Monday, August 27, 2012

Oh YES! What a Thrill!

I recently alluded to my breakthrough in this post. And then I got busy and also took a small vacation. But I'm back and ready to share! I know some of you are eagerly anticipating the money shots, and I won't keep you waiting:

Here's the full shot of the turquoise pendant I posted earlier. At least, it's supposed to be a pendant. I am having bail issues (but no worries, it will be fixed shortly). I went a little crazy with the detail but I LOVE it. I feel like this is taking my work in a whole new direction and I can't wait to make more of these designs.

I'm also working on some pieces without stones, to be cast, but don't have photos of those yet.

Here's the piece that started me down this path:

A glorious piece of mookaite from Australia. Unusual coloring and composition for a mookaite. It was the breccia in the center of the stone that gave me the idea. I wanted to continue the brecciated look onto the metal backing, but didn't want to etch or make a textured pattern into the metal. I felt like that wouldn't have the "punch" that I wanted for this pendant. So I layered metal pieces on top of the back plate, and voila! A whole new design direction.  :)

I haven't decided yet whether or not I'll sell this one. I feel like it might have to be part of my own collection because it represents so much of what I've been trying to create. The asymmetrical design, the jagged-ish edges, the mosaic-look, the soft texture on the plain part of the backplate, and the subtle "pop" of the silver blackener inside the small mosaic pieces. And of course a fabulous center stone. I feel like this piece is so me and I am beyond thrilled.

When my husband came home from work the day I made these pieces, I put them in his hand and was jumping up and down (yes, literally) while he examined them. Brett is not the guy to tell me what I want to hear. In fact, I often tease him - in twelve years of marriage, couldn't he just *once* tell me what I want to hear?? But no. He's honest to the core. He examines things very critically and analytically and often he could be called *cautiously* enthusiastic. So he wasn't jumping up and down...but he did like them.  :)

So...what do you think?? 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Natural Wonders: Shattuckite

First discovered in copper mines in Bisbee, Arizona, Shattuckite is a fairly rare gem mineral. I've been told that it's a form of chrysocolla, which wouldn't surprise me, since it gets its vivid color from copper, just as chrysocolla does.

Until 2003-ish, the Shattuck Mine was the world's only supplier of Shattuckite. Recently it has been discovered in Southern Africa, but so far those are the only two known locations.

I just bought several pieces at a gem show, and can't wait to play with them:

They have a much wider color range than chrysocolla, which tends to mostly be a deep green. At first I thought these were turquoise, but they didn't look like any turquoise I'd ever seen (and you know I've seen a lot!) and then the dealer told my friend what they were and I had to get some. These are all fairly small - most of the larger pieces didn't have as much variation - they were almost all blue and black - so I chose the most widely varied ones I could.

The rest of my stash:

Gorgeous. I've got a ton of design ideas already!  :)

For reference, a bit of chrysocolla:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Turn it Over (or Around, or Upside Down)


Is this glass half empty, or half full? In this case, it's fully empty. A shame. Why am I showing a photo of a Missoni for Target martini glass? Because it's more fun than your average water glass...

I follow a lot of blogs, mostly home decor and style-oriented ones, but a few business-y blogs are in the mix too. And one of my favorites is Seth Godin's Blog. Seth writes very "in brief" and he always has a refreshing perspective.

Living the life of a creative means you will regularly get lost in your own head, in your personal perspective. And it's not easy to stand back and really see what's causing you difficulties. So when I saw this post (excerpted), I knew it was one to remember:

"It might not be because you can't find the right answer.
It's almost certainly because you're asking the wrong question.
The more aggressively you redefine the problem, the more likely it is you're going to solve it."

There's more here (but not much more; as I said, he's quite a pithy writer). 

I love Godin's short excerpts; they're like getting a nibble to chew over and ponder for a while. And they make me rethink how I approach the regular, everyday problem-solving aspects of jewelry design. Excellent food for thought.  :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Breakthrough

Something's been happening...after feeling creatively blocked for so long, feeling on the verge of something...something hovering inside me, but not set free yet (I know this sounds rather vague and artsy but it's the best way I can describe it), I think I may have finally birthed a new design idea.

One of the struggles in jewelry design and creation is that it's been around for thousands of years. Almost any design you can think of has already been done. And done again. And copied. And see where I'm going. So it's a battle to put your own stamp, your own voice, into your creations.

But a couple of weeks ago, I think I may have found a way of designing that is very different - at least, I haven't seen it out in the world - and it's also very moi. I'm so thrilled and excited that I can barely sit still. And while I'm not ready to share it with the world...yet...I think it will make a big difference for me.

Here's a sneak peek:

And the best part? I think it will lend itself to casting rather well. As I mentioned here, I need to be able to have some designs cast in order to keep costs down and free up time for one of a kind designs. So if these new pieces end up casting with minimal cleanup, I will be beyond thrilled.  :)

I'm heading to Arizona today for some family time with my parents, but I promise to show you the rest once I'm home again.  :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Natual Wonders: Larimar

I'm kind of surprised that I haven't written a post about Larimar before.It's not a well-known stone, but people who are familiar with it are mysteriously drawn to it. Every time I have a piece of it on display at a festival, it never fails to attract people who know and love the stone. Many of them have been to the Dominican Republic, which is the only place in the world it's found.

Named after the daughter of the man who discovered the stone (her name was Larissa) and the Spanish word for sea (mar), this stone has an interesting hue - it's a soft, sky blue unlike any other stone. The coloring comes from copper (like so many of the stones I love). I was first introduced to it in the Dominican Republic, on the island of St. Thomas during my honeymoon cruise. Brett bought an inexpensive pair of earrings for me as a souvenir. And had I known how UN-inexpensive it is anywhere else, I would have bought a lot more!

Larimar beads are pricey compared to any other semi-precious stone cut into bead form. Larimar cabochons tend on the higher side as well. I have to really search out "bargains" when I'm shopping. And like any stone, there are paler versions, more color-saturated versions, and some with a lot of inclusions. The deeper the blue color, the higher the price. And you know what I prefer...!

A quick snap of some recent larimar purchases:

Three medium-sized cabs. The one on the bottom came out a wee bit brighter than it actually is. The top two give you a good idea of what it usually looks like.

And a few that I've set:

Cloudgazer pendant

Uncharted Island pendant

Winding Path Pendant

 Bonus in the back!

And here's a bracelet I bought for myself, years before I knew how to fabricate jewelry - it wasn't inexpensive but it's one of my favorite pieces and really shows a range of the stone color.

And, like the Winding Path pendant, it's open-backed.

So now you 'know" another unusual (and beautiful) stone.  :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


If you read this blog regularly, you know my well-documented love of my home state's official stone: turquoise. I can never get enough of it! And I recently received a "pick box" from one of my new favorite suppliers.

A pick box is a box of stones sent by a stone dealer. You take what you went and send the rest back with a check. It's not as perfect as picking out your own stones at a show, because sometimes it's hard to communicate to the stone seller exactly what you want (size, depth, color, shape all figure into designing), but it's better than running out of stones, which almost happened...I broke a stone when setting it and I was sorting through my cabs for another stone, when I realized that I didn't have very many left in the sizes / shapes that I needed. So I requested the pick box.

Here are my recent spoils:

A bunch of good-lookers, no? These are all Chinese turquoise. I love the American turquoise but sometimes it's just too pricey, especially if I can't hand pick it. And there's nothing wrong with turquoise from Asia, as long as you know what to look for (sometimes "turquoise" is actually dyed howlite in costume - though that certainly isn't a problem just in China. It happens here too).

And a few more:

All slightly different, but all with great color and in the kind of loosely organic shapes I like.

Can't wait to get started with them! My fall schedule is heating up so it's time to get my torch on.  :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Natural Wonders: Peruvian blue opal

Peruvian blue opal (there's also a pink version) is relatively rare. It's found only in the Andes Mountains in Peru, South America. The blue version ranges from a very pale, translucent light blue, to an opaque, rich teal. The deeper teal versions often seem to be cut like boulder turquoise, with the host stone included in the finished product.

"The host stone is usually cut one of three ways - clear, to showcase that Caribbean color, - scenic, to show varying degrees of color, or dendritic - to highlight the black fernlike inclusions oftentimes found in the material." source

It may have many "faces", as referenced above, but it's always an attention-getter, as some recent purchases indicate:

This cab has what looks to be the host stone included (the brown stripe at the top) and shows the color range in just one stone. Also in the center you can see the "fern-like inclusions" mentioned.

This one...this is a stunner. A little reminiscent of chrysocolla, with the green bits, but the shape, range of colors, and the translucency (which I couldn't quite capture with the camera) make this stone a standout.

Here are a few I've set:

and some earrings:

and more are waiting on the work table. The nice thing about working with Peruvian opals is that they're not as fragile as "regular" opals, which have a tendency to fracture under the pressure of setting. So that makes for a happy jeweler.  :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Creative Minds Never Quit

I'm heading to Asheville today to help a friend with a festival this weekend (though today is all girl-time and playing). But it's been such a great week that I wanted to leave you with a little food for thought.  :)

I saw this recently on Seth Godin's blog:

source: here

The photo is terrible but it's all I've got. It's a shot of a handmade kayak. And the plywood it's made from doesn't come in long enough lengths to use just one sheet. So the designer, Nick Schade, made a feature out of the fact that he had to use two pieces of plywood. How brilliant is that??

It made me think of how we jewelers do a lot of clean up work to cover up all our metal joins / joints. What if there was some way to make a feature out of them? How would that change the way we design?

I love this example of creative problem-solving.  :)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It Comes When It Comes

For months I have been trying to figure out my design direction. A girl cannot live (or profit) by stone setting least, not this girl. Designing EVERYTHING from scratch is too time-consuming for someone who's on the road a lot at festivals, and the labor costs mean that most of the one of a kind stone pieces I'm doing right now are not the cost-effective, price-friendly items that provide the majority of revenue at art shows.

What's the solution? Casting. I already have some pieces cast, but some of my prior castings ended up being too expensive for the simple shapes / items I was making when I first learned to fabricate. And some of my items didn't cast well (there are a few tricks to casting, and I by no means know them all yet. But  sometimes what you think will be greatly cast-able is notsomuch in the end).

I made a few pieces in the spring, but really didn't have the required studio time (it takes longer than you'd think to design and create fabricated jewelry) and nothing looked right. Nothing I had was worthy of paying to get molds made and then trying to sell. The scrap jar was filling up.

I've been working on new designs in my sketchbook for a while, and this week I finally sat down with the sketchbook in the studio and started designing in metal. Now it's Thursday and I have several pieces to ship off to the casters! Also more scraps in the scrap jar, but that's always the way it goes when you're making. Rarely does the first idea turn out exactly right.  :)

But sometimes you get lucky on the second idea, or the fourth, or the tenth. And now I've got a little grouping of new pieces to send to my casting company. How many (if any!) will turn out well? It's hard to say until I get them back and see what the problems are (if there are any) and how involved the cleanup is. But at least it's a start.

Actually the top left ring is a one of a kind, not being cast, but I threw it in anyway. Next to the ring is a bracelet link. When it comes back from casting, I will either add more dots or set a small cabochon on the empty side. Next to that is a pendant and then an earring. Bottom row left is an earring and then two more pendants.

And it's a short week for me this week; I'm heading to Ashville with a friend tomorrow to help her with a festival (tomorrow is all play though). And I told myself that if I got some casting masters done, I could spend part of today playing with my new stones. So off to work I go!  :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mantras: No Pride, No Shame

I posted about my first mantra, "Fake It 'til You Make It" and how it's worked for me. Today I'll tell you about a more recent mantra.   :)

What's on the surface is the same as what's belowsource: Google Images

This most recent mantra is definitely an outgrowth of "fake it 'til you make it", but is pretty much its polar opposite. "No pride and no shame" is one of my current mantras. And just like "fake it", it can be viewed negatively, but it is anything BUT. This represents my commitment to living an open life.

No pride means simply that: I don't want to be too proud, too above risk-taking and looking foolish - too scared to try things - I want to be open to new experiences always.

No shame means no regrets. I strive to live my life in a way that I don't have to hide anything from anyone, that I am fully open and honest both about what I've done in the past and what I do now and in the future.

"Pride attaches undue importance to the superiority of one's status in the eyes of others; And shame is fear of humiliation at one's inferior status in the estimation of others." Lao-Tzu

Transparency and authenticity is my ideal. I don't want to feel ashamed of my past; I don't want to have to lie about what I have or haven't done. For example:

I have never done drugs. Not even pot. Never tried, never wanted to. In that sense, I'm as straight-arrow as they come.

- I lost my virginity two weeks before I turned 21. (Yes, you may call me a late bloomer).

- I was deliberately utterly mean to another girl in high school. I planned and orchestrated something that was incredibly hurtful to her. This occurred thirty years ago and it still makes me cringe when I think of it. I am heartily sorry for how I treated her. AND I use that memory to remind me of  how I never want to behave again.

- I don't believe in God. I believe in a higher power and the interconnectedness of everyone and everything. I believe in the Golden Rule. I believe that what we do (or don't do), choose (or don't choose), counts. But I don't believe that the "something greater than ourselvess" is God in the Biblical sense.

Sometimes I am the geekiest girl on the block. Sometimes I'm clueless about things I shouldn't be clueless about. Sometimes I'm brilliant!  :)  But I am me and I want to be an open book to the world. This doesn't mean that I need to share every detail of my life. But when having conversations with friends or meeting new people, if I'm asked a personal question, I don't lie. Depending on the topic (and I'm open to all topics), and how weird / inflammatory / surprising the response seems to be, reactions vary widely. Some people don't like my answers. Some people don't like me. Some folks don't get my sense of humor. I am perfectly okay with that. I like me, and I am living my life in the best way that I know how. That it doesn't appeal to everyone is just fine.  :)

It took a long time to get that comfortable with myself, and sometimes it's still not all that comfortable. I presented only part(s) of myself to the world for a long, long time. And it was a difficult transition from being in hiding to being so open. But accepting my faults and flaws, striving to change them, and presenting myself honestly to others is much healthier than hiding away like I used to. It's scary at first. But it's like laying down an overwhelming weight once you show the real you.

It's changed my life...utterly...absolutely...deliciously! for the better. Once you shed the cloak of fear, you'll be free from worrying about what others think. It doesn't mean you won't be judged. But it means that you won't judge yourself by what anyone else thinks. And getting to that point...well that will make your life incredibly, fundamentally...AMAZING.