Handmade leather wallets video

I have added a new video to my YouTube channel, presenting some of the latest products in my Etsy shop's "leather" section. These are entirely handmade wallets with tooled decoration, consisting of skulls, hooded or not, and ancient symbols such as the Dacian war standard, the so-called "draco".
Check them out for more details at Ana Maria Gruia ART
Or see my previous posts presenting the wallets in more detail, HERE and HERE.


"Night in the city" lincocut

"Night in the city" is inspired by my delicious trip to Torun, in Poland, depicting part of a street front from the town center. The linocut plate has been carved in 2011 and was used in the making of a graphic works series part of an exhibition I had that year in Cluj. This individual plate though, through its format and decorative effect, has been subsequently used for independent print, such as this one, dated 2014, made with bright green oil typographic ink.

For more on the sources of inspiration of works of the "About Toruń, gingerbread, and Copernicus" exhibition, see the "about Torun" video I made about it! 


Non-kitschy diamonds

I've always hated the "diamonds are a girl's best friends" line. It is hard not to find diamonds kitschy after that, and yet, here they are, in my latest Etsy treasury dedicated to raw diamond jewelry pieces, diamond-shaped tattoos, antique prints of diamond cuts, and concrete planters and pendants, playing with the nice contrast between the perfect diamond shape and the raw quality of concrete.



Experimenting with gold leaf

Adding gold leaf to paintings is much like including writing: it can be easily overdone, turning an extra decorative effect into the main impression and thus ruining the work. It naturally presents the advantage of its high associations, probably started from the gilded icons and religious works of art of the medieval period, adding symbolic value if nothing else (as the actual foil is rather inexpensive). 
I have tried out some new ways of applying gold foil. The first idea was to create a king of network to unify the composition, but it proved too much and a bit too Baroque (as all associations of white and gold in my mind :) The overall impression of the collage (lino prints, acrylic painting) is of too many elements in too small a space.

These first two works are inspired by the medievalish architecture of Transylvania, namely the Mathias Corvinus House in Cluj-Napoca (above) and the old city tower and typical eyed roofs of Sibiu (below).

The second attempt envisages the use of gold foil lines against a dark background. The abstract composition is not so much according to my style, but the desired effect is interesting: the small detail of gold leaf drawing, continuing the small row of linoprinted houses, the continuation of the arch in the center of the painting, even the signature might not be that bad. I've decided to name this third work "The Alchemist's Midnight Dance", though it is just made using elements from previous projects: alchemical symbols, the Happy Houses, and an older lino scene with the Virgin's Presentation to the Temple [read about this iconographic type HERE].



New draco linocut project

Today's work has been dedicated to yet another linocut project, again inspired by the ancient Dacian civilization, i.e. their war standard the mythical dragon - half wolf, half dragon or serpent. On Trajan's Column the draco is seen as a wind sleeve, so I have attempted to render it similarly, though a bit more ferocious.

This is an approximation of the final composition. The work should be a collage, with three linocut prints onto canvas, the background with gold leaf. Canvas size 20x20cm.

The tricky part naturally consisted of the left-right flip and the details (teeth). My solution was to break off the drawing into smaller geometric shapes and straight lines, doing the same with the contours (aka the lino board). As the canvas is square, I thought to balance the general composition with two vertical decorative strips.
See my previous draco linocuts and collages for Atelierul de istorie HERE.For the golden background effect, see this painting HERE.

Ancient Reenactment Festival in Zalau/Porolissum

The annual Porolissum Fest is to be held this year on the 2nd and 3rd of July in the traditional location of Moigrad, in front and inside the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Porolissum [not far from Zalau, Transylvania]. The 2016 edition, the sixth, hopes to rally more people at the event and thus stresses a cooking contest and evening music concerts, but we all know it is about reenactment while baking in the sun. As befits true reenactors. Join us [aka VIRTUS ANTIQUA] next weekend in Zalau and check our Facebook event for more info and photos from past editions!


Hand tooled leather wallet with hooded skull

My Etsy Shop has just been upgraded with this new leather wallet. Continuing the series of skull wallets, intended as gifts for men, this item depicts a hooded skull. It is entirely handmade, as no machines were used throughout the production process: leather cutting, model transfer, incision, tooling / carving, dying, sealing, sewing, and finishing. For more photos and insight stories from the workshop, check our specialized Facebook page, Piele sculptata.



Tutorial - asymmetrical houses leather earings

I had fun with another series of playful leather earrings. After attempting several complicated solutions, I returned to the basics: combinations of colors and textures, asymmetrical shapes, and overlapping. The design starts with several simple shapes, drawn on cardboard and then cut to be used as templates:

The house shapes are then drawn around the templates on leather (on the back side, naturally) and cut with a simple scissors. The combinations of leather shapes is all the fun - changing things, avoiding monotony, obtaining special effects through imperfections and the thickness/texture of the different types of leather employed (suede, glazed leather, usual kinds). The asymmetry of the earrings is not only meant "inside" one piece, but also in the combination of the pair (see below):

The closing system adds to the overall decorative effect, as it consists of a small bronze clasp (with teeth, securing the pieces of leather together) with the surface decorated with equidistant punches.
See also my older post on DIY leather projects HERE.


Epicness with VIRTVS ANTIQVA

My reenactment group, VIRTVS ANTIQVA, has produced a brand new recruiting video for its gladiatorial school. Open positions: gladiator (starting from candidate level, tiro), slave, libertus/a, priest/priestess, matron, dancer/acrobat, Furies/Erinyes. Who wants in?
Advantages: free weekends, driving license and car, location in/near Cluj-Napoca, Romania, sports, imagination and patience.

Here is also our older recruitment poster, that has also worked pretty well:


Hand tooled leather wallet with skull

The most recent listing in my Etsy shop is a fully handmade leather walled with a tooled skull. The item is made of high quality Veg-tanned leather - outside: 1.6-2.0 mm (4 to 5 oz) single bend European hide, inside: 1 mm (2.5 oz) calf hide. It is completely hand made (no machines were used). The leather has been hand dyed and protected with several layers of acrylic finish and the edges are nicely polished and waxed.



My books and articles on ACADEMIA.EDU

I just wanted to share my academic profile as well, for those of you who want to get into more details on some of the topics that I have approached here as well. My profile on the excellent Academia.edu, which I recommend all authors to join as it is makes a treasure of sources available from peers, is well stocked with copies of the materials I have published overt the years. Some of the book only have the contents, as expected, but for most other I have tried to add copies and make them available online. So if you are interested in medieval and early modern stove tiles, the history of smoking, the history of wunderkammers / kunstkammerns, medieval material culture, and iconography, here is the place to explore: https://ceu.academia.edu/AnaMariaGruia 


The first day

Back to some reenactment to let you know that tomorrow, June 18th, Camp Virtus will be open for the first time to the general public. After several successful projects with pupils and before the unofficial opening ceremony, we will be present at Salicea, near Cluj, to welcome all visitors who desire to visit our reenactment park and experience history hands-on.
For more details check the website event or the Facebook one.
And in Romanian about how to plan your visit.



Leather Tray Etsy treasury

Starting from my previous post, I turned to searching for leather trays on Etsy. The best are selected for my latest treasury. Naturally, this not purely devoid of personal interest, as I am thinking of making some myself. So, as usual, Etsy treasures provide a source of inspiration. I have selected here trays and bowls that do not require stitching, as I find this among the more difficult operations in leather working.


Leather DIY projects

I've compiled of list of indestructible that I find useful or good sources of inspiration for leather projects. There are naturally, many more available online, but some are silly and other far too complicated, requiring specialized tools and a lot of know-how. This is a bit of middle ground.
Below are some of my own projects, i.e. earrings which I find very effective (light, warm, and comfortable to wear), easy to make and granting interesting aesthetic effects. See the following previous posts here:
- round earrings with accessories
- coral shaped leather earrings
- leaf -shaped earrings
- DIY leather earrings



Round leather earrings

Last weekend I experimented complicated leather accessory designs, human masks, three-part Ionic column pendants and other ideas. They proves just that: too complicated to be cool. So I turned to a very simple solution: round earrings with accessories. Each item consists of two leather circles in assorted colors (using as pattern two of the most common Romanian coins) and some recycled glass, sand beads, or bronze decorative elements (leaves). See how you like them and feel free to try.
Or check them out, with full descriptions in Romanian, on my website, Atelierul de istorie

variants of color and accessories

brown and grey + three leaves

white and grey and black sand bead

black and white and bronze leaf

tones of black and bronze leaf

black and grey and recycled white glass beads

white and grey and turquoise glass beads

brown and red and red glass beads


Hybrids and monsters

Art and culture are full of hybrids and monsters, beasts, and mixed creatures, marking people's fear and curiosity towards the boundaries of their own kind. One is familiar with the classical ones, such as sphinxes, centaurs, and sirens, but contemporary culture and popular culture still come up with new ones, more disturbing and contorted. One of my oldest Etsy treasuries [Hybrid creatures] tackles just the topic, though I could not find that many examples that I like...
Here is a good article on the topic: A Brief History of Monsters


Sheep and the Roman garden

Camp Virtus, the reenactment park in the making near Cluj (Romania), faces a tricky problem: sheep. Their presence was first noted when all the ivy planted along the fence has been completely eaten by the next morning. Traces of wool have then showed that the young shepherds do everything in their power (ruin the barbed wire fence and the gate) to get the sheep inside the camp. This proves very difficult for the planner Roman Garden, which now has to be fully enclosed with a wattle fence. While this enclosure is being made, through copious work and sweating, the Roman plants grow in exile, on my balcony: mustard (just producing hairy pods), sage, coriander (with a rather unpleasant taste), laurel, and ivy. Just hope they will adorn the actual garden, soon!
the garden
mustard pods






The transformations of a mercury jar

It all started with a pair of beautiful, hand-painted eighteenth-century apothecary glass jars from the Pharmacy Museum in Cluj. The items were once used in the "Red Crab" Apothecary Shop from Bratislava, hence the red crab depicted on top of the signatures that read "Mercurius niger mosc[at]" and "Mercurius Phoshpor[ic]." In the Early Modern period many mercury preparations were actual used as medicine, though toxic in higher concentrations and/or dosage. The jars are included in the temporary exhibition on show, The History of Poison.

Working with the items I felt inspired and prepared a large linocut depicting historical apothecary jars, among which one of the jars in question. The signatures proved rather tricky, as due to the printing itself, left and right become reversed, so inscriptions have to be rendered flipped horizontally (a usual procedure is to draw looking at the model through a mirror, though my hemispheres seem to get too much confused and I simply transfer such elements). The full work is available in my Etsy shop.
Mirrored drawing of the signatures
Detail of the linoleum plate
Detail of the printed linocut


Architectural linos

I believe lino is a great medium for architectural topics, with its "encouragement" of straight lines and perspective effects. My latest Etsy treasury reunites several examples that I like, see the collage in the first photo, while the second photo renders the "linocut" section of my own Etsy shop Ana-Maria Gruia ART.


The eye of the beholder

These are two early paintings of mine that I always smile to look at due to the interpretations they have received. The works, variants of the same topic, are entitled "Jesus and Pilate" (Christ's Judgement), as were made during my religious iconography phase (research for my PhD). A friend of mine, a perfect atheist, when asked to guess the subject matter, declared that he saw "two men, one in a very ugly sweater". It is all in the eyes of the beholder...