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CRAFTS : A Nutritious Breakfast and Other Sources of Inspiration

August 19, 1993|ZAN DUBIN | Zan Dubin covers the arts for The Times Orange County Edition.

Vesta Ward had cantaloupe and inspiration for breakfast the other day.

Munching on the delectable fruit, the jewelry maker admired the texture of its rough rind, which, she realized, could be re-created in cast silver to use as embellishment for a brooch. Voila ! The morning meal had brought a bright idea.

Psychologists still can't fully explain the creative process, but such craftspeople as Ward can often identify the source of ideas for projects or designs. Their recollections can help those who have difficulty dreaming up the next shape, theme or color scheme.

Ward, an Orange resident whose jewelry often has an organic feel, finds countless clues in nature.

"The way water flows over rocks, the way leaves move in the wind, the way branches grow, all of these suggest dynamic movement" that can be replicated in craft design, she said. "I frequently cast the calix of a persimmon, which has a beautiful shape, almost like a four-leaf clover."

Sandy Noborikawa of Lake Forest makes "fiber-wrapped pieces"--necklaces and other personal adornments she creates with colorful fibers. She gets many ideas from Ornament magazine, which has articles on jewelry, fiber arts and other crafts.

"Often I'll see something made of totally different media (than I work with), like glass or metal, but the shape or something about the design appeals to me, so I translate that into fibers," she said.

Jeweler Tom Nelson, a UC Irvine professor emeritus of pediatrics, has picked up ideas on his travels. Repeated visits to an exhibit of Japanese kimonos at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art inspired a series of silver pins he made in the shape of kimonos. A trip to an Okinawa fish market resulted in fish pins.

When a pediatric cardiologist friend commissioned "something that would fit" the friend's persona, Nelson devised a Fimo clay and silver bolo tie ornament in the shape of an "anatomically correct miniature heart."

The intricate ornament also included a stethoscope and a tiny electrocardiogram chart with a flat reading.

"Not every cardiologist is perfect," Nelson quipped.

Pat Jones, a Laguna Beach ceramist, says that materials can dictate the direction a project takes, or its use.

Jones created a finish for a series of ceramic bowls by imprinting bits of lace into wet clay. The resulting texture looked so much like fabric that she decided to mold the bowls to look like berets or tams. In another instance, a glaze she gave to a wide-mouthed porcelain bowl produced such a vivid turquoise blue that she made the object into a home for swimming things.

"When the bowl came out of the kiln, I was struck by the thought of putting water in it and making it a fishbowl because the color was so remarkably like Caribbean seawater," she said.

Ward, who teaches jewelry making around the county, has had similar experiences.

"Frequently in creating designs, I start in one direction and then pretty soon the material takes over and I go into sort of an alpha state and let it flow, and I come up with something very interesting and totally surprising to me.

"Forty years ago," she said, "I read in the foreword to an art book that everything is derivative . . . that we are influenced by all that we see and all that we do. I believe that that's true."

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