Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Weekend at Valley Ridge

This past weekend, I made the familiar trek to Valley Ridge Art Studio in Muscoda, Wisconsin. This trip was to take the workshop, "Hunter, Gatherer, Maker - The Art of Found Object Assemblage" with Jane Wynn. I had never met Jane before, so it was exciting to get to know her and be in her class. She has a book out entitled, "Altered Curiosities." I had planned on being at this workshop since last December, but due to some health-related problems with my husband, I didn't think I was going to be able to attend. In fact, I was so sure I wouldn't be able to go that I didn't even have anything packed for it. The workshop began on Friday morning, and I was still at home. I didn't know what to do. But Mike was getting along all right, and insisted that I go and have a good time. So.... I scrambled around and tried to gather an assortment of found-objects to take along, get all my tools and supplies together, and pack my suitcase. Finally, at 11:30 a.m., I was on the road. I arrived at Valley Ridge late in the afternoon. The workshop was almost over for the day. So I unpacked my stuff and settled in to get busy. Fortunately, I was able to continue working in the studio that night, so by day 2, I was pretty much caught up with everyone else. I have to confess, though, that I didn't build my own box to house my assemblage like most of the others did. I used a deep cigar box instead which saved me some time.
After the workshop was over for the day on Saturday, a few of us took a little 'field trip' to Muscoda to visit the studio of Ellis Nelson. Now that was truly a treat for me! Here is a little visual of our trip there....

Ellis Nelson, who is 81 years old, is a nationally-known Metalsmith/Sculptor. His work has been on exhibit at galleries across the country. He was also featured on the television show, "Good Morning America" as well as CNN. There is even a book published about him!

This is a page from the inside of the book.
This is Ellis. And this is where you'll usually find him...sitting outside in front of his studio. An array of his work is for sale in front of the building....
along with the large 'Grim Reaper' he made from metal.

Yep...this is his place! And wait until you see the inside........

Over the years, he has equipped his studio with a number of imaginative machines which were self-built in an effort to accommodate his work.

Get a load of this place! It was like a page out of some crazy steampunk magazine!

I totally love his anvil!!! It is enormous, and the patina on it from all the years of use was absolutely amazing!!!
And check out this chair! I think it was once a barber chair, but I'm not for sure. There was a lone light that hung right above it. In the darkness of the studio, it reminded me of an electric chair! And that evil-looking piece behind and to the right of the chair is his furnace...

Ellis actually built this furnace himself. It is a heat-regulated furnace fueled by sawdust. And he is the only person who knows how to run the thing! It serves as a source of heat for the studio, as well as a forge for his metal work.
It was such a treat to get to hear him talk about his work, and to see his place up-close!
After we got back to the studio, I got busy with my assemblage...
By Sunday, I had a general idea of what direction my piece was taking. Here are a few pics of my work in progress....

I had an old tin-type which I wanted to use in my piece. Unfortunately, I wasn't happy with how dark it was. You could barely make out the woman's face in it. So...I used a photograph of my great-grandma, cutting out her head and gluing it over the woman's head in the tintype. Voila! Problem Solved! I then added little touches of paint here and there on the photograph.
Here is another element I made. In the 'community' junk box, I scavenged an old brass plate which was possibly some kind of doorbell at one time. I totally dismanteled the piece and reinvented it. The bottom base of this piece was a piece of 2" by 4" wood that I got from another student in the class. I nailed my reinvented bell piece to the wood, and painted it up. The text was from an old 1908 newspaper that Jane had brought along with her. I attached a brass decorative stamping under the bells, and also added some teeth that I brought along. No, they're not real...they were from an old dentist's sample card.

I had also lined the entire cigar box with the old newspaper, and applied different paints to it to create a nice patina. Now I had to decide how I was going to arrange my assemblage.
And here is the interior of my cigar box assemblage. I made wire hooks, and suspended the tintype and the old wire light protector thingie from the top with two tiny eye screws. It swings and can be removed if I want.

I may fine-tune the piece a little bit sometime in the future, but overall, I am pleased with how it turned out.
And here is a group shot of the class, with Jane sitting in front. I am so glad I was able to get to the workshop. I had a great time, and learned some new techniques which I'm sure will come in handy in my future work!


Kim Rae Nugent said...

You definitely thrive under pressure stunning! I love your piece and "Complications" was the perfect word to use in it!

Crystal said...

Jill Wow! Great piece with a lot of symbolism that intrigues all my senses! You are so talented and what a great glimpse into the Ellis' studio. Your blog is the second place I found him today and never heard of him before. Love that kind of serendipity.
I hope Mike is on the mend. You two deserve the best!

Christine Edwards said...

Sounds like a fun workshop...glad you were able to make it. Your assemblage was my favorite from the pics Kathy uploaded on Facebook. You did such a great job, and even though the teeth are fake, they still creep me out. ;-)

Kathy was telling us about Ellis the last time I was there, and he sounds like a total hoot!

Hope you and your hubby are doing well.