Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Swiss Adventures - Part 3

Fabulous Final Day!

The Festival culminated in a full day conference on the final day, preceeded by drinks and nibbles the evening before. This was a brilliant idea as it gave everyone the chance to mix, including those who were only just arriving for the conference and hadn't attended the classes beforehand. This meant I met lots more new people (again my rusty French was tested to its limits). We also had the chance to see the things one another had made at the workshops and to get a closer look at the pieces of jewellery that had made it to the final of the 'Precious Souvenirs Contest'. There were some wonderful pieces of work all made in the main using art clay silver. Here is one of the entries by Anne Loup Burnand, who gave a talk about the wonderful Russian Filigree technique she has perfected, using silver clay and fine silver wire.

Okay, I know that I use the word 'fabulous' quite a lot, but I cannot think of any other word to describe the Art Clay Festival. I've been trying to think what made it such a success for me and it has to be the people that make any event what it is. Erna Pietchna-Sowersby the lady who organised and hosted the conference, pulled together a perfect group of people from different backgrounds, countries and personalities, but it all just worked because we all are so passionate about our love of jewellery making and craft.

The Host, Erna Pietchna of Creative Glass

The keynote speech was given by Jackie Truty of Art Clay World USA. I attended the World Metal Clay Conference in Chicago that Jackie organised and hosted last year and I have been in awe of her talent and drive ever since. Jackie's speech was very inspiring and she summed everything up for me in one sentence by saying "The way to challenge ourselves is to see what others do". This is so true, the best part of going to this event was seeing the wonderful work these artists across Europe and indeed the rest of the world, are producing. It's incredibly inspiring and prompted so many ideas I just wanted to rush back and start working on some new designs.

Jackie Truty's stunning faux bone bangle

Margrit Grubl's amazing necklace

Margrit Grubl was one of the teacher's whose class I couldn't fit into my shedule but her work is phenomenal and I'd definitely love to go on one of her workshops in the future. I could not take my eyes off her necklace, it was a work of art!

The conference day was time for me to give my presentation about how to publish your own DVDs, videos and books. I knew everyone so well, that by the time the afternoon had arrived it was like speaking to a group of old friends. It's the first time I've given a presentation that had to be translated. This is challenging as it means you have to be very concise to get the point across in the alloted time, as half of it is taken up with the translation. I hope everyone understood what I was saying and it was good to see so many people interested in developing their own products, which I sincerely hope they do.

I made so many friends at the Festival and in particular want to say a huge thank you to Gisela Backe, Diana Eilert, Monica Germann, Malefi Cicu, Franklin Spence and Meropi Toumbas for taking care of me and being such wonderful company every day.

I hope we can all do it again next year...and maybe you will join us too?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Swiss Adventures - Part 2

After my first exciting day of jewellery classes at the Festival it was time to get acquainted with my hotel. I'm not really sure what I was expecting having seen the rather basic website, but the Hotel Wallberg turned out to be just like Crossroads Motel in the 70s. An abundance of pine cladding, red brick and dried flowers. I spent my first night wondering why there were no curtains only to discover that there was an outside blind that you had to operate by twisting a very bizarre looking pole attached to the wall. My second night was much more restful once I'd closed the blinds, however, opening them the next morning was a job for Iron Man, I couldn't get the darned things open again. Who needs daylight anyway? One of the things I can vouch for is the food. As long as you can find someone to translate the menu there is a wonderful array of choices, all of them delicious. Oh and the Swiss love their cake and coffee, very strong coffee too which is just the way I like it. Thank goodness I wasn't there too long because I was munching my way through all manner of heavenly treats, none of which did my waistline any favours!

Day 2 - Faux Bone Class with Melissa Cable

My second day of jewellery making was something that I had been very excited about. I'd heard about 'faux bone' a product developed by American artist Robert Dancik and was intrigued. Robert was scheduled to come and teach at the Festival but needed to undergo emergency back surgery. Luckily, the rather fabulous Melissa Cable, who works closely with Robert, was able to step in and jet across to Switzerland and I'm so glad she did. Melissa is like a breath of fresh air as a teacher. She is bright, vivacious, brimming with enthusiasm and uber talented. Here is a beautiful piece that Melissa created using faux bone and it is an incredibly detailed work of art. You can find out more about Melissa and her work by visiting her website

Melissa Cable's Time of my Life Pendant

Melissa started the class by taking us through all the basics of working with faux bone, which is a very pure form of PVC. You can cut it to the shape you want using a saw and and then trim and sand the edges to make it smooth and perfect. There are various ways the surface of the faux bone can be treated to give it an aged appearance or to add colour. Melissa explained every step so clearly that we were all chomping at the bit to have a go. Armed with three sheets of varying thicknesses of faux bone, we were let loose in the huge jewellery room to play and create. Melissa let us get on with the job but was always at hand to make useful suggestions about how our designs might  work best. 

Sawing the faux bone

Score & scour the faux bone or hammer it to add surface effects

Alcohol inks and brown shoe polish rubbed across the faux bone give it a wonderfully earthy look. In fact it is quite incredible what you can do with this material. You can heat it up to bend and twist it into different shapes....

You can embed crystals and beads into the faux bone simply by warming it and softening it up with a heat gun.

So many little time! However, here is my attempt at creating a pendant with a faux bone background and copper domed shape. I added a faux bone dome to the centre dyed pink with alchohol ink and attached a piece of scrap silver clay as a bail at the top. This was a very big departure for me style-wise but I enjoyed the challenge and freedom of working very differently. I made two bangles and this pendant and I still had lots of the material left over. I'd definitely use faux bone again and again. It's incredibly versatile and great fun to work with.

Swiss Adventures - Part 1

I'm back from a wonderful trip to the Art Clay Festival near Zurich, Switzerland. I have so much to tell you and I don't know where to start, so I'll go back to the very beginning with how this adventure all began... 

Inspiration Needed Here!

Sometimes you just need to take a few steps back from what you're doing and take a look around at what else is going on in the world. I've been feeling very much like that about my jewellery making. I make nice stuff, I teach classes that people tell me they like, but I just want to be 'better' in every way. The trouble is I don't know what 'better' looks like and I don't know how to be 'better'. So when Erna Pietchna, the co-owner of Creative Glass told me she was having an Art Clay Festival in Switzerland, where people from all over Europe would be coming along to teach and learn, I jumped at the chance to go. Best of all, Erna thought people would like to hear about my experience of publishing books and DVDs, so not only would I have the opportunity to learn but I could also give something back. Perfect!

Switzerland Here I Come
With my flights booked and my bags packed, I set off on my swiss adventures with great anticipation and excitement. I'm lucky to have a really supportive mother who bundled me out of the door as she moved into my house to look at my daughter and my cat. Any of you reading this who have kids, pets and run your own businesses will know that if you want to go off and do anything for yourself, it requires military precision. The relief when you're jetting off (tinged with a little worry...will they be okay without me? Of course they will!) is amazing. Why didn't I appreciate all those business trips before I had my child, oh how easy life was then!

For me the two hour wait at the airport was like sheer bliss, it's very rare that I have time to do nothing but window shop and read magazines so I can tell you, I soaked up every minute of it.

When I finally arrived in Zurich it was blue skies and sunshine. Taking the taxi to my hotel I was amazed at just how much Switzerland looked like the chocolate box pictures you see. Yes, the houses have shutters and window boxes with flowers and you can see the Swiss Alps on the horizon.There's something so lovely about a place being exactly or even better than you imagined.

Day 1 - Textures & Ring Making Class with Christina Kamm
The beautiful Christina Kamm
The Art Clay Festival consisted of two days of workshops followed by a conference. I couldn't wait to get started on my first workshop day, with the wonderful Swiss jewellery artist Christina Kamm. 

Christina's work in the brochure appealed to me because she makes very big scale, eye catching pieces and this is exactly the kind of jewellery I love to make and wear myself. I didn't realise what I treat I was in for until I saw her work in real life, it is quite simply stunning! Here are a couple of her rings below:

Sea Urchin Ring by Christina Kamm


Despite the workshop being run almost entirely in German, I managed to pick up most of what Christina covered, that was largely due to all the wonderful ladies on the course translating for me in English, French and Spanish (I never learned a word of German at school). It was amazing just how much my dormant school girl languages came in handy! 

Christina is the queen of texures She takes her inspiration mostly from nature and it was great to see the results of her experiments. She set us the challenge of creating our own textures using some solicone moulding putty and various objects she'd brought to the class. 

I have great.plans for this piece of Swiss foliage
Taking an impression of the berries & stalks
Mould by Natalia Colman...Texture by Mother Nature we make a great team!
Here's the ring that I made using this texture. I approached it in a completely different way than I would have done normally after watching Christina and I'm very happy with the results.

My Swiss foliage ring!
I also watched, enthralled at Christina's methods of setting stones. How she has come up with these ideas goodness only knows but she is a true genius. She showed us a fool proof way of wrapping big (fireable) gem stones with clay. Then how to add stones using a healthy dollop of syringe and then pushing the stone into the wet syringe clay. If you add enough syringe clay, the stone is safely contained and the clay oozes up around it to create a perfect looking bezel. I loved to see Christina working with the syringe. She does it in a way that is fearless and she removes the tip and works with the syringe alone. It was also fascinating to see how she finishes silver clay rings. She wraps the clay around the ring mandrel, cuts off the excess clay leaving a gap which she then fills with a thick line of syringe. This goes completely against everything I was originally taught - but it works. My ring making classes will never be the same again. I have have been completely and utterly inspired. Watch out if you're booked on one of my upcoming classes, I'm rearing to go and all these new techniques will be getting their first test drive!

My ring making efforts using lots of clay & bigger gem stones