Jul 5, 2014

Goderich Festival of Arts & Crafts: Day Two Discoveries

This morning was definitely a busy day on the Square. What with the Festival of Arts & Crafts completely taking over downtown, the Farmer's Market had to move to North Street. Not that I'm complaining, though. An Art Market AND Farmer's Market? At the same time? Within walking distance from each other? Yes, please. It really was a perfect day and such wonderful weather, as well, with the cool breeze coming off of Lake Huron. I came home with a few new fresh artists in mind that I wanted to tell you about, as well as some fresh veggies for my belly. Can't go wrong with that.

Jeelee Joolery created by Jen McKee of Toronto, Ontario will definitely catch your eye with her bold and colourful creations. The sun shining overhead really made these handmade necklaces, rings, and brooches really shine with their hard-candy glass beads and wrapped silver wire. I loved how chunky and lively her pieces were - they really were wonderfully unique and I stood there for a good fifteen minutes just taking in all the stunning colours and textures of each piece. Big and small beads formed these colourful clusters that remind you an awful lot of something Willy Wonka would make, and each bead is individually wrapped and connected with neighbouring beads to create a striking focal piece. You can't miss her booth. Really - you can't, it would be impossible not to see all those spectacular colours sparkling in the sunlight.

I was greeted at the Nature's Aura booth by two very kind and cheerful ladies from London, Ontario, eager to tell me about their natural candles. They asked me if I knew much about regular candles. Did you know that paraffin wax, used to make candles, is a petroleum product? It was news to me, which made a whole lot of sense considering that black ring of soot you tend to see on regular candles - chemicals and toxins burnt off from the paraffin wax. Their candles are made from GMO free soy bean oil and use a woven cotton wick instead of traditional wicks containing lead. One of the first things I noticed about their candles was the lack of bright colours. All their candles are a translucent white in hue, simply because they see no need for unnatural colours and unneeded chemicals. The smells were subtle and not overpowering - some candles tend to be real heavy on the scent, which was definitely a nice surprise. Sandalwood, Sugar Cookies, Cucumber Melon, and Creme Brulee were among some of the scents. Their candles are in recyclable square glass jars with handmade lids that double as a coaster and make it look pretty when they aren't in use. They'll even give you a discount off your next candle if you bring back the glass jar from a spent candle. By the way, you'll get a good 80 hours out of each candle, which is pretty remarkable for their size. Since they're made out of soy wax, they burn down a little more slowly and at a lower temperature. Check out their booth, this weekend! These ladies and their wonderful scented candles will definitely make you feel welcome.

I've got a real soft spot for natural soap makers. Soap making isn't an easy process to master, especially when you start getting into cold process soaps, which is more of a chemical experiment than anything; it truly is an art. The Elora Soap Company came to the Festival of Arts & Crafts from Paisley, Ontario, and the very pleasant Sierra was there to tell you about their lovely handmade wares. Their soaps are vegan, full of olive oil for a nice rich, soft lather. Most soap companies tend to use some sort of additives, natural or not, and mica powders to colour their soaps, but these guys only use herbs and spices. Take their Rainbow Soap, for example - it is coloured with sea algae, paprika, and calendula. Sierra was nice enough to share their Flowers & Leaves Ointment with me, which is a great healing cream for dry and cracked skin - some people even use it for their psoriasis and eczema. After wandering around the Festival and Market for almost two hours, my shoulders were red and burnt (curse my pale skin). A little of that ointment really soothed them, and the subtle smell of beeswax was a rather nice treat.

The Goderich Festival of Arts & Crafts finished it's second day at 5pm, but they'll be open for one more final day - Sunday from 10 to 4 on Courthouse Square. Don't miss it!

Jul 4, 2014

Goderich Festival of Arts & Crafts: Day One Discoveries

At 10am this morning I went to work on the Square, and upon witnessing all the ongoing commotion out the window as I scooped icecream and made lattes, I decided that I would go ahead and take a wander through the Festival of Arts & Crafts, which is lining the inside of our quaint little Courthouse Square, a little later in the evening when the sun started going down and things got a little more slower.

The phenomenal colours, patterns, and textures of the Japanese Shino Pottery of Chica Pottery really caught my eye. As I regarded these beautiful pieces, Erin Grace Harder of Sparta, Ontario came forward to tell me a little bit about them. She creates the rectangular trays, while her mother helps her with the bowls and cups. They are cone 10 reduction gas fired and are oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe and each set is completed with a pair of chopsticks. It always brings a smile on my face to see young artists that are eager to tell others about their work, and she has even more reason to be excited about it as the money she raises by selling her work at the festival this weekend is going towards a missions trip to Malawi, Africa at the end of July. So make sure to check out her booth this weekend!

Goderich Town Square has been bustling and busy since early this morning. Just ask Betty Nelson-Daniel of Mocking Bird from Midland, Ontario. When speaking to her late this evening, she told me that they started setting up around 6am this morning. Mocking Bird was one of the first few booths to really catch my eye, that's for sure. The dolls that she creates are theatrical and graceful, and their feet suggest a definite ballet inspiration. Their heads and beaks are built layer upon layer with paper and are hard to the touch. Their bodies start as metal armatures and dimension is built with layers of fabrics, leather, branches, ribbons, trimmings, and all sorts of found objects. Don't be afraid to touch them, though, she says - they may look delicate, but when you hold them up close you can really see all the detail that goes into them. She has been creating these dolls for over thirty years and she has really honed her skill - the detail in each piece is astonishing, and they are definitely something you need to see up close, this weekend!

I was infatuated with the earthy scents wafting from Jennifer Jansen's booth - From The Blue House. Located in Creemore, Ontario, she creates handcrafted soap from natural ingredients, and even features Creemore Springs Lager in some of these body products. When I asked her about it, she says that the Lager creates a wonderful lather, which is especially great in her shaving soaps. Warm chai spices like cinnamon and cloves as well as patchouli and lavender filled my nose - I told her that I'd be back. And I certainly will be, with scents like that.

If you guys are in Goderich, Ontario this weekend, make sure to stop by the Square and take in all the wonderful sights at the Goderich Festival of Arts & Crafts. There are many talented artisans, including the ones I spoke about above, showcasing their various talents. They'll be open from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, and 10am to 4pm on Sunday.

Apr 23, 2014

MK Talks PC: Kaweco Fantasie Pens

Hey guys!

So, I recently uploaded a video to YouTube about Kaweco's new "Fantasie Pens" - basically a high quality pen blank, both standard and fountain, for polymer clay artists to have their way with. Check it out and let me know what you think! I apologize if it's not the best - I'm not a very marvelous talker. I usually just hide in a corner and sculpt, you know. :P

Here is a bit of an excerpt where I describe my process:

"I used the third setting on my pasta machine to roll out the clay – I used a metallic silver Premo, and then wrapped the clay around the brass pen stems. After that I etched and cut in the design with a few tools. I don’t use a whole lot of tools – I have my trusty stylus, my pokey stick, and a few bits and pieces that I like to use for texture, as well as some blades and Kemper tools for cutting. It doesn’t need much more other than the design, but I like to dust my metallic work in a little bit of mica powder to make it more consistantly metallic looking. Sometimes metallic clay on it’s own is a little streaky.

I like to bake any of my three dimensional pieces in a loaf pan that I lined with cotton fabric – not cotton balls or cotton batting – cotton fabric. Then I cover the top in aluminum foil just to make sure that the heating elements in the oven don’t get too close to the clay and burn it. I usually bake all of my stuff at about 275*F, and these pens I baked for about thirty minutes. With the cotton fabric, it suspends the clay object enough that it won’t leave a flat spot on the underside of a round object. Sometimes the cotton can leave texture on your work, but if you pre-heat your oven first, so that the clay starts hardening right away and doesn’t just slowly start soft and warm as your oven heats up, you shouldn’t have this problem.

When it was done and cooled, I applied black acrylic paint to give it a patina. The paint gets into all the cracks and crevices and is the only part that stays behind when you wipe it all off. Afterwards, I picked out some of the rivets and other details with a little bit of polyurethane glaze mixed with some mica powder. And that’s about it! I know that if you’re using a cane pattern or something more flat than this pattern is, you can go over it with sandpaper, using a few grits, or buff it to get a nice sheen. But I just left it as is, because this surface isn’t the best candidate for that process. Usually I spray my industrial pieces with a satin glaze, but since this is a pen, it probably wouldn’t be the best idea because it’s probably just going to end up wearing off overtime from all the oils from your hands because pens are handled so much."