Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back To The Drawing Board

OK, it happened again. I was working on a new idea, a macrame flower, “exploring the possibilities and potential of the materials” (i.e. nylon cord and beads) and I got to a turning point (several hours of tedious work later) when I had to make an important decision. The decision was - “Do I continue pouring more time and energy into this piece or do I stop now and add yet another half finished thing to my shoebox?” I didn’t want all the hours I’d already spent on this thing to go to waste, but as it progressed with only so-so results, I kept thinking, this is tedious, this is no fun, this is taking forever. Joseph Campbell advised us to “follow your bliss”, and it was very clear to me that this was not my bliss! So I tossed it into the black hole (my shoebox of no return) and I’m happier now because I’m freed up to work on something else. Something that I can feel good about, maybe even get excited about.
Or maybe to just sit on my porch and stare off into space......
I like to think that there are no such things as“failures” in art and that I learn something valuable from all of those partially finished thingees that I’ve made over the years. Well maybe I’ve learned a few things that I just can’t remember at the moment. But today my lesson seems to be that life is short, and macrame is very long, so I’ll quit working on stuff that doesn’t make me happy and only make things that do make me happy.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Recycling for Parts

R.I.P. old bag
I’ve been thinking lately about recycling. Not the environmentally conscious stuff that we should all be doing but the kind of recycling that relates to jewelry making. And no, I’m not talking about making earrings from bottle caps and old keys (although that could be fun). I’m talking about taking a pair of sharp scissors and (yikes!) dismembering a piece of jewelry for the parts. Perhaps it's partially a reaction to the ever escalating prices for beads, but I think - "that particular necklace or bracelet may have taken many many hours to make, but what the heck, it wasn’t my greatest effort and those lampwork beads and swarovski crystals are calling to me."

I did the recycling thing recently with a leather bag that I’d had forever. I had shown it at a local gallery and at numerous art shows but to no avail. Now I have a bunch of turquoise, carnelian, and sterling silver beads that will be put to much better use! (and a bag with no fringe or neck chain)

Two Necklaces by Joan Babcock 2012
I’ve also been recycling some design ideas. I just recently got a box of necklaces returned to me that I’d given to my mother-in-law for her birthday over the years. She’s reached a stage in her life where she can no longer use them. I thought that one of the necklace styles would be fun to make again. The length is much longer than usual - made at a time when tunics were popular I guess.
I, like most artists, always want to try something new and different to keep the creative juices flowing - but once in a while it’s nice to revisit some of the tried and true designs of yesteryear. If enough time has passed and your memory has lapses (as mine often does), it can be just like you're making it for the first time.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What’s your medicine?(bag)

J.Babcock Medicine Bag 2006

There’s something special about a little pouch made of velvet or silk or deerskin. Maybe it’s because of the size and that you can only fit something small and significant or maybe even precious inside.
Deerskin Medicine Bag

After moving to New Mexico in the late ‘80s I first became aware of Native American medicine bags - these are usually made of soft deerskin and containing personal items of protection and power such as stones, fetishes, sage, bones, hair or fur, roots, leaves or feathers.

J.Babcock Medicine Bag circa 1992

Around that same time I also began noticing other types of medicine bags in shops (also called amulet pouches or talisman bags). These were mostly decorative and worn like necklaces.  So, I started experimenting and hit upon a particular design that I could duplicate in different colors and beads so that each bag was unique. I made a lot of those bags and they helped pay the rent for many years. But as everything has it’s time and season and it was no longer my bliss to make them anymore, I decided to retire that medicine bag design for the time being.  

Fast forward to 2012. When I was playing around with ideas last week I came up with this bead embellished amulet bag. The two-dimensional knot on the front was one I found in “The Ashley Book of Knots” (#2329, page 375). This is a really cool book for knot lovers published around 1944. It took the author 11 years to finish and has thousands of knots.

P.S. I may be mistaken but I could swear I saw Mary on Downton Abbey wearing a black beaded amulet bag. It was in the scene where Richard Carlisle was walking out the door for (hopefully) the last time. As they say "everything old is new again" and beaded bags will always be in style.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"How long did it take you to make that?"

One of the most frequent questions that I'm asked by people who see my work is "How long did it take you to make that?"  After all these years of creating and selling jewelry, I'm still somewhat flummoxed by that question, because the answer isn't as apparent as it would seem. There is so many aspects that go into creating a piece of artwork and each of these takes time. First there's the ruminating (or you might call it the gestational) period when an idea is taking shape in your mind. This is an undetermined amount of time but I suspect it can take anywhere from an instant to a lifetime. Then there are the years involved in experimentation and honing your skills - making countless pieces, some of them successful and some of them (a-hum) "learning experiences". And then there are the more concrete aspects like sourcing your materials, which entails going to bead shops and bazaars and searching the web. Many many hours are spent in the pursuit of beads and materials. Then you may want to sketch out your design to give yourself a road map of where you intend to go with it (although I sometimes leave that road and go in a radical new direction!). Then there's the actual sitting down at your desk and patiently building a piece knot by knot and bead by bead. Although this can be tedious work at times, it's also very exciting and gratifying to see an idea take shape before your eyes.
I rarely keep track of the actual hours I spend on a piece. Maybe I really don't want to know, because it's usually much more than I think! But for the piece pictured here, I did try to keep track and the actual construction took about 10 hours, which includes making the brass and silver pendant.
So when I'm talking with a customer who asks "How long did it take you to make that piece?", do I say it took 10 hours (and watch the calculator in her head try to determine my hourly wage and am I asking too much or too little) or do I say "It took me all of my life to make this piece"?
..... I think that would be a lot closer to the truth....

Friday, April 20, 2012

Wire Weaving and Crochet

Woven Rose Window Pendant
Last week I got my complimentary copy of the Spring 2012 WireWork magazine. I  contributed to the issue with my project “Woven Rose Window Pendant” (page 50). I think the issue’s been out for several weeks now - as a friend mentioned a while back that she saw my article, but I think it’s still on the newsstands until May 19th.

I got interested in weaving with wire after being awestruck by the work of artist Marilyn Moore. I was honored to meet her at BeadFest Santa Fe in 2011 and buy some very skinny wire from her. I wish I’d had the extra cash to buy one of her finely woven wire vessels. Take a look at her website, you’ll be amazed!  I believe she’ll be at Bead & Button this year, as will I. 

Crocheted Wire Fan Earrings
One of the classes I’ll be teaching there is "Crocheted Wire Fan Earrings". These are my favorite style to wear lately - they really make a colorful statement. Although they’re on the large side, they can be downsized a bit and still look good. I’ve been revising and perfecting the instructions for the last few days. As all you teachers know, these classes take a lot of preparation! There are still openings in the class, if you’re so inclined...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Adventures with Soutache

"Spiral Fibers" 2012 , by Joan Babcock

About two or three years ago, I saw my first example of soutache embroidered jewelry on Annika De Groot's great blog, The necklace was by an artist named Annetta Valious, I thought it was very striking and unusual. The seed was planted. Of course, soutache isn't macrame at all, but it is fiber, so it's not surprising that it catches the eye of fiber artists. Another fabulous soutache artist that I admire greatly is Dori Csengeri, Soutache seems to be one of those trendy things lately - I noticed that Bead & Button will have an article about it in their next issue. I imagine we'll be seeing an explosion of soutache jewelry very soon. Anyway... I did have to dive in and try a few pieces myself and this is what I learned.... 1. It's not as easy as it looks, and 2. it's very time consuming!! Also, there are two distinct types of soutache that I've come across, one is made of polyester and is thicker and shinier. The ends unravel like you would not believe. Then there's some that is made of rayon (I think) and is narrower and the ends are not as unruly. I prefer that kind personally because you can dye it more easily. So of all the pieces I've made thus far, this is my favorite. I'll probably do some more pieces - until I'm enticed into another creative tangent.....

Sunday, April 15, 2012

To Blog or Knot to Blog?

OK, I'll come right out and say it .... this blog's all about me. Sure, it's title, "My Life in Knots" refers to the type of art I've devoted much of my creative life to and what I'm mostly known for - the oft underrated craft known as macrame. But it also hints at my day to day life as someone who earns her living in a creative field. And while I'll surely include some macrame related posts from time to time, this will not be an "all things macrame" blog. Oh no, I go on all sorts of creative tangents! My primary purpose is to have a place to talk about whatever I want, whenever I want (continuing the "all about me" theme). It's a space where I can share pictures of some things I've been working on and occasional observations about this crazy creative life. Sooo, here goes.... perhaps I'll pick up a few followers along the way..... hope so