Friday, December 02, 2011

approaching winter

My sister Sheila and Max enjoying the festive lights around our house (we were the first in our neighborhood this year!).

Winter eases over Asheville slowly, taking its time to settle blanket-like on the mountains....which is fine, since once its cold I retreat indoors, rarely leaving my nest. In a lot of ways this 'hibernation' or retreat, happens on several levels. I stay inside my house, inside my head, waiting for spring, warmth and green. The bare trees and frosted mountain tops are lovely, but I find it very hard to be cheerful. I am too affected by the world around me, the negativity and chaos, but also the sadness that always comes when I think of Christmas. For our family, we hope that one day my brother will come home from wherever he's been these past twenty years. Its a fog that creeps in and keeps me cold.

This winter will be different. I'm taking a stand. We put up lights on our house to cheer us when we pull up the curb. When I hear about something that makes me think humans are horrid creatures, I think about all the things we've made that make us brilliant: The Book of Kells, watercolor pencils, solar power, Japanese soaking tubs and ball jointed dolls (among so many other things). I guess that's like stringing happy lights in my brain. This world of ours is a wondrous place, full of beauty and magic. That is what this season will represent to me from now on.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Here's the finished paper doll! Now to find a good printer.....any ideas? Sourcing printers is probably my least favorite part of making things. Maybe I'm too particular, but I find it really difficult to get good color, thick paper and a nice finish from one shop. Its either great paper and weak color, or way too contrasty. Of course when I say 'is it possible to make the print look like the original?' I get a blank stare, as if I asked for it to be printed on homemade marshmallows. Anyway, the search continues to find the perfect printer that doesn't cost a fortune.

The other day I found myself on a website featuring fantasy art and I wondered vaguely if my stuff would fall into that category. Generally, I find categories annoying, since I have trouble thinking of myself in one. 'Fantasy Art' seems to exude a strong air of fluffiness, not that I don't completely appreciate that aspect of it, but it doesn't seem like a good fit. I don't like 'female artist', as that implies a lot of huge flowers and a fixation on being oppressed. That feels a little too much like focusing on the negative, so I'll leave that to more angsty folks. I can't really claim the whole 'asian artist' thing either, since I'm a halfy - or 'hapa' as my brother Andrew likes to call us. Maybe there's a 'folklorist' category, since I'm hugely influenced by folktales and mythology and how stories become part of the fabric of everyday life.

I've never liked titles, compartments or categories, this isolation of an individual, this separation. I go through stages of not signing my paintings, since its not important that I made it to the person looking at it. That doesn't mean I think we should all work anonymously, but it is interesting to think of how much importance is placed behind the art and not on the art itself. On the surface, this doesn't seem to be the case with craft artists, but the more I sit here thinking about it, the more I realize that all aspects of art are broken in to parts, divided and ranked.

Most of the artists I know are many faceted: fiber artists that make jewelry, painters that sculpt and make knitted handbags, etc. We've talked about how hard it is to pick a direction and push that particular thing forward: make a website, establish a brand, then promote. I suppose I'm all over the place and should separate everything, a different website and blog for my dolls, for the crafts I'm into and for the beads and jewelry. I've been advised to do this many times, but I balk at the idea. Again with the categories! So much time and energy spent on partitioning off aspects of one company. I think i'd rather make something fun, like a felted vest or some slippers and not worry if I'm considered a jewelry artist or a mermaid painter.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

drawing board

Yesterday I read my brother's post on 'The Art of Thinking' (his reaction to an interesting article on Sparrow Salvage) and it got me thinking about my expectations of a days work and what I consider wasted time: fooling with materials, testing paints, organizing beads, picking up the house (how many times in a day?) and the worst time thief of all - staring at my laptop, searching for inspiration in beautiful images, reading tutorials and perfume descriptions (of all things!). Why I love to read how a particular fragrance smells is odd - I guess they paint a fantastic reality, imagining opening a bottle and smelling a cedar forest, all sharp, dark and green. While I love doing this, it doesn't help me carve beads, or work on my shop, or tend the kids. So I feel guilty and try and make up the time by furiously carving away on something. More often than not, these projects born of guilt look shoddy and done by a lunatic, so of course I don't cast it! This bit of failure leads to its own set of insecurities all artists have about their work.

The last few weeks have seemed incredibly unproductive. I keep staring around me, sort of shocked at all I need to do, but can't find the time or energy to finish anything. There's a huge pile of wax that needs carved, but I took out my watercolors and made a little booklet called 'possibilities' to sketch ideas for a little book. My esty store needs updating, so instead I began designing paper doll creatures that look like the forest floor has come alive- little beings built from mushrooms, lichen, bulbs, roots, sticks and flowers. Azalea will enjoy putting the bits together, since I'm designing them so the parts can be interchanged to form new creatures. Again, this lovely little project doesn't include carving, so I consider it frivolous.

After reading Andrew's post, I understood the idea, that its necessary to let yourself idle, to not make anything.... in order to create something wonderful. Of course this is an over simplification of the idea, but I see the importance of slowing down and allowing ones mind to process the stimulation, to let the creativity percolate uninterrupted. The stubborn part of my mind argues that this is a ruse and that I need to stop fiddling around and just get to the drawing board or nothing will get made. The inner argument continues, one side validated and delighted to have an excuse to stare at dolls and read hundreds of perfume descriptions, the other side appalled and furious, insisting I get off my hind end and finish something! Ah well, I think I'll have a glass of wine, the workaholic self will settle down and let my hands make what they want to.... I don't think this discussion is over quite yet.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

pretty new things

Fresh from the workbench! I carved these awhile back, but it's so busy around here with shows and new projects, that there hasn't been time to cast them. The mermaid in front is designed to either work as a pendant, with a dangle drop from her tail, or as a link. I'll try both, I think. The silver queen is a pendant with a hole through her crown. Her tail is looped around to accommodate a little tassel of crystals or pearls, like a spray of ocean water.

I made this necklace last night as a sample for the new lacy pendant we made this summer. I designed the piece with Victorian collars and delicate cuffs in mind, something I could add lots of sparklies to. I'm going to try this design with a single pendant and loads of dangles and also as a pair of earrings. We'll see how those work out.

Azalea was patient enough to sit still to model the necklace.....although I cropped head, since she had chocolate smeared around her mouth (still working on Halloween candy) and that wasn't really the look I was going for. Anyway, this pendant and many others will be available for purchase at the Bay Area Bead Extravaganza (or BABE, as everyone calls it) this weekend November 12-13, Sat. 10 - 6, Sun. 10 - 5. There's also a $2 off coupon on their website.

I'm making a small collection of bezels, glass capsules and will have the mermaids pictured above for sale, so come early to get the best selection.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

new paintings!

This is a jointed paper doll I painted in egg tempera on paper. I'm thinking of having it printed and selling them on my etsy store. I love jointed paper dolls, but I don't know if other folks will like her since she's a bit different from other merfolk.

This is one of three paintings I made for Andrew's opening 'Into the Night' held this month at Allegory Gallery. I really enjoyed working on black canvas with a very different pallette than I usually use.

I think this piece was the favorite of the bunch...probably since the owls face is cute.

This is a portrait of an invented individual. I thought of her as a witch, since her face held a bit of secrecy and maybe a little sadness.

lovely autumn

Here's my girl sporting a new hoodie and new red-headed Barbie. Azalea enjoys a doll photoshoot.

Max lookin' lovely at the botanical garden.

Greg striking a pose with Max.

Kitsune blending in with the leaves.

Every fall, Azalea's school puts on a play for each grade. The students write the play (the older kids direct, design costumes, backgrounds and lighting) and help choreograph the dances. Azalea's class wrote 'Sleeping Piggy' and made all the pig masks. My girl played the Good Pig Fairy who helps Sleeping Piggy survive the curse of the Bad Fairy.

Andrew was in town last week teaching a workshop. It was a real pleasure meeting the attendants when they stopped by for a studio tour. I felt flattered and a little embarrassed by all the attention!

Whenever Andrew and I get together, the ideas fly fast and furious and we try to get as much done as possible. This time, we had a particularly fruitful visit and planned some interesting activities for the upcoming year. I don't want to share just yet, until we have the details hammered out, but I can tell you I am very excited about these projects!

Friday, October 07, 2011

pewter bezels

Here are some of our pewter bezels filled with little paintings and covered with Lisa Pavelka's Magic Glos UV Resin. I really like the fact its only one part, so there's no stressful mixing (it sets up with a UV light, or the sun). The only downside is bubble removal - sometimes some pop up under the light, then its impossible to remove them since this stuff sets up fast once its under the light. So, its essential to seal the paper down completely (no dots of glue to tack the paper! bubbles form under there). Anyway, these bezels (and empty ones) will be available this weekend in Jacksonville, FL at The Bead Mercantile Show held at the Ramada Inn Mandarin saturday 10-5 and sunday 10-4. Stop by and wear your green girl creations to receive a free bead!


I was looking out the window the other day and noticed this lovely bear ambling across the backyard! The main level of our house is on the second floor, so it was perfect to watch the bear from up above. This time of year the bears are really active since they are prepping for hibernation. Sometimes its a real pain when they get into the trash and drag it all over the yard, but I still enjoy seeing them around. We never approach the bears, or try to lure them over with beef jerky so I could pet their fuzzy round ears.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

afternoons in paradise

What do I like to do in paradise? Oh, the normal things like wading in tidepools, sipping mai tais under vast umbrellas and also taking pictures of my dolls. Yep, I packed up a couple of my favorite small dolls so I could take pictures of them in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The doll in the photo above is from a Korean company called Fairy Land. I made the wig and painted the face and Jessica made the little dress while we waited for coffee. I think she turned out rather well. I named her Sprout.

While driving through a botanical garden, we spotted a little family of wild pigs, a mama and four babies. This photo was taken from about twenty yards away. We also found two tiny mongoose! They were super adorable, smaller than an average squirrel, darting about like birds.

This is an elaborate species of hibiscus, found in a large collection of the flowers at Waimea Falls, on the northern part of Oahu.

I really loved this feathery shrub, but couldn't find a plaque naming the plant. I love the color of those feathery fronds! I thought it would make a lovely skirt for my tiny doll.

We discovered these unusual blossoms in a tree alongside a winding road. Luckily, we were driving slowly, so they were easy to spot. I'd love this color and shape in the form of enameled bead caps, for earrings. It would be a pretty surprise every time that bright shade of red popped into view. I just picked up a book on torch fired enamels, so that could be a fun little experiment.

hawaii 2011

I love Hawaii, its one of my favorite places. I've been to many picturesque cities across the world, but there's something about the air, or light, or maybe its all the colors, that really put me in a tranquil state. I'm always happy and relaxed when I'm there. The picture above was taken by Jessica, outside Haleiwa, near the coffee and pineapple fields. The sun was really bright, but there was a light mist in the air, perfect conditions for a rainbow or two.

This was shot a few miles north of Waikiki, near our secret location for finding sea glass! This trip it was just myself and Jessica Wiesel; Andrew was supposed to come, but he had to tend the shop and couldn't make it. We missed his fun presence.

Doesn't Jessica look peaceful? Our rental car was a Mustang convertible, which was absolutely lovely on warm evenings coming back from the shore. Now I want a convertible. Greg really wants a scooter, so maybe we'll get a Mini Cooper. Its kind like a car-scooter. Anyway, we realized people are so nice here because they have such beautiful views filling up their eyeballs. How could you be mad in a place like this? We actually had two of our tires slashed by some hoodlum, but we were still smiling, even with all the inconvenience.

On our last day, we decided to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center, to get a full-on Hawaiian blast to the senses, with a luau and dance show. In the picture above, a roast pig is carried away from the pit (covered with burlap and a green blanket) which is lined with stones, then layers of banana leaves to impart flavor and to keep the pork tender. The neat thing about the center is that they really made an effort to make structures true to how they are made traditionally, in some cases, shipping in huge wooden sculptures from the native islands. We also liked all the little mini workshops in crafts and cooking techniques.

This is the dining hall for the luau, which I found really impressive. The whole area was covered by the upturned boat shape, which felt huge. The food was tasty and interesting - I loved the roast pork, but didn't care for the poi (a kind of light purple condiment made from a sweet potato- like plant called taro, I thought it was bland). All in all it was a fun experiance, especially the fire dancing and feasting. Maybe we'll take Azalea and Max here next time, it would be cute seeing them practice the hula.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

productive days

Ocassionally, I have bursts of speed and creativity that completely engulfs my day. I love days like this. I have more ideas than time, so I try to work as fast as possible. The benefit is all the work that gets finished, which feels pretty satisfying. The downside is that everything else kind of falls to the side. The house is a wreck, emails are piling up and I loathe leaving my bench. The idea of leaving for a few hours is almost painful. Sessions like this require a lot of time management, breaking up chores in chunks so things get finished and my family doesn't rebel.

My friend Bob Burkett helped me design and construct this little slider turtle, showing me tricks with wax to get clean results. Its really small, about an 1 3/4" long and 1" wide. The shell is cast in shibuichi, the body in sterling, set with onyx cabachon eyes. I love it.

After completing the turtle, I couldn't seem to get enough of wax, so I started this doll. She's about 5 1/4" tall, perfect for 1/12 scale dollhouses. I'm planning on making her into a little pixie, dressed as if she found her outfit from items found arond the house. Maybe I'm influenced by 'The Borrowers" from my childhood!

I'm really happy with how she looks and especially her jointing. It was a real challenge to get the elbows and knees to bend, with a full range of movement, but also look like accurate human joints. We're in the process of molding her now, so hopefully she will cast well in resin.

I made this ring while working on the turtle. Its a study in setting cabachons, using a large rose cut sapphire and two rose cut garnets. I really enjoyed learning to use wax to make bezels (thanks Bob!). Now I can use all those stones I've been hoarding. I told Bob he should make videos to teach his innovative techniques in wax work, but I don't think he thinks there's enough interest.

I have another 5 - 8 pieces on my bench that are in different stages of completion. I usually work in groups, shifting between carving in tight detail to loose, gestural lines. This gives my hands and eyes a break and its also good to step away from a piece, to really see it. This mermaid pendant is destined to be cast in bronze, shibuichi and sterling. Hopefully we'll have some ready to send to Andrew to debut at his store and a few to sell in Hawaii next week. This time it will be just me and my friend Jessica Wiesel, which will be fun, but probably hard since I've never been away from little family. I'm looking forward to soaking in the ocean and eating loads of tropical fruit and masubi (teriyaki spam on rice- love it!) not to mention all the other hard to find asian foods I grew up with.

If you're on Oahu next week, come down to Honolulu for the SoftFlex Bead Show! Stop by and say hello, check out our limited edition pieces (I'm working on some mechanical owls and another mermaid!) and maybe give us some tips on where to eat. Show starts on Friday, see you there!

where do the days go?

The days seem to rush by, one minute I'm cleaning up the breakfast dishes, the next its midnight and the house is quiet and I have a few short hours to work before its time to start again. Sometimes it scares me, this passage of time, seeing my children changing before my eyes, limbs lengthening, slimming, losing the plumpness of babyhood. Its times like this that I'm bursting to stop everything, to stay in those perfect moments.

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time on etsy, since I have the store now and its doing surprisingly well. I picked up these labradorite pendant from a store called SilverFound. They are very beautiful, about the size to fit in a quarter, very luminous and reasonably priced. I think they'd look amazing with some faceted briolettes and handmade chain (my fave combo).

This is a custom felt animal I ordered from Pentip, also on etsy. She makes adorable felt animals like dragons, foxes, griffins and unicorns that are also poseable. This kitty was designed to look like my beloved Paddy. I think she captured his debonair charm and sweet expression.

My sister Sheila and her boyfriend Steve came for a visit and we had the best time at a little rock mining store called Elijah Mountain in Hendersonville. We love searching for rocks in creek beds and along streams, so this was a nice excursion only twenty minutes away. Basically you buy a big bucket of dirt and rocks culled from various areas where gemstones are found (along rivers usually) and shift through it with strainer and water. When the dirt washes away, what's left is rough stones like rubies, sapphires, citrines, amethyst, quartz and garnets. Sometimes there are fossils and unusual stones like kyanite and emerald. They are pretty rough, but we plan to use our yield on the lapidary grinder and smooth them out to make pendants. Azalea had the best time shoveling through the buckets and discovering the treasures. I think we'll have to make some of these strainers so we can pan along some of the rivers nearby. You never know, we might find gold.

Monday, August 22, 2011

new etsy shop!

Hello! I opened an etsy store called Enchanted Adornments by cynthiathornton the other day, after months of hemming and hawing on whether or not to do it. I wanted a way to sell some of our limited run items (besides the shows, since so many folks can't make it to them). In a way, its a good draw for people to come to the shows. Its far easier to make a bunch of new things and carry them to the shows, but I'll take some of the special goods and upload them to my new little store. So far, it has been fairly easy to figure out, but I'm pretty slow at adding things since I'm such a perfectionist. It takes me forever to take good pictures, then write a description.

I really enjoy shopping on etsy, browsing through the listings and stores, knowing I'm buying handmade. I feel like I'm helping the economy by supporting small businesses like myself. Besides, its pretty nice to stay at home and not run around wasting gas and time hunting for a parking spot (one of my pet peeves - especially when I have to parrallel park, or when there's loads of folks competing for spots, like our downtown). Anyway, if you get a chance, stop by!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

smokey mountain park

Max waving 'hello' while attempting to wander through the tall grass at Cataloochee, part of the Smokey Mountain Park. There were lots of wild turkeys and elk roaming around the pastures, calmly ignoring the folks stopped by the side of the road taking pictures.

Azalea is learning to use a digital camera, something she is enjoying immensely! The elk and wild turkey look far away in the picture, but were actually pretty close. We were going to bring our dolls for a photoshoot, but forgot them in the rush to leave. I think Greg was a little relieved.

I took this picture of Greg and Max at a scenic overlook using a 'miniaturize' setting. I love how everything takes on a grainy, vintage photo look.

Here's my favorite miniaturized photo. I think the grass looks like moss, the trees like tiny wired and flocked toys and the flowers like painted paper. It was nice to take a break from preparing for the show in Philadelphia next week. Sometimes its easy to go into a zone and not move for several hours, resulting in a stiff neck and sore eyes. We are hoping to have the little house finished and ready to take with us, along with a few limited runs of some designs in bronze (which are always a hit!).

Sunday, August 07, 2011

work in progress

This is (a rather blurry) picture of one of my latest beads. Its carved in polymer clay on a brass rod. Its a few hours away from completion....but I'm at the point where I tend to go wild with details. I can't resist noodling on a piece forever. I adore simple, rustic and rough hewn pieces, with marks of the artists hand readily visible (Kathy Van Kleek comes to mind). Work like that always seems to have a magical quality to it, as if the fingerprints and tool marks lend a bit of mystery. I suppose its a subtle reminder of the artist.

Yet, its so difficult for me to make things simple. So, should I noodle away, add roof plates, window panes and other fancy details? Or should I aim for something less ornate? Smooth it out, crisp up the edges and cast it? What do you think?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


My sister took this picture of Paddy and myself when we were in art school, maybe 15 years ago. Its a very telling picture, I think, with his sublime expression and those melting eyes. He walked in through my open apartment window one day while I was airing out my room (in a vain attempt to disperse the fumes from oil paints and turpentine) and sat down by my feet. He visited every day, a friendly stray who politely accepted rice and other tidbits (even though we knew he dined on Fancy Feast and other fine treats from homes all over the neighborhood). He eventually chose my sister and I as his favorites and stayed with us through countless moves across the country, a constant companion through all manner of emotional terrain. He kept me company when I kept to myself, which happened to be a fair amount of the time.
I couldn't find the pictures of him wearing his red bowtie, which complimented his 'tuxedo' perfectly, but I think he still looks like a lover in this one. Paddy was one of the most loving beings I've ever known, winning over every dog, cat and human in his path. That cat was even patient with Azalea and Max, allowing them to hug and 'pet' him! I loved that cat. He died from old age last week, so we made a bed for him under the azaleas and rhododendrons (his favorite place to watch the birds). I'll remember him always.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

jewelry t.v.!

Can you believe GGS is a spotlight artist on Jewelry Television? This appearance has been brewing for a couple of months, negotiating time frames for filming in the studio and deciding which pieces to showcase. The whole process of going on t.v. is fairly interesting, a little stressful, but that's to be expected. I was a little nervous about talking on live t.v. but it turned out to be easier than I expected. One of the most nerve wracking things was doing my makeup! They instructed me to use a darker pallette, since the lights tend to wash people out. I felt a little like a drag queen, since I rarely wear makeup and even then its just a bit of eyeliner. The heat under the lights was startling, not to mention the numerous cameras. Looking into the right camera at the right time took some practice, but I think I did o.k. I dreaded going on the show, but it turned out to be a fun experiance. As soon as I get a copy of the segment I'll put it on you tube.

Here's a still screen of Greg demonstrating a bronze casting, that jtv used on the show. He cleaned the studio for almost a week in preparation of the camera crew! I think the video looks great! I told them that Greg was way more comfortable in front of the camera and far more photogenic, but they wanted me to talk (which I thought was surprising, since I've been told I have a sort of dry personality). Anyway, we really enjoyed working with all the lovely folks from j.t.v. and I especially enjoyed the tour of the huge warehouse filled with beads and gemstones!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

summer afternoons

I love this picture of Azalea and Max! He has to copy everything big sister does. Its pretty cute. Good thing she's a really good example and is very loving to him.

This little boy sure knows how to get into things. Note the impish grin as he pauses before chasing Suni with a stick. Unfortunately, he still puts everything in his mouth and if its attached to something, he uses brute force to make it palateable. Sigh. We have to watch him like a hawk.

We went to the Greenville Zoo yesterday and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon strolling through the exhibits. We love zoos, its fun to sit and draw the animals, or if your like Azalea, pretending to be one. Yesterday, red pandas were the favorite creature, so Greg picked up a foam mask at the gift shop and she wore it for the rest of the afternoon. Max absolutely loves it when she pretends to be an animal! Its sweet to watch. I can hardly believe the summer is half over. I find myself longing to be outside, playing with the kids, hanging out with friends and enjoying our mild weather. It has been really difficult to get back into work mode. My things to do list keeps getting longer and longer. I haven't even really felt like making anything. This streak of slacking will end, I'll force myself to design, or carve or string up the awaiting projects and feel productive.