Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Meet Jennifer Maestre


In her Artist Statement, Jennifer Maestre explains the origins of her work:

"My sculptures were originally inspired by the form and function of the sea urchin. The spines of the urchin, so dangerous yet beautiful, serve as an explicit warning against contact. The alluring texture of the spines draws the touch in spite of the possible consequences. The tension unveiled, we feel push and pull, desire and repulsion. The sections of pencils present aspects of sharp and smooth for two very different textural and aesthetic experiences. Paradox and surprise are integral in my choice of materials. Quantities of industrially manufactured objects are used to create flexible forms reminiscent of the organic shapes of animals and nature. Pencils are common objects, here, these anonymous objects become the structure. There is true a fragility to the sometimes brutal aspect of the sculptures, vulnerability that is belied by the fearsome texture."


This amazing artist makes her own beads by cutting hundreds of colored pencils into short lengths.

She sharpens each piece, then drills a hole in the unsharpened end for stringing purposes. Finally, she weaves the little pencils together, painstakingly, to create her sculptures.

Jennifer at work

Her pieces are striking,

"Say Ah"

"Pencil Test"

and gorgeous.


Who says a bead has to be glass or plastic and have a hole in it when you buy it at the store? I'll be looking at items around me in a whole new way after seeing Jennifer's work!

Note: All images used in this post are the property of Jennifer Maestre and were used with her written permission. Please honor her copyright.

copyright 2011 Shibori Girl

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New-Found Courage

I think Santa gave me an extra gift this past Christmas that wasn't wrapped in sparkly paper and a perky bow.

"Animal Dreams Pendant"

It wasn't anywhere under the tree where I could see it and open it. Instead, he gave it to me in dreams, where I could turn it and enjoy it from all angles, in any kind of light I chose to view it. Like the Cowardly Lion, I got the gift of Courage.

My latest jewelry designs are the proof. New materials, new color combinations, new techniques. I can't explain where this new-found courage came from, but I'm reveling in it.

"Sponge Coral Bracelet"

I might have mentioned in a past post that I've joined the Etsy Beadweavers Street Team. This is a group of like-minded beading artisans, who nurture and encourage their fellow members. Each month there is a design challenge, and to maintain membership, we must participate in one of these challenges a year. The thought of this requirement had me tied up in knots. My designs usually happen as I work, a very organic process where I let the piece tell me what it wants to be. Whenever I've started with a preset design, something happens halfway through the project and it veers off in a new direction.

The idea that I'd have to start with a plan, and a theme I didn't come up with on my own was a tiny bit scary. But I did it. The theme for February was titled "Royalty Throughout Time". In my research, I found some images of reproduction Tudor pieces, loaded with gold filigree and dripping with pearls. Lovely. During a road trip this past year, I'd picked up some fabu-liscious 1930's French brass stampings and at the time I had no idea how I'd use them. I just knew I needed to have them. The result was my very first challenge piece:

"Tudor Brooch"

Voting on these challenges is open to anyone - Usually between the 9th and 15th of the month. I'll post a link when the poll is open.
This past weekend I finished up a project that had been on my worktable for a while. I combined this polymer clay cabochon with some bead embroidery, added a profusion of branched fringe, and a beadwoven neck strap. Meet my Woodland Nymph in all her glory:

"Woodland Nymph Pendant"

I have no idea what's next on my work schedule, but I'm betting that it will knock my socks off! All of the pieces shown in this post are listed for sale in my Etsy shop.

copyright 2011 Shibori Girl

Friday, January 14, 2011

Professional Photography

Last November, my friend and mentor-supreme, Lorin Fields, assisted in my booth during our local annual Alternative Gift Market. She wished I had a display print showing a comely lass wearing one of my pieces. During lulls she also worked on me to consider entering high-end craft shows, specifically the Piedmont Craftsmen Guild show in November.

Both of these issues require better photography skills than I've achieved so far. Lorin, in her mentor capacity, arranged for me to tag onto a photo shoot she already had scheduled for last Saturday at her church. The photographer, Seth Tice-Lewis, is well-known in our area and came highly recommended by Lorin, who has worked with him several times in the past year, as well as by other artists. The model, Angie, is a friend of Lorin's from church.

Keep in mind, each piece entered in a portfolio only gets seen for a few seconds and needs to make an instant impact on the jury. Lorin came by my house a few days before the shoot to help pick out 10 of my strongest pieces, and to figure out what Angie needed to wear to show them off.

The day of the shoot, I arrived at the church and tried to stay out of the way as Seth and Lorin got to work.

This group has wonderful energy. Before her first shoot with Lorin, Angie went online to research modeling poses. Then she practiced in front of a mirror until it came naturally. In this picture, she's goofing a little bit:

Here, we've set up the pose for one of my bracelets:

The result:

Angie wanted to try a more natural hand position for the next bracelet:


I think I've got my display print in this one:

When choosing a photographer, ask for recommendations, and look at samples of their work. Keep in mind fees are handled very differently amongst them: some charge by the roll of film, others charge a large set-up fee, others charge by the shot. Choose what works for you and get the best you can afford. The better your work looks, the more likely people will want to buy.

copyright 2011 Shibori Girl

Monday, January 03, 2011

Silver Threads and Broken Needles...

Beading is such a zen activity: stitch, add a bead, stitch, add a bead... SNAP! Dammit, there goes another needle. I love bead embroidery, but I do not love stitching through Ultrasuede. Beading needles are notoriously thin and the repeated passage through that tough fabric causes great stress on them. The eye gets smaller, the needles bend, and eventually they break.

Marble Man, super-tired of hearing me swear, googled beading needles and came across an article about Hari-kuyo, an annual quirky Japanese festival for seamstresses and embroiderers to bid farewell to broken needles. Sounds like I need to buy a ticket on that train.

"On the day of the memorial service – 8 February throughout most of Japan, but 8 December in much of the Kansai region and western Japan – seamstresses and embroiderers take a day of rest from their craft, and bring their used, bent and broken needles and pins to their temple or shrine. As they pay their respects, their needles and pins are stuck upright into blocks of tofu or konnyaku (a kind of edible jelly made from a plant-based flour). Tofu and konnyaku are used because of their soft texture; which is thought to soothe the needles after their labour, effectively wrapping them with tenderness and gratitude. A priest incants a sutra, marking the needles’ passage from use, and offers a blessing, which is thought to rub off on the person who has made the offering. The essence of hari-kuyo is to honour the needles for their hard work, give thanks for their service over the preceding year, and also to pray for improved needlework skills in the future. The used needles and pins are often sent to Awashima Shrine, where they are then laid to rest. In some regions, the blocks of tofu and konnyaku, with their pins sticking out, are farewelled by being floated down a river."

From The Japanese Foundation, Sydney

Instead of cursing my sorry luck at breaking a needle on a regular basis, I think I'll keep a block of tofu handy to place them in and thank them for their hard service. How's that for a new and unusual New Year's Resolution?

copyright 2011 Shibori Girl