Wax & Words workshop worked wonders :)

The Wax & Words Workshop was a winner. We all had a great time, and the new Semmes Studio at the Art League worked well as a venue.

As usual, the participants were the stars, pulling out creativity and originality and taking the process their own way with grace and wonder – thanks, y’all!

I’ll let the video speak for itself – if you can’t see the video window, click on the Vimeo link below.

Lyn Belisle Workshop: Wax & Words from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

There will be lots more in the Wax & Words eBook – hopefully by the end of July. What fun!

Working (and RE-working) in a series – five tips!

I lied.

The last time I posted, I said that the Artful Gathering “Southwest Stripe” project using the four elements as inspiration was “totally foolproof”. Actually, nothing is. In this little clip from one of the workshop videos, you can see that sometimes you have to rethink and redo.

Sneak Preview from the Four-Hour Class, Southwestern Stripes: Serapes & Sunsets from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

The point here is that you start to think outside the box about what works and what doesn’t. It’s all about context. Everything you create has merit, truly. You may not think it is successful because it doesn’t do what you wanted it to, but remember to trust the process. Every one of your creations is worthy in itself, even if’s not right for the moment. Perhaps it works as a learning experiment, or perhaps it’s a step to something even better that you intended.

In the video above, you saw that piece that was a “failure” as part of the Four Elements  series, but look what happened later in the video when I took the scissors to it, boldly sliced it into three strips, then collaged the strips over another background that I had put in the “to-be-reworked” pile:

Lyn Belisle, “Three Sisters” 5×7″ Mixed Media Collage

“Three Sisters” (detail)

I titled it “Three Sisters” and I love it as a stand-alone mixed media collage! I turned the strips upside down and changed the order – voila!

SO . . . . . .Here are FIVE TIPS that might help you re-imagine something you’re working on that just isn’t working:

1. Hold the work up to a mirror. This give you a whole new perspective on the composition and may suggest a clue for a new direction.

2. Take a photo of the work with your phone. This visual reduction minimizes the details you’ve been fussing over. Email the photo to yourself and play with it online with PicMonkey or another free photo-editing site.

3.  Take a mat that is smaller than your artwork and move it around on the surface until you find a great spot that really works – crop that section out. Save the rest for your “to be reworked” pile.

4. Put a piece of tissue paper or tracing paper over your work. Does it look better? If so, figure out why and what to do about it. You may want to just collage the tracing paper over the whole thing to soften it, or you may want to paint a translucent glaze on top.

5. Get out the scissors! Don’t be afraid to cut up the work into sections like I did with “Three Sisters”. But fold it first to see if you’re really going to like the sections before you actually do the deed.

Remember, everything you do is worthy because YOU created it and it brought it into existence. You certainly don’t have to save everything, but give “pieces” a chance!

Oh, yeah – and the Southwestern Stripes class is open if you want to join us in the workshop 🙂

 

 

Road trip – and the fantastic Dallas fiber artists

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I’ve spent almost a week in Big D and lived to tell the tale! Last fall,  I was invited to do a presentation for DAFA, the Dallas Area Fiber Artists, and to teach workshops on mixed media to their group.

They decided that they want to learn more about Composition and Collage, so that’s what we did on Saturday. I taught two three-hour workshops, and it was really fun. Each participant was a skilled fiber artist and the way they arranged and embellished their images was fascinating.

Here are some examples:

Nice, right?

On Monday evening for the DAFA monthly meeting, I did a mini-workshop before the presentation. It was called “The Enduring Kimono” and I taught them how to fold small kimonos from paper just to learn how the folds work. These are similar to the large kimonos that I made in the 90’s, only a lot smaller!

If you’d like to give it a try, here are the directions that I gave to the DAFA members to follow along with as we learned to fold the kimono model.

Finally, I did a presentation for the DAFA members called “Shards and Mirrors: Life is just one big mixed media collage.” and I talked about how we can find a small shard of inspiration anywhere, and mirror it through our own creative intuitition into a new work of art.

Eggshells, for example, inspired my fiber art piece, below with the idea of eggs and cocoons. I used silk cocoons on the piece as symbolic elements.

It was a great trip – many thanks to everyone who welcomed me and learned with me. This is an extraordinary group of artists. To learn more about the Dallas Area Fiber Artists, visit their website, here.

 

Exquisite ephemera

My friend Lisa Stamper Meyer had a great studio show and sale yesterday that showcased her recent painting trip to France. She (lucky woman) enjoyed a time of deep artistic exploration during a month-long residency at the Chateau Orquevaux.

Here’s a piece that I purchased from her yesterday. It reflects some of her signature materials and themes, which came into sharp focus during her journey – and everyone loves her ravens:

Mixed media collage, Lisa Stamper Meyer

Lisa is a master in both collecting and using “ephemera,” those wonderful scraps of vintage paper that add intrigue to artwork. Fortunately for her friends, she brought back packages of French papers, letters, and book pages to share with us. Look at some of the cool stuff I got!

There is something about using authentic letters and book pages that somehow makes one’s artwork more precious than using reproductions.

When you are working with ephemera and printed pages, remember that the same guidelines of composition apply – Alignment, Breathing Space, and Thirds.

Here’s a preliminary collage arrangement of some of the pieces that I got from Lisa:

collage composition practice

And here are a couple of tips for YOU that will help when you use ephemera or printed media.

ephemera composition tips

  • If there is a border on the torn paper strip, use it to good advantage by reinforcing the visual border of your work (see on left edge how the black border stops the eye from going off the page).
  • If you have one torn edge and one straight edge, the torn edge should face into the work (see the top edge) – again, this focuses the viewer toward the interior of the composition.
  • When you use a section of text, align it into the center. If it’s aligned away from the center, the viewer will be inclined to turn the composition outward to try and read it, and that will redirect the eye off the page.

Next time Lisa goes to France, I am going too, with four empty suitcases to fill with nifty French ephemera! (I wish) What is it about printed materials foreign languages that is so intriguing?

If you’re interested in materials like this and can’t get to Chateau Orquevaux, there are good sources on Pinterest for vintage French correspondence like this one

There are also design sites like this one that sell more vintage collage and decoupage ephemera that you can shake a glue stick at -:Southern Blackberry Designs

Somehow, though, going to France on a residency program to collect ephemera sounds a little more appealing. Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your experience, your work (and your fantastic ephemera) with us!

Five things that make a really great workshop

All five things were in place yesterday at the San Antonio Art League Studio where seven of us gathered to construct little folding candle screens.

On the practical side, these make wonderful adornments for a table or mantle, and they are perfect gifts.

On the creative side, the process allowed us to experiment with many different techniques. And we got to practice our measuring skills!

Here’s the list of elements that made the workshop great:

  1. Focus and limits – we focused on mixed media collage strips that were 4″x12″ to construct small folding three-dimensional screen for electronic votive lights
  2.  An engaging process with an end in mind – we worked toward the specific construction of an object while paying attention to the process of surface alteration
  3. Limited materials, unlimited possibilities – we began with two methods – one included altered magazine paper with metal leaf, and the other included torn paper images. Each method has hundreds of possibilities and combinations
  4. Generous participants – everyone was willing to share both ideas and materials. When something wasn’t working (e.g., the paper was too wet to cut) we helped each other solve the problem
  5. Reflection and practical anticipation – we celebrated when we saw our candles lighted. Each one was different. We talked about how the process could be improved, expanded, and altered, but agreed that what we had done was absolutely perfect!

When you look at the video, try to see how each of the participants found different solutions to the concept of constructing these folding collage cards. It was indeed a great workshop!

Lyn Belisle Workshop at the San Antonio Art League: Votive Candle Collage from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Here’s a list of the materials we used – very simple (I don’t believe in requiring expensive specialty craft products):

  • 9×12″ construction paper or other medium weight paper
  • Two 4×12″ pieces of decorative paper
  • 4 2.5” square pieces of translucent vellum or translucent rice paper
  • Two ½” bands of contrasting paper for side trim
  • Compass or large round hole punch
  • Craft glue or double-sided tape
  • Stamps, stickers, metallic pens – whatever “de-lights” your heart
  • Small twigs, reeds or sticks (optional)
  • A battery votive tea light
  • and – voila!!

Mary Ann Johnson’s work in progress

I’ll be scheduling more workshops soon, both at the Art League Studio and at my own studio! Stay tuned, and happy fall weather in San Antonio – at last.

 

 

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Indigo paper kimonos: a tribute to Boro

A Vintage indigo-dyed Boro fabric kimono from 20th Century Japan, lovingly patched and preserved

I’ve just finished the three pieces that were inspired by the indigo dyed mulberry paper described in my last post. I had wanted to return to a kimono-like construction, and about halfway through the process of piecing the papers together, I realized that this was much like constructing a vintage indigo Boro kimono.

Boro is a Japanese word meaning “tattered rags” and it’s the term frequently used to describe lovingly patched and repaired cotton bedding and clothing, used much longer than the normal expected life cycle. The beauty of boro fabric is the highly sophisticated sewing and weaving techniques used by the women who made and mended it. The beautiful arrangement of patches and mending stitches was born of necessity and happenstance, and was not planned by the maker.

Boro fabric reminiscent of American patchwork quilting

Here’s the first of my three indigo-dyed mulberry paper “Boro” kimonos, below. Each scrap of hand-dyed paper, each beeswax-coated paper bead, played an integral part in the composition.

You can see some of the construction details in this close-up. There are sticks woven through dyed and waxed images and paper beads hanging down from waxed linen string.

The second kimono, below, is a bit more formal in composition, but is still constructed from tattered and torn indigo-dyed mulberry paper. I also used a bit of Korean print rice paper which I sprayed with walnut ink in order to give some color  contrast – very Boro-like.

In the detail, below, you can see how four of the waxed and gilded paper beads have been double-laced together and then tied into the focal ornament.

All of the pieces are displayed in 11×14″ shadow boxes. I took the glass off to photograph the works, but at the exhibit, they will be covered with glass to protect the collage elements. Everything is adhered, but there is still some movement of string and beads behind the glass when the work is tilted, which is fun

In this last detail, you can see a bit of the rust effect that terra cotta walnut ink made on waxed white mulberry paper. I love that!

In fact, I love each of these three pieces because they reflect the philosophy of Boro, which means “too good to waste.” If you are a collagist, you know what I mean. We hang on to the tiniest of paper scraps, knowing that they will find a place –  eventually –  that is just right.

If you’d like to know more about Boro, here is a very user-friendly article from the FurugiStar blog. There are some lovely pictures, as well, and an intriguing description of a bodoko, or “life cloth.”

I am so happy about the connection that my little indigo kimono pieces have to the Boro tradition, and I plan to continue to explore this connection in paper and in fiber. More soon!

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Indigo + paper + beeswax = kimono construction

For a while now, I’ve wanted to go back to basics with some of my favorite simple materials:  paper, beeswax, indigo and walnut ink in new ways and combinations.

And I’ve wanted to revisit my beloved kimono format that brought me such joy and success in the past. Here’s one of those pieces, a large-scale origami construction called “Luna,” done in about 2003.

But I didn’t want to revert to exactly the same process. So I am experimenting with natural indigo and mulberry paper which I’ve painted and stamped with pure beeswax, much like the traditional batik technique, but on paper rather than fabric. As far as I know, no one is working quite this way, but I thought it would be a great material to fashion into small kimono constructions.

The new kimonos pieces are not completed yet – I’m still working on them for an exhibit in August (Susie Monday, this is the process I was describing to you) – but I thought I’d share what I’m doing with the indigo paper and beeswax surface design.

This is the indigo dye vat. I chose a rectangular container instead of a round bucket because I wanted to submerge the mulberry paper without crumpling it. (Mixing indigo is a whole ‘nother subject. Jacquard has a pre-reduced indigo that makes it easier.)

I used a heavily-textured white mulberry paper, and painted it with natural beeswax. Sometimes I stamped on the wax with random found objects. Here’s what it looks like before the dye.

And here’s what it looks like after the indigo dye bath process.

The varied blues are wonderful, and the wax gives the paper a very different feel. Here are some other samples, some with terra cotta walnut ink added.

One of the neat things about working with mulberry paper rather than fabric is that you can control how the paper “frays.” If you run a stream of water on the edges, the fibers fall apart, giving a wonderfully organic look.

I’ve sketched the kimono forms and have decided to add some of the paper and wax beads that I used in the Talisman Workshop. It will be a great combination – I hope!

Once the pieces are finished, I’ll post them here on SHARDS. In the meantime, this kind of creative play with paper and indigo is such fun! It’s even red, white and blue! Sorta.

Happy 4th, everyone!! Thanks for reading SHARDS.

 

 

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Collage play

Quinacridone Gold – the all-purpose “band-aid” for any art project, and a great color for collage backgrounds

I had some unexpected time in the studio yesterday because of the threatening  weather, so I worked on some small collages for the upcoming Beacon Hill Art Walk in Boston on June 4th.

In my mind, I knew exactly what kind of collages I was going to create, but as usual, the process took over and drove the bus, and nothing ended up as I had planned. But the results were fun.

One of the background materials I played with was Yupo synthetic paper – if you haven’t used it, it’s really almost impossible to mess up. I painted some diluted Quinacridone Gold acrylic on the Yupo, then scraped and brushed and distressed it, and wiped the paint off through some stencil shapes.

You can see this technique in the background of the collage below, called “Asian Pear.” There are layers on top of it which have been glued to squares of archival matboard to create dimension.

Here’s another “pear-with-Yupo-background” piece, below. This one is simpler, but I like the simplicity. The scrap of blue paper went on as an afterthought, and it really makes the piece. The title is “Comice.”

The next collage also has a Yupo background and features a stock photo of an amaryllis that I altered in Photoshop. Those spatters that I flicked on just happened to follow the lines of the flower stamens!

Again, it’s a very simple collage with just three layers. I use a Scotch permanent glue stick as an adhesive for most of the layers. You can even heat-set the glued layers with a warm iron and a cover sheet to super-adhere the layers.

The next two pieces are kind of a set – both include tissue paper that I printed in my inkjet printer and then layered onto the Yupo background. I added some Portfolio oil pastel marks to both of them and stamped one with “No” and one with “Yes.”

Renaissance faces continue to fascinate me as collage images, and the titles on these are “The Game #1” and “The Game #2.”

This last one might be my favorite – it has more layers than you can shake a stick at. I tried to control what went on it, then painted the whole thing white in frustration, then wiped most of that off. It got uglier and uglier.

Finally, I just let it be itself and added a “ghost bird” as a top layer and stamped the word “Caw” on it.

The layers that were created as I kept trying to rescue the thing by adding more stuff actually gave it a richness and a history. Here’s a detail:

If I had to sum up yesterday’s collage play, I’d say it was a re-affirmation of my mantra, Trust the Process. At every stage, I looked at what the piece was trying to ask for, then tried to find it – sometimes it wasn’t what I would have chosen if I had been driving the bus. But it pretty much worked. Trust the process, y’all.

PS If you want to see a very cool woman experimenting with Yupo paper, check out Miss Millie on YouTube!

 

 

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Hot off the virtual press – the Talisman workshop eBook

Happy May Day! I wanted to get this eBook up and available by May 1, and — tah dah — it’s ready! This is my first “workshop” eBook, and, hopefully, it has the feel of being right there in my studio with me.

Beeswax, Clay, Paper & Fiber Talismans is an interactive PDF eBook that you download instantly from my Etsy shop. There are eight videos, including two on making the waxed paper beads, along with a whole bunch of instructions and resources.

As you read along, you can click on the video link and watch it, then return to the page. It’s a pretty cool format. If you’ve ever downloaded instructional mixed media eBooks like 21 Secrets, it’s the same idea. The book belongs to you to read and watch as many times as you want to.

Here’s a look at the table of contents – the pages are hyperlinked to each section and each video.

This Talisman workshop is based on the one I did in Washington State with Joanna Powell Colbert, described here in an earlier post. I talk about that here in the intro to the workshop from Page 8 in the Talisman eBook.

Introduction to the Talisman eBook from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.


When you buy the eBook, you also get a discount on two talisman faces from my Etsy shop. But you don’t need these specific faces to make the Talisman – it’s just an option. I have never believed that you should have to have a specific brand or proprietary item to create a successful art project.

Workshops are a two-way communication, and if you get the Talisman eBook I will be here to answer any follow-up questions or take any suggestion that you think would make this book better. Just send an email to lyn@lynbelisle.com. If I use your suggestion in a revision, I’ll credit you in the acknowledgments and send you the newly revised version for free. The nice thing about interactive eBooks is that they are easily edited.

You can get the Talisman eBook from my website, where you can also find the Encaustic eBook and all of my instructional DVDs, or you can go directly to my Etsy shop to purchase it. The book with videos is $18 and if you want two of the faces as well, they are only $7 for two with the purchase of the book. Such a deal 🙂

This has been a fun project – and it has helped me get more organized! Thanks for all of the encouragement on this. And it sure is nice to be back in Texas on such a beautiful day! Vacations are fun, but there’s no place like home.

 

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Back from a week in the wilds of Washington

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I woke up Sunday morning to a temperature of 38F and a herd of elk lurking around the cluster of farm building where I was staying. It was the last day of the Spring 2017 Gaian Soul retreat, held this time at Cedar Springs Lodge and Farm, Skagit County, Washington, just south of the Canadian border.

The theme of the retreat was Tarot and Talismans. I taught talisman-making techniques, including beeswax applications on clay and fiber, and rolled paper/fiber/wax bead techniques. My dear friend, Joanna Powell Colbert, infused these techniques with mystery, magic and spiritual intent through her teaching of the Tarot. It was a perfect fit. We were all thrilled with the results.

I kept wanting to post pictures to SHARDS all of last week, but the internet connection was slow out there, so I just put a bunch of them into this video to share with you:

Tarot and Talismans from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

I also put up a page on my website for the retreat participants with links to the supplies that we used in the workshop, and you are welcome to take a look, too!

Click this Tarot and Talisman link.

Making the beads was such a success that I want to offer it as a separate workshop at my studio later this summer. The talismans took quite a while to complete – three days of fairly steady work, but you can make several dozen spectacular beeswax, fiber and paper beads in an afternoon. Stay tuned.

beadsbanner

I hitched a ride with my friend Lisa Sanger Blinn from SeaTac airport to the Cedar Springs Farm, which is about a two hour drive. We visited the town of LaConner both coming and going. It has great galleries, restaurants and shops. The Calico Cupboard Cafe and Bakery is fantastic. And all around La Conner, we saw acres of daffodils that are being harvested for commercial florists. Most were not in bloom yet, but some were – spectacular!

And, yes, they grow in boggy soil. There were also fields of swans and snow geese.

Thanks to Lisa for showing me the sights – for a Houston girl who works at Rice University, she sure knows her way around the Pacific Northwest!

And more special thanks to Joanna Colbert Powell and the Gaian Soul circle of women for inviting me back to teach the talisman workshop – it was a wonderful week!

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