In brief, so you can jump on this if desired: the Hotel Santa Fe right across the street from our workshops is having a sale, through March, and doubles are $139 including breakfasts! Come join the workshop, enjoy a luxury hotel, walk across the street to the studio, then to the plaza!
More information, links to hotels, restaurants and other information is at Santa Fe Resources.
Sorry for two posts in one day, but you need to call the hotel now if you are interested in these rates! Looking forward to seeing you here-
If you have’t yet delved into Japanese textile design you’re in for such a treat! Making gorgeous fabrics since 550 AD seems to be their motto. My alltime favorite: This coral and gold kimono, from the 18th C and now in the Kyoto Museum designated an ‘Important Cultural Property’. Sumptuously showcasing silk weaving, yuzen and shibori dying and metallic embroidering techniques, it’s captivated me since I was a child and received a book with its picture.
The bundled noshi, strips of edible seaweed, are a delicacy and an auspicious symbol. The artist went further: he brought in classic cultural references : each yuzen-dyed and embroidered section of the ribbons is a visual quotes of textile techniques from other eras in Japan. The ribbons are held by a gold-wrapped silk embroidered knot, the threads couched onto the hand-dyed patterning. The whole exquisitly celebrates Japan’s rich sweep of textile design.
I’d love to show you close-up details of the glorious furisode – this type of kimono- but the museum keeps it in low light and there are no images online where you’d see the incredible profusion of surface effects.
Details are necessary though, and you need to see the surface effects up close to appreciate them. So I’ve gathered a collection of closeups of other more recent furisode from the Ichiroya (“The Kimono Flea Market!”) site. They do an exhaustive job of photographing and documenting their kimonos, I am in awe of their dedication and labor.
So. Notice – well heck just notice everything. Make sure you enlarge them to see the details. Layers of patterning of the jacquard weave in the silk fabric itself underpin all the colors, patterns and embroidery, building on each other to sumptuous effect. I’ve also added a few images of these furisode in use, on maiko in Kyoto and Gion.
What do these inspire you to make? What do they help you notice as you go through your day? Well…. They make me want to finish this post right now and go make things!
Later, my friends-
It reveals the less-seen to us, the slightly hidden, and rewards attention. Translucency returns me to childhood, to the intimate worlds I found in ponds and tide pools that were all mine to explore. Do you remember wading in the cool waters of a nearby creek or beach when you were young? Mud between your toes as you looked down through flowing water onto constantly dancing pebbles and leaves flowing by – maybe a fish or its shadow swimming along?
Seeing into the interior of something is magical. When you combine translucency with what can be layered into its depths, our creative options are endlessly seductive.
Amber is our earliest translucent precious artifact: its value enhanced by the totemic inclusions of insect or feather. Obsidian, and even lightning-struck sands that had vitrified, could be transparent or translucent, as well as holding a very sharp and useful edge. We have always been suckers for clear shiny things.
For sheer beauty and magic, though, glass-manufacturing and its later technological developments were the key.
Although Egypt had a thriving glass and ceramic industry, perhaps stemming from trade with Mesopotamian kingdoms who developed glass technology as early as 3500BC, the first truly transparent glass was manufactured by the Romans. Masters of industrial organization, they made glass, a lot of glass. Many of the pieces were buried and often acquired that highly covetable iridescent patina, stemming from corrosion on the surface of the glass.
Now we can mimic those scintillating transparent layers, patterning and iridescence with various materials- on polymer and other media.
There’s a kind of magic in revealing depth this way, a sleight of the creative hand and aesthetic eye.
When I first began using Fimo translucent, in the late 1970s, I explored ways to enhance the transparency and exaggerate its impact. I learned a great deal about the structure of polymer, since the translucent ‘colors’ in all brands are the raw material of that brand, with no opacity or pigment. So I could see what was happening internally after curing, and how that related to translucency as well as its durability.
Since the mid 1980’s, I’ve used layers of translucent and translucent based colors in classic mokume gane as well as other layered techniques of mine.
Agates for instance rely on translucent polymers, both Fimo and Premo, to recreate the internal patterning we all lust after. I also incorporate translucency and patterning into my mobiles as well. I’ve stretched this recently by using lexan and sheet acrylic in larger wall and elevated constructions.
What do you do now with translucencies? What would you like to do?
For those of you curious about our Koi Pond workshop in March, we’ll be doing these techniques and others.
How we look at things is the foundation for how we make things. In sharing how I look at the world around me, you’re invited to notice more, and respond to more, of your own world. The longer posts on my site are a survey of inspirations. This series goes deeper with single objects.
First the object, one of a pair found at The Zentner Collections
“A pair of Japanese hibachi, or braziers, done in black lacquer decorated with chrysanthemums in gold and mother of pearl, inspired by Ogata Korin and Kenzan of the Rinpa School. The motif is also known as manju-kiku since it appears similarly to a red bean filled mochi sweet. Two lacquer techniques are used for the hibachi: The top and bottom is done using a technique called, tataki-urushinuri and the center is simple shin-nuri. Early 20th century. Height 8.5″ Diameter 13.5” “.
Every aspect of this object is carefully considered. An example of deliberate intention, whose clarity and congruity of aesthetic is everywhere in the piece. Abstract organic style, beautiful craftsmanship, and minimal materials that have more impact because of their scarcity.
The overall shape, simple yet not simplistic, is an abstraction: not quite round, not an oval, not a pillow. It has integrity because it is precise, purposeful, despite its uncommon profile.
Dividing the black surface into thirds frames the central decorated area, drawing attention to it. At the same time, framing bands cut across portions of the motif, right through a highly stylized chrysanthemum.
This cutting-off of seemingly important elements is a classic Japanese compositional move. To me it implies that these are natural forms in situ, where the unpredictable, the uncontrollable, happens routinely. Here the lacquer and inlays are not so much decoration, as hommage to what is already all around us: the beauty of a single observed moment. So this present moment itself is the motif here, as in the butterfly tray below. There’s a link too between the confidence of an artist and her willingness to remove parts of the design to strengthen the whole.
Back to the hibachi…
This detail illustrates the glorious play of different surface effects: gold, textured matte black, mother of pearl, glossy black lacquer. Three variations on irregular ovals made of gold and nacre. Simple but non-repeating shapes that show off the beauty of the materials themselves, particularly when applied in this subtle relief, and adding the impression of depth as the chrysanthemum leaves lie above that golden oval.
These hibachi are dated early 20th C, when art deco, itself already influenced by Japanese organic minimalism, was leaking back into Asian art. I’m not an art historian, but an artist, although our long human history of cross-pollination is intriguing. For now this is about integrating inspiration into our work.
It’s not enough to say ‘I love Japanese art’. We all love Japanese art. If I want to emulate it I need to figure out what about it I love specifically. Then bring those approaches into my own work. That is what using something for inspiration really is about.
In this object’s design I see a wonderful balance between large glossy black areas, and small, potent touches of gold, nacre and textured black. My attention goes back and forth, sinking into the black, then being pulled back up to the surfaces. There’s simultaneously an organic nonchalance with sumptuous materials here. A very Japanese dichotomy.
The unusual shapes of both the object itself, and the design elements, reinforce each other. Variations on surfaces: textured and opaque, pearlescent and iridescent, thick gold, and that luscious black, all animate the piece so that my eye goes around and around discovering. Placing elements, like these chrysanthemum ovals, in a organic and random array is challenging but a worthwhile effort.
Try this. Look very closely at something that makes you catch you breath, take your time, and list three things you notice.
Where do you want to do more of those in your own artwork?
Flying. Floating. Looking into secret realms. Seeing through layers. Translucent scrims covering colors images and patterns…
There’s a kind of magic in revealing depth this way, a sleight of the creative hand and aesthetic eye.
When I first began using Fimo translucent, in the late 1970s, I had two goals: exploring processes and materials to visually enhance its effective transparency, and developing ways to manipulate the polymer clay for maximum translucency. I learned much about the structure of polymer: what was happening internally when it is heated, and how that corresponds to its translucency or opacity, as well as its durability.
I investigated how to color translucent polymers to maintain their clarity. Like everyone else I yearn for a clear-like-glass polymer clay and have enjoyed Pardo’s translucent.
If we can send people to the moon, and 3D-print organs, there must already be inexpensive glass-clear polymers somewhere. You find them and let us know! Since the mid 1980’s, I’ve used layers of translucent and translucent based colors in mokume gane. Mokume is a perfect setting for translucent, because the varying thicknesses of the polymer show depth.
I looked at material objects from all fields, as well as photographs. I’m mesmerized by the Japanese ability to represent almost palpable visual depth in materials that are unyieldingly opaque.
When I work in translucencies now, I have a range of other materials and effects I bring in. Some are involved in the layering, some float on the surface of the piece and emphasize the depths below.
I incorporate translucency and patterning into my mobiles as well. I’ve stretched this recently by using lexan and sheet acrylic in larger wall and elevated constructions.
What do you do now with translucencies? What would you like to do?
For those of you curious about our Koi Pond workshop in March, we’ll be doing these techniques and others like it: emphasizing translucent layering of colors and patterns in jewelry. More to come.
On another note- My website is in the midst of upgrades and construction. For example, the formatting of this post and photos is skewed, rats. When I get it straight, I’ll put up more images for you. Thanks in advance for your patience!
Please feel free to get in touch with me or Gretchen with any questions or comments- Enjoy your own creative delights! Tory
“Hello from the assistant’s office at Tory’s new studio! I was asked to write a guest blog post to tell you a little more about myself. I also want to let you know my email address at firstname.lastname@example.org is up and running, and answered daily for all inquiries. I’m looking forward to meeting you in person at Tory’s workshops and studio!
“A little background about myself (or small talk in print form). My husband, four cats, entirely too many books, and I moved to Santa Fe two years ago from the suburbs of metro Atlanta.
“We have found New Mexico to, indeed, be the Land of Enchantment (or as colloquially called the Land of Entrapment) and Santa Fe to be a marvelous place to live and explore. After growing up in the countryside of Michigan between Flint and Detroit, and spending over two decades in and around Athens, Georgia and metro Atlanta, I was ready for the move to a completely different climate and landscape.
“Formal studies in anthropology, English literature, and historic preservation led to a career at the Georgia Historic Preservation Division as the National Register coordinator for the state from 1998-2012. At that point, my deep abiding love for a historic 1912 bungalow that needed lots of work led me to add a part-time career at Starbucks in 2002. An endless supply of coffee, interesting coworkers and customers, and flexible schedule has kept me there through the present. Tory’s daily americano habit led to our meeting several months ago, and here I am.
“When not being a barista/supervisor or assistant or wife or cat-herder, I am an avid reader (mostly history and non-fiction), baker, Anglophile, and explorer of museums, historic places, landscapes, movies, local restaurants, art, and the unique cultures of my new home state. I look forward to sharing my explorations with you. I am also a quilter for personal expression, enjoyment, and a love of fabric and design.
“Voila! that is a little about me. Thanks for reading!”
Tory here- Gretchen appeared as I was moving to this new space. A new space needs a functional Ace Assistant! She is very smart, widely knowledgeable, warm, perceptive and oh la! capable at everything. For instance, she has extensive experience in setting up and managing all aspects of group programs: workshops, retreats, conferences. Know what that means? Great classes and events! We’ve blocked out the workshop schedule for all of next year. Lots of behind-the-scenes activity to make these workshops sing from here on out. For now, the Basics:
2016 A Series of Three-day Workshops in Santa Fe with Tory Hughes
All are $495 for the workshop and materials (except for Holiday BonBons, a different sort of event) You’ll hear more about them all.
In brief to whet your appetite Jan 29, 30, 31“Ancient Artifacts, Exotic Talismans” recreate precious materials in polymer then combine them with found objects for antique objects with intriguing significance. [sold out]
March 4, 5, 6 “Koi Pond” creating layers of translucent colored watercolor imagery and assembling these elements for jewelry and small artwork April 15, 16, 17“Spring Mornings” mokume gane and infinite patterning for pendants, earrings, bracelets June 22, 23, 24“Jump, Spin, Wobble, Hop” adding movement of all kinds to jewelry and objects Sept 9, 10, 11“Show, Tell, Hide” simple, complex and conceptual boxes and sculptural containers both small and large October 21, 22, 23“Artist Bookishness” exploring all the things a ‘book’ can be, and be made from: polymer pages, transparent covers, books that hang from the ceiling… November 12 and 13 “Holiday BonBons” our annual holiday gift-making event. Bring your gift list, leave with wrapped presents for everyone on your list. All polymer and materials, ribbons and wrapping paper, festive food and beverages, shiny star stickers, and lots more included. $595 January 9 – 13, 2017“Cornucopia”
Cornucopia is designed for renewal and re-inspiration! Both an overview class for students wanting a high-quality initiation into the range of polymer, and those wanting a refreshing reminder of why we love to work in polymer. All materials and light lunch each day, $895.
Great to have you with us all, Gretchen! Thank goodness I drink so many americanos, or we would not be benefiting from Gretchen Brock, Ace Assistant, here at the studio!
Partly prompted by our upcoming ‘Ancient Artifacts’ workshop (it’s sold out, thank you!), I’ve been thinking about how much we like things that are old. Sometimes really old.
Objects develop a personality along with us, as we all move forward in time. As creatives, we respond directly to what we surround ourselves with. I see my collection of oddities and objects every day. Since I chose them because I like them, they’re part of my aesthetic and directly inspire and influence my artwork.
It turns there is no consistent definition for “antiquity” or “ancient”, merely a kinda-sorta range of “really old” that we tend to agree upon. This abalone shell bowl is the oldest agreed-upon human artifact.
LiveScience website: “Archaeologists in South Africa uncovered two 100,000-year-old abalone shells and assorted bones and stones that served a toolkits to make some sort of red ochre-based The mixture may have been used as a paint or adhesive. It’s the oldest evidence of humans making a complex compound and of humans using containers.”
Artists, you’ll note, were already making things and leaving bits behind, 100,000 years ago.
This personality of objects is also in things we grew up with, like special objects from childhood or things that accompany us on our lives today. Do any of you have things you’ve seen in an antique shop, and bought, because they were somehow yours already and needed to come home now?
There are other qualities that make an object desirable, like inherent beauty, emotional resonance, and memory repository. Yet even just the apparent age of an object will trigger feelings and responses in us. If we make things, we can bring those same age-based characteristics into our work, to please ourselves and communicate to others.
Photographing, cataloguing and storing my collection of objects, while also establishing this new gallery space and seeing my own work differently, has given me a lot to think about.
Some of these objects I had forgotten about – and under the intimacy of the close-up shot, I fall in love with them all over again. My fondness for them re-emerges in my work, and is a part of me that I want to share with you.
… Tell us what you notice about your own collections, and how they inspire you. What do you want to share with us?
Covetous humans have sought amber for adornment and healing for at least 13,000 years, back to the Paleolithic.
Technically ‘paleolithic’ means ‘ancient stone’ since that was the source of their tools. Although given those early humans were already captivated by amber’s magically glowing golden translucency and characteristic light weight, maybe we should call it the Paleoamberine or the Paleoaesthetic. We alread had an innate sense of beauty and magic, as well as engineering.
Amber is also the first polymer, way before Fifi et al. Pine trees oozed and drooled resin down their bark, the resin fell onto strategic areas of the forest floor, and then if all went well, millions of years passed peacefully as the resin polymerized and hardened by the heat and compression of the layers above it. Copal is a partially polymerized resin, needing 50 or 60 million more years. It’s all about time and temperature.
The large pieces shown above are unshaped Baltic amber and copal. There are also two nepali silver-capped copal beads, one with coral bits, and a lovely antique repaired yellow amber bead, with silver studs and pitch repairing a seam. with the distinctive larger hole that amber’s softness requires. The bumpy Yemeni silver bead at the lower right is actual silver.
I’m drawn to amber by its glowing gold light, and all its varieties of saffrons, umbers, and buttery yellows. I love the gentle organic shapes that come from its softness as a material. I’m drawn as well to the symbolic and cultural connections: from the Baltic sea, traded down to the Atlas mountains, as well as from the Carribean where green and blue ambers echo the colors of ocean and forests.
Amber’s enigmatic combination of properties – warm, light, hard, clear – compel our attention and attempts at mimicry. Amber chunks are tiny time machines trapping the ecosystem of 150,000,000 years ago, quietly offering us scientific knowledge, luxurious jewelry, prestigious medicinal practices.
Imitative polymer amber feels like the real material because it is very very close to the real material. Hydrocarbons polymerized.
This is the first in a series of posts about using what you have gathered around you to inspire you.
I’ll share things from my collections, tell you a bit about why I have them, and show some of the pieces I’ve made that are inspired by them. We’ll talk about design, history, art, science, spirituality
I have an extensive collection of unusual objects. Also books. Since moving, I’m baffled about what to do with them other than lovingly lining them up on my windowsill. My new place is elegant and minimal, and has no windowsills. Since many of you may never make a visit to my studio, I will show you some of my inspirations in these photographs, and tell you what I respond to. Perhaps this will prompt you to reexamine what you love about what you’ve gathered.
Until next time, enjoy your own inspiring life!
ps: If you are inspired by ancient and exotic objects like those above, one space just opened up in our Antique Artifacts workshop Jan.29-31. $495, includes most materials. You’ll need to pay in full by Jan 8. Email me to let me know you’re in and for details, and I hope you can join us!
Hello all you creative sparks!
Time to take a deep breath, relax from deep within, and release the experiences of last year. Let it all go now. Let’s head out into this shiny year coming up and explore with curiosity and confidence!
Letting go of last year means the new knowledge those experiences brought us will remain. Part of us too now are our fondnesses and friendships, excitements and epiphanies, the accomplishments on which we can now build.
This confident explorer, this little girl, has always been a favorite image of mine. She’s in my new gallery hallway, and when you visit you’ll see her. So many hidden elements to love: the fun of other children around, the archetypal Victorian collections, a greenhouse attached, the enigma of whatever that brass thing in the front is… and my favorite mystery, the identity of whoever the girl is looking at, just out of the painting: someone or something more interesting than the ball right in front of her. (also note: No electrical cords.) What a wonderfully evocative and inspiring image!
All the best to you for heading out to possibility, and seeking our fortunes and successes over the next year- Tory
James Tissot (born in Nantes, France: 1836-1902) painted “Hide and Seek” in 1877, had a long, financially successful career that brought him creative delight as well. First known and collected for his paintings of lusciously dressed society figures, he deepened his religious faith later in life, and became rich and famous (!) for his Christian and Holy Land imagery: these became definitive Bible images, and also the foundation for contemporary films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Age of Innocence”
Hello youall! Here in Santa Fe, northern hemisphere, Monday night’s solstice got us properly settled into the winter season. At the same time, the universe being what it is, the days have started to gradually lengthen. Friends gather, lights sparkle, bursts and bustles of interactivity happen along and sweep us all up. We let ourselves remember that we’ve always been a cherished part of something bigger and deeper.
Like you! You bring something to our world that no one else can. Thank goodness you’re here. May you recieve the blessings and wisdom you desire in this luscious season. And may your secret glee-filled sense of possibility shimmer through your experiences into this new year. My best wishes to you ~ Tory