Sunday, July 26, 2015

Egg #25- Cameo inspired "Sister" egg, batik style goose egg, etched, dyed and embellished, from the "50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" series

     Siblings. Nothing like them in the world. They scream, holler, push, shove, try to best you or infuriate you in every way they can. Yet for those of us lucky enough to share our lives and parent's love with them, there are no stronger bonds, loyalty, protectiveness and love than that of a sibling (until you have children of your own). You know that you can count on them when the chips are down, and they will always be your advocate. Such is the case with my younger sister Cheryl.
      I know that you'll forgive me for this later (another cool thing about siblings)...above is my Mother's first attempt at a photo Christmas card. You know the one- Mom puts you in your best outfit (these cute little navy blue dresses with white piping and brass button were made by the super seamstress herself), and you try and snap the perfect photo. Look at how much fun this photo shoot was! Of course, my sister and I laugh about this years later, so much so that my sister's awesome sense of humor shows up in a card on my birthday (still have the card, and it makes me laugh all over again).
     Heh-heh...excuse me. I will try and compose myself...heh-heh...
     Even though we were two different personalities and looked totally different, you could tell that we were sisters by the matching outfits my mother always dressed us in. Yup. That was great. Sorry Mom (you know I love you...). Here we are having the time of our young little lives at the ocean in Maine. So many great memories, so many great vacations and hours spent together playing.
    Here we are, waiting for the school bus on Cheryl's first day of school. And there's me, trying to be the dutiful, older sibling- giving her the low down on the politics of the playground, and how to win at Tether Ball (not that she needed that- she was a pretty quick study and one tough kid). I love this photo, so I will choose this as one of my references for the cameo egg. It will be a stylized version of the two of us.
     Why a cameo egg, of all things, you ask? Well, I love cameos as a fine piece of jewelry, but also I feel they are finely sculpted objets d'art all in themselves. Many, many years later, we had the privilege of accompanying my mother and one of the French teachers from St .Albans High School (with other parents as well) as chaperones on a trip to France and Italy through EF Tours. While in Italy, we were traveling through Naples and Pompeii, and we had asked the tour guide if we might take a little side excursion into the Bay of Naples and stop at a large Cameo gallery and studio. I knew that I was going to bring back something beautiful from this shop the moment I stepped in. While I love the traditional cameos sculpted with the Cypraecassis rufa shells (white outer layer and rich orange-brown under layer), I was drawn to some of the more unusual stones that were carved upon. I settled on a blue agate cameo brooch, and black onyx cameo earrings. Here they are, nestled among some of my other favorites (middle of top row for the blue agate)...
         My inspiration for the cameo shell color is the blue carved, for my sister Cheryl, this one is in honor of we go!
     Here is my preliminary sketch. The goal is to keep the design open, simple and elegant. The border in the middle will have a youthful vine of daisies and hearts. The front medallion will have a stylized "carved" version of the above mentioned photo. The back of the egg will have two entwined hearts surrounded by another chain of daisies (c' know some of you made these and adorned yourselves with them when you were a kid). The inscription nestled in the two hearts reads "Sisters Forever". (Yes. You may cue the "Awwwww....") Both medallions will have a twisted braid edging that will be etch into the egg with acid. I plan to give it a nice metallic finish to mimic a silver edging like you would see on a brooch. The egg will have a horizontal orientation.
     I start by dividing the egg in quarters on the lathe, and draw a center line line around the middle.
    Instead of using the usual tape measure, I use a compass and adjust it accordingly and mark my segments for the band (thanks to a class I recently attended- a fun, new tool for my egging arsenal). I then draw the outer bands that have the twisted braided edging, and they in turn will edge the inner band that will house the meandering daisies.
     I also add two very small bands on either side of the braided edging, and start to draw the segments of the twisted band.
     I use a grid in the band to help me section off and center the design. I add petals and daisies, and hearts on a curly vine.
     I draw the back medallion first, with the entwined hearts and the "daisy-string-necklace" around it.
     So far, it is a simple and open design, so the waxing should go pretty quickly.
     I decide to start waxing in what I've already drawn and leave the front of the cameo with the two figure heads until I work up the courage to draw them out (you know me, leave the hard part for last). I use a fine and extra fine tip for the waxing over. I go slow and make sure I have good coverage, as I will be acid etching the egg later.
     So far, so good. Waxed everything up to this point, and am happy with the results. Next, I will start drawing out the "carved" faces.
     I look to my preliminary sketch for reference, and draw my grid on the egg to help me center the two faces and the design.
     I start waxing the outlines of the hair, and then stop and check to see the shadow placement on the face. So, in a cameo, the highlight of the figure is the highest point of the light part of the shell, and the darkest or shadow parts are carved in varying degrees almost down to the darker part of the shell, and that's what gives the illusion of the shading. I have to take a moment and think which part of the face to leave as the "high point or highlight" and which is the deeper carved part or the shadow. I will check one of my cameos again for reference.
     At this point, I am struggling a little bit, and hope that I have a good handle on what needs to be done. It is definitely thinking in reverse from what I would normally do. In retrospect, this would have been easier to carve something rather than etch and dye and use color. Did I just make this harder on myself than it had to be? Perhaps. By the seat of my pants, again...
     I start waxing in some large chunks of color with will stay as the high points in the design. I use my medium kitska for this.
     I add some more line work on the leaves in the border and decide to give them serrated edges for more interest. I beef up the lines from thick to thin, and add dots to the hearts and some of the curly-cues.
     After I am satisfied with the waxing, I acid etch the egg with Acid Magic for several minutes. In between, I use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub away the softened shell that is coming off with the acid. I rinse with water and rub a little ivory dish washing liquid over the egg to neutralize the acid. I rinse again with water and pat dry. I leave the egg to rest for a couple of hours, and remove the plug to let the shell dry inside and out completely.
     I brush on a diluted coat of PUSA Ice blue dye onto the figures, and let dry. I was over part of the faces, and brush on a stronger coat and re-wax again.
     I do this for the leaves and the hearts in the border. I also hit the heart outline and leaves on the other side of the medallion. After drying, I wax over all of those sections.
     I dye the whole egg in PUSA Brook Blue. I like the color, but it seems a little flat.
    It is always good to get a second opinion, consult with another artist for confirmation that you made the right choice. It is decided to brush the back side of the egg with the same Brook Blue, and add PUSA Royal purple to the middle of the egg, and UGS Purple towards the bottom (if you look at the blue agate, it has a purple/blue cast to it, much like Ultramarine). I pull the colors down so they bleed into each other. Now it has a little more interest to it. I let that dry, and then wax over the entire medallion.
     I do that for the other side of the medallion and wax that over too, once dry. Now I have just the middle band left.
     I brush the darkest purple on top and bottom and on either side of that, I brush the mid-tone purple into the blue into the middle. I let that dry, and then wax over the entire band. It is now time to unwax.
     I rub the egg with a little olive oil, and line cardboard with paper towels on an old cookie sheet to absorb the melting wax as it heats up in the oven. (I place in cold oven and fire it up 175 degrees F for about 15 minutes) I gently blot and rub off the rest of the waxy residue.
     Here is the egg, all unwaxed. Notice the ridges in the twisted braids, and the vine in the middle border is quite raised? That is due to a patience and deep etch. It looks pretty good right now, doesn't it? But we are not done!
     I take the egg back to the work bench for some embellishment. I glue clear flat back gemstones in the center of the daisies in the middle border with white tacky glue that will dry clear. I do this for the daisy on the back medallion that comes out of the border too. I certainly could add those to the daisy string necklace, but I decide to err on the simple side, and stop (some of you that know me, know that this goes against my "embellishing" nature). I will do something else for those later. It takes about 20 minutes or so to dry.
          I decide to paint silver on the bands that separate the medallions from the middle border, rather than fool with silver leaf for now. I had been experimenting on watercolors using a permanent masking fluid and mixing in metallic pigment powder in. I decide that I'd like to apply that to the egg. I had also noticed that the paint that I have made is of a thinner consistency than regular fluid acrylic paint. This will work well when brushing over the etched areas, and not fill or "clog" up the fine ridge lines, leaving definition.. I give the band two coats with this silver gilding paint. I also "dot" the paint into the centers of those daisies in the daisy-string-necklace border on the heart side of the egg. Just enough bling to suit me. I let that dry thoroughly. I then lightly spray Golden MSA Hard Solvent Based varnish over the whole egg in light coats to "set" the silver paint and glued gemstones. After it has dried, I then feel free to dip the egg into the same varnish, but liquid form, giving it a nice, thick coat. I will let it dry a day, and give it a second dip. Here is the finished egg:

     I hope you've enjoyed the multiple processes that went into the making of this Sister Cameo egg, as much as I enjoyed making it. If you have a sister or sibling who you hold dear, give them a hug when you see them next. I will leave you with this quote:

"A good friend knows all of your greatest stories. Your sister has lived through them with you."

Monday, July 20, 2015

Egg #24- Lake Trout and fishing creel inspired batik style goose egg from the "50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" series

     This next egg is dedicated to my maternal grandfather, Pepere George Paquet. For as long as I can remember, this rugged outdoorsman was tending the dairy cows, sugaring, chopping wood, hunting deer and rabbits with his beagles and basset hounds and fishing for Brook Trout. I can remember the smell of Old Spice, wool, rustic woodsman smell and scratchy whiskers. When I was born, he had retired from working in the Granite sheds of Barre, Vermont. You could call my Pepere a jack-of-all- trades. Here is an old wedding photograph of my Pepere and my Memere (whom I never met, but am named after).
     Here is another photo, taken of my grandfather with my mother Carmen and my Uncle John in front of their old farmhouse in Barre.
      Some of my fondest memories were that of being allowed to play with my grandfather's hunting dogs (thus my love of animals). If you couldn't find me in the yard, chances are I was in the dog pen, playing with Sandy, Prince or Bufford. As a special treat, my Pepere would take my sister and I out fishing in the tiny brook below the hill where his house sat. We were allowed to take turns holding the fishing pole, and if a fish were caught, it was pulled off the hook and slid into a woven, leather trimmed basket with straps called a fishing creel. Of course, we didn't catch too much (probably a little too noisy and excited, stomping around on the river stones and falling in). He didn't seem to mind much, as long as he was enjoying the outdoors, and spending time with his grandchildren.
      George was also an avid ice fisherman. I remember him coming home with large plastic buckets filled to the brim with Smelt- what seemed like hundreds of them! He would clean them downstairs in the bathroom which also doubled as a laundry room. It also had a porcelain butler's sink and a metal walk-in shower. This was also my Pepere's bathroom. My grandfather's second wife (the Memere I grew up knowing) preferred the fish not be cleaned in the kitchen sink. She also didn't care for whiskers in the sink in the powder room upstairs, so my Pepere used to shave in the sink downstairs. It was an older house, so the upstairs bathroom only had a bathtub. The shower stall was installed downstairs so my grandfather could take showers after a long day out in the field. I remember watching him shave with great interest. He had a heavy brass razor with an ivory handle, and a porcelain shaving brush which he lathered up with soap. This is a very vivid memory for me, so much so, that I had painted a picture of the shaving brushes and razor. Here is the painting entitled "Les Trois Freres" (The Three Brothers):

      The fleur-de-lis in the background represents my French-Canadian heritage. The three shaving brushes represent my Pepere's closest brothers, who in turn were also avid outdoors men, Rosario (Buck, for short- yep- had a great Uncle Buck), and William (Bill), and of course, my grandfather. The razor in the foreground was very much like the one he used, and a soap mug (I threw a couple Pysanky in the painting, as I had just started making them).
     As for the fish (back to our story), he would slice open the smelt from one bucket, run his thumb up the opening and push the fish guts out into a separate bucket, then chop off the head. He'd throw the cleaned fish into a bucket of water to keep them wet. Every once in a while, he would find a female full of roe, and yell to my sister and I to come and see. Being young, we were totally fascinated with it all! Once he'd cleaned all of the smelt, he would rinse them and drain the water and carry them upstairs to my Memere, where she and my mother would dip them in batter, and fry them for dinner. Can't say I ever acquired a taste for them, but it sure made for some interesting afternoons with my Pepere. So, the trout and creel basket inspired fish egg is for you, you and miss we go:
     Here is the preliminary sketch of the front, back and middle border that will separate the egg in half. The border is a hint and stylization of a woven creel basket, trimmed with leather, and a strap and buckle to keep the lid closed. The open space where you'd throw the fish in is centered over the drain hole. Below is a photo of a woven basket creel, trimmed with leather, much like my Pepere used.
     The back of the egg will have a worm tin and other fishing accoutrements pictured there. The front of the egg depicts a brook trout with river rocks towards the bottom. The egg will be horizontally orientated.
     I divide the egg horizontally in half. I then divide the egg vertically in half. I take my tape measure and mark out 2 - 1/4" sections to the right of the vertical line, and 2 to the left so I have a total of 4 1/4" wide vertical ribbons. I mark 1/4" segments horizontally so that I have a 1" grid that is made up of 1/4" squares. I plot out my design for the creel border, using the grid to center the design on each side (buckle and strap). I add two more 1/4" bands on either side of the 1" band for leather trim.
     I dye the egg with PUSA Mushroom.
     I wax over the outline for the leather edging, the leather top band, the strap and the buckle. I use a extra fine kitska for this. I also add "stitching" marks.
     I then divide the horizontal band segments into 1/16ths. I wax over the zig-zag interwoven segments that run down the middle.
     I use PUSA Nubian brown at the edges, and shade with  PUSA Chocolate Kiss and just touch the brush in the middle segments, loaded with PUSA Navajo Clay. The colors bleed into each other nicely. After that is dry, I wax over each section, then I do the opposite side. And when that is dry, that section is waxed too. I turn the egg over and do the same for the band on the other side.
     I hand paint the black holes in the leather strap with PUSA Licorice. I wax over those too.
     Next is the leather strap. I brush on PUSA Navajo Clay, then I "bleed" PUSA Cinnamon from the edges into the center. At the very outside edge, I use a small brush, and while still wet, I brush UGS Brick for a dark shadow- I also shade under the belt buckle. All of this gives the illusion of the strap being 3-dimensional. I am pleased with the results.
     I wax over the entire strap on both sides. I now  dip the entire egg into the Navajo clay. I brush the leather edging much like the strap, and shade with PUSA Cinnamon and UGS Brick. After that is dry, I wax over the entire edging. I hand paint Licorice into the slot that the strap disappears into and wax that over.
     I am not concerned with any of the dye slopping over into the center medallions, as I will be acid etching back to the white of the egg. I leave the buckle undone as well.
     I acid etch the egg in Acid Magic with the proper safety gear, and then rinse the egg off, and use a little liquid ivory soap to neutralize the acid. I rinse again, and let the egg rest for at least 30 minutes, and carefully unplug the drain hole at the bottom to aid in drying out the shell (this is done by gently plunging in a hot kitska to melt a hole in the plug).
     I give the egg a brush with a very diluted PUSA Neon green and vinegar, and there is a little of the UGS Brick dye pigment left on the brush, so it looks like an off white. It is much like an artist giving the canvas or watercolor paper a light wash so that you are working on a colored ground, rather than a stark white. After a quick dry, I start sketching on my brook trout and the river stones.
     I then brush in a very diluted PUSA Navajo Clay for the "peachy" underbelly, tail, fins and around the gills and mouth. What comes next might knock your socks off! And you ask yourself "Why?"
     If you've ever studied trout, you've noticed that there are many speckles of colors to the scales. This is what I will endeavor to replicate. I use both a fine and medium tip kitska to "dot" on the speckles. I also wax in the ribbing of the fins.
     I brush on a darker version of the Navajo Clay, stipple over that, then a coat of Cinnamon, stipple and then the last color Brick is brushed over wherever there are spaces in between the speckles, I wax over the entire section. Next comes the green. I brush on a coat of Neon Green.
     I wax over the upper ribbing in the fins, and a swirly pattern on the upper side of the fish. I use an extra fine kitska for this.
     I build up several layers doing the same stipple effect, with Pusa Key Lime, Asparagus, Christmas Green, Mallard Green, and lastly Forrest green. I wax over the entire fish.
     I do the same treatment with the river stones. I start with PUSA Dove Gray, Charcoal Gray, Forrest Green and Licorice. I wax over the stones. Last thing to do is the murky water background. I have chosen to do green, as I believe it will set off all the other elements nicely. I brush on Neon Green, Key Lime, Asparagus, Christmas Green, Mallard Green, Forrest Green, and end at the bottom with Licorice. Each color is dry before the next color goes on. I pull from the top and add more color as I reach the bottom. This is left to dry thoroughly before waxing the entire side over. Now it is onto the next side.
     Remember the preliminary sketch? Well, as you know, sometimes ideas change "mid-stream" and the "current" takes you along for the ride. Such is with the change in the design for the second side. Yep. You guessed it. I will claim "Artistic License" once again. I've been using that a lot, lately...I decide that the pile of fishing accoutrements is much too busy for the size of the space, and decide to pick one element and focus on that, giving it more importance. Sometimes simplifying is best. I chose the lure with double hooks and a little bit of fishing line tangled up. I will add some feathers to the end of the lure, making it a delectable and tasty looking treat for any self-respecting fish. The background colors will be the same dark green as the other side. I wax the fishing line, and hand paint the metal body of the lure with PUSA Dove Gray, and blend it with Charcoal and a little Licorice.
     I also paint in with the dyes the hooks and shade the barbs. I add a little Neon green and Shocking Pink on the body of the lure while still wet.
     I paint in the eyes with Licorice, and wax over the entire lure. I start hand painting the dyes in for the feathers, and  wax in tiny lines, and create some shading, and wax over those as well. The last thing to do is the background, and I brush all of the greens in the same successive order that I did for the other side of the egg. Each coat is allowed to dry before the next glaze of darker color is brushed over. I let the final color dry completely before waxing over the entire egg. Now it is onto unwaxing this little gem of an egg.
     I rub a little olive oil over the entire egg, and line a paper coffee carrier with paper towels. I put everything on an old cookies sheet and place in a cold oven, and fire it up to 175 degrees for 15 minutes. I then gently wipe away the excess wax with toilet tissue (less abrasive than paper towels- you may also use old cotton rags).
     Here is a photo of the wax melting off the egg onto the paper towels. I am really happy with the reveal so far.
     I am really pleased with how border turned out. I do believe that it does look like a woven straw creel. I am also pleased with the leather straps, buckle and border. The extra attention to the shading gives the illusion of three-dimensionality. is the finished egg:


     I hope you've enjoyed the creation of this tribute to my Grandfather, as I have enjoyed the creating it in his memory. Thank you for keeping me company. I will leave you with this thought for the day:

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there would be a shortage of fishing poles.  ~Doug Larson