Thursday, June 27, 2013

I'm Like a Greyhound

...okay, not exactly. I'm not that lean, and I don't have the big, soulful eyes. And I am (hopefully!) slightly less neurotic. But it seems like all I do is run, run, run...I get why those dogs are tired.

Brett and I arrived home late Monday (later than expected, due to equipment problems on the plane), only to find that the air conditioning was out AGAIN. I'll spare you the details, but it pretty much goes out several times every summer. Long story short, we got it fixed yesterday around 5 p.m. Guess who works from home? Guess who spent two full days with no air?? It was a little uncomfortable, to say the least. I like working with a HOT TORCH much better in the winter.  :)

But I did manage to get several pieces to the clean up stage this week, and I'm pretty happy about that. Of the big grouping I started two weeks ago, I have fully finished four (plus one designer piece), I have seven partially done, and eight more to go.

It's going a little slower now because I'm doing earrings. And for every sale-able pair, I need to double the work of  making one pendant. Less efficient, but so much fun when they are finished.  :)

The above quick-n-dirty bench photo is of two pendants and a pair of earrings. I LOVE how the pendant in the upper right corner came out! You can't quite see the top details, but it went together exactly how I'd imagined. Which doesn't happen as often as you'd expect (or as I'd like).

The middle two are going to be biiiiiiiig earrings. Those bezels are built for these babies:

Mmmm...hiya, big guys. I can't wait to get them set and cleaned up.  :)

Then there's these:

Two more pendants, one for a Kingman (upper right) turquoise, small oval with cute little streamer-like embellishments, and one for a Morenci (lower left) turquoise with a sort of Asian feel to the top embellishments. And the two pairs of earrings are both chrysocolla. They're fairly small stones, so I wanted to do something a little more exciting than what I used to do last year:

All I did for every pair of earrings last year was add a jump ring. Woo! I was a beginner...and just adding that friggin' ring at the top was hard.  I file a flat spot on my jump ring attachments, so that they join better (more surface contact means a stronger join) and it took me so long to be able to file straight / flat. I swear, sometimes I think I must be the MOST remedial of learners when it comes to jewelry fabrication. But I've done it so often now that I don't even have to think about it.  :)

So my earring designs are advancing...thank goodness. I feel very comfortable with pendants for the most part, but getting creative with earrings (and not adding too much weight with the sterling or making them too oversized to wear) has been a challenge.

Next up...rings. It's a whole other scenario, with shanks and all that, but I think it's almost time to start playing with gemstone rings. I've been waiting to get my skills competent enough but I think rings are moving to the top of my 1,587,652,213 things on my list of "design and create".   :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pondering the Next Step

I think I'm sort at a weird place in my fabrication journey. Now that I've reached the point where the mechanics of fabrication are coming along fairly easily, I am focusing more on design. And that's a thrill!! I feel like I've got designs just rushing out of me....well, they're rushing to GET out, but I can't make them all at once; I can barely even scratch the surface of making any of them. My sketchbook is overflowing right now, but there's never enough time...

The dot-and-line pieces (I've got to think of a better name for those) are coming along nicely, though I'm thinking they may be too boring. Ha! Only a couple of weeks in and I'm over it already. Such an instant gratification girl! But I still want to give them a go at wholesale, refine the line, and see where that goes. And I keep thinking about how to do more of the curvy metal with the accent pieces as a stand alone. I'm not there yet, but it's floating around my mind, tickling me with its potential.

I also want to revisit this:

in several ways. I did two or three pieces like this last year, and they all sold. And they got brought up to me several times after they were gone. And I like the idea of them...I just couldn't get to where I was satisfied overall with the blackened parts. But I have a lot more experience - with both designing and blackening - behind me now, and I have some new ideas for this style.

And, I think I might be moving UP a bit with the mosaic work. I had some pieces cast last year, and they did allright...but not what I'd hoped for. And now I think I have some new plans for casting with the mosaic pieces in place, and also changing the hand fabricated work with these pieces.

I also recently finished this:

And while it was a big learning experience, I am really happy with the end result. I want to pursue this direction further, and though I know I'm crazy for even thinking about it, I am tempted to submit it here. This is such a big deal to me that I barely can think about it, much less think about winning anything...but still. You can't win if you don't play, right?  :)

Right now I'm working on a bunch more dot-and-line bezel pieces, and then I need to do some work to be cast, but I also want to start the next mosaic piece. I find that they don't make me quite as crazy if I sort of space them out a bit, and let myself play with slightly less complex pieces in between. :)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Just a Quicke

I forgot that I was going to show you the pieces I finished before the Michigan festival!

Two Larimars and a turquoise:

This one was my favorite of the three. It sold the first day of the festival. One of the prettiest pieces of Larimar I've ever seen.

Another gorgeous piece of Larimar...I pay a premium for these stones but they're so worth it. People who know about Larimar are so excited to find some, and people who don't know about it want to know. It's always a conversation starter.

This one is nice and thick, too - I did a minimal amount of embellishing because I really wanted the focus on this stone. Here's a side view:

It's got some heft to it.  :)

And last but not least, a lovely turquoise:

In a color I like to call summer-sky blue.  :)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Knowing When to Quit

I'ts the end of a long week, in what has thus far been a long month, in a series of long months. I've been jumping around from festival to work bench like a crazy woman since early April. And I'm really starting to feel it.

I had yesterday "off", which meant that I spent 5 hours (!!) at the studio of another metalsmith, absorbing everything she was willing to show me / share with me. I didn't plan on staying that long, but it was utterly worthwhile. I still have so much to learn and am always grateful when other choose to take the time to help me grow.

Then I went to a gallery exhibit with friends...looked at art, looked at jewelry, went to dinner, got home around 11 p.m. That was my off day. As days off go, it wasn't just wasn't relaxing.

Today I got started kind of late at the work table; my energy was really gone. I cut five more back sheets, soldered bezels to them, got them filed, cleaned up, and ready for the embellishments to be added. I'm also working on a big designer neckpiece from nearly two weeks ago, a design that's given me nothing but fits since I started it. I'm trying to get it finished and cleaned up (and the stone set!) today because I am hoping to do a photo shoot this weekend (yes, also time "off")...but that may not happen. My "work hard, play hard" lifestyle is wearing me out. Either working too hard or playing too hard is going to be death of me!

So in what really turned out to be 2.5 days of actual fabrication time, I got 22 pieces started. That includes remaking one from two weeks ago that the top embellishment just fell off (!) after I set the stone, so I had to re-do it (this does happen; it's not just me), as well as remaking three bezels that I made earlier this week, because they ended up with some funny chip in the bezel, and all were un-fix-able (I tried). So I scrapped them and started over. So really, 25 bezel pieces.

I wonder why I'm tired.  :)

Here's a quick snap of everything but the big pain-in-the-ass necklace:

When I make this many, I mark them so I know who's who. I've got tons of turquoise, some jasper, chrysocolla, and...well, maybe that's it. But I want to keep in mind what stone goes in what bezel as I'm designing the embellishments for the piece.

I sat with my sketchbook for a while and drew out some preliminary embellishment ideas, but I think I just don't have it in me to make them up and solder them today. I'm too tired, and the embellishments need a lot of concentration or I'll just get frustrated / melt something / solder something in the wrong place and have to start over. So I'm making myself take a break and the plan is to tackle these Monday morning. Apparently one cannot be a high-functioning creative diva ALL the time.  :)

I'm leaving next Wednesday for Arizona (yep, traveling again), this time for my father's memorial service, and that's been on my mind a lot this week. I'm both looking forward to and dreading it. It will be good closure but it's not going to be I'm feeling kind of stressed about that this week too. Plus it means only a two-day workweek next week...I can see why I never seem to have enough time to accomplish everything I want to do!

So that's it for this week...I'm at home this weekend but it's a busy one and before it even gets started I've got a workout to do and a grocery store visit...haven't been to the store since mid-May, nearly a month ago. It's long past time to get some real food in this house.

Happy weekend! Hopefully I can show you some new goodies next week!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Loving Life

Which I shouldn't be...loving life, I mean. Money's tight. Art festivals are a tough (even tougher) job these days. I'm working hard and can't seem to get caught up on housework, paperwork, staying in touch with loved ones and friends...and yet. I am loving life.

It's been a long journey. How many times have I said that?? Especially here on the blog. But it's been more work (and yet more rewarding) than I ever imagined. A good friend told me years ago, "You have to know the rules in order to know which ones you can break" and it's so true. I really wanted to skip ahead, stick my tongue out at the rules, and be a diva from the get-go. And it wasn't going to happen. Metal Diva...what I said to my husband when my first piece of many solder joins didn't fall was a joke then, and it's still a joke now. Only less so...metalworking is getting easier.  :)

I cam home Monday from a show in Michigan which didn't meet expectations. And normally I would have a few days' pity party. Long drive (11 hours each way), tough show, low ego. And usually I'd be hurting a lot (which I am, my Fibromyalgia doesn't like travel much). But I have so many plans and so many design ideas in my head that I don't want to wallow. I'd rather work through it. So I selected a bunch of stones for my next bezel-ing blitz:

The lighting is poor - it's a quick snap from the work table. But you can see all the turquoise...especially those Roystons, and the tiny chrysocollas, and a little bit of red creek jasper too. I think there are nearly 20 turquoise stones in the mix. And I haven't even gotten started on the Larimar...but one thing at a time.

I've learned that with fabrication and stone setting, my reach far exceeds my grasp. Every time I set a new goal for show inventory, I never get it all finished. So I think I have to cut my expectations in half because there's just too much labor involved and not enough time before the next festival...only this time I've got a bit of a gap. I don't have anything on the horizon except a possible wholesale show in August...and that I'm still debating doing. But if I DO exhibit, I'm looking to wholesale one of a kind pieces. Which means having sample inventory ready and similar pieces that I can remake.

I'm not sure I'm ready - I'm really not sure I have enough stone supplies for that. It's a lot of outlay with no guarantee of income. BUT it might be I'm focusing on that instead of wallowing. And I'm full of ideas. Some may be great, some not so great...but I'm willing to try them all right now. The journey isn't easy but the work is worth it. I'm loving life.  :)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The End Game

I've been at a lot of art festivals recently that seem like they're just not doing what I need them to do. Someone asked me this weekend if my reason for exhibiting at festivals was more exposure, or more money. I told him (this was a friend, not a customer) that my only reason for working festivals was to make money. Exposure helps, but NO ONE spends their time in an art festival booth for exposure. :)

Anyway, the show was slow. It's been a great show in the past, but in recent years it's started to feel like I should look for an alternative option, because the buying customers seem to be few and far between. BUT I am a girl who prefers to look on the bright side, and I like a silver lining. So I'll share some experiences that made me happy this weekend:

First, I sold the highest amount of stone-set pieces (seven) that I've ever sold at one festival. I keep track of these because it's still kind of amazing to me that people buy them...they're my favorite pieces to design and create, and every single one has called to its own special customer. Sometimes a sale feels very impersonal - someone sees something they like, and they say, "I'll take this." I box it up and they pay, and we're done. Nothing wrong with that. But the cabochon pieces...they wait for just the right owner.

One of my first sales on Saturday morning was to a couple of "regulars", meaning that they have purchased from me before. They're on the mailing list when I notify customers of events, and they come out and support. Not that every regular buys every time - and I totally understand that they can't - but they have made several purchases over the years and are always interested in what's new.

This couple bought a jasper pendant for their daughter:

and the wife had been looking at another pendant, but was hesitating. The husband bought it for her, saying, "She just announced her retirement last week" so this turned into her retirement present:

She was so happy and it will be a special piece that she'll always cherish. I LOVE it when that happens.

I also sold my to a young lady, about eight or nine years old, who used her own money to buy her first pair of "grown-up" earrings. Miss Kylie had been to my booth with her parents, and was looking at some turquoise earrings. She asked about the stone and guessed that it was turquoise, and we had a little guessing game with some of the other stones in my booth.  :)  Her mom said the turquoise earrings were too expensive at $70, and we moved over to my $25 earrings. She fell in love with a pair of tanzanite bead earrings, but they went away to do more shopping and "think about it". About an hour she and her parents were back, and she bought the earrings with her own money. Her mother tells me that she's not been allowed to wear dangle earrings before, but this would be her first pair and she could wear them on special occasions. She told me that they take Kylie to lots of art festivals because they want to expose her to all sorts of art and handmade creations. (Gotta love these folks!!). And it was the feel-good moment of the weekend. They even let me snap a photo:

It's hard to see, but Kylie's wearing her new earrings. With a BIG smile. And I hope this is the beginning of a girl who loves and collects jewelry all her life.  :)

And finally, an established metalsmith and SCAD graduate, whom I know slightly but hadn't seen in a while, came by my booth to chat. As we were talking, she stood back slightly from my display, sort of took in everything, and said, "Your work has really...evolved." And I can NOT tell you how good that felt! I've been working hard to learn and grow, and it's just nice sometimes to have independent verification that that is, in fact, what you have been doing.  :)

So that was the good news. And there's really no bad news...I'm just stressed because I haven't had a day off since May 15th. And tomorrow I'm driving to Michigan for another festival, the Royal Oak Clay, Glass, and Metal Show. It's a two day drive and I still have replacement jewelry to finish...the work never stops.

I DID manage to finish this though:

All hand fabricated, chain, clasp, etc. My goal is to have three of these, what I consider my signature work, at each festival. I have one more piece I'm still (yes, at the 11th hour) working on, so I didn't quite make that goal at my last festival, but I had two, and a whole slew of the dot-and-line pieces.

Anyhoo, back to the cleanup and stone setting! If I'm lucky I'll be able to show you this week's pieces before I leave; if not they'll be posted once I'm home again.  :)