3/4 of the way through the year and my 2018 resolution to create a new murrini each week is still going strong!  It has been a crazy busy year with so much going on (except blog writing :-S ) but I’ve still stuck to my appointment each week to get on the torch and work at improving my murrini making skills.  Each Monday over on my Instagram account I post a new murrini each week.  For those that don’t follow over there, this is 3 months all one shot!

The summer was a fun one for murrini.  I really want to try making faces, so started this set off with a theme month of eyes for “Jul-eye”.  😀  One of the eyes was inspired by a flower sculpture in the Kenzo world commercial that won an award at the Cannes Lions last year.  Another eye is that of a famous person – hopefully by the end of the year I’ll show you who (in murrini of course).   There’s a murrini of a couple of Chinese characters that represent my new Chinese name.  Started taking Chinese lessons in the midst of this crazy year and discovered my real name doesn’t translate well into Chinese.  So my teacher helped me picked a name ( Little or small (Xiǎo ), Red (Hóng))  I have a small patch of red in my hair, so this name suits me well.  A few other random designs as well and finishing up with my first put together face.  I’m so happy with it, but was sad to see a giant chunk crack off in the kiln.  Was going to fuse it back together but now I kind of like the chunk standing up on its’ own, it makes a funny little face statue!

Here they all are, the past 3 months worth of Murrini Monday….

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We’re now more than halfway through the year and I’m still sticking with my resolution to create a new murrini each week!  It’s the longest I’ve ever stuck with a resolution, perhaps because this one is fun it sticks better.  😀

Each Monday over on my Instagram account I post a new murrini each week.  For those that don’t follow over there, this is 3 months all one shot!

This past three months saw a month of space inspired murrini, a set of 3 hexagons that were inspired by a painting a friend posted on Facebook, a very special red and white murrini that was made into a pendant as a retirement gift, my first attempt at an eye (that I thought I royally screwed up but it actually turned out!) and other random designs.

Hope you like seeing them and hopefully it looks like I’m improving!

It’s been quiet here on the blog this year because several things have been happening to keep me busy with mosaic work and leave little energy for much else.  But that’s a good thing, it always was my hope to one day be this busy with work that needed to be done rather than just done for my own self.

Installing frames

The first of these great things that have kept me so busy was getting accepted to dual show in a gallery with another artist.  It was really an honor to be chosen and the jury paired me with another local artist who is a painter.  She had created a series of paintings that had a “mosaic” type feel to them.  We were a great pairing together even though in different mediums our pieces were complementary to each other. 

We decided to name our show Duplexity.  While the look of our respective collections went together, our themes or inspiration behind the works were quite different.  We decided to pick a name based on the idea of two of us rather than try to merge very different inspiration points together.  Hunting for a fun, memorable word took some work, but alas Duplexity was found and it was perfect as it had a meaning of double or twofold.    

The gallery where we were shown was in the offices of the AOE Arts Council (soon to be renamed the Ottawa Arts Network).  This organization is amazing, their entire aim is to be of service to the Ottawa arts community and to support the growth of emerging artists especially.  They were absolutely great and so welcoming to both of us and our show,.

Loaded car on the way to the show!

This show was a huge deal for me as I needed to produce enough work to fill half of a fairly large space.  In the end I created 10 new pieces for the show as well as bringing in 4 previous works.  It was a huge undertaking as mosaics can be (for me sometimes) a slower process.  Also if you mess up there is no easy undoing what you’ve done, you can’t simply paint over a mistake and start over.  Once those bits are set in cement it is set!

It was also a huge deal as it was the first time I was learning about what else you need to put together for a show.  I learned so much about creating all the documents necessary for the show, promoting, coordinating it all, putting together things to make for a fun Meet the Artist afternoon event and more.  As a great bonus, I even sold some work which was really the icing on the cake!

All in all, it was a great first experience putting together a larger exhibition that will serve me well in the future.  Especially given that I am now hard at work for my first solo (!!!) show in a gallery later this year… 🙂 

On New Year’s Day I made a post with a resolution to create a new murrini (glass rod with a pattern inside) each week this year.  From the looks of it on the blog here, I’ve not been successful, but in fact I have!  I’ve been posting them each week on my Instagram account and decided to post them here on the blog in 3 month increments.  They’re not really worthy of a whole blog post on their own each week, so figured for over here this was a better format.

I’m still learning, so there are some winners and some stinkers in the mix, hopefully by the end of the year we’ll see progress in my skills.  Below is the batch from January – March, during this time we had a month of all hearts in celebration of February and some skills tests, like trying to see if I could create a triangle and pull it while keeping the triangle shape.

Hope to be posting here more regularly soon.  There’s been a lot going on in addition to coming up with new murrini to make each week.  I’ve been busy in my studio getting ready for a dual exhibition with another artist coming in May!  Hope to have more on that to share soon!  In the mean time, here’s 3 months worth of murrini!  😀

The last couple of months of 2017 and first couple of 2018 have been a whirlwind.  Just starting now to surface for a bit of air!  Big things have been happening one after the other and I haven’t had a chance to write about them all here on the blog, so am catching up now because they’ve been too good not to share.

The best thing that happened in all of 2017 for me – was an opportunity to go be an Instructors Assistant for Sherri Warner Hunter at a Concrete Sculpture class held at the Arrowmont school in Gatlainburg, Tennessee at the end of October/early November for 2 weeks.

I was floored when Sherri wrote and asked if I’d be interested.  At first, I thought the email wasn’t real and had to read it a couple of times – I couldn’t believe she’d thought of me and was so ecstatic.  I’d taken a course from her in concrete sculpture many years ago (you can read about it here) and always admired her and her work so much.  From her course, I’d learned a ton about sculpture and how to properly structure an armature.  It gave me such a wonderful foundation to move forward in my own work creating 3-D sculpture bases to mosaic.  That and it is just feels kind of kick-ass to bend re-bar.  😀

Decided to drive to Gatlainburg from my home in Ottawa Canada.  It was great timing for fall colors.  I’d never been to Gatlainburg before and was excited to see it and the Smokey Mountains.

More exciting though was discovering the Arrowmont school.  This school is astonishing.  Visit it at arromont.org, if you have any interest in art, craft and learning this is the place to be.  The staff are so warm and welcoming, they bring in world-class instructors, feed you tons of fantastic food and are tireless promoters of the value of arts and crafts.  Go to their site, look up their classes – you will be amazed.  I fell in love with this place.

I was nervous about being an assistant and hoped I’d be good.  Wanted to do a good job for Sherri and for our class of 10 students.  We had a class of all women which was kind of cool!  They were all so amazing, came from different backgrounds and were truly delightful to get to know.  Sherri is a phenomenal teacher and I learned a ton watching her teach and seeing how she is with the students.  It was a great opportunity for me to not be on the learning end in terms of the sculpture – but to get to learn and observe from a teaching perspective.

When the time came for me to help students it was so great!  I love love loved helping them!  I loved seeing them learn, seeing them create and watching their ideas come to life.  It was great to see their confidence build and help them be successful.  They all created such different sculptures and each and every one of them was fantastic.  It was truly a room filled with talent and I’m sure they will all continue to do great work going forward if they choose – which I hope they will all continue with it.

There were a few other workshops going on at the same time as we were there, a paper making course, water color, photography, wood marquetry and a pottery class right next door.  There was so much talent around the whole time, it was inspiring to see what the other courses worked on.  Fun for us – the pottery class had a huge kiln outside our studio and they did a soda spraying technique which caused big flames to come out of the kiln.  It was tremendously cool to watch!

As a bonus for me – when we had slow time or on the weekend I was able to work on concrete sculpture projects for myself.  It was great to be able to use the facilities and Sherri’s awesome tools, as well – having a block of time just do work on sculpture and get messy without the responsibilities of home was incredibly freeing.  I got going crazy on the weekend and carved a bunch of styrofoam like mad and created way more than I’d intended.  But sometimes inspiration (or insanity) takes over.

I could write a novel about everything that happened and how wonderful it was.  Believe me, writing just this abbreviated version has been a challenge but don’t want to make an endless blog.  Wish I could express how much I cherished this opportunity, how thankful I am to have had it, but it feels like nothing I could say expresses it enough.  I thank Sherri Warner Hunter to the moon and back for this.  She’s amazing and generous with her time and knowledge – if you’re interested at all in sculpture – consider taking a course from her, you will learn so much!  She’s here on wordpress – you can find more info on her workshops at:  https://swhartstudioinc.wordpress.com/workshops-events/

If you’re interested in any other kind of arts & craft, look up Arrowmont’s schedule for 2018.  They’ve got a drool-worthy list of workshops available.  Wish I could live there and take a gob of courses myself!

 

 

Happy New Year!!  😀

Most of us make some sort of resolution each year, usually things that aren’t terribly fun and often abandoned after a few weeks.  This year, my resolution is a little challenge that will hopefully be fun, not quickly abandoned and also improve my skills.  It will be to create a new murrini (or millefiori) and post it each Monday.  I’m going to post these sometimes here but each week for sure over on my new Instagram account (@studioambenz) under #murrinimonday.

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the logo

For the first week of the year – this murrini comes with a bit of a story.  I actually created it last year (had to if it was going to come on Jan 1!).  It is a bit special as the pattern is actually my logo.

Since starting in mosaics, I’ve always signed the back of my art with my name and a piece of murrini, but it was commercially made murrini and the pattern wasn’t anything special or related to me.

I wanted to make my logo in murrini and start using that in my signature instead.  The design is a stylized frog foot – (read why by clicking here)– doesn’t look too hard on paper but try building that from nothing with molten glass! o_O

You have to slowly build up the design.  A bit of black glass for the middle, then add a toe, fill in some green. All the while keeping it warm enough so it won’t blow up but not too much that it melts out of shape!  It is an intense amount of very focused work.

It took 2.5 hrs to create the design and the blob of glass was HUGE!  When you’re doing murrini you’re holding your blob in a flame and constantly rotating it, kind of like a rotisserie chicken.  As the blob gets bigger, it can get quite heavy, it is hard work on the shoulders and neck, especially after 2.5 hours of constant movement!

The I day made it, there were several people in the studio.  My blob got way bigger than originally intended and drew a bit of attention (I’m not good with attention….).  It was so big another person helped me hold one end when it came time to pull as there was going to be more glass than the width of my arms!  We pulled, I cut it so it would fit in the kiln to cool down and in that one cut could see it looked good.  I was so worn out and shaky after the intense 2.5 hrs that I had to sit down and rest before getting in my car to go home.

Wish me luck in my attempt to stick with the resolution and create 52 murrini this year!  Hopefully the end of the year will show 52 interesting patterns and some improved skills.

Best wishes to all of you for a wonderful, healthy prosperous 2018 and success in any resolutions you choose to undertake!  😀

Each December, I like to create a mosaic that is holiday related and post it here.  This year a little micro-mosaic was planned but the past couple of months have too busy and time got away from me.  So instead I’ll share a photo that will hopefully bring you a holiday smile 🙂  my studio mate Ozwald at his annual visit with Santa.

Wishing you all a holiday filled with happiness!

Enough

Posted: November 29, 2017 in Enough
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The past two months have been a whirlwind of tremendous things happening one after the other.  Life is kind of ramping up at the moment for me, but in a good way.  Hope it is the sign of more to come.  🙂

I’ll share with you over the next few blogs all of the great things happening. Today’s is about a piece of mine that was accepted in a juried show!   The show was a special one to get picked for as it was the 1st year of the Canadian Annual Mosaic Exhibition.  It was such an honor to be a part of the inaugural year.  It was held at the Flagship Gallery in Hamilton Ontario during November, and there were more than 30 stunning works in the show.

The piece of mine that was chosen is a micro-mosaic called “Enough”  This technique is a little different than traditional mosaic, all the pieces in her are very tiny and have to be set using tweezers.  They range in size (width-wise) from 0.5mm to about 4mm.  All her glass was melted and pulled to size by me in a flame at GSS Flameworking.

her special murrini

I also created a special murrini (glass rod with a pattern inside) in black and white to go in her dress.  The tiny pieces take quite a long while to put together, when most are between 0.5 and 2 mm wide it is time consuming to fill even 1 square inch!

So why is she called “Enough”?

In today’s world we’re constantly connected, bombarded by so many demands on our time, so much negativity, unending terrible news stories in the palm of our hand.

A couple of folks getting up close for a better look at her tiny bits!

A feeling of frustration at this constant connection and negativity inspired to me create an abstract drawing of woman in a beautiful dress looking down with eyes closed, hands to head, having simply had enough of all that was going on around her.  The drawing laid around for months till finally she came to life as a micro-mosaic.

She is smaller (the actual mosaic size of this piece is 5 x 7, overall size 8 x 10) and floats surrounded by a background of swirly darkness representing conflict.

Really came to love her a lot and was so thrilled she was chosen for the show.  Her bits are so tiny, included below are some pictures but for best viewing click to make them larger.  I also made a little time-lapse video of her progression – if you’re interested it is at the bottom of this blog!  Be forewarned though, it was my first time doing this so it jumps a little.  Next time I won’t kick the tripod out of place so much!  😀

The whole reason I got into working with molten glass at GSS Studio was to learn how to make my own murrini (or millefiori ) and to pull glass into stringers in the colors and sizes I wanted for micro-mosaic pieces.

starting a murrini

the start, 2 layers of glass so far!

So what are murrini anyways?  Most likely, you know what it is – or you know it by the name millefiori.  It is slices of glass, cut from a rod that has a pattern in the cross section.  It is most famously made on the island of Murano outside of Venice Italy.  Often you see it in jewelry or on decorative vases or paperweights. The pattern can be anything – when it is a flower based pattern it is called millefiori (a thousand petals) other patterns are called murrini, though many would use the term millefiori loosely for any pattern as it is the more well known name.

Murrini are complex to make, involving many layers of molten glass being put together and shaped, then heated up till red hot and finally pulling the hot blob by hand into a long rod.  You have to be careful to not twist or turn the blob of molten hot glass when pulling or you risk messing up the pattern created inside!  After the rod has cooled, it is cut into slices revealing the pattern in the cross-section.

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rod just after it has pulled

I buy commercial murrini made in Italy and use it in my micro-mosaic jewelry.  So why would I want to learn to make it?

While I love the murini I can buy, I just thought it would be so cool to create unique patterns myself.  Then if I’m using my handmade murrini in my handmade micro-mosaic jewelry designs, it makes the piece of jewelry that much more unique, that much more “one-of-a-kind”.  Truly, no one else in the world will have anything like it.

Most of my murrini patterns so far are abstract (my ultimate love) or geometrical.  There will be more complex designs as time goes on but so far it’s a good start!  Here’s some pics below – look for some of these in this year’s holiday collection of jewelry coming soon!  😀

Remixin’ it up!

Posted: September 28, 2017 in Mosaic General
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In Ottawa each year there is a neat festival called Remixed.  It is held in Chinatown and pairs local businesses with artists for 1 month.  The idea is to “remix” the businesses and neighborhood.  Bring art into groceries, restaurants and shops where you might not expect to see it and draw in art lovers to some of these same shops they might not know about.

It’s a fun and different vibe with businesses all along the main drag of Chinatown participating.  On opening day there is a big festival atmosphere.  All the artists sit with their installation in the business they’re paired with as visitors walk around stopping at each location to collect a stamp for a chance to win a prize.  There’s fun stuff happening outside too, along the route you’ll find various performers, demonstrations, or large scale artists working.

Art House Cafe building

The festival is a juried entry and this year I was lucky enough to be one of the artists chosen!  😀  In another but of luck, I got paired with The Art House Cafe, a great business that opened this year in Ottawa and is a hub for artists and art lovers alike.

Three of my mosaics went up on their wall and will stay there for a month.  During the opening day I had a 2hr time slot to do demos.  It was a hot day but that didn’t stop a steady stream of folks from visiting.  I’d taken a project to work on during down time but didn’t have any so only stuck a few bits on!

Roman-Byzantine-Modern Mosaic styles

For the demo, I’d set up a little “history of mosaic” table showing different styles of mosaic ranging from Roman to Byzantine to Modern.  There was also a table with examples of materials and backings you can use, some fun tools and several books with amazing mosaic pictures.

As an interactive bit for visitors, I offered to let them try out cutting a some glass with the traditional tools of the hammer and hardie.  The hammer is heavy and it shocked everyone who picked it up, but they all did great making a cut and had fun.

It was a great day, so much fun to share my love of mosaic and my art with others.  I am so happy to have been a part of this wonderful event.  If you’re in the Ottawa area visiting, the art is up throughout Chinatown till October 16.   Find a map of all the locations on chinatownremixed.ca