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

For the Love of Lariats

heres one of my ice resin lariet necklaces Lariat necklaces are hip and edgy. They never go out of style because they are the ultimate in cool yet casual jewelry. I can just as easily wear one with a little black dress as I can with a white t-shirt and my favorite boyfriend jeans.

Last year, I saw a gorgeous dream catcher made my über talented friend Karen Michel on her Instagram feed. The long, luscious and colorful ribbons inspired me to look at my fiber stash. That made me pull out a box of already collaged ICE Resin bezels and my bin of metal components and cold enameled odds and ends. I spent the most glorious afternoon just tying and wrapping and creating about a dozen lariat necklaces. The more I made, the more excited I became with my creations. It’s crazy how my necklaces look nothing like Karen’s dream catchers but that’s how inspiration works. The spark of an idea, or a thought, or a question leads my brain to leap to another thought and then I’m off building a bridge to a new-for-me idea.

I took some of my favorite pieces and created a workshop called For the Love of Lariats. I’m finally getting a chance to teach it at the upcoming CREATE mixed media art retreats. Chicago in the next few weeks is my first stop for this brand new class, which is is filling up with only a few spots left.

Students will spend a day learning how to add color to metal with Iced Enamels, in addition to making some beautiful ICE Resin bezels. For those who want to try their hand at metalworking, we’ll be cutting, punching, doming and dapping bronze sheet metal. For people who just want to continue adding color to metal and digging deeper into Iced Enamels, I have a lots of premade metal blanks to use as a substrate. Finally, I’ll be teaching how to tie and twist and reinforce fibers to create a strong yet elegant lariat that can be double and triple wrapped or worn long and lean. There is going to be a lot of instruction in this class, but I’ve left ample time for exploration and play. I believe students are going to be surprised with how much completed work they will walk out with at the end of the day, in addition to new ideas to try at home.

When I was teaching earlier this summer at the Charity Wings Art Center, I wore one of my lariats. Jennifer Priest, our Social Media Coordinator, spotted it and suggested we do a little video. Always game for some fun, I stood in the metalworking section of the art center and started talking. It’s a one-take, one-hit wonder. Check it out.

I’m teaching other ICE Resin classes at the CREATE events. If you have a minute, head on over to Interweave’s website to check them out. Registration is still going on now.

JenSig

Blog makeover

Have you ever had this feeling? You know deep in your gut that it’s time to do something but you don’t want to do it? You keep dragging your feet until the whole idea of this thing seems too BIG and overwhelming??? That has been my blog.

If my blog were a woman, she’d be complaining that she was in a rut. Too tired, too wiped out from working and raising kids to even bother doing her hair or putting on a little makeup. She’d tell me that she doesn’t even remember the last time she bought herself a new outfit. And the muffin top! Oy, it’s just gotten worse. Makes her feel like doing nothing at all.

Me? Well, I’d pour her a glass of wine and listen. Just listen. Then, being the good girlfriend that I am, I’d tell her she’s amazing. That life is tough, but you got to keep going. That summer is not the time to do anything new because it’s just too dang hot, but come September she’ll find that sexy mama she once was and let her free. By the end of the evening, we’d both feel better and more relaxed than we had in a while and life would look a little brighter.

So today when I sat down at my computer — feeling all refreshed from my little one-on-one time with my blog last night —  I decided to wipe my desk clean. I turned off my phone. Checked my emails first thing and then shut ‘em down. Like a good haircut, I started with a brand new WordPress theme so I could shake up the rut. Then I pulled up a new page in a photo editing program and started to give her a makeover by creating a new header. After 45 minutes, she was already looking prettier. I kept going, customizing the colors (new outfit) and adding new widgets (accessories).

As a last step to ensure the new energy flow continues, I called my friend Jennifer Priest (also our ICE Resin Social Media guru) on the phone and begged her to give me 10 minutes to get my affiliate links going. You know, mama needs a little bit of secret cash to keep this makeover going. Being the amazing person she is, Jennifer walked me through it.

It’s now the end of the work week and I’m so excited. I feel like I accomplished great things today. My blog is wolf-whistling in my ear. She’s a happy girl. The next step is to ensure I make time for me in my studio to share even more inspiration and tutorials and (fingers crossed!) videos with you. Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me on this journey. I appreciate you more than you can ever know! Feel free to drop me a comment to let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.

Hope you have an incredibly Artful weekend!

JenSig


Printmaking Unleashed with Traci Bautista

Oh boy! This is going to be fun. My dear friend Traci Bautista asked if I’d like to play along with her and some of her peeps for 31 days of printmaking in honor of her brand new book Printmaking Unleashed. You know that, of course, I said YES!

Just today a box of goodies along with a Traci original drawing on it arrived at my doorstep. I knew there would be a copy of her new book inside, but I wasn’t sure what other goodies she stuffed in. Open the boxes along with me:

Click to play this Smilebox collage
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Create your own picture collage

My plan is to start reading the book right after dinner tonight and see what new techniques grab me first. Then out comes the paint supplies and playtime. I’ve loved Traci’s other books (Collage Unleashed and Doodles Unleashed), so I am sure this one is going to go on my shelf as a fav soon enough. My plan is to post WIP (Work in Progress) on my Instagram feed (Find me under Jen Cushman) and Facebook page (Jen Cushman Artist) and update here on the blog as well. Can’t wait to share.

Summer & Sonoran Living

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Just wanted to let you know I was recently invited to return to Sonoran Living with the fab Terri Ouelette. This was my third appearance in the show and it fun to return. I felt pretty comfortable on the set this time around.

I went on to show people how to make simple but pretty bangles using the faux Druzy technique that Susan Lenart Kazmer developed for her book Resin Alchemy. All it takes is a bezel, ICE Resin and some glass glitter.

Take a look at Sonoran Living on ABC 15 in Phoenix to the crafty segment when you get a chance.

I’d love to show you some more behind the scenes shots but I’m on my summer vacation with my family and updating my blog from my phone is not the easiest thing to do.

I hope you are having a terrific summer so far and finding a little time to get your craft on.

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?

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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.

 

My latest Mixed Media Metalsmith column is out

CPSJulyAug14covershot

Looking for a quick and easy summer read? The July/August issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine is on newsstands and in subscribers’ mailboxes now. As many of you may know, I write a column each issue called The Mixed Media Metalsmith where I make a fun project each issue. My editor gave me very few rules — which I LOVE — but asked that metal be one of the mediums each time. It’s been exciting showing how metal can be incorporated into just about any kind of mixed media project imaginable.

CPSMMMJulyAug14

I particularly like this issue’s project. A little journal charm made from a scrap of 24 gauge copper, a page from an old book and some nuts and screws as a cold connection. The inspiration for this came from childhood memories of how I spent my summers. I was a big reader and spent every summer break participating in my local library’s kids summer reading program. Growing up in Phoenix means you have to stay cool. If my nose wasn’t in a book, I was making crafts, swimming at the local high school public pool or going to the dollar movies.

MixedMediaMetalsmithAugustSept14

Take a peek at the completed journal pendant. These make great girlfriend, teacher and thinking of you gifts! Then head on over to your favorite bookseller that carries magazines and pick up some new summer reading. It sure helps to pass the time on those hot days!

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10107-Create-teaching-CHIOn another note: Registration is going on now for my workshops at the CREATE Mixed Media Art Retreats. I’ll be teaching this August in Chicago, September in Dallas and October in Seattle. I have A LOT of new classes this year and I’m so excited to be teaching resin and metalsmithing and mixed media. Be sure to check out my classes at CreateMixedMediaArtRetreats.com. Click into the area of the country that most interests you and then click on Instructors. If you look for my name, you’ll see a list of classes I’m teaching. I sure hope to see you there.

Here’s wishing you a truly Artful day! — Jen