Metal in Massachusetts: 5 Days at Snow Farm

July 17th, 2018

Pond at Snow Farm ©Patricia C Vener-Saavedra taken May 2018

Pond at Snow Farm ©Patricia C Vener-Saavedra

It was my sister who convinced me to go after the Road Scholar grant when I was suffering uncertainty. “If anyone deserves this grant, it’s you,” she said. I guess I should not have been surprised when I was notified that it had been awarded to me. The grant is awarded to family caregivers (or those whose loved one has died within the past two years) who also demonstrate more than just “I want to get away” in their application essay. As an artist, my choice of the jewelry metalwork workshop was based on its potential to move my work into new heights of expression and experiment.

Even now, after the experience, I am excited. This could be life changing! This will be life changing.

Five days and a lot of learning. The way the instructor presented the course seems to have encouraged assimilation of the techniques we studied. Our teacher, Alyssa Dee Krauss, is an artist whose work is internationally known and collected. More than adept at her art form, she is a thoughtful and talented teacher.

The venue was Snow Farm, an art/craft school in Williamsburg Massachusetts. The setting is beautiful though a bit rustic, (which, really, is fine given that the showers were hot and the rooms had heaters. May in New England can still be quite cold!

My expectations were high and I was not disappointed. I learned so much in such a short time. My only regret is that I didn’t take notes and the names of some tools and techniques did not make it to long term memory. (Was that filing technique called “cabon, cabron? Something about a goat jumping.) Well, at least I have the muscle memory of how to do the techniques.

I am grateful to my sister, to Road Scholar, to Snow Farm, and to the unknown sponsors of my grant for the amazing opportunity, and to Alyssa Dee Krauss for being the excellent teacher that she is.

Waterfall, First and Final Process Pictures

July 10th, 2018

"Waterfall" first and last sessions ©Patricia C Vener, 2018 Beads and Acrylics mixed media

“Waterfall” first and last sessions ©Patricia C Vener, 2018

What you see at the top of this post is the evolution of the first painting in my new series that combines paints and beads. The drapery of bead fringes is not embellishment but rather as much an integral part of the painting as any of the paints that were applied by knife or brush.

I started with a quick sketch and some underpainting. Everything was built up in layers and changes of lighting to get the late evening high contrast effect that I envisioned. I was tempted to add more detail but as soon as I did that, the painting lost its focus. Thank heavens this wasn’t watercolor! Acrylics and oils can be painted over. Watercolour, not so much.

While the use of non-paint materials is not new to the art world, my innovation seeks to include bead weaving on equal footing in the same vein as the ballet scene in the play, “Oklahoma,” was not an embellishment but rather a scene that moved the story forward as all the others of the play’s acted scenes. To this end, the beads that make up the waterfall are overlain as the topmost layer of the painting, hiding almost all of the paint underneath.

I kept a snapshot log of this painting’s progress and plan to make a slideshow/video of the whole process from start to finish. Four other paintings are in the queue now, and I plan to do the same for each of them. I envision an exhibit of the paintings with the videos of each playing on the side to demonstrate the creative process going into each one of them.

Silver Care Update

June 21st, 2018

Need some information on how to clean silver? I’ve recently edited my page, Updates on Silver to include three cleaning methods. One of these is meant to be used only if you positively have no other choice. You’ll have to read the page to find out why. As I work more with silver, I expect I’ll have a lot more to say about this lovely material.

For now, enjoy some silvery snapshots of looped earrings and my experiments in one off abstract wire earrings.

Silver Loop earrings with beads

Inspired by Solstice

June 19th, 2018

Here in the Northern hemisphere the Summer Solstice is just around the corner. 21 June 2018 at 6:06:39 AM Eastern Daylight Time. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere this is your Winter Solstice. Summer Solstice inspires me to change up my art to reflect the season. Later, as Summer becomes unbearably hot, I will be tempted to focus on Winter themes as if they could make me feel cooler! For now let me present my very Summery necklace, “On the Beach.” It depicts a beach but not in a representative way. Rather it gives hints. Broad hints, because it’s too hot to have to think too much. Can you see the beach? What gives it away for you?

Bead woven work of art to wear abstraction of a beach in Summer.

On the Beach ©Patricia C Vener

If you want to see other pictures, please visit it’s web page at “On the Beach” web page.

Beyond the Looking Glass

June 14th, 2018

Spinner Ring, My First!

When I last posted here, I talked about coming out of my grief of losing my mother and advancing back to the world where I am not her primary family caregiver. That was in October of 2017 and it’s now just June of 2018.

There has been progress! I’ve begun a new series of works that combines painting and bead weaving (and I am considering adding some metal work to the mix) and I’m in the process of revamping my studio and office. Last month in May I was given a grant to learn basic jewelry metalwork which is so exciting. Who knew I’d love soldering and annealing silver so much!

I made my very first ring, a spinner ring, in that class and I adore it! I can’t wait to do more silver work and have starting amassing tools to help me do this. Starting small though, I am going to concentrate first on working with wire.

I hope you join me on this creative and constantly evolving journey!

Are you making any changes in your life? Share below in the comments section if you like.

Exit the Looking Glass

October 21st, 2017

What the past year has taught me, most of all, is that I am stronger than grief. Not that I am stronger alone – no one is. I am strong because I sought out, found, and accepted support; I crumpled, but I persevered.

I am still grieving – grief does not have an expiry date. But I am not completely overwhelmed.

Being my mother’s primary family caregiver was a choice I will never regret, and while I miss her deeply, I am ready to emerge from that part of my life and enter whatever new adventure (adventures) I choose. I’m exiting the looking glass behind which was this agony filled universe of grief and coming out a woman with purpose.

7 Ways to Overcome the “Keep Busy” Gene

August 25th, 2016

Packing too much for a short trip

Packing too much for a short trip

When you pack for a trip, do you find yourself adding “just one more?” You know, one more shirt; one more pair of socks; another pair of earrings. I do. And then I have to either try to stuff all of it into a case that has somehow gotten smaller. Or I have to start all over.

Recently, I noticed that this tendency towards over stuffing bleeds over into other aspects of my life. Sometimes it works: one more dash of paprika on my eggs. More often it doesn’t. I add project after project, task on top of task. Until my do to list is longer than the hours in a day. I think this behavior may be hardwired into the human psyche. Is there a “keep busy” gene?

Here are seven overload traps I’ve either experienced or heard about from others. Is yours here?

  1. You sign a petition. Emails start coming in
  2. There’s an offer of a free white paper – if you leave your email address. More email to read.
  3. Take a class. And another class. Not only do you have more homework, but if you are in university, you have to worry about your GPA. (Not to mention your social life.)
  4. Teaching another workshop
  5. Doing another festival – before having a chance to unpack from the one last week
  6. Agreeing to not only serve on the comittee, but also to chair it. Again.
  7. * Getting yet another idea for a major series before you’re even halfway through the paintings you promised your best gallery

Yes there are some remedies. The first is to be firm and unsubscribe from every email list you aren’t actively using (or that doesn’t make you smile). No matter how interesting (and you might need it in the future). If you do need it, you will find it again. Or something better. Don’t go looking for these emails, though. Just when they come into your inbox, scroll all the way to the bottom and hit that unsubscribe link. Here are seven more remedies to the “keep busy” gene.

  1. Meditation – yes, I know it’s obvious and you knew you were going to see it here. Try five minutes of sitting still. Focus on your breathing. Calm breathing. Deep breathing. Whichever seems most compatible with your own preferences.
  2. Mindfulness practice – similar to meditation, this calls for you to be focused on some very small action. Say, chewing a dried cranberry. Or a nut. You close your eyes and before chewing anything, roll the nut (or whatever) around in your mouth, using your tongue to explore the surface of the food. Then take one slow bite – one! Listen to the crunch, think about the sound and the pressure of your bite… And so forth. It’s agonizing not to chew the whole thing down. Especially trying this with a dried cranberry!
  3. Go to bed without any reading material, without your phone or tablet or laptop.
  4. Do five minutes of really gentle yoga.
  5. Go for a short walk. Best if there is nature or interesting architecture to look at. Bring only music no work related recordings.
  6. Read a funny or interesting article or book not related to work.
  7. Take a nap.

Why do these work? Because they recharge your brain and body. Do you have a suggestion? Have you tried any of these? What works for you? The comment box is below and I can’t wait to read your responses.

I Can Engineer a Vision, So Can You

July 28th, 2016

Feminine Power Pendant, Perseverence by Patricia C Vener

©Patricia C Vener

Perseverence. This is the synergy, the intersection, of being of a working artist and primary family caregiver. Perseverence gets things done. Not easily nor quickly, but in spite of difficulty and rapidity. The pendant illustrating this article earned its name. The design I sketched did not easily come into being. Neither does being responsible for the care of a loved one with a debilitating (and now terminal) disease.

The first parallel is finding answers to unanticipated obstacles. In the case of caregiving these have been in the realms of relationships, medical problems, communications, financial. And so forth. We’re at 10 years and counting and the obstacles change as my mother’s condition declines. For Perseverence, it was a case of engineering the vision. I made a sketch of what I saw in my mind’s eye. But my mind’s eye seems to believe I live in a micro-gravity environment. (It also doesn’t care that seedbead holes are finite and you can pass even the thinnest needle and thread only so many times before that hole is filled, but that’s another story.) When I finally got the whole design beaded and hanging properly, I found that the pendant would flip upside down no matter what kind of cord, rope, or chain I slid it onto.

The vision for caregiving varies but the commonality in all cases is the comfort and appropriate aid for the care recipient. To engineer solutions to problems that arise requires research and communications. Ask for help. Be specific about what you need, be it information or actual hands on relief. Family, friends, and care professionals don’t read minds. Sometimes you might still be stuck, (I am still not sure if I could have got Aid and Attendance for my mother or not), but it often turns out that you will be best off with a second or third opinion if you don’t like the answers you’ve received so far.

When it came to the Feminine Power Pendant, Persevernce, the solution turned out to be quite simple. Add a permanent chain that doesn’t allow the pendant to slide or flip. And make it adjustable (up to 23 inches) with a small bead and loop adjunct.

The lesson here is that all of problem solving comes down to “engineering the vision.” How have you engineered a vision of your own? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Do these Jeans Make My Earrings Look Fat?

June 27th, 2016

Unexpected use of beautiful bead woven necklaces

Be Bold When You’re Out and About

“I love your work, it’s so beautiful.” Says the conservatively dressed woman fingering one of my works of art, a beadwoven necklace of some complexity.

“Thank you,” I reply smiling.

“But where would I wear it? I never go out.”

Which, really, isn’t quite true. She’s here at whatever this event is, where my work is on display. “How about to the grocery store?” I’m not brave enough to respond.

And, if I think it, can I do it? Apparently the answer is yes. Yes, I sometimes do outrageously different things. Like wear a 200 plus dollar necklace when I go grocery shopping. Or to the movie theatre. Not when I’m gardening, though.

I think, ‘what can I wear to go with this necklace and these earrings?’ Of course, since I make my jewelry art for other people to enjoy as much as I do, I should be asking, ‘what can my collectors wear with this necklace and these earrings?’ I don’t wear jeans any more (not since Lees for Ladies stopped making pinstripe jeans) but I suspect some of the people who buy my work do. Or how about suits?

Of course I wear ornate jewelry to artistic events, to parties, to almost any occasion that is not likely to include mud, sand, or hiking. Unless it’s the track. If fancy hats can be worn to the track, why not also elaborate jewelry?

Why not dress it up and make a statement. Would you wear an ornate handmade work of wearable art to the grocery store? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Please visit Featured This Month to read more about these two necklaces. For the month they are featured, they will be available for purchase at a special price.

Pink and Purple, Colors Together

May 30th, 2016

A collection of three unrelated but color coordinated works of art jewelry.

Subtle, Shimmer, Spectacular
©Patricia C Vener
$ Necklace 175.00 USD, Improv Earrings 30.00 USD, Chandelier Earrings 125.00 USD

One day, long ago, my kindergarten class made plaster of paris handprints. I squished my hand into the wet cement and thought about the colors I wanted to paint mine. Purple and pink. The teacher was adament, “No. Those colors don’t go together.” So I talked her into pink and gold. I was angry, frustrated, and to this day I put those colors together any time I get the chance. (Though I love how adding gold enhances any color or color combination.)

As I matured, my use of this combination became more subtle. For example, in the large earrings and necklace in the above collage, purple is represented by lavender and the pink used here is a pink with a strength that mirrors the lavender’s. The smaller earrings use a dark purple and the pastel version, as well as the pink, show up in the aurora borealis finish and facet shimmer of the vintage crystals. These three pieces of jewelry will work very well with each other but they were conceived and created at different times without planning them to match. Serendipity. I love it!

    There are three great lessons to be learned here.

  1. creativity will find a way
  2. pink and purple do go together
  3. never underestimate the mind of a child