Category Archives: inspiration

Paper vs. Pinterest

magazine clipping scrapbook inspiration

A recent page from my third magazine clipping inspiration Book of Attractions, showing jewelry, metal and glass with emphasis on gold.

Paper vs. Pinterest

Paper vs. Pinterest – old-fashioned scrapbooks versus the electronic age. We all love our pin boards, right? Who would want to go back to paper? For years, I’ve maintained inspiration boards on both paper and Pinterest, but my recent spring/summer cleaning in the studio has found me with a renewed interest in the old fashioned paper kind of boards, which I keep in black scrapbooks.

An older page from my second Book of Attractions, showing a collection of neutral-color themed work.

An older page from my second Book of Attractions, showing a collection of white themed work.

Magazine Clipping Inspiration

I used to go through magazines, clipping the work that appealed to me and gluing it into my “Books of Attractions.” Then Pinterest appeared, and the magazine clipping inspiration work ceased. It was so much easier to sit in front of the computer and hit “Pin” (anyone else confused by “Save?).”

A page from my first Book of Attractions, featuring a lot of glass sculpture and watery colors.

A page from my first Book of Attractions, featuring a lot of glass sculpture and watery colors.

Books of Attraction

Occasionally, I go back and look at my three Books of Attractions, and I do find it interesting and inspiring. One of my rules is that I write a few words about why I chose the photo – the why of the attraction. It’s notable that I don’t do so in Pinterest, although I certainly could. What I find is that analyzing the work this way makes it obvious that there are patterns that appear. And those insights are actually useful for guiding my own work.

Another neutral page from my first Book of Attractions.

Another neutral page from my first Book of Attractions.

In an attempt to reduce piles of paper in the studio, I went back to tearing out pages that had images and articles that I was drawn to. I ran the articles through the scanner on my printer and put the articles into Evernote so that I can find them later. (I also read a lot of profiles that were inspiring.)  I spend a few hours a week lately cutting out images and pasting them onto the black page again. It’s helping my energy, as it reminds me of ideas that I want to pursue.

A green-and-orange themed page from the second Book of Attractions

A green-themed page from the second Book of Attractions

Somehow the act of cutting and pasting, arranging and analyzing is so much more interactive and productive for me than just pinning to Pinterest! It reminds me of vision boards. Perhaps I just don’t peruse my Pinterest boards properly after the initial pins? Perhaps I need to print them out and paste them up as paper versions? I’m reminded of the power of vision boards – I haven’t made one of those in years, but I might have to revisit that as well

The first part of my many beloved Pinterest boards

The first part of my many beloved Pinterest boards

That said, I still love my Pinterest boards! You can see my collection here.



Finding Creative Flow after Vacation

One of the most difficult things about traveling is returning to the studio. How do I get back into the flow of creating?

Spring Flock
greenware detail
©2012 Vickie Hallmark
sterling clay

First, inspiration from travels usually gives me ideas. Inevitably I search out galleries and museums in the places I visit, where I collect photos and names of artists to research when I return home. If I have time, I actually write in a travel journal about what I see and why I think certain work speaks to me. I note which works I like, but also which don’t do a thing for me, and then I try to analyze why. I deconstruct the work, looking at technical details for little tidbits that might be useful to my own efforts. How are the mechanical connections done? Is the color palette in this piece more successful than in that one? Where is the balance between simplicity and complexity?

Beyond taking in the offerings, I extrapolate my own ideas into the work I’m viewing. If I were making this piece, would I change anything? Is something off balance? Is the scale right? How could I put my own stamp on it, if I were to give myself the challenge to make a derivative piece based on it? So effectively, even though I’m not in the studio, I’m still working. I’m making the same types of decisions, but with more freedom because they’re not actually reduced to practice.

Then when I return home, I do go back and look at the notes and Google all the artists who intrigued me. That’s why I blog about galleries and museums when I travel – it’s my record of those inspirations, with links that I can find later to reconnect me with the inspiration.

fired sterling clay bits and pieces
©2012 Vickie Hallmark

Finally, I have to go sit down at the work bench and reconnect with my own tools and materials. Sometimes it can be hard to reach out and begin something new, so two options often seem easier: 1) finish something already in progress or 2) rework an old idea. This round I have deadlines looming, so both options are in play. I actually left work buried in carbon in the kiln because I had no time to dig it out before I left. And I needed to make a variation on my largest work for an upcoming commitment. As I sit there working, all those new inspirations float through my head, as I wrestle with how to push my own work ever onward.

Inspiration from Australia 1

A month away from the blog is the longest I’ve ever gone quiet. Among that time was a twelve day trip to Australia, tagging along with my husband who attended a conference in Perth and then continued to further business in Melbourne. The last time I visited Australia with him, I had a twelve year old home schooled boy in tow, so all my tourist activities were geared toward entertaining and educating him. This round, I focused on my own interests, visiting gardens, museums and galleries.

The work that most amused me during my outings was the glass art of Richard Clements, whose delightful bird sculptures fascinated me when I visited Kirra Galleries in Melbourne.  His “animals of unknown origins” were at once whimsical and masterful, mounted on the wall at eye level.
“Animal of Unknown Origins”
Richard Clements
via Kirra Galleries

Kirra also displayed work by another glass artist that I’ve long admired, Kristen McFarlane, who specializes in layering images and text on glass. Indeed, if the prices on everything in Australia hadn’t seemed to be twice what they are in the United States, I might have brought home a small piece of hers that particularly caught my eye, set as a diptych blue daguerreotype.

Kristin McFarlane
via Kirra Galleries
Amongst the flame work included in the special exhibition I viewed that weekend were plenty of jewelry pieces, including typical beads. The most intriguing jewelry work was that of Terri Kraehe, whose necklace based on eucalyptus pods was simply stunning (and already sold). 
eucalyptus pod neckpiece
Terri Kraehe and Marianne Kerby
I find that although most of my recent work has been silver, I am still enormously drawn to glass. As I try to analyze directions for future work, I came away from this trip convinced that I need to somehow combine my glass and metal interests to produce work that is truly representative of my highest ideals. Now I just need to find time to explore the possibilities!

Stone Inspiration

I came home from the PMC Conference filled with inspiration. Going in I was hopeful that the stone vendors would be there, and they were! It was a mob scene at both Horizon Minerals Custom Lapidary and Gem Resources, and I did my best to contribute to both. Having acquired some modest stone-setting skills in my recent classes, I want to use those skills and not lose them. Buying stones that need custom bezels seemed like the perfect motivation. 
I’ve been sketching ideas for new work based on the stones. The sooner I use them, the sooner I get to buy more!
Vickie, top center, perusing trays of
stones at Horizon Mineral
Amongst the treasures I brought home: hemimorphite druzy,  blue chalcedony, lapis, sugilite, black and golden druzy, amazing natural surface tourmaline, moonstone, peridot, iolite, and blue spinel. 
Cabochons from Horizon Minerals
Cabochons from Gem Resources

The Roots of Inspiration

Today I am remaking my Silver Lining brooch to remove the flaws that bother me so. While part of me says “just move on,” I need to rework the piece to be able to do so. I don’t often make near duplicates of my jewelry, but the first brooch is destined to be turned in to a refiner to recover the silver. As I was carving the sun rays on the front and adding the curls around the edges, I finally recognized the root of inspiration that was haunting me.

Perhaps six years ago, on a trip to Europe with my son and a group of other middle schoolers, I snapped this photo of a rose-carved pumpkin sitting invitingly on a table outside a restaurant in a narrow street near the Trevi fountain in Rome. I used the image even then, with a black crow perched on top, for a watercolor that I always loved. 
rose-carved pumpkin
Yesterday, I stumbled upon the photograph in a pile of papers when I was digging for class notes to help me with a construction issue. Perhaps I should clean my studio so that I can dredge up the watercolor, which must be similarly hiding. 
Harvest Crow
©2006 Vickie Hallmark

It just goes to show that filling the well with visual inspiration is critical. Things that resonate will return again and again.

Inspirational Quotes in Artwork

For years I’ve collected inspirational quotes and idioms. Two years ago, I turned my bird quote collection into a journal with watercolor and collage to keep my hands busy while traveling. On occasion, I’ve incorporated a line or two into jewelry. I like the surprise of flipping the piece over, or opening it up, and finding meaning and another level of connection.

Today, I’m working on artwork to convert to rubber stamps so that I can extend this idea in my upcoming work. I took the easy way out and used commercial fonts in Photoshop, but now I’m wanting to explore producing my own font to keep the artist’s hand as active as possible. Or maybe I’ll just draw everything out by hand and scan/shrink it to a smaller scale. Much to think about.

Inspiration for Artists

Over a long weekend, I tagged along with my husband on a business trip, venturing to cool and green Boston. There I visited numerous museums and galleries, filling the well with amazing treasures that will surely influence my output in the future. It made me reflect on inspiration for artists. While the kernel of our work may be based on historical influences, conceptual theory, or natural sources, there is something amazing about seeing the best of the best from other artists. Whether it is something that is near to our own work or far afield, the artist’s core recognizes the spirit in a special piece.

Seeing world class art makes me want to step up my game, to stop making the mundane things that have filled my days to this point. I feel emboldened to take the leap to the grand ideas in my head, to give up the notions of small pieces that don’t cost a fortune in materials or result in gut-wrenching price tags. I want to produce work of my very own that will give me that same breathtaking thrill that accompanies my discovery of new work by artists I admire and pieces known from photos finally beheld in person. There evidently is a buyer out there for Mariko Kusumoko who spends unknown hours constructing the metal sculpture equivalent of a doll house, with a myriad of amazing movable and wearable jewelry parts, all meticulously crafted by hand, and carrying a price tag of $20,000.

Perhaps it’s time to believe that if I make it, that piece of my dreams and heart, that a buyer will appear.

Santa Fe Inspiration

It’s nice to escape to another world on occasion, to find inspiration in a different landscape. While Austin has been extremely hot and dry this past year, it hasn’t quite reached the high country desert feel of Santa Fe. On a weekend anniversary getaway, I was surprised to encounter widespread beautiful spring blooms of lilac and forsythia.

I was totally captivated by the Southwestern architecture, where almost every home is surrounded by an adobe wall and gate. Wood or metal, carved or painted, the gates bring a sense of mystery to the beautiful winding streets. What lies within?

My self-assignment this week at home is to contemplate how to utilize this inspiration directly in my own work. How can I bring a sense of mystery to my jewelry? I’ve long been attracted to mechanisms, to hinged doors and secret compartments, and I’d love to incorporate some of the enigma of the Santa Fe gates into my designs.

Inspiration is all around. The tricky part is to reduce it into my own practice in a mindful manner. I clearly don’t have a Southwestern aesthetic, so while I appreciate the classic motifs of Southwestern art, they won’t ever appear in my own art. I have to delve a bit deeper to seek elements such as emotion that are more universal. 

Personal Creative Voice

“Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying.

We’re talking about practice here, not plagiarism—plagiarism is trying to pass someone else’s work off as your own. Copying is about reverse-engineering. It’s like a mechanic taking apart a car to see how it works.”

Flock bracelet
©2012 Vickie Hallmark
sterling silver

Developing a Personal Voice by Working in Series

So you’re wondering how to get from simple, beginning, generic designs to your own recognizable artistic style? The idea is to develop a personal vocabulary of shapes, motifs, and components that  can be combined in a multitude of original ways. One idea builds on another, with only slight variations from one to the next, but over time persistent evolution refines the design.

Warbler earrings
©2012 Vickie Hallmark
sterling silver

One starting point is the idea book or board. For years now, I’ve maintained a Book of Attractions, filled with images cut from magazines of work that speaks to me — ceramics, fiber, wood, stone, metal & glass all appear. Of course, everyone is doing their own collections on Pinterest, and I’m no exception. The one thing I recommend in terms of really utilizing the boards (or old-fashioned book) to advance your own work is to analyze what about the piece attracts you. Which shapes repeat? What colors captivate? Finding the themes of the work that your soul is drawn to can help you make work that is true to your own self. This is not a license to copy, but a hint of where to start to develop your own personal style.

Bird & Nest Shield earrings
©2012 Vickie Hallmark
sterling silver

For example shields have recurred in my clippings or pinnings for many years, so I know I should use shield shapes in my own work.  Coupled with my favorite bird and nest motif, using custom textures made from my original drawings, these earrings are the simplest version of my self.

Flock earrings
©2012 Vickie Hallmark
sterling silver

The squeezed pillow shape from my Flock and Birdwatching bracelets is also one of my favorites, so I have used it repeatedly. Variations abound. I can cut a plain tile with my texture, as in the original Flock bracelet.  I can cut an opening and build my trademark sculptural bird on a branch across it. A box behind a window can hold a painted tile of glass. I can split the shape into two or more pieces, with a window that is flat and an oval or other shape that is domed, convex or concave. A box bead, or two domed tiles attached at the corners for a truer pillow shape would give even more dimension. Once I get going with the variation brainstorming, ideas really start popping. I can change the color by using patina or resin or gold keum boo.  I can add extra components that reflect the rest of the work, like leaf dangles.

The best way to evolve the work is to make more. Slow but steady variation leads to new ideas and personal work. Develop a list of shapes, textures, colors, marks and components that can be used to generate never-ending variations on a simple theme.