Profile of an Artist: Rebecca Wheat of Lily of the Valley

What a beautiful knitted hat!

Rebecca Wheat of Lily of the Valley

This week we will begin a recurring feature here at the Easel in which we sit down with new artist each session and pick their brains about their background, process, and future plans. I would like to introduce to you Rebecca Wheat of Lily of the Valley. A renaissance woman of the arts, Becca has explored and developed a broad range of skills including fiber arts (knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning), textile arts (sewing, clothing design, handbag design, quilting, and costuming), underwater basket weaving (no really), painting (acrylic, oil, watercolor, pastel), drawing, graphic design, jewelry design, pottery, and pyrography (wood and gourds).

As a child, Becca began to draw as soon as she was able to hold a pencil. She was taught to sew and crochet at the age of five  and was making her own stuffed animals and dolls soon after. By middle school, she was making her own clothing and stitching her own self-designed embroidery.  Her creativity was recognized in school with scholarships to adult level watercolor painting classes and numerous arts awards along the way and by her parents who allowed her to paint all over her bedroom walls.

The piece of which Becca is most proud

Becca's Great Grandmother Martha Ellen Hisel

Her middle and high school art education was greatly influenced by Chris Pierce, an influential teacher from Berea College who supplemented her standard education with techniques including the lost wax casting of jewelry, granted her free reign with a darkroom and photographic equipment, and allowed her to do murals on the walls, pottery on and off the wheel, and lino-cutting. She entered Berea College and completed  her first year as a studio art major before ultimately completing her degree as an Agriculture major. Throughout college, Becca took several art courses, spent a summer designing a course with painter and instructor Neil DiTeresa, and worked three semesters with Fireside Weavers learning weaving, warping, reading drafts, and loom setup. 

After graduation, Becca spent a year working with Berea’s Famous Churchill Weavers where she collaborated with the design team and worked primarily as a flyshuttle weaver. She currently works for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture state veterinarian’s office in the equine programs where she is able to indulge in her (second) love of horses. In her spare time, Becca makes jewelry and accessories for sale. You can find her products on Etsy at Lily of the Valley. She describes her style as vintage inspired and her favorite materials are vintage chains and lockets that can be taken apart and reimagined as a new piece.

Lily of the Valley Bracelet
Lily of the Valley Bracelet

Becca describes her process as being somewhat tangential. She will develop an interest in particular themes which have historically included natural motifs such as oak leaves and flowers combined with vintage lockets and classic cameos and will ride out that creative wave until it is eclipsed by a new interest.

Becca participates in several festivals throughout the year and regularly mans a booth at the Downtown Lexington’s Artist’s Market with her friend Amanda Richie and the invaluable support of her boyfriend Matt. She also has a booth at The Bazaar, a unique gathering place and thrift store that benefits the Lexington Rescue Mission.

Her dream is to establish and run a Lexington Artist’s Co-op with permanent space that is used to benefit Lexington and its resident crafters and artisans. She imagines a permanent gallery space, as well as a gallery for featured artists.  Prerequisite room to frolic would allow dance classes and an in house coffee shop and artisan pizza café manned by Chef Matt. Until this dream comes to fruition, she pursues efforts to organize local artisans who vend online by establishing Artfire guilds for Kentucky state artisans and participating in Etsy teams.

Becca’s new and upcoming projects include developing jewelry designs featuring polymer clay and designing a maternity/postpartum friendly line of clothing for local children’s boutique Cradle Will Rock. She is also extremely interested in learning how to tattoo professionally. You can follow Becca’s journey through the arts on any of the following social media outlets:

http://kentuckylily.wordpress.com/

I want this hat!

Yes, she even dabbles in haberdashery!

http://www.facebook.com/lilyofthevalleyky

http://twitter.com/kentuckylily

You can shop online for Becca’s designs at http://www.etsy.com/shop/lilyofthevalleyky

On the Easel

It occurred to me last night that there is so much zucchini in the world and not enough time for zucchini bread. In other words, I have before me so many raw materials and ideas but also a great difficulty in deciding where to start. While on vacation, I stocked up on some beautiful beads on sale to add to the hoard and returned home to a pack of clock parts in the mail from the great and bountiful land of eBay. I also have more squash and zucchini than I have freezer space thanks to my father’s garden. Every year, he sends me home with more produce than I can process (he provides so you know he cares). The zucchini comes with the expectation that it will be partially returned in the form of zucchini bread. After about 20 aliquots of shredded zucchini and four quart-sized aliquots of chunked zucchini for soups and pasta sauces, I still have half the zucchini and all the squash to go. Oh the squash… #farmworldproblems.

Pushing the (mountains of) squash aside for a moment, I wanted to write a quick preview of things to come on the Easel. Here our a few projects and features in the works:

On the personal Easel:
-A Growing Leaves Cowl designed by Meghan Macko in Old Lilac Baby Llama yarn
-Book Review of The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers
-Steampunk and other Jewelry sets
-A character study of the Milner protagonist in my (theoretical) Steampunk novel
-A personal zucchini bread recipe And my experiments with modifying the recipe to support a healthier lifestyle

Collective Efforts and Features in the works here at The Errant Easel:
-An Errant Easel Excursion to the Woodland Arts Festival here in Lexington, KY
-A knit-along workshop in sock-making led by our resident expert D3Z
-A resin casting party for high through-put creativity
-The Errant Easel Book Club’s take on original Sherlock Holmes stories

Keep checking back for updates on these and other creative endeavors. Also, if you have any crafts, books, movies, or events you would like to read about here, please let us know in the comments! We would also love to review your work or event and spread word to our readers!

Logos and Life

Same outfit...new year!

Well, today began the first official week of school.  The first three days don’t really count – especially since the bells don’t work yet, students don’t know where they are going, and it’s just a hectic repeat of rules, rules, and more rules.  That being said, I don’t think it could have gone any better.  I haven’t been this excited about a new year as a teacher since I first became one oh so many years ago (6 for those of you counting at home).

I’m finding it a little difficult to balance my schedule though, which is proving problematic.  I could put some of the blame on not being hired back officially until about 2 weeks before school started, but that’s only part of it.  I have a tendency to put things off what I think are more important.  As I’ve mentioned before, I used to get so bogged down in things at school, that my life suffered…and then my work suffered.  I try to keep it all as balanced as I can, but that causes some problems from time to time – like now.  I’m in a bit of a limbo as to what I should do about it.  Do I work on jewelry for an hour, then go back to my power point for the class, OH! what about this cool project that I would love the kids to be working on…but wait, they haven’t gone over the terms in the standard yet…and so on, and so on, and so on.   It’s no wonder I’m having nightmares about not finishing anything!

This weekend though, I did accomplish some things.  I made some pendants and earrings – but the highlight, for me, was working on the Errant Easel logo.  Granted, I started off working on a logo for a friend’s blog (Joe, I promise, I’ll get something to you tomorrow), but I ended up working on something for our little blog here.  Actually, I did two different logos.  I like them both, and think they are reflective of what we are trying to accomplish here at Errant Easel.  It was fun trying to figure out how to represent all three of us in a subtle way in one logo idea, while taking the idea of an “errant” easel and having some fun with it.  For those of you not sure of the definition, errant, according to Merriam-Webster means “traveling or given to traveling; a straying outside the proper paths or bounds.”

First off, don’t get me started on “proper paths or bounds.”  What is “proper” anyways?!  To me, a better way of looking at being “errant” would be to view it as straying outside of conventional paths or bounds – which is what I believe we are doing here.

So, here is a sampling of my logo making abilities.  I’ll be working on them some more once a consenses is made between us.  These are really sketched out ideas for now.  I’ll try to be better about scheduling my time, which, by the way, puts me in even more awe of the working men and women who balance not only a career, but husbands and children as well.  I have a fiance’ and I can barely handle it sometimes.  Maybe this is just what I need though – something more to do besides work and home – that’ll make me be better about how I deal with my time during the day?  We can hope right?

Logo Idea Zwei

Logo Idea #1

A Study in Pink… and Resin

As Staci has previously explained, we were able to get together this weekend and work on some jewelry making for the upcoming sale. I warmed up with a reproduction of my copper floral filagree earrings so I could better practice making better headpins for connecting the fillagree to the eyepin and the eyepin to the earring hooks. Also because I am in love with the aesthetic and if I don’t make multiples, I’m not sure I’ll be able to part with the originals. My very favorite, and now New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger, once explained that she wrote her rightfully popular teapunk comedy of manners because it was the material she wanted to read.  Really hoping this philosophy works out for me as I also made a pendant with one of one of the silver floral filagrees which may be marketed as part of a set.

Pink Bengal Bauble

I definitely overworked myself with this next pair of earrings. I tell you, the skill it took to string those three beats on a single head pin and attach to earring hooks is unprecedented. A girl could definitely get used to being so pleased with oneself for so little effort 😉 In all seriousness, I do like the simplicity of this set even if I am not sure I can claim much craftsmanship in its creation.

Finally, Staci and I broke out the big guns. Earlier that day, we had made a trip to Michael’s and fought tooth and nail with shopping savages to procure a small amount of a precious 1:1 resin mix, pried from the very jaws of the beast.  Or maybe I stood directly in front of the resin options for less than ten seconds and watched helplessly as resin buzzards swooped in to claim the final bottles of what I was considering buying before I could even examine them. I can’t say for certain, but I may even have made a frustrated retreat over to the yarn aisles muttering something like “knitters are nicer.” After selecting my fibers, Staci came to the rescue with an even smaller more affordable option than those that had been picked off by the carrion eaters. Go Staci!

Knowing that the end of our unadulterated craft time was drawing to an end (Warhammer game had ended), we impulsively began assembling the resin necessities. From reading the instructions it didn’t seem to get any easier than

Staci's Pendant

Staci's swarovski crystal and seed bead resin pendant

mixing two reagents at a 1:1 ratio. The difficulties sprang from handling caustic materials on the fly (read: without gloves) and not considering how much to make. The smallest disposable measuring cup in my cabinet was a 1/8 cup that I never use.  It didn’t really occur to me that we didn’t have any molds prepared or plans beyond the two tablespoons or so we would actually need for the pendants. So now I have a fair sized block of bowl shaped resin. Let me know if you have suggestions there.

It was really exciting that our pendants dried overnight. This is another piece that I’m going to have a hard time parting with. However, I can’t wait to make more. Next time I will plan a resin pouring party in which we make up lots of pendants, molds, or other casts ahead of time and do a mass pour. This will be much more sensible. Also, I would like to experiment with coloring the resin with a variety of pigments. I have read that you can use anything from old eye shadows to acrylic paint. Stay tuned for further adventures with gears and resin!

Sara's Pendant

Resin was made for Steampunk

The Thing Kozy Started – Jewelry Making with My Friends

About four years ago, I hit a horrible block in my teaching career.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a teacher, or that I hated being at Belfry Middle, I hated what was going on outside of work.  The last school year I was at BMS, one of my family’s closest friends died, my great-uncle died, and my grandfather died.  I tried to be what I thought I should be: tough, unaffected, working on despite my overwhelming sadness.  The kids at school, I think they knew something wasn’t right with Miss G.  I wasn’t the same and I knew it.  I had to do something different or I would never be happy at teaching, or at life for that matter, again.

That’s when I decided: I’m going to school and finish my master’s degree and live with my love.  I moved to live with my fiancée’ and attend classes at Morehead State University.  I felt happy again.  It wasn’t a completely solid happy, but it was a start.  After the first semester, I had to find some type of work, I applied for a Graduate Assistant position.  The Art Dept. was full, so I got an interview with the Theater Dept. over Christmas break.  That’s when I met her – KozyHamilton, my boss and my friend.

Kozy being all Kozy-like this summer

Kozy is a legend in her own right.  She has spent her life working with theater students (did I mention she’s 83 and RECENTLY retired) and within the theater community throughout the country.  Kozy knows people who star on Broadway and TV shows, as well as students working in restaurants trying to get a break.  Costumers in companies large and small ask her for advice.  So, you can imagine how honored I am to have her as not only my friend, but as a teacher.  She’s amazingly funny, willing to try anything at least once, and lets me know that I have something to offer to the world.  I can only hope that I am as helpful to her as she is to me.  You can probably see that I could go on and on about Kozy, but maybe I’ll save that for another day.  Just know that she’s taught me so much in 4 short years and has helped me be happy again and want to do more than just get by – which is where I was when I met her.

Of the many things Kozy has taught me, jewelry making is something that we both truly enjoy and that I still do regularly.  I love trying to work the wire to make the idea in my head come to life, or find inspiration in things great and small.  While I still haven’t developed my wirewrapping technique up to Kozy standards, I do like making earrings and pendants for necklaces.   Yesterday, my friend Sara and I worked on some jewelry that we are planning to sell at an upcoming event with Errant Easel.  Sara is very Steampunk, which I love and I’m more simplistic – at least I feel so.  (I’ll admit it, I like things shiny and with some sparkle – you can’t blame a girl!)

I used a variety of wires, but they are all about the same thickness (20 gauge).  I also used materials ranging from crystal to pearl, with a couple of acrylic pieces thrown in.  The best part of working on jewelry with a friend, and I hope Dez will be able to join us next time, is the conversation(s) you have.  As with Kozy, Sara and I talked about what we were working on, how life is going. what we are happy about, what is upsetting us, and asking advice on everything from artwork to love.  It’s just nice to know that all of those topics can be covered while working with a piece of wire and something you think will look neat hanging from it.

I would like to thank Kozy for taking me under her wing.  I would like to thank Sara and Dez for helping me through so much.  I’m a much happier person now than I was when I first met them, and they all have a big part in that.  Enjoy the jewelry and any suggestions or sites to check out will be much appreciated.

Pearl and Bead Earrings

Heart Pendant

Earring and Pendant set

Flowers from the Forge

On a recent outing to Michael’s, I found myself searching the bead and jewelry making aisles for crafty inspiration. This hasn’t always been a winning strategy as the first time I seriously tried to pick out the perfect beads for a project I spent nearly an hour matching and rematching, only to give in to indecision, abandon all the candidates, and buy nothing. Thankfully, I have since reevaluated this method and the the artificial world ending consequences of unwise craft supply purchases. I’ve found that it’s much more helpful to have a variety of beading necessities on hand and to just buy the beads and other components that I like as I go and finding inspiration in my own small stash.

When I found this flower shaped filigree set in copper, brass, and gunmetal I immediately saw this pair of earrings. I really enjoy the combination of natural influences and antiqued looking metal. I decided to add a pair of pearls and two copper beads to the top to add to the vintage feel I sought. I also thought the filigree flower needed the metal and bead equivalent of pistils or stamens so I suspended green bead in the filigree using a matching head pin from my stash to add a little color.

As my first set of earrings, this was such a simple and fast project with such a rewarding result. In the future I am going to practice working and bending the wire until I am happier with the resulting shape and stability of the project. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my first attempt!

20110714-070141.jpg Photo Credit: Studio D3Z

20110714-070150.jpg Photo Credit: Studio D3Z