Last week I had my first class in exploring a new art medium – that of precious metal clay. It’s a brief 4-week introduction and after covering some basics we played with various textures on the clay. We dried our pieces and left them with the instructor to fire in the kiln. Today we received those pieces back for finishing and polishing and I was pretty impressed. In my inexhaustible curiosity to try as many techniques as possible, metal clay had been very high on the list. But I wanted to spend some time developing my metalsmithing skills first instead of jumping all over the place. After taking several metalsmithing classes, I decided that now was the time. I’ve worked a bit with polymer clay as well, and to my mind metal clay represents the best of both worlds. It’s essentially metal dust embedded in a clay binder. It’s malleable and takes up texture as any clay would, but once fired the clay burns away and you’re left with a solid metal piece. It’s especially attractive to me because it’s a way to blend my love of rubber stamping and nature themes together with quality metal to get some unique pieces without resorting to expensive, ultra-complicated techniques.
In this class we work with bronze clay first because it’s much cheaper than silver. I wasn’t quite for sure what I’d think of it, but I’m so pleased with the fired pieces. They retained the images very well, and after polishing, the bronze has a lovely, earthy glow to it. Although you can’t see it in the photos very well, there’s a subtle shading between the high and low relief portions that’s quite appealing. I’ll be honest, a bit of a craze went off in my head when I saw them as I envisioned all the possibilities that one could do. I had picked these stamps because they were leafy (I can never pass up a leaf) and the design on the pendant looked like a spider web among the branches. A fellow student complimented them and said they looked “very art deco”. I hadn’t thought about it, but actually they did. And then I loved them even more because I’ve been cultivating an obsession with Art Deco for a while.
In fact a couple of my Christmas presents this year were about one of my favorite Art Deco artists – Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I first became acquainted with him when I read a book from the library called Mr. Mac and Me. I loved it and was thrilled when I discovered in the notes at the end of the book that Mr. Mac was indeed a real person! I read all about him online and looked at what art of his I could find. He and his wife were prominent artists of the Glasgow Style and in addition to being an accomplished painter, he also was gifted in architecture, interior design, stained glass, and many other art mediums.
I received my own copy of Mr. Mac and Me as a Christmas gift, along with a book I had seen on the last trip to Cincinnati. When my mom and I were in the gift store of the Taft Museum, my eye fell to the bottom of a display where I saw a book featuring a familiar name. It is a history of Mackintosh and his most influential patroness, Miss Cranston, and their collaboration on a series of popular tea rooms. Wow! The pictures of his chairs and his stained glass are particularly stunning. And in the back of the book are recipes that would have been served in the tea rooms as well as a catalog of the existing buildings still housing Mackintosh’s wonderful creations. It’s just a handful now, compared to all he had done. Many were destroyed in fires and in the name of progress as old buildings were mowed down. It’s sad to consider what legacy has been lost with time, but that makes what we still have even more precious. I’m glad that there is still an interest in this remarkable artist. The third book was one that my mom found for me and it is all his architectural and floral drawings. It is a printing from the 1970s that was a catalog to accompany a museum exhibit. Oh to have seen that! It’s well annotated and I’m very glad to have all his floral sketches in one place to admire. One of them, Fritillaria, graces the cover of Mr. Mac and Me. I’m looking forward to many quiet evenings curled up with my new books in the company of Mr. Mac.
Blessings to you,