I’m a Sticky U graduate

StickyU1

I love good marketing. Seriously, I luurrrvvvvvveeeee it. Because I do the marketing for ICE Resin with my business partner Susan Lenart Kazmer, I’m always studying companies that manage to capture my attention. It’s not an easy thing to do these days — be heard and break out from the din when information is coming at us 24/7. I’ve found that companies that do stand out are doing something clever to express their vision.

Good marketing, in my humble opinion, is like making a good roux. You take the essential elements, add them together in the correct order and right timing, give it your proper care and attention (don’t walk away from the stove for goodness sakes!) and ultimately create something so simple and delicious that your customers line up for a taste.

Stay with me here. I’m going to jump from food to glue.

American Tombow Inc. recently captured my attention. Their social media specialist found my blog and sent me an email. As someone who’s involved in the crafts industry, you bet I know Tombow. I have dozens of their fab tape runners in my studio and I pull them out every time I need a quick stick. Clean, reliable, refillable and perfectly sticky every time. A staple amongst my adhesives.

However, I admit it, I tend to forget about my glue. I mean, it’s glue, right? Like salt for my roux, my work wouldn’t be the same without it because it’s an absolutely essential flavor. But it’s a connection of one element to another. It’s not something I think about. Just something I keep stocked in my pantry and wouldn’t want to live without.

So imagine my surprise to get an email saying, “Hey Jen, I love your work. We have a brand new thing we’re doing called Sticky U and I’d love for you to be a graduate.” I looked at my computer, did a double take and broke out in a grin. Hand to forehead: What?? Why?? Ok Tombow, you got my attention.

StickyU4

I enrolled in Sticky U. Kasey sent me a welcome letter outlining the steps to take for my diploma, included the honorary university T-shirt and a sample of the new Xtreme permanent adhesive. I’m seriously excited to try it out because it works on paper, wood, fabric, plastic and rubber. A mixed-media artist’s dream. I have until Oct. 15th to complete my homework assignment (a DIY project) and then they’ll share it on Tombow’s social media channels. I even get an exclusive blog button that is only for Sticky U graduates. Good little motivation — like a Gold Star I got on my elementary school papers that says I’m special.

There are a lot of things I like about this campaign:

It’s clever. If Tombow had taken the traditional route, it’s marketing manager would have simply sent me an XTREME tape runner to use along with the obligatory info sheet. I would have used it. I certainly would source it in my magazine articles/blog hops/etc., but I wouldn’t have gotten overly excited.

It’s essential. Tombow folks made me think about glue and remember how important it is to my art. It’s not just glue. It’s the sticky stuff that holds everything together. Why, without Tombow, my collages would be a hot mess!

It’s fun. Without a lot of effort on my part, I get to be one of the company’s inaugural Sticky U graduates. I even get a diploma and a badge to show loyalty to my alma matter. I get bragging rights.

And the best part, in my opinion, it’s just plain out-of-the-box thinking and I like that. I like it a lot.

StickyU3

Stay tuned to see what I make for my Sticky U thesis.

JenSig

 

Collage Class with Crystal Neubauer

Crystal Neubauer, Jen CushmanThe Mixed Media Art Retreat Art Unraveled happens every August in my hometown. I’ve been hanging out at AU for a long time. Not as long as Linda Young has been organizing it, but since I first learned about it in 2005. As an educator myself, I rarely ever get the time to take an art class from the amazing instructors at the retreats I’m at. We’re all too busy working and teaching, usually on the same days! I didn’t teach this year at AU other than a mini class for Iced Enamels. I’ve been looking at the lineup of classes since the schedule came out, secretly wishing I could sneak away for a day to simply fill my own well.

One of the classes that I kept going back to every time I had to look AU up on the Internet for work was Crystal Neubauer’s intuitive Drawing and Mark Making with College. Of course, I know of Crystal as an instructor because she teaches some of the same retreats, but it wasn’t until Seth Apter’s book The Mixed Media Artist; Art Tips, Tricks, Secrets and Dreams came out that I really got to see her work, which is spectacular. There is something about her organic color palette and the way she uses her lines in her composition that gives her work beautiful visual breath and space. I’m drawn to it.

Life is a little sped up busy more than normal right now because Arizona kids go back to school early. AU always hits at back to school time. Work, deadlines, back to school, leaving for Chicago next week to teach at CREATE all made it seem like taking a class was a pipe dream this year. But then, something amazing happened. I managed to finish all my deadline things and I just knew I’d be able to sneak away Wednesday. I literally took the last spot in her workshop at the last-minute (by the way, teachers really dislike this sort of thing because last-minute sign ups can wreak havoc on supplies/kits and one’s overall sense of peace and wellbeing. I’m just sayin’ (wink)).

My workshop with Crystal was exactly what I needed, though not what I expected. I planned to go in with an open heart and mind, to be quiet and just learn her process for art making. I expected my work to be loose and languid. After all, I was a collage and assemblage artist before I started making mixed media jewelry. Easy peasy, right? Nope. Crystal started us with small 4 inch by 4 inch pieces of 100 lb cold press watercolor paper. Since I work small and collage bezels all the time, this should have been slam dunk. For some reason, I just couldn’t loosen up. My first collage was tight with A LOT going on (below). There was no breath, just busy.

Jen Cushman Trptich Detail 4

I felt my shoulders tighten, my fists clench, my belly constrict. This was all ME. Crystal was calm and peaceful and so supportive of everyone. As an instructor, she was nothing of what was going on inside of me. Luckily, I’ve been doing this long enough that I suspected what was happening. I decided to take a break. Walk away. Use the restroom, wander in another classroom for a quick hug and hello to a fellow instructor (NOT when they were demoing of course). I loosened my shoulders, rolled my head back and forth, took deeps breaths and placed my hand on my heart to center myself. Then I walked back into the classroom after a 15-minute cooling off period and calmly sat down at my table.

Jen Cushman College Tryptich detail 2

 

I began again and reminded myself that I was here to learn and enjoy Crystal’s process. Honestly, I was not caring about how my collages looked. I had no problem that if, at the end of the day, I took them home and put them away to get turned into work later. The pressure I was putting on myself was not about the work. It was about being out of my comfort zone and allowing myself to just not know any answers. The odd part is that even when I was stressed, I was happy. Just happy being there and doing something 100% for ME.

Jen Cushman Tryptich 1

In between the exercises Crystal planned for her class — which were FANTASTIC by the way, but that I won’t go into because they are her class and her story to tell — I kept doing collage. By lunchtime, I had a lovely triptych that I didn’t initially intend to go together, but related because my inspiration for all three was a colorful piece of old wallpaper and old magazine ad for trim in the same color family. Always inspired by color, I was happy I had thrown into my bag my watercolor sticks at the last minute so I could give shading to my pieces.

Jen Cushman Good Night Nurse Detail 3

 

Jen Cushman Good Night Nurse Detail 2

After lunch, Crystal gave us an 8×10 sheet of watercolor paper (I let out a sign of relief and a happy dance to get a larger canvas to work with) as we embarked on more mark making exercises and practicing figurative drawing. It felt like coming home. I was back in my comfort zone and my creative juices were flowing. I had a piece of old sheet music in my kit that said Good Night Nurse. This reminds be of my mother-in-law. I built a college around the love story of my in-laws. She is a nurse and he was her patient. The fell deeply in love. Six weeks later married. Nine months later their son (my husband) was born and the love affair continued until his death five years ago. I thought of her sleeping alone after a lifetime of marriage and how melancholy it must be. She floating, dreaming of being in her beloved’s arms. My collage intuitively came out as the story ran in my head like a movie. I love this piece.

Good Night Nurse by Jen Cushman

Over the weekend I went to Target and bought frames for the work I made in Crystal’s class. The small collages did not work visually with the frame I chose, but I liked the bullnose clips on the black cord. I needed to mount the collages on a larger piece of paper. I burned the watercolor paper as I wanted irregular edges, and quickly clipped them up. Take a look at the piece, which is now hanging in my guest bedroom.

JenCushman Collage Tryptich

While I wanted to write a blog post telling everyone how wonderful Crystal is (Take a class from her. She’s worth every penny!) What I really wanted to do was share my day with you. My take away lesson in this is that we must make time for ourselves to do things that make us happy. Life is sometimes so difficult to juggle, but there is no personal growth without a little discomfort. I felt like I grew as a human being as well as an artist last week. I’m grateful, once again, for this journey and for having some tangible reminders of it along the way.

JenSig

Happy Independence Day!

fourth of july inspired necklace with ICE Resin and Craft Attitude

Here’s wishing you a Happy 4th of July. I hope you are getting a long weekend to have some good quality time for family, creating, art, friendship or even just enjoying the warm summer days.

We’ve got people coming to the cabin this weekend, so I’m all ready for a house full of family and friends. I so love days like this; BBQs, mojitos with fresh mint that I’ve grown, homemade potato salad and lots of yummy fresh-picked corn and sweet watermelon.

I’ve been looking forward to our town’s July 4th celebration for weeks. It’s a total small town party! We head down to the community park, spread out blankets, bring our picnic basket and then listen to the band play live music while the kids run around at our feet playing with each other and all the new friends they just met and formed instant bonds with.

Weekends like this I forget all about work. I don’t even think about art or crafting. Deadlines just have to wait. Is it like that for you too? Or are you like some of my fellow artist friends who juggle day jobs and art and use these long weekends to “catch up” on their creative work?

***

Just a quick little note on the necklace above. I recently participated in a blog hop with Craft Attitude and made some fab pendants using their film that I printed on my home ink jet printer in ICE Resin. In case you missed the post, here is the free tutorial. Because I tend to work on multiple bezels at once, I had quite a few finished focals. I finished this one into this patriotic necklace using a vintage World War 2 poster image along with some of our glass glitter, crystal beads and bronze wire. This is the necklace I’ll be wearing for tonight’s festivities.

 

I’m an honorary Stencil Girl today

I’m thrilled to be a Guest Artist today over on the Stencil Girl Products blog. (NOTE: I was originally scheduled for press today but the post was inadvertently published last Wednesday while I was teaching in Miami. Below is the permalink to it though!) I did a little tutorial and made a mixed-media collage piece. I challenged myself to move a little bit outside my comfort zone for this post by working in a more neutral color palette and using a soothing nature themed stencil. I’m pretty happy with the results.

Here’s a quick sneak peek. To read the full post, hop on over to Stencil Girl Talk now.

StencilGirlGuestbeautysneakpeek

 

Miami here I come…

JenJewelryApril2014

I’m off to Miami, Florida to teach a three-day ICE Resin and Iced Enamels Master’s workshop for the South Florida Jewelry Arts Guild May 16-18th . In addition to teaching, I’ll be giving a presentation to the guild the evening of the 15th on the subject of “My Artist’s Life: Art, Family and ICE Resin Juggling Act.” I’ve done a fair amount of public speaking over the years on writing, business and creativity and I always enjoy it. Sure the butterflies hit those few minutes before each talk, but once I get into the groove, the time flies by and it’s always a lot of fun being in the moment.

I’m fairly certain the workshops are full. However, you can always check out the SFJAG website and see if there is a spot left. Last time I spoke to the organizer the two-day resin was full, but there were two spots left in Iced Enamels on Sunday. I really enjoy teaching at guilds because the classes are usually more intimate and folks are really looking to go a little deeper into their work.

I’ve been doing my best to get some studio time to make some new pieces of jewelry to sell at the event. I made 20 new necklace and the same number of earrings. However, I won’t be able to bring that many with me, as it looks like some of the pieces are going out the door to editors before I can get them to my upcoming retreats. I did manage to grab this pic of a bunch of them layered on my vintage dress form. I like the abundance of this photo! I just wish I could keep up that kind of production. (grin).

I’ll be taking a little break from my blog while I’m away. Do be sure to check in this coming weekend as ICE Resin is participating in a blog hop with Faber Castell. Keep an eye on the ICE Queen eZine for more deets. My day to go live is May 16th.

Here’s wishing you a truly Artful day!

 

I love my Wubbers

Jen Cushman wirewrapping and Wubbers jumbo mandrel

We had a lovely weekend at the family cabin in Northern Arizona. The weather wasn’t the best — rain, sleet and even some snow Saturday morning that managed to stick to the ground for about 45 minutes before melting. It put a damper on our normal outdoor activities, but I was secretly thrilled to have a total chill weekend. We spent all of Saturday hanging out in the living room, watching Netflix movies, staying in our fuzzy pajamas and even playing some board games.

Whenever my family settles in to watch a movie, it’s my opportunity to get out a spool of wire and my favorite mandrel pliers. There are about a dozen wire components that I’ve made so many times that I can create them in my sleep! I like to use these metal components as “beads” or other areas of interest to my necklaces. I love to mix up it up with a combination of beads, chain and wirewrapping. I used up the last of my box when I made the samples for my workshops at CREATE this year and it was more than time to replenish my stash.

I have a tray — the kind used to bring breakfast in bed — that I place my Wubbers pliers on. I have the jumbo round, the medium and the small round ones. I also have my wire cutters, and then the Classic round nose and chain nose pliers. Next I have spools of 14 gauge round copper, bronze and sterling silver. This weekend, I forgot my sterling silver so I used 16 gauge nickel wire. (It’s much harder to work with so I tend to not use this wire very often. Though I do love that it’s a white wire and very cost-effective to work with). I put all my tools and wire on my tray to the right of me and then sit cross-legged on the sofa, wrapping the entire time the movie is playing. I know it seems a tad crazy, but it’s really an effective way to spend time with my family and knock out some work too.

At events, my students will ask me if I really love my Wubbers, or if there are any other brands of pliers that I use. Truthfully, I’ve bought every kind of jewelry pliers imaginable over the years and have used them (you can see my well-used pliers in my book Making Metal Jewelry because I had yet to discover Wubbers when I was writing it). I used to think pliers were pliers. Then I met Patti Bullard, the Founder and President of Wubbers, over two years ago at a jewelry making retreat. She gave me a pair to try, and that’s how I became a fan. I keep my other brands for workshops for students to use, but for my work I’m pretty faithful. I honestly can’t live without my round mandrel pliers, particularly the medium size. They make perfect French ear wires every time. They also make great bails and clasps.

LinksClaspsJenCushman

You can definitely make loops using found “mandrels” from around the house. The barrel of a Sharpie marker and pens work great when you’re learning. You can also cut dowel rods to fit in your hand. I’m not advocating everyone run out and buy high end tools when you’re first learning the trade. However, I will tell you that your hands are your best and most important tools. When you begin to make jewelry as a part-time hobby and sell your work, remember the investment in good tools is worth it’s weight in gold for your health and safety, as well as the time you save while creating. I know this pile of wirewrapped components in the top picture  looks like days worth of time. Actually, I made them (and more not shown in the pic) during two movies. That’s what I mean by time savings with good tools.

After making the wire components, I work harden the clasps with my hammer and steel bench block. Then I add patina. I use Jax Brown for copper, bronze and brass and Jax Black for nickel. For sterling silver, I use Liver of Sulphur and I prefer to buy it in the extended life gel now rather than the hard chunks. After patination, I put them into the tumbler for additional work hardening and polishing for about 4 hours. Then, I can finally add them to my jewelry. It does take some time to create these, but they make me happy.

Here’s a few pics of the finished patinated and tumbled copper and brass components. They look fantastic and quite a bit different from the top picture when they were still in phase 1 of creation.

WireworkedcomponentsJenCushman

Here’s wishing you a truly Artful week!

 

Hopping down the trail necklace

JenCushmanBunnynecklace

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