Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Long Long Posting about Provenance, Inspiration and Originality

Sometimes we need to look at where we've been to appreciate where we are. Sometimes we need to look at where we've been to learn from our own history or to document our progress, but SOMETIMES we need to look at where we've been to just say "yikes! that was one scary face!!!"

This is the story of how one scary face became the Angel that I adore.

Once upon a time, I made this...(Scary, huh?)

In the summer of 2000, I had just taken a class with Sharon Peters in which we made dogs that were made up of a separate body and head, assembled as a pendant (I made a really fun Afghan Hound). After the class, I decided to go in a non-animal direction to do my own thing and made the crazy girl above. Yikes... she was a hot mess! I have no idea what the inspiration for the big hair or fun outfit was, but I have always loved combining patterns... dots/stripes/flowers and I put them all together here. (note the bubble skirt with the ruffle below...cute, huh??)

I had so much fun making that piece, that I avoided doing the mermaids and fairies I was SUPPOSED to be making. (if you need pictures of that work, look up at the top.. the mermaid without the face is what my work looked like back then... peaceful serene fairy-tale, but no faces...and now you know why!)

After making that crazy girl piece, I worked on perfecting faces, using some other techniques so that they wouldn't be quite so scary!

I also took a seed-bead class from Jeanette Cook in which I learned brick-stitch (I think I've talked about this before). We were supposed to be beading around a plastic tube. I rebelled and chose not to use the tube. Because of that, I ended up with things that looked like lampshades... NOT what I'd intended. The lampshades sat around in the studio along with the cute faces while I avoided some work I was REALLY supposed to be doing.

Beads by Design in Marietta, GA sponsored a contest in October 2000 (which I talked about in an October 2008 entry, so I won't re-tell it here) but Head Over Heels was born from that contest. I combined the glass faces with the funny "lampshades" (as skirts) and added the same striped stockings from "crazy girl" but beaded them instead of making them out of glass.
(Head Over Heels was born...and everything changed from this point!)

I kept working on the little faces and took multi-bead pieces, similar to the "Crazy Girl" but with not-so-scary faces to Tucson in 2001. They didn't get a great reaction, but I was really happy with them. I also took Head Over Heels to show off... not sell, just show off. IT got the best reaction and my work moved so that it was more seed-bead oriented, with glass being a sideline.

Multi-bead Girls Circa 2002 (available at Beadin' Path)

I loved making the faces and found some other things to do with them besides Head Over Heels. I added them to my focal beads...mermaids and a new Fairy Godmother, inspired by the multi-bead pieces above.

Fairy Godmother and Mermaid Focals circa 2005
(approx 2" in height)

Also in 2005, I added angel wings to the tiny faces and then made small totems out of them, again making a multi-bead piece. I chose to make them as non-wearables and mounted them on copper stands. (I didn't like the copper stands, so I didn't make a lot of them)I also made a few Christmas Ornaments for family members that were the same sort of stacked beads, but jesters... no pictures were taken, but they were cute!! (all of the totems/ornaments were about 3-4" high)

I took a hiatus from 2006-2009. When I returned to doing shows, I went back to the most comfortable thing for me... Head Over Heels. I decided to do a little spin on the idea... what the Head Over Heels girls would dress up as for Halloween.
After that, I thought that more seasonal Head Over Heels would be fun, so I created a Holiday version. It answered the requests I'd had for years to make a jester. I didn't want to make a male version, but doing an elf let me make the jester hat that my customers had wanted.In making the jester hats, I was reminded of the ornaments I'd made in 2005 and I made new Christmas ornaments combining the heads with hollow beads that I was enjoying making...

I had such a good time with these! Mixing the patterns and colors on the hollow and accent beads was (and still is) one of my favorite parts about making these multi-bead component pieces.

That summer, at the Bead and Button show, I took my mermaid focal beads and put them on stands for the first time. I had made the stands using a technique that my friend, Marcy Lamberson uses. She makes little "scenes" that include several beads sitting on a patch of grass, or a log, etc. I went a different direction and made stands that had little petals, like flowers at the bottom and put my mermaids, fairies, etc. on the stands.
(Bead and Button inventory for 2010 show.
Not the best photo, but hopefully you can see the little flower stands)

In October 2010, Flametree Glass announced their Halloween contest. I knew that I wanted to do a non-jewelry piece... I just didn't know what. I didn't want to make another Head Over Heels, but I'm still who I am and scary halloween was NOT me. I wanted whimsical and fun and a tiny bit dark, but still me. I came up with the "Zombie Girl Totem"

Zombie Girl Totem - October 2010
Approximately 8" high

She was a combination of hollow beads (which I was still grooving on making... especially after a great class with Jari Sheese!) and "girl" beads that I'd made before (only a little less cute and colorful) I struggled with how to add arms, but finally decided not to even try. I remembered my jester ornament from the year before... it had no arms, but still worked and if it did, then this could too!

I was inspired by a big mix of things, but they all came together cohesively... Winona Ryder's character in Beetlejuice (the stockings, which echoed all the striped stockings I'd done in past work), Helena Bonham Carter's character in Harry Potter movies (the hair and the facial features), Bride of Frankenstein (the white squiggle in the hair), Mondo from Project Runway (the mix of khaki along with Black and White, as well as the mix of patterns on the hollow bead that becomes the skirt) and a touch of Jack the Pumpkin King because my youngest son said I had to (and I'm glad I did).

Note all the elements that came from my earlier pieces... Big hair from the original crazy girl, circa 2000. No arms, a body made from hollow beads, like the 2009 Christmas ornaments...a hollow bead for a skirt, with a ruffle bellow (this time as a separate bead) and striped stockings right below... Shoes with a little ruffle at the ankle, like Head Over Heels from 2000.... All stacked up like my totems from 2005, but on a stand like my flower stands from earlier that year (only with spider legs instead of petals).... I loved seeing how all these different elements came together to create something new and exciting and TOTALLY ME.

As soon as I finished her, I knew I had something special that I wanted to continue exploring. I was sooooo proud of this piece (I still am!). I knew that at that moment there was nothing like them out in "glass land." I immediately started working on follow-up pieces, but I also made sure that the piece was seen online to claim the design as mine as soon as possible. .

First came the Sugar plum fairies.
(Display at Bay Area Bead Extravaganza November 2010)

Smaller versions of a totem, with one hollow bead, a face, feet and wings, but no stand. I showed them on a Christmas tree, but really wanted them to be seen as something non-holiday.

After making the sugar plum fairies, I started exploring doing a larger scale version blending the sugar plum fairies with the totems. I decided to play with making their skirts into flowers by adding petals to what had before only been a ruffle.
First Fairy Totem - November 2010

I took the first of these fairy totems to the BABE show in Oakland. I got a great reaction to that body of work...and I was really happy wih the direction I was headed! I came home and worked on Christmas ornaments and more totems!

Christmas Totems - November 2010

I wasn't totally happy with the Angel, but I liked the idea and put it on the back burner, along with the tree... a non-girl totem.

In January, when I was preparing for The Best Bead Show in Tucson, I realized that it was imperative that I take the totems to the show. Not because I was ready to sell them, but because I had to make sure they were seen as mine before other people started making their versions and I was accused of copying them.... Because, let's be honest...that happens. Someone who is an innovator, if they haven't publicly shown the work in a timely matter, can be seen as the "copier" of someone who was better at getting their work out there. SO, that's why I went ahead and pushed myself to have a body of work, based on the totems to show in Tucson.... And I did!

I took this grouping to Tucson, along with smaller totems based on the larger ones.

Totem Group - Tucson Best Bead Show - February 2011

I also took some new stands with more pattern and play, which come from the combination of patterns in the girls skirts/legs. I liked the idea of having stands for the smaller beads that were reminiscent of the larger totems AND give them a bit more presence than the small flower stands do.Mermaid Totem - Best Bead Show Tucson - February 2011

The stands that I started making LOOKED like multi-bead components similar to the skirts of the Fairy totems, but were actually all one solid piece. The mermaid is a separate piece, but everything below her tail is one unit. It's sort of a trompe l'oeil in glass. :)

From there, I decided to bring it all together with an Angel totem that sat on the same sort of stand....Angel & Mermaid Totems - Tucson Best Bead Show - February 2011
(doesn't the angel's face look as sweet as Cindy Lou Hoo?)

The angel was my very favorite piece from the show. And guess who caught the eye of the editor from Bead Unique magazine??? My favorite girl. :)

I got the issue in the mail this week. Here's a picture of me opening my mail!
Bead Unique Magazine - June 2011 Issue (page 73!)

And a better photo so that you can see how cute she is......and how far I've come since Scary Girl, circa 2000.

The editor of Bead and Button magazine once told me back in the late 90's (and this is not a direct quote, but as close as I can remember)... "I look forward to seeing your work when it's not so derivative." I didn't really understand her issue at the time and I still have some differences with what she was saying, BUT her words stuck out to me as I looked at this progression. There is absolutely NO DOUBT IN MY MIND that this work is all mine.... you can see the progression that happened over 11 years... from the big-hair and tiny face to the ruffled shoes... this is all me.... and I'm proud.

And watch out... because there is a LOT of exciting stuff on the way after this!! That's the thing about being original... you can't sit still or you're in line behind the people who were influenced by you and you're no longer seen as original. I intend to keep moving! (and wait till you see what's next!) it's time to get back to work, making more pretty!!!

tiny blah blah blah...

coffee - CDL
music - not yet, but I'm thinking it's dance music in the studio day!


a2susan said...

Beautiful post, as beautiful as you are, Sylvie. I have a mermaid necklace that I took from you at Pam's that I love. Sorry I missed your most recent visit.

Sylvie said...

oh thank you Susan!

I'll be back up there teaching for the GLBG in July! Maybe we can see each other then!!

Sharon Wagner said...

Sylvie, thank you for the wonderful walk through your creative history. Long? No, completely worth the read and very inspirational!
I love who you are!! Keep going forward, I am excited to see what you do next!

rosebud101 said...

Great post, Sylvie and congratulations!!!!!! That is so great!!!!!

Debra said...

I can't remember when I first came upon your work. I bought myself one of your first mermaids as a birthday present, I have Head over Heels, Splish Splash, Halo, and everything else, too. It has been a wonderful ride to be on with you as you progress. I will always look forward to see what comes along next.
Love you Sylvie.