Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Studio Set Up, Part I

I posted previously about tackling my utter disaster of a studio. Last year was a year of craziness, running around back and forth to Arizona to visit my father as much as I could. I also exhibited at a lot more festivals than usual, so I was home even less of the time. And actually, after the major jaw surgeries in 2011, I hadn't given the studio a good overhaul / organizing in nearly two years..it showed. Everything, everywhere, was just a pile of clutter. I wasn't really being as productive as I wanted, because I either:  a) couldn't find things when I wanted them, or b) couldn't get to things when I wanted them.

You know how sometimes you get smacked with the realization that YOU are your own worst enemy? As I looked around the studio, I saw myself. And it wasn't at all pretty. Or manageable. So I took some time to sort through what was working for me and what wasn't. And I made some small changes that I think will make me SO more efficient going forward. The small details are just as important as the big changes.  :)

What wasn't working:

The soldering table was the biggest mess (actually, maybe *not* the biggest, scary as that thought is). But it certainly was impeding my ability to create. It's hard to see in the photo, because of all the white flux and crap all over the table top, but there are scattered bits of sanding disks, wire, sheet, and assorted other miscellaneous detritus all over the table. I must have had eight or so little sorting dishes (I use these) that held assorted "metal to use", left over from other projects. But they never got sorted. And I didn't know which type / shape / gauge of metal was in them - they were all mixed together in each bowl - so I never wanted to go looking for what I needed. I just ended up using new metal - horribly inefficient and not exactly cost-effective.

It seems that I somehow get flux all over everything when I'm working. I just do. I'm a crazy flux-spatterer! Like Pollock, only it's all white on black background. I can live with that (it washes off pretty easily), but having all the bits of metal around was not efficient or productive. So I sorted ALL OF THEM. Tedious? Definitely. Necessary? Absolutely.

Jump rings, fancy jump rings, flattened dots, beaded wire, square wire, tubing, etc. And they all got new homes:

Each tin holds one item - say, square wire. It doesn't matter what gauge wire, but I now know where the square wire IS when I need snippets for design elements. I labeled all the tins with painter's tape and a sharpie, and they all live in the box you can (sort of) see behind them, the one with the butterfly on it. MUCH improved. Also, notice how clean the top of the work table is without all that flux splattered on it??   :)

This is an "after" shot, because the lazy susan on the right of the wooden chest of drawers used to be here:

Pretty much where the white basket is. The lazy susan holds all my mandrels for making jump rings, as well as a bunch of pliers. Which was fine when I did a lot of wire shaping and wrapping that didn't require torch work. But I found that as I spent more time at the soldering table, I needed the mandrels to be within arm's reach. It took me over a year to move them. Sometimes you just can't see the forest for all the trees in your way...

My ring mandrels (seen on the back left of the chest of drawers) were on top of the chest already, but I had my less-often-used disc cutter on the right. Now the disc cutter is in one of the drawers until it's needed. A small, but really effective change. I also moved more tools (pliers) over to the soldering table so they'd be within easy reach as well and it's really made a difference.

I've show this photo before but it bears another look. Because I spent the better part of a year just shuffling all this stuff around so that I could do what was necessary. The mess you see in the above photo made it nearly impossible to get to any one of the work tables, at any given time. I am TERRIBLE with paper filing. It ends up in "piles to file" on the floor and then I end up working in a 2' x 2' area because I can't maneuver around the studio. So I went to this:

Which makes my life so much easier. I  put the current month's paperwork on one of these four shelves, and then at the end of the month it gets filed further into the brown expandable monthly folder. I do throw monthly receipts into the basket that you saw on the floor (I know myself!) but now they'll get filed in the expandable folder too. And the basket is now sits on a shelf, not on the floor.

Don't look too closely at the paperwork *beneath* the filing area...it will go away as soon as it's all checked and verified for taxes (that's last year's paperwork).  :)

Now I'll have to take photos a few months into this year and see how well I'm still doing!  ;)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ups and Downs in the Studio

Oh, 2013. You and I are not friends yet!  It's only 18 days into the new year and it's already been a roller coaster in so many ways.

As I mentioned in my last post, my father died on the 13th. And even though he'd had cancer for over thirteen years, you're never quite ready to get the actual call. So it's been a tough week. And there are other things going on, other personal things, that I may (or may not) talk about in a future post. I want to share the metalsmithing journey on this blog, but it's hard to not include the things that affect the metalsmith herself. And I don't like getting too personal here because who wants to read that kind of stuff? Pfft.

Anyhoo, I've had the studio in a bit of an uproar for some time (okay, it was in a big mess for some time), and now it's in a whirlwind of cleaning and organizing. I've been sketching out some new designs, but haven't felt the urge to pick up the torch this week. At least not until this afternoon, and then it was probably too late to get started on something major. So I tackled paperwork and cleanup:

Paperwork to be sorted (after the really big stack was sorted). This is the pile of "needs to be handled ASAP".

All this is on the FLOOR in front of the bead table. It gets a little hard to maneuver around the studio with floor piles.

But wait!

MORE floor piles. Those black trays with the gray inserts (and the stuff on top of them) are bits of silver, jump rings, beads, wire, clasps, etc. that need to be sorted and put away.

I *am* happy to report that this drawer has been sorted and is now back in the chest of drawers where it belongs.  Progress!

So no jewelry at all this week, except to show you these little bits of happy:

Small textured discs with rubies, available in the Etsy shop

I had some leftover 20 gauge silver but not enough to make something big, so I put these together. Bright little spots of color for a gray wintry month. You knew I couldn't leave you without something.  :)

Tomorrow I am out of the studio celebrating a dear friend's birthday, and that will help move the week on to a brighter note. Check back for some new jewelry photos next week!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Walking...and Fishing...and Playing with Puppies

I don't usually talk much about my personal life here, but I just lost my father, so I hope you'll  indulge me for just a moment.

I'm not close with my family, but I have / had a deep respect for my father. My dad was a hard worker, a respect-er of women, a man who always put the best face on everything, and the most loyal and patient man I have ever known. I often tease Brett that "I married my father" but in reality I married the best parts of my dad (my husband is also quite long on patience, thank goodness, among his other qualities).

In the last week or so, every blog in the world seems to be talking about new year's resolutions, and though I have several, I think that this one (that I'd posted on another blog) pretty much sums it up:

[My resolution is] To honor my father, who is dying from cancer. His dying has been slow and steady and given me time to think about my relationship with my family, where I am in my own life, and how I want to go forward. 

My father worked his entire life straight through to retirement and never complained. Many of those years were spent working in an un-air-conditioned shop in Phoenix, Arizona...I spent a summer working with him when I was a teenager and it was uncomfortable, to say the least in the hundred-degree temps. The year that he and my mother retired, he was diagnosed with both prostate and bladder cancer. He had surgery, but the prostate cancer was already Stage IV, incurable. 

As the cancer's hold on him has grown, true to form, Dad's never complained. He's taken each change for the worse as practically as he's approached everything else in life. It spread to his bones, and eventually ate away at his spine. He spent a year in a wheelchair. Now he's on hospice care. 

During this time, I left my unsatisfying corporate job and began working for myself. I design and fabricate jewelry, and the actual work is bit messy, a little gritty; most days I'm wearing a work apron and not looking glam in the least. But I think about the kind of messy, dirty work my father did for years. Quality work, made to last. The end results were always beautiful, and he delivered them to ecstatically happy customers.

I'm not restoring and reupholstering furniture, but I'm designing jewelry that has personal meaning for my own customers. My actual work happens in a studio that's turned out much like my dad's shop: gritty. Dusty. Messy. I am a shop girl and like my father before me, quite happy to be one. It's the best way I can think of to continue my dad's legacy.


 Family get-together, 2004. Dad is in the lower left corner.

I had two long chats with my mother yesterday, and at one point, she said, "I guess he's walking now." And I said, "and fishing" - one of Dad's favorite pastimes. And playing with puppies...that man had a thing for dogs.  :)

Dad taught me the value of hard work and integrity. The satisfaction and joy of making something lovely and special for others. He showed me the essence of loyalty and patience. He was a man of few words but I know without a doubt that he loved me. And Daddy, I love you right back. Always will. If there is a Heaven, I know you have a wonderful place in it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Stepping Forward

 2013 is my year of new adventures. So I'm starting off with one thing that is scary to me:  I've signed up for an "intermediate-advanced" jewelry fabrication course.

Here's the description:

"Jewelry and Metalsmithing students who have already learned the basics and work independently will learn the tips only a professional can teach how to get gallery quality results in less time. With a small class size, students receive personalized attention for their specific needs in design, advanced fabrication, clasps, stone setting, touches of gold, production techniques, rolling mill, tool maintenance, soldering tips and tricks, wax carving for casting, metalsmithing techniques and other demos that students request. Most students work on their own designs with an emphasis on one or more of the demos shown during class."

Sounds good, no? Then why am I nervous about it? Because it's pushing me out of my comfort zone. Right now I have a small stock of things I can do (almost) without thinking about them. I did say "almost".  :)  Over the past year, I've gotten comfortable with quite a few techniques. Now I want to start learning SO many more, but it means beginning at the bottom of the skill set again.

I also want to understand design better, and add my own "voice" or style more into what I create. So I'm a bit anxious, but looking forward to creative challenges!

This pendant was definitely a challenge for me. I don't often design in concentric ways, or in symmetrical shapes. But I was intrigued by the idea of taking the jagged mosaic bits and keeping them within the boundaries of a circular shape. This pendant required a LOT of finagling to make sure the pieces were equidistant from the center of the circle, and from each other, and also that they formed a rounded shape on the outer ring. 

I also set the garnet so that the bottom overlaps into the inner circle, but I didn't solder it to the back plate fully:

it's hard to see against the dark stone, but the bottom of the garnet is supported only by the outer bezel and has no back plate inside the circle. A bit challenging to set as I raised the stone, but it wanted to "tip" over toward that open bottom when I set it. I'm not sure I'll do it again, but it was a satisfying challenge.  :)

Anyhoo, I went to class tonight and it was better than I imagined. Better than I could have imagined. I suspect it will be most beneficial and I will be counting the hours until next week when I get to go "be a sponge" (as my husband says) once again. I'm so ready for all this learning and I think it will be a career-defining - or at least very career-enhancing - choice.  :)

One last photo, because you can't see that yummy red garnet color in the first two!

Saturday, January 5, 2013


is my Achilles' heel.

Until this week, I haven't touched my Etsy supply store, bpsupply, in months. Pretty much since I set it up in September, before I was inundated with festivals and everything else that seems to ramp up in the fall. And what was so nice about that? Sales kept trickling in...not a ton, but enough to make me pleased and happy, especially since I'd all but ignored the store for several months.

Side note: why do I have an Etsy supply store? Because I am a hoarder of beads. And that mischief has been going on for many, many years. And now I'm not even using them...they're tucked away in little plastic bags, in little plastic drawers. It's time to let some things go. Beads out, cabochons in...there is a method somewhere in all this, y'know.

Of course, now that I've got more time on my hands, I've been actively working (for the last two whole days, mind you!) on the store like crazy. Photos. Photo editing. Listings. Descriptions. Measurements. Dry, dull, unexciting stuff...and of course right now I feel like NO ONE is paying it a bit of attention. Not one tiny bit.

So what happens? I feel frustrated, ignored, and bad about myself. I must not have what people want. Or I'm not offering what I have at the right prices. Or I'm just not smart enough to figure out what's going on. Or I just don't deserve any success...see where this path leads?  All. The. Damn. Time. The Hack Voice is coming through loud and clear.

It's the unending battle - and this isn't even a product I make, but instead something I have no personal investment in.  :)

But I think I know what the problem (or at least, part of the problem) is: I've been doing all that dry stuff, without any creative efforts to balance it. What did I talk about previously? The best antidote is to make stuff. It's my own personal therapy! I did try, earlier in the week, but it went so horribly that I had to give up before I got really agitated. And I haven't been back at the work table since...but guess what I'll be doing on Monday?

I'm ready for big changes this year and a bit...impatient...to get started.  :)

1/10/13 update: Three sales so far this week in the shop. I guess people *are* paying attention. Thank you!!  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Adventures

 “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

Neil Gaiman

This pendant wasn't supposed to have a turquoise drop. I accidentally drilled the holes on the top and the bottom. So I had to do something...that's just one of last year's mistakes. At least this one was salvageable  :)
This year's goals include having lots of new adventures. They may not be huge adventures, but they begin with moving forward toward new delights. There will be mistakes. I know it. But I don't kmow of any better way to learn than to learn from them and add that to the knowledge base. Last year's work with stones and bezels taught me that. So this year is going to be full of even more time devoted to my craft and developing a broader range of skills.
I have three full months ahead of me with no festivals. I have a glorious amount of time to explore, to design, to create. To work toward achieving the dreams and goals for my business and myself. 

I'm SO excited!!

Today began with five minutes of meditation (I know...getting all new-age-y, but I keep reading about its benefits...and I feel like I keep reading about its benefits because I'm supposed to pay attention to those little pokes). It went by quickly and painlessly, though I'm not sure I reaped any major benefits from it just yet - and now I'm drinking lemon water and getting my mind ready for the day, which includes...cardio. Of which I've done absolutely zero since the end of September. 

I'm so NOT excited!!

But it's time to get back on a routine. It's good for me physically and mentally and really...thirty minutes a day three times a week (okay, it might be twenty minutes twice this week.) is really nothing to complain about.  :)

And it's time to get back to (or start) a new work routine too. One of my jewelry goals is to create a piece every day (or, if I don't finish one every day, at least BE in the creative process daily), and get it photographed and online more quickly than I usually do. Shouldn't be hard with all this time on my hands, mmm?  

I wish you all the best as you pursue your own goals and endeavors this year!