Mountain-Gem Arts Cyber-Monday update

No Gila Monsters were harmed in the making of this pendant.

I’ve been busy this fall, but more with art than birds.

Mountain-Gem Arts now has a permanent URL——and new stuff! I’m most excited about the new Gila Monster series (right), inspired by a request from a friend in New Mexico, but there are new additions to the Heart of the Woods and Rainbow Ripples lines plus new nature-theme earrings: Ornithophily, Kelp Forest, Autumn Leaves, Blue Lagoon. You can also browse a gallery of recent work.

I’ll be exhibiting at the Cascabel Community Fair next weekend, so at least some of the items available now on the Web site will have new homes by Sunday. If you see something you love, better grab it before someone else does.

There’s be more to come soon. If you’re looking for a gift and can’t decide, e-mail me about a gift certificate.

Future additions will include reproductions of some of my 2-D art and links where you can purchase my e-books (in progress).

Thanks for supporting small businesses and independent creators!

Mountain-Gem Arts update

Lucifer Hummingbird Heart I

Lucifer Hummingbird Heart I

Wow. My polymer clay jewelry has been really well received. Most of what I’ve added to the shop in its first few weeks has already sold, and to fill demand I’ve made new versions of popular designs, including four Lucifer Hummingbird Hearts (so far). I’ve received other special orders, too. This is truly gratifying, and I thank everyone who has made a purchase from the bottom of my heart(s).

The holiday shopping season is the perfect time to start something like this, so I don’t expect this run to continue, but that’s just as well. I do art in part as a way to keep burnout at bay, so I wouldn’t want it to turn into drudgery.

There is one major but hopefully temporary change in the shop: I’ve disabled the shopping cart by marking available items as out of stock. You can still buy them, but only by contacting me directly. I regret adding this extra step to what should be a seamless process, but I no longer trust PayPal with my money. The company has a nasty habit of putting holds on customers’ accounts for extremely flimsy reasons (too few transactions, too many transactions, transactions not marked as shipped, alleged violations of the TOS, etc.), all to earn more interest off the money before its rightful owner can withdraw it.

I never used to worry when I used PayPal only to make payments. Since the Regretsy Secret Santa debacle, though, I live in fear that the company will freeze my account and deny me access to funds I need to pay for supplies and postage, buy groceries, pay bills, etc. This is predatory behavior and a serious burden to microbusinesses like mine that depend on electronic payments. Until PayPal changes the way it does business, I choose not to do business with PayPal.

At present, PayPal is the only payment option available from my storefront host, Storenvy. If that doesn’t change soon, I’ll be looking for an e-commerce alternative. In the meantime, I’ll be setting up accounts with other electronic payment services and will accept prepayment by personal check.

One positive development is that my sickly laser printer has received an overhaul and is working again. That clears the way for the next version of the Supplement to A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America. I’ll be busy through the end of the year with jewelry orders, Christmas Bird Counts,  field trips, etc., but watch this space early next year for the announcement that the new edition is ready.

Diving into art

I’ve taken the plunge this week and become a working artist again. It’s not so much a mid-life crisis as an economic one. We’re in the middle of the fall shoulder season for birding in southeastern Arizona, which leaves me with several weeks of no SABO activties and also/therefore little or no salary. My paid writing gigs for WildBird and the Audubon Guides blog have helped to fill in the gaps between paychecks, but the gaps grew into yawning chasms in the aftermath of this summer’s wildfires.

Making and selling art will keep my mind and hands busy even if it doesn’t keep food on the table and the bankers at bay, and so I introduce you to Mountain-Gem Arts:

Mountain-Gem Arts screenshot

Mountain-Gem Arts

For the grand opening, I stocked the store with a few pieces of my own handmade polymer clay jewelry and several pots I’ve purchased from the artisans of Mata Ortiz in Chihuahua, Mexico (about a half-day’s drive from my house and a short jog off our route to the land of Thick-billed Parrots and Eared Quetzals). I sold two jewelry items in the first 24 hours the store was open and have another two reserved, so I’m walking on air.

The creative direction I’m most excited about is my Hummingbird Hearts series: The vivid colors and patterns of hummingbirds superimposed on an iconic shape.  The Ruby-throated Heart is available now, and one inspired by the Fiery-throated will be along soon. It could get pretty crazy when I take on the coquettes. I’ll also be working on sculptural bird portraits in the form of pins, pendants, and earrings as well as colorful abstract things that appeal to my ADOS (Attention Deficit Oo-ooh Shiny!). When the next edition of the Supplement to A Field Guide to Hummingbirds goes to press (= when I can afford a new laser printer), it will be available in the store as well.

If you like what you see in the current inventory and/or in my Art set on Flickr (as a taste of things to come), I hope you’ll bookmark the store for future browsing and/or “like” it on Facebook for updates on new items, discount codes, etc.

And now for something completely different: A clockwork heart

Clockwork heart

Originally uploaded by fieldguidetohummingbirds

It’s been an exciting month for creative efforts and a grim one for hummingbirds, so I thought I’d blog about my art for a change.

This is one of my latest efforts in polymer clay. It started out life at the To Bead True Blue show in Tucson as a lump of murky purple scrap. As a helper at Polymer Clay Party Night (sponsored by artists who exhibit and teach at TBTB), I attempted to create a bright purple clay when the prepackaged supply of that color ran out. Unfortunately, I grabbed the first red and blue that came to hand, and they didn’t get along.

Not wanting to condemn the ugly lump to the scrap pile, I started mooshing it into a heart shape. With a tool from my clay kit, I cut out a square in the center, using gold clay mixed with a bit of green (for a brassy look) to edge the cavity and add accents.

Back home, I “installed” watch parts purchased from master polymer clay artist Christi Friesen and sealed them under a layer of resin. With some shimmery russet and violet mica powders to improve the color, a couple of grommets for added visual interest, and a salvaged wire ring for a bail, the steampunk look was complete.

I’ve never been a “heart person,” but this got me on a roll. I’ve filled a couple of sketchbook pages with new heart designs, most with a nature theme. You’ll see some here at LB&E as they come together, along with other polymer clay pieces.

Don’t look now, but the Emperor is nekkid

First, a confession: I have these urges to create beautiful, interesting things that have no practical purpose. Not very strong urges, unfortunately, so very little creating actually gets done, but they did lure me to the colorful, tactile, chameleonic medium of polymer clay.

Puritan work ethic and the need for something like a reliable paycheck (ha!) keep me from spending hours squeezing, sculpting, rolling, layering, cutting, impressing, etc., so to keep my muse from starving to death I steal a few minutes a day to read PC-related blogs and forums. Often I’m blown away by what more motivated artists have accomplished with the medium, from figural sculpture to imaginative vessels to jewelry and other wearable/functional art. Sure, not everyone who gets their hands on PC can take it beyond the Play-Doh stage, but I’m in awe of those who do.

One of my regular reads is Susan Lomuto’s Polymer Clay Notes. Like any good artist, Susan is constantly searching for inspiration in other media, and she shares some of her finds with her readers. Normally I appreciate how her choices broaden my horizons, but today’s entry, crudely embellished Necco wafers, gave me flashbacks to college.

This is the sort of thing my art professors would swoon over, while I’d just roll my eyes and mutter, “The emperor has no clothes.” It’s just doodles on candy, for Pete’s sake–the only thing that makes it high art is the pretentiousness of the doodler and the gullibility of her admirers.

Good thing my major was biology–I’d never have made it as a “real” artist.

Sorry, Susan.