Thursday, October 30, 2008

Artist Profile: Beth Cummings

Paris Photo Necklace

Artist: Beth Cummings
Business Name: Diffraction
Location: Chicago, IL

Website: Diffraction

Ivy Stud Earrings

Beth, how do you describe your work?
I’ve always been a photographer, and one day I had this epiphany that I needed to combine my photography with jewelry in order to create some really bold, modern and graphic pieces. Basically the kind of stuff I like to wear. All the images that appear in my jewelry are my original photographs that I transfer to thick plastic and hand cut, shape and wire. When first creating the line I wanted a name that would reflect the uniqueness of the original photography while still sounding modern and intriguing. Thus, Diffraction was born!

Sliced Earrings

What is your creative process like?
Well this is really a two part question for me. The photography aspect of it happens in chunks, my husband and I will go on roadtrips, trips abroad or sometimes just to our local farmers market and I’ll capture things that inspire me.

New product lines tend to be epiphanies, I’ll be walking down the street and think I HAVE to make nightlights with my photos (coming soon!). I have to keep an ideas journal with me at all times because I really have a horrendous memory. So new products come flipping back through my journal and creating.

Wine Charms

Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
Besides my camera it’d have to be needle nose pliers. They are just indispensable for all sorts of details and wiring. Not terribly exciting, but necessary!

What inspires you to create?
The world around me! I love looking at the details of ordinary objects, up close and personal. Playing with angles and looking at things in a whole new way, which you’ll see in a lot of my pieces. We see so much ugliness in the world through the eyes of the media. I want to give an alternate look, a look of beauty.

Zesty Stud Earrings

What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
Chocolate! Well, that and I have a wonderful support system of family and friends who encourage and believe in me. It’s so helpful to have artistic and crafty people around you who are going through the same things.

What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
Stay true to yourself and your aesthetic. I see so many people trying to follow what’s “hot” and it tends to make for a lot of similar work out there. And don’t sell anything that you are not proud of, ever. You are nothing without your reputation as an artist.

Plumage Earrings

What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
I absolutely love to cook! Having friends over with some good food, fun conversation, and a great bottle of wine. There is no better way to relax.

Roadside America Earrings

What’s your favorite comfort food?
Sushi, sushi, sushi. I’m pretty sure I could eat it just about every day, you know, if it wasn’t so expensive. When my husband and I met he hated sushi. I told him that just wouldn’t work for me. Slowly but surely I’ve gotten him to expand his love of raw fish. It’s been a pet project, and now he loves his tuna and cream cheese rolls. If only I could get him to try some eel!

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Book review: Bead Journey

Bead Journey

The top 26 projects from BeadStyle Around the World special issue, plus eight all-new projects representing five countries and three additional new pieces, provide even more inspiration. Where do you want to go today? Asia and the Pacific Rim, Africa, Europe, the Americas? Take an exciting trip around the globe with Bead Journey!

If you didn’t get to see BeadStyle’s special Around the World issue, you’ll love the projects packed into this booklet. With the large, easy to follow step-out photos that BeadStyle is famous for, there are projects that will take you all over the globe with their materials, color combinations, and style.

I found a project near the back that inspired me to use some of the lovely lampwork glass beads that I bought when we were in Italy. Funny enough, it wasn’t one of the Italian designs, but nonetheless it seemed to speak to me to get out those beads…now!

It’s not exactly what the project shows to make, but isn’t that part of the fun?

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Artist Profile: Phaedra A. Torres

Artist: Phaedra A. Torres
Business name: Lluvia Designs

Location: at a bead show, preferably, but in West Covina, CA when not.

Lluvia Designs

Phaedra, how do you describe your work?
I usually like to say that I specialize in “unwearable” jewelry. Mostly because it’s the easiest way to describe it, and partially because I just like to see people’s reactions to that. When I tell people I make jewelry, I usually add the disclaimer of “but not normal jewelry” because I can see the pictures forming in their heads of the jewelry they think I make. If I don’t steer them away from that image, they usually don’t know what to say when they actually see some of the junky crazy stuff I make. I spare us both the pain.

Lluvia Designs was born because I always liked the name and decided that if I had children, one would be named Lluvia, which means “rain” in Spanish. Well, I decided not to have real and human kids, so the name was adopted by my jewelry.

What is your creative process like?
I sometimes have an idea for a piece of jewelry rattling around in my head, but mostly I just pull out beads and they magically arrange themselves. I’m not that disciplined and very rarely plan and sketch out an idea. I grew up in a loud family and am loud myself, but strangely, when I’m being creative I like silence, so I usually don’t play music. I like working at night while everyone else is sleeping, and I talk to my dog (and myself) about what I’m making.

What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
I really haven’t had any formal training, mostly informal “on the job” training! I’m not a very good student, unable to sit still in jewelry classes for long periods of time, so I’ve mostly learned by myself, and by trial and error.

I remember making jewelry “to sell” and I felt very much under pressure, always wondering if it would sell, would people like it, is it fashionable right now, etc. A little over 4 years ago I took a big risk and quit my comfy, familiar full time job, traded it for a part time job and began making jewelry full time. I knew I had to stand out, so I challenged myself, and I saw my jewelry morph into what it is today. I stopped making jewelry “to sell” and started making jewelry that came naturally from me.

Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
Beads, of course! I use a lot of suede lace, so I’d be hurting without it. If I couldn’t fish through my boxes and boxes of found items, collected over the years or handed over from my mom, I would seriously be hurting…like “I need a margarita” hurting.

What inspires you to create?
I can’t pinpoint what inspires me to create, only that something leads me to my workspace in my garage and holds me captive there for hours on end. I’m very drawn to things I find in the street. I love to look on the side of the road for discarded gems. A simple bottle cap will inspire me and a necklace will be born around it.

I still remember what initially inspired me to make jewelry. When I was about 15 years old, my mom, who makes quilts and other sewn objects, had a booth at a small craft fair – and I was recruited to help her. There was a girl in the booth next to us selling jewelry and my mom bought me two pairs of earrings. After taking them home and inspecting them, I decided I could do it myself. And the rest is history.

What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
The beaded jewelry business can be tough, because there are so many of us out there. I focus on what pleases me. It’s very selfish, I know, but it works.

What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
Challenge yourself. Take a step back, look at your work, does it “wow” you. Are you amazed? Forget about what you think will sell or please the masses, challenge yourself to make something above that, something that takes your breath away, something that you can’t stop looking at, something that you are truly EXCITED about, something that doesn’t let you sleep at night. Use materials that you wouldn’t normally use. Sometimes we buy materials and supplies we’re familiar with and it leads to the same types of designs over and over. It wasn’t until I stepped away from certain items I used over and over again that I was able to really experiment and develop my style.

What takes up the majority of your time besides your art?
I’m lucky that I only work part time right now, it leaves plenty of time to wander the world. I work in my garden, take my dog on hikes and walks, and travel. I took a 3 week trip to the Yucatan with my sisters this past summer. I always read voraciously and I like to grill things.

What’s your favorite comfort food?
I love traditional homemade Mexican food (believe me, it’s not the stuff you’re eating in restaurants!). There’s an Indian place I crave on a regular basis, which requires a drive through L.A. traffic, but so worth it. I’m lucky to be surrounded by so many great Asian restaurants here, so I have my choice of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, etc.

I love my job, my dog, my tortoise, my family, public transportation, and playing with clay.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Book review: Felt, Fabric, and Fiber Jewelry

I was trying to figure out how to explain the way I feel about Sherri Haab, and this write-up on Amazon caught my eye:

Sherri Haab knows jewelry. Sherri Haab knows fiber and fabric. Sherri Haab knows crafting. Is there anything Sherri Haab can’t do? Frankly, no. She’s the Superwoman of crafting books!

That’s it in a nutshell! I have drooled over Sherri’s resin jewelry and her work in metal clay, and now she throws me this curveball by working in soft maleable materials that I just didn’t expect. Some of the pieces in this book are elegant, some are funky and whimsical, but all of them are pure Sherri-creativity!

Sherri covers basic techniques in knotting, embroidery, simple stitching, crochet, and even quilting, all in the quest to come up with original fabric jewelry pieces. This is a beginner book, so if you’ve already got a lot of fabric skills, it may not be challenging enough for you. But if you’re looking forward to adding fabrics and fibers to your repertoire, it may be just the book you were looking for :-)

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Book review: Bead Romantique

From the name of this book, you shouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the designs featured within will appeal to your girly (but not silly), romantic, and feminine side. The pieces that Lisa Kan has designed and shared are lush and elegant, never over-the-top, which was what I feared when I first heard about it! Wrong!! These are gorgeous pieces, but never overstated. From the book’s description:

Inspired by art history, this step-by-step guidebook features 17 designs influenced by the Gothic, Renaissance, Victorian, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco eras reinterpreted in the artist’s distinctive, contemporary style.

This is not a book for beginners, although if you are ambitious enough, by all means give it a shot. The inspiration alone from this book could be the push you need to get you into more challenging work!

Don’t forget to check out The BookShop from time to time for more great bead and jewelry books.

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