b2zone magazine E18 Raphael Truffi Bortholuzzi 01

The Cover Story of Raphael Truffi Bortholuzzi

 

Raphael Truffi Bortholuzzi reached a point in his career where he needed to recycle and innovate as an artist. Doing work with digital 3D technology to manipulate his images had become nothing more than a routine and it was then when he came up with the idea to create miniature reproductions that respected the original scale and essence of their real models. It began primarily as a hobby, but the beauty Raphael found in those delicate and richly detailed worlds captured him. His choice for this medium was driven by the possibility to express more life and realism in comparison to digital work. “A miniature scenario can bring you much more engagement than just a photo,” he says.

 

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Raphael explains that understanding how the scaling process works was difficult at the beginning because he assumed that reducing the size of things would be enough, but the scale measurement process is extremely important if one wants to achieve the maximum level of realism possible. If a miniature work is off scale, the human eye will automatically interpret it as something out of the ordinary. Due to the lack of specific courses on the subject, Raphael had to learn and study on his own. The only way to learn was to observe other artists with more knowledge and with whom he could exchange information. The way to acquiring his own technique was paved with mistakes and failed attempts, but seeing a project take life in a physical way is very rewarding for him.

 

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Raphael falls in love with his work every time he imitates real life in such small proportions. Additionally, this type of art has a highly therapeutic effect on him. Raphael was born in Brazil in 1981 but he moved to London, where he grew as a person and as a professional, at the age of 17. He has an academic background in design and cinema, and a 20-year-long career in the film industry. Since 2010 Raphael has been acting a miniaturist. What started as a hobby, has become a profession and a full-time job through his company Grandmondo Miniatures. Always giving his life and soul to every job, Raphael enables his viewers to create the plot.

 

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He tries to avoid using human figures or anything of the sort, letting viewers identify themselves with the scenario so that they can create their own characters in each environment. His intent is to give the details of objects, such as a flashing lamp, a semi-open door, or something abandoned, for viewers to build a narrative and create a storyline. “In some cases, I just want to accurately reproduce and replicate in scale some classic movie scene, an environment, or an object I enjoy. But I also use my imagination and recreate things I have observed or recorded with photographs. I build something with fragments of ideas and random references. For a commissioned job, I follow the rules of the client,” he says. Raphael is a very enthusiastic collector of antiques, just like his father. This factor helps him stay inspired. His work typically starts by spending extensive time looking for references, details, sketches, and drawings.

 

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This process can take weeks, or even months, before beginning to cut or fix any structure. After an intensive search for what he wishes to create, he starts to plan a mockup out of cardboard, which allows him to visualize the structure in a three-dimensional format. Raphael then moves to the final construction, using the actual material he desires. The painting process goes hand in hand with the assembly process. In some cases, parts are painted before they are docked or glued. “It is very gratifying to see my work being recognized and admired by all. This inspires me continually, and it makes me very happy to know that I can pursue a new career by doing something this fun. I am very grateful to the b2zone Magazine for the opportunity to share a part of my story. Thank you very much.”

You can learn more about Raphael’s work online.

 

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Bjarne Froslev 001

The Cover Story of Bjarne Froslev

 

Bjarne Froslev came into the world in a Copenhagen working-class neighborhood just after World war 2. Even though it was a time of much adversity, his mother kept it all together, providing a good family environment in which Bjarne and his three sisters could grow up. Their apartment was small so he moved out at the age of 15. Bjarne was fortunate to find a small loft (actually two loft storerooms put together) that he could call home. The environment of a working-class neighborhood in Copenhagen provided a platform and the fuel needed for his deep political commitment as a socialist. As strange and unexpected as it may sound, Bjarne was initially trained as a bookkeeper.

 

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But his involvement in bookkeeping lasted no longer than the last day his training took place. The only observable difference in everyday life was the color of the tree outside the window, green in the summer and gray in the winter. He left that place on the same day training was over and began a training as a social worker. Bjarne’s social work began with drug addicts, criminals and children placed in boarding. He later worked in childcare centers and childcare organizations. Parallel to his occupation Bjarne married “the best woman in the world” with whom he has “three lovely daughters.” But social work would not be the end of it. A creative gene that he believes to have received from his mother and his father instilled in him a desire to create. His father was a great life artist and his mother created art with everything she touched. Bjarne grew up observing how everything around him was transformed. He points out that his career actually started in one class in elementary school where the janitor taught painting and how to work on rural cabinets in the evenings.

 

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From that point on Bjarne continued with attempts to create stoneware sculptures. Leather became a big part of his life because it allowed him to finance his training as a social worker. It all came together in his late thirties when Bjarne and his wife decided that art should become a fulltime endeavor. Sculpture took the top spot. Sculptures in stoneware, granite and leather were the mainstay of expression in art societies, galleries and his own traveling gallery. Leather sculpture is Bjarne’s particular field of work. The technique (and the art itself) comes from the 1500s when commedia dell’arte used leather masks for performances. “The technique for creating amazing leather masks was greatly forgotten over time, especially the Italian Satori brothers’ technique. I have developed this technique to create entire leather sculptures out of leather,” Bjarne says before sharing the three main stages of his sculptural work. First, a template in either wood or stoneware is built where the leather can be shaped and processed. Second, vegetable tanned leather, varying from 0.5 to 1.5 mm gets softened through long and hard machining. This loosens the fabrics and the effect of time in the leather. Finally, the leather is formed on the matrix. During this process, the leather is treated with heat so that details are fixed before doing further work. Bjarne is an inspiration and a testament that it is possible to follow three life passions, even if parallel.

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Cristiano Tweny 001

The Cover Story of Cristiano Tweny

 

 

Cristiano Tweny, a.k.a Red Tweny, was born in 1964 in Rome where he still lives today with his wife and his two sons. As the first of two children, his life was restricted during his upbringing. This might have imprinted a sense of insecurity in him as well as an estrangement from reality, which have often influenced his life and work. Red Tweny’s artistic aptitude was evident at an early age. To foster his abilities, his mother made him religiously attend all the main contemporary art exhibitions that passed through Rome during the mid-70s. By the age of 12 he was already studying painting under the tutelage of an illustrator at the local college.

 

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In 1984, he graduated from the Mary Mount College, an institution with a pedagogic method characterized by a humanistic religion philosophy which gave spiritual nourishment to his creativity. He has actively attended exhibitions all over Rome since then. The tragic passing of his father at the age of 20 affected him deeply and has influenced the style and main subjects of his artwork ever since. Red Tweny’s artistic passion landed him a job in the advertising department of Eni, an Italian energy company, where he remained throughout the 90s. This position allowed him the opportunity to collaborate with several large international advertising agencies, which also influenced the elements of graphical design combined into his own classical and surreal painting work. Throughout this period, he primarily made use of watercolors but switched to black ink in 2000 which made his work instantly recognizable.

 

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His art now is characterized by an exaggerated use of black ink and a subject matter that leaves vivid impressions in his audiences. Red Tweny does not make use of subtext but rather overtly throws in the forefront the essence of his subjects that centers around the futility of attempting to find meaning in a tangled existence for everyone to see. His art frequently depicts subjects experiencing extreme feelings which he compares to someone going through surgery without anesthetics. The exclusive use of black and white is intended to heighten a sense of violence, coldness and desolation in the human condition. “I created a style that I believe to be quite new and recognizable, reminiscent of the fears of our century and the uneasiness of our souls. I try to show the shabby daily lives as opposed to the higher needs of the human soul, which are usually disappointing,” he shares. The use of black and white in negative space give the illusion of his subjects being frozen in space and time, helping to accentuate the message conveyed.

 

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The tension of a body as it convulses and ultimately crumbles becomes the epicenter of the image. There is nowhere else for the viewer to look but straight into the abyss he has depicted. Red Tweny does not have an exact workflow or a precise source of inspiration but he almost tries to go in trance when he is in front of the new white sheet of the week. “It is certainly a rather fatiguing state of mind. Another rather opposite source of inspiration is during dull moments at the office that I use to scribble the drawing that I will transpose in the evening into the 50x70cm format I use for all my creations,” he says. Drawing is clearly not his official job but rather an intense hobby that he practices daily. Red Twenty has forced himself for many years to produce at least one piece every week, which he then regularly showcases on the main social networks. He does not participate in collective exhibitions in Rome for now because he considers them expensive and unnecessary.

 

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01 Francesca Rizzato Fox

The Cover Story of Francesca Rizzato

 

Francesca was born in Livorno 25 years ago but recently moved to Soriano nel Cimino, a charming mountain village in the province of Viterbo near Rome. She loves living in the middle of nature, which is the reason she moved where she lives now. Her house is right where the forest that leads to Monti Cimini starts. Being in contact with nature is very important to Francesca and it is her ideal habitat to get inspired. Her inspiration comes directly from the world that surrounds her, its colors, the small and simple things that nature has to offer, a leaf falling, the flight of a butterfly, the rustling wind, the whisper of the forest, the purity of nature. She loves to capture it. She captures it with a pinch of magic, enchantment and fantasy.

 

02Francesca Rizzato Deer

 

The forest represents a source of inspiration towards excellence for Francesca. The splendor of the forest, which completely fascinates and intrigues her, is something of which she never tires. Francesca happily abandoned her job as a graphic designer and she is convinced it was the best decision of her life. As a full-time and self-taught artist (and her own boss) she can feed her creativity constantly. She loves her work and working from home is the ideal setup because she can have her loved ones around who cheer her up and provide good inspiration and support. Felting has fascinated Francesca since she got to know what it was. One day she fell in love with some needle felted animal sculptures she saw online. She was immediately enchanted and convinced that she had to know how they were made and that she had to learn how to make them herself. She went on to watch online video tutorials, purchased all the required materials and got started. She sincerely shares with us that the very first wool item she made was a strange looking mouse. But she was in love with the technique so she kept trying and practicing every day to achieve better and better results.

 

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It took some time until Francesca could create what she saw in her mind. After refining her technique, she worked then to develop her own style which is fully inspired by animals and the natural world. Francesca experiences that, as a self-taught artist, she never ceases to learn new tips and techniques day by day and the big online felting community provides never-ending sources of inspiration. “You need a lot of patience, and, of course, you have to keep trying and trying until you understand how the magic of felting happens. Wool gives you endless possibilities to give shape to your fantasy,” she shares. Francesca mainly works with carded wool, using the needle felting technique to make small to medium-sized sculptures. For her wool paintings, she uses the wet felting technique. She likes variety and to experience new techniques and materials, combining different elements depending on the result desired. In addition, she also draws, paints and catches herself doing visual arts such as illustrations and watercolor paintings. Nevertheless, all her creations are connected by the animal/nature theme. Francesca connected to nature in a very special way and this is reflected in her work, where animals are usually the protagonists. She is obsessed with foxes. In fact, that is where the name of her shop comes from. “La Volpe Cimina” means the fox living in Monti Cimini.

 

04 Francesca Rizzato Raccoon

 

Francesca believes the fox to be her spirit animal since she was a child. Some time ago she made a fox sculpture with the intention to sell it but it is now in her living room over the fireplace. There is no particular reason for that, except that the sculpture’s eyes have haunted Francesca. They caught her attention as if they tried to tell her “I want to stay with you, do not leave me!” The time and effort spent creating animal sculptures of this kind make it always a bit painful for her when they leave her. Sometimes Francesca gets asked why she makes only animals and no humans or anything else. She does not know the answer. Animals speak to her. She can give them a voice and an opportunity to be loved and appreciated. At least that is what she hopes people feel when they look at her artwork. If her creations could deliver a special message to the world it would be to “respect nature” or to “take care of Mother Earth.” Francesca’s childhood was influenced by the love of a very special grandmother who taught her to never stop dreaming and who gave her life lessons she will never forget. The creative world was a big dream to her when she was a child. Just one color pencil in her hand gave her total happiness and her family always encouraged and supported her passion for the arts. She likes to remember the time she spent at her grannie’s farm during the summer holidays. Those times when she could merge two of her biggest passions (art and animals) were full of joy. At the farm, she was able to draw almost all day long, with her animal muses around and with the loving support of her family. Sometimes she was even a guide for school teaching visits just for fun. Francesca named every single animal at the farm and she was very proud to introduce them to the school kids, describing each animal’s characteristics and showing her drawings of them. “When you live so close to nature, you can love it or hate it, but, in each case, you first must respect it,” she states.

 

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Francesca was the little dreamer of the farm with a brush in one hand and a bottle of milk in the other. She drew foxes stealing grapes for her granddad and sly cats for her grandma. Before going to bed she always told them about her adventures to the stars in the sky. Today, with these special memories in her heart, Francesca keeps dreaming and shaping her creations. Her plans for the very near future are to upgrade her working tools and to rearrange her studio. In her perspective, the more an artist works, the more they understand what is better for them and for the working space around them. Francesca never stops organizing and moving things according to current and future projects she has in mind. Once all that is set, her plan is to create as many new things as possible. She concludes by saying “If I could tell something to the readers of my story it would be: do what you love! Nothing will ever set you free as doing what you really love. If you have the possibility to do it, just go ahead and do it.”

Owl’s home: b2zone development

 

06 Francesca Rizzato Owls

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001 Juergen Volbach

The Cover Story of Juergen Volbach

 

Born in 1962 in Bergisch Gladbach Jürgen Volbach now lives and works in Cologne, the city he considers to be the most beautiful in the Rhineland, an area in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. Jürgen painted and painted with enthusiasm already at the age of 10. Even though his parents have no artistic background they always supported his artistic talent and efforts. After finishing school at the age of 14 Jürgen had the luck to start a course on hand engraving. Rudolf Niedballa, one of the world’s most renowned heraldic engravers lived and worked right in his hometown doing work mainly for the Vatican, the English royal house and the European high aristocracy.

 

002 Juergen Vollbach

 

One day Jürgen’s grandmother approached Rudolf together with the pastor of their town to tell him about the young man’s talent and to see if he could learn from him. After looking at his drawings and discussing the options with his mother he decided to invite him for one trial week during the Easter break. One week later Jürgen’s parents received a letter from Rudolf inviting him to officially become his apprentice and without the need to fulfill the customary requirements such as references, CV and the like. It was a wonderful and instructive time in which Jürgen could learn all those special techniques from him and many other goldsmiths who used his workshop over the weekends.

 

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After his four-year apprenticeship Jürgen began an additional training as a goldsmith in a renowned smithy in Cologne. He spent three and a half years there to then merge both professions. He also took part in various trainings to learn the skills of working with gemstones. During his time as a goldsmith and engraver Jürgen received many international awards for his work, including the “De Beers Diamonds International Award” and an entry in “Who is Who.” Starting at 21 he worked for five years at a goldsmith’s workshop in Cologne focusing on designs, drawings and jewelry before setting up his own jewelry workshop at the age of 26. Jürgen’s love for Harley Davidson motorcycles also came through his profession while attending a jewelry and watch auction where a Harley Davidson was also auctioned. The motorbike seemed to be interesting only to him and he was able to get it at a bargain price.

 

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Professional circumstances allowed Jürgen to travel to America several times in order to visit the watch and diamond exchange. He also had friends there and that is how he came in contact with the Harley Davidson scene. It was then when he was able to understand the kind of motorbike he had actually bought and the cult around it, leading into his special passion for restoration and customization of Harley Davidson motorcycles. During a six month trip to Texas Jürgen came in contact with the richly ornamented cowboy leatherwork and was eager to learn the craft. He was able to learn the basic skills at the renowned saddle and boot maker Don Atkinson in Kerryville, Texas. Jürgen is an autodidact and he has adapted his art and various crafts over the years. He worked with the airbrush gun already at a young age using an air-filled car tire as a compressor, which he states it worked wonderfully.

 

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Today he of course uses a professional compressor. Nowadays he has all the machines and tools he needs for his leatherwork. He also makes some of his carving tools himself using the devices he utilizes for goldsmith and engraving work. After designing and making jewelry for twenty years his interest has developed more and more towards designing and customizing Harley Davidsons. He has created a separate area in his big workshop where he can do welding and metal work and where he also has a painting box. His drawings, paintings and airbrush art are created in a separate studio. Jürgen is a perfectionist in all his work and even after 40 years of a professional career he is still open to learning and discovering new things but he loves as well to pass on his knowledge and experience in leather work to others through courses and instruction.

 

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001 Mark B Temlett la double vie

The Cover Story of Mark B Temlett

 

Mark was born in Helsinki, Finland but he grew up in Paris, France and has always been into drawing. He would draw for hours and hours without making a sound while sitting at his desk in his room scribbling away with his pencils, building a world of his own with imaginary creatures and creating exciting cartoon-like stories. As a teenager Mark moved on to working with ink pens of various sizes and through which he channeled his rebellious thoughts against the strict upbringing at school. Those drawings took the form of comic strips featuring his schoolmates as caricatures in everyday life situations exaggerated as far as his imagination could possibly take him.

 

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That was part of his everyday fun at school during the lunch break and after class. After his final school exams, the moment came when he had to make the time-pressured and ultimate decision of what to choose as a professional career. He had been so busy drawing that he had never really thought about what to do with his life. Mark decided to take a drastic turn and study business since art was not considered a serious enough option. Mark studied finance and economics and graduated with a Master of Science in Business and became a successful money maker for various big 5 companies in London. By then he had totally given up on his hopes and dreams of becoming an artist.

 

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Recently, one evening when the thought to carry on working in the corporate work for life had settled in his mind, Mark picked up a pencil and a sheet of paper and started drawing. The feeling of being true and genuine to himself immediately arose while he rediscovered a forgotten region deep inside that had been ignored for such a long time. Slowly Mark decided to pick it up where he left off and got all those dusty drawing books back out of the cellar. There was a lot of catching up to do but he gradually and happily traded that busy corporate lifestyle for “la vie de bohème” doing what he loves and does best, scribbling and creating for his own good and for the joy of his entourage. Mark’s style is heavily influenced by 19th century postimpressionism and surrealism, which truly inspires the work that he proudly presents to you today. His early influences were based on children’s books and cartoons. More recently his style has evolved through the inspiration from artists such as Picasso (early works), Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Magritte and Dalí. His unique style can be described as postimpressionism and surrealism with a twist of comic strips spiced up with a tad of subconscious journeying.

 

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Mark’s works are illustrated and presented as a story with various components put together like a jigsaw puzzle creating a hidden message that invites the viewer to take a journey, explore and interpret. His ideas and inspiration are triggered from his deep subconscious containing anything from childhood memories to dreams and everyday life experiences to which many of us can relate. Mark starts off using a light pencil to sketch on A3 sized paper usually in portrait format. Next, he uses pastel colors to emphasize various elements of the subjects in the composition. Finally, he uses Indian ink pens to add consistency to the drawing. To his surprise Mark has been offered this year to present his work in various group and solo exhibitions in Paris at different art galleries. Additionally he has other venues lined up for which he has been selected by a jury to exhibit a small number of his pieces. For Mark this is like a childhood dream come true particularly after having suppressed the need to create for so many years. We hope you like Mark’s original and innovative style as much as we do.

 

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00 b2zone magazine Edition 12 Jim Hughes

The Cover Story of Jim Hughes

 

Jim Hughes carves antlers into works of art using nothing more than hand tools. He started carving bone and antler back in 2010 when he was temporarily laid off from his factory job. He had an old dremel tool in the shop back then. He and his father had always collected whitetail antlers in the spring. Several of those antlers had been chewed on by rodents. He spotted a piece that was the shape of a small feather. His uncle had helped him with some work on his air conditioning so he carved it into a feather to use it in a walking stick for him. Jim realized people seemed to like the little bone feather so he made a bunch of them in the form of hat pins or lapel pins which he sold around for a little extra money. His skills started to improve from that point forward but he remembers with a grin that the originals were pretty crude. When work returned full swing Jim realized how unhappy he was in his job.

 

01 b2zone magazine Edition 12 Jim Hughes

 

It was not a nice place, at least not for him. He decided he would try his hardest to get out of there. Working 100+ hour weeks for a couple years between the factory and late nights/early mornings carving. That was quite a balancing act for someone who is raising a family, coaching kids’ sports and all that goes with it. It was 5 years ago, after he was laid off from his job, when he realized he wanted to be a professional artist. The event allowed him to dabble a bit more heavily in his art. Following that, the realization came that art is what he truly wanted to do. Jim left the factory on March 1st 2013. “Thankfully, I’ve always had the backing of a great, understanding, hard working woman,” he says.

 

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Most of Jim’s skills are self-taught but he points out that he has received great advice from other artists. Tons of trial and error experiences have helped him hone his skill as an artist and he believes his driving force in his artwork is striving to make each piece better than the last, which, in turn, leads him to become a better artist. Jim loves being able to work on his craft whenever he pleases, which usually falls between hunting seasons and fishing. This also allows him to spend as much time as possible with his wonderful family. The feeling of not having to punch a clock and listen to a boss every day is something he describes as great. Another part of the art business Jim loves is being able to work closely with other artists and collectors. Just in these past five short years he has made great friendships with people all around the world.

 

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His decision to do artwork was also heavily influenced by his desire to get more time for his hobbies. His not so stereotypically urban family is a big part of his entire life. They love to get out and go for hikes and their newfound hobby is kayaking. “Another big part of living where I do is the fact that I haven’t missed watching a sunrise or sunset in almost a year,” he adds. Jim is insanely passionate and particular about the way his work is done but he feels it doesn’t convey any particular message about one thing or another but rather just shows the beauty of nature, his main source of inspiration. Sometimes he will stare at a piece of antler for hours before realizing what he wants it to be.

 

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Other times he goes in with a plan about how the piece should look. That is just one part of a huge process through which he goes on every piece he crafts. The materials Jim uses come from many different sources. He has always searched for whitetail sheds in the spring and always keeps his eyes peeled for interesting pieces of wood, shells or stones. He also buys some elk antler and moose antler through suppliers, at auctions or through friends. His large network of wonderful friends made up of other artists, fans, teachers, etc. collaborates shipping each other materials when they have extras. “It is very inspiring when people take the time and effort to do that for you,” Jim states. The start is his piece of material which is anything from elk antler to fossilized wooly mammoth ivory. From there he might do a light freehand sketch with a sharpie or pencil. This is where the fun part for him begins.

 

05 b2zone magazine Edition 12 Jim Hughes

 

Using spinning burs and dremel-style machines he proceeds to rough out the image or shape he wants to make. Next it is mostly filing down the rough ridges and bumps using homemade hand tools. After that, he usually uses a light stain of some kind to add coloring to the artwork. Photography and price negotiation usually follow. Each piece is a project of its own. Every feather is different, every piece of material is an individual. Each work takes its own amount of time. This means doing commission work can be hard sometimes because it is very hard to quote a price on a piece of which the amount of working time is unknown. The last feather Jim did from elk antler took over 130 hours to complete while the one before took 85. Jim shares that if he can keep from getting distracted by a fishing pole or a mountain hike he can usually produce two or three custom neck pieces in a week or one highly detailed netsuke piece. “Sometimes it’s hard to stay pointed in the proper direction. But I do my best. Life on the farm is busy. It is kind of sad to see something that you pour your heart and soul into be shipped away, but as long as it keeps allowing me to do the art that I love, it is completely worth it,” he concludes.

 

06 b2zone magazine Edition 12 Jim Hughes

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Akie Nakata 001

The Cover Story of Akie Nakata

 

To Akie Nakata stones are not simply materials or canvases on which to paint pictures. When she looks at all those numerous stones on a river bank her eye will be caught by that one stone that looks like an animal. And when she finds that stone she feels the stone has also found her. Akie believes that stones have their own intentions. She also believes her encounter with a stone is a cue from the stone itself giving her an OK to go ahead and paint what she sees on it. Hence, the stones on which she decides to paint are not arbitrary but significant opposites with whom she has established a connection and who inspire her to work with them. In all those encounters and in her art Akie shows her respect for those opposites by never processing a stone, never cutting off and edge to alter the shape.

 

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“Stones may fall outside our usual definition of living organisms, but when I think of the long time it takes for a stone to change from a huge boulder in the mountains to the size and shape it has, as it rests in my palm, I feel the history of the earth that the stone has silently witnessed over the millennia, and I feel the story inside it. I feel the breath of a life inside each stone, so sometimes I paint while I talk to the stone as I hold it in my hand,” Akie explains.

 

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In order to bring out and resurface the living being in the stone she proceeds very carefully and considering every step. For example, she will consider whether she is positioning the backbone in the right place. She takes the time to sense if it feels right or if she is forcing something that disagrees with the natural shape of the stone. She treads cautiously taking her paintbrush to the stone only when she truly feels it is the right brushstroke. Her painting is a dialogue with the stone and it is the stone who determines what she paints on it.

 

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The art Akie creates is a life newly born in her hands out of her dialogue with the stone. What she paints is the life, the living spirit of the being in the stone. She leaves the eyes for the very end. Her work is complete only when she can see the eyes are alive and looking back straight at her. Completing a piece has nothing to do with the amount of detail drawn but rather whether she can feel the life in the stone.

“The stones and I are parts of the same earth. My stone art is collaborative work between two pieces of one sphere and I hope that each of my works passes into the hands of someone who values being a companion in the stone’s journey as much as I enjoy painting the life in the stone. We all stand on the same Earth and we come from the same Earth.” Akie shares.

 

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This journey started while taking a walk on a river bank and encountering a stone that by its looks was a rabbit and nothing else. Akie liked collecting stones (natural rocks, not jewels or gemstones) as well as drawing animals since childhood and felt in that moment and through that stone in her palm those interests converged. Due to the value she places on leaving the original shape of the stone untouched there is no grinding or applying smoothing agents. Akie mainly uses acrylic paint adjusting the viscosity of the paint for each stone. Her drawing skills are self-taught. Since 2011 Akie began working as a stone artist and still each stone she picks up and works with is unique.

 

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Jesse Lane 01

The Cover Story of Jesse Lane

 

Topical Subject: Jesse had his first solo exhibition starting in October 2016 at the RJD Gallery in Sag Harbor, New York. It was called “Face Reality” and he exhibited five of his award winning paintings. Very sadly, on December 16th the gallery was destroyed by a fire and Jesse lost his paintings to this fire. We share the pain about this loss with Jesse and are glad that these wonderful artworks can at least live on in our b2zone magazine.

When Jesse Lane began drawing the odds did not seem to be on his side. At the age of 14 he was told by his teacher that he was the worst artist in the class so a bright artistic future felt questionable at best. His reason to begin drawing was simply that his friends at school were doing it. And it was through their work that he saw the very basics of what colored pencil could do. They were only 15 but their work inspired him to create on his own and to find something he was good at, something that would help him define who he was.

Drawing felt like the perfect fit. Jesse loves colored pencil for its precision and because it is a great tool for portraits. The small tip lends itself to tiny details such as hair and splotches of color on skin. He began by drawing anime and moved into realism a couple of years later. “It felt so much harder back then. I was starting from the bottom. I was a beginner with no talent, but over time I progressed and I began to be seen as one of the better artists among my friends. That made me want to pursue it further,” He explains.

 

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His high school teacher, Jim Kitchen, helped his transition into realism. He once said that “the best artists are those who turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.” Jesse also learned from him that you can’t always be the best, but you can always be the best you can be. And while Jesse wasn’t the best artist in his class he always acknowledged how hard he worked. That made him want to achieve more. His dad is an artist/photographer who for many years focused on drawing people and he tells us that, once he learned to accept critiques from him and his teachers, he began to progress much more quickly than on his own. “Critique is so important. It’s one-on-one attention for your art,” he adds.

 

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One of Jesse’s biggest influences is the great Baroque painter Caravaggio whose lighting and color became a subject of study for him and which he used as a starting point in his own work. Teachers and inspirations have helped him tremendously but there is a lot of learning he had to do on his own, mostly in finding his own voice. No one else could have told him what that was. Once Jesse found his voice the struggle was to refine it. In his opinion the first images he created were too warm, too detailed, too tied to a specific story. What he had to learn is that less is more and that applied to most of the problems he faced.

 

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Jesse’s work does not convey a direct message as much as it conveys feelings. He describes that his goal through his art is to make people not only see something, but feel something. He adds that if he can do that then he can have them create the story within his work. “I love what I do because now that I’ve found my voice I’m communicating emotions and messages with pictures. I’m able to do more than get people to see something. I’ve learned how to make the viewer feel something,” he says.

He has accomplished that by building a body of work around emotions, many of them relating to private moments and personal struggle. It’s become a brand and that’s how he began to see himself. He found his voice and he is expressing it to the world. Feeling as a part of a community of artists is a great feeling for Jesse. When he began drawing his community was composed by those friends of him who also drew anime. Today that community is composed of many of the artists from CPSA, the Colored Pencil Society of America. Having that is important to him because it motivates him and inspires him to keep working and sometimes to try different ideas.

 

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Inspiration comes to him in a variety of ways like looking at other things and combining them. He tells us that when he sees a work of art he likes he will study it for a long time. He looks to figure out what makes it successful and what he would have done differently, taking mental notes and holding onto them for a couple of weeks. Then doing the same with another piece. Sometimes an idea comes to him from a song or something in everyday life. Then eventually figuring out how to bring those ideas together. Jesse’s workflow varies mostly at the beginning. After getting an idea for a drawing he will take reference photos, often in the shower with added lighting.

Then he edits the photos in Photoshop to create a rough draft for the drawing. The reference photo never fully matches the drawing because the drawing is always richer and more polished and far more detailed than the photo. Next he projects the line art to begin drawing at a very slow pace. Most of his drawings take about 250 hours to complete, working on one piece at a time, with the exception of planning ahead for the next piece. He always begins with an eye and expands out to the face and whatever part of the body he wants to show. The hair normally gets done last.

“I love the idea of potential being in everyone… we can be whom we choose. Change takes time and it’s not often visible from day to day, but you can accomplish what you want if you’re consistent with your goals.”

 

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Al Digit 01

A Sneak Peek at Alessandro Della Pietra

The astonishing creation of a digital work of art.

 

We have known Alessandro, a.k.a. Al Digit, for quite a while now and our fascination for his work is why we have already portrayed and interviewed him in the past. Alessandro is an artist from Rome, Italy. Blessed with many artistic talents, his digital artwork creations are an astonishing example of creativity and imagination. Alessandro has studied all drawing techniques one can think of and having also worked as a computer graphic designer he realized that he could put all his knowledge together to create his own new form of art. We have worked out something very special for this edition and are delighted that Al has granted us the opportunity to take a glimpse into the development process of his digital art.

 

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The idea of making “Lady Butterfly” came to him while walking in the woods with butterflies flying around him as if they wanted to play. He observed one of them sitting on a leaf and it immediately brought the “skirt” impression to his mind. The character was born. Al approaches his work in many different ways. Sometimes he starts simply drawing while other times he needs pieces of pictures to build an idea he already had in mind. After he had the idea for this work he went to take pictures. He wanted that wood; the light was perfect. He loved it. Once he had the right picture it was time to start working on the character. “It was fascinating to draw the hair and creating the light effects and transparencies. With the use of transforming filters I gave the trees the right shape. I wanted them to surround her,” Al shares. The last part is inserting those little details he loves like small characters which are almost hidden in the picture.

 

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So many layers are needed to have good control over every little detail and every little piece in such an artwork. Anyone who knows Photoshop knows what this means. For those who do not know it just imagine you are making a collage for which you need so many pieces and elements. You need to create overlays, add more little pieces, modify, remove, replace and over again. Imagine something like that.

 

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A short journey through Photoshop.

 

Photoshop is quite a famous software for photo editing offering sophisticated tools for digital painting. One of the great advantages is that you can work on your pictures in many layers. But, what are those layers actually? Al, who has worked with Photoshop over the last 20 years, explains it is like setting a table. You can lay a table cloth over it. Then set some dishes, glasses, napkins, silverware and so on. Now imagine that once the table is finished you realize you don’t really like the dishes you set. They are red and you can now see that yellow would be much better. No problem, you can take them off and replace them with yellow ones without changing anything else. A picture can be worked the same way in Photoshop. If you have a sky, clouds, a plane and a balloon you can change the color of the balloon. Or add more balloons. Or make the sky cloudy. And so on. This is fantastic for developing your ideas step by step while you are working. Photoshop has been a great experience for Al who says that combined with a Stylus on a graphic tablet it is just the best.

 

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“Sometimes the pieces are too many, the file becomes so big that the computer can’t handle it. So, often, I work single pieces of the whole artwork out of the main file and then I import them. Obviously, to have a good result, knowing classic drawing techniques is so important as well as knowing a bit about photography and using the right software. Digital art is something I really like, because it gives me endless possibilities, and my mind is allowed to fly or to stroll around the woods.”

We at b2zone are thrilled and thankful about this extraordinary and interesting sneak peek into Alessandro’s creation. We highly value his effort to show and explain all the details to us.

Thank you Alessandro!

read also……

The artist Portrait of Alessandro Della Pietra

The interview in the b2zone artist portrait of Alessandro Della Pietra aka Al Digit

Exhibition Alessandro Della Pietra

 

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Randall Stoner 01

The Cover Story of Randall Stoner

 

The magical world of Randall

 

Art. Inspiration. Imagination. It is almost impossible to talk about art without talking about its driving forces. Art is the incarnation of a world that lives and exists in the mind of the artist and the window through which we can see evidence of its existence. Randall Stoner, a.k.a. “Madcarver”, is a prime example of this. Through the use of wood and a chisel he brings his magical world into physical existence, a world that already exists in his mind and which is a result of countless stories he has read. These stories fuel the creation of many worlds that are part of fantastic constellations that eagerly await to be selected to transcend into the physical reality in his home studio in Orange, California.

 

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Randall had his first wood carving experiences as a young Boy Scout. Receiving the Wood Carving merit badge was highly encouraging but his serious commitment to the craft came later in life. Even though he lived in several places in the United States as well as abroad he found a constant source of inspiration and support in his grandfather, Theodore Wardell, who he remembers fondly. Mr. Wardell, an artist and lithographer himself, directed his grandchildren into the arts by passing on to them his vast knowledge in drawing and painting as well as supporting them in their specific areas such as providing a working space and wood chips for Randall.

 

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Having talent and skill is essential to reach Randall’s level of artistry but it could not have happened without the external influence of the master craftsmen and artists who took the time to share their knowledge with him. He also invested years in formal training to master essential technical skills like perspective and free drawing. When speaking about his main source of inspiration Randall clearly indicates Fantasy literature as the corner stone. He explains that the journey of emotions through which he travels when reading Fantasy literature creates in him a compelling desire to “put those exhilarating scenes with my ‘spin’ on them into the realm of the tangible.” Randall also shares that all those characters and events from the stories he has read continue to resurrect time and again on his mind but now with him as the main character. This direct projections are what sparks that desire to create a piece that reflects the pain, the effort, the conflict, the battles and the accomplishments that his character experiences and allow the observer to join a story that spreads out before their eyes just by looking at his work.

 

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As a sculptor Randall uncovers the masterpiece by digging and removing what he calls the unnecessary material. He finds it highly exhilarating and highly fulfilling to look for all the right angles and details that bring a work to a complete existence. Even though every piece he creates is loaded with attachment and emotions as soon as a piece is complete, Randall moves on to discover the forces that will drive his next creation. This process of research and discovery creates the new emotional bond which many times leads him to begin a work whose final shape and form is brought to light as the process unfolds. He often uses Basswood because of its light tones, its grain texture and its resistance to warping, which is ideal for his kind of work. Randall’s work is fantastic in every sense but it his techniques evolved from a trial and error process where frustration and sweat were no strangers.

 

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The Cover Story of Freddie Matara

 

To support his music endeavors Freddie Matara began working in 1995 at Society Hill, a western apparel store on a busy retail street in a historic neighborhood in Philadelphia. His duties were mainly sales but he was also given the responsibility of punching holes in the leather belts offered for sale as well as dyeing the edges of soles on cowboy boots. This required Freddie to visit the local Tandy leather store which was just a few short blocks away on the riverfront. At the store he would purchase the necessary items but also pursue all the tools and leather hides they had. On one visit he purchased a belt blank, a bag of rapid rivets and a rivet setter which he fabricated into a cool punk rock belt for himself which he still wears.

In 1999 Freddie moved to New York City to further his music career because the scene in Philly was waning. He began bartending in a busy Upper West Side bar to support his music and played out with his band on a regular basis. Using an old belt and a strap from a pair of Frye clogs he made himself a couple of crude wrist cuffs with normal household tools. “They did the job but I wanted better gear and started my search. My wrists are very thin and as such, had to have them custom made,” Freddie shares.

 

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He found a leather smith in California but the prices were too dear, so he bought his first piece of latigo leather and a few hand tools and made his own. He was really pleased with his efforts which reinforced his love for working with his hands; something he always knew he would do but was never sure in what capacity. His friends were his first fans and he made wrist gear for all of them. This led to their friends wanting some as well and delivered Freddie a few first small sales. 9/11 happened at that time and the city cleared out for a while rendering his bar job bust. His music pursuits were actually costing Freddie money so his friends urged him to sell his leather wares. He decided to make six cuff watches and list them on eBay. They all sold in one week. He was thrilled and realized he could do something with that.

The foundation of his approach to leather came from books and a few videos he found on the internet. His desire was very simple: to create very clean work. Freddie had a small shop set up in the living room of his 1 bedroom Manhattan apartment, much to the dismay of his neighbors. When asked what he was doing to make ‘all that noise’ he told them he was building things with wood. Some actually thought he was killing people! Precise cuts and well rounded, finished edges were his initial focus. Only once he felt he had a good hold of these disciplines Freddie started to design and hone in on his personal aesthetic.

 

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After a couple years of bartending and growing his business online he quit the bartending gig and focused on leather fulltime. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Williamsburg Brooklyn with his girlfriend (now wife) Rebecca. Freddie and Rebecca moved into a loft apartment with a mezzanine level where he set up his shop. “The noise was unbearable as the upper level produced a speaker effect and Rebecca, immersed in studies, suggested (demanded) that I look for a small studio to produce my work. I wasn’t crazy about the additional expense but it turned out to be the best decision I would make,” Freddie recalls. Having an external shop made him value his time much more and pushed him to be better at marketing and promoting. He made up the difference quickly and his online business started to thrive. Since then he has been through three shops, all in the same industrial building just over a kilometer from his apartment.

Freddie draws his inspiration from many areas of leather work such as the richness of old world Spanish leather, Native American / Old West details, standard American craft and, of course, Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle. He tries to incorporate many of these elements into much of his work, with balance and a bit of flair.

 

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In the last few years Freddie started attending leather working conferences, has taken classes with some of his leather heroes and has purchased tools from the top toolmakers. He says he is partial to the Southwest Leatherworkers Conference in Prescott, Arizona because there is something about the high desert landscape that resonates with him. He always returns home ultra-inspired and, since he has also developed many friendships with the fine folks who share his interest in leather, he is planning to make this an annual pilgrimage

Freddie still sings and plays music. He is currently forming a new band with some new friends he recently met. In addition to leatherwork he works with a torch and precious metals creating hardware and jewelry, which he has been slowly incorporating into his leather offerings.

“At this point, I am deeply thankful for having this leather journey and being able to connect with people through my work. I don’t know what the future holds for me in the craft, but as long as my heart stays open to it, I can’t imagine not stretching and furthering my development as I have much to learn and accomplish!”

 

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Jet Sonnemans 01

The Cover Story of Jet Sonnemans

 

I always knew that when I grew up I would become an artist and would be rich and famous. Now that I am a grownup I know a different reality. I am in college studying to be a nurse and do not aspire to be rich or famous. Some people call me an artist, but all I know is that I love to draw and to capture my drawings on wood through the art of pyrography.” Jet Sonnemans aka Jetsonart discovered her creative gene at a very young age. Highly encouraged at her elementary school, she became acquainted with a wide variety of crafts such as painting, drawing, clay sculpting, working with fabric and wood, and many others. She loved it so much that it was difficult to catch her in a moment when she was not working on something.

 

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During her artistic development Jet went through a conflict between her perfectionism and her love for all crafts. Perfectionism meant she was rarely satisfied with her work and spreading her passion over several crafts meant she couldn’t choose one to which she could dedicate her focus. Over the years Jet learned many different crafts, but just a bit of each, and felt dispirited when she attended art academy and was able to compare her work with that of others. “I felt I didn’t fit in. I dropped out and basically stopped doing anything creative for many years. I think my perfectionism took over and anything I made had to be perfect. Doing a bit of many different things obviously took me nowhere near my definition of perfection,” she says.

About a year ago Jet went to a spring fair with her sister where a woman sold pyrography artwork and sets. She was immediately taken back to those great times she had while doing crafts in elementary school, especially working with wood. She felt so inspired to get creative again that she immediately bought a set. Once at home she tried it out and fell in love right away. “Not long before that, someone told me that traditional Persian rugs always have intentional flaws, because the artists believe that only Allah is perfect and only he has the right to create perfection. I am not religious but the quote had a great impact in me somehow,” she adds. The liberation power of that quote allowed Jet to realize that her work does not need to be perfect and that in order to truly be good at something one has to practice a lot. With that realization Jet looked at her very first pyrography artwork and instantly knew that she wanted to become good at it and that that is what she was going to do.

 

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Jet started drawing and doing pyrography (mainly fish and out of tangle-like drawings). “At the moment I didn’t really know why I chose to draw exactly these subjects, it just sort of came to me. Not knowing where to start I just started with something. Looking back tangle-like works are a perfect way to sooth my urge for perfection and the fish, well… fish are just beautiful” she tells us. She learned by just doing it, over and over again. Before drawing something, especially with the (mythical) creatures, she spends plenty of time looking at and analyzing pictures of that particular creature to understand the way it works (certain movements, proportions, different angles, etc.). She starts to create her own image only once she feels she understands it.

The process means Jet looks at many different pictures, especially of tattoos and Japanese art. The images she looks at bring a lot of inspiration but she also gets inspired by everything that surrounds her such as ornaments on buildings, rug patterns, or anything else for that matter. Jet explains that even though her work is mainly based on what she thinks is beautiful, learning more about the meanings of creatures in Japanese mythology makes her appreciate it even more. She takes that knowledge into account when creating something for her friends such as creating a Koi fish for someone who is strong, independent and never gives up, which are some of the characteristics a Koi represents.

 

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Jet’s creation process is straight forward. It starts with a fairly detailed pencil sketch. She then goes over all the lines with fine liners and pencil shading. The pyrography works contain a larger number of steps which she loves to do. It starts with sanding the wood which can often be a fantastic part of the process. Many boards are cut quite roughly and are seemingly boring but when sanded thoroughly the most beautiful tree rings reveal themselves in the most amazing patterns. “It almost looks like water, which is also a reason why I love to do fish on those boards,” she says. After transferring the drawn sketch to the wood with carbon paper she first pyrographs the thicker outlines which go deeper into the wood and the heat will stain the areas next to the lines. She then sands the wood again to make it look really clean. The more detailed work is done before finishing with the shading. Jet says she loves doing the shading because it really makes rather flat-looking images come to life. She finishes it off with a simple beeswax, which intensifies the natural color of the wood and gives the burned parts a mellow shine creating a beautiful contrast.

There are several reasons why I love pyrography so much. The first reason, and probably the biggest, is that it works like meditation for me. My head is best described as a huge, chaotic junction of endless highways of never ending thoughts and images. At times it can be quite tiring. But when I draw or pyrograph, it all just stops. It’s quiet and usually very peaceful, I lose all track of time.” Jet explains that there are several other things she loves about pyrography. She loves the aroma, which makes her feel as if she had a cozy fireplace in her apartment. She loves the feel of the wood, still finding it surprising how soft wood can feel. And she loves the character added by the warm structure of wood, something a simple white paper could never achieve.

I’m still learning with every new work that I make. Instead of feeling frustrated by flaws in my work, I feel inspired to do it better next time. I love to see the process from where I started and I’m curious to see where the road will take me.”

 

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The Cover Story Of Froggies Unique Glass Beads-2

The Cover Story of Froggies Unique Glass Beads

 

It was a sunny day in Nina’s early childhood when she received a few packets of small glass beads as a gift. “It may sound trivial but this moment as a child was for me like birthday and Christmas for the past years altogether. It was as if my life had been created just for that moment,” she says. Nina remembers it like if it had just been yesterday. She was immediately captured by the warmth of those beads, like an embassy of feelings through their colors that made each one of them look as powerful as a sun which she took in their hands and, in no time, put them together in a necklace. Since then Nina carries within her that pride of taking something loose and turning it into something meaningful and beautiful.

 

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Nina started her glass beads artwork self-learning process 12 years ago studying from American books. She proudly claims that through patience and practice her early potato-like pieces have turned into beautiful pieces of art. Her small workshop is packed to the fullest. She has found a way to accumulate an army of tools and materials to work with her beads as well as books and everything needed for her bookkeeping. The central piece is a gas burner that operates with propane and oxygen allowing it to generate flames reaching 1.500 degrees Celsius. The glass is melted and wound around a stainless steel rod. The rod holding the liquid glass must be constantly rotated to avoid the glass from dripping towards the ground.

Once the bead is finished it is ready to go into the cooling furnace. This is extremely important because during the bead making process it is necessary to administer very high heat to the glass. When making complex pieces one might need to apply different amounts of heat to localized parts of the bead, which can be compensated by very smooth but long rotation of the rod. Fortunately, it is possible to use an annealing kiln to do that job as well as the indispensable cooling down process. If the glass is left at room temperature right after such extreme heat exposure it would explode and break due to the drastic temperature difference. Therefore, the furnace is preheated to 520 degrees Celsius where the finished beads can rest for up to 10 hours being brought down progressively to room temperature.

 

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“Beads look very different while you are working them over the flame, colors disappear and everything looks red or black. So even after so many years and endless working hours it is still an exciting moment when I take the beads of the previous day out of the oven,” Nina shares. Once finished, the beads are drilled with a milling tool to make sure all the holes are clear and clean. Then the work of turning them into pieces of jewelry, pens, bookmarks, bottle stoppers, key chains, etc. begins. When making jewelry Nina uses only the highest quality of sterling silver. For particular beads she uses rocaille seed beads to crochet sidepieces for necklaces and to centrally mount the glass work.

 

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When asked why she specifically makes frogs Nina explains that the frogs did not come out of a master plan to create a frog brand. “My kids are responsible for that and that makes me very proud,” she remarks and continues to tell us that her children gather the frog spawn from their pond every year to put it in kegs so that they don’t end up as fish food. They then return them to the pond as soon as they become tadpoles and are big enough to survive. “When my frog-loving children realized that I can make various shapes out of glass they were quick to give me a mandate to make a frog out of a bead,” she concludes.

Some of her early frogs found their way to a few craft markets where they were received with immediate enthusiasm and, since then, they have found their home in many ears, necks, arms, pens, etc. Nina’s frogs appear to know no boundaries. She is something like a midwife through whom these little creatures come to birth. She never ceases to be delighted when she sees the smiles of every new frog mother. “Each bead has its own history and each frog has a particular expression. I love my work because it has a soul, encourages individuality and makes people happy,” she says with a smile. Nina’s frog family has grown quite a bit since its early beginnings when mama Frog and papa Frog fell in love and became a couple.

 

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Veronica Passos

The Cover Story of Veronica Passos

Photography by Lucas Lacaz Ruiz

 

Veronica is a Brazilian artist who graduated with a degree in fashion and design in 2010. Right after graduation Veronica was invited by one of her professors to work as a designer in a small leather shoe factory. That was her first experience with this material and the manual crafting process. The high level of knowledge that she gained while working with different kinds of leather, learning how to handle it and how to use the relevant tools marked this period as very important for her career.

 

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The motivation, dedication and love that the craftspeople she encountered had for their work was what really motivated her to remain in it. Those very same behaviors she observed are the ones that made her fall in love with leather and with the manual process. Veronica decided to do a Master’s research to investigate the intangible heritage of handmade footwear in Brazil. Her research introduced additional manual techniques, which triggered a new stage in her learning and career. Among those techniques Veronica discovered cut-out leather, which is very popular in saddlery but not very spread out in Brazil. So she decided to go after any tools or people through which she could learn.

Veronica had the chance to travel to Tennessee, one of the southern states of the US, where she realized that leather crafting was a very popular technique and she connected with local artists who could teach her something about it. One day while surfing online she ran into Knoxville’s Cody Hixon’s website and decided to send him an E-mail to ask about the possibility to get some lessons. Cody answered immediately taking her as an apprentice and receiving her warmly in his workshop where she spent 5 intensive months learning the craft and interacting with many wonderful artists.

 

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Veronica has always liked manual work. With an engineer for a father and an architect for a mother she grew up surrounded by objects designed and created by hand. During her Master’s degree she spent time doing digital design but her interaction with her shoemaker teachers was crucial for her decision to stick to handwork. “Nothing can match the love put into an object made by hand,” she says. For Veronica leather has a particular appreciation not only because of the added value from the handwork but also for its characteristic odor, different textures and the possibility to work it with different tools and machinery.

“Leather is versatile, durable and can be an essential material in various industries,” she adds. After learning about leather crafting in the US Veronica traveled to the United Kingdom to learn the technique of golden finishes for bags where she had the opportunity to be mentored by Jason Stocks-Young.

 

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Today Veronica owns a brand called Passos Leatherworks dedicated to the creation of leather objects made by hand in order to promote ancient leather techniques and apply them to a new time to present new possibilities. Passos Leatherworks’ main focus is on fashion accessories such as shoes bags and belts and demand varies according to her participation in fairs and size of orders. Alongside, Veronica continues to research the footwear sector and has been working for over four years in projects related to leather costumes, especially for Christmas.

 

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Veronica says: “Today I am very grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to take such trips and for having placed so many talented people along my way. I can see that over the years many countries have been developing and improving their leather craft in different ways and the way we work with leather in Brazil is very different to other places. Leather changes, suppliers change and availability of tools changes but sharing these different possibilities, especially in the digital age, is what keeps knowledge of manual labor in leather alive.”

 

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Anet du Toit 1

The Cover Story of Anet du Toit

Anet du Toit’s art career almost did not happen. “You’ll never make art a career,” were the words from her high school teacher who also denied her the use of paint, allowing her to use pencils only. Her teacher’s words led Anet to express her love for art through leatherwork for the next 20 years. Encouragement from her friends and family did not stop and in 2007 she decided it was time to pick up a brush and paint in her spare time without the help of any instructor. Were not for the intervention of a good friend of hers Anet’s first work would have ended up being tossed away. But her first piece still hangs proudly in her friend’s home serving “As a reminder of dedication to improvement.” This dedication to improvement paid off, after a process of trial and error, when Anet’s artwork finally reached a level where it started to attract the interest of people outside of her circle of friends. Popular demand increased to the point where she had to choose between being a leather smith and becoming a full time fine artist. To break away from a familiar and secure trade such as leather crafting with the ambition of taking on new challenges to make a name in a new realm of art was for her as exciting as it was daunting. Today Anet’s paintings proudly hang in homes in the US, Norway, Switzerland, Mexico, Australia as well as New Zealand and she looks forward to where future travels will take her and her art.

 

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“So here I am today living my dream, being a full time artist, constantly defining and re-defining my approach with oils, whether it’s my choice of subject or various requests from clients, each piece is viewed as an exciting challenge and an opportunity for growth as I reach to learn more,” she says. Anet continues expanding her skills and pushing herself beyond her current abilities. In May this year she began teaching herself pallet knife painting, which feels like going back to the beginning. A beginning that is accompanied with much laughter over what she describes as quite blobby results that she will work to improve. For an artist like Anet improvement is the daily bread and happens through every canvas whether her hand is holding a knife or a brush. As a full time artist she works around 12 hours each day. “Without my husband André’s full support this would not have been possible,” she shares. Her husband’s support includes what she describes as a gift of expression when he walks into her studio to catch a glimpse of the canvas on her easel rendering a silent nod of approval or a wide-eyed look of surprise and shock when something new is being tried out, and the relief on his face when he sees that, after all, it actually worked out.

 

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Even though Anet shares her studio with the resident cats, Leila and Oegly (the latter earning his name for being the “cutest ugly” cat she ever saw) who not only keep her company but lend her the occasional smirk and a much needed break with their antics, a studio can still be a lonely place for her. To counter with the loneliness, Anet devised a plan to keep in touch with fellow artists and art lovers by posting progress photos on social media which her followers know as the “Canvas Quickstep.” The Canvas Quickstep not only allows her to share some insight into her work and technique but it also helps her to reach out to people to connect and share inspiration and motivation with the kind of people who support her and her art.

 

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“Through b2zone I look forward to meeting more art lovers but for now I leave you with a truth my own story revealed to me. So long as you strive to develop purpose or passion you will find no failure, for that comes from never trying. Every moment you invest in reaching forward earns varying degrees of success, some sweeter than others, yet, each reveals a personal accomplishment. If there were but only one message to share that I have learned through painting it’s this, ‘If you ever doubt who or how you are it’s time to see yourself through the eyes of those who love and care about you.’”

 

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The Cover Story of Gina Adam

 

Learn about Gina’s history in creativity and craftsmanship

The talented and self-taught leather artist Gina Adam was born in a small town in western Germany where she resided for 36 years before moving to Saxony, eastern Germany, 15 years ago.

Gina has been doing artistry and handcrafts almost her entire life. As a child, she used to draw a lot and tried her skills in clay sculpting and wood carving. She also picked up oil painting in her early teens and kept at it for quite a while but decided to let go when she realized she couldn’t stand the smell of turpentine anymore.

 

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Gina says she’s always liked to create things with her hands. She took a class and learned how to sew with a machine to make her own clothes also as a teenager.
Being highly interested in the culture and spiritual ways of Native Americans she dove into the subject when she was in her twenties by holding lectures about their past and present way of life, learning their traditional bead work, making Native American jewelry and traditional clothes of elk and moose hide for interested customers.
At this time Gina had a small shop set up in her house where she had people come over by appointment if they wanted to get something custom-made by her, she even marketed and sold her work at several Biker and Country & Western fairs. Direct selling, reaching customers and communicating via Internet and social media was far off at these times!

 

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Being a cowgirl, horse owner and western rider from her youth on, it was inevitable to get in touch with high quality, heavy duty leather items and she tells us that she has always admired the nicely handcrafted and tooled old-timer saddles and tack, colorful and extraordinary looking cowboy boots and other related items. She even taught herself how to repair and individualize her tack.
Over 20 years ago she bought her first professional sewing machine; a desk mounted Pfaff 262, equipped with two motors and thus capable of sewing thicker leather.
Gina started making chaps for farriers and western riders, custom leather patched and laced jeans for bikers, vests, skirts, ponchos, etc. using expensive and high quality non-chrome tanned leather.

 

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Around 10 years ago, Gina picked up (and got hooked on) traditional archery. She started this journey by exploring the very basics; making bows and arrows the traditional way and using nature’s materials just like our ancestors did. But what brought her to start making all these beautiful, great looking and quality leather work we know of her today?

 

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Anna Master of Gemsforall interviewed Gina for us!

 

How and when did it all begin, what helped you to become what you are now?

People know me as a designated traditional archer. I found most of the common archery equipment that could be bought here pretty dysfunctional, ugly looking and of poor quality. So I started making my own to match my needs and demands. And from there it was only a few steps until I started my first attempts in leather tooling, to be able to personalize the goods I was making and I got carried away.

 

Is leather work and leather tooling your “one and only” love or have you tried anything else?

Well, I’ve taken sneak-peeks at almost every kind of artistic work but after a long journey through skills and talents I found leather to be my real “true love”. Leather is such a wonderful and warm material which opens such a wide range of possibilities for creating something beautiful, yet lasting and individual. And I can use all the talents and skills that were given to me by the great spirit!

 

What inspires you to create such beautiful artwork? Looking at your work I would say you live somewhere deep in the forest listening to the song of birds, trees and creeks. Am I right?

Yes, I have always been a person very close to Mother Nature and all what’s in it. It’s my source of inspiration, spirituality and for clearing my mind, which is essential for creativity! I am blessed to live pretty much “in the outskirts of town”, in a sparsely populated area with lots of space and wildlife, even eagles and wolves. That’s really inspiring!

 

I believe everybody knows your exclusive leather feathers, they are so charming! What bird inspired you to make those feathers the first time?

I love birds, especially birds of prey; they were always an inspiration for me, a synonym of freedom and a wide, open, clear and sharp view. I love their beautiful feathering. That’s why I also always use feathers of a red kite in my product photography. Naturally I had to try creating raptor feathers out of leather, since it’s my chosen and beloved material to work with!

 

Do you have a favorite product of yours? If so, what is it? And, is there a story behind it?

Well, I like to create beautiful leather items for good and practical use…difficult to pick THE favorite item I like making most. I like doing rather small projects, like archery arm bracers, for example. There is not really a lot of time involved making the “raw piece” and they still can be individualized nicely with a special tooling and finish. I like to move forward and keep my mind and eyes busy, which is not so easy when doing larger projects.

 

Have you ever thought of making tutorials for your projects or have you already made some?

Actually, not really, since I’ve always found it so time consuming. Photographing, editing and commenting of the different working steps definitely gets in the way of my work flow. So I couldn’t find the time for this yet.
I find it wonderful and gracious of other leather workers to share so many good and valuable instructional videos on the internet. Though I must admit that I rarely ever watch any :).

 

Looking back at your own learning process, what advice would you give to someone who wants to become a leather crafter? Is there anything you would like to tell them?

“Go out and just do it”! Use your own ideas, skills and creativity and be patient…it’s no shame walking the path of trial and error! Never give up and don’t compare your early work to the work of others who have been doing the craft for quite some years already! And you don’t need a fancy and expensive tool collection right from the start when you don’t even know if you’ll stick to it! Begin with basic materials and equipment to learn how to eventually “work around” difficulties. You are going to be a tool and equipment nerd pretty soon anyway! Seek for helpful advice if you get stuck and practice, practice, practice! Leatherwork isn’t a money maker, so that shouldn’t be your main motivation or you might get disappointed real quick.

 

Do you take part in competitions or exhibitions? Have you got a shop or gallery where people could see more of your excellent creations?

Unlike in the US, we unfortunately don’t have competitions, exhibitions and craft shows here in Germany. I sure would attend if we had them. There are some artisan fairs here and there, but those aren’t really in the league where I want to exhibit my artwork.
I present my work on Facebook and also through my b2zone depict where a variety of my work can be viewed in high resolution and full screen modus, almost as if you could touch it with your hands!

 
Gina, thank you so much for sharing this sneak-peek into your craftswomen’s world!

 

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The Cover Story of Achraf Baznani

Achraf Baznani tells us that he is driven by innovation and creativity and that his main aim to enhance photos digitally is to have viewers reflect and ponder. “I try to place myself in the shoes of the viewers, and think, what would they think, and what sort of questions will they likely pose. Then, I move forward and embark on a creative project. This is the way I love to work,” he says.

 

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An artist like Baznani does not think of pictures as the result of simple shots captured and produced by the camera itself but rather as an open road of possibilities where people can be made aware of unexpected scenes full of wonder that show and explain the feelings of the photographer. In his series “Inside My Dreams” we face a mirror that reflects our own lives in images that portray situations we deal with and those problems that we all need to confront in real life. Unique compositions that take our hand and lead us through a journey packed with insightful messages and interesting ideas.

The magic of surrealism is that we can take a break from reality. “I believe that with my photos I can have people think outside the box and I still manage to convey a special message using normal things we find around us every day,” says Baznani. His art is not about complexity. It is simply about being inspirational and distinctive, which allows him in turn to find inspiration in those conventional objects around him by simply thinking about how they can be used in a photograph, breaking down the possibilities and being innovative. His distinctive talent allows him to identify the right shot to then transform his photographs through digital manipulation into unexpected creations that make us ponder and contemplate.

 

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As a youngster, Baznani was incredibly obsessed with miniatures and with the magic in cinema depicting the small-scale world. The small man portrayed in all his artwork is Baznani himself. As he shared with us, “I used to tilt-shift to create small worlds using Photoshop so I thought, ‘why not place my own self in a dreamy and surreal world?’” The messages transported by his photography represent personal thoughts and believes, in other words, things he cares about. So his choice to depict himself in his art is only fitting. As an artist Baznani takes inspiration directly from his everyday life using self-portraiture to create characters that are a representation of a surreal, iconic and passionate world in which he dreams to live. He transports us outside and away from the conflicts of human personality and into the ironic ambiguity that exists between the wisdom of adulthood and the innocence of children and animals. The transformation from conventional into extraordinary happens at that moment when he adds his very personal touch. That is when his creations receive his unwritten signature that tells us Baznani was there.

 

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Achraf Baznani favors a square frame to encourage the viewer’s eye to travel in a circle (rather than horizontally or vertically) in order to allow the feeling of a well-balanced perception of the scene. In his opinion the composition is one of the most difficult areas of a photograph because it requires very hard work to make a composition that truly captures the viewer’s attention. Baznani’s work is a quest for uniqueness and distinction. The precision evoked by a frame of equal lengths such as a square goes hand in hand with this ideology and allows him to better express himself through his work. He favors the parts where layering and image sharpening take place. By layering and editing and by using Photoshop’s smart tools to sharpen images and to minimize issues with photo blurring Baznani achieves the necessary alterations to create his fascinating final product without changing the original image.

 

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“I basically use the story I heard, or the idea I had, to take a photo. Each image starts with an idea and a paper draft of the story, then the camera and the editing are the tools to bring to life what’s in the creator’s mind, a fantasy dream world hanging within the limits of surrealism and the supernatural. It is all about being inspired by something… I also love the end of most projects when everything comes together and it looks great and you can stand back and say ‘Hey, I made that!’”

Baznani is a big fan of Hungarian photographer Robert Capa and considers his immortal piece “The Falling Solider” one of the most valuable war images of the twentieth century and a fundamental source of his inspiration to experiment with surreal and fantasy art and to create images that could challenge the logic of the human mind. Few things can transport us from the real world into a world of dreams like surrealism. Baznani recreates and shares our dreams through his photography.

For Baznani being a short film director is a childhood dream come true. He has made three short films and received multiple awards but photo-manipulation remains his life breath of idea expression through artwork.
“One of the most important things is to always be yourself, and it is very important that you take things seriously. You may need to make some sacrifices in order to succeed, and you have to be as realistic as possible to set goals and to work to achieve them. With plenty of dedication and commitment, determination and a pinch of luck, you will succeed. Hard work and perseverance are the key. Never give up, no matter how hard it is. Nothing is impossible.”
Baznani completed his “Project 52” in 2014 which was a personal mission of his to take one picture every week for an entire year. He started his second project 52 this year. He also participated in several local and international collective exhibitions such as the Sidney International Exhibition of Photography, “Colour Burst” in Hungary, Park Art Fair International in Germany, Gallery Globe in the USA and a Louvre private exhibition in ​France.

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