New painting

I think this is done.

on my mind. Acrylic on paper, 69 x 50 inches

I can’t possibly discuss this painting with you, blogosphere, because I’m due at the middle school in thirty minutes, and I’m covered in paint.


Media and Art · Personal Entries

Sea Creatures

We’re headed north today, and there’s no time to post.  I have so much to do.   Gag and bind the children and tie them to the roof of the car, drug the dog….. There’s no end to my travel preparations, is there?

Karen will be caring for The Damn Cat.  Bless her.  We were going to bring the cat north with us because…..well, because I’m insane.  TDC isn’t litter-trained, however, and so we purchased a harness and leash for him, so that he could safely go outside while we traveled north.    It went about as well as you’re imagining, and my only regret is that we didn’t record the fabulousness that was Matt’s already slightly unhinged cat flying completely off his hinges.

When I called Karen to see if she could keep an eye on TDC while we are away, her words were:

“Sure.  I’ll take the cat.”

I took this to mean that she wants to take the cat forever, literally.  She quickly clarified,  insisting that she only meant she would “take” responsibility for caring for TDC while we were gone, but I didn’t hear her because I didn’t want to.  They will be so happy together.

Also, you might notice the new header.  It was a quickie I threw together from this painting, which was a collaborative piece I did with Matt several years ago.  While I worked on a series related to mapping, Matt drew his own maps of Lake Norman, complete with fish and the underwater mines for which the lake is famous.   I cut up those drawings which weren’t precious to him, and collaged them into a painting.  While I’ve had several offers for this painting, I will never, ever sell it.

I love this piece, and it hangs above my fireplace.

Sea Creatures (collaboration with Matthew Stein), acrylic on paper, 30 x 42
Media and Art · Personal Entries

A toe in the pool of prepubescent crazy

We have two weeks of stuff to cover here, so let’s all pipe down and focus, shall we?

We have field trips with insane preteens,  a class mural,  swearing off dating forever and ever until I die and the pixie haircut which accompanied this decision,  and a graduation or two.   Where shall we start?

Although I’ve worked myself up into quite a state thinking about the haircut and the swearing-off dating,  I’ll start with the mural because it gives you something to look at.   Complaining about my bad attitude towards dating has no visual hook.

This year, as I have in previous years, I offered to do a painting with Matt’s class.  The idea is this: I provide all the materials, and guide the kids through the process of creating a large-scale collaborative painting.  I provide the steadying adult voice of reason, and they make all the decisions and do all the work.

After much brainstorming and voting, the kids decided to paint an amusement park scene,  anchoring the painting with a horizon line and a roller coaster, and setting the scene at night.  They would all add their own elements to the painting, and each would also draw themselves on the roller coaster.   They worked together to come up with a strong, cohesive theme, and I was impressed.

Which is why I’m so, so baffled about how we ended up with this:

Click to enlarge this fabulousness: 5th grade Amusement Park, 4 ft x 7.5 ft. Acrylic and watercolor on Arches paper.

An amusement park with an erupting volcano, under attack from nine space ships, three dragons, two bears, and many, many zombies.    I had no idea how much time zombies spend at amusements parks.

I’ve learned some things about fifth-graders:  They’ve dipped a toe in the pool of pubescent crazy.  They like to draw very, very small.  Their collective goal is to out-funny one another.  They don’t do collaborative. They erase each other’s preliminary drawings, and this goes about as well as you’re imagining it does.

1.  This, blogosphere, is Tiger Woods on the moon, in a bikini.  His golf club is floating away, and that’s why he’s shouting, “Nooo!”   “Let’s draw all his girlfriends, too!” Said the fifth-graders. “Nooo,” said Ms. Stein.

2.  This pretty little clock and the things drawn around it are the work of a very sweet autistic boy who joins the class for much of the day.  The kids collectively bossed him about his clock being off-theme.  When he left, they all started drawing clocks.  I urged them to erase their clocks, and they took this to mean that they should erase anyone else’s work that they didn’t like.

3.  Bears!

4. “Honey, what is that?” I asked.   “A volcano,”  she said. OK.  By this point I had realized that artistic coherence was a pipe-dream.

4.5.  “I’m confused about why you’re drawing ice cream cones in the sky.”   “I like drawing ice cream cones.” Later, these became ice cream cone rockets.

5.  An upside-down zombie paratrooper with an ice cream cone instead of a parachute.   This drawing was explained to me at the time, but because fifth-graders all talk at once, all I heard was, “MS. STEIN HE ERASED MY CAN I PAINT NOW ZOMBIE PARACHUTE FAIRY ROLLER COASTER FALLING HAHAHAHAHA BEARS!!!!!”

6.  This family of zombies did not make sure they were securely belted in before the ride started.  Luckily, they are the walking dead and so their fall can’t kill them.

7.  Several things are happening in this part of the picture.

a.  A dragon is heating up some pizza.  The dragon was drawn by child A, and the pizza was drawn by child B.  Child B did not discuss the addition of pizza with child A, and child A was not pleased.  Pizza made a mockery of the dragon.

b. Medusa and Frankenstein are getting married.  I have no idea.


The kids, somehow, came away from all that lovely planning with the message, “Go forth and draw twenty-three different pictures!  Make it as random as you can!”  Amused, shell-shocked, baffled; halfway through the first day I caught Matt’s teacher’s eye.

“Wow,” I said, shaking my head in disbelief.

“I know!”  She said excitedly, “this is the best they’ve worked together all year!

Teachers are not paid nearly enough.




Ring fail and the evils of white gold

I was quite excited about this ring… its beginning stages.   Let’s discuss, and then a word on white gold.

Pleased with the profile of the ruby ring I showed you last week, I wanted to play with that look.  I liked the forward thrust of the angled bezel under the roundness of the ruby cabochon,  and wanted to go further with the tapered bezel/cabochon combo.  How about oversizing it a bit, for a more whimsical look?  Maybe mixing yellow and white gold to make a more contemporary piece?  How about we brush the white gold for a satin finish?

The new piece?  It works in some ways, but not in others.

From the front, I’m feeling the love.  Because I was going for a more modern look, I made the bezel quite heavy, and from straight-on I like the look.   The bezel is in balance with the band, the aquamarine a wide, glowing orb shown to its best advantage.  I wouldn’t say I hit the mark on “whimsical,” but from the front this is a balanced, feminine, clean design.

But viewed from the side…..

Fail, for several reasons.

The band is too slight.   I started with a milled, heavy gauge round wire, and wanted to keep that milled, super-symmetrical look.  However, as often is the case with a new design, there were many restarts.  Solder, sand, hate, unsolder, sand, resolder, sand, hate, unsolder…… What with the sanding and hating the band dwindled away a bit, and it now fails to balance the heavy bezel.

Now, the bezel.   It doesn’t have the clean sharpness needed to read as contemporary; it needs a sharper edge in front, a tighter angle in the taper. Lacking that sharpness, it ends up  heavy and  graceless.  Neither here nor there.

As long as this ring is ONLY seen from dead-front, we’re cool.  Sadly, that means we have an overall fail, because if it doesn’t work in every way?  It doesn’t work.

Were I to continue to play with this idea, I could go in either of two directions.   I could lose the tapered bezel, allowing the stone to sit flush with the bezel. Pretty, simple, clean, feminine.   Or, I could do a redo on the contemporary look.   Sharpening up that bezel, bulking up the band, aiming for what I missed this time.

Now, white gold. This is the first time you’ve seen me work with white gold.  That is because white gold is on my axis of evil, although I understand it has its place in goldsmithing.

There are two problems with white gold.  Well, three, if you count  being evil.  So, three problems: evil, finish, malleability.

1. Evil.

2. Finish.  Many are in love with white gold, but the bright white shine they equate with white gold isn’t really white gold.  It’s rhodium.

14k white gold is 14 parts deep yellow gold, and 10 parts alloy.  That’s a lot of deep rich gold, and because of this, white gold will never be brighter white than a steely, silver color.  White gold, at its whitest, is not as white as silver.  That beautiful bright white, shiny finish seen on white gold pieces in jewelry stores?  That’s a rhodium plating on top of the gold, used to make real white gold more attractive. People who love think they love white gold really love white, shiny rhodium plating.

3.  Malleability.  Remember when we talked about alloying?  Yellow gold is allowed with copper and silver, and the intent is to keep as much gold color as possible while adding a bit of hardness.   In aiming for white gold, however, the goal is to lose the whiteness, and so different alloys are used.  Rat bastard alloys.  Evil alloys.

White gold is usually alloyed with nickel or palladium. Palladium yields a more malleable, grayer 14k white gold.  It can discolor over time, it becomes brittle with repeated heating.  It’s a bastard.   Nickel yields a much whiter (the band, above, is 14k nickel-alloyed gold), much, much less malleable white gold.  Much less malleable.  Like, don’t even bother trying to forge it into pretty shapes and curves.

White gold is also less stable than its yellow counterpart.  Heated to melting, yellow will cool to roughly the same work properties it started with.  Melted, white gold will cool to a grainy, brittle mess which needs to be returned to the refiner for chemical processing.

I’m often asked to make my designs in white gold.  White gold, brittle and less ductile, does not take well to the forging techniques I use.  I don’t start with milled  stock, and this is what gives my work its hand-wrought feel.  My pieces are forged; I don’t want the look of machine-milled metal, and with white gold it is best to start with machine-milled stock and go with simple fabrication.

However, I do think white gold has an interesting, steely look, and I can make peace with it if I can work milled bits of it into my designs.  That’s what you see above.  An attempt at making peace with white gold; of having an inclusive studio.   I’m a jewelry diplomat.  I’m like the Ghandi of jewelry, the MLK of bling.

I know.


Monsterbling Contest!

It’s time for the Monsterbling Contest! Yay!

The lowdown: Submit an image of a monster between November 5 and November 15, and may the best monster win.

Draw it, collage it, paint it, Photoshop it.   Sew it, build it, sculpt it and take a picture of it!   Use whatever medium you like, and send me an image of it when you’re done.  Keep it simple or make it a masterpiece; sophistication is not necessary, and I hope to see work of all levels of expertise.  Scary monsters, funny monsters, sad monsters…..all are welcome.

The prize?  A 14k gold, handforged sapphire necklace: the Roman Sapphire Necklace.

It’ll be like the necklace below, but you know, with a sapphire.  A pretty blue sapphire. It will be so pretty you will cry, and so I will send the winner some tissues with their pendant.  I’m still waiting for that stinker to come in, but I will have the necklace done by the time the contest begins, and I will post it then.  That’s why I’m not taking entries until November 5th: because the rat bastard sapphire hasn’t come in yet.

L: pretty sapphire which is taking its sweet time getting here. R: The Roman Pendant

Monsterbling Contest Rules

1. Email entries to:   Entries will be accepted from November 5, 2009 through November 15, 2009.   I will announce the winner on November 18, 2009.

2. There is no limit to how many monsters you may enter into the contest.

3.  All work must be original and your own.

4.  All ages are invited to enter, but if you are under the age of 18 you may not enter without the permission of your parent or guardian.

5.  The winning entry is decided at my personal discretion with the help of friends and a bottle of Chianti.  The winner is final.

6.  Let’s keep our monsters PG-Rated, ok?

7.  The prize necklace is not for resale.

8. Entries must be in JPEG format or included in the body of the email.  Please include your full name, and the email address where I may reach you to confirm shipping information should you win. If you are unable to be reached within 3 days of winning, you forfeit your win. Your last name and email will be kept private, and this information will neither be shared nor used for solicitation purposes.

9.  Images may be posted on this blog or on Vakadesign’s Flickr page, and by entering your image into the contest you give Vakadesign permission to make public your monster image in this manner.

10.  By submitting an entry to the Monsterbling Contest, you agree to these rules and understand the spirit of this fun, friendly competition. You will not hold me responsible if you lose this give-away,  or appeal for a new decision.  This is a give-away everyone, so let’s not get all hard-core.  If I am asked to clarify any of these rules, I will do so on the Monsterbling Contest page of the blog.

Monster questions, anyone?