Artists Crush: The Art and Science of Wondrous Strange Designs

Wonderous Strange- Where science meets art. For example, this one, called “Nautical Deep Sea Gamochonia the Octopus Raku Pendant.” I see a perfectly happy cephlapod, curling up for day-slumber, [(v.) as in coiling movement ;)], only to be suddenly fossilized, and now on its way to Aristotle’s lab for observation. What gorgeous anatomy!
How did she do it …?! Wait, where are we…? A natural history museum?

The piece that first drew me in~ to the curious world of Wondrous Strange curiosities on Etsy, was this-

deep sea gamochonia the octopus raku pendant

Called “Nautical Deep Sea Gamochonia the Octopus Raku Pendant.”   I see a perfectly happy cephlapod, curling up for day-slumber, [(v.) as in coiling movement ;)], only to be suddenly fossilized, and now on its way to Aristotle’s lab for observation. What gorgeous anatomy!

How did she do it?!    Wait, where are we…?    A natural history museum?

wondrous Egypian collar

wondrousStrgn Collage

…A cabinet of curiosities?


…dreaming in desert canyons… or walking through old tobacco plantations of the deep  south?

wondrous-tobacco leaf barn

Artist, photographer “D” of Wondrous Strange Designs, kindly answered a few questions I had about her clay Raku firing process and source of inspirations:

What exactly is the Raku firing process that you use for your pendants and beads?

D: Clay pieces have one firing first, called bisque with no glaze. Then another firing with the raku glaze. They are fired to 1860 degrees, and taken at that temperature and transferred to a galvanized can that is filled with paper or sawdust or what ever I can find to flame up. A top is immediately placed on the can to starve the inside of oxygen. It is then that the great colors come out. I have to wait about fifteen minuets before opening. The colors are even more vivid before I bring them out and still hot enough to burn wood. They are then plunged into cold water to stop the colors from changing. As you can imagine, a lot of pieces will explode.

It is a harsh process to the clay, a dangerous one for the potter:) I have to keep my wits about me so as not to get burned. I once singed my eyelashes off 🙂 Better bet I started using my goggles again:). I wear a mask, high temp gloves and goggles.

What is your inspiration behind the new Chaco canyon series?  They look like old fossils, but are deeply familiar and current in their patterns and colors .
D: A horseback ride in Colorado’s Garden of the Gods and day visit to their Dinosaur Museum when I was younger forever staked a claim in my imagination.  But for design specifics, at first I was drawn to the geometric designs in aerial photographs of the Chaco Canyon complex. The textures and the light play from their dark round kivas to linear sun lit rock walls. These ancient ruins just speak to me.  While working on textures from the aerial view, the basic rock textures were easier to achieve.


The medium I work in mostly is Raku glazed clay and the deeper the texture, the more brilliant the color results.  I use natural materials for textures in the clay.

chaco WonderousSTrange Collage

Rock, bone, shell are impressed and organic shapes added for interest. I have a few fossils in my collection that I have made molds of.  Put it all together and the design just happens. I try not to think about what I am doing and let each piece claim its own space in the real world.

It really does seem like you are re-introducing wonder to the natural world’s cabinet of curiosities. 🙂 anything you want to add?

D: I love how you put that! My house is a kind of Cabinet of Curiosities…dedicated to feeding my creative spirit. A rusty bottle cap; a 10,000 year old arrowhead found on a near by farm; a sycamore seed from my back yard; walnut shell halves, that to my delight impress perfect hearts into clay: sea shells, that never cease to grab my imagination: old books: broken bones, feathers, past prime flowers…all and much more touch my creative spirit. Every object has beauty if you take time to discover how light falls on, it or how it feels from a touch of your finger tips or how its aroma makes it singular.

You do a series of angels and crosses that are very cool. I’m not a religious person, per say, but your pieces are old world and comforting.  What inspires your guardian angels? 

D: They are not meant to be religious in nature, but to remind us that each of us has a kind and giving nature.  wonderousANgelAngels give comfort to those who believe, beauty to those who take time to look, hope for those who seek. These are all things I find in family and friends…my angels. My little pieces are a tribute to those who lift my spirit.

Note: D has just finished her 12th month of chemo treatment for cancer, and has somehow managed to maintain her creativity through it all.  You would never know of her health concerns by her shop output: D has over 500 items stocked!  From the beginning, I’ve crushed on Wondrous Strange Designs as much for D’s science-meets-art designs, as for her crazy prolific output.  I am daily addicted to her shop to see what will come next from the kiln!

Visit  Wondrous Strange Designs shop on Etsy, and catch her 25% sale off through Christmas!  I will be posting new jewelry featuring her work soon.

Embellish Yourself! Calavera Style

My Love affair with October begins with the wonderful Day of the Dead practice of decorating oneself as Calavera.

This happy custom comes from traditional Dia de Los Muertos celebrations back in the day in Mexico, where people would paint their faces and dress as a skeleton (calavera), and pretend to be either themselves or someone else- in plays, parades, and publicly performed skits.  I love this tradition! To come back as your skeleton self to the world of the living, means a slightly altered perspective no doubt- and helps create the funniest parodies of life and all our petty concerns within it. Of course, politicians and famous folks were the favored personas to target and enact.   Wouldn’t it be awesome to have this low-brow entertainment again! Every year in your local town plazuela!! It seems like it would bring release, and instant perspective into an often silly too-serious world.  So I start with myself, sing into a skeleton, add marigolds, swallows, and a few tattoos…

And its just ONE-more thing to adore about PicMonkey.  I think they must have these features seasonally- So I’m going to doll up everyone I have pics of. (heeeheee- beware my friends…;)

You can make yourself scary too. Especially if the photo is out-of-focus, your eyes were closed and you need to open them up with bright, orange, cat eyes!

A few fun things I’ve slipped into the timeline of late, between working/ touring/ performing:  is getting my recording gear spinning again, redesigning my studio, and making a few new jewelry bits.  Yay!!!

First, I’m finally on Pinterest.  I got on to figure out how to bring together different ideas for the studio I want, and a new artistic vibe in my space.  Of course Dia de los Muertos and mermaids will always reign supreme, but I’ve decided to let my scientific roots show a bit too within my artistic world.  In my previous incarnation, I studied marine biology, researched and raised fish, and moon lighted as an environmental scientist- all while playing drums in punk and power pop bands on weekends.

Only when music started to ‘eat my lunch’, did I decide to choose my Master.  Occasionally, science would appear: a band call ‘The Succulents’; sea sirens, lyrics of deep-sea lovers, secret powers of cyanobacteria…

Now, coincident with Fall, I’m craving bathymetry, scientific illustration, & glasswork in my soon-to-be new Apothecary Studio!