Judy Pollard b2zone magazine 01

The artist portrait of Judy Pollard

 

43-year-old Judy Pollard is a self-taught dollmaker who lives Massachusetts, New England. Even though she always desired to do creative work, Judy was not always convinced of her artistic talent. This conviction kept her from getting started for quite some time. Her exciting journey making dolls began in 2007, after her mother passed away from a chronic illness. To cope with her sorrow, Judy started to look for a possibility to find a catalyzer to fill her emptiness. Judy had always loved dolls; she even collected them as an adult. She thought making clothes for dolls would be just right for her situation, so she taught herself how to sew and started to sell her doll clothes online. One day, in 2010, Judy discovered the world of polymer clay while she was browsing the internet.

 

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The wonderful creations that could be made from this material stunned her. Fantasy had always fascinated her, and the precious fairies and other magical creatures from artists like Deb Wood and Liz Amend fueled a burning desire to try it out. She purchased the material, but when it arrived she realized she did not have the necessary tools for sculpting. She looked around the house and decided to use toothpicks. According to her, her first attempts were horrific, but something told her to continue to practice and to not give up.

She kept on playing with the polymer clay (for hours at a time) any chance she had. Eventually, her skills improved. Judy doesn’t have a typical art studio. She began sculpting on her porch, watching her boys playing in the yard. Her patio table is still her favorite place to work whenever the weather allows it. Otherwise, she works in her dining room, where she has a small corner to keep all her material.

 

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Over the years, Judy has developed her own style. She loves creating and sculpting little fairies. As tools, she only uses toothpicks, baby wipes, and her hands. Judy considers Deb Woods, whose encouragement and constructive feedback have been most helpful to her, to be her mentor. Most of the times, she does not even know what color palette she will use when a project starts. The raw piece speaks to her as she creates it, letting her know which hair color or outfit the final creation will get. She uses ribbons to adorn her creations, because she loves color, and because they add an innocent feel to her fairies. The sounds of nature and the songs of the birds that she can hear while sculpting on her porch take her to a special place. Nature has always inspired her and, as her work shows, sculpting has become her happy place.

 

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In 2014, Judy was diagnosed with breast cancer; sculpting was always her escape. She took her clay to chemotherapy and, while sitting on the treatment chair, she kept on sculpting and stayed positive. Treatments lasted up to six hours. For Judy it meant six hours of uninterrupted sculpting in full concentration. In a way, these blocks were a luxury she did not have at home, where four boys kept her busy always demanding her attention.

Sculpting and making her friendly fairies got Judy through some tough years, staying busy, positive, and focused. She is cancer free and her art was a great assistant during this process. Her wish is for people to smile and that they enjoy themselves while viewing her work. Judy wants her fairy dolls to exude happiness and innocence. She has made over 400 dolls to date and she still gets that wonderful feeling of happiness once a piece is complete. Her aim is to bring across the love and dedication she puts into the creation process of each of her works.

 

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MadMathSu 001

The artist portrait of MadMath Su

 

Hui Su, Loo aka MadMath Su is a Singaporan Chinese artist who moved to Baltimore, U.S. in July 2014. She has worked as a middle school and high school Math teacher since her arrival in Baltimore, while completing a teacher’s certification program. Her name “MadMath Su” is a nick-name that evolved in the classroom because she often gives her students math drills called “Mad Math Minutes” in preparation for the lesson of the day. The nick-name has stuck and thus it has become her pseudonym. Teaching is an inherently high-pressure occupation and having students around almost all the time does not leave Su with much spare time. After school, there are always lessons to prepare, papers to grade, and student records to maintain. This high-stress environment in an urban setting and in which students show little respect for teachers finally drove Su to seek for a channel for stress relief. Little did she know that this escape hobby would soon grow into something bigger. It all began in June 2016 when Su started painting ceramic bowls, mugs and plates in pottery shops. Not long after, she was inspired to paint rocks after watching a YouTube video of Elspeth McLean, a rock painting artist who paints stones she collects from the beach. Baltimore is not located anywhere near a beach, so Su has to purchase her rocks from garden and landscape shops.

 

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Without the ability to select regular-shaped rocks herself, Su often has to take do with whatever odd-shaped rocks she has purchased and work around the defects on their surfaces. “What challenges and motivates me in every new project is the ability to transform a rough, uneven and asymmetrical rock into an object of art and beauty”, Su opines. Since Su was a young girl, she has been obsessed with the rainbow and she loved to arrange her colored pencils in the order of the rainbow colors. When she paints her rocks, she employs a lot of vibrant hues to make her rocks pretty, cheerful and lively. Su often uses formulae as a Math teacher and she is rather organized and structured in the way she works. Painting mandalas with dots greatly appeals to her because they represent wholeness and have a distinct circular orderly structure in them. Besides mandalas, Su loves to experiment with designs and patterns by varying the size, arrangement and color of dots. She also enjoys arranging her painted rocks into spirals, circles, hearts, trees, double spirals, floral clusters and even forming letters. She particularly relishes grouping rocks with a variety of intricate designs, in graduated shades of a color family, with complementary or contrasting colors.

 

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Su’s art studio is her living room, where she works on her marble table, seated cross-legged on double pillows on the floor with a large arm chair to support her back. She works on a stone or a pebble using acrylic paints, paint brushes and special dotting tools. After each piece of work is completed, it is sprayed with several coats of matte sealer. When Su has painted sufficient rocks to form a desired arrangement, a hole is drilled on the bottom of each rock. Then, glue is applied to the hole to attach a screw. A birch wood frame is prepared by sanding, staining and sealing it. The rocks are positioned on the wood frame to make the arrangement. Then, points are marked and holes are drilled into the frame. Each rock is then glued, screwed and bolted securely onto its respective hole in the frame. Su uses a burning kit to burn her pseudonym “MadMathSu” on a piece of leather, before gluing it to each wall art.

Su has made a 2×4 feet dark walnut-stained wooden wall art, entitled “A Harmonious Riot of Colors.” This art piece features a total of 60 stones, comprising a central spiral of 20 purplish-pink stones, and four clusters of 10 stones in red, orange, blue and green. Another wall art, entitled “Cool Ocean Breeze,” comprises a spiral of 20 stones and pebbles in hues of blue and green, mounted on a 21×18 IN golden pecan wooden frame. The third wall art, entitled “Warm Golden Sun,” comprises 20 stones and pebbles in shades of red, orange and yellow in a spiral arrangement, mounted on a 21×18 IN dark walnut wooden frame. “I enjoy creating these unique wall art conversation pieces a lot. Not only is each one of them a visual feast with its vibrant colors and varied intricate designs, but also a tactile feast with its three-dimensional and textural rocks. Each stone and pebble invites one to touch and feel the textures formed by the many dots,” Su gushes. MadMath Su’s painting journey continues as she searches for more diverse dot designs, rock arrangements and color combinations, while experimenting with different wooden frames and stains to enhance the display of these beautiful rock arrangements.

 

MadMathSu Cover

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Jos Vergauwe 001

The artist portrait of Jos Vergauwe

 

Jos Vergauwe is a stone and bone carving artist from Belgium, residing in the village of Assenede, about 30km north of Ghent. As a child, Jos spent a lot of time in his grandfather’s print shop watching him print. He also watched his father develop black and white photographs in his darkroom and his brother creating linocuts and etchings. With this creative background, it was natural for Jos to do something artistic as well. His family realized Jos’ creative nature and talent early on. They supported it by sending him to a weekend art academy when he was ten years old. The academy offered art classes for children and adults in all art disciplines including music. Jos took drawing and painting, which helped him further develop his artistic talent. At the age of 18 Jos began a four-year graphic arts program. He took the first year at St. Lucas art school and the three remaining years at the Royal Academy of fine arts “KASK.”

 

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After his studies Jos did a lot of illustrations and logos, started screen printing, decorated music festivals and worked with children (which he still does today). In 2011, he was reading a book about Inuit art that fascinated him so much that he immediately got himself a piece of cow bone and started carving it right away. He worked on this cow bone for four hours straight, like if in a trance. He even burned up his father in law’s Dremel tool which he had borrowed. This first experience ignited a fire in him that burns ever since. Bone carving was not a common art in Belgium so Jos’ main knowledge resource was Facebook where he met like-minded people and carvers from all over the world. He learned from pictures and from comments about how to do or not to do things, which tools to use, where to buy materials and how to make one’s own tools.

 

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Now, six years later, there hasn’t been one day when Jos was not busy carving. If he was not working the material he was thinking about it or studying how others did it. Jos tried out many different materials such as soapstone, alabaster roe and deer antler, cow bone, ostrich bone, petrified wood, mammoth ivory, amber and various other types of wood. He likes bone and mammoth ivory the most and loves to combine them with different materials to create contrasts in color and texture. Jos creates inlays of amber or jade as well as ebony or coconut wood. He also combines tusks of bone with soapstone or ebony and loves the adventure of experiencing how all these different materials work together. His carvings are of a great variety and he is happy to carve all kinds of animals from walruses to cats, dogs, elephants, birds and different kinds of ocean creatures. He admires all kinds of tribal art.

 

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Inuit and African art and their stories inspire him and influence his work. The rawness, directness and the seeming simplicity of the “wild” folks fascinate him. Bone carving guided Jos to the elegant Japanese art of netsuke, an artform with abundant finesse and beauty. One of Jos’ goals for the future is to take his carving to skill levels comparable to netsuke. These days he uses the Dremel tool and burrs only occasionally. Most of his bone carvings are done by hand using only self-made tools like scrapers and gravers. Jos workshop is a 4×4 meters shed in his backyard. It has no windows and the roof is made of translucent plastic that allows light to come in from straight above. So, even on a grey winter day, there is plenty of light on his workspace. He loves this oasis of tranquility where he can indulge in his carving while he listens to blackbirds sing. It is the place where he slips into his own fantasy world of stone and bone, leaving the busy world behind. He calls it “Zun,” a word of his own creation combining “Zen” and “fun.”

 

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01. Mick Skinner Four Wolves

The artist portrait of Mick Skinner

 

Mick Skinner is a painting artist who resides in Reading, a large town in Berkshire with historical importance in Southern U.K. Up to the age of 23 he lived in Tilehurst with his parents and his three sisters. When Mick got married in 1984 he and his wife moved to Reading. Mick has always had an interest in art and through his school years he developed quite a good drawing and painting style. Don Chappel, his secondary school art teacher, helped him a lot with technique. He would look at Mick’s work and praise him but he would tell him at the same time where he could improve. Mick would then go back and work on the few improvements right away. His art teacher always gave him the freedom to decide what he wanted to paint.

 

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However, when Mick left school he eventually gave up painting and drawing. His interest shifted to machine tools and machine workshop so he took an apprenticeship to become an instrument maker. Thirty years later, in 2005, Mick’s wife bought him a Winsor and Newton transparent watercolor set for Christmas. However, the time had not come yet for him to find his way back to his artistic muse and the Christmas present sat unattended on a shelf for one year. One day of January in 2007 Mick was overtaken by what he describes as a kind of madness and he suddenly produced three paintings. Those paintings were not very good but they also weren’t bad. Mick stuck with it and has been painting ever since.

 

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Shortly after he had picked up his art again, Mick was invited to take part in an exhibition in Manhattan (NYC). Mick paints mostly in watercolors and oil. For his watercolor paintings, he uses 300gsm acid-free watercolor paper. For his oil paintings, he prefers to use Winsor and Newton oil paints for their consistency. He likes for a canvas to be covered quickly. This urgency means that if the image he intends to paint doesn’t develop as he had in mind, major surgery is performed in the form of more detail work. As Mick can only paint a few hours in a week, big canvases can take a few weeks to be finished. To get the medium onto the canvas Mick uses brushes and anything else he might have at hand. Lately, he has been experimenting with a palette knife to render mountain scenes. He is still working on mastering this technique. Mick is a self-critic but has his wife as an additional critic. He does not mind sometimes changing something here and there when his wife points it out. He has no fancy studio and simply sets up his equipment on the breakfast bar and away he goes.

 

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Since he works cleanly there are no problems with paint on the floor or the countertops. Mick’s subject matter is very wide. If something seems difficult to paint he sees it as a challenge to be met. One of his paintings was entitled “Mick can’t paint water.” Through this composition he trained himself on how to paint water realistically. Often, his inspiration comes from within. Sometimes he picks on a simple word and paints this subject. The painting “Narcosis” and “Pareidolia” were both derived this way. Mick’s current inspiration comes from the titles and lyrics of a Queen album entitled “A night at the opera” and will eventually become the basis of his first collection. All the compositions are large and ambitious. Mick loves to be able to paint what he likes instead of having to take commissions for making a living, thus his full-time job suits him well. He is always driven by the desire to improve his skills and techniques. “The day I stop improving and finish learning will be the day I put my paintbrushes away. However, I might keep a pencil and a paper on the go”, he says.

 

05 Mick SkinnerPareidolia The Photo-Bomb

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Dimitris Kyrgiafinis 1

The artist portrait of Dimitris Kyrgiafinis

 

Dimitris Kyrgiafinis is a glass painting and engraving artist who resides in the capital of Polygyros in Chalkidiki, Greece. He was born in a small mountain village to a poor family which nevertheless was full of love and tenderness and always longing for knowledge. His father harbored a great love for books. Dimitris started painting as a child and is a completely self-taught artist without any conscious influence. He used to draw and paint on whatever medium was around him, using pencil, pen, charcoal and acrylics. His special style in all his artworks eventually attracted the attention of some people who urged him to take his talent seriously, to evolve and present it to the public. In 1997 Dimitris held his first solo exhibition which was a great success. That was followed by 13 more and a couple group exhibitions. To carefully observe the works of other artists, famous or not, helped him to develop and solve technical issues in his artwork.

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Dimitris continued painting on canvases and wood. For a long time he was painting on large murals and ceilings, decorating houses, churches and commercial premises but always injecting his particular and personal painting style. After the great economic crisis in Greece in the year 2008, the world’s interest in acquiring works of art diminihsed. Dimitris stopped his involvement in exhibitions and selling his artwork but never stopped painting and drawing. Big changes in Dimitris’ life about eight months ago and his need to vent out and express his feelings led him to discover glass as a new canvas. He engraves his creative ideas with a dremel-type machine and various tools such as diamond wheels, Arkansas stones, erasers etc. He enriches his creations with acrylic paints and pastes. Dimitris became fascinated by the light reflection on the glass and on his engravings.

 

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He began an attempt to make a better use of the material and to promote its potential. Experiencing how exciting this was meant Dimitris’ development in this art technique was fast. Dimitris has his studio in one of the rooms of his new home which is located in a large area on the edge of town, surrounded by nature and trees. This is one of the elements of Dimitris’ inspiration since he feels totally connected with nature, the animals and every living thing in it. For him this symbolizes innocence, freedom, beauty and harmony which is so often missing in human society. Dimitris considers himself particularly sensitive to social and emotional issues and constantly feels the need to live his life to the fullest, without rest. This is also why he has been active from an early age in local social and public affairs holding various positions of responsibility.

 

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Dimitris sees the way he expresses himself through his subjects of art certainly as unscrupulously influenced by a variety of different things. At the same time, it is also a way of recording a fully liberalized inwardness that focuses on love and longing for life. Dimitris’ art is a coded way of communicating with people who seek to exchange views, ideas and anxieties. His subjects are mainly describing mental states and sensitivities which, when reflected in his artwork, arouse people’s interest. Through this procedure he creates contact and communication that often yield unexpected approaches and confessions. Dimitiris’ priority is to be honest and sincere in everything he does, to reveal his inner self and flagellate himself if he finds it necessary. He thinks that that what distinguishes remarkable art from non-remarkable art is probity and honesty as much as the effort to exceed what seems feasible. Dimitris’ strong belief is that for those who truly love and deal with it, art must be a race track and not a podium to demonstrate skill. Dimitris married at the age of 22 and works as a civil servant since 1986.

 

Dimitris Kyrgiafinis Cover

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Peter Willmer 02

The artist portrait of Peter Willmer

 

Peter Willmer is a self-taught soapstone carving artist from West Sussex, UK. He has always been interested in every art form but it took him almost his entire life to seriously get into the art he is doing today. The various jobs Peter did to earn a living were far away from any artistic connection, only his first job at an architecture firm came somewhat close to that. Peter’s interest in carving stone can be tracked to his school years in the 1970s when he used to collect fossils and minerals. During a collecting holiday with his parents he found some pink and white alabaster stones which led him to try to carve. He created a few pieces out of these stones. After Peter finished school, work and family became more of a priority for him and creating art took the back seat. He would, however, still look at the pieces he had created and think about trying to do more once he could find the time.

 

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It took Peter still a couple more years to have his interest in carving stones tickled again. In the year 2014, while surfing the internet, he came across the soapstone carvings of an artist called Katherine McManus and her carved animal artwork ignited the spark in him again. He wanted to try that. Peter couldn’t have imagined before how difficult it would be to find a supplier for soapstone. It took him a while until he eventually found a place that could supply soapstone in quantities he could handle.

 

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From these he carved his first artworks, beautiful sculptures of sitting females. Eventually Peter was unemployed and found himself a new job that, although it paid the bills, made him so unhappy that he decided to re-think what he really wanted to do. His thoughts turned back to the art of stone carving and he bought 30 kilograms of soapstone in mixed colors, which was the minimum amount the supplier would send him. However, his sculpting art had to be set aside once more. Peter’s health seemed to be deteriorating. In the year 2016 he was forced to stop doing his artwork again. Nevertheless, after Peter recovered, he quit his full-time job and decided to live his life differently, doing the things that he really wanted to do. Peter has been carving soapstone seriously only for a couple of months so he is still exploring the beautiful material and all its possibilities. Soapstone is a very soft type of metamorphic rock, largely composed of mineral talc. It has been used all over the world for decorative carvings, even by the Inuit tribes.

 

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Because of its heat resistance soapstone was made to make bowls, cooking slabs, pots and smoking pipes. Peter gets his inspiration from studying other sculptures as well as from real life. He loves to bring out the natural colors of the soapstone which are only revealed when the object is finished. His workshop is in his garden shed where he cuts the stone with a hacksaw on a woodworking bench and he uses various rasps and riffle files to shape the stone into the required shape. The piece is then sanded with course to fine sanding paper. The final processing incorporates heating the stone with a hand flame torch and then pouring melted wax over it. The wax gets absorbed into the surface of the soapstone which brings out its color. After it has cooled a final buffing finishes it. Looking forward to extending the variety of artwork he will carve in the future he leers at introducing more animal figures into his range of products, maybe even bear sculptures. In the past couple of months he has created birds and female figures and worked offcuts of soapstone into heart-shaped sculptures and jewelry. His jewelry projects feature a combination of shaped polished soapstone and polished copper. Getting even more inspiration from his role model Katherine McManus and the many other talented artists that surround him on social media is an exciting outlook for Peter’s artistic future.

 

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Timon Kokott 01

The artist portrait of Timon Kokott

 

Timon Kokott is an artist and apprenticed scene painter from Bielefeld, a city in the north-east of North-Rhine-Westphalia, a federal state in the western part of Germany. Timon spent a lot of his boyhood sketching and drawing on paper since his few friends all lived farther out. He enjoyed drawing and experimenting with shapes a lot and, although he drew without any purpose, his early childhood pictures had a tendency to an expressionist surrealism style. When Timon was 13 years old he took a free drawing course at the Bielefeld Academy of Arts and Music.

 

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There he took his first steps into painting with acrylic colors and brushes beside his school art classes. Very early Timon discovered that creating and crafting was something he wanted to do as a profession. After he graduated from high school Timon was lucky to get an apprenticeship as a scene painter at the regional theatre in Detmold where he still works today. Working and painting such huge surfaces like theatre scenes has improved and enriched Timon’s painting techniques a lot throughout the years. Timon grew up in a musically skilled family.

 

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He taught himself how to play several musical instruments and started singing in a band in the year 2005. The musical business and his personal interest lead him to a deeper engagement with the designs on music labels, especially those designs that decorated covers of releases in the rock or heavy metal genres. These cover pictures are often hand painted and designed to let the viewer imagine the kind of music to be expected. Timon considers it a great challenge to create and draw such cover motifs for rock bands. He often has the privilege of receiving rough drafts or audio samples of the songs from the bands to use as inspiration for his cover paintings. The approach often differs a lot. Some of Timon’s customers already have a clear conception of the motif and the atmosphere they want to convey. Others have no idea at all and Timon develops the motif in collaboration with the musicians and using the song lyrics as a source of inspiration. He starts his paintings with rough sketches and once the compositional framework is clear he pre-sketches the final motif on paper, canvas or plywood. When Timon creates logos or t-shirt designs the working steps are structured similarly.

 

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Timon corresponds through each step with his customers to ensure his drawing develops in the desired direction. Sometimes the first sketch is right at point and sometimes it needs ten or more sketches to match the idea of his clients. Timon feels lucky to never have had to create a motif he didn’t like himself. Another part of his published artworks are musically inspired paintings. For these paintings Timon plays some music and lets himself get drawn into the creation using the inspiration the music unleashes in him. This process draws Timon to create pictures of various styles that might be rather wild, obscure, objective or abstract. Timon films these painting processes with a video camera and converts them into a time-lapse film musicalized with the tune that inspired the painting.

When Timon creates free drawings or paintings he often derives inspiration from other artists that impressed him with their artwork. He also tries to use and implement certain styles and techniques of other artists into his own paintings. That helps a lot if clients request a certain style based on pictures of other artists they have seen. Timon Kokott sees himself more as a craftsman than an artist. Rather than transporting a message with his art he just wants to reach and enthuse musically interested people. Timon feels quite fortunate to be able to combine his love for music and painting in his work. He is enthralled about how this enables him to connect with musicians and music lovers all over the world.

 

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Jane Howarth 00

The artist portrait of Jane Howarth

 

Jane Howarth is a professional self-taught painter from Reading, a town in the Royal County of Berkshire in the United Kingdom. Jane spent much of her youth in the mountains with her dad who was an avid mountaineer and rock climber. This was where she started to appreciate the pure unrivalled beauty of nature. Jane’s mother was very creative, a florist by trade and most content while painting in oils. Jane remembers that moment at the age of nine when she stood transfixed in front of her mother’s art work and made the decision to become a professional artist once she grew up.

 

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After Jane had left school she quickly realized that she needed to get a job to make her way in life and that this job had to pay more than an artist’s wage. So she ended up taking a job as an office junior and shortly fell into a career in financial sales. But even though this profession seemed to suit her well enough she was never truly happy. She often longed for her childhood dream of becoming a professional artist but financial commitments didn’t allow it. But Jane is a huge believer in fate. After she had, in her opinion, wasted a huge chunk of time doing something she never really liked, life threw her a bit of a curve ball. Jane believes that this twist of fate formed her into the artist she is today.

 

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After her son Daniel was born in 2008, Jane started to become extremely tired and often slept up to 16 hours a day. It became apparent to her that something was extremely wrong with her health so she went to her doctor and had some tests done. She was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease and had to start six months of chemotherapy right away. Jane realized that life is too short to not do something that made her truly happy. Happiness for her had always been the great outdoors and painting. Jane bought a box of acrylic paints, picked up her brushes and started to paint. She wanted to paint for her son Daniel as she wanted to leave a little piece of herself behind for him if she didn’t make it. Painting distracted her from her serious situation and gave her a great sense of peace and calm during this difficult time. It still does today.

 

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She finished her chemotherapy just before her son’s first Christmas and ever since she has rarely spent a single day without a paintbrush in her hand. To make her dream of becoming a professional artist come true Jane reduced her time in the office and took the relevant steps to make it happen. In March 2016 she finally made the leap from part-time artist to professional artist. She moved to a new house that had a big room with a huge bay window for her to use as an art studio. Jane has a preference for painting on huge canvases. She uses acrylic paints of the Amsterdam Acrylic series and Da Vinci brushes and likes to add touches of fluorescent paint to make her artwork as colorful as possible. For a beautiful sunlit effect Jane likes to add highlights to her paintings using shimmer paints.

Jane’s biggest inspiration comes from the boldness of colors used by modern day painting artists such as Julie Dumbarton. She also gets inspired by the beauty around her which she tries to capture in her artwork to bring some of that beauty inside. Jane is constantly teaching herself new techniques and, by gradually putting all those different techniques together, she sees her work rapidly improve.

Jane’s advice to anyone starting out is: “Don’t just have one style but have as many as you can master. This way you will never stop moving forward. Take chances and be lucky, I know I was.”

 

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Era Shevtsova 01

The artist portrait of Era Shevtsova

 

Era Shevtsova is a leather artisan living in the small town of Sutton in the suburbs of London, UK. She immigrated to England from the Ukraine in the year 2001. Even though she is well known as a talented and successful leather artisan she does not have an early leather working history. Before leather became her passion she completed a nursing degree and worked in that profession. Her husband was a doctor. When Era found out that healthcare was not where she wanted to be she started looking for something more appealing and fascinating. She got a certificate in sewing and tailoring and started a small business from home, making and selling medical uniforms as well as custom wedding, party and evening dresses for women and children. She also made and sold wedding and party cakes, went through a training for hairdressers and started a professional photographer’s career to generate income.

 

 

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As life went on and Era had her second child, she faced the situation of not being able to go out to earn money, so she decided to find something she could do from home to help pay the bills. Era had been a Tarot card collector since her teenage years. One day, when she was going through her collection admiring the artwork on the cards, she realized that she could use a leather case to protect them. After unsuccessful attempts to find something online she decided to make one herself.

She thinks her first cases were a bit scary in terms of looks and quality but she was happy enough with them to try to make a couple more and sell them on the internet. They were all sold in about a week. That is when Era’s spirit got lifted and she continued crafting and selling cases. She quickly sold her professional photography equipment and used the proceeds to buy a decent amount of leather working supplies. Suddenly she owned leather rolls, paint bottles, leather finishes and tool boxes. That is how Era’s leather crafting career began.

 

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Back then there were no such helpful sources of self-instruction like the internet so Era practiced constantly, making little things every day and learning from her mistakes. She bought a lot of books and patterns from the Tandy Leather Company and started making bags and belts. She was determined to turn this hobby into a full-time job through which she could earn a living. So she kept experimenting and practicing. It’s been 7 years since Era made her first tarot card case but she says that she still keeps exploring, experimenting and learning from pictures of masterpieces she finds on the internet. Her workshop takes up one small corner of her living room; the other corner is her husband’s office.

The whole room is also used as a playground for her youngest child, which is the reason she mainly works with water-based fluids. She wants to avoid any strong and toxic smells. The reduced workspace in her living room taught Era to keep things tidy and organized. She can almost make a whole project from start to finish without even getting up from her chair. Everything she needs is at an arm’s length. Era loves to work with vegetable-tanned natural leather but she recently started using chrome-tanned leather to make soft card pouches for those customers who want a more affordable item.

 

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For her, inspiration does not come from any specific mentors but from the work of all the “big guys” she watches online or in videos as well as from the work of numerous other leather artists who show imagination and potential in their work. She likes to invest in instructional books and videos because she considers that knowledge to be more important than fancy tools. As a positive person she believes that positive thinking is essential to improve as a person and as an artist. Era believes in payment upfront without expectation to receive and is always happy to help others when she sees their desire for her help is sincere.

 

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read also Era’s article: “Is your product better than it looks in your pictures”

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Ann Maree Ager 01a

The artist portrait of Ann Maree Ager

 

Ann-Maree Ager is a skilled and very talented Australian artist from Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, Australia. She has always been an art lover and as a child she would enter coloring competitions in school. Her teachers supported her strongly all throughout her schooling fostering her love and talent for art and crafts. After her school years it was simply a must for Ann-Maree to study art in university and become a visual arts teacher. A visit to a medieval fair where crafted leather items were shown reminded her of a key ring she had stamped years before, which brought back an interest for this craft within her. She sought out lessons at the Birdsall Tannery in Mascot and got hooked from the moment she made her first leather coaster in a class with Silvia Guerrera, her first teacher and good friend.

 

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Ann-Maree considers herself very lucky to have been further instructed and supported by the great leather artist Peter Main who is her mentor to this day. She told us that Peter has believed in her skills and talent from the start and that he has instilled in her the belief that she is able to do anything. For his ongoing support she is very grateful. Peter still takes a close look to every piece she creates, which always pushes her to enhance the quality of her work.

As an art teacher, educator and art lover Ann-Maree’s aim is to share this love with as many people as possible. She wants leather work to be exhibited in mainstream craft shows and in contemporary art exhibitions. She hopes that this exposure will encourage artists to consider the possibilities of leather as an art medium and beyond its use for great functional items.

 

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Seeking constantly to reach new horizons Ann-Maree has also started to move into leather sculpting. She says that, even though she has not done much leather sculpting in the past, she is enjoying a lot experimenting with it now. Working exotic skins into intricate filigree objects is also a relatively new feature in her repertoire and she has big plans for new art pieces involving multiple skins and plenty of color.

Ann-Maree likes using some non-traditional techniques and she can often be found wandering the scrapbooking supplies aisles looking for embossing plates or punches. When creating a new piece of art she will use any tool or technique that allows her to reach the effect she is after. She feels quite fortunate to be able to use some very old and beautiful tools given to her by her mentor.

 

 

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A worn-down pencil of Al Stohlman, the pioneer of leathercraft, is one of her most treasured possessions and which she never uses. When things aren’t going well this pencil reminds her to go back to the basics and practice by the books. Over the past few years she has showed her artwork in many exhibitions. She told us she is very thankful for her incredibly supportive husband and children who give her the space and time to pursue her art and everything related to it.

Ann-Maree’s art is colorful and inspired by the beautiful nature of Australia. Her workshop at home looks out over a bush reserve and the sounds of kookaburras and sulphur-crested cockatoos wake her up each morning inspiring many of her works. The native Australian flora and fauna with its smells, sounds and colors make up a large part of her subject matter and that is what she wants to celebrate with her art.

 

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Steve Martin 01

The artist portrait of Steve Martin

 

Steve Martin is an artist from Oklahoma who lived in the Tulsa area in his younger days before moving to Denver, Colorado with his wife and children ten years ago. After finishing school Steve joined the US Army serving for 8 years as a Cavalry Scout and a Combat Medic. When he left the army he began the pursuit of a degree in Computer Science from Will Rogers State and Oklahoma State Universities.

A strong belief of Steve is that the experiences gathered in life imbue each of us with a unique set of skills and passions. For him it was about creating valuable and innovative knowledge in different spaces. He learned that he feels most healthy and happy when he has a goal with a tangible target towards he can work.

 

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Five years ago Steve got his first introduction to leather at a friend’s leather shop. His friend showed him how to make some basic leather armor pieces but it was his skills in leather tooling that attracted Steve. A wedding was coming up in his family and Steve poked and prodded his friend to teach him how to make a tooled Celtic shield as present. This made Steve quickly realize how satisfying it was for him to work with leather. He continued building and developing his skills in leather tooling and assembled a small shop of his own in the basement of his house to minimize noise and interruption to the rest of his family while he worked. He uses a pair of industrial anti-static workbenches, which provide him an unyielding base to hammer on and a massive chunk of granite for his leather tooling.

 

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Projects that allow him to incorporate tooling in a way that accents the finished piece so the contours look natural and blend well with the chosen color are Steve’s favorites. Although leather is his favorite material with which to work Steve has worked with several mediums such as metal for chainmail, foam and tape for cosplay or larp as well as anything maker-oriented like 3D printing, laser cutting and electronics. He spends a lot of time with Adobe CC using Illustrator to draw his projects because it gives him an opportunity to blend in various artistic elements and he can reuse previous designs adjusting sizing and cropping.

 

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Steve always questions his friends about their processes and tricks for success in their work. To improve his techniques he learns a lot from other artisans by researching and analyzing their creations. Steve learned all the basics in leather tooling from his good friend Duane and he says that he is not really sure he would be working with leather today had his friend not invited him to his leather shop, given him guidance and an interest for the craft. Many other people at Tandy stores have inspired Steve by giving him generous advice on how to master various techniques.

Accepting that the quality of his work could be considered artistic is something that took a while but Steve says that the support of family and friends, especially those who are accomplished artists in their own right, has been an instrumental influence in his realization of the quality of his ability and skillset.

 

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Jennefer Ann Gordon Grant 1

The artist portrait of Jennefer Ann Gordon Grant

 

Jennefer Ann Gordon-Grant was born in Salisbury, a small town in Rhodesia now known as Zimbabwe. Her parents are Dutch and they moved to Rhodesia in their early 20s. Already as a little child in school, Jennefer always loved and practiced her art. When she was in primary school she entered her first art contest and won first prize with a large A3 pencil sketch of a Kudu, which thrilled her a lot. Moreover, she was only twelve years old when she sold her first three paintings.

 

 

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They were Delft-blue Dutch children pictures done with watercolor on hardboard. Art has always run in her family. Her mother did a lot of pencil drawings and her father painted amazing cartoon characters in watercolor. He retired at a very early age and decided to finally pursue his art fulltime. Jennefer Ann’s parents eventually got their own little studio and gallery at home where she often spent her time sketching and painting.

 

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She looked through the different art books of her parents and watched them practice their art to pick up tips and advice wherever she could. Her parents exhibited their art all over the country and when Jennefer Ann was 18 years old they decided to do their first family art exhibition, which was held at the Standard Bank Arena in Salisbury, S.A. and was a great success.

Jennefer Ann’s life eventually changed when she grew older and moved to South Africa, got married, had three children, and thus never really pursued her art seriously for many years. As she was married to a pilot she moved to different places over the years including Mauritius and Dubai, where she had more time to pursue her art again and started playing around with oil paints.

 

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Jennefer Ann finally moved back to South Africa after her divorce and went back to her art. She started painting birds and wildlife, both in oils and watercolor or acrylic along with fabric art in the form of hand-painted placemats, table runners and wall hangings which she sold at a Friday night market in a little place called wilderness. Inspired by another artist who helped her a lot to build up confidence in her work, she started selling her art at another market in Sedgefield, S.A. Jennefer Ann eventually started to attend the Grahamstown National Arts Festival where she met her second husband. Jennefer Ann works at home in her lovely little studio/gallery. She and her husband like to travel and photograph a lot in South Africa.

 

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Jennefer Ann gets all her inspiration for her paintings from her own material. She is still attending the Grahamston National Art Festival each year, which keeps her busy painting since a lot of her works are commissioned. Jennefer Ann also donates quite a few of her paintings to charity projects to help children and animals in need. End of August 2016 Jennefer Ann won her first big international art contest. She won the best of the show on behalf of the National Anti-Vivisection Society in the USA for their Art for Animals 2016 competition with her painting called “Special Moments”. “I think what I enjoy the most about painting is being able to share with my clients and art lovers the awe-inspiring beauty of South Africa”.

 

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Kathy_Flanagan 1

The artist portrait of Kathy Flanagan

 

The American Colorado Rockies and its wide-open spaces have always been home to awarded artist Kathy Flanagan. Her love for the mountains has been inside her as long as she can remember and the wilderness that surrounds her, with all of its animals, inspires her in a way that is clearly visible in many of her beautiful leather pictures.

During her youth Kathy took part in after-school projects such as 4-H and this competitive environment showed her that she could keep up with her peers. Leather crafting was one of the three areas where she excelled and it was also the one she loved the most. The other two areas were horses and poultry, both of which naturally go together with leather. Kathy took advantage of that to make tack and her first saddle.

 

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As time went by, Kathy realized she was very attracted to figure carving so she purchased books by Al Stohlman from which she learned for many years. Once her children were old enough she took courses at the Tandy Leathercraft Company, which eventually led her to the columbine Leather Guild. It was then just a natural step to get involved in leather shows where she directly learned from the masters. Kathy does not like to do what others do. She took many of the techniques from the masters and either changed them slightly or put them together to create her own technique. Flat carvings or carvings with small amounts of embossing are her favorites.

She enjoys combining techniques such as extreme embossing and embossed aplique. Kathy uses acrylic paint to color her leather projects because she feels that coloring does not come easy to her and finds acrylic to be more forgiving. Her tools come from a wide variety of makers and some of them are 40 to 50 years old. She has modified some of her tools by filing them down to make them work the way she wants them to work. Kathy believes her inspiration comes from every other leather crafter with whom she gets in contact and, although she has learned a lot from the masters, she still learns much from examining the work of others and by listening to her students’ questions and comments.

 

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Kathy teaches special leather working courses all over the U.S., very often with her long-standing and best friend Clay Banyai who also is an awarded leather artist. These very special courses allow her to offer and share her knowledge in figure carving and extreme embossing with advanced leather workers. She teaches all the techniques that must be known and understood to create truly realistic-looking three-dimensional leather pictures, like the famous moose and other beautiful animal pictures. Her classes offer her students the chance to learn every little detail of these special techniques, from tracing the motif onto the leather to painting the finished piece, achieving a wonderful, professional-looking and ready to frame picture.

2016 has been a wondrous and exciting year for Kathy. Not only did the Academy of Western artists in Fort Worth, Texas presented her with the award of “Master Leather Artisan” but she also received the “Al Stohlman” award, the most prestigious award in leather crafting. Kathy describes it as a great honor she can hardly believe she has received.

 

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William James Hunter 1

The artist portrait of William James Hunter

 

William James is a multifaceted artist born and raised in southeast Michigan, USA. He moved to the Houston, Texas area in the year of 2012 where he started a career as an art framer. The talent and skill in artwork runs deep in his family. He carries on with the name of his father and grandfather and with the tradition of skilled craftsmanship. William’s grandfather was the one who inspired him to start carving wood by making duck decoys and duck boats while watching granddad work. The influence from his grandfather was also the trigger for his beginnings in woodworking, drawing and painting.

 

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William’s father was a furniture designer and jewelry maker and one more person who gave him helpful guidance throughout his development as an artist. William carries on with the history of his ancestors by making jewelry, stringed instruments, practicing archery and building traditional bows.

He also has the skill to embellish his handmade bows and guitars, carvings and scrimshaw and finds great satisfaction in visualizing different ideas and bringing them into existence with patience and care. Even though William is a Jack-of-all-trades his main craft is oil painting. He captures moments, buildings and animals using Winsor & Newton artisan oil paints and using his painting gear with the equipment he himself created to carry it out in nature to work under the open skies.

For the paintings that are not created directly from nature William carefully takes reference photos with his Leica camera and works straight from his laptop screen. He uses different techniques and painting materials to achieve the most natural look for realistic scenery. He believes there are sceneries that just “Ask to be painted” such as ancient castles. Even though William James Hunter carries much of his ancestors’ talent the materials he uses are standard and modern. He currently uses canvas as his main medium but he is toying with the idea of using linen or panel for a stiffer and smoother surface for future artwork.

 

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William’s work is not created in a fancy art studio but in his apartment on the couch or at his dinner table. He simply integrates his artwork into his daily routine and full-time job. The work and history of his father and grandfather are a major source of inspiration for his art as well as the experiences and impressions gathered during his trips around the world. Not too long ago and 14 years after finishing High School William graduated from the Art Center College of Pasadena with a BFA in Illustration. He has created highly realistic representations of landscape and animal life ever since and in a variety of media including pencil, charcoal, colored pencil, ink, oils, scrimshaw and carving.

 

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01.Kalani Matherne.

The artist portrait of Kalani Matherne

Wire weaving artist Kalani Matherne was born and raised in the small town Chauvin in Louisiana. She resides now in the same state in the town of Houma where she lives with her boyfriend and her porky Gizmo.

Kalani has always loved art and her artistic expression through creative writing and drawing started before she began the art of wire weaving to create jewelry. Some years ago she came across a wrapped moonstone jewelry piece which fascinated her so much that it never left her mind and drove her to delve into the intricate arts of wire weaving and wire wrapping. Kalani became a self-taught novice and she began purchasing spools of wire in October 2015 to begin the learning process.

 

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She started working the metal into eye-pleasing objects without instruction and developed her craft step by step and simply learning by doing. In 2016 Kalani met local wire sculptor Linda McCord, who helped her with techniques and design. She also showed her wire weaving steps that Kalani had not seen before and which enabled her to widen her skillset.

Kalani loves to work with Gemstones and copper wire when designing new pieces but she also uses silver and other metals for custom jewelry. Her product palette contains gorgeous unique pendants with beautifully wrapped Gemstones, bracelets, rings and Dreamcatchers. She has a small workspace in her home. Kalani describes wire weaving as a meditative process and a space where she often gets lost in her own world.Wire workers such as Lisa-Lynn Barth, Nicole Hanna and Adam’s Handcrafted jewelry are important sources of inspiration for Kalani. The many hours she has spent learning and practicing the techniques for the craft of intricate wire work have paid off making of her a jewelry artist with a beautiful and very unique style.

 

03.Kalani Matherne

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noemi-rafel05

The artist portrait of Noemi Rafel

Scrimshaw artist Noemi Rafel was born in Barcelona, Spain. In spite of growing up in an artistic environment Noemi studied prosthetic dentistry and later made a career in the food service industry. At the age of 24 she moved to Madrid where she met Paco, who would become her husband and with whom she would eventually move to Orcera, a small and healthily quiet town in the mountains of southern Spain, to raise a family. Paco started making knives as a hobby in 2007 and they both enjoyed looking up beautiful artisan knives on the internet, many of which had scrimshaw engravings.

 

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Knowing her artistic inclinations and that she had done pointillism (dot art) drawings during her prosthetic dentistry studies, Paco encouraged her to try to learn the art of scrimshaw, assuring her that she could become as good as the artists whose pieces they admired. Noemi started etching on the knife blades made by her husband. She began with small decorative etchings such as name initials but soon progressed into more advanced designs. When building their current house, Paco created a workshop with large windows for maximum light and when her work reached a certain level he gave her a binocular magnifying glass to enable her to do more defined and precise scrimshaw pointillism.

 

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Noemi developed into a highly skilled scrimshaw artist in spite of never taking any course or workshop to learn it. As many successful self-taught artists, she took the time to find all kinds of information about scrimshaw, practiced a lot and, through trial and error, defined her own working technique that enabled her to make increasingly higher quality engravings. When her work became more complex she adopted the method of starting with a sketch from which she transfers the main graphite lines of the drawing to the piece she wants to engrave, using them to apply pointillism or small notches to achieve the desired intensity of the engraving. Noemi engraves her stunning motifs on natural materials such as reindeer, elk, white-tailed deer or European red deer antlers. Walrus ivory is next in line. “I read a long time ago that scrimshaw requires thousands of ink points and dozens of working hours. Now I also know that it takes character. One could say that my first scrimshaw engraving was one of my husband’s image and three wolves that represent our three children. I did it on a knife that I have him as a birthday gift or for Christmas, I don’t remember exactly. But either way he glows every time he shows it to his friends,” she shares.

Like many other artists Noemi evolves through her art with every piece she creates and with every goal she reaches. One of her latest achievements was learning to engrave human faces that convey even the subtlest face expressions. Noemi believes that if she had not studied prosthetic dentistry she may have never understood the engraving technique required to create scrimshaw art.

 

The Artist  Portrait of Noemi Rafel

 

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Amalia Grassi 1

The artist portrait of Amalia Grassi

 

Amalia Grassi is a very talented and creative female artist from Birmingham, UK, born in 1965 to a British mother and an Italian father. Even though her first nursery school was in Sardinia she spent all her formal school years in boarding schools in England. Amalia took her foundation courses in Art & Design in Bath but she also lived in London for many years where she attended the London College of Printing to earn her BA in photography before returning to Birmingham in the year 2000.

As a child Amalia spent many hours just drawing, any pencil and paper lying around were destined to become another drawing of hers. She loved her art classes in school and the praise she received from her teachers fed her drive to create more art. Even though she left her formal art studies during her A-levels, she managed to apply for and got accepted to a foundation course in art and design at the Academy of Art in Bath, where she spent a full year creating huge charcoal and graphite-based pictures as well as many hand-built ceramic pots. She applied for a ceramics degree but left after the first term to earn her photography degree.

 

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Amalia’s life eventually went from art-centered into paid employment, neglecting her passion for art for many years. But about a year ago she reconsidered her path and took the brave step to focus on her art and photography once again and is thoroughly enjoying the surprise of rediscovery. Those years of “creative wilderness,” as Amalia calls them, brought her to a naïve and untrained return that gives her the freedom to experiment with any materials she can use for her ideas. At the moment a lot of her artwork is created with inks, watercolors, Caran d’Ache colored pencils and Staedtler fiber-tip pens, which she learns how to use on her own. She starts most of her pictures by drawing them out in pencil. Then she uses Faber-Castell artist pen brushes to map out shadows and shadings before applying watercolor, colored inks and even Staedtler pens. Sometimes she finishes her work by applying a light wash of color over the whole image.

Her latest experiment is to utilize white gouache to outline and enhance certain characteristics in her pictures as well as to bring more light, texture and dimension to the images. None of her work is created in a fancy studio or in a special workshop. She creates most of her art on a space on her computer desk no bigger than a dinner tray.

Amalia gets her inspiration from many sources such as art groups on social media of which she is a member and from artists like Anet Du Toit and Walter Koessler, Picasso, Henri Rousseau and Dianne Arbus among many others. She also finds profound inspiration in music. Listening to certain musicians stirs up an urge within her to create.

Amalia summarizes her thoughts about her own art by saying “In my art I like to explore the themes about how we live life, the importance of expression in music, fantasy and escapism. My art is a personal release but I also hope for my work to motivate people or provoke thought and questioning. I think I like this kind of art because I personally have a strong desire to metaphorically fly, to escape daily binds and to live fully. In order to do this an expansive and boundary-less mindset is necessary.”

 

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The artist portrait of Petra Hergarden

Petra Hergarden is a female artist from the Netherlands. She was born in Utrecht in the year 1964 and now resides in Oostelbeers, North Brabant, a small town approximately 100km south of Amsterdam.

Her journey into bead and jewelry making started a couple of years ago, after she had attended a workshop at a family-wife-day. She found out that she really liked it, so she started buying some equipment for jewelry making at a local shop right after that workshop. Just a short time later, she attended two five-day courses which were held by a jewelry bead shop in Eindhoven, a town nearby. She started arranging a workspace in her living room, for she had already equipped herself well with all sorts of materials. The jewelry she made back then was made of polymer clay, known as “Fimo children’s clay”.

 

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As Petra developed her hobby further, she found out that this polymer clay had limits, namely, not being possible to make transparent beads out of it. So she searched the internet for “transparent beads”. That was when she first explored a great variety of beautiful glass beads in all styles and sizes, with flowers inside, etc. She also found out that those beautiful beads could be made by her own self.

 

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She became so inspired that it wasn’t long until she bought her first propane torch, the tool needed and used to fuse glass. The lady from whom she bought that device instructed her on how to use it safely. That was where Petra’s addiction to making the most beautiful glass beads began.

As her jewelry making grew, the amount of equipment and torches with oxygen generators started growing and she needed more room to work in. Her husband nicely restored a former sheep shed for her to have her own workshop, with enough room to do her artwork, and even a small kitchen and bathroom section. Petra told us with a smile that even this roomy workshop already starts feeling too small. There are a lot of glass rods of different kinds and colors and also a lot of “frit”, small crumbles of glass of different colors and color mixes that Petra really loves to work with, since it is always a surprise how the beads turn out in the end.

Petra loves making beads with flowers in them although they are still difficult to make for her so when she gets one done, she is very proud of herself. What Petra also loves making are “remembrance-beads”. She told us that people come to her with a small amount of the ashes of a loved one who passed away to work the ashes into a glass bead. This way they can always have their beloved ones with them in a bracelet, necklace or even in a glass ring.

Petra takes classes and workshops from time to time to learn a new technique and she also learns from internet sources. She gets her inspiration for her artwork from things that surround her and she is very obsessed with colors of nature, fabrics or flowers. Even if she had scheduled her day in the workshop to practice a technique she hasn’t yet perfected, she very often gets side-tracked by all the colors and materials, and often the result of her work turns out to be completely different than what she had in mind before. That is exactly what Petra likes in her art – free expression and exploration of the material.

 

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