Molding and Shaping

Since December, I’ve been experimenting with a new medium, metal clay.  New to me anyway,  yet somewhat familiar with polymer clay, I found I had an edge on the process.  At least, I had most of the tools.   Silver clay is super easy and turns out beautiful every time, copper clay is also easy to work with but I did waste a bit of clay mastering the correct timing and temp for proper sintering.  My favorite and the most challenging is the bronze clay, and I’m still not confident, though my last load fired beautifully.  Not to be mislead, it took a 50gram package to finally get it right in my little SpeedFire Electric kiln.  Now, I’m on to experimenting with Hadar’s powdered clay.  Hadar Jacobson  is truly a master artist with metal clays.

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Designing a piece of jewelry often begins without a plan.  Other pieces of jewelry often inspire me, special clothes may call out a certain design, but my strongest inspiration comes from the beautiful colors, shapes and sizes of unusual gemstones.  The final piece  often ends with a combination of an eclectic selection of components such as yarns, metals, chains, polymer clay and usually, hand formed brass, sterling or copper pieces.  Sometimes, it takes several weeks before an idea develops into an artistic piece.  Sometimes, it happens quickly.

I find it fascinating to discover more about the areas in which these stones are mined and what metaphysical properties they offer.  I love becoming immersed in the bright colored fabrics, stones, and jewelry in India; the organic look of stones, bone, seeds and metals from Peru; and the culturally rich, African trade beads.

Even with exposure to all these beautiful beads, the creativity comes when it comes.  You can’t dial it up, schedule it, and force it.  The inspiration helps, but the design clicks when it’s ready.  I would so love to go up to my studio and finish a piece on a schedule.  No! No, I wouldn’t!  That takes away the artistic element, which is what I love most about designing jewelry.

Fall Colors, Best Yet

When I’m planning for a show, I find it helpful to coordinate my newer pieces around the new colors for the season and this fall’s color palette is the best.  I love the Olympian Blue and the Honey Gold.  Then, there are two of my favorite comfort colors, Titanium and French Roast.  Looks like warm, cozy Fall!

Getting Etsy Ready

Wondering what all the hype is about Etsy!  A few years ago I had some things listed but never had any luck – just had to keep paying to keep them listed.  I have to admit that I didn’t “work” at my Etsy sales and have since learned there is quite a support system out there, with real live people who have been very successful.  I’m giving it another try … getting my photos ready, the physical descriptions, material lists, etc. and feeling like I don’t want them to sell so quickly because it takes so much time to post just one item.  Everything I make is one of a kind, so it’s back to the drawing board if something sells.  At least, “back to the drawing board” will be more of an incentive to work if something does sell, I suppose!  My big question is “do I want to sell, or do I want to create?”  I really just like design and production, but I have to support my habit, so here I go again, dear Etsy.

Kumihimo Weaving

Kumihimo is the ancient Japanese art of weaving decorative braids and cords. The most prominent use was by Samurai warriors who once use this form of weaving to make the braided straps for their armors, which may have required up to 300 yards of braiding. These warriors were required to master this technique which is what they spent their time doing when not in battle.  There are many ancient cultures that used Kumihimo and continue to use this method of braiding for various uses, most of which compliments their clothing. It was much more recently that kumihimo weaving of belts and cords was used for decorative lacing, enhancing clothing, art, and jewelry.
These kumihimo braids are traditionally created on special wooden stands called Maru Dai and Takadai. The literal translation of kumihimo means the “coming together (kumi) of threads (himo)”. Although, I find the patterns, shapes and designs of silk threads and yarns most beautiful, my passion is with beaded kumihimo jewelry. Of course, my jewelry designs are most often more Bohemian or “chunky,” so the larger the beads and the more unique the bead shapes.  the more challenged I am with my Kumihimo weaving.
Every piece is handcrafted with serious thought and precision at each stage. All of the pieces are unique and most are one of a kind. Some patterns are basic and carry their pattern’s design regardless of the type beads used.  The real thrill and challenge for me is incorporating huge, elongated bead shapes and a plethora of metal or other handmade component into my work.

Beading Fever – Finally!

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I’ve moved to a new house many times in my life, but this is, hopefully, the last move I’ll ever have to make.  Along with the move, came a new job, which has been my focus for the past months! So with the move and the new job, my jewelry business has been out of commission for at least three months.  That’s serious!   I’m entering month two of my new job, which I love by the way, and have developed a bad case of “beading fever.”   You can start looking for new pieces to appear!  The great thing about the move – I have great working space and great light for photographing pieces.

Another distraction and lull that affected my designing, was learning techniques for integrating hand formed silver and copper components into my line of jewelry designs.  I pretty much, took a few months off to take classes, experiment, and practice making my own bezels, clasps, ear ring findings, head pins and other components.   After several classes with Dan Haga and with the support and encouragement of beading friend, Karen Landis, I’m ready to put to practice these new techniques.  I’m excited to add new dimensions to my designs and can’t wait to really get geared up and beading again!

Mixing and Connecting Metals the Safe Way

The use of cold connections is a jewelry making technique that is just that; connecting rings, washers, disks, and other metal shapes without the use of a torch or kiln. The most commonly used connectors are rivets, screws, tacks, wire, eyelets, or nails, which can be used to layer and connect various shapes and types of metal.  The greatest fun with cold connections is using a hammer or other found objects to add textures and designs to the randomly shaped pieces of copper, brass or sterling before punching, drilling and connecting them with screws, wire, etc.    Cold connections are at their best when they contain a variety of connectors, metals, and textures.   I love the natural feel of the metals and the eclectic looks that morph from scrap pieces into beautiful works of art.

Interested in learning more about cold connections?  Check out Kim St. Jean’s new book, Mixed Metal Mania.

Copper, Brass, Silver and All That

Presentation is Everything!

In the food world, in the retail world and in your personal jewelry business world, presentation is everything! With spring in the air, it ‘s a great time to revamp or establish a “store front” look for your art show booth. Recently, a friend and I were discussing “display” techniques, what works and what doesn’t, so I decided to share my experiences. After several years of art shows, I’ve discovered that every show is different and everyone’s display needs a different touch. However, every display should be consistent when considering its convenience, professional look, and customer ease for shopping at the jewelry booth. A few other basic rules for effective displays include being unified with theme and color, good visual presentation, and keeping it uncluttered. A good set-up for a jewelry booth will look like and give the feel of a permanent display in a gallery or boutique.

The first and foremost feature of any booth will always be the jewelry! It’s important to design a display that will enhance and make the jewelry pop! Although, an effective booth will catch the customer’s eye from across the room, the elements of the display should never fight with the jewelry – the customer’s attention should always be drawn to the product. In planning a well coordinated booth, choose items that match your art style, compliments your jewelry, and are easy and efficient to use.

When selecting colors for table coverings and display stands, coordinate them with your business cards and banners to create a more unified look. Matching your display with your product, not only exudes professionalism, but helps establish and set the tone. It’s also important to use colors that work with your product style so that they don’t fight each other. My jewelry shows nicely with silks, linens and velvet. These fabrics are rich, elegant, and special, as is the feel of the artistic style used in my designs. My first and favorite table coverings were white sheets used as a bottom cover on my tables, going all the way to the floor – and keep them straight, please! Over the white sheets, a black tablecloth that dropped about 12 inches on all sides of the table – keep it balanced and straight on all sides! My jewelry is showcased on white and black velvet neck display stands. It’s important to put dark necklaces on light necks, and light necklaces on dark necks so they pop!

Bringing tables up to at least 42″ brings your jewelry closer to eye level and saves the customer’s backs! To prevent a stagnant, boring look, create variety by adding some height. Pretty boxes, wire racks, risers, etc. keep the eye moving and make for a more appealing display. In my display, I use two sets of wall cube shelves which range from 6 inches to 14 inches. Starting at one end of my table with the smaller cubes, I line up the six cubes, leaving 24 inches between the two larger cubes in the center which is topped with a narrow shelf connecting them and adding height along the back side of my tables. I place my most distinguished pieces on necklace stands along this make-shift riser. Of course, if I’m doing a trunk show or a low keyed show, I will use my black velvet lined storage trays as the main display and use only one set of cubes.

With a black and white set-up, which does look very professional, it’s still fun to pull in a little color. The purple and green from my business cards and banner provide my basic color theme to brighten up and add pizazz to the display. Using matching hang tags, earring cards, a candy dish, a registration book, pens, and even a coordinated clipboard for signing credit cards gives continuity to the booth and speaks loudly about your professional dedication to your business. It says you are a “real” business and not a temporary craft show display. A coordinating table runner across the end of the table with the candy and registration book looks sharp. My “sale” signs and special prices for baskets items are created on the computer using a logo from my business card and displayed in a 5×7 frame, again from the dollar store.

When working a seasonal exhibit, it’s nice to add a bit of festive color to spice up your booth. At Christmas, I have a red lame tablecloth topping white sheets with white furry fabric on top. For signs I use these awesome candy cane name card holders which add a very festive look to the display. All of these items were purchased off season at major discounts. Planning ahead saves money!

Often, venues are not so well lit! It’s a good idea to bring extra lighting to make your pieces sparkle and pop. Lamps that are simple and blend in with your display work nicely. It’s smart to bring along extra extension cords and power strips, just in case. Always prepared to NOT have access to electricity, and learn to compensate! A friend shared a tip: she purchased small clip on battery operated lights from a dollar store. They work fine in a pinch – just be prepared with extra batteries!

Booth set-up takes about 20 minutes, once everything is inside, but I plan for forty-five minutes in case of problems or distractions. My jewelry travels in trays inside a black fabric jewelry travel bag and my display items are stored in a black trunk organizer. Using a small handtruck, it takes two trips to the car because of the tables. I keep everything packed in the order that I need them, white table skirts on top, black runners, cubes, etc. An emergency bag is always handy, equipped with safety pins, duct tap, Downy Wrinkle remover, lint brush, extra sales tags, batteries, light bulbs and Alleve.

This plan works well for me but I’m always eager to learn about new tricks and creative new ideas for displays. The more convenient it is to set up, the more appealing it is to me. I like simple, elegant, and lots of sparkle!

Art Retreat In the Works

A couple of summers ago a few of my “artsy” friends and I went to Spruce Pines, NC for a four night “artist retreat.”  It was a glorious four days of creating, relaxing, regrouping, and experimenting.  Each of us claimed our own little  nook in the cabin to set up our tools and toys, which became our personal work station where we could create when the inspiration hit.  We all worked with polymer clay so we had the pasta machines, ovens, and buffers running constantly. When more meditative, we spent time observing others in the group, reading, hiking, riding horses, vegetating, eating and networking.  It was a wonderful experience for all of us.

Since this first “retreat” experience,  my art interests and connections have extended, including metalwork, beading, wire work, precious metal clay, cold-connections, and fiber arts.  This year, in planning a summer “art retreat,” I’m blessed to include so many new and old friends that are experts and share an interest in these various mediums.   I’m seeing this retreat as a meshing of mixed media skills and networking with other artists, a time to focus on whatever inspires us, an opportunity to learn and develop skills and mediums, or  an environment to just “be” and enjoy the mountain views while enveloped by the artistic energy among the group.

Gemstones For Christmas AND New Year!

Rainbow Obsidian with Silver Butterfly

While deciding on your New Year’s resolution for the upcoming year, choose a gemstone to get you off with a tangible start. A stone that you can wear, touch or see every day will offer a physical reminder and provide energy to help you attain your goals and accomplish any life-changing behaviors you hope for in the future. Crystals and gemstones have been used for thousands of years for their healing and energy. In learning about the various gemstones, I have discovered that each is unique in owning its energies, mystical powers and healing properties which are referenced in many ancient and modern sources. Each gemstone/crystal has different energies and affects each of us differently. In finding the perfect stone, you try to find one that connects with the energies of your body. You do not choose your crystal, but your stone chooses you so start by picking up various crystals/stones. You may feel a particular appeal to a certain stone, maybe the color or texture. Hold it in your hands. You may begin to feel the temperature of the stone change, as well as, feel a strange sensation yourself. “Trust your instincts” – close your eyes and take a deep slow breathe. Feel the stone, feel its texture, shape, and temperature. Does it speak to you? Whenever possible, try to get natural or rough cut stones and always, avoid fake or dyed stones.

But what about those New Year’s Resolutions? Listed below are ten popular resolutions along with suggested gemstones that can help you achieve your goals for 2011.

1. Plan to do more traveling? Choose from an amethyst, aquamarine, chalcedony, garnet, herkimer diamond, jet, malachite, tigers eye.
2. More exercise in 2011? These stones provide energy and stamina: calcite, carnelian, herkimer diamond, garnet, quartz, spinel, tigers eye
3. Loose weight, don’t we all choose this one? Good choices for this resolution are Blue Peruvian opal, green tourmaline, moonstone, picasso marble, rose quartz, spinel (healthy weight), sulphur, unakite (ideal weight)
4. Quit Smoking? Blue Topaz supports the process of overcoming an undesirable habit or addiction. The body often rejects the effort to change a habit, but the energy from Blue Topaz helps the body aligns itself with the new health plan and accept the need to get rid of self-destructive habits, including smoking, drugs, and alcohol. Others to consider: Black onyx, amethyst (esp reduces withdrawal symptoms), ametrine, obsidian, peridot, petrified wood, rutilated quartz, sugilite (esp immune system problems from substance abuse)
5. Enjoy Life More. Poppy Jasper helps you gain a positive outlook. It makes you feel happy when you wear this stone. Or maybe one of these: amethyst, amazonite, aventurine, blue lace agate, blue quartz, carnelian, chrysoprase, moonstone, pyrite, rainbow crystals, rose quartz, smokey quartz
6. Quit Drinking Amethyst, Black Onyx and Tiger Eye. Others to consider: Black onyx, amethyst (esp reduces withdrawal symptoms), ametrine, obsidian, peridot, petrified wood, rutilated quartz, sugilite (esp immune system problems from substance abuse)
7. Get Out of Debt. Iolite helps with money problems – whether it be managing money, getting out of debt, re-aligning finances and helping you to gain financial independence. Others gemstones known to promote luck and fortune are Tiger’s Eye, Bloodstone, Cinnabar, Emerald
8. Learn Something New. Depending on where you are in life: For Memory consider using alternative healing and using gemstones like Amazonite, Citrine, Emerald, Hematite, Pyrite, Rhodonite and Unakite. For Mental Clarity use gemstones like: Amber, Emerald, Labradorite, Lapis Lazuli, Pyrite, Rainbow Fluorite, and Spectrolite. For Concentration use: Carnelian, Hematite, Petrified Wood, Rainbow Fluorite, and Red Jasper.
9. Help Others. Botswana Agate instills a greater feeling of optimism and hope and increase your awareness of how to help other people with their needs. Charoite – Can help you overcome negative emotions and develop clairvoyance for helping others. Other stones to consider: Tanzanite, Tree Agate
10. Get Organized. Dumortierite – Can help you to be more organized, self-disciplined, and realistic. Others to consider: ammonite, mother of pearl, flourite

This New Year’s Eve, try something a little different to jumpstart your new year’s resolution, try adding a gemstone to bring you extra luck, energy and beauty!  Happy New Year!