Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kokopelli Kachina

Kokopelli Kachina Tile Bangle     The Kokopelli is just revered as the herald of spring.  Native American legend says that his flute can be heard in the spring breezes, bringing an end to winter.  As he talks to the wind and sky, the sun comes out, the snow melts, the grass grows, and the birds and animals gather to listen to his songs.  He symbolizes fertility, happiness & joy, and is luck for hunters.  When this traveling prankster and seducer visits a village playing his flute, everyone sings and dances the night away.  When he leaves in the morning, the crops are bountiful and the women are pregnant.
     The Kokopelli has always been one of my favorite Native American images.  As you can see below, I have used the image not only in polymer clay, but also in my other artwork.  To me, he reminds me to celebrate life and all the joys it give you.
     In designing this little guy, I started - like my Clown Kachina - by attaching slices of my yellow and orange zigzag canes from my Sunface Kachina canes to a prebaked & sanded bracelet tile with the help of some Kato polypaste.  I then also added the border and corner canes from my Southwestern Bear Claw bracelet tiles.  While this background tile was caring, I cut out the face shape from scrap clay and covered it with a thin sheet of black clay.  I added a strip of white down the center and textured the edges, and then added the nose.  The eyes and eyebrow details were formed from thin extruded white clay and carefully shaped and attached.  The color was formed from white and black balls cut in half and pressed together with the help of a touch of Kato polypaste and then textured on the edges.  Once the background tile was cured and sanded, I pressed two feathers of different colors - one from each of my first two owl canes - to the top and then added the face, collar,  and red ears to the tile with some Kato polypaste to secure the bonds.   I placed an additional feather from my Sunface Kachina canes onto the forehead and white triangles to the ears as final touches.
Kokopelli Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant Kokopelli Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant
Kokopelli Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant

Morning Singer Kachina

Morning Singer Kachina Tile Bangle     The Morning Singer Kachina or Talavai wake the Hopi people by singing in pairs from the rooftops.  During the day, they prompt the other kachinas and lead them in song.  They have a small spruce tree in one hand and a bell in the other.
     This is another of my favorites!  I love the colors and the dimension that I achieved from the design.  I started by building up the feather headdress on my lined, cured and sanded 2" bracelet tile.  I used feathers from my original Sunface Kachina, but in the future will design feather canes specific to each Kachina.   I filled in the center of the headdress and cured it along with a short ring of red clay around a crochet hook for the nose/mouth.  In the meantime, I cut out the head shape from a sheet of scrap clay and covered in with turquoise clay.  I then added the black hair on top and textured it.  The rest of the elements I wanted to add after curing the nose/mouth, so I proceeded to created the green color by placing thin layers of left over palm tree fronds around a tube of scrap clay.
   After the headdress base was cured and sanded, I attached the face and red ears to it with the help of some Kato polypaste.  I carefully inserted the nose/mouth with a bit of Kato polypaste as well and then added the eyes, the white reversed step on the forehead, and the colored oval shapes on the cheeks.  For final touches I lined the reversed step and ovals with a thin string of extruded black clay, added a white triangle to the ears, smaller feathers to the hair, and then attached the collar with the help of more Kato polypaste.  Time for a final cure, sanding, buffing and tah dah!!!!
Morning Singer Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant Morning Singer Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant
Morning Singer Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Owl Cane Take 2

Blue/Gray Owl Cane - reduced   This is my second owl cane. I started with a different sketch and a different color scheme than the first.  I was hoping for a more subtle black, blue and gray theme with a hint of cream, but the colors of my component canes when reduced down to the size I was using in my own were much bolder in color that I was hoping for.   It's always a learning process though and eventually with enough practice I'll understand the amount of color I need in component canes for the look I'm after.  So that is the first challenge I faced in putting together my second owl cane.
     The second challenge was the clays I was using.  Most of the time for canes of this type, I like to look through my stock of leftover clays from other projects.  I guess it's that practical farm girl that still resides in my soul.  =) Most of the time it's a great use of my leftovers, but for this one I grabbed a bag of cream colored clay for the owl's face that was made from some clay that I was having issues with.  It conditioned well, seemed to
Owl Sketch #2Owl Cane
have the right consistency, but would split rather than reduce.   I didn't realize it was "that" clay until I started reducing the cane for the face and it started breaking into pieces rather than reducing.  I really should have just thrown it into my scrap clay jar at that point because it gave me issues in reducing the whole cane.  My frugal nature is the death of me sometimes.  lol
    Challenge #3 was the size.  I started out with a fairly small and shallow cane for this one, but have learned from the demand for my previous owl that a larger cane would be worth my time and easier to make and reduce.  So in the future I will buy more clay and start with a larger, deeper cane that reduces with less tlc.
    Challenges aside, I'm learning and all these challenges are necessary if I want to learn more about how involved complex canes of this nature are.  I've been working on a few dragon sketches, a griffon, and several southwestern animal motifs.  It may be a few months before I get time to tackle these, but I am excited about the new challenges ahead.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Butterfly Kachina

Butterfly Kachina Tile Bangle     The Butterfly Kachina is a herald to spring and symbolizes fertility, rebirth, beauty, freedom and nature itself.  Since the butterfly lands and pollinates flowers used by Medicine Men, she is also a symbol of healing.
     The headdress on the Butterfly Kachina is elaborate and left me scratching my head about the best way to design this.  In Native American masks the Butterfly Kachina headdress is open, but there was no way to make an open design so I put the different design elements on a white background.  The first thing I did was create the cane that you see pictured on the headdress.  It is a step cane with a red center, yellow/orange and turquoise blue sides, and a long striped black and white border between the sections.  It is slightly reduced on the inner headdress layer (and I'll probably make it even smaller in future masks) and stretched longer on the bottom edge.  The outside edge and divisions are lined with black.  The inner layer and bottom edge are raised up by one layer of clay (about 1/8") to give the design depth and then the face was layered on top.  Finally I placed feathers from my Sunface Kachina and my Blue/Gray Owl Cane in between the layers.  I completed this design before attaching to my tile based and curing, but in the future it would be easier to do this in multiple curing steps - sanding in between layers.
Butterfly Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/PendantButterfly Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant
Butterfly Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mudhead Kachina

Mudhead Kachina Tile Bracelet The Koyemsi, or Mudhead Kachina, is a clown who is seen in many Native American ceremonies.  They are called "mudhead" because of the mud applied to their masks - in fact a dancer without a proper mask or late in arriving may easily become a Mudhead.  Most of the time Mudheads accompany other kachinas, but you could see a lone Mudhead acting as a drummer for a dance.  Mudhead Kachinas dance, play games with the audience, and may act as announcers for events. They often give food or clothing prizes for the races and guessing games they organize.
Kachina Canes      This little guy presented quite a few trial and error challenges when creating him.  First off I created a background tile using the canes from my Sunface Kachina and a black and white step cane as a border.  It was cured and sanded along with little paddles that would be attached to the top and sides of the head and little tubes of clay baked around a crochet hook for the eyes and mouth.  My first go at this I made the face more shallow, but it wasn't deep enough for the inserted eyes, mouth and paddles to hold. They distorted the head when inserted, so I build up the face to be rounder.  I then added a red collar and a millefiori leaf to the forehead, did a final cure, and carefully sanded the complicated facial features.  In the future I'll probably readjust the design to be flatter again for wearability, but this was an  adorable beta version.
Mudhead KachinaMudhead KachinaMudhead Kachina
Mudhead Kachina

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sunface Kachina

Sunface Kachina Tile Bangle     The Sunface or Sun Kachina is also known as Tawa.  It represents the spirit of the sun and the sun's warmth, bringing hope for shelter for the old and a bright future with playfulness for the young.  He often appears in the morning - like the Morning Singer Kachina.
     When I moved from Minnesota to Texas, there was so much I learned about Native American culture and how it's influenced decor in Southern homes.  I learned even more living in Albuquerque, visiting the wonderful shops, and admiring the street wears there and in Santa Fe.  There is something about Native American art that resonates in me - something we can all learn and something that leaves me wanting to understand more.  They are treasures we need to share with the world and that make the world a better place.  When I made my first Sunface Kachina, it was in spring 2009 as part of a guild challenge.  I loved the idea of using polymer clay to bring out the design detail in these wonderful masks.  The color, the patterns, and the overall concept all wrapped up in wonderful symbolism!
     I've included in my little pictorial mosaic below some of my earlier Kachina pieces.  They've all found wonderful homes and I'm sure this little mask will be home soon, too!
Sunface Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant Sunface Kachina Tin
Sunface Kachina Necklace Sunface Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant
Sunface Kachina - detail
Sunface Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant

Friday, May 9, 2014

Clown Kachina

Clown Kachina Tile Bangle     Clown Kachinas are also known by the names Koshari, Koyala, Hano, or Tewa.  They entertain during Kachina ceremonies by humorously exaggerating improper behavior to remind people of acceptable standards.  They are loud, boisterous, play tricks, mimic spectators and act out absurd pantomines.  They are shown with watermelons as symbols of gluttony and are often drummers for dances.  It is the job of the Owl Kachina and different warrior Kachinas to keep these mischievous characters in check.
     In making masks on tiles that represent painted faces rather that actual masks, I had to figure out some design elements to make it work.   All these little masks are trial versions while I work out design elements that need refining or replacing, but I think I like the way this guy laid out and the feel of the face on the millefiori background.  I want the main focus of all these kachinas to be based on cane work, but this face is more suited to sculpture than caned elements, so I started with a tile background with various canes - the yellow and orange  zigzag canes from my Sunface Kachina and the arrow and swirl border from my Southwestern Bear Claw Tiles.  While my background tile was baking, I created a raised face that i covered in white clay.  All the facial details and the "horns" were added to finish the face, which was then attached to the already baked and sanded background tile with the help of some Kato Poly Paste.  A second baking and a thorough sanding and buffing resulted in the cute little guy shown below!
Clown Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant Clown Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant
Clown Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Byron Nelson Bobcats

Bobcat Cane      I've been wanting to create this cane since I moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but there has always been something that has interfered with my time and creativity.  I had to struggle a bit with the clays I was using - though I leached them, they were still very soft and it made it hard to get crisp lines.  But reducing it down to the size I was using made the imperfections unnoticeable. 
    I made this Bobcat school design on a white background and a coordinating paw cane that was white on a black background.  For these initial pieces, I used a southwestern motif using the school colors of royal blue, black and white.  I made several bangles, earrings, and pendants in this design, but will be experimenting and adding other designs in the future.   

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Owl Kachina

Owl Kachina Tile Bangle     The Great Horned Owl or Owl Kachina is also known as Mongwu.  This great spirit is considered beneficial to agriculture because it hunts rodents.  During ceremonies, the Owl Kachina is a symbol of intelligence and wisdom - keeping the Clown Kachina in line with the help of the different Warrior Kachinas.
     In making my Owl Kachina you may see several canes that I've used in the past for other projects.  The canes for the facial feathers, the side feathers, and the eyes are from my original red/brown owl cane.  The feathers on the top of the head and for the collar are from my original Sunface Kachina.
     This little owl looks wonderful along side my Southwestern Bear Claw tiles laid out as a bracelet!  I'm so looking forward to experimenting more with this design in some chunky necklaces with tapering tiles in various southwestern themes.  I sometimes wish there were more hours in the day for all the ideas floating around in my head that need out!
Owl Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant Owl Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant
Owl Kachina Mask/Bracelet tile/Pendant

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

New Shapes and Wirework

      Lately I've been attempting to expand my knowledge and skill to include different styles and custom features.  There are so many wonderful polymer artists to learn from out there, but I always want to put my own personal spin on everything I do and I hope these pieces reflect just that.  I will continue to experiment with shapes and design features - adding my own twist and my own love for complex canes.  I do have to laugh because so often an idea I find floating around in my head I find has already been thought of or something I consider unique has already been tried by another.  Even so, I will continue to try to make my special dent in the polymer clay world.
      These pieces aren't as complex as they may seem.  They were all hand cut, though I will probably develop some templates of my own soon, since I like the shapes and want to make them more consistent. Owl Parts Stroppel Cane For these pieces, I started out with a veneer from one of my lovely Stroppel Canes.   I cut off slices, ran them through my pasta machine at a #5 (medium small) setting to get a constant depth, laid them out next to each other, burnished the seams, added a few cane slices, and then cut out my shapes.  I used triangular 'shield' shapes for these because I wanted them to taper to a point, but any shape will do.  I plan on experimenting with other shapes as well.  I placed my shapes vertically a glass bottle that was about the diameter of a soda can.  (Actually a soda can would work well here also - as long as your shapes aren't longer than the can.)  I cured the clay on the bottle which gave me a wonderful dome shape.  The back of the piece was then filled with scrap clay, trimmed flat, and then wrapped in a sheet of black clay with my new signature cane.  Before curing, I inserted findings to hang the pendants or earrings that I had hand formed using a simple template I made with nails and wood.  One more curing, an ice bath, lots of sanding and buffing and VOILA!  
     I will be adding some 'frames' to some future pieces and experimenting with using this technique with caned veneers and kaleidoscopes.

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