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Surface Pattern Design

Art you glad it’s December!

By Holidaze

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I am a visual learner and I’m an artist. I see things in my mind first and then “create” them in the material world — that’s what we artists do. But I also see things in the world around me which I haven’t created or seen in my mind first and those things bring out emotions or ideas which lead to new “creations.”

All of which is a very convoluted, philosophical way of saying that the absolutely quickest way for me to get into the holiday spirit is to bring on the visuals: trees, ornaments, lights…ACTION!

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Being in the holiday spirit is in itself a convoluted and philosophical topic. One which I will leave to others, and will instead touch on only in regard to making fun stuff to decorate with during the Winter Hoo-rahs.

You know “I Paint Everything!” — so when I find something which is actually supposed to be painted my inclination is to do it differently from the standard expectation. Make it mine.

This papier mache Santa is right at home with all my painted patterns, and he looks quite a bit like a much taller jolly man who lives here year round. I’d say I made him mine.

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Now he’s a regular part of my Winter decorating and every December he helps me get into the holiday spirit so I can make more fun stuff and enjoy the season. More of my “creations” in the days ahead, but for now…HOO-RAH!

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Second Helpings: Gee’s Bend Jewelry Box

By Second Helpings

Jewelry boxes and chests in all variations of delicacy and heft can be found crammed in with the mismatched sets of salad bowls and oddly shaped cutting boards from well intentioned children’s shop class Christmas projects at your favorite secondhand store. My personal favorites are the jewelry boxes which never saw the mass market. Like this one.

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This is a wooden box with metal hardware, which I painted with acrylic paint. The kind of acrylic paint you can buy at any art supply or craft store for less than a dollar, in a hundred different colors with names like Tuscan Red or Bluegrass Green.

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When the box was completely painted I sealed it with Minwax Polycrylic water based acrylic sealer. I go through gallons of this stuff. It comes in satin and gloss finishes, washes up with water, and forms a clear, hard, protective surface that you can literally walk on — it’s the same sealer I use on the rugs I paint on the floor, like the one I just finished in my dining room.

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What made this project special was my inspiration. Ever since I saw a traveling exhibition of the Quilts of Gee’s Bend at the Art Museum in Milwaukee, WI in 2004 I have been over the moon for their patterns. I have a book of 30 postcards from that show which I refer to over and over.

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I referred to at least six of the quilts for this jewelry box like this one called “Medallion” by Loretta Pettway for the top:

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and “Strips” by Annie Mae Young for the inside front:

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The inside of the doors was inspired by “Pig in a Pen” by Minnie Sue Coleman:

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“Housetop” four-block “Half Log Cabin” variation by Lottie Mooney inspired the right side of the jewelry box:

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A quilt by Martha Jane Pettway described as only a center medallion with multiple borders and cornerstones is on the left side:

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And on the back, one of my absolute favorites, “Bars and String-pieced Columns” by Jessie T. Pettway:

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So much of my surface pattern design is inspired or informed by patterns from other cultures, or as I’ve mentioned before from the traditional or domestic arts. My intention is never to copy exactly — though the element of “flattery” in this piece is obvious — rather to use the patterns together to form something new. The inspiration for this piece came from quilts but the end result would barely cover your lap, much less look good spread on your bed. The end result in my opinion is, nevertheless, a treasure.

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Second Helpings: Etched Glass Votives

By Second Helpings

Secondhand and Dollar stores are the place to find clear glass vases and votives in all sizes. Sometimes you can find the blue ones which are extra special, but my project today was better with clear so the etched part would give it the wintery feel I wanted.

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I use a glass etching cream called Armour Etch. Don’t let the word “cream” fool you. It is acid in a sort of cream-like delivery system the consistency of gritty pancake batter.

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I also use an X-Acto blade, and contact paper (the adhesive plastic “paper” the tenant with bad taste before you used to line her kitchen drawers which you will waste many hours and four letter words over removing in skinny, sticky strips).

Because it involves acid, knives, incredibly clingy plastic, and bad language (potentially), you had better be mature and in full control of your physical and mental faculties before you take on this baby! It’ll be worth it though. See how pretty…!

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So, this is what I did. I took a clean, dry glass votive and wrapped it with the contact paper (I use the clear contact paper so I’m not distracted by images. You could use a solid colored one too if you can’t find clear, but it needs to be PLASTIC adhesive “paper”.) Then I cut away the plastic exposing the glass below using the X-Acto like I would a pen and “drawing” the outline of the image I plan to etch.

Wherever you expose the glass is where the acid will etch it and make it opaque. Once you’ve cut away all the plastic you plan to, and before you apply the acid etch, you basically have the “negative” of your ultimate piece.

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When you are happy with your “negative” then you brush on the acid etch. Don’t use your good brushes for this. Grab one of the crappy ones that is always losing its bristles, and “paint” the acid on the exposed glass. I usually put on a couple of coats. You want it pretty thick so it etches evenly. If you don’t put on enough you get a sort of vague, cloudy day look which you can’t redo because the plastic will come off when you wash off the acid.

Don’t waste the acid on the plastic parts, just generously cover the exposed glass parts, and let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes. The instructions say 5 minutes, but they are worrywarts and you will get the “cloudy day” result and invent new four letter words if you follow their advice. So don’t.

When you can’t stand waiting any more, rinse it off in warm running water in the kitchen sink. Use one of those drain catcher things in the drain to catch the little pieces of contact paper that will wash off along with the acid so you don’t clog up the plumbing. Once all the acid and plastic is rinsed off then give it another gentle washing with dishwashing detergent so it’s sparkling clean. Then rinse and dry. For a final touch I use those iridescent half marbles in the bottom of each votive to support the tiny tea lights that bring these votives to life.

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As with other Second Helpings projects, one is nice, but more is better. Go crazy! Imagine a winter forest, a snowy night, the warmth of candlelight. It’s a scene you too can create with a little imagination, a few potentially life endangering tools, and a reminder that cozy is also a four letter word.

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Painting Studio Tour

By My Artist Home

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At the other end of the skinny hall upstairs is my painting studio. It has an Eastern exposure and in the mornings when the sun shines through the Ikea stick blinds and throws rainbows off my foil stars it’s Joni Mitchell’s Chelsea Morning every time. Actually, I’m glad sunlight doesn’t really pour in like butterscotch and stick to all my senses because that would be pretty messy, and painting’s messy enough as it is.

My acrylic palette:
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This space, unlike the other two I’ve already shown you will probably stay pretty much the same. I may need to get another small flat top table since I’ll be stealing this one to put into the studio where I work with all things paper but that’s easy enough. Maybe I’ll even find one which requires a little paint job of its own.

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Meanwhile I’ll continue painting anything I can get my hands on, like these objects (which you can see more of over in my website in the Surface Pattern Design section):
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In fact this lonely guy called out to me today at the Antique Mall, and a colorful coat of many colors is definitely in his future. Blue, red, green and gold to welcome you. Crimson crystal beads to beckon!
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