Sunday, December 8, 2013

Outside projects

One of the things I do around this time every year is get elbow deep in some kind of creative project outside my usual comfort zone. Usually the finished product ends up being a Christmas gift for someone. I rarely give away my paintings as gifts... mostly because when you are close to people, you can never really be sure if they are saying they love your work because they do, or because they don't want to hurt your feelings. There are a few exceptions, of course... just this year I gave a mid-size piece to my niece as a wedding present, mainly because she knew exactly which one she wanted and I was pretty confident it would end up on a wall, and not stashed away in her storage locker. But for the most part, art is so subjective and everyone has such different taste, I just can't assume that my style or subject matter works for someone, just because they are part of my life.

My etched decanter. I have a vine of
flowers winding around the neck, but
couldn't get a decent photo.
One of the reasons I make a point of doing this is for the same reason anyone would want to try something new... to branch out, learn a new skill, stimulate a different area of the brain. In past years I've made jewellery and put together books by hand. This year I gave glass etching a shot. I had tried it before, maybe about 20 years ago, but I was pretty sure things would have changed. So many new products around that it had to be a bit easier now, right? I was completely wrong on that one... I guess it isn't a popular enough hobby for that. The only thing available now that wasn't on the market then was the array of pre-cut stencils. I didn't really want to go that route anyway, as I prefer my gifts to be a bit more personal. I needed to design something specific.

If you know me, you know I have a bit of an obsession with hummingbirds. Don't really know why, except that they are completely captivating. They show up in paintings from time to time... but not that often. For etched glass, they became a perfect subject. I had to simplify dramatically... I have to hand-cut my stencil while the mask is already attached to to the glass. Not an easy task, and simpler is most definitely better in this instance. I looked to Art Nouveau for design inspiration, and eventually came up with something I thought would work... the bird was reduced to two lines, the flower three shapes and the vine a wandering line. Overall, the effect worked pretty well. Sorry about the not so great photo... there must be some special way of photographing glass that I'm not aware of, because for the life of me, I couldn't get a good shot. I didn't even try to shoot the glasses that go with the decanter. Maybe I should have tried filling it with wine...