Workshop with Celie in Vermont

Early in October I took my first workshop in precious metal clay (PMC). I have researched PMC workshops a lot over the past several years and I’ve not found any very close to me here in Evansville, IN. So, I decided that I was going to take a PMC workshop and since I’d have to travel some distance to get to one, I might as well pick a really good one. I mean, pick a really amazing artist from whom to learn. I’ve looked at works from one particular metal clay artist more than any other (and there are some really great artists out there) and I’m always in awe of the beautiful pieces she creates. Celie Fago. I picked one of her workshops: Hollow Forms and Keum Boo. Luckily for me, I was able to get a spot, as her workshops are popular and pretty small.

Celie lives in Vermont. I’d never been to Vermont. I’ve been to Maine, Connecticut, NY, Rhode Island… but not Vermont. And early October was sure to be beautiful there during my favorite season of Autumn. I flew into Logan International Airport in Boston. Ugh, I’d never driven in Boston traffic before either. I thought that tunnel after the airport would never end! But with the help of my trustee maps app, it wasn’t too bad. I stayed in an Airbnb in Randolph, VT, which was only about 20 minutes from the workshop. The owners were super nice and it was a neat old house they were renovating. The little towns were so quaint nestled into the hills. And much of the time I was there, it was a bit drizzly with mist hanging over the colorful foliage on the hills.

Now some of you may remember, because I’ve explained it to a lot of people and it’s mentioned on my website, what Keum Boo is. It is an ancient Korean technique of fusing very thin gold foil to silver. I have been using this technique with my jewelry for a couple of years now. But there’s always more to learn. I knew Celie would teach me more about this technique. And she did. I bought her book about this technique before I ever tried it. Included in this book was how to make textures from photocopies. I tried it a few times and was able to get some textures I could use but they could have been better. Fortunately, making textures was also included in this workshop so I learned how to properly make them so that I get better impressions. Because the thing about working with metal clay is that being that it’s actually clay, it takes textures really nicely. And I LOVE texture!

The other students, all 7 of them, were really nice. It was wonderful for us all to share tips, materials, and resources. And many laughs:) They came from all over the US. Celie was lovely, generous, endearingly quirky, witty, flexible, and patient. She was an amazing teacher. She gave plenty of one-on-one instruction when needed or requested. Her demonstrations for techniques were entertaining and easy to follow. We were able to stay after the workshop ended to continue working each evening, which was really nice. I found myself wishing I could spend a lot more time in this environment of creating and sharing with others that were also creating with PMC. I told my husband when I got home that we needed to become wealthy and just spend our days taking workshops, creating, and traveling.

The night before I left Vermont, I got to visit with a couple of friends in Cabot. My husband and I have known them for several years and it was great to see them on their turf for a change. They live in a renovated old school house chocked full of character and charm.

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By the end of the workshop, we all had made some very nice pieces and had attained some great skills to continue practicing. I could hardly wait to play with the textures I’d made and challenge myself with some new ideas inspired by seeing some of Celie’s wonderful creations in person. And I even splurged and bought a necklace of Celie’s creation. I feel like I’m carrying a bit of Celie mojo when I wear it. And that couldn’t hurt!

Check out Celie Fago’s work: http://celiefago.com/

Ancient Keum-Boo

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You may have noticed that I’ve been incorporating gold into more of my pieces lately. Yes! I am in love with the process of designing pieces that show off the gold in different ways. Sometimes it’s only peeking through textures and other times, Whoa! There it is, all glorious and shining brightly.

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For those of you who may not know, I am a Pinterest junkie. I can spend hours upon hours on there, finding loads of inspiration for new pieces. I also find a lot of cute, weird, and inspirational posts for my Dharma Cowgirl Facebook page. You know, the sometimes bizarre but otherwise beautiful good morning and good night posts that many of you have told me that you love. Which, by the way, means so much to me. I post what touches my soul and the fact that many of my posts are meaningful to others out there is wonderful. Well, anyway, I digress. Pinterest is where I stumbled upon Keum-Boo.

Keum-Boo, which is Korean for “attached gold”, is an ancient Korean technique of applying super thin sheets of gold to silver. The 24 carat gold foil is applied to the silver using heat and pressure which actually causes an electron exchange between the two metals. The result is a permanent diffusion bond. I have found it to be a challenging technique but oh so worth it. It works best on low relief designs. Keep an eye out for more daring designs as I become more confident with this technique.

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My Grandparents Continue To Inspire Me

Do you come from a creative family? I think some of my earliest inspirations to creativity came from my grandparents. They had so many interesting hobbies and experiences. I can remember arriving at my grandma and grandpa’s house and finding them in the “shop”, short for wood shop. My sister and I would barge in there and see that they were busy working on the long rifles that they made. Grandma would be carving the tail stock with long, curly scrolls. Grandpa would be working on the rough cast brass butt plates and trigger guards and such. They would only stop long enough to look up at us and say hello. My sister, Rachael, and I would ask if we could have a piece of wood to work on. My grandma would point to a pile of scrap pieces and tell us to grab one. We would each fit our wood pieces into an available vice, there were several screwed onto the workbench, and start filing and sanding. Occasionally we’d stop to show each other how soft and smooth our piece was becoming, asking what the other had used to get it so smooth and sometimes trading tools.

But let me describe to you what my grandparents’ home was like. They lived way out in the sticks. We drove on gravel roads on the way to their house, all the while keeping a look out for the occasional deer or rabbit. I can remember that we also saw a fox, snapping turtle, and occasionally a brilliant blue indigo bunting. Grandma and Grandpa lived in a log cabin, which I loved. Wood floors, rough plaster ceiling, warm and gently worn antiques all around. The cabin had this indescribable smell. But if I were to try, it would possibly be the combination of wood, leaves, mossy earth, and wood fire. My green thumbed grandma always had beautiful flowers and when I was younger they had a huge vegetable garden. It seemed to be a requirement to always have some sort of big dog and several cats at the cabin. Rachael and I loved it out there. We loved the simplicity and rustic beauty of the place.

Grandma Gloria, as we called her, seemed to be able to create anything. She could draw, paint, carve, sew, cook, upholster, and repair anything. Grandpa was just as capable, talented and smart, though Grandma was more artistic. They participated in a lot of period events. Grandma sewed the most amazing costumes for these events! She’d lay out a wool blanket in front of the lean-to and on it place a variety of items she and Grandpa were willing to sell or trade: guns, costumes, powder flasks, perhaps a chatelaine or some other accessory to any proper 18th century costume. We would sometimes participate in these period events too. I remember Friendship with its tall teepees and the smell of campfires. To this day that smell still stirs something in me.

They’re both gone now but as I explore my creativity more and more, I think of them. I inherited piles of colorful wool from Grandma to make hooked rugs or whatever I might finally get the nerve to try to sew. I saved some of the labels that she taped to plastic bags of yards of wool: 58″ brown washable wool 11 yds; 2 yds 60″ wide French maroon wool. One of Grandpa’s victrolas sits in my studio too. I have a whole trunk of old 78s. And there are other things here and there to remind me of them. I wish I could have learned more from both of them but they will always be inspiring to me. There are times when people will tell me about creative family members but that they themselves are not creative at all. I believe everyone has creativity inside them. For me, I just had to finally decide, “I can do that” and then just try it. Do it! Do it! Get some stuff and play, free your creativity!