Reliquary Class at Ulla Milbrath's Studio!

This past weekend I took a class taught by the talented artist extraordinaire Ulla Milbrath, whom I met taking classes at Castle in the Air. Ulla teaches regularly at the Castle in the Air and also at her incredibly inspiring home studio, filled to the brim with handcrafted projects and antiques of all kinds.

I was inspired a few years ago by the reliquaries I saw on her blog after googling 'reliquaries'. I found these amazing pieces Ulla made, and discovered, even better, that she sells them at the Castle in the Air and other places, AND...she teaches classes in how to MAKE THEM.

She finally offered a class that fit with my too busy schedule, this past weekend. I couldn't wait! What a treat it was! Ulla taught me how to make each one completely from scratch using illustration board, mica, pieces of my own art, hand dyed ribbon, and - a new skill - soldering the pieces together. If you aren't familiar with a soldering iron it's like this: a very hot iron, who's tip is as hot as volcano, which you use to melt pieces of metal wire, which you then manipulate into pools of molten hotness and try not to spill on either your hands, clothing or art piece. How thrillingly DANGEROUS!

Details below each piece:

"Luna, Reliquary portrait"

Luna is a painting I did a few months ago and sold as a print at the APE festival. For this application, I printed her out on heavy stock and cut carefully with an xacto knife around the edges. The original has fairy wings and extends to a partial view of her torso, but since this is a small piece, I sacrificed those areas for the reliquary (Perhaps sometime it would be cool to try making another one with real cicadia wings!). The cut out illustration is sitting on top of a blue fabric I lightly dusted in clear glitter and on top of that a few pieces of luscious moss. Tucked in between the moss and Luna are a few vintage flowers and a few pieces of dried baby's breath. The outside is soldered metal, which attaches the mica covering.

Learning to solder the outside was a bit challenging and intimidating, but also dangerously FUN. I can see how it becomes addicting. Melted metal is so SAUCY! haha

"Daisy, Reliquary Portrait"

This is the very first piece I made, also using a painting I cut out and altered in order to fit the reliquary. It's still not quite working the way I want it to. But learning is all about making mistakes and trying new things. I hope to try alternate versions of this one too!

"Mossy, Reliquary Portrait"

The tiny painting of a woman inside this piece is something I painted a few years ago. Again, I cut her out very carefully, made the box, glued together...AND, for this one, cut some glass for the very first time to make the covering. Honestly, I am in awe of the vast knowledge Ulla has in all manner of techniques! This one is a bit bigger than the others, so I thought I'd show the context by photographing it in a few places. I left the edges un-soldered (is that a word?) because I like the way the copper tape works, but also because I plan to go back and tidy up the fabric edges and trim in the back.

Displayed next to my very small collection of Ephraim Faience hand made pottery and a pretty photo of my sister. :)

I am really excited about making more reliquaries. At the moment I don't own a soldering iron or other materials. The way I'm feeling is that the strongest one is the "Luna" portrait. I would like to try her with some cicadia wings. I also hope to make several more fairy portraits and reliquaries - maybe I'll even be able to finish some by WONDER CON! :)

Thank you so so much to my friend and inspiring artist Ulla Milbrath for spending an entire weekend teaching me the techniques involved. She worked really hard - I imagine it must be difficult to be teaching others while in your own studio, resisting the urge to make your own creations! I am deeply appreciative.