Tempe Festival of the Arts Awards, Fall 2017

The latest award ribbons are done and delivered! As I mentioned here, they are based on the collage/printmaking work of Erin Curry. Here’s the Festival poster image, a commissioned piece.

And here are the award ribbons I made in fiber applique, machine stitching, and hand-sewn beaded embroidery.

Materials include polyester felt, commercial printed cotton, digital print on fabric, gel transfers on fabric, polyester thread, polyester grosgrain ribbon ties, metal pin-backs, and glass beads. Signed on the backs: ‘Marian Crane 2017’

Added 12-13-2017: And one more 9×3″ Honorable Mention Award, because the art was so good the Festival judges gave out one more award.

New approaches for Blue Night

Hello, readers.

I will have some cool news for you on Saturday, September 30, 2017.

Not related directly to the Cool News, I’ll be making some changes to this blog over the next few weeks. There’s no absolute schedule for this, just as I have time and funding for the things I can’t do myself.

First, I need to change the old landing page from 2012, and update it with better visuals and links to my blog, art, and books.

Second, I’m going to add some affiliate sales links, if I can keep them low-key.

I’ve resisted allowing advertising on the Blue Night blog up to now, because I wasn’t happy with the old generation of affiliate programs. Newer ones seem a bit better and slightly less annoying, so I’ll give them a try.

Why am I doing this? Due to a catastrophic family illness, I have to spend less time out in the workforce and more time as an unpaid caretaker. This may or may not lead to more writing and art time.

For now, this silly blog has become an unexpected asset.

Even if only a few people who read posts or look at my Filigree’s Rule or Book Art pages click on an ad, those tiny ad-sales amounts can add up a substantial percentage of my lost W2 earnings. (I work in Arizona after all, where a $10 minimum wage was bitterly fought over for years.)

This could help replace lost income, help my family keep our house, and help my loved one through a difficult healing period.

I would not do this for any lesser reason, believe me.

Cygnet, by Patricia McKillip

This book (two books, actually) holds a wistful joy for me. The two stories woven within are pure McKillip at her best: lyrical, mystical, with down-to-earth protagonists and a way of bringing the eldritch in for tea.

I encountered the first book in 1992 at a World Fantasy Convention, and the second in the summer of 1995.

I can even narrow down the time: I was re-reading it while doing this needlepoint (inspired by both books), at the big splashy grand opening for an electronics store that is now Fry’s Electronics (the boring one in Tempe, not the MesoAmerican fantasy in North Phoenix, now famous from Mr. Robot.)

Even more than McKillip’s earlier Forgotten Beasts of Eld or her Riddlemaster trilogy, these two books probably pushed my writing in a certain direction.

Not that I will ever come close to these.

But if you haven’t read Cygnet, or any McKillip, this book is a damn good place to start.

What is the duology about?

‘The Sorceress and the Cygnet’ begins with Corleu, white-haired son of the dark, wandering Wayfolk. His people travel from land to land with the changing seasons, hiring for farm work and craftwork. But on one autumn journey to the warmer southern Delta, the Wayfolk are led astray by a clever, magical enemy…into a blissfully beautiful, evergreen, ever-warm, neverending version of the Delta lowlands and swamps.

All but Corleu, who inherited more than white hair from his unknown non-Wayfarer grandfather. Corleu, immune to the sorcery, is offered a way to free the Wayfarers: betray the hidden Sentinel that has protected all the lands from the chaotic magical beings he accidentally awakened.

‘The Cygnet and the Firebird’ weaves a story of the sorceress Nyx Ro, who helped Corleu free his people and re-imprison his adversaries. Dragged by Corleu from her weird swamp mansion, Nyx now bickers with her less-magical but more level-headed siblings, avoids enamored lordlings and the responsibilities of being a princess, and learns the secrets of a magical castle that can teleport wherever her mother wants.

Until a wounded firebird appears in front of her…and a brief moment, is a young man warning Nyx of a new threat. A tyrant sorcerer has discovered old magical pathways through time and space, and prepares his conquering armies to overwhelm Nyx’s people. But doors go both ways, so Nyx and her cousin Meguet follow the firebird home.

Why do I love these books? The writing is gorgeous, without some of the unfocused ornament of later McKillip works (which I never mind, but your mileage may vary).

The two women are heroes, without being the new ‘strong woman’ stereotype of one-dimensional badass, and sympathetically portrayed as they pit themselves against a new world and new enemies. Their male love interests are equally well-crafted: strong, determined, both loyal and secretive, they’re a perfect antidote to the toxic masculinity touted by alt-right fantasists of today.

McKillip set this story up with a wistful ending: Meguet chooses one old love while refusing a new one, and Nyx’s firebird prince is pulled back to his realm with his father’s defeat. There is the possibility of a sequel, but it looks like McKillip may have set it aside. Similar themes pop up in her 2004 book ‘Alphabet of Thorn’.


Some of you are probably asking: “Is there fanfiction?”

Yes. I haven’t waded deep enough into the search results to see all three pages, but Archiveofourown.org currently has 44 fanworks listed for Patricia McKillip books. On the first page, some are mediocre, some average, and some spectacular. As with most fanfiction, you’ll be able to separate them within a paragraph or two.

That catalog page is here.

First Look: Politics As Usual

I’ve had this piece of fiber book art in mind since 2011-2012. I’m glad I held off until now: even Mitt Romney’s version of the GOP has been eclipsed by the current crop of corrupt, venal, sanctimonious, and utterly incompetent politicians gracing the Republican Party. (And I say that as a former GOP member!)

‘Politics As Usual’ will combine beaded 18-count cross-stitch with applique patches and commercially-printed fabrics, to make an Abecedarium (ABC Book) using two political terms per alphabet letter on fabric pages. The binding will be a wood box-spine anchored by decorative red-white-and-blue glass beaded tassels. The covers will be woodburned poplar, tooled leather, fiber art, or some mix of those.

The current main word-pair lineup stands at: Alternative Facts / Agenda, Brink / Bipartisan, Constitution / Conflict, Dissent / Doublespeak, Ethics / Emolument, Fascist / Filibuster, Grassroots / Gerrymander, Hegemony / Humanist, Ideology / Impeach, Justice /  Jingo, Kleptocracy / Keynesian, Lobbyist / Loophole, Mandate / Midterm, Nationalism / Nihilism, Oligarchy / Opposition, Proxy / Pundit, Quota / Quorum, Resist / Racist, Spin / Suffrage, Theocracy / Tyranny, Unity / Useful Idiot, Vote / Veto, Wedge / Whistleblower, Xenophobia / X-Factor, Yellow Journalism / Yield, Zeitgeist, Zero Sum Game.

There may or may not be additional smaller-font words worked into the background, along with little topical motifs such as biohazard symbols, radiation symbols, the GOP Elephant, the DNC Donkey, mushroom clouds, dollar and pound signs, Resistance symbols, Trump’s hair, high-heeled shoes, palm trees, golf symbols, etc.

As befits a subversive embroidery sampler, it may or may not be housed in a repurposed cedarwood Bible box, depending on the final dimensions of the book.

It’s going to be a lot of fun to make.


Well, that worked

The first necklace with my mini-landscape pendants on stone. I might be playing with gold-filled chains for an even more (for me) minimal look. But for now, this will do.

Materials: black stone pendant, black polyester waxed cord, Toho glass seed beads, India lampworked glass beads, acrylic paint, bronze leaf, varnish.

Necklace adjustable from 15″ to 26″.

Painted rocks


A few months ago I scored some carved black stone pendants. A little research into painted shell and stone (resulting in a LOT of humility), I had a film hardener recipe for acrylic paint. And many ideas.

These are the first test batch with bronze leaf accents. Each is about one inch high. Once I decide how to string them, the finished necklaces will be for sale on my page at SaatchiArt and another platform.

I’ll do an Etsy Showcase soon on how the real professionals paint miniatures on stone and shell.

Cobalt Arc Necklace

Many years ago, a wonderful little bead shop called ‘Another Bead Please’ had some gorgeous pieces of multicolored cane glass beads on commission.

I was lucky enough to score two massive curved glass beads, each in two-tone triangular cane glass: one clear and teal, and this one in cobalt and clear glass.

Since I have a stash of glass beads, I was able to match the clear/cobalt with some great coin beads, some dark cobalt pony beads, and tassels with a scattering of cobalt and metallic bronze beads to pick up the copper glass highlights in the coin beads.

It’s strung on heavy duty waxed black polyester cord, and is adjustable from about 15″ to 20″ lengths.

It’s more minimal and modern than the bead work I usually do, but no less fun.

This piece will go up on SaatchiArt Online in the next couple of days.

Added 12-26-2016: It’s live at SaatchiArt now.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Seabird Necklace

This used to be a different necklace, but I sold one of the components separately a few years ago. A different chain, a little Deco style, and here’s a new necklace!

Materials: sterling silver, amethyst, ametrine, rutilated quartz, clear quartz (rock crystal), smoky quartz, labradorite, iolite.

Concept: in a layered 3D filigree oval, a cast silver bird flies over curling waves with a 2.5mm iolite bead hanging from its beak. Filigree scrollwork dangles accent faceted smoky quartz nuggets and a teardrop cabochon ametrine with a distressed mirror backing.

Chain: gemstone beads and filigree lilies, linked by wrapped silver wire.

Chain alone: 18″ Commercial toggle clasp.

My ‘MC’ insignia on the back.

Crane Artifacts, Handmade at Amazon

Well, it was several months in the making, but I’ve finally begun uploading artwork to Crane Artifacts, my sales portal at Handmade at Amazon!

Depending on this portal’s performance over the next six months, I’ll probably gradually be shifting a lot more art and jewelry to it and one more that I can’t wait to tell you folks about.

Why is Crane Artifacts on Amazon? Because SaatchiArt online is a great portal…for specific lines of contemporary art. I can paint (and enjoy painting) stuff that will better fit the Saatchi curators’ unspoken mandates, but just not right now. I’ve never been that in love with Etsy. Artfire and some of the other old art sites are plagued by scaling issues that are now driving many artisans away.

I will still be working with galleries and representative agents in book art projects, and with boutiques for limited wall art and jewelry.

But art, just like publishing, is opening wonderful, terrifying new frontiers for people willing to put in the work to self-publish and market their creations. Amazon is a huge platform with a lot to offer…at least for now.

Updated 9/27/2017: I’ve tabled my Amazon Handmade site for a while, and am now trying out Etsy.

My art on SaatchiArt online

I finally got the first eleven pieces uploaded to my little piece of SaatchiArt.com!

This batch includes glass micromosaics and beaded tapestries, but acrylic paintings and jewelry will follow soon.

The link: http://www.saatchiart.com/mariancranedesigns

Whether this portal produces sales or not, it’s a great display site for my older work…and hopefully a better venue for new pieces.

A Tolkien-inspired teaser:

Two Trees Tapestry

Coming soon: online direct art sales

Crane tapestry -- Aquifer

Over the next week or so, I’ll be finalizing the details on my shiny new sales portal at SaatchiArt.com online. Even though I’m already registered there, I’ve got a lot of background work left: choosing art, deciding whether to offer prints, verifying shipping weight and dimensions for each piece, researching market prices, etc.

Why Saatchi? I’ve been considering online sales platforms for almost a decade, and found problems with too many. Another artist recently referred me to Saatchi. The US-based, internationally-known fine-art sales platform has a fairly good reputation both among artists and buyers. Their commissions are reasonable, and their marketing and delivery terms seem solid. It’s definitely not Etsy! (Yes, I was aware of certain legal issues before I joined.)

This is very like self-publishing: it could be a great new adventure, it could amount to absolutely nothing, or (as I suspect) it could be a modest new income source and another online portal to showcase my 30+ years of art design and creation. I’m cautiously optimistic. Not only does this give me a chance to regain some storage space (big paintings eat garages!), I have a venue for art styles I’ve always wanted to try but never had any luck in the local gallery scene or with existing art publishers.

What will be available? Surreal, fantasy, and semi-abstract acrylic paintings on wood, cotton canvas, and linen, ranging from 4″ x 4″ to 60″ x 24″ x 3″. Beaded and embroidered tapestries including ‘Aquifer’ above. Glass mini-mosaics of landscapes and still-life scenes, some bordered with glass bead mosaic frames. Some paintings will be offered un-stretched and rolled, some will be stretched and wall-ready. Tapestries and mosaics will be ready to display with hanging hardware attached.

When I’m ready, I’ll post the notification link here, as well as in the Art section of my Author Notes.


My art for sale online

Like many writers, I do lots of other creative things.

I’m a gluten-free cook always looking for the best and most affordable ingredients (there will be posts on that later, I promise). I’m a costume and props maker. As a fiber artist, I’m under contract to provide award ribbons for a major twice-yearly regional art fair. I use bits of a bead collection gathered over 32 years to make interesting bead-woven and sterling silver jewelry, some of which has shown up in national exhibits and magazines. I’m a recognized and studied book artist, with works cited in WorldCat.org and carried by over ten university special collections libraries.

wax flowers for blogAnd for the last 17 years, off and on, I’ve been a commercial and fine artist working in the home-decor trade. I studied, worked, and designed with one of the strongest companies in the business. I’m still amazed that they paid me to learn artistic tips and tricks that I would probably never have seen at a traditional art school. I branched off to do freelance and gallery work of my own. I know how to make acrylic paint and gels mimic everything from oil paint, to watercolor, to wax encaustic – and much more.

Trade Winds 1 for blogI tool copper and brass sheets with intricate designs, and use acrylics to apply faux patinas for contrast.

Storm Study 1 and 2 for blogSince 2006, I’ve been developing an environmentally-safe method for reproducing the look of some cast glass at a fraction of the cost. My work has been shown in local and regional galleries, and to-the-trade showrooms.

Unlike a lot of commercial decor artists who focus on ‘big art for big houses’, I go the opposite route. Most of my pieces are under 12″ x 12″. Though I have some larger pieces planned or in inventory, I like smaller art – it’s more affordable for me and my clients. Easier to make, store, and ship. Much easier to show, either by the single piece or as a group. It also invites longer scrutiny, as viewers come close enough to get lost in the details.

Sonoran Postcard for blogSince much of it right now is Southwest-themed, it makes great impulse buys, suitcase stuffers, and life-celebration gifts for SW visitors. I certainly plan to branch out to other regional landscapes and themes, as well as abstract pieces.

Not all of it is online, but you can check out my available work here.

– Crane Hana