An Artist’s Workspace: my studio

For the last two weeks I was cleaning up and organizing my studio prior to starting on my next big piece – actually make that two big pieces that I have lined myself up to do!

It made me think about studios or in my case the 5×5 space where I now work in our basement and how personal it is to each and every person. We organize our spaces so that the things we love to use the most are in easy reach and so that we are in a space that is conducive for us to create.

Mid-2020 I got excited about studio space and had a room painted the whitest of whites. Those who know me will know it is my least preferred room color. My house is a riot of different shades from yellow, jade greens, pale greens, orange-red through to many differing shades of blue. I chose white because I felt that it would interfere with the artistic color choices the least. I chose that room because it had lots of light, a window with a lovely view of trees and grass and my garden. I did not use that room as I felt separated from the things I loved, being with my family as we relaxed in an evening. My studio had no space for my significant other or my pets and there was nothing to do there except create.

My studio in one of many layouts I tried. Nice and spacious, a lovely room, but separated from the life of the house.

Needless to say, the white room is no longer in use as a studio, long since converted to multiple other uses – including a sewing room for the occasion when I sew myself or my significant other a new top or pants. I have now moved myself to a small square in the basement which has become the entertainment complex in our house. My significant other has room for his hobbies, there is an old big tv and I have positioned my desk such that I can watch while working should I so desire. The room is the darkest color I have used in the house – a nice boathouse blue and thus I find it restful and calming.

There is a spot on the floor for the dog and spots on the daybed positioned against the wall for the cats. There is even room for a small office for myself.

My tiny work studio. I love it! It has everything I need close by and I am with my family as they do their own things.

I love working here. It is cramped and tiny but everyone can join me and we can be together while I work. The nice thing about using beads is that the materials I use can be used around others as long as I take the appropriate precautions – windows open and air purifier on should I use silicone. Gloves when using apoxy sculpt and tacky glue – no particular precautions required as I use non-toxic glue.

Initially when I moved down to the basement I had items strewn everywhere. But this is slowly changing! My drawing materials are under my desk. The beads are organized in rows on the wall using a system I designed to keep them there. My substrates are in a box stored elsewhere as they need infrequent access.

For those who are interested in how I created my bead storage system: steel wire attached to nails embedded in studs. Beads were then packed into ziploc bags and attached to the wire using thick jumbo paperclips.

My bead wall! My significant other did not mind when I commandeered the wall. I think he was happy they were off the floor.

In a small bookshelf to the side are my many colors of apoxy sculpt and my original jewelry making tools and beads I used when making peyote stitch bracelets – these often come in handy in all sorts of new ways!

You can see a collection of acrylic paints spilling out below, still to be homed.

And in a small container on my desk are the tools I use every day. Screw drivers, tweezers, exacto knives, scissors and pens and pencils, not to mention what I will require for my latest project, beads loose and strung. I usually only do one project at a time so this set-up provides me with all I need to happily create!

Until next time….

The Blue Jay and Licensing

Through my memberships in various mosaic groups and bead mosaic groups I have seen much discussion about copyright and licensing of images. If you base your artwork off another’s image/work/style when do you need to acknowledge this fact? It is often a heated discussion with many viewpoints on the issue, and much ignorance too about copyright law and how it pertains to art and artists.

When I started I would look at all these lovely photos on the internet. I loved the pose of the bird, the angle of the beak, the lighting, the detail. I wanted to draw them. However I was always unsure of how much of the photo was under copyright. Some people quote this magic percentage, others say that the drawing they would create would look nothing like the original because they don’t draw that well. However, for me I felt uncomfortable as that photo was someone else’s work and I wanted to know when I could legitimately use that photo and when I could not.

I started researching copyright law using what I found on the internet. Remarkably the information I came across was very consistent. (There might be opposing views out there but I did not find them). Basically they said copying any part of the photo/artwork, even if just an outline was a questionable act, unless you had received the artist’s permission or license for its use. They also pointed out how easy it was to trace a derivative back to the original. I would agree. There are so many artwork images online and as I researched I knew exactly which photo/artwork/artist’s style they had come from, even if changes were made.

I also learnt things I had not known. Photos/artwork published in reference books and magazines were also under license. Those books and magazines paid for the rights to use those images, and thus we have to too.

So how do you get the images you want to use as the base of a piece of work? Create it yourself from the source – draw the tiger at the Zoo! Take a photo of the subject you want to use. (You then own the licensing rights and are free to do with it as you choose). Or, if getting to the Atacama desert in Chile to get that perfect shot is beyond you right now, the next step is to either pay for the licensing rights to the photo, obtain written permission from the artist themselves or look for a database that provides photos/artwork that is in the public domain. I.e.it is outside of copyright, or the artist has released it without the copyright attached so that others can use it for their own benefit as they see fit.

The Blue Jay in my latest piece, pictured at the start of this blog is a licensed image. I purchased a license to use the image from iStock by Getty Images. This gives me the ability to use it for personal, commercial and business use unless otherwise restricted by the terms of the license. The only part of the licensed image I ended up using was the bird and the branch. However, if you search for Blue Jays on Google you will quickly spot the photo I used. The piece I have created is now also a copyrighted image. So one could argue that if you copy my piece you would have to pay me a licensing fee to use the parts that are original to myself and a licensing fee for the parts that are original to the photo. As you see, based on my limited understanding of this area, and it is limited, copyright can get complicated!

This and the Red Cardinal are the only pieces I will create using a licensed image done by others. Going forward I either will be provided the image (for commission work) or I will be using my own creations. I gain much pleasure now from exploring my own house and backyard with a camera and looking at old photos. I also find that it helps my artistic vision and my photography as I am looking at the camera through the artist’s lens. It will also make my future works more personal as I photograph items and subjects that grab my attention.

To me the Blue Jay is personal because of when I created it, not how it was created. The Blue Jay started as an exercise in backgrounds. I wanted to see if I could use a busy background in a neutral color that would not overpower the bird. It is an important piece to me as it connects old life with new life. I began it when my first dog’s health was deteriorating rapidly. I continued it while I grieved his passing and then finished it up after the arrival of our newest family member: a small little rescue dog from Egypt. So when I see this piece I remember two special animals in my life and the love they brought/bring to it.

If in reading this blog you find my understanding or interpretation of copyright simplistic please feel free to comment below. I know I and others who read this blog would love to learn more.

Until next time…!

My Next Piece: The Pale Comparison

Let me tell you a story. Many years ago there was a period in my adult life when I transitioned back and forth between two countries, eventually picking one location and settling in. However all my childhood belongings were packed away in a storage shed in the other country, and there they remained for ten long years. So long in fact that I no longer remembered what I owned. I often wondered what treasures I had stored away there but no longer knew.

During those ten years I spent time asking myself what it was I enjoyed doing when I wasn’t working, what hobbies would keep those evening hours full and occupied. I liked reading, and still do, but there was only so much I could read. So I looked around for hobbies to keep me entertained. I tried many things during this period, needlepoint, cross-stitch, sewing, journaling, writing, tv. Nothing seemed to suit. Finally there came a time when that storage shed was closed and my childhood belongings were placed on a ship and sent on their merry way across the ocean to my front door.

The day they arrived was like my birthday and greeting old friends mixed into one! My childhood books (my best companions), my favorite china and sentimental jewelry and ornaments. However the greatest surprise for me on opening those boxes was the fact that I had kept every single artistic gift given to me since I was the tiniest of kids. I had crayons and pencils from kindergarten, even though I stopped drawing when still in elementary school. I had artist quality paper, watercolors that one gets when a child, pencils that I’d never used that I had saved for the day I would want them. It was on that day I realized that I loved art and that as a child, this is how I had occupied my evenings when the day was done and my eyes worn out from reading.

Soon after the arrival of that box, my significant other and I went on a trip to see my sister in Santa Monica. As part of this trip, I packed those watercolors, the pencils and the artist quality paper found in my childhood treasures and went to Santa Monica.

I am an early riser. My significant other and my sister are not. So I had many mornings to myself to enjoy the sea breeze and the view and to look at the photos I had taken the day before. And thus I bring your attention to the watercolor at the top of this post. This is one of the first watercolor paintings I did as an adult. I did not think it particularly great, and was ready to bin it, but my sister, always a believer in my creativity, wanted to keep my firsts so that she could say she knew me when! (Not that I think the when she referred to will actually arrive). So this picture of Santa Monica now resides with her wherever she goes. It is there to remind her of the fun trip we had together back when I first started on my new artistic adventures.

Fast forward to last year. I am new to bead mosaics and trying to learn this new technique and how it works. My sister asked if I could re-create the painting I had done all those years ago as a bead mosaic for her. (Please see the second image at the top of the post). I did my best to achieve this goal. I made this piece four to five times using different methods and bead colors. Eventually I decided that I could not capture the essence of that first piece, because the watercolor was translucent and soft, and the beads appeared hard and solid. So, although it shines on its own, together, the bead mosaic looks like a pale comparison to the original work. As a consequence, I could not give it to my sister, even though I had made it for her. Having the bead mosaic in the same room as the watercolor would not make the mosaic shine. So I kept it for myself and gave my sister the Dolphin (mentioned in my earlier post) as it was a superior and far more important piece in my mind.

Now when I look at it, I am glad I kept it. I think of the original artwork with my sister and remember our trip to Santa Monica. It reminds me that no matter how far apart we are, we will always be connected, by tangible and intangible ties and memories. It makes me smile to think that we have something that we both share, two pieces of art, made at different times, but united by their common image.

Dear reader, until next time…!

My first post! Or how I came to be.

My evolution to a bead mosaicist began almost twenty years ago when my sister held a bead stringing party with myself and some of her friends. It was at the height of the bread stringing craze when everyone was making their own jewelry and bead stores were everywhere. Before that night I had never considered working with beads for anything. So to my sister, I must give credit for unwittingly sparking a light that has lasted for the last twenty years, and for what I hope will be many more. (I am sure that given how passionate I am about the subject, that many people are either grateful to my sister, or wish that perhaps I was absent from that particular party!)

I did not immediately realize that I wanted to be a bead mosaicist. At first I made my own necklaces, then came my peyote bracelet period -this lasted for most of the last twenty years, but eventually I realized that 1) there are only so many bracelets to wear, 2) stringing peyote bracelets felt repetitive, slow and long and 3) what I loved the most was designing the animal designs on the bracelet rather than the making and wearing of those bracelets. At this time I thought my time for beads had come to an end and I went in search of new hobbies, I looked at watercolors (I got so angry when those paints would not do as I wished!), I looked at drawing -which I liked, but not enough to make it a lifelong passion, and then I looked at glass and tile mosaics. Glass and tile mosaics are fun and I plan to do them as my hobby for my own enjoyment (come to my house and you might see a mosaic bathroom or two), but when I came to the realization that what can be done with tile and glass could also be done with beads, I was hooked and off and rolling back down the path of the shiny bead.

I must admit, however, that I am now even more passionate about the topic than I was before, because bead mosaics incorporate so many of the things I love doing. I have to draw the design for my pieces, thus all those drawing skills are needed no matter what I am doing and the better I can draw the more interesting and better my pieces will be! I also love how the elements of tile and glass mosaics applies also to the world of bead mosaics, in effect I am making micro-mosaics, but using a precut material in the beads themselves. And I love how I am free from the restrictions of the peyote stitch. With bead mosaics I can determine which direction my beads go in, I can easily do circles, wavy lines, depth, perspective. I have freedom to explore and do things as I want to do them than as defined by the Peyote stitch.

No blog would be complete without some photos showing you where I have been and where I am headed! so below I give you some of my original peyote stitch bracelets and one of my new bead mosaic artworks!

The dolphin bead mosaic is special, and currently resides with the sister who introduced me to beading. It is special because with this piece I realized the possibilities open to me with this new medium and because it is one of my very first bead mosaics. As time goes on I will introduce you to others. And yes, if you are wondering, those are elastic peyote stitch bracelets! Designed to slide over your hand and onto your wrist. I thought they were pretty cool, but many others did not seem to agree, so now I make them only on special occasions for special people in my life. If you want to try your hand at one though, please reach out and ask me to re-list the patterns I made for sale. Yes I do still have the original patterns!

Well thanks for reading this far! I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about me. Until next time!!!