my head to one side because I wasn’t really sure she was asking what I thought she was (offering me a regular column!) and then looking about my studio to see if there was a hidden camera somewhere. I know it sounds very silly now, but at the time I was sure it was a cruel hoax. How could it be that my most favorite publication in the entire world wanted me to become a columnist?! After jumping up and down in my studio like an idiot with a huge smile on my face, I calmly and professionally wrote this amazing editor back with this very simple reply: “Heck, YES!!!!” (I figured a little enthusiasm and passion wouldn’t hurt me too much).

From that point, I submitted a year’s worth of column ideas to her and also came up with a name for it. I didn’t want something like Business Success, even though that is the gist of what I write about. Instead, I asked Cynthia if I could explore this idea that I had in my head for a long time. I call it Art Chooses You. What it means is that I’ve done enough interviews over the past (mumble mumble) years of writing that I have the firm belief that artists are simply born artists. There is no choice. It’s just part of our DNA and as much a part of us as our eye color or if we are right-handed or lefties.  Cynthia took a leap with me and allowed me to do my thing. She always supported me and she made it so easy and enjoyable to work for her magazine. I have truly loved every moment of writing Art Chooses You.

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This January as I was driving home from CHA, I knew it was time for me to give up my column. As much as I love writing it, so many things have changed for me in the past 3 years. Namely, ICE Resin is growing very rapidly and running my part of the company (marketing/education/sales) is demanding my entire focus and attention. I actually missed my December deadline because I was so eyeball-deep in CHA and Tucson preparations. It was the one and only time Cynthia had to come down on me, and rightly so.

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I care too much about all the Stampington & Co. publications and the personal friends I have made with the editors, director of photography and the manager of the Shoppe at Somerset to let them any of them down. So it was with a heavy heart that I resigned from my column. As I was writing my last one, I began to feel a bit free because I knew I was making the right decision. It’s time for the readers of Belle Armoire Jewelry to have a fresh perspective on business success. It’s time for me to set a few more boundaries on my time. It’s the ebb and flow of life and business, and I’m here to tell you it’s so worth it to listen to the small inner voice deep inside you.

This voice is the whisper of our soul. The whispers of our heart. They will continue to whisper to us until we listen. When we don’t listen, they grow louder until they scream. My decision was at the low, low whisper stage. But I know myself well enough to know that it was time for a change, and that change is good.

I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with all my past columns. Friends have asked me to make them available on my blog. There’s enough good stuff there that I think I’d rather turn them into an ebook. I’m not sure. Stay tuned!