Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Making of a Show piece

     Earlier this month I made the decision to compete. The competition is for a monetary prize that will be awarded in an upcoming show. This is an art show in which I have participated for the last three years, and, for me, the awards are fairly substantial. I am not usually one to go after awards, but I figure I’m going there anyway, so I might as well compete. 

    The other motivator for me is that I need a new jury image or two. Somewhere along the line I learned that jury images need to show a constistency; the pieces need to look like they are all from the same DNA, so to speak. I have had a concern that my jury images are too dissimilar, and someday I need to make them more cohesive. 

       So someday arrived this week. I had three days off work, so I scheduled studio time to design and build a show piece that 1) could possibly win a prize, and 2) be photographed for a jury image for next year’s shows. 

       I thought I would show you some photos of the work in progress, as well as share some of my thinking as to what goes into a show piece. 

         I always start with a sketch. It may not be detailed, and it might get paint on it, because I build the piece right on top of the sketch. The sketch is a very important part of the process. It’s like the backbone of the piece. Even if I don’t exactly follow it, it still gives me direction and focus.

      Here is the sketch. Actually I started with a strip of dried acrylic paint that totally got my attention. I layered it on silver hand made paper and then on canvas painted black. It became the focal pendant for the piece. From this piece being the focal point,  I did the sketch.

       Here’s me at my work table, interpreting the drawing into an art piece.  Listening to my chosen music on Pandora is an important part of the design process. 

      Here are some of the component parts, ready to be added to the work. They include thick slices of dried acrylic paint, handmade paper layered on canvas, silver and black chain. 

        My “limited palette” of beads, laid out with the colors I am going to use.

       It seemed like black chain would be a good way to connect the components. The problem was once I got it done, it looked too Goth, not airy and light. It was just too predictable, and not at all what I was after.

    It’s next to impossible to objectively see your own work the way a judge might see it. It’s always a guessing game. That being said, at this point I take myself back to design 101. 


         It occurred to me within the design process that the contrast I am after is between bold and delicate. These are my notes on the bottom of the sketch. I went for a walk at this point to find a spiderweb and learn from nature. Not that I want to go all spiderwebby (that would really be Goth!) But I want to strike a balance between bold and delicate. And spiderwebs totally strike that balance. You got the web, all delicate and breezy, and then you got the big old black heavy spider right in the middle of it. Poetry in motion. 

      So I removed the black chains and replaced them with airy strands of seed beads in silver and clear. I think this achieved the more airy yet strong look I was after. 

Once this piece was completed I made earrings to go with it. 

I would love to hear your feedback on my soul-baring design process. Please leave your comments here. 


  1. An intimate portrayal of your process, indeed. Very illuminating, and very nice to be a, uh, fly sitting on the web. Well done.

  2. Beautiful. Good choice in the end. Interesting reading your process. thanks for sharing. It's always hard to step back and take a critical look at our own work. We are too close to it. I usually have to walk away and come back several hours later or even days later to get prospective on it. That takes time but the work is better for it. When I am rushed to produce work I do not feel the same level of accomplishment.