Monday, December 30, 2013

Reclaiming Me

Though the madness leading up to the end of any given year is crazy, often the actual winding down of the year is one of my favorite times. The introvert and the Virgo in me like staying at home, moving at a slower pace, organizing things and prepping and planning for the new year ahead. It's about getting my literal and metaphysical houses in order to move forward.

I haven't made any jewelry since the 20th, and it's been niiiiiiiice. I've needed the time away to rest, reflect, and consider what I'm going to do for organize and gather, to shine a light on the path I want to travel for the coming  year. The peaceful cadence of doing these things soothes my frenetic soul from all the bouncing around the rest of the year seems to bring.

I've also been considering what I want to work on personally for next year, and I have two major items:

- being kinder. I usually start out in a good mood, but I get annoyed easily by minor things, and sometimes I get snappy. And even if I don't *say* anything, I will think rather uncharitable thoughts. I get a little snarky in my head, you could I'm going to be working on changing that. Being more Zen about everything, and being more patient (haha, yes, I can hear some of you chuckling at that. I know...but a girl's gotta try).

- being more proactive. This applies to my personal life as well as the business. I've done some intense therapy work in the last few years, it's stirred a restlessness in me. I am wanting to meet new people, try new things, stretch and reach and feel more fulfilled. The last three years - since my jaw surgeries, in 2011 - have been tumultuous and messy and left me scrambling for balance. I've not recovered entirely from those years, but I am closer. And 2014 feels fresh and new and full of promise in a way that the last few have not.

I also need to be more proactive business-wise. I've touched upon this before in my blog posts, and I'm hopefully putting some things in place that will help me tremendously next year. I have two potential people who could come and help out with production and cleanup, and I'll be getting with them both after the new year to discuss further. I can't tell you how excited I am about this opportunity! I feel like the Universe is offering me what I need when I need it...and if it works out I am going to jump right on it.  :)

And I have a sketchbook full-full-full of new design ideas that are just waiting for me to get going on them...this is a year to stretch my designs and I can't wait. This downtime / away time from the torch and fabrication has been much needed...but I'm ready to go back next week. Last night I felt that familiar tickle in my head, thinking about creating, designing, the physicality of making. I'm almost ready to plunge in with both hands...

The year of the horse...very auspicious, I would think.  :) 

I hope that this is a fulfilling and rewarding year for all of you, loyal peeps. Your support always touches me so much and I couldn't / wouldn't be where I am on this journey without you! Take care of yourselves, rest, and be happy. I look forward to many more adventures for all of us in 2014!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holiday Madness and Good Fun

It's nearly mid-December, which for most artisans, and jewelry makers especially, means that we are right in the swing of madness. Men are asking for things that we can't possibly fulfill (or can't fulfill without giving up a piece of ourselves to get it done) at this time,as they tend to do. Custom orders are in high production mode to get made and mailed by the USPS shipping dates. There are a million-and-one end-of-year things to do, not to mention the personal holiday stuff, and it seems like the days are far too short.

I'm alternately feeling rushed and not energy is low, low, low. Though I adore making jewelry, I am not really in the mood for it now (though I am putting my time in on those custom orders). I'm ready to sit, breathe, meditate, regroup, organize (some more), and rest. I'm ready for January, to begin anew, to design with more purpose, without short deadlines looming (though there are always *some* of those), with time on my side. Which is's never really on my side. But I'd welcome some bigger, quieter chunks of time right now.

I did a brief inventory a week or so ago, to see where the time went, and as far as I can tell, in 2012, I made 60 or so hand-fabricated, one of a kind, designed from scratch, gemstone-set items.

By the end of this year, I will have made 200.

just a little sampling of the more recent creations

Now I get that 200 doesn't sound like a lot. But moving from 60 to 200 in one year? I've definitely gotten faster, for one thing.  :)  And making each one from scratch? There's a lot of design and creation time in each of those. And consider this:

- I struggled to keep up a decent festival inventory all year long. Every month, every week, every stolen moment got devoted to designing and making.

- Currently there are about 367,128 things on my idea list that I *can't get to*. Okay, I don't have three-hundred-thousand-plus ideas...yet. But I have a lot of ideas. And they can't get made, or much more than thought about, because I am spending my time making other things...the things that have been selling.

I can hear you now, thinking, "Well, poor Jilly. She's making and selling. She can't get to the *other* things she wants to make because she's making. Isn't this what she loves to do???"

Well...yes. Hell yes! Absolutely. But there comes a point when one person cannot possibly do enough to grow a business or stretch its offerings or even meet its needs. And I'm there. I'm probably way past there, except that there's been no time to stop and plan for how I can change that.

And this year, pleasingly, my skills have grown to the point at which I can really delineate what I *need* to be working on and what I *don't* need to be working on. Last year, and this year while I was growing my skills, I needed to work on it all. Hell, I just finally got comfortable with my polishing (I know I've gone on about this ad nauseum, but to us jewelers it's a big, big deal) now it's time to turn over the more grunt-work aspects of making to another's hands.

For those of you who don't know, I see the creation of jewelry (at least the creation of the jewelry I'm currently making) as three processes (four, really, but the design process is a whole separate dealio):

1. Fabrication. This may involve, but is not limited to:

- filing, cutting, shaping, sawing, sanding, texturing, marking, bezel making, soldering.

2. Finishing. This is when all the actual fabrication is done and there's no more heat applied to the piece; it's ready for the clean up, or finishing stage:

- filing, sanding, polishing (and more polishing), depletion gilding, tumbling, oxidation, more polishing

3. Stone setting

- Exactly what it says above. But not nearly as simple as it sounds.  :)

And at this point if I want to grow the business and stretch my skills further, I need to have someone else involved in the finishing stage, possibly some of the fabrication stage, and possibly the stone setting stage.

I've been revamping the studio to allow some space for two people to work on jewelry here. Even if I have someone once a week, I think it would totally help. What many people don't realize about art jewelry is that the actual making of the jewelry (the fabrication process) is sometimes only a small part of the end result. There's often a LOT of time spent on cleanup and polishing. And even if you're good (i.e. quick) at the fabrication part, the cleanup and polishing is still going to be a bit of a time suck. So training someone to do that process will free up a good bit of time for me to do more with other aspects of the business.

I'm eager to push on, to expand, to dream even bigger...but for right now, there are still several custom orders awaiting my attention, so back to the work table to make things that will delight several women on Christmas morning.  :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rhythm and Flow

I have been working on a custom order Mosaix pendant for the holidays, and about halfway through I realized how much I was enjoying the rhythm of the piece. Usually when I start these (and especially because I'm not making them regularly; they're sort of sandwiched between all the other designs), I get frustrated. They're slow. The pieces seem to take forEVER to align. They drop from my tweezers on a regular basis...just then I've found the *perfect* piece...but once I slow down and concentrate, there's a great flow to adding them on to the metal backing. It reminds me of how very, very much I love what I get to do for a living. I'm a lucky girl, and very grateful. get going on that plan to make MORE of these next year!!

The piece I'm working on is very similar to the photo above. The customer ordered it from my sold gallery and I happened to have *one* more teardrop charoite in a very close size.  :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

On Pain...and Thankfulness

Another year, another November...another time for thankfulness. Which is a good thing, right? Though it would be better if many of us could practice gratitude all year's not always that easy. Life is full of struggles, frustrations, and heartbreaks. It's the resilient soul who's in it for the long haul, picking 'em up and laying 'em down day after day after day. Sometimes what we have doesn't seem like much to be grateful for, but it always is; isn't there? No matter what circumstance brings...

I will be 47 next year. And that means it has been nearly twenty years since I was first diagnosed with a chronic disease. I don't talk about it much, though those who are close to me know about it, because it typically doesn't add anything positive to anyone's experience...and I like to focus on the positive. But it has led me to a lot of positive places, so I thought I'd share about that a little.

- It's taught me how to learn to say no more often, because declining some opportunities has been necessary. Missing out on the fun? Yeah, probably some. But taking care of my body so I can function regularly (and by function, I mean, Get out of bed. Brush my teeth. Move around)? Well worth missing out on some opportunities, no? Saying no is a skill that most of us could stand to work on. I was fortunate to learn the necessity of it at a fairly young age.

- It's taught me to be grateful. For what? Daily pain? Sometimes unmanageable pain? Well, no...but grateful for the times when I can manage it, when it recedes to barely noticeable instead of I can barely move this hurts so effing much. Whether that management is through pain meds, diet, exercise, or just blind luck (and many times, it's just blind luck), I'm grateful for the times when my body works with me, rather than against me. I'm grateful for what it can do, and I try not to focus on what it can't.

- It's taught me to be choosier. Because I have a limited amount of time and energy to devote to my career, my relationships, my exercise, my energy is fragile and I have to be very careful of overdoing physically. Even some simple household tasks are pretty much verboten now, or the consequences will be severe. And I have to watch my emotional energy as well, so I am careful to direct the greatest amounts of it to my close peeps. My girls who have been on the ropes with me. My endlessly patient husband. I'd love to know more people better, but it's hard - it's hard for anyone, as the world seems to whirl faster and faster for us all, but I find that sometimes I have to choose not to reach out and try to get to know people better because sometimes I don't have enough to give. And that's taught me the perils of dwelling in the negative, of dealing with the narcissists, the toxic people, the passive-aggressives. I avoid negative people like my life (or at least my physical and emotional well-being) depends on it. And I feel no remorse whatsoever about that.  :)

- It's taught me to cherish the moments. Because I don't know when I'll have another good stretch...or more accurately, I don't know when a manageable stretch will end. And when a manageable stretch ends, it's like running head first into a wall - WHAM! - and allofasudden the pain is unbearable. But in the times when it's somewhat under control, I cherish whatever space of time that might be. The only tricky part is to not get excited and do too much while I'm feeling relatively well. Because usually I'll pay for that later. Knowing how much is too much? That's the hard part. I could do the same exact things twice and have no pain one time, lots of pain another. Unpredictability is my disease's middle name. So when those moments of respite occur, I want to be very present, appreciating the smallest details.

Yeah, it sucks. Sometimes it really sucks. But it's taught me resiliency, gratitude, how to play the long game, it's taught me when showing up is - and isn't - important, it's taught me that you've got to at least get up in the morning. Every day. No matter how shitty you might feel. And if that proves to be too much, then by all means, go back to bed if necessary. But on a lot of days, getting up, moving around, loosening up the muscles and joints will get you at least part of the way there. Sometimes your positive attitude will get you a good bit further...and sometimes, every so often, the universe grants you a boon - a close-to-pain-free day. And that...that is AWESOME. Awesomeness should always be appreciated.  :)

So this Thanksgiving, as always, I am grateful. Grateful for the understanding of friends and family, especially my husband. Thankful for my abilities. For being able to live and work my creative passion. For the people who teach me lessons, every day. Who tell me the "ouchie" things that make me examine, or re-examine, myself. For those who "don't tell me what I want to hear". For the people who don't know it, or don't know it often enough, but they're my heroes. Sometimes, my saviors. The good hearts. The strong souls. The many of you have been my lights over the years and I can never thank you enough.

"Every day we are given stones. But what do we build? Is it a bridge, or is it a wall?' - proverb, author unknown

Happy, happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Eat well, hug it out, find peace. It's a good day to be present and enjoy the moments...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


“Each mistake teaches you something new about yourself. There is no failure, remember, except in no longer trying. It is the courage to continue that counts.” 
― Chris BradfordThe Way of the Sword

I needed this quote recently, after a rough day (well, rough several days) of feeling like I cannot reach any of the goals I'm striving for. All of the positives this year seem suddenly outweighed by the failures (or lack of successes?). I try very hard to not fall into those pits of despair that seem to litter the path...but occasionally it's like one just opens up beneath my feet and I can't avoid it.

So here I am, reminding myself of the stories of other people I consider successful, and how they've shared about their own struggles. Which is comforting. But only to a degree. I tell myself that I'm persistent, not a quitter, doggedly determined. And so I am...but maybe, just not right now. Right NOW I want to stamp my feet and throw something through the window. The sound of glass breaking can be very soul-satisfying...

We all need outlets for when we feel a bit sucker-punched, a bit like we've gone ten rounds and Do.Not.Want. to get back up off the mat. The outlet that has served me best in my life, ever since I was a teenager, is to write. I wrote poetry on a regular basis for twenty years, and then I made some changes in my life and didn't need the poetry outlet as much, so I've written sporadically in more recent years. Though I realize that some of my writing outlet has been channeled into my jewelry descriptions. I guess they're my way of sharing, of connecting with others. I look at at the stone and think about what it evokes for me, and then I try to elaborate on that. Often these relate to things I consider paramount in my own life, like nurturing the self, the soul, loving with a full heart, making changes and learning and growing spiritually, etc.

The tricky part is to not write descriptions when you're feeling like I have been feeling lately...or at least, try very hard to not let your anger or frustration seep into your writing...

"The hardest blows are the unexpected ones. When the person you shared a friendship with turns on you, the door you thought was open is not just closed but bolted shut, the blue skies you saw in the distance have turned stormy. That's when it's time to reach deep within and grasp some tenacity. No one ever said that the climb would be easy or that the rewards would come when you've earned them, or even that the prize would ever be yours. Some days it's painful just to put one foot in front of the other, but eventually the light will brighten, a window gets cracked open, the water oasis appears just when you most need a drink. And you reach, again, for that dream. That battered, trampled, stubborn dream. You hold it close, you believe, and you begin again."

I wrote the description above for the final bit of Royston turquoise (in the photo) I had in my gem stash. I'd set it recently but no evocative descriptions were coming to mind...I guess it needed a different perspective.  ~wry smile~ 

All that mix of browns and patterns evoking the dry, dusty desert, and then these brilliantly blue spots showing the oasis appearing just when you really, really need it...sometimes life is handing you a rough road. And sometimes you get stuck. But eventually you get up.You carry on. And you get back to a place of light again.

So maybe that description was as much for me as for anyone browsing my web site...we all struggle, and we all rise. Anyway, I felt better after writing it. So I'm picking up. Carrying on. And minding the broken glass as I move forward.  :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Big Changes, Big Rewards

I feel like I've spent the better part of this year moving toward the big picture. Not known for my ability to strategize (but if you want someone detail oriented, I'm your girl!), I spent the first several months of 2013 focusing on honing my making skills. Lots of time spent at the work table, with the torch, joining things together.

And in April, all that work sort of metamorphosed into a collection. Not that it was really a collection at the time....more like seven pieces of jewelry that had, at least, a cohesiveness (something my designs have been sorely lacking since I began fabricating). And they sold...not like crazy - I don't know if any handmade art jewelry sells like crazy in this economy or environment - but I sold several at my first three festivals of the year. A month later, I had two other festivals. And I sold several there. And so on, all year long. I sold several online, too. They seemed to be well-received everywhere I displayed them.

So I continued to refine, practice, design, create - in this same vein. But the whole time, I'd been making one piece. Soldering it. Making another. Soldering it. (ad nauseum). Which was fine...until I enlisted my husband's help in rearranging my studio recently (big project, still not done, but some major changes were made).  And WOW, what a difference! Last week, I made earrings. Twelve gemstone settings (six pairs). In the same painful (I now realize) manner as before.

This week, I made ten pendants. In a quite less painful manner. And I am amazed at what happened!

Having the space to design them all together made them sort of blossom. They got more complex. They got more showy. They really started to take on a life of their own...I'm thrilled. And it's funny, since I batch nearly everything I can (soldering, cleanup, polishing), that I didn't think to batch my designing...or maybe I just haven't had the time, in addtion to not having set up the space to do it. I'm so thrilled with the results! These creations started out as some very simple metal embellishments to accent my ever-constant love of beautiful gems. And now they still do that, but they're so much more than just the second fiddle to the colored stones. They're part of a more "whole" design scenario:

Looking at them all as more of a whole than as one design, another design, then another design...has really helped me focus on what I'm doing with EACH design. And designing them as series-es, which I plan to do even more going forward, has influenced how each design turns out. Some have more "choppy" or spiky ends on the textured parts, some have more loops, some have more curves and waves and circles. In this series there was only one (2nd up from bottom, center) that had spiky embellishments. The rest are quite wavy and flowing.

AND, because the metalwork has started to come into its own, per se, I am thinking about my gem buying  plans for next year. I had shied away from larger stones, buying in a certain size (which means, usually, a certain price point) to keep costs down. And I'm still concerned about that, of course, but now I'm feeling (again, I know I've mentioned this before) like I want to go bigger and bolder with the gem size and the metal design.

I think a few things have contributed to this:

1. The Sedona Arts Festival. Just over a year ago, I was in Sedona, not selling a whole lot, and hearing, "I wish it was a little bigger", fairly regularly. And the jewelry the women were wearing! Bold. Color. Heavy silver. Gorgeous! I vowed then to go larger. But I sort of chickened out on my next buying's easier to say you're going to do something, but without an established way to do it...harder to follow through.

2. The Ruidoso Arts Festival. This past July, I went to Ruidoso, NM. And tanked. I've posted about it...lots of women from Texas. Who kept wanting things bigger and blingy-er. I'm not jumping into bling, but bigger color and stone size? I can do that. And the jewelry they were wearing! (see a theme, here?). Sometimes I think I've lived in the Southeast for too long, where the women tend to like small. Dainty. Pretty. Not-statement-y. But I grew up in the West and I LOVE bold. So why not design bold?

3. My own confidence in my skills. The first year I showed any fabricated jewelry at festivals, I told people I was a "baby metalsmith". I was a beginner...totally unsure of myself. Didn't want any custom orders (which of course, didn't mean I didn't take them...a girl's gotta push herself). Felt like an impostor. Oh, it was UGLY. I hadn't set any stones at that point (well, outside of classes. Nothing I would dare to sell). I was lost and looking for myself but I wasn't ready.

This year, the payoff for persisting has been HUGE. I've been practicing nonstop for the last two years and things I used to struggle with are now coming much more easily, which frees up my concentration for designing, rather than being so intensely focused on the physicality of making. And *that's* the happiest place to be.  :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Natural Wonders: Willow Creek Jasper

I was unfamiliar with Willow Creek Jasper until recently. Found only in Idaho, it's part of a family of porcelain jaspers (including Bruneau, Carrasite, Deschutes, Hart Mountain., Morrisonite, Imperial, Succor Creek, and Mookaite, just to name a few).

Here's a particularly stellar example:

The moniker refer sto the way these gems take a very high-gloss finish or polish, and can be mistaken for porcelain ceramics. Willow Creek, in particular, is known for its range of soft colorings, browns, grays, greens, yellows, pinks. Sometimes it's a little *too* subtle for me. I actually don't like a lot of Willow Creek jasper...but as usual, when I do like it, I like the best (and often expensive), the unusual, the dramatic.

Here's one of my Willow Creeks:

It's hard to see the glossy shine  from this angle but you certainly can see the colors!

I tried another angle, but the shine is hard to pick up on camera.

I've been holding on to my 2012 purchases. Not for any special reason, but the colors are a bit different than what I usually use, and some gems just need to sit with me for a while before I have a plan for them. I did set one recently:

With wire embellishments that echo the patterns in the stone. This is one of the most amazing examples I've seen in person and I had to take it home. :)

This jasper is found inside Thunder Eggs. What?? Thunder Eggs, usually baseball-sized, form in layers of volcanic ash. Like a geode, but not geodes (geodes have hollows within them and often crystals), they must be cut open to (hopefully) reveal their treasures: deposits of jasper, agate, or opal, which can then be cut into cabochons.

Why Willow Creek? That I don't know. Many jaspers are named after the area where they're found...I guess it was more descriptive than "Idaho jasper".  :)

The pendant above sold almost immediately and I guess I'll keep my eyes open for some more on my next gem shopping trip!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Work Hard...Work Hard

I think somewhere along the way I've forgotten the "Play hard" part of that phrase. I have been working hard this week...but my energy is low and my body is fighting me. No surprise, really, after the hell-bent-for-leather show prep and then the load car / drive seven hours / unload car / set up booth / stand on asphalt for two fourteen-hour days / break down booth / load car / drive seven hours / unload car that was my schedule from Friday through Monday. I can't imagine why my body would be a little worn out!

And I was looking forward to a little break, but after coming home and looking at the inventory I have left, there's not enough to give to either of my galleries right now. And there's not a good cohesiveness to give to either one of my galleries right now. So, I am working as fast as I can to make new inventory and have it all ready by the November 14th and THEN maybe I can work at something less than hurricane pace. Although I have several custom orders to do to...for which I'm very grateful, no doubt about it, but WHERE is the downtime??

Here are the stones I'm making settings for this week:

From top to bottom: turquoise, larimar, kingman turquoise, larimar, peruvian opal (2 pairs)

And these:

From top to bottom: Royston turquoise, laguna lace agate, labradorite, larimar, labradorite x2, kingman turquiose, eudyialite, dendritic opal.


The bezels are all made and I have to do the embellishments...which I'm about to get started on. I'm not feeling like it at the moment, but usually once I've gotten two pieces done I'll be in the groove. I don't think they'll all get done today but I'm hoping to have half today and half Monday, then I can clean up and set the gems...and hopefully by the end of the week I will have a decent amount of items to give to both galleries for the holiday season. THEN I can work on my next looming deadline...

What happened to Friday, you ask? I'm actually taking  a much-needed day off with my husband. Even the "work hard, work hard" girl needs a break once in a while.  :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fabrication Details

I have had some questions about how I make the embellished gemstone designs, and I thought I'd share a little more about that process. I've shown you the steps to making a rimless bezel setting, here, but now I'll show you what happens once the bezel and back plate are soldered together.

Mostly I sketch a rough idea first, though a select few of these pieces actually come together all at once at the work table. The rough idea may or may not end up being part (or no part) of the final piece. I am a bit of a "punter" with this kind of work; I use estimates and guesses and fiddle around until things look good to my eye. I hate to measure, so unless I'm making earrings I don't measure anything.  :)

I start out with the bezel on a piece of painter's tape, and then I add in the pre-shaped pieces until I have a design I like:

The design laid out the way I want it. Nothing is soldered in place yet, they're all just loosely resting on the tape. At this point I will often snap a photo with my cell phone so I can reference the placement of the embellishments if necessary.

Sorry for the blurry-ness of these quick snaps. But you get the gist, I hope. Anyhoo, the only thing different above is that I've marked up several areas with a Sharpie. Kind of hard to see but the blue spots (including the blue areas inside the bezel itself - mostly running down along the left side of the pendant (your left as you look at the photo) are guidelines for where I"ll place the solder. Otherwise once I remove the separate pieces I will have no clue where exactly the solder should go.

Wire embellishments have been soldered in place. If you look closely at the lower level "wing" on the right side of the photo, you'll see that some solder ended up on top of my texture. That will have to be removed in the cleanup process.

Balls are now also soldered in place. This is typically a pretty happy moment so I put in a smiley face. The only thing left is to solder the bail, and then I can move on to the clean up process.

I actually got excited about making this design and forgot to do a stone check once I'd soldered down the bezel, so I did it after the extras have been added. Fortunately it still fits! The dental floss is there to remove the stone, otherwise I'd have no easy way to get it back out and it's nowhere near ready to be set yet.

Bail's on! I cut a piece of tubing and soldered it on to the pendant. The chain will run through the bail and out the other side so the pendant slides freely.

Next is the cleanup process and then finally the stone can be set:

Voila! Now you know a little more about how the magic happens.  :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Am So Close to a (Somewhat) Regular Schedule

..and I can't stand it. Today I am really *not* wanting to work...I mean, I DO want to work, but my body is tired and my energy is low. But I'm in the same situation I've been in all year - too busy to stop, too busy to address anything but sitting-at-the-work-table-and-fabricating, too busy to catch my breath.

Once the Memphis festival is over next week, I have two months (or most of two months) to work my schedule and take my time designing, working toward a larger goal than "in ten days I have another festival". I am really, really ready for it. I have had several things click into place, or at least start to, in the last few months, but no time to fully develop or work on my grander plans.

I'm not the patient type, as anyone who knows me will tell you. So I'm waiting, gritting my teeth, trying to calm my mind from all the things I'm thinking about and trying to focus on the necessity. Which is having more inventory to sell:


I've been trying to slowly step back into wholesale, but growing a wholesale business takes time (lots of time) and a product range that I simply don't have yet. I've designed several new rings, just recently, and I think they'd be great wholesale items. But I can't make the mosaic ones fast enough, and I have NO MORE STONES that will work for the pop rocks's sort of a problem, no? So wholesale plans are a bit stymied right now.

Also I am wanting to really stretch the mosaic designs to their fullest, and those are so time-consuming that I can barely keep three or so in stock at festivals. At Nashville, a woman randomly said to me, "Well, you must have had a good show!" I asked her why and she said, "Your booth looks a little sparse". always looks like that! At least this year it has. I actually had as much inventory out as usual, but absolutely no back stock to fill in with. 

So it's back to the making. Which I do love. But maybe notsomuch when I HAVE to make it every day. My shoulders don't love it that much. Or my more big push for Memphis and then I can regroup, refocus, and (maybe) even relax, a little...

Monday, October 7, 2013

From Chaos to Clarity

At least, I hope that's the progression. It's funny how small, unexpected things can cause seismic shifts in your life...

A few weeks ago, I was approached at an art festival by a fellow jeweler. One of the other jewelers in our community had died, and she had taken on the task of clearing out his studio / workshop for the family. This man taught classes and had / has a very large space dedicated to jewelry design / teaching in Georgia, which is slowly being cleaned out, items sold, as they fit other jewelry designers' needs.

I went out to the space last week, and was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of STUFF in there. When you're teaching, you have to have a lot of extras in stock - pliers, scissors, rulers, etc. And I think we designers are all just naturally hoarders - we always think we can use "something" for "something" - even if we don't quite know what any of the "somethings" are just this I don't mean that the shop was hoarder-like; it was very organized. But the amount of things in there...boggle the mind.

I came home with a random assortment of goodies: visor, shelving, books, files, clamps, ionic cleaner, and the best find of all - a dapping block and punches:

Mine is nowhere as clean and shiny, nor as nicely organized as the one shown above. It's got some rust, some patina, some scars. But some sandpaper and oil will take care of the rust. And the patina and scars would happen with use, anyway. This one's already broken in.  :)
The set is American made (so it's O-L-D; nearly every jewelry tool I buy is from overseas, either Pakistan, China, or Europe. Tools like this are not U.S.-made anymore). And it has been on my list of things to add to the studio. Plus I got it for about half of what a new one would retail for. :)
The day after I'd visited that studio, I went to my jewelry supplier for some metal and to ask questions about the other things I was considering buying. And I came home with this:
(the large version on the right). Which has NOT been on my list of things to buy...but I have had a sort of piece-meal, self-made organization system (i.e., not really working for me) system on the work table for some time now. Andthis looked like a much better solution to some of my storage / accesibility issues with tools, burs, etc. So I put some stuff into it and on it, but then realized I'd have to make some studio changes to accommodate it and also for the dapping set. Which made me realize (and it wasn't all this weekend, and overhaul's been sort of coming on for a while) that the studio needed some serious TLC and re-org-ing.

So that's where I find myself this morning:

Can you see the storage caddy? (just to the left of the trunk, in front of the drawers). Not exactly working to capacity from the floor.  :)

to the further left (not see in the photo) is my work table. I have a tiny path from the computer to the work I can work on my very necessary tasks...but the rest of the studio is a little out of seems like I have to make things even more chaotic and messy to arrive at a working solution! I'd hoped to be further along after this weekend but I obviously set my hopes too high.  :) dapping set and one storage caddy have brought about a whole overhaul-in-the-maknig. For want of a nail...

I'll post some more when it's further along but for's jewelry making time.  :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Peering Through the Murky Darkness

I see a ray of light. Or hope. Or whatever it might be that makes me feel a bit better. I'll take it, whatever form it chooses.  :)

My last two shows have been very good to me - not huge moneymakers, but solid returns. And the customers have been excellent! Especially this past weekend in Nashville - a very similar reaction to the last time I was in Nashville. Warm and fuzzy, buying bigger ticket items, and very interested in the design work. It feels like a really grow-able market for me. With where I want the jewelry to go, I have to play a long game of sorts...not expecting huge dollars at every new show, but hopefully building a mailing list and loyal crowd of collectors. And Nashville feels like it could become part of that.

Finished it last week, sold it last week. It's hard to keep these in my inventory. 

In my last post, I mentioned that I sold 9 stone-set pieces at the Atlanta Arts festival. In Nashville, I sold 13 pieces. !!! (I had made 12 between the Atlanta and Nashville shows). I had no back stock to replace them with by the end of the show - whatever was on display was all I had. So guess who's going to be at it again, making a bunch of pieces to replace the sold items?? Yep. I have almost four weeks before I head to Memphis for my next festival. Hopefully it will be enough time to accomplish all that I want / need to...leaving, I also hope, some time to work on OTHER designs. I sold several of the mosaic pieces in Nashville (finally! a market that likes that series!) and need to make new ones not only to sell, but to send off to be photographed for jury shots.

So. I'm starting to see some things clicking into place. Patterns are emerging. I first introduced the newest line in April, and it sold regularly, from the very first show. So now I have to refine what I can, like having stones that really suit those designs, or having someone else help with cleanup or stone free up some of my own time to design, create, move the business forward.

And the mosaics...they didn't work out as well as I thought with casting the pieces. Sloooow movers. So maybe they're not meant to be cast. Maybe - light bulb - not everything I make is going to be cast and available to the masses. These, with their high labor factor, are more collector-type pieces. So far they've been rather niche-y; they don't appeal to everyone. Or they appeal...but not as much as some of my more mainstream work. So I'm going to treat them as they deserve to be treated. I've fabricated chains for the necklaces I made this year with the mosaics, and made bigger, more statement-y necklaces. I don't think I've quite hit my rhythm yet with these designs, but I'm working on 'em. I have a whole series of smaller, less labor-intensive designs to start working on whenever time permits, but they're never likely to be my bread-and-butters. And that's okay. I want to push outward and upward with my jewelry, and these will let me do that.

It's been several years since I've been comfortable with what I'm creating. And with what I'm displaying at festivals...the fabrication journey has been a hard one. I used to have this stuff figured out - but I think I'm moving toward having things figured out (as much as they ever can be) again. I can feel ideas flowing, designs coming together so that my creations look like a cohesive whole.And I just listened to a webinar yesterday that made me re-think a lot of a lot of pondering to do while I'm working.

And this quote is now on the bulletin board:

"Follow your passion, do not settle, see beauty in the unexpected.
Oh, it will be difficult if you want to be the best, you'll have to deal with that as a constant."

- Todd Reed, jewelry designer  (want to see his web site? The work (and the overall aesthetic - for his designs and how he lives) is amazing! Click here

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Downtime? What downtime?

The booth this past weekend. Couldn't quite crop out the jogger, but what a great glow from the rising sun (I was at the festival at 7 to finish setting up and lay out the jewelry)

I exhibited at the Atlanta Arts Festival this past weekend. It was both wonderful and not-so-wonderful...but it was much more wonderful than the last festival (Ruidoso Art Festival) was for me:

- I sold nine one of a kind, stone-set pieces of jewelry. I've written before about how gratifying it is when customers really connect with "their" piece of jewelry, and the one of a kinds always call to their own. This weekend I sold the most of these I've ever sold at one venue, and the customer interest and feedback was WONDERFUL. At least at this festival, I wasn't "too small, too non-bling-y, or too weird" like the folks in Ruidoso seemed to think. :)

- Weather was about as perfect as it could be. After all my other Atlanta shows have been half-rained out, it was nice to have two full selling days of comfortable temps and no water. Not that having both days helped (see below)...

- I connected and re-connected with some great people. Living the solitary-I'm-busy-cranking-out-work-in-my-studio life, alternating with the I'm-busy-traveling-to-and-exhbiting-at-art-shows life, doesn't leave a lot of time for personal relationships...the hours at an art show are SELLING TIME. It's what I'm there to do, it's how I make the bulk of the income that keeps my business going, it's what I've given both my hard-earned money and time to be there for. So if you're busy at a festival, you can't walk around and chat with your other artist friends, and even if they come to see you, you sometimes can't take much time away from selling to visit with them. But this weekend there were definitely slow patches of the show and I got to spend a bit of time catching up with old friends and making some new ones.

On the flip side...

- I sold nine one of a kind, stone-set pieces of jewelry. Which is awesome, unless you have only about ten days before you drive to Nashville to exhibit at another show...yikes! I should be making jewelry right now instead of writing this, so don't be surprised if I don't post here again for a bit. I love making these creations, but I can only physically make so many a day. And I can't physically work on them every day, because my body can't take it. So I am going to have to be very judicious in how I get this schedule of work done before leaving for Tennessee.

- Saturday sales were not crazy-busy, but steady. It was a good day and profitable. Sunday's sales...I had two. Both before noon. None after (the show ran until 5 pm). Five hours without sales. And the two sales on Sunday morning, together, would not have covered my it's good that the buying customers were around on Saturday! The reality is that every festival is a gamble. You jury, and get accepted - yay! - you pay your booth fee, you travel if necessary, you show up with the very best work and designs you have, and then you hope that the show has done their part - advertising, bringing in the foot traffic, that it has the right customer base for your creations, hope that the weather is good, that there aren't other events in the town/city that take people's focus away from your event...I could go on and on but you get the point. Each show is a risk.

So I'm glad it worked out this time. And I'm going to get to work on new items and hope that it works out the next time...I'm coming, Nashville! Let's have some fun together! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Higher, Faster, Stronger. The Best Never Rest. Etc.

Though I struggle against it, I am a perfectionist. It's in my bones, in my DNA. I want the best, I want to *be* the best, I want to be able stronger, fly higher, design and fabricate (and do everything else) faster. It's a driving force in my life but also a constant source of dissatisfaction.

And my own designs are certainly not off limits from my expectations, of course. Usually when I'm designing one of the labor-intensive, fabricated pieces, it's (mostly) a labor of love. Sometimes it's just a labor. And the last time I did one of these, when yet ANOTHER part of the process utterly didn't work, I cried - just a little - and yelled some unrepeatable words. And I do mean yelled. At the top of my lungs. Twice. (the first time just wasn't satisfying enough).

Then I stepped away from the work table. I had a snack. I poked around on the computer. For about twenty minutes. Then I made myself go back to the work table, pick up the torch, and begin again. Some days, that's what it's all about - refusing to give up. Of course, some days I should give up, but this was not one of those days. How do I know the difference? Trial and error. :)

What was frustrating me was not learning something new, but rather running into an issue(s) with tasks I've done before. A lot before. So much so that I should be able to pretty much do them with ease. And most days I do...but not earlier this week. Monday's work was an exercise in picking one's self up after being dropped in the dirt repeatedly. Bloody, but unbowed, and all that.

So what did perseverance get me? Well...

This. Which isn't a bad reward. It's better when you don't start thinking that the reward  might never happen...because this nearly went in the scrap jar more than once. But it's completed and all is good.  :)

It's slightly different from this piece in a few ways:

- I made the overall pendant more lightweight, using a lighter back plate. The other one was comfortable to wear, but rather heavy. By the time I'd finished the three plaques, and the chain, all that metal added up. I wanted to design a bit lighter this time. Less silver = less cost. Metals prices still aren't super inexpensive, and keeping costs down is always a bonus.

- I  also learned from this chain:

to go bigger, bigger, bigger on handmade chain loops. The chain above was nearly the death of me, both the making of and the cleanup / polishing. First, I don't love soldering small jump rings. These are about 3.5 mm
18 gauge rings. And there are a LOT of them. And my soldering didn't get noticeably better after having done so many. And then hand polishing them all...I did not want to repeat that anytime soon. So I made much bigger, wider links on the new necklace. Result? A happier Jill. Also, less labor because I made 300% fewer jump rings.  :)

- I also wanted to try a different connection method. Past big necklaces like these have had a simple jump ring connection, which has worked fine. But I want to push myself a bit on connectors and bails. I think it's time. So I soldered on some tubing and then ran a jump ring through it, for a more flexible connection. I am planning to use this kind of connection on some other pieces, and wanted to see how easy it would (or wouldn't) be.

And in the meantime, I finished these:

Two of the Royston turquoise stones I purchased in February. The bottom pendant had to be completely redone, because of this:

The bezel kept getting these nicks, or divots, in the top. This has happened before and I couldn't figure out why...I got some online help and now I think I know what was happening. But I had to scrap the bezel and back, saw off the top embellishments, and start again. And of course the top piece(s) didn't just want to magically attach to the new took far longer to re-do than it should. I'd almost given up on it entirely.

But I didn't. I cried and I yelled and I might have even stomped my feet a little bit...but eventually the studio diva got her way. At least I can exert my will over the inanimate objects...sometimes. :)

So a lot of imperfection manged to add up to more learning...and at least a *little* satisfaction in the end. Worth the journey, every time.  :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Best Laid Plans...

Oh positive thoughts, if only you were able to manifest so easily!

In my last post, I was SO excited to have a week in the studio. I should have known better. Just when I think I'll get a handle on things, some sort of monkey wrench gets tossed in and the whole plan falls apart.

I won't bore you with the details. I'll just say that my output last week was so much less than I'd planned or hoped for. But at least there was some output. Here's the evidence:

Crescendo necklace and earrings, turquoise

Yes, at least some of the twenty-odd bezels I made last week got all the way through the stone setting process. And I love the way they turned out. The pendant gave me fits at first, but I'm so pleased with the end result. I love the contrast between light and dark in these stones, and wanted the embellishments to reflect that. The earrings don't have room for as much embellishment, of course, but they echo the movement and upward curvings of wire on the necklace.

And then, this:

A lovely Deschutes jasper from Oregon. Deschutes is not easy to come by (nor inexpensive), since the "dig site" is no longer active. I've had this stone for a while, and decided to give it a proper setting. And I like it so much that I may have to go hunting for a few more Deschutes cabs when I'm in Tucson next year...

I don't buy a lot of round stone cuts, because I think they're sort of boring. But this was more about the patterns of the stone, rather than the shape. And of course I wanted to contrast the smoothness of the stone with some pointy asymmetrical embellishments. It's also a bigger stone - and bigger embellishments - than I normally use. But I'm thrilled with the result.

Also, the next mosaic piece is on the way...most of the mosaics are soldered on and it's probably two-thirds of the way finished. Not including making the chain...I love the handmade chains when they're finished, but I don't love the actual process of constructing them. And I'm trying to do something a little different with the connections this time...I'll show you all of it once that baby's done.  :) 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Whirlwind Summer

It's the middle (actually a bit past that) of August and my summer is nearly over...and I don't have much to show for it. I was trying to figure out why I'm feeling behind on both work and personal things, and when I look back at the last three months, I actually had a total of 22 days that I worked (or partially worked) in the studio. 22 days out of a potential 55 (looking at June, July, and August).

Um...that's not a lot. It's also not enough.

Why so few working days? Here's a brief synopsis of what took up the rest of my time:

Festival, Festival/travel, Travel, Family Visit, Travel, Festival/Travel, Travel, Family Visit.

The in-between days were working days (I try to not work weekends, but with a schedule like that, I did work part of some), but not all in between days were work-able. Even a local festival usually requires a recovery day. Travel festivals require (sometimes, like my big drive to NM and back) a bit more than that. I had two travel festivals in that time frame (NM was a huge time suck), plus two family visits. My sister- and brother-in-law stayed with us for seven days. My mother was just here for six. Do you know how difficult it is to work FROM HOME when people are staying in your home?? Trust me on this. Visits are nice, but they're not...productive.

And then there was some personal travel thrown in too - four days in Arizona, for my father's memorial service / family time. Five days in San Francisco with my husband  (gotta get a vacation in somewhere!). A long weekend to Charleston for a bachelorette party.

What it all adds up to is my being behind...again. Or maybe I never really caught up. Fabricating designs from scratch requires a pretty long lead time. Design time can't really be rushed; it's like the customers *know* which designs you didn't put your heart and soul into...and they won't buy those.

Once the fabrication work is done, cleanup also takes a lot of time. Stone setting takes time. And it's all very physical labor, so I can't just hit it hard for three days in a row or my body will rebel. So there needs to be time, and kind of spaced out time, to create. Not to mention the whole rhythm of creating, which takes a little bit to get into and out of...every bit of travel or family visits disrupts that, and sometimes it's very hard to get back in the mindset.

So I am going to have to restructure for next year. I'm hoping to restructure for THIS year, but I'm already behind and suspect that it won't change too much in the last four months of 2013...I *am* looking at a potentially slower October and November, but things always come up - especially later into the holiday season. Last minute orders, short-window custom orders, weird things that's not typically a good quiet time for a retail jewelry business.

So next year is going to involve more planning. Some of that I won't be able to control, because of the show deadlines, the potential for acceptance / rejection, the physical ability I'm only in charge of part of the planning...and I have to account for the Fibromyalgia, which takes a wicked delight in being consistently inconsistent.

And yeah, I said "I can't hit it hard for three days in a row" but that's what I've been doing. And that means pain. Fibromyalgia flare ups. More delays because I push and push my body and it eventually pushes back...hard. However, necessity is the mother of...ah, screw that. Necessity is the mother of overworking. ~wry smile~

So here's what I did with my last two days of "hittin' it hard" before leaving town again:

Mmm-hmm. Bezels. And backs (which are all hammer textured, then the bezels are soldered to the backing, then the excess backing is filed away...*then* I get to start working on the embellishments. So for this week (two days of work!) I have 40 stones bezeled, and 21 of those have soldered backs, ready for the next step. It's all I could manage, and I suspect my left arm (hell, left side) is going to be complaining for the next two days or so...but the work has to get done sometime!

It's quite gratifying that the colorful stone pieces are steadily selling. Which is nice. I love to "have" to buy replacement stones.  :)  But I have to watch myself - I tend to get lost in making these and over-achieve, as it were. I'm actually supposed to be working on some new mosaic pieces. And there IS one in progress, and several sketches waiting, but I wasn't ready to tackle soldering on mosaics this week. They're finicky. They take a lot of patience to get them lined up right. And they drop on the floor - usually just when I've found the mostexactlyright piece - and are never found again. So I did bezels and backs instead.  :)

Next week I have a WHOLE week in the studio...can't wait!! And it will include working on some other artist-y pieces. Deadlines are quickly approaching and fall is on its way! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Searching for The One (It's Not What You Think)

Are you constantly looking for The One? The *one* item that will fill a space / wardrobe / accessory need in your life? 

I am. I like what I like. And I could care less about the rest. This applies to everything in my life - food, clothing, shoes, home decor, get the idea. When I like something, I really, really like it. Otherwise I have no interest in it whatsoever. And the older I get, the more choosy I become. It feels like I only have so much time...I want to put it to its best use and kick the clutter to the curb.

It drives people crazy (mostly my husband, especially when he's gift shopping), but yes, I am very, very particular. I prefer the word discerning, of course.  :)

And I think it's good to be particular. To be exceptionally choosy about what you spend your hard-earned money on, to select with great care the things that surround and adorn you.The problem is, I'm the kind of girl who would rather wait for just the "right" thing, rather than purchase some specious "interim" thing...this explains why, after nearly ten years, our house is what you might call "minimally" furnished...also, what I like tends to be, er...not inexpensive. So it's a slow process...

I don't find that much of the public shops this way...many people are seemingly quite un-discerning. I suppose this shouldn't surprise me, but I always expect a little different perspective from art show shoppers. I'd like to think that people who make the choice to buy art / furniture / jewelry (!) from an art festival, rather than a mall, for example, would be more discerning...but I think many people, no matter where they shop, want throwaway items (at a low price) that are easy, I-don't-have-to-think-about purchases...and when something breaks or is "out of style" or isn't needed anymore, it can be tossed (and possibly replaced) without much thought to the replacement purchase. And that's kind of the art fair expectation too, sometimes.

I'm not really sure what drives this. Americans *are* known for "bigger", for "quantity over quality"; we like abundance. Clearly money (or lack thereof) can be an issue. Which I totally understand. But for me, longevity has always been part of my purchasing. I don't spend often, but when I do, I will spend a bit more to get something I really love, rather than having something that "sort of" works. Or "sort of" fits. But sometimes things just aren't in the budget. On a trip to New Orleans, several years ago, my husband and I fell in love with some lamps. We oohed and aahed and thought long and hard about the right place in our house for one of these gorgeous, hand-painted lamps...and then the salesperson came over. And the price of the lamps was in the low five figures. Eep! That's just never going to be in our household budget. So I get that for some folks, $135 on a necklace won't ever be in the budget...but what about the rest of us?

I sold the above earrings at an art show recently. They were not prominently displayed, yet I can safely say that they were one of the most-looked-at items in my booth. People picked them up, oohed and aahed at the beautiful stones, and asked the price...which was $138.  Most of those people put them back down again and either looked at something less expensive, or simply walked away. Until late Saturday afternoon, when a woman came into the booth and went through the same motions...except she never let go of them. Not even when I told her the price. She said, "I think I just *have* to have these". And you know what she told me? That she doesn't buy often...but she buys "for keeps". So the items she chooses to spend on are loved/used/worn constantly and for her, worth a little more investment up front.

Now, I know that $138 for earrings, even handmade, stone-set ones with GORGEOUS stones, is not in some budgets. But for others... could it be? If, say, one was buying less throwaway items at $40 a pop? Or $15? If one had a desire to have fewer items, but items that were truly standouts, truly loved, and beautifully adorned one's ears (home, feet...etc)? 

The earrings above sold before I could even list them in my Etsy shop or on my web site. I had posted them on Facebook, and the woman who bought them told me to not bother listing them and just PayPal her an invoice. She knew they were something special, and she knew she'd get years of enjoyment out of them.

Interestingly, this has been how I buy personally, but not necessarily for my business. I have always looked for the best quality stones I could afford for my jewelry designs, and I know my regular customers recognize and appreciate that. But it wasn't until very recently that I considered spending a bit more for some really stellar stones, like the Royston Turquoise earrings shown above. I think I was a little afraid that the general public wouldn't appreciate - or buy - I am in business, after all - the more unusual, pricier stones. But these two recent earring sales, and a few other transactions, have made me rethink my stance.

With this in mind, I splurged a little on my most recent stone buying trip. The photos turned out a little blurry, but I think you'll get the (gorgeous) idea.  :)

Boulder turquoise, from Asia. Stunning! Now, the interesting thing is that usually I can pay a good bit less for Asian turquoise than for American turquoise, but the prices for the Asian stones have been creeping up in the last year or so. I asked my supplier about it. He said the mine in China has been closed - apparently it has been closed for a few years now, and for a while they were getting fewer stones, and now they are getting almost none. But the supplier still has a big demand for it - so the prices are going up. 

Peruvian opal. Bigger (and yes, a bit pricier) than I usually buy.

Glorious Kingman turquoise from Arizona. As I mentioned above, the price for Asian turquoise is coming closer to what I'm paying for American turquoise (though I hunt like crazy to try and find really good deals on American turquoise whenever I can). I sell primarily in the Eastern part of the U.S., and out here no one much cares about the origin of the stones. But out West, I constantly get asked where the turquoise is from. And Westerners don't often want the Asian turquoise. They want the Kingman, Morenci, Fox, Carico Lake, etc. (Most turquoises are named after the mines where they're found). It's quite an interesting distinction.

Anyhoo, time will tell if my spendy-er stones are worth the purchase. I think they will the discerning shopper. Otherwise I'll have some GORGEOUS earrings of my own design to wear.  :)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Gratifying Results (the Obstacles Are the Path).

That post I wrote last week on pushing myself and learning new tricks? I didn't have the pieces I made quite finished when I wrote it. But they are I'd like to show them to you.   :)

The first piece, that gave me SO much grief, is this one:

It's wide, nearly an inch wide, and thick gauge sterling. And I shaped and soldered those swirls...or THOUGHT I'd soldered them...but they kept. falling. off.

Now, I have struggled with soldering "not taking" before...primarily with joining two items side by side, which is why I made quite a few of these designs:

because all the pieces on the top get soldered side to side. So now I'm fairly proficient at that.  :)  Struggling with something? Try making fifty pieces that use the technique you're struggling with. That'll make you improve.  :) 

So. Usually soldering something on top of something else is not a problem. But...joining on a curved surface is *so* not the same as joining on a flat surface...I forgot one of the Basic Rules of Fabrication:

You Need A Good Join. Solder Will Not Flow to Fill A Gap.

(Actually, solder *will* flow to fill a gap...but a very small gap). In the case of this ring, I wasn't getting very good joins. Chalk it up to impatience, inexperience, just generally being clueless that day, but for some reason I thought that if I just had *part* of the swirls touching the ring base, the solder would take care of the rest. I'd sort of "tack" down the swirls and then go back and hit the parts that hadn't soldered.


What ultimately had to happen was that I went back and re-shaped the swirls (which took more time, but it would have been less time overall if I hadn't done it wrong to begin with) so that all parts of them laid flat on the curved surface. It wasn't easy. And now I can see why some handmade rings are made...well, let's say differently.  :)

The other piece I made, which also presented a challenge, was this ring:

I've been wanting to make rings with the mosaic designs for a while, but soldering all those pieces onto a curved surface isn't easy either! But it's not all about easy in the studio; otherwise everyone would be doing it.  :)   I helped myself a little by Euro-square-ing the ring base before starting to solder the embellishments on top of it:

This ring mandrel is squared, as the photo shows. Most ring mandrels are round, but sometimes, especially with a wider band, a squared ring shape will be more comfortable on the finger. Also, if you're making a ring with a heavy top or a big stone set on top, a square shape will help keep the top of the ring upright, rather than the shank sliding around the finger. 

So I squared the mosaic ring. Which at least gave me a partially flat surface to solder the silver pieces on to. Though they're not quite ALL on the square part...since I did three "stations" of mosaics, each station drifts off to the side a bit. But the overall ring is balanced.  :)

AND comfortable. Always important in jewelry design.   :)

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Glimpse of the Bigger Picture

I try to keep this blog mostly jewelry focused. But this resonated with me:

"may you always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path."

Wise words, from a someone who apparently had many wise words to share. The quote is from a Seattle woman who recently wrote her own obituary. She died from cancer on July 18th. But before she did, she shared herself, one last time, and quite beautifully, with the world.

The rest of the obit is HERE. It brought tears to my eyes.

What would we say, if we were to write our own goodbye, I wonder?  

What a shame that she is gone too soon. But what wonderful love and memories she must have left with those fortunate enough to know her...I think of my friend Kathleen, who died suddenly earlier this year, and of how she meant so much to everyone she encountered. And I strive to do better myself. The obstacles are the path. The path is the journey. We make our choices every day.

Thank you, Jane Lotter, for being an example. And condolences to all who must be missing you so dearly right now.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Back in the Saddle (Old Horse, New Tricks)

One of the things they tell people who have never been on a horse before, is that you have to maintain control. If you don't, the horse will sense that and take every possible advantage of you. Sounds...sound, right? But if it's your first time (no matter what age) on the back of a horse, it's not quite that easy to put into practice...

It took me much longer than I expected to recover from the Ruidoso art festival in New Mexico. Last week my energy was nearly zero, and then I spent a busy weekend (my only "down" weekend this month) housecleaning and catching up on things. And I'm still trying to regain some equilibrium.

I think part of the issue was not just the physical tiredness and pain, but the mental side. I'm in an ego business - we artists have to be "approved" / "accepted" into art festivals, we have to pay for the privilege to just be looked over, with no guarantee of being granted permission to show up, then if we do get to show up (and pay for that privilege as well), we spend several days having our egos (and wallets, hopefully) either stroked or ignored by the public. And if you're not making the money you hope / need to make, you're going to (at least occasionally), feel a little bad about least some of the time.

I know the rational reasons why I had a tough show. But the emotions are not so easily managed. At most festivals, I have what I would consider realistic expectations. But for whatever reason, I really let my expectations rise for this festival: I got called off the wait list! I won a blue ribbon! I have a great corner booth! I am doing some of the best work of my career so far! etc, etc...I felt like everything was sort of converging in my favor. So what do I know...apparently not. ~wry smile~

So. What does a sensitive artiste do when she's feeling low? She tackles something new, something she has no practice in, something that is a bit beyond her reach., most people would work on something simple and easy...stepping slowly into the harder stuff. Not moi. I went into the studio on Monday and decided that it was time to make rings. Big rings. With lots of soldered pieces on them. Soldering to CURVED surfaces...ha! Because when you're feeling down, you should set yourself what seems to be an insurmountable task! I can sort of laugh about it now, but on Monday night I was ready to toss my entire workbench in the trash. Head, meet wall. Banging ensues. Repeat ad nauseum.

But I DID learn. It's coming together. Two big ol' rings are to the clean up stage, and today I'm working on some easier things (finally). Making a bunch of bezels:

Mmm...yummy. Larimar, boulder turquoise(s), more turquoise, variscite, Kingman turquoise.

And more:

Peruvian opal(s), Eudyialite, sonoran cactus, boulder turquoise.

And MORE (I can't help it, I sort of get a rhythm going when I'm bezel-ing):

Larimars, Peruvian opals, Eudyalite.

What am I going to do with them? Not sure yet. But they need bezels no matter what. And when I am ready to design with these, I'm always happier when the bezels are done and I can get straight on to designing, rather than having to make the bezel. Design. Make the bezel. Design. What can I say? I'm a batcher.  :)

Which is why I did THESE, too:

Turquoise, petrified wood (I think), boulder turquoise, Peruvian opal, Eudyalite, boulder turquoise. And then I had to stop myself. Also, I ran out of 4mm bezel wire. Pfft. And I needed to work on finishing the big rings from earlier in the I guess that was enough bezel making for one day. It gets out of hand quite easily.  :)

Now I'm planning my next big project, for next week...and maybe another big ring. With a stone, this time? I'm not sure yet...but the saddle leather is getting comfortable. The horse is a challenge but you can't let the horse be in control...the rider has to maintain control. Sometimes easier said than done...but I'm getting there.  :)