Ok, just a quick announcement. Due to how busy this time of year is because of all the holidays back-to-back, my blog is more or less on vacation until after the New Year. If I have a chance to make a post between now and then I will, but I am uncertain how much time I will have to do so. So, in-case you don’t hear from be before the New Year: Happy Belated Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all of you!
Rack and Ruined is a small business creating one-of-a-kind art and home decor from wood, antlers, and repurposing. And before you tell you more, I have to admit to more than a little bias towards his work, as the owner, Jon Hepworth, happens to be my Dad. Formerly a missionary to Ireland for 13 years, he now works at a saw mill in northern-mid Michigan which gives him access to some really beautiful woods. Due to the uniqueness of the materials, every piece is a one-of-a-kind. At Rack and Ruined, you can find everything from lamps and clocks to baskets and buttons. Whether you’re a hunter, or just love that rustic look, Rack and Ruined is perfect for you!
Rack and Ruined really does have a huge range of product types from larger pieces like lamps, shelves, baskets, canes, and clocks to smaller items like keychains, buttons, ice cream scoops, pizza cutters, and even dog chews! Know what you want, but haven’t been able to find it? Custom orders are certainly a possibility.
Interested in seeing more by Rack and Ruined? Drop by his Facebook page! Be sure to check back later, as new ideas are being explored all the time!
Also, if you happen to be in Michigan around Thanksgiving, Rack and Ruined will be participating in the Chesaning Music Booster Arts & Crafts held in the Chesaning middle-school and high-school the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. (He’ll be in the main room of the middle-school.) Hope you consider dropping by!
The Potter Man Studio is located in East Yorkshire, UK, and is run by ceramics artist Lee Steele. Mr. Steele studied 3D Design at York College of Further & Higher Education (an associate college of the University of York), afterwards he opened his own studio/gallery. His own work is inspired by history. His passion for historical inspiration comes from years of Medieval, Viking, late Roman, and Saxon re-enactment. He also, like many artists, draws inspiration from the natural world.
Another favorite of Mr. Steele, is a texture experimentation inspired by the world of Steampunk and post-industrial landscape. In what he calls is ‘Salvage Ware’, he explores with clay, oxides, and glazes how to create a piece that has the appearance of rust, corrosion, or other form(s) of deterioration or weathering. By giving his work the appearance of age, he also creates the illusion of history and that makes the pieces all the more interesting. I makes you wonder about them, ask questions, and imagine the reality where such a piece could have existed and what its story would be.
Potter Man Studio though is about more than just Mr. Steele’s own work. It’s also about teaching. The Potter Man Studio is open to the public to take classes and workshops. There are workshops are offered for adults, children, as well as families. He even offers workshops for parties, clubs, and societies!
Ok, so since we’re at the ‘back to school’ time of year, I thought I’d post about the arts and art training, etc. Working in the arts business is difficult for many reasons: not just that it’s a luxury business with high competition and takes much longer to establish than other business, but also from the stand point of education beyond just highschool. Do you go for that BFA or MFA degree from an expensive college? Do you take workshops? Teach yourself? This is a question that I found myself struggling with for quite some time.
After graduating highschool, I went to the local community college to get my Associates of Fine Arts degree. I had it all planned, I was going to get my AFA and then transfer somewhere to get my BFA in Jewelry and Metalsmithing and then go on for my MFA. Where, I hadn’t quite figured out, but that was the plan. By the time I finished my AFA, I had tentatively decided on Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI. I went to visit them, see how my credits would transfer, and so on and so forth. Well, it didn’t quite turn out as I had planned. Sure my credits would transfer just fine and they were very impressed with my transcript, but the more I saw, the less I liked them. I was not at all impressed with the BFA level work that I saw (I’d seen much better work at Delta!), and even less impressed with the work coming out of their jewelry program (which could hardly be called a program or even a concentration when they only offered about 3 classes in jewelry work). Talking with the representative from the art department is what sealed my decision as a resounding ‘no.’ I found him utterly stuck-up, and condescending. It was not his attitude towards WMU (trying to make it sound more impressive than it is) that really bothered me; it was his obvious condescension towards my having gone to a community college that turned me off from the school (especially since said community college has a ranking as the 6th best 2-year college in Michigan, and WMU doesn’t even rank in the top 25 for 4-year colleges). [Note to college reps.: insulting potential students because of what school they last attended is a really, really bad way to make an impression.] But this threw a huge monkey wrench in my plans. Where would I go now? Did I really need to get a BFA to work in this field?
While pondering my conundrum (and praying, praying, praying for an answer to it) I made this discovery: there were way to many options for how to go about getting a career in the jewelry industry. I could go for my BFA/MFA, or go to a technical school, or try to find an apprenticeship, or take workshops, or just teach myself. None of these were going to be easy. Degree programs are expensive, and, as I’d learned, for my focus I’d have to go to an actual fine arts college making it even more expensive. But there was another problem with degree programs: sometimes (with jewelry anyway), they put too much emphasis on all that weird art concepts and having your art ‘mean something’ than in the technical aspect, with results that were utterly impractical….. and jewelry was a practical art, it is, literally, half-way between a skilled trade and the fine arts so neither aspect was to be neglected. Unfortunately, with the trade schools (of which there truly are some excellent schools out there!), it swung the other direction. The emphasis is almost all on technique and often very little on design. Why? Because traditionally, you are either a jewelry maker or a jewelry designer, but seldom both unless working independently. Apprenticeships, while still available, are unfortunately dying out, or at least they are in the States, so is an unreliable option. Now, for myself, after much prayer, discussion with my family, and seeking the advice of others in my trade, I chose a route that is not for everyone: teaching myself and taking workshops as needed for specific techniques. This is the slowest route out there, but for me was the best option.
Now, I am not writing all this to tell people to give up on the idea of a college AFA/BFA/MFA degree and go solo with your art education/training. On the contrary, there are some great art schools out there, and, for some, focuses, art school is pretty much the only option. The thing is this: not all forms of art require a degree, and you can always go back for it later if you decide you still want that degree.
Now, especially for those that have gone the same route I have, if (after whatever training route you chose) you find yourself a little stuck in your field and not really getting anywhere career-wise, don’t be afraid to go back to school to increase your skills. I have, in fact I’m doing so right now. After being out of college for 7 years, in February of this year I started school again. This time (via distance learning) with the Gemological Institute of America for my Graduate Gemologist Diploma. I may also go back for a few of their other programs once this one is finished. The point is, just because you chose not go for that degree earlier, or even if you did, does not mean your education needs to end their. If things are going slowly (or perhaps not at all), then maybe it’s time to consider more courses. Not to retrain entirely and abandon your field, but to enhance what you already know and maybe even consider an aspect of that field you hadn’t looked at before. Getting more training or refocusing, is not the same as giving up; it gives you more options to help you better pursue doing what you love.
Advice? Well, if you’re just starting out, some college is never a bad thing. If you know you want to pursue some form of art but not sure what aspect yet, then I’d recommend starting with you local community college. It’s a gentle way to get your feet wet, sample a variety of art classes to see which form you like best, but doesn’t have the ultra-high cost of a 4-year college. Also, should you decide to go further with college training, it gets some of your generic requirements out of the way so you spend less time/money at a more expensive school. Also, do your research. Find out what options you have and all the information about them that you can get. I’d also recommend looking at how others currently working in that field got their training, maybe even join an online community for that artfield and ask around their for advice. I know that helped me. Not every option is suited for everyone, so do your research and find out which training option is best suited to you. Remember, you can always go back for more training later!
Thistledown Botanicals is a small, at-home business on the northern fringe of Lower Michigan’s civilization (also known as Standish, Michigan). Now, I must admit that I have more than a little bias towards Thistledown Botanicals, as the owner of the business happens to be my mother, Holly Hepworth. She makes 100% natural skin care products and cosmetics. Right now, her products range from lip glosses and balms to lotions/lotion bars, sugar scrubs, and body butters; she has even made her own organic sunscreen. However, she is always looking to expand and learn new things. Most recently, she has been bitten by the soap bug…… and badly, there is soap curing EVERYWHERE in the house. She uses a variety of essential oils, fragrance oils, flavoring oils, mica colourants, etc. to make her work not just functional, but smelling and looking beautiful! Some of her soaps are even topped with flowers she dried in her dehydrator.
She is still new to the world of handmade/homemade businesses, and so does not have a website at this time. However, she does have a Facebook page you can visit which is set-up so you can purchase through it via PayPal. Keep checking back to see new products!
Ok, so you are probably getting a bit tired of seeing me changing posting schedules, themes, etc. around, but hopefully this will b the last time. Up until now, I’ve had a themed post for each day of the week (minus Saturday and Sunday), however, as life progresses I’ve been finding it difficult to keep up with that type of posting schedule. So, I’m changing it yet again. Here is how it will work, at least in theory: once a month there will be a ‘featured artist,’ this will (hopefully) guarantee at least some measure of activity each month on the blog; then, as inspiration strikes, other posts will be made when time allows. No more themes (as much as I love them) because they are just to hard to keep up with and the time needed to research them out beforehand is just not there. They were a good starting point for me when first starting this blog, but it’s time for a change. As mentioned before, hopefully, this will be the last time I need to reformat my posting schedule. I don’t want to just abandon the blog, but life is just not allowing me to be as active in posting as I had hoped to be. Oh, and if you have suggestions/recommendations for blog posts you would like to see, topics you’d like discussed, etc. please feel free to let me know!
2LittlePs is based out of Virginia Beach, VA and run by jewelry artist Cathy P. Cathy creates beautiful handcrafted jewelry from a variety of materials. She works with sterling silver, fine silver, and copper and loves to combine these materials with leather, silk, beads, and sea glass. She also works a lot with precious metal clay. There is a lot of whimsy and elegant simplicity in Cathy’s style. No piece is over-fussed, or under-designed.
Cathy is involved with many different charitable organizations and uses her jewelery talents to support and spread awareness for these causes. Among the foundations that 2LittlePs jewelry supports are: Crisis Pregnancy Cneter, Wounded Wear, Autism Up, and an array of cancer foundations.
As a member of The Artisan Group, 2LittleP jewelry has been involved in a number os celebrity gifting events such as the Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes. Her jewelry has also been gifted to the wardrobe stylist’s for a number of shows and been used on TV. These TV shows include: Hart of Dixie and Vampire Diaries.
Whether giving a new use to an old (and possibly broken) object or just creating artwork out of atypical materials, upcycling can be a ton of fun and there are a ton of books out there that can help give you ideas. So, Here’s a list of just a few of the great books out there!
Playing with books: the Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book by Jason Thompson:
This is a really interesting upcycling book. It’s an upcycling book all about upcycling books! The book shows many different techniques including bookbinding, origami, papercrafts, textile, and a number of other techniques and ideas of how to have fun with reusing old books.
Upcycling: Create Beautiful Things from Stuff You Already Have by Danny Seo
This is another really great upcycling book. There’s a wide range of different project ideas all of which use just everyday materials that are easily gotten ahold if if you don’t realdy have them.
Upcycling: 33 Ways To Reuse Old Glass Jars, Mason Jars, & Wine Bottles For Home Decorations & Much More! by Kitty Moore.
Another great upcycling book with really easy crafts!
You know a great place to look for upcycling books? Try your local library. I have a small part-time job at one of my local libraries and I’ve seen hoards of upcycling books in there, not only in the adult non-fiction collection, but also the young-adult/teen and children’s non-fiction collections. We’re also getting new ones all the time. Actually, some of the ones in the children’s non-fiction are especially good. There’s a whole series of them that my library has and there broken up into material themed books, versus the mish-mash of a lot of the regular non-fiction idea books out there. While they are generally more simple, they can sometimes be a great place to start if you are just getting into this kind of craft.
Ok, so, as promised, here is the first post according to my new post schedule! Starting things off, is an announcement for my newest jewelry line: hair jewelry!>
This is the first of many more pieces of hair jewelry to come. It’s a sterling silver and Freshwater Pearl Mobius flower chainmaille and metalsmithing hair fork. Alternatively, if you don’t where hair jewelry, hair forks also work great as shawl/scarf pins. The total length of this hair fork is nearly 3 inches long. For anyone interested, it is available on my website.
I’m extremely happy with how this piece turned out. It’s simple, yet very elegant and not as easy to make as it looks! Hair jewelry is actually pretty tricky to make, and this piece was no exception. When it come to making hair forks, the trickiest part of this kind of hair jewelry is the shaft. Besides making sure you have a good wire gauge/temper, it is very easy to over work the zig-zag kink pattern that helps to keep the hair jewelry in your hair.
No idea when they will be finished, by more designs and styles are on their way! From hair forks, to hair combs, to hair sticks!
Ok, so now that regular life seems to be calming down a bit, I am hoping to be able to get back to the blog soon. However, I think I may have been a bit over ambitious with my original post schedule, so I will likely be revisiting that so as to find something that works better. The problem is this, I’d carefully structured what kinds of posts/artwork would be featured on what days, and while this sounds great in theory, in practice it’s a nightmare. Here is why: 1) some topics/artwork are harder to find posts for than others, 2) I don’t like to post an artist’s work/photos without their prior knowledge and consent and 3) contacting said artists to get consent is sometimes easier said than done, and it can be a while before you hear back, assuming you hear back at all. I know lots of bloggers do not get permission before they post, but I don’t like that. At the very least, it is a courtesy, but it really goes beyond simple courtesy to actual copyright laws. So, I’m going to be ditching my carefully planned post schedule. Here’s the new post schedule that I’m considering: instead of the daily or alternating post schedule I’ve been using, I’m thinking a monthly schedule might work better. Maybe have one major featured post that fits with the old posting themes, and then however many other posts I actually have time to make. That way, I have longer to plan for the posts, hear back from artists, etc.