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The LairShops Beckon
Friday, 6 February 2009
The LithicLair: What Came Out of an Ex-Housemate's Burning Man Trade Beads
Mood:  don't ask
Now Playing: Starbucks' PA System
Topic: Individual LairShops

Where did the ornaments in The LithicLair come from exactly, LairCronies? 

I make these things out of Sculpey polymer clay: mixing different colors and shades (both for the ornament matrix and the colors used to fill in designs); rolling out batches onto the smooth side of a piece of artist's canvas; cutting them into quarter-inch-thick rounds with an old dental night-guard case; and etching Neolithic pottery motifs and Old European script characters into them with toothpicks, pencil tips and (for the really fine-pointed symbols) pins and needles.  No wonder I need bifocals.  Then, I bake these suckers, just like cookies, the first time, at about 325 Fahrenheit, for about 15 minutes.  After they harden from an initial rubbery consistency (if I don't die from the fumes first), I usually fill in the etched-out motifs with various bright and dark colors of the same brand of polymer clay which will hopefully show up against the ornamental matrix; then bake 'em again.  I like to call this "painting with clay."  I have yet to try Fimo or other brands of polymer clay; I guess my Sculpey bias is showing.

 My introduction to Sculpey came about sometime in the late '90's, when I still lived in a rooming house, shared with eight students and other folks, in Seattle's University District.  One summer, one of my housemates was a young bohemian chick with long hair done in a mass of dreadlocks and braids; I've long forgotten her name.  I found her sitting at our ramshackle little kitchen table one afternoon, twisting bits of polymer clay between her fingers and arranging them on a cookie sheet.  She explained that she was heading down to the Burning Man Festival pretty soon; and she was making these beads to trade for other stuff once she got down there.  She said she was using Sculpey polymer clay, and that it could be baked hard, once modeled, in a regular oven.  I soon began wondering what I could possibly make with this sort of material.  When I discovered and began tracing illustrations of Neolithic European decorated pottery, the swirling artistic designs I found therein spoke to me, and gave me an answer to this question.

I have been studying the ceramic art of Neolithic Europe for quite a few years since then, just on my own.  Are Cucuteni painted ceramics the coolest pottery you've ever seen, or what?  Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, I've seen many of the same motifs on Chinese ceramics from the same periods in prehistory.  Versions of them can also be found on Russian and Ukrainian Easter eggs, African wood carvings, and artifacts from many other cultures across continents and historic/prehistoric periods.

Which brings us to the LithicLair images.  My ornaments are each one of a kind; I'm not sure it's even possible to mass-produce these suckers.  When I make one, I start out intending the design to look a certain way; but I've found that this art tradition emphasizes dynamism and continuous motion for a reason.  As I'm working on a design, it seems to take on a life of its own, and comes out at the end of the process looking a good bit different than I intended it to look, though it's still a very nice result.  Anyway, I've been seeking to share these designs, and the Neolithic tradition that inspired them, with the world at large; hence the scanning of the ornaments themselves, and giving their images various backgrounds by way of Photoshop Elements.  For a while, I've been creating very synthetic, very "digital"-looking backgrounds; more recently, I've been experimenting with more naturalistic backgrounds constructed from images of stone walls, the trunks of trees, and such like.

Anyway, here are some of The LithicLair's products for your perusal, and hopefully purchase!  Click on the images below to travel on to their product pages:

 

NeoStag Black Teeshirt Neolithic Mandala Round Ornament GreenSpiral Tile Coaster Neolithic HandStrata Sweatshirt

New excavation by LairMistress at 9:26 PM PST
Updated: Saturday, 7 February 2009 4:48 PM PST
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