Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another Social Skill Gone Extinct...The Spoken Word

First, let me say that I am totally aware of the irony of this post. Read on...

So I'm at a gallery event the other night. My jewelry is currently being shown in a new cooperative gallery--a fun, ecclectic mix of art and artists of all ages media. I'm chatting with a pretty, young potter whom I discover is also a yoga instructor. I mention that I spent close to twenty years as an aerobics instructor. With big eyes she responds, "Aerobics? Do people still do that?" It was as if I had told her that I practice medicine using leeches (which, by the way, many hospitals still do--go on, Google it). Oblivious to my obviously cool reply of "Amazing as it may seem, but yes, people still "do that"", she went on burying herself by continuing, "I mean, I remember aerobics, like, back in the day, in the 80's, right?" As if the 1980s were the equivelent to the Stone Age or any other dark, forgotten time prior to Ipods and teenage Vampires. You know, before anything IMPORTANT happened in history. She sat there smiling at me, completely oblivious to the verbal torpedos she so casually launched. If I didn't already know this girl I would believe she was intentionally commiting conversational suicide by being a total bitch. But, I do know this woman (I shouldn't call her a girl, she's in her late 20s), and it hit me that she was like most people her age--oblivious to just about everything other than whatever was in her immediate center of interest. A product of a life spent surfing the 'Net, a child of Facebook. Who needs to master the art of conversation when you can OMG, LOL, ROTGL!!!

When I got over my initial fury (mostly because I couldn't help but feel TOTALY ANCIENT in that moment) I actually felt sorry for her. She's a good artist and a lovely young woman, but I like to actually SPEAK to a person, interact, connect, all that OLD -FASHIONED stuff and to her I was the eqivalent of a living dinosaur. Interesting, but aren't they suppose to be, like, extinct or something?

I knew in that moment I would never connect with her on any level other than superficially, and that made me kind of sad. Many say that the age of the Internet has brought the world closer together, but I think it has isolated individuals more than ever. Who needs to master the subtle art of good conversation and depth of thought when you're entire verbal repertoire is confined to 140 characters or less? She may have benn "friended" a thousand times on Facebook, but how many friends does she really have?

Give me a good, long conversation over a cup of coffee with a real-live person, face to face, not Facebook, and I'm one happy camper. I want to hear you laugh, not read LOL on a computer screen. Social networking via computer is all fine and good as long as it doesn't replace the need for vocal cords and eye-to-eye contact. It's what keeps us human. It's what makes us human.

Sorry, this far exceeds 140 characters...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Creating with Consciousness

Last night I watched a 60 Minutes program on the gold trade in the Congo. Needless to say, the program was NOT a feel-good story with a happy ending. Turns out, gold mining in the Congo is just as corrupt and evil as diamond mining is. Young boys and men work in slave conditions digging into the Earth in search of gold for less than a dollar a day in pay. The gold/gold dust is sifted out of the soil, and treated with heated MERCURY (in buckets over open fire) to bind the gold together into tiny nuggets. Gold is sold to rebels and soldiers that in turn buy guns, drugs, whatever they need, to fuel and fund civil war in the region. The gold is exported to the World trade through Dubai, and yes, this gold may end up in the jewelry you and I purchase at local jewelry stores like Walmart (the country's largest seller of gold jewelry).

As a conservation biologist, this appalling practice and trade is unacceptable. The Earth and surrounding ecosystems are ravaged, and the cost to human life is incalculable. As a jewelry designer, I find myself in an evolution of thought that gives me great pause. Can jewelry be designed and created without contributing to the atrocities of strip-mining and human suffering abroad?

I try to create jewelry with a purpose--reclaimed metals, found objects, non-precious metals, etc. but I still use gemstones and beads mined from the Earth. Is this truly creating with consciousness? Is it enough? Long ago I made the decision to NEVER use, purchase or promote the use of diamonds in jewelry. As far as I am concerned, the diamond industry is just as fraudulent and corrupt as organized crime. The term "blood diamond" doesn't begin to describe the level of horror associated with diamond mining. But what about gems from Brazil? Brazil is famous for amethyst and other quartz mineral gemstones. Mines are everywhere, and mining companies have alarmingly similar practices around the world. Rip open the Earth, take what you want, pay little or nothing for it and move on, leaving behind a wake of destruction.

I am in a true moral quandry here, and am not sure what direction my designs will take, or if I should even continue to persue jewelry design at all. I try to raise funds for wildlife conservation through the sales of my work, but that seems pretty hypocritical if componants of my work are created through destroying the very systems I strive to protect. How can I look at gold wire or sheet without seeing the faces of the men who slave to get it out of the ground? How can I set a gemstone without seeing the scarred Earth from which it came?

Jewelry design and personal adornment are ancient--all cultures on the planet have decorated their bodies with items made from gifts from the Earth. The history of jewelry fascinates me and has inspired me for as long as I can remember. The jewelry INDUSTRY of today is a far cry from singular aritsans creating works of personal art. Today's market is a voracious beast churning out tons of glittery, meaningless JUNK. Junk that funds wars, fuels famines, and fosters desperation in the countries selling off their natural resources with no sense of the future consequences.

As I said earlier, there is no happy ending here. I am going to take a long, hard look at myself and my purpose in creating jewelry. My conscious demands it, and I believe I owe it to myself and to the countless, nameless souls who give their lives so wealthy countries can drape their citizens in glitter.

Friday, November 13, 2009

'Tis the Season...

Even though we haven't carved the turkey yet, and we still have left-over Halloween candy, it is never too early to begin shopping for the Holidays. As you wade through endless advertisements for "Door Buster" Holiday Sales and "Black Friday" Super-Specials, remember this--gifts given with thought and care mean so much more than grabbing something on sale at a Mega Mall or SuperCenter. Handmade gifts are especially meaningful in many ways. Giving a handmade gift guarantees originality and quality. Buying handmade supports the Arts and the artists themselves. Buying from local artists also supports local economies, not some gigantic factory overseas. So, before you purchase a mass-produced item simply because it is on sale, consider visiting your local artists cooperative, or shopping online for handmade goods. Etsy is great place to start. You will feel so much better about your purchase, and I can guarantee that whomever gets the gift will be far happier as well!

Also, many artists will work with you to design a custom gift. What a great way to show you care!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gallery Girl!

I am very happy to announce that I have been accepted into a new, fantastic cooperative gallery located in Lake Worth, Florda. Clay Glass Metal Stone Gallery is a non-profit artists group full of amazing talent. I am so excited to be a part of the group! Currently, over 20 artists are represented--sculptors, potters, jewelers, metalwork, name it, it's there!

The gallery is open seven days, and we have evening gallery openings the first and third Friday of the month, featuring three of the current artists. So much talent in one room!! So, if you're in the neighborhood, please stop by and see us!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Remember when I posted about Reactive Metals? Well, I purchased some copper and sterling silver mokume gane from them and...well...WOW! I bought a 3-inch by 3-inch square, and Baldwin's patina to bring out the color in the copper (which the super sales representative reccomended, thanks!!). It sat on my workbench for a couple weeks 'till I got up the courage to actually cut into it. It ain't cheap, but boy is it GORGEOUS! This is the result, a pendant in a series I call "Perseverance". I used brass pipe, copper and brass sheet, sterling silver wire, brass wire and a 5mm faceted green tourmaline. Available in my Beadkeepers Etsy shop. Can't wait to make more...a matching ring perhaps?

Don't Forget to SAMPLE!

I can't believe I haven't posted about this before. I am a self-taught jewelry designer on a tight budget. With that in mind, I am constantly searching for bargains, especially with metals like copper, silver and brass. Copper and brass are relatively inexpensive and there are tons of sources for sheet, bar, tube and wire. Just do an online search or take a look at the Google ads running to the left of this post...most are about copper and brass sources.

What I wanted to share here is the wonderful world of SAMPLES. I have discovered that almost every metal sheet manufacturer will offer samples of their materials. I just got a sample pack of copper sheet colored with a variety of patinas. Ten 4 x4 inch sheets of copper, each colored with a different patina, for under $20.00!!! SWEET!

So, if you are browsing a metals site and don't want to invest in a large order right off the bat, or are not sure what you really want, ask if they offer samples!! Sometimes you can even find them for FREE!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Eye Really Like This...

Those who know me understand my continual search for unusual and unique elements to incorporate into my jewelry designs. I love a new discovery, and would like to share one here.

A few months ago I stumbled across a website that really sparked my imagination and a new line of jewelry designs. Van Dykes Taxidermy Supply. Taxidermy supply??? Yes, taxidermy supply. Specifically, Van Dykes line of glass and acrylic animal eyes. These things are amazing! There are hundreds to choose from. Mammals, birds, exotics, reptiles, can spend the day browsing the selection. The eyes are calibrated too, so you can choose from sizes ranging from 6mm up to 30mm. Perfect for standard stamped bezels. Imagine the rings, earrings and pendants! These eyes are gorgeous, a great unusual element of design. The colors are intense, the construction flawless. Take a look at the site and let you imagination run wild!

I've posted here a few photos of some of the designs I've created using these eyes, including my newest and personal favorite--the mixed metal squid necklace. I call it "Calamari". I just got my latest order from Van Dykes...shark and sailfish eyes. Have no idea what I will do with them yet....but I'm working on it. I'll keep you posted....

The image below from left to right shows "Calamari" with a squid eye, "Crocodile Tears" with a croc' eye, "Woodsman" with a coyote eye and tooth, and "Crocodile Tears" ring with croc' eye.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Tools - New Challanges!

Santa came early to my workshop and delivered some new tools. I am now graced with a drill press and flex shaft rotary tool. THANK GOD FOR HARBOR FRIEGHT TOOLS! In my dream world I have top-of-the-line everything, including a Fordham flex shaft. But, reality (and my wallet) dictate that I start with something a bit more affordable, like a Dremel 300 with flex shaft attachment. Fordham systems start around $300.00 and are worth every penny. BUT, if you are a newbie like me and can't afford that I highly recommend the Dremel set, which costs about $100.00 for the Dremel and the flex shaft.

What's the big deal about flex shafts you ask? Well, if you want to work with metal sheet, this opens an entirely new door for cutting, drilling, polishing and grinding. The small size and flexibility of the shaft allows you to work much closer, and the feel in the hand is great. Separating the powersource (the Dremel) from the shaft keeps things cooler as well. I rigged a hanger for the Dremel from a coat hanger and a clamp. Dremel offers a hanger system, just haven't bought it yet. Another $20.00 or so.

The Fordham system is operated by a foot pedal to power the motor for ultimate control of speed and I really, really wanted that but didn't think Dremel offered it. WRONG. Found a foot pedal for a Dremel on Amazon for under $20.00. Just ordered that bad-boy today. So, for under $150.00 I have a system that I think will really boost my productivity and creativity. I still want the Fordham, and someday I'll get one (when I am a famous jewelry designer....really), but for now this is a HUGE step up for me. I have been using my husband's ancient Dremel (much to his dismay) that was battery operated. I've burned through three batteries to date. The 300 is corded and multi-speed, hooray!

Now, on to the drill press. I use copper and brass tubing for all sorts of things and always have trouble drilling it. I also sometimes want to drill large holes in sheet metal and have been struggling with that as well. NOT ANYMORE! I got a great drill press for $40.00 (yes, I said FOURTY DOLLARS) at
Harbor Frieght Tools. Drills pipe like BUTTER. What a time saver.

Who knew I'd get so excited about TOOLS. I am not a mechanical person--most power tools scare me to death--death being the operative word here. When faced with most power tools I can clearly imagine the grisly end I will no doubt meet as I attempt to use them. BUT, I'm proud to say that I have overcome most of my demons and now really enjoy using these tools.

Hey, if I can do it so can you. Google is your friend, and there are tons of great websites and YouTube videos to guide and advise you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I have been fumbling my way through teaching myself basic metal work. Many of my designs feature copper tube bezels I cut myself and lots of hammered and textured brass. I love textured metals. I've recently discovered shibuichi, or cast sterling silver. The patterns and textures you can achieve are just amazing. Same with reticulation--heating metal to the point the surface actually flows and changes, leaving behind amazing textures. I am NOWHERE near skilled enough to actually attempt these techniques myself and have simply been admiring from afar. Mokume gane--the blending of copper and sterling (or gold and sterling) into gorgeous patterns....sigh. Delicious. All these techniques are ancient in origin, many originated in Japan. Someday....

So, imagine my DELIGHT and SURPRISE to discover Reactive Metals online!!! My dreams are here! Now I can purchase shibuichi, mokume gane, and shakudo SHEETS!!! Are they expensive? YES! Are they worth it? YES! This site also carries all the tools and supplies needed for metal work as well as books, CDs and tutorials. They offer great information on patina techniques using these sheets (can you imagine?!?!?) as well as some traditional Japanese patinas I've not seen anywhere else. What a great site.

As soon as the piggy-bank is a bit fatter, I will be investing in some fantastic metals here. Take a look...and prepare to lighten your wallet. So hard to resist!!! I've included an image here of just a sample of the sterling sheet you can the sea urchin textured one. If you do invest in these sheets, let me know. I'd love to see what you create...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sister Art

It's been a while since I have posted...busy, busy, busy...Okay, so I was actually completely out of delightful commentary and thoughtful insights. Until today--I found an amazing website called "The Sister Project", or TSP for the hip who join this group. The site is actually a blog, or a bunch of blogs, all celebrating sisters, art, and expression. Take a few moments to visit'll be inspired, enlightened, and have access to fantastic artists of all media.

As one of five sisters, I really found myself lost in this site. Trust me, it's worth your time. Sloan Tanen's "Sister Chicks" will simply leave you weak from laughing. I've included one of her series here...

This is for my older sisters who went to Catholic school. I don't know what I love more, the chick tied to the bed or the teeny, tiny saddle Oxford shoes...Plus, they remind me of marshmallow peeps. Our family has a strange obsession with peeps. Another story for another day...

One of my most favorite artists is also featured on this site, Lindsay Carr of Little Robot. Her illustrations are breathtaking and her paper theaters fantastic works of art. I'm trying to entice Lindsay to illustrate one of my poems for a children's book...wish me luck!! Below is a classic example of her work...

Isn't she grand? Anyway, please visit these sites and ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What Time is it?

Time is something I am very aware of. I often incorporate images representing time and the passage of time in my jewelry and writing. I am very aware of the changes that time inevitably leaves behind. I try to mimic what time can do to the metals I so love to work with. I treat copper, brass and silver with chemicals to speed up this aging process because I love the color, the texture, and the patina of time.

In the past few weeks, I’ve found myself wondering why the passage of time is so difficult for humans. Why we don’t see the beauty in ourselves as we age like we do in the precious metals, jewelry, and art we adorn ourselves with.

Aging is a natural, biological process we have absolutely no control over, no matter what Olay tells us. Aging is amazing. It is wondrous. It is mysterious. It is celebrated in ancient cultures all around the world, and yet here in the U.S. aging is considered a dread disease, a condition that is shameful, embarrassing, and completely intolerable.

The lengths we will go to try and hold back the hands of time. The millions, and millions of dollars spent. The torture, both psychological and physical, we are willing to endure for the illusion of youth. And for what? Approval? Acceptance? If so, from whom? To what end? We still age—we still die. There is no magic lotion or elixir that can stop any of this. We simply fool ourselves because—let’s face it—we’re certainly not fooling anyone else, no matter how tight the face, how huge the lips, how firm the breasts.

To maintain good health, well-being and to live a full life—where is the shame in that? Why do we see aging as a desecration instead of a celebration?

As a woman approaching her mid-forties, I too struggle with what the passage of time has given me. A bad back, skin that doesn’t exactly snap like elastic, and yes, my boobs have decidedly moved a bit South. But, I have learned more about myself in the past five years than I have in the past forty. I think clearer, I see more (especially with my new graduated lens eyeglasses), and for the first time in my adult life I am AWARE of who I am and who I want to be. I look in the mirror and, yes, I wince. Where is the girl who taught 10 aerobics classes a week for years? When did my pores get so huge? Why did no one tell me about back-fat and gray hairs in your EYEBROWS?

But, I have to laugh. I laugh (especially after a glass or three of Prosecco), at what women convince themselves they are getting away with. Cat-eyes and cliff-like cheekbones. Faces and lips so swollen with fillers and frozen with toxins they look like victims of some sort of terrible allergic reaction or unusual thyroid condition. Hair extensions, eyelash extensions, everything but what we really crave—a LIFE EXTENSION. Can’t get that at a salon or surgery suite.

But, we can choose to live our lives to the fullest. To treat every day as a gift, something to be treasured, filled with conscious action and given back to the world. To look outside ourselves, away from the mirror. Humans are blessed and cursed with self-awareness. What we choose to do with this awareness, I believe, is what defines our lives.

I want to try to become like the women I often write about. Beautiful, older women who not only embrace time, but revel in it. They do not fight the passage of time, they use it as a stage upon which to deliver the greatest of performances—the performance of their LIFE.

Beauty is defined by action, not by celebrity or pharmaceuticals. I choose to live a beautiful life. Would you care to join me? I certainly hope so.

NOTE: This post was inspired in part by the passages of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Two iconic individuals that defined and fought what we consider “beautiful”--both have left us far too soon.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Beyond the Norm

My good friend Norm Gitzen, a fantastic artist, sculptor and wildlife lover, was recently featured in a short video created by students at Palm Beach Junior College. Please take a few moments to visit Norm's world--he's a "true believer" and his art reflects his love of wildlife and passion to protect what remains of nature. GO NORM!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Handmade Chic Interview

I invite everyone to take a good look at Rachel Baron's blog, Handmade Chic. Rachel is a wonderful glass artist (Inferno Glass Beads) and a staunch supporter of handmade art. She graciously interviewed me for the blog--THANKS, RACHEL! So, stop by and visit with Rachel for a few moments when you can, and visit her website for lovely glass creations!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wonderfully Weird - Using the Unusual in Jewelry Design

If I were to write a book about jewelry design, the title would be the title of this post. I really love incorporating unusual elements into my work. There are many names for this type of design--mixed media, altered art, assemblage jewelry, and found item jewelry are but a few. I'll go with assemblage jewelry for the purposes of this post.

Assmeblage art is very big right now. Artists like Susan Lenart Kazmer, Tessa Rickard and Stephanie Lee and have pioneered this artform, bringing everything from doll parts and old dominos to burnt out miniature lightbulbs into fine jewelry design. If it can be bezel set, then by gosh BEZEL SET IT! The results are stunning, as you will see on these amazing artist's websites.

I am a collector of oddities, I always have been. My passion for wildlife conservation and animals is evident in my collection of "weird" which covers everything from glass taxidermy eyes to animal bones of all kinds. I especially love working with animal bones. At my work station I have several boxes and containers of bones from raccoons, opossums, and most recently, an iguana. All these items are found on the 30-acre wildlife preserve in which I live. Sunny south Florida is a great place to bone hunt and I often find great, bleached out bones from animal visitors long past. I've collected bones forever, even as a little kid. I like to think I honor the animal by turning their bones into something unique and beautiful to live on in their memory.

I never really considered this all that strange, until my sister visited me recently and discovered my bucket containing a complete opossum skeleton. I could tell she was simultaneously interested and grossed out. I remember she said, "Oh, I bet you'll do something really amazing with this." I immediately started telling her my plans for the vertebrae and teeth--I use these smaller bones in rings and pendants. She nodded politely and then said, "That sounds really cool. But, when you're planning Christmas gifts, remember this isn't for me!" She was trying to joke, but was also deadly serious. That got me thinking--one woman's weird is another woman's wonderful.

I've been lucky. I have created animal bone jewelry that has been appreciated (and actually PURCHASED) by many people. I've never thought twice about using bone or animal fur/feathers in designs. But I wonder, is there such a thing as too weird? Tessa Rickard, I'm sure, would argue and emphatic, "NO!" Some of her work incorporates human teeth for crying out loud! AND, the results are GORGEOUS as you can see in the Lark book 500 Pendants and Lockets, which features her designs.

I guess it's all about having the courage to put your work out there and not be overly influenced by those that may not "get" it. Art is fluid, constantly changing and open to interpretation. Most of all, it's EXPRESSION that matters. Yes you can use a clasp created from your Grandmother's beautiful vintage button collection to finish a necklace made from copper electroformed iguana vertebrae.

So, do you agree??? I've included a few photos here of some of my "weirder" work and ask that all you assemblage artists out there to send me images of your "wonderful weirdness". I'll post them here with links to your web pages.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

OUCH! I Guess I Don't Really Need That Finger Anyway...

So I'm teaching myself cold connecting with rivets. I have some great books that illustrate the process (Susan Lenart Kazmer has a FANTASTIC book illustrating all the ways to cold connect), yet I continually go it alone. Why is it that sometimes you just have to figure things out on your own, even when you have great information at your fingertips? I find that I work this way often. Not sure if I'm just too stubborn or impatient to open a book first, or if this is just part of my "creative process". At any rate, my fingers bear the brunt of my self-taught "lessons". My left hand in particular, the hand I use to hold the teeny-tiny elements I am attempting to rivet together with a steel riveting hammer held firmly in my right hand. I've whacked the crap out of my fingers. Sigh, there goes my career as a hand model.

That being said, I love riveting. It is very easy once you have the right tools, and you practice a bit. I got my rivet hammers from Burnt Offerings Jewelry and Adornment. FANTASTIC mixed media artists, and they have great tools and supplies. VISIT THEM!

Here is my first cold connected bracelet. I made it using copper disks colored with patinas, layered with hammered copper washers riveted with sterling silver wire. I connected each disk "sandwich" with black rubber "O" rings. This took forever, I was learning as I went along, and I have to say that I was quite proud of myself when I finished. Now I know I can rivet with much more confidence and I'm already working on new designs.

So, don't be afraid to try something new--even if you don't think you have the perfect skills. Of course, don't be totally stupid--I'm not suggesting anyone teach themselves how to use a blowtorch! But, don't be afraid to pick up a hammer, or a book for that matter, and teach yourself something. Remember, Band-Aids come in the cutest colors and patterns now-a-days!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Continuing a Love Affair...Ahhhh, Patina

So, I've gone on and on about how much I love to work with copper, brass and chemical patinas. Well, Christmas came early for me--I got my new universal patina kit from Sculpt Nouveau. Talk about a kid in a candy store! This website has everything, I mean EVERYTHING you can imagine to work with colors on metal. The selection of patinas is endless and so are the possibilities. The kit I purchased has a over a dozen colors of patina, metal cleaner, sealers, and waxes all for $75.00!! TOTALLY WORTH EVERY PENNY. By the way, the folks at Sculpt Nouveau have some great videos using these patinas posted on YouTube. Just put "Sculpt Nouveau" in the search box.

So, I've been busy like a mad scientist mixing colors on metal and here are some images of the results...My first pin/pendant (and one of the most complex pieces I've done to date), and two bracelets I made using bezels made from copper tubing and brass bases. I so love these!!! I especially love the results you get from mixing blue and green patinas. These pieces are all available in my Etsy shop.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Image Transfer Solution Tutorial

In an earlier post I mentioned my experiments with Image Transfer Solution. I really love this stuff--you can now transfer laser printed, toner-based images onto just about anything incuding metal. Since my post I've been asked by ArtChix Studio to create a tutorial of the process and I've included a pdf version here (you'll need Adobe PDF Reader). I created a simple locket pendant using a pre-fab brass locket and images from ArtChix. ArtChix has such great collage sheets, all are laser printed and work well with ITS with a few minor adjustments. Take a peek, then get yourself some ITS, visit ArtChix, and make something amazing!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Please Pardon My Mess...NOT!

If you've read more than one of my artist interviews you will see that many of the questions I ask are often the same. I think it's facsinating to see the similarities and differences among artists regarding interests, influences, and style. One question I always ask is what type of studio they work in--Is it organized and neat, or controlled chaos? I initially asked this question just to assure myself that I'm not the only artist whose studio/workspace often looks like a bomb went off, and I am relieved to know that I have yet to interview an artist who keeps their workspace neat as a pin!

My husband, a brilliant scientist/mechanic/fixer-of-all-things finds my workspace horrific. No matter how technical or difficult a situation is for him (working up to his elbows in the guts of a tractor, or rebuiding a delicate parrot egg incubator) he somehow manages to keep his workspace organized and, dare I say, tidy. Every tool has it's place, whether in the box or laid out for immediate use. I've tried to explain the whole right-brain, left-brain artist thing to him, but I believe he just thinks I'm hopelessly disorganized.

BUT, we creative types know better, right? How can you really explain the artistic process? I try, I really do, to keep my space organized. Every few days (okay weeks) I actually sit down and clear my workspace. Tools put away, beads back into boxes and trays, bits of scrap metal into other storage, patinas and paint on the correct shelf, right down to the bare wood on my table-top. Then I get an IDEA...and the process begins. No matter how detailed a design is in my head, the process of laying it out and actually creating it is as organic as the design itself. I imagined turquoise, but what about carnelian or coral?? Lay that out. I need a opossum tooth, but found vertebrae I forgot I had. Lay that out. Beads, wire, beads, feathers, beads...lay them all out. Inevitabley, while pulling together all the elements I think I need for a design I find stuff I forgot I even had! Might as well lay that out, too. I'm sure you get the picture...the messy, messy picture.

Once, I knocked a small box of 3mm faceted gemstones off my table to the floor, where they scattered hither and yon. I found myself on my hands and knees, flashlight held tightly in my teeth as I searched for anything shiney. I found the gems, and a package of pheasant feathers, a bone moon face, several long-lost silver beads and a length of sterling silver chain I had given up ever finding again. And that was just in the immediate area around the chair I sit in...Ah, the thrill of the hunt!

In all honesty, I LIKE having a crazy workspace. It's like a freaky treasure hunt, and for the most part I do know where everything is....sort of. I like looking at the chaos and digging a design out of it. Where in nature do you ever see neat and tidy?? Look out your window--unless you live in a formal English garden, everything you see is gorgeous, unplanned, natural chaos. I say, REVEL IN IT!!!

Artist Interview - Payton Jett of Green Glass Cafe

I discovered Payton Jett on Etsy, when I came across her amazing lampwork glass bird beads. I've collected several of these impossibly cute, wonderful beads. I encourage anyone interested in nature-themed, unusual and beautiful glass beads to visit her Etsy shop, Green Glass Cafe, and her personal website, The selection is fantastic, from elaborate and detailed focal beads to tiny birds including owls, chickens, and my favorite, fat little songbirds. What I like most about her bird beads is that she has captured the complete essence of a bird in a simple, elegant design. The color choices are fantastic and each bead has a unique personality. Her imagination, and skill evident in every creation she makes. Payton graciously took the time to answer a few questions for me and I hope you will all visit her shop and website SOON! Thanks, Payton!

KM: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

PJ: I've been an artist for as long as I can remember. Before lampwork beads, fine silver, jewelry and photography, I was a graphic artist/web designer. That's how I learned about lampworking. I did a webpage for a local lampwork artist and got the torching bug! I still like to dabble in graphic arts but hot glass is where my heart is at!

KM: When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?

PJ: I never wanted to be an artist, I just always was.

KM: What is your favorite medium and why?

PJ: Hot glass. I've thought a lot about what it is about hot glass that makes me so crazy about it and the one thing I consistently come up with is that it's always a challenge. There is so much chemisty and fine skill involved and I am a pretty competitive person so that seems to work for me. There is a bit of mystery too--glass changes a lot from flame to kiln--the colors seem to almost morph and it's always a guessing game as to what you will get out of the kiln the next morning!

KM: What other mediums have you tried, experimented with, etc.?

PJ: I think I've tried everything less glass blowing from a crucible or glory hole and throwing pottery. I really enjoy balancing out my hot glass world with drawing and photography and even making cards! We have a pretty extensive stamp collection and it's nice to just sit down and put little paper bits together sometimes!

KM: What inspires you to create?

PJ: Just about everything I see. I'm always putting designs together in my head or in one of my hundreds of little sketch books I keep around the house, in the car and in my purse! The need to create never really leaves me so I try to stay prepared!

KM: Who are your personal favorite artists?

PJ: I have so many it would be hard to list them all! I am inspired by my fellow lampwork/jewelry/silver artists for sure!

KM: You obviously love birds...what is the story behind your bird beads?

PJ: The bird beads, ah! Well, I've always loved birds. My friends always tease me that I'm not supposed to like bird watching until I'm getting on in years--ha! I always tell them that I am an old soul, so that counts for something! The first bird bead was born last January. I made "love" birds for Valentines day. I wanted to design a bead that was different from anything anyone had seen and with a whimsy and folk feeling. My inspiration came from this really adorable bird I saw at an orchard in Peoria, IL called "Tanners". They've got this great little gift shop that we like to go to and there was this cute, fatty little bird that really got me going. I was in love! So I used his shape as a basis for my designs.

KM: How would you describe the link between art and nature, and how does this influence you?

PJ: For me, art and nature are really one. Everything I do is really taken from or inspired by nature. Obviously I'm all about organics and nature as that's the basis for my business name, GREEN glass cafe. I always try to encorporate organics and metallics or organics and bright colors. If you look around you, everything is organics and metallics. Think about tin roofed barn and a large, open field of swaying wheat. It just works.

KM: What is your studio/workspace like? Neat and clean or controlled chaos?

PJ: Completely controlled chaos. I have two 8-foot tables and one 6-foot table that are partitioned into spaces, if you will. The 6-foot table is the "packing and shipping" area and houses all my beads, both sold and unsold. Then you've got the bead cleaning station, fine silver station, lampworking torch, and workbench. To the right of that is a 6-foot tall shelf with about 500 cardboard tubes that hold all of my glass. Then the kiln sits to the right of the torch. The last table has the picture taking set-up and jewelry area. Under the tables is all my storage for things that don't fit in the three shelves we have here and there! It's complete chaos, but I know where everything is! Most of the time.. :)

KM: What advice can you offer other struggling artists out there, especially during these tough economic times?

PJ: Be original. Find something that works for you that is different, original and fun. If someone else is making the same pink bracelets, do something different.

Be courageous. Finding that one of a kind design that sells often takes courage because you're pulling from a place inside you that is almost always private and vunerable to criticism. But if it is unique it will always feel scary. Since no one has ever done what you're doing you don't know how it will be received! Just do what feels right in your heart and when you find something that works make the heck out of it until it stops selling.That last bit of advice is a new way of thinking for me. I'm always about original and unique but in these hard economic times you have to have your mainstay and that means that one really great thing that you make and that people know you for and that sells!

Always, always always be open to custom order work. This is a great way to form connections with your customers and to learn more about them. Custom work is challenging but way more rewarding than anything! And I find that I always learn something new when I take on custom work--Not just about my customers, but about design. It's a great experience for anyone!

Finally, ADVERTISE in ANY way you can. Blog, connect with other artists in any way possible, network heavily. Stay in touch with people! Update your site or Etsy store often. Have a newsletter that you can involve people in what you're doing. They wont read it every time but most will read it most of the time! Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and a personal site are all really great ways to advertise.

This Guy is Sort of Talented...

I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the cover of the latest issue of Art Jewelry Magazine. The cover-shot is of metal clay work by Gordon Uyehara, an uber-talented artist that has taken PMC to a whole new stratosphere. UNBELIEVABLE. I've been on the edge of actually attempting to work with metal clay for years. Frankly, I'm intimidated. BUT, seeing Gordon's work is so inspiring I just might finally take the plunge. Anyone interested in PMC must get this issue of AJM. Metal clay has come leaps and bounds since it's inception. Now you can choose from silver, gold, brass, and the soon-to-be-available COPPER metal clays. How cool is that??? Also, this issue has some great profiles and information about working "green", which is, of course, close to my heart. For more information visit AJM's website. Also, you can visit Cool Tools, my new favorite product/tool supply website, for metal clay, and much, much more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What do you Mean it's Almost APRIL???

Holy-moly the time has flown by...Obviously, I've been busy. Spring is FINALLY in the air and the animals are all going baby crazy. The parrots are nesting, the marmosets are having babies everywhere and the bongo are thriving. In the midst of all this I have a real case of Spring Fever and have been creating lockets and necklaces in bright colors (with just the right amount of weird, of course...). Playing with mica powders mixed with chemical patinas and acrylic. Loving the results!!! A picture included here of a necklace I made using patina, copper cups, mica powders and a glass coyote eye I found on a taxidermy website...

New lockets are also my obsession, thanks to influence from one of my all-time favorite Etsy artists, Tessa Rickard. Her lockets got me inspired to try to make my own...the latest is below. I'm calling these "Poetry Pieces" because the each come with an original poem I've written based on the locket design. I've discovered the fantastic world of Image Transfer Solution for metals and have been working with vintage photos from ArtChix transferred onto sterling silver, copper and brass. If you haven't tried this DO!!! The possibilities are ENDLESS. I love using these images in my lockets--they inspire the stories and poems I write...

More to come...I promise!!