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Bits and Pieces

1″ diameter, terra cotta and found objects

My studio is full of bits and pieces. The smaller I work, the harder it is to throw out what I sweep up off the floor.  When I finish a stained glass window I have pieces left for mosaic.  When I finish a wall mosaic I have scraps left for pendants.  And they’re all so beautiful.  This pendant is made from a metal washer that was on the floor and ceramic tiles. It’s so satisfying to turn something that was once garbage into something new.

Quirky

1″ diameter, stone and ceramic

This pendant is in honor of the new patio that’s taking shape in front of my studio. Today they placed the last stone to complete the brick spiral at the center, and it finally feels real. It seems like we always come up with design ideas that make contractors look at us like we’re nuts. But once they’re built we love them, so it’s worth being quirky.

Hidden Flowers

1.25″ x2.25″, copper and steel

This season the flowers are in bloom everywhere, under tress, around the pond, peeking out from beneath the welding barn where I’ve been all week…but this bloom was found in the scrap at the bottom of the plasma cutter table- steel and copper speckled with spatters from all of our designs.  It’s been a wonderful week, and this little guy is a reminder of all the fun with metal.

Snails

1″ x 2″, glass and found objects

It might seem like a bit of a leap from this pendant to snails, but let me explain…

We have a terrarium full of snails that we originally found in our yard.  We feed them scraps of food that would otherwise go in the compost, and every time we remember to dampen their cage, they lay eggs under the water bowl.  This week another batch of baby snails emerged from beneath the water bowl and started to slowly climb the walls and explore their habitat.  They start out as a mass of tiny little babies, like a pile of beads, and then they grow into rice-size snails and then into teenage beansprout-sized snails before becoming their mature, full coin size. This pendant uses millefiori massed like the baby snails, huddled in the spaces where they can hide until they’re ready to explore the world.  Our snails are cool, but they’re not as colorful.

Hammer

1″ x 1″, glass and marble

I cut these pieces using a hammer and hardie, a mosaic artist’s traditional tool; a blade set into a tree stump, and a hammer with a straight narrow end.  When you place stone or glass on the thin edge of the hardie and tap the hammer on top, the piece splits with almost no effort.  I like the way the tool focuses all of your energy on the task at hand.  I hope the process, and this pendant, can represent a new focus of my energy on each task at hand.

On the Cusp

2″ x .5″, found objects

Watching my daughter enter the pre-teen years makes me think about my own, with the trappings of childhood still filling my room while I longed for independence.  We just got her a sim card for an old cell phone so that she can call and text when she’s walking home from school with friends. It’s a real step toward independence, but with a string still tied to home.  This pendant is made from sim cards and my old brownie pin, new and old symbols of that in-between period.  I threw in some screws to hold the fragile balance all together.

Rocky

1.5″ x 1.5″, slate and glass

This week has been rocky, with huge ups and downs as the kids returned to school.  The ups have been wonderful and the downs have been tough. The driveway that will become a patio is still being filled with truckloads or gravel, and there’s a mountain to climb over if we want to reach the back yard.  But among the rocks there are flowers peeking out, and the ever-hearty chocolate mint is growing along the side of the garage, preparing to flower later in the summer.  This pendant sits at the crossroad between rock and flower, sharp and jagged if you look at it once, and soft and promising if you look at it again.

Spring rain

 

.5″ x 2″, dichroic glass

From a snowy Massachusetts we drove down to Washington DC, where the weather is warm and lovely. It’s a bit rainy, but in a way that just barely dulls the colors of spring and makes the light sparkle. This pendant captures some of the shine and the emerging colors of flowers, sunsets and all the other wonders that have been hidden under the ground or outside the bounds of the house all winter.

Calm amidst the chaos

1″ x 2.5″, found objects

At every scale, there’s a lot going on right now.  At the scale of our little household, there are painters, a back-hoe, carpenters in our yard, and even more construction at the house next to ours.  It’s loud, it’s exciting, and yet, we’re in here typing away quietly at our computers and having meetings while the kids are in school (!).  This moment, when the kids are in school, we’re still working from home, and the new variants haven’t yet hit our classrooms, is a pretty amazing little eye of the storm.  This week’s pendant has disparate elements.  Different shapes, patterns and colors all thrown together, but at the bottom is the black glass pebble, the eye of the storm.

Slate

1″ x 2″, slate

I’ve been a little bit obsessed with slate lately.  I love how it breaks irregularly to look like land masses. I love its subtly varied colors. I love how different it looks on edge and flat.  I love how it combines with glass and ceramic.  Our yard is being torn up this week and what did the first shovel-fulls find?  Slate!  It’s probably from a roof tile that fell off years ago.  I dug through the dirt pile last night to rescue the beautiful broken bits, and this pendant is made from some of them.  Straight-up slate this time. No glass, no ceramic, no distractions. 

Buried Treasure

1″ x 1.5″, found objects and fused glass

I’m having trouble being systematic and intentional in my pendants these days. Everything is about balance, but an off-kilter, about-to-fall kind of balance, like my week.  I put this pendant together by picking through my bits and pieces and finding things that shine (some dichroic glass that I’d fused onto black, some iridescent beads) and it has that look of fancy jewels just barely visible poking up from the mud.  I do love a treasure hunt, so this is how it’ll stay. 

Vaccine

2″ x .5″, found objects

I’m finally eligible, and I have a first dose scheduled on Monday!  I’m torn about accepting the vaccine when I could technically continue to work from home and there are people who are higher-risk than I am that still don’t have it, but as the warm weather has set in, I’ve been starting to work with students again, and it will be amazing to have one more layer of protection for them and for me.  I was thinking about ways to capture the disparities in vaccine distribution and the brain-numbing complexity of this process, but when I sat down I ended up instead with this upbeat stylized image of a syringe and the COVID virus.  I work in public health, so I know perfectly well that the vaccine doesn’t work by directly targeting the virus, but sometimes a half-inch-wide canvas requires some oversimplification.  Maybe next time I’ll find a way to capture my despair over health disparities and inequity in one square inch.  

 

Bones

1″x1.5″, glass and found objects

I’ve always been fascinated by bones. Maybe it’s because they’re a structure that gives strength but also allows flexibility. Maybe it’s because they’re substantial but lightweight.  As a toddler I had a necklace made of fish vertebrae that I loved. As an older kid I dissected owl pellets and even joined the dissection club.  In university I snuck into the anatomy museum when it was closed.  In Chile I helped a nurse “rescue” bones from a cemetery to complete a skeleton for a classroom.  I’m pretty sure these bright red beads are made of bones.  Dyed this lovely shade of red and polished to a shine I imagine they aren’t disgusting to other people the way some bones are.  For me, they’re beautiful and fascinating.

Break-and-make

1″ x 1.5″, found objects

When we’re planning art activities for the community, one type of activity is a “make-and-take”, where you can make something and take it with you when you finish.  In my house, what we do instead is break-and-make.  We were sorting pens this week and the broken ones got taken apart for the springs, the caps, the tubes.  When we had a broken keyboard it was deconstructed for parts.  And this pendant is one of the things we made.  I used the tip of a fancy pen, part of the deconstructed keyboard, and a handful of nails to make this beauty.

Faults

1″ x 1.5″, slate and glass

We’ve been dealing with faults of all kinds lately, from cracks in the cement bench in our yard to disagreements about whose fault it is that the kitchen is messy. After Perseverance landed on Mars last week I learned that Mars doesn’t have tectonic plates.  No movement to create continents, no mountains or Marsquakes. It sounds stable, but less interesting than Earth, with all its faults.  In this pendant I filled the “fault lines” between pieces of slate with iridized black glass and recycled purple glass to highlight the beauty of the spaces in-between. It looks better in the shifting light of the sun, but the photo will have to suffice here.  

Memories


1″ x 2″, found objects

I’ve been hanging onto the kinds of things that my kids fill their projects with for decades.  As a three-year-old in Uruguay I walked along the beach and collected the bits of old tiles that had been smoothed by the waves and washed up on shore.  I always surround myself with objects that have meaning and memory.  Called “memory objects” or “transitional objects”, they remind me of the person or place that they’re from.  I watched with awe as people who I knew joined the fad of reducing what they owned to only 100 items.  I could never do that.  But maybe if I make one pendant with each memory my collection will get smaller.  This pendant uses some of the tiles that I collected on the beach to bring me right back to the colors and patterns of South America in the ’80s. 

Part of the Resistance

.5″x 1″, found objects

When I posted last week’s punny electronics pendant my husband suggested that I make this one, called “Part of the Resistance” with resistors from our pile of old electronics.  Aside from the obvious Star Wars reference, a somewhat haphazard but well-intentioned resistance seems particularly timely right now. Between the energetic neighborhood BLM protests at the end of our street with signs that got more bedraggled as the months rolled by to the not-officially-PTA-related letter writing campaigns to voters in Georgia, and the socially-distanced housing protest that one of my daughter’s classes is organizing, there’s a quiet, colorful movement afoot.

Potential Energy

1″ x 2″, found objects

I definitely don’t have any extra energy to expend right now. In fact, it’s all used up by about 4:45 every afternoon.  But I do feel like there’s some potential energy; energy that would exist if I just had three extra hours to nap, that would exist if I just had one less job to do… so this pendant is a booster of energy.  With batteries and springs as energy storage, maybe some of it will transfer over to whoever’s wearing it.

Mercury

1″x2″, glass and found objects

This week there were two different moments that reminded me of the mercury balls that I would play with as a kid whenever a thermometer would break. First, we were sitting around a fire pit in our friends’ yard in the snow, desperate to socialize despite all the limitations of COVID. When we put a piece of ice or snow on the rim of the fire pit it balled up and skittered along just like mercury, until it steamed away.  Then this pendant, with fused dichroic glass that looked silvery, asked for silver beads to fill some of the spaces.  When it was finished and I stepped back, it looked like balls of mercury running through the opening between the fused pieces.

Warmth

1″ x1″, glass

It’s snowing outside, and the forecast for tomorrow is for windchills that bring the temperature below 10 degrees.  I can’t really think about much other than how to stay warm, so when I sat down with the beautiful dichroic glass scrap that I finally got around to ordering, I gravitated, perhaps for the first time, to the warmer colors.  I can’t wait to fuse some of it into bits and pieces that will find their way into pendants for another week.  And running the kiln for 16 hours will keep the studio nice and toasty!

Echoes

1″ diameter, found objects

There’s a lot of good news this week, and on top of everything happening politically, I got some good health news.  There was a chance that I might have a bicuspid aortic valve, but no, mine is tricuspid, which should last longer and be stronger. I was able to watch fuzzy images on the echocardiogram while they explored, but I didn’t know what it all was.  In this pendant I used a ceramic tile with crystal glaze to make the shape of a valve, and wire that came from inside some dis-assembled electronics to represent blood flowing smoothly.

Indictment

1″ diameter, coin

I was living in Chile in 1998, when this coin was minted.  That was the year that Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s dictator for many years, was indicted in London for the crimes that he committed while in power.  His arrest opened old wounds and old debates among my Chilean friends, and I learned a lot about the far-reaching and long-lasting effects of abuse of power, and I was not surprised but was still horrified by the United States’ role in the military coup so far from our soil. Despite being divisive, the arrest provided some closure and public censure.  I’m watching events unfold here in the US in 2021 and am pleased to see a swift impeachment, but wonder what all of the long-lasting ripples of this presidency will be.

Alignment

1″ x 2″, glass, stone, metal

If there’s one thing that last night’s attempted coup reinforces, it’s that the people in
this country are not aligned.  Philosophically, politically, ethically, there’s not just disagreement, but a much more deeply-rooted difference in perspectives and beliefs that make it hard to see across the divides.  This pendant is one that I’ve been working on for weeks, bit by bit.  I found the ring and chose an off-center spot for it.  I filled it in with stones, and then I cut the thinnest of the filati that I’d pulled into short lengths.  I lined some of them up with each other and let the others head in different directions.  In the end, the blue filati look like cloth, woven of tiny strands, strengthened by having pieces facing in each direction. I hope that despite our differences in perspective, we can all come together to align at least some of our actions and to keep the fabric of the community strong.

Serenity

1″x 2.5″, found objects

I’m hoping that the new year brings a new calm.  Most people can only feel serene in a clean, almost-empty space, but I only really feel at peace surrounded by stuff that I love.  I’m always working toward the perfect balance of full, colorful, meaningful and organized, adding things that are beautiful and taking away what makes a space feel too overstuffed.  The calm but observant expression on the golden face that I used in this pendant struck me.  I tried to create a setting for it that has the richness, texture, and variety that makes me feel calm, but with a limited palette to strike the ever-important balance between too little and too much.

Transitions

1″ x 1″, mirrored glass

My grandmother moved into memory care yesterday and on the way she said “I don’t know when it was that I got to be so old and helpless”.  Some transitions, like the one from her old room to another room in another building in another city, are harsh and immediate, but others are gradual, so slow that they can’t even be pinpointed.  This pendant transitions from blues to greens gradually. You can see the borders but there’s no clear line to mark the change.