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…

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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

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.

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!

JenEmmysShoes1

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:

JenEmmysShoesAlteredCouture

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!

JenEmmysShoes2

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 scrapbookers 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”.

Teaching in Tucson

Gearing up for Tucson starting this weekend and my upcoming classes. Here’s a quick round up of what I’m teaching starting Friday Feb. 7th and running through Monday Feb 10th. If you are planning on attending the To Bead True Blue Show, or any of the more than 20 gem and mineral and jewelry shows that take over the city this time every year, please be sure to stop by our booth to take a look at our art samples and new ICE Resin/Art Mechanique and Rue Romantique products just released for 2014!

JCusmanCheerfulCharmsBracel

We’ll be exploring the wondering of Cold Enameling in Tucson making a wrist full of Iced Enamel charms in my colorful boho bangle. Students will learn forging heavy gauge wire, shaping metal, annealing, patina, wirewrapping, cold enameling and filling bezels with ICE Resin. This is a fun piece of jewelry to wear. It always gets attention when I wear my colorful bangles. Not just a project-based class, the techniques can be translated to all types of metalwork.

JCushmanBreakOuotofMoldJewe

Breaking Out of the Bezel is a fun workshop I developed right after I did some piece for my Designer Showcase Spring 2013 for Belle Armoire Jewelry. I love love love casting in resin and I want to show how ICE can be used as a structural elements for layers. I decided a while ago that I wanted my bezels to have form with cast components looking like they are springing free or bursting forth from the confinement of their bezels. I added some quirkiness and humor to the pieces just to make them fun, but these techniques can go from romantic to moody depending on the objects/colors and compositions chosen.

Tucson2013Workshop2Jen

Speaking of sculptural forms, the combination of wire and resin paper is magical. You can make the most stunning, three-dimensional mixed media pieces using these techniques. Students will walk away with multiple pairs of earrings.

JCushman-LayersandDepth

This class Layers and Depth is another one of my faves. It’s advanced resin techniques showing how to build up color and imagery to create focals and pendants that are all original works of art. I’ll also be showing how to mix chain and fibers and how to create connections, components and clasps to pull it all together.

There’s still time to sign up for my workshops, as well as Susan’s and Linda’s and Kristen’s at To Bead True Blue. Hop on over to ICE Resin to take a peek and learn more.