Random Act of Beauty : No Fear of Depth

Whenever I create a collection of art work, there are always the pieces that do not live up to my expectation, the experimental pieces that turn out differently than I intend.  I never know what to do with these pieces.  For this collection, I decided to turn the less then perfect pieces from “No Fear of Depth” into “Random Acts of Beauty.” I have wanted to do a random acts of beauty project for awhile, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

There are many similar events and projects I participated in over the years that influenced this art action. In 2006, I accidentally stumbled across my first Letterbox.  It was the 
photo 2 most amazing experience.  I was at the Peace Pagoda in Grafton, NY wandering around.  I was at a transitional time in my life and I was out there looking for some answers, playing in the woods, stacking rock, when my eyes were drawn to a red rock at the base of a tree in front of a little hole.  I thought it looked a little out of place and had to investigate. What I found was a beautiful handmade stamp of the Pagoda and a new hobby that would take me on many exciting adventures with friends and family!

Since that experience, I wanted to do a random acts of beauty project. I rolled it around in my head many times but could never come up with the way I wanted to do it.  Then in October I watched the HBO documentary Banksy Does New York about his “residency.” It showed me a way I could create a social media component to such a project. This got the idea churning again.

Then I stumbled across the Facebook group Art Abandonment.  After joining the group, I began to get beautiful stories in my feed by crafters, makers, and people hiding and finding hidden works of handmade art and the positive impact in has on their life. I wanted to be part of that beauty.

As I turned the idea around in my head, I realized that this action would be more than just giving my art work to the community. It was a way to create a cultural event that brings awareness to arts in our area. It was also a way to share my favorite local spots with people and get them out on an adventure. Here is what happened:


This was an amazing process.  The NWF Daily News became interested in it and wrote a nice piece about the project. This helped bring more awareness and got more people involved. Everyone who I spoke with about it said they really enjoyed the hunt, even if they were not the first to find the piece, and many people found out about new places in their home town.  On the final day of the project which was also the opening reception of “No Fear of Depth” as I was hiding the 12 Random Act of Beauty I realized that unconsciously celebrated the 12 Days of Christmas. What a happy accident! Its is moments like that I am truly thankful for the arts.

If you enjoyed this project and would like to see more like it in the future, please consider supporting me with a donation.  You can donate online through Paypal or by sending a check to Full Circle Gallery 29 B Eglin Pkwy FWB, FL 32548. Supporting my work in this way will allow me to do more community oriented projects in the future. Thanks in advance!



Tree of Life Dinner Set: How a Seed of Inspiration Grew To Something More

Tree of Life Dinner Set

The original “Tree of Life” dinner set was inspired by my love of nature and my good friend, Jennifer. This set has not only been very fun to make, but also quite popular. With this set I had only been using black slip, which creates an image that is blackish-blue and white. A few weeks ago I was asked by a customer, through my Etsy Shop, if I could make a set in spring green.  I liked the idea so much I immediately mixed up a few new shades of green. I love this kind of inspirational collaboration with our customers, and the creations that come from it!  So, from that seed of inspiration grew the “Tree of Life” in spring green.  Now I’ll give you an insider’s look into how these pieces are created.

For each plate I start with a 3lb ball of clay. For pieces that I’m going to carve I like “Love Stone” mixed by Alligator Clay, in Louisianian. It has almost no grog, so it’s smooth to throw and very easy to carve.

Centering clay on the potters wheel.

First, I must get the clay centered on the wheel. This is the most important part and I equate it to tuning an instrument.  Just like if your instrument is not tuned properly you cannot play beautiful music, if your clay is not centered you cannot make beautiful pots.

Centered low and starting to open down.

I center the clay low and then begin to open down.  Once it is open and beginning to look like a plate, I use a flat rib to compress the bottom. This technique insures that the eating surface is nice and flat. It also compresses the clay and helps to ensure that the bottom does not crack while drying.


Next, I pull up the wall.  This will eventually become the edge of the plate.


The final step in the throwing process is to create the rim of the plate. I pull the wall out and then down to get my final plate shape and voila!


Before I remove the plate from the wheel I apply the first coat of colored slip. I like to do this while the piece is still on the wheel so I can spin it while applying the slip.  I find that this method gives me a nice and even coat.


Now that all four plates are made I need to let them dry slowly until they become leather hard.


Once they have dried  to a leather hard I can begin to design them. I create the tree image on the surface of each piece using a carving process called Sgraffito. I like to sketch my design on the piece with pencil first, though.  The pencil is great to figure out where I want to place the image. Then, I can easily remove any marks I don’t want with a damp sponge.  Also, any excess graphite will burn out in the kiln when the piece is bisque fired.


Now that I have sketched my design I can finally start carving, my favorite part!


Once the carving is finished I load the piece in the bisque kiln to ^06 for the first firing . For the final step, I apply a clear coat of glaze and glaze fire the piece to ^6. After the final firing, this is our finished product:


Now this plate is done and ready for meals with friends, family and more!

You can find these plates and more of Mercedes’ creations on her Etsy shop www.etsy.com/shop/fullcirclegalleryfwb.




A encaustic session with artist Denielle Harmon

Transcending Decay, encaustic paintings by Denielle Harmon, will be on exhibit at Full Circle Gallery March 30 – May 13, 2012. The opening reception is Friday, March 30, from 6:00-9:00PM.

In early February, artist Denielle Harmon invited me to her studio for an introduction to her newest series of encaustic paintings titled “Transcending Decay.” Denielle best summed up her own collection by saying, “Everything changes, everything becomes decayed. As an artist I want to elevate what others see as decay and use it as a metaphor to show there is a choice in the way we evaluate an experience and choose to fall apart or move past the pain to transcend and turn ourselves into something more amazing .”

As I looked around the studio, Denielle’s process began to emerge. On the porch was a container of rusty nails and bolts, two pieces of plywood, and a large roll of sheetrock tape. Harmon explained how she takes a strip of sheetrock tape, puts it on a piece of plywood then lays the rusty nails and bolts carefully onto the strips of tape, creating a “rust print.” Once all elements are where she wants them, Denielle sprays down the entire piece with a salt water mixture and covers it with the second piece of plywood. The creation is then left to cure for 24 hours.

Finished rust prints are incorporated into her encaustic composition. Some of Denielle’s pieces have components that are sewn together while others are rust prints with layers of wax and rusted objects embedded into them. I watched as she worked on the final stages of a piece, removing the unwanted wax with heat and scraping. It looked like great fun and I was excited to jump in and get creative. It only took a short time for me to realize scraping the wax required a lot of strength and patience. Denielle definitely made it look effortless, but as I always say art is work.

Here is more from my discussion with Denielle Harmon:

Why do you create?

Denielle: “Because I cannot not create. It allows me to process myself and the world around me in a non-verbal way”.

What is your new work about and how does it tie into your past work, which was more focused on realism and the figure?

Denielle: “My past work was about understanding the human experience, about our pleasure and pain. It examined the truth that the more you love the more it has the ability to hurt. This new work is about transcending the human experience. It is about the emotional process of growth and how it takes place in people and in the materials that surround us every day.”

What made you want to switch medium from acrylic to encaustic?

Denielle: “I have wanted to work in encaustic for a while. I got a chance to take a workshop at Studio B this year and that allowed me to grow into the new medium. For some time I wanted to find a way to create dimension and depth in a medium. Encaustic seems like that bridge between sculpture and painting. I am also really interested in using rust as a symbol of transition. The encaustic medium allows me to embed rust prints or actual pieces of rusted material into my paintings. I can build up and break down the surface of the painting like we build up an break down the lairs of ourselves.”

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Denielle: “Being awake.” The answer made both of us laugh. She continued by saying, “My work is a constant exploration to understand the human condition, life cycles and the collective consciousness. In this new body of work rust has been very inspiring. For me rust has both a literal and figurative meaning. Every experience is a transcendental move. Something we may see as negative or painful may someday be the thing that transforms our thinking or self into something new and positive. When most people look at rust they see decay and breakdown, something undesirable, and through this body of work I am trying to help people see how decomposition is just a shift to a new part of the life cycle; a transformation into something that is possibly more beautiful.”

Carving Clay in Monochrome

While preparing for “Holiday Anthology” at the Full Circle Gallery, I decided to create a collection of plates and vases using a technique called Sgraffito – carving layers of colored slip from green ware to create images and designs.

The process begins by throwing clay forms which become my canvas for sgraffito.

After the pieces are thrown, they are removed from the wheel and set aside for drying and trimming.  Once trimmed, the pieces are painted with the black slip and ready to be carved.

At this point, I decide on images to carve into the pieces.  Choosing imagery requires some sketching and basic geometry.  The slip can be sketched on with graphite which will burn off once it is in the kiln.  People often ask me how I decide on the subjects for my pieces.  I primarily use the female form, spirals, waves, trees, stars, celestial bodies, feathers and birds.  I roll these images around in my mind and come up with different ways to incorporate them into the pieces.  The underlying geometry in these pieces makes that process even more intriguing for me because there is already a structure to work with.  It is almost like the patterns are there waiting for me to find them in the surface of the clay.




Each piece is carved with its own design.  After I finish carving  the pieces they are bisque fired.  Finally, a glaze is applied.  This is when I decide on color or lack thereof; blue, green, or black and white.  Creating this body of work has once again allowed me to concentrate on the form and image of the pieces.  In my constant search for color I ironically found myself back in the realm of black and white. Again leaving me to question where color comes into my work.

A Session in Painter Justin Lyons’ Studio

“Wake up, open your eyes and heart, throw away your manual and live your life”.

When artist Justin Lyons and I sat down for our painting session these are the words he said to me.  As I looked around his crazy colorful studio we chatted about his process and his inspiration.  I wanted to find out more about how he creates, take a peek at the pieces for his upcoming exhibit “OBJECT-ion” at the Full Circle Gallery, and I wanted to gain more insight about his approach to color. 

The questions:

Why do you create? Justin: “To release stress, work through ideas, figure things out but mostly I use painting as my microphone.”

What is your work about?    

Justin: “I have always wondered why I think certain ways about profiles and stereotypes.  Where I got ideas about the good and bad; how I got programmed?  Where is the programming coming from?  That is what my work is about getting at the programming.  Throwing away the manual, getting people to open the doors in their minds and question the experience.”

What about the imagery and symbolism in your work?                                        Justin: “When you see something attractive you have that initial peripheral experience, and maybe if the object or person is very attractive a little endorphin rush.  The feeling of wanting something.  That is the vibe I try to evoke in people.  I like to draw the viewer in with a childish feel of wanting, with  a safe candy coated look to the work, and once they begin to bite, chew and digest it they see that maybe there’s some meat to it as well.”

Where do you find inspiration?                                                                            Justin: “I find a word or phrase or idea and I pick at it.”                                    As I watched his process this is exactly what he did.  He would draw little doodles and sketches, paint over them, paint around them, then write a phrase to the side.  He also did a lot of sitting, looking and wondering back and forth.  At one point I found him in the yard sanding a ding out of his surfboard.  “Multitasking” he says is his is inspiration and process.

I wanted to know more about his palette.  As you can see from his studio there is color everywhere.   Justin explained that his choice of color is intuitive.  He prefers to use shades and hues of colors over dominating his pieces with primary colors.
When he puts the paint on the canvas he uses colors he knows he is going to like and if he doesn’t like it he just paints over it.  That is what I really enjoyed about this experience and getting to paint with Justin.  His studio is truly a space with no in the lines, no boundaries, no rules and definitely no manual!

P.S Thanks Melissa Salter from My Visual Creation for the amazing pictures!

Sol Davis inspires me to taking a closer look at color….

Working with artist Sol Davis on the “Reikan” exhibit has really got me thinking about color.  The subject matter we chose to concentrate on is one that I am very close to.  I find it very visually integrating and full of wonder.  After looking at the work for an extended period of time installed in the Full Circle Gallery I realize it is Sol’s color that really keeps my attention.  His pieces are so bright and vibrate.  The color evokes a scene of awe and wonder.  This feeling I get when I look at these colors and his ability to manipulate a color palette really make my my visual mind start ticking.  How do I, as an artist, approach color?

On more than one occasion since I opened the Full Circle Gallery I have been faced with the challenge of creating a color  palette for something or another. In these situations I found myself saying “I am not a colorist”.  As a potter I have spent years developing my forms, though the color is important, for me form has always come first.  After putting the “Reikan” exhibit together with Sol Davis I have decides to take a deeper look at what color means to me as a potter and an artist.

A Big Thanks

I want to take a moment to send a big thanks to everyone who helped out with the creation of the SOS Security Blanket and the reception on Friday, April 22, 2011.  This project could never happen with out the support of the community and all of you.  So here we go…Thanks Katie Grant from Snap Candy, your photos of the blanket are amazing and have been very helpful in the promotion of the project.  Thank you Holly Bain from ASAP Graphics for printing everything so quickly.  Thanks to April Wade and the gang at Anchor Screen Printing for all your help all the time.  Amy Likins of Cafe Organic for all the tasty treats from the Emerald Coast Organic Co-op and the good wine from Carolina Cigars on the Coast, thank you.

I greatly appreciate Laurel Siwicki’s artistic input and the invitation to speak to the students’ of Crestveiw High School.  Magdalena Bankovicova for the suggestion to hang the blanket from the ceiling, not on the wall.  Angel Agagas, Perri Panella, Jennifer Diaz, Neslihan Celik George thank you so much for keeping me inline and truly keep the Full Circle Gallery on track.   James Thomin for his continued support and encouragement with my endeavors.  I could not do it without you.   And finally everyone who created a square, the SOS Security Blanket would not exist with out you.

This project is a success and will continue to be because of all of you!  Please continue to spread the word about the blanket.  Let people know they can continue creating squares for at least two more years and if they want to do more they can make a secure donation here.    Thank you for helping me make the SOS Security Blanket a reality and for helping express the need for better uses for petroleum.  It is an amazing feeling to make art that makes a difference!

The Next Phase of the SOS Security Blanket

Tuesday was the year anniversary of the BP oil spill and Friday is the reception for the SOS Security Blanket.  In this time of reflection, it is interesting to see the blanket all put together, with over 300 squares created by people from all over the country.  Each square a vote for better uses for petroleum.  Its presence is very intense displayed this way.  It really shows our waste and excess in a fun and non-abrasive way.

Surprisingly it has been very inspiring and exciting working with these recycled materials.  When I originally started developing the concepts for this piece I did not think I would enjoy working with garbage.  Now nine months later I have developed the PAC Apparel line and am finding more and more ways to incorporate what would have been garbage into my art work.  Below are some of the PAC Apparel pieces.

Adventure in a Scrap Yard

As I continue work on my PAC Apparel line I am discovering more and more exciting recycled materials to work with.  This week I went to the scrap yard to get seat belts out of old wrecked cars.  It was an interesting adventure, all of the broken discarded shells of cars stack precariously around the yard.  I felt like I was on a scavenger hunt looking for seat belt treasures.

Below are the seat belts I found with some recycled tarps set to me from Twin Oaks Farm.  If you have any fun plastics you would like me to upcycle please bring them by the Full Circle Gallery.

Making Some Bowls

I sat down at the wheel to throw some large bowl forms.  You can see the mound of clay waiting there to become a beautiful bowl.  I had not thrown bowls over 4lbs in about a year so I started small with 12lbs to find my rhythm.

The first two had a bit of a wobble to them.  As I got into my groove the clay moved more fluidly.  After finishing the fourth 12lb bowl I decided to try a 25lber.  I put the whole block of clay down, got it centered and pulled the bowl.  It was not quite twice as big as the other four bowls, but it is significantly larger. 

I altered the rim of two of the bowls to give them an organic, floral look.