Thursday, November 10, 2011

Playing with PVC

I love Robert Dancik's work. He is the creator of Faux Bone, a pvc product in sheet form that you can easily form, carve and treat to look like aged bone. I haunt his website and love his tutorials. Since discovering Faux Bone, I have also started experimenting with PVC on my own. It's inexpensive (cheap, actually) and easily available at local hardware and home improvement stores.

I recently stumbled upon a bracelet design while helping my husband clean off his work bench in our garage. He had some PVC pipe fittings laying around, and I found one that I initially thought would work well as a bracelet form for my wire work. It was a 2.5 inside diameter, schedule 40 PVC pipe fitting. The outside circumference is the perfect size for a standard bangle. Then it occured to me that maybe I could make a bangle from the pipe alone....hmmmmmm. A couple hours later and I had a lovely, aged bone bangle with copper accents.

So, I give you the Super-Cool PVC Bangle Tutorial! I wanted to share this because it's so fun to make and inexpensive to boot! This is a perfect holiday gift idea, and you can customize the look any way you wish!

Take a peek, and let me know what you think. If you make a bangle, I'd love to see it. Share the photos and I'll post here.

Have fun!!!
PVC Bracelet Tutorial

Friday, September 9, 2011

I've Got A Book!

For some time now I have been writing short stories and poems to go along with mixed media jewelry designs.  I call this series "Sacred Salvage".  Several folks that have read the work have asked why I haven't put together a book.  Basically, it's because the idea of putting this all "out there" terrifies me!  My writing is very personal, and the idea of throwing it to the winds is very intimidating.  Everyone is a critic, and the thought of having my inner works poked through really gets to me.  But, I then realized I was being a big baby.  So, I am proud to announce that Sacred Salvage is now available through Blurb.

The book is laid out like a photo book with text.  I have to thank Durga Garcia, photographer extraordinare, for the cover and chapter photos.  They're gorgeous!  The rest of the photos are mine.  This book means so much to me, because it truly reflects what inspires me most in my jewelry designs--nature, personal growth and strength of spirit.  I am donating 100% of my sales proceeds to the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, so that's one more reason to feel good about buying the book!
I hope you will consider this for yourself or as a gift.  It's more than a jewelry book and more than a book of short stories and poems.  It's my invitation to take a peek into my heart, and I don't offer that lightly.

Thanks in advance to those who buy a copy--you can get 20% off with the coupon code BLURB20.  If you do buy the book, please contact me with your thoughts.  I'm a big girl, and I'd like to hear what you think!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Re-defining Art Jewelry

What is art jewelry?  What is fine jewelry?  Can inexpensive jewelry be considered "fine"?  Hmmmmm...There are many different "levels" in any art form.  With jewelry design, the terms are tricky and sometimes prickly.  I once had my work refered to as "costume jewelry" and it pissed me off, because for some reason I associated that those terms with cheap, mass produced jewelry.  I consider my work to be "art jewelry".  That being said, there are all sorts of other catagories--"fine jewelry" being at the top of the heap.  I consider fine jewelry anything made using precious metals and gemstones.  BUT, that doesn't mean there isn't a ton of mass produced, crappy fine jewelry out there--just visit WalMart and BEHOLD...

The reason I bring this up is because my work doesn't exactly fit into any category.  Sometimes I use precious metals, most time I do not.  Sometimes I use fine gemstones, most times I do not.  My goal is to create original, AFFORDABLE art jewelry with whatever materials strike my fancy.  If I make something using sterling or gold, I can assure you it is only because I was able to purchase said sterling or gold SUPER CHEAP.  Affordability is really important to me, probably becuase I have never been able to afford what is considered fine jewelry.  Luckily, I also don't really care for that stuff anyway.  I have always been attracted to the unusual, the pieces that are obviously designed and hand-crafted by an artist thinking outside the conventional jewelry box. 

So, I may use base metals or really inexpensive elements in my designs, but don't call me cheap!  The end result is always a singular design, well-crafted and carefully constructed.  I once was hesitant to use nickel silver or pewter in my work, worrying that it would "cheapen" the finished product.  STUPID!  I encourage everyone to explore working with these materials, and to come up with original designs that bely the inexpensive componants.  Bottom line, I want my work to be worn, to be purchased, to be enjoyed by as many people as possible.  Sure, I can make you something using only sterling silver or fine gold, but the cost (too me) outweighs any design benefit.  Plus, it somehow seems unseemly to be setting fake grass or coyote teeth in 14k gold....just saying...

There are so many innovative, inexpensive design elements out there for the picking that translate into personal, inspirational designs.  I am a mixed media fanatic, and there is no button, photograph or dried leaf safe from my resin-coated fingers, and don't get me started on bone, feathers and fur...It's all in the translation, the way you work with common elements to create something uncommon and beautiful.

So, hit your local Michael's Craft Store and dig through the bead section.  Then hit the scrap book section, then hit the floral department.  Then head for your local hardware store and bring home some copper pipe and a pipe cutter.  You will be amazed at what you can create if you take a big step outside that jewelry box...

These three rings were made using inexpensive elements and componants including base metal ring blanks, copper washers and pipe, etched brass discs, and faux flowers and grasses.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Creating with Intent

Just got the latest issue of Nat'l Geo, with the cover all about Cleopatra. The image focused on an amazing gold and pearl earring that belonged to her. A golden snake coiled around huge white pearls. Breathtaking. In reading the article, you discover the intent behind the design. Snakes represent long life and prosperity, and were featured in countless jewelry designs from bracelets to necklaces to clothing.

This got me thinking about the history of human adornment, and how every culture in the world historically created art and jewelry with "intent", meaning behind the design that goes far beyond simple beauty. I think that is fascinating, and have always tried to incorporate a message or meaning in my work. Some of my designs are inspired by, or inspire themselves, a short story or poem. I'm partial to Native American folklore and often incorporate elements of that into my designs and writing. No matter what I create, I find that each design began as something more--an intrepretation of a greater idea or inspiration.

Susan Lenart Kazmer always encourages us to "create with intent". To make concious decisions with each step of artistic design. Every curve of wire, every bead or stone placement, the choice of metal or material, every hammer strike, should mean something--should be meaningful--even if it is only to you, the designer.  I agree, and find that being concious of this--of opening yourself up to explore meaning behind design and creativity--inspires greater creativity and originality.  Each design is a bit of my imagination come to life, made material.

I am inspired by nature, and try to reflect that in everything I make.  I believe I impart a message in every design, and hope the person who ultimately makes that design their own can see or "feel" my intent.  This way of thinking has made me a better artist, and I hope a better person as well...Isn't it amazing what personal expression can do for the individual and the group?? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, and how you express your intent or message in your work.  Please feel free to share here...THANKS!

This ring was made with spectacular varacasite from Out of Our Mines.  I chose it because it made me think of the Earth, with rivers and valleys in the marbeling of the stone.  It feels like magic to me...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Steel My Heart

I've recently started working more with steel wire.  I've had a spool of 16 gauge wire on my bench for some time, using it as accent wire, etc., but never as a design focal pint.  I can thank Susan Lenart Kazmer and Brenda Schweder for bringing steel wire to the forefront, both have published books, videos and tutorials about the wonders of steel wire.  I just got Brenda's book, Steel Wire Jewelry, full of inspiration.  AND, one of my all-time jewelry design heroes, Richard Salley, also incorporates steel wire in his amazing designs.

The economy has also played a big part in my shift to alternative metals other than silver or gold.  Steel wire is affordable and gaining in popularity.  I get mine from Objects and Elements.

I'm having a blast working with steel, it hammers, wraps, bends and solders like a dream.  There are several new designs in the works, I'll post pics as I go.  Shown here is a necklace/ring set made with steel, pearls and amazonite on black brass chain.  Dramatic and industrial, yet also kind of glamorous too!

If you haven't worked with steel before, I highly recommend it.  Get yourself a spool and have some fun!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Treasure Hunting

Went to our local, monthly antique fair yesterday with my good friend and amazing jewelry designer Donatella Linari.  She has such a good eye, immediately zeroing in on the booths with the "real" stuff.  She took home a fantastic, ancient glass seal from Haiti that will be transformed into one of her signature pendants, can't wait to see that.

I snagged some goodies as well.  Found a sterling silver encased chatalain pencil, which I love and are harder and harder to find.  Dated to the mid 1800's, and a bargain to boot!  This will make a great pendant element.  The cased is etched sterling and the pencil was still inside.  I also found some vintage textured brass ring bands in a gorgeous, organic pattern.  Immediately used them to make the two rings pictured here.  I really like the look of these bands, very ancient and rustic.  I hope to find more very soon (internet, here I come...).  I finished my haul with two tiny pocket watch keys that will make fantastic earrings or pendant elements. 

We had a nice afternoon, nothing is more fun that an antique fair.   All in all, a great day sleuthing for treasure!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tech Stuff

This is a quick post for those of you that create and maintain your own websites, like me.  I found a great flash slideshow program that creates really lovely image slideshows that are simple to make and embed in your websites, Facebook, blogs, etc.  It's called Flash Slideshow Maker Professional and I really like it!  I just updated my website and placed a great slideshow of images on the home page.  I highly reccomend this program, it offers tons of themes, layouts, transitions, music, and more.  Depending on your web skills, you can dig into the advanced features and make specific changes to suit your needs, or just go with the standards and you'll still be pleased.  When you are done, you upload to get the code for sharing, all with guidence and ease.  Check it out!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

HELP! I'm Being Robbed!

Okay, so maybe my post title is a bit over dramatic, but when it comes to the price of silver and gold these days, I do feel like I'm in the midst of a personal heist.

Gold and silver are at unprecedented prices right now, and that really affects what I do in my studio.  My goal has always been to create original, affordable jewelry.  With the cost of metals so unbelievably high, I have pretty much given up on designing with sterling, which is (as of this writing) almost $20.00 an ounce.  To put it in perspective, one square inch of sterling silver 24 gauge sheet is over $10.00!  So, no sterling in my studio right now except for wire, which is also priced through the roof.

For now, I am working with nickel silver which is much, much less expensive and looks and behaves a lot like sterling.  The downside is that many folks are allergic to nickel.  I'm trying to come up with all sorts of creative ways to get around this, like backing pendants and rings with resin-set images, transparencies, and even textiles so the nickel never touches skin.  The results are pretty cool, and this "dilemma" has given way to some new design ideas.  The photo below is of a new pendant made from Imperial jasper, amazonite and shell on nickel silver backed with a resin-set text transparency.  I  think it's lovely, and the cost is so much more reasonable!

For those of you that will settle for nothing other than sterling silver, I'm happy to oblige, but be prepared for some heart-stopping sticker shock.  The days of inexpensive metals are least for now!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Plum Gallery

As of this weekend, my jewelry designs will be available at Plum Gallery in St. Augustine!  This lovely little art haven is tucked away on Aviles Street, run by Karen Sheridan and Maribel Angel.  I discovered it on my last visit to St. Augustine a few weeks ago. 

I am so excited to be a part of this Gallery full of amazing art.  They have "First Friday Art Walks" from 5 - 9 PM, a great way to spend a Friday evening wandering St. Augustine and visiting the many ecclectic galleries all over town.  AND, don't miss "Sangria Sundays" from 2 - 4 PM--pretty self explanatory! 

It is always great to become a part of a new gallery, and Plum gives me another excuse to visit my favorite city as often as I can.  So, if you are in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by for an art walk or a glass of local sangria.  See you there!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dreams Become Reality

I'm always designing in my head.  No matter how busy I am, my thoughts inevitably turn to some sort of creative endeavor.  Sometimes being too busy to actually sit down and create can be a good thing.  This pendant, "Arbor Boy" is a good example.  I'd been imagining this pendant for weeks, going over every detail in my mind, but had no time to actually work on it until yesterday.  When I finally sat down to make it, the design flowed like water!

I created him from a tiny antique porcelain doll head set on an etched/heat treated copper "stage".  A hand made tree grows from his head, and below an antique sterling silver fork acts as roots, holding a French blown glass level.  Copper, brass and pewter gears accent. 

Arbor Boy represents my belief that we must think and live  "green" to restore balance to our planet.

So, don't be too impatient to create your next big idea/design.  Let it live and grow in your imagination for a bit, and the final result may be all the better for it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Surviving the Streets of St. Augustine

This is an odd post for me, a small departure, but I wanted to share...
I am a 45 year old runaway.  Yes, this weekend I ran away from home.  It's a struggle, living on the streets.  The mean streets of St. Augustine.  The constant assault of local live music wafting through the air, tripping over street musicians and performers with tiny dogs dressed as pirates.  The wonderful indie art galleries and restaurants in every nook, cranny and hidden side street.  Don't get me started on the antbellum architecture or how the place reeks of painstakingly maintained Spanish history.  It's Hell, I tell you, Hell!

Just to survive I've ducked into a new little place called "Rhett's", right next door to "Scarlet O'hara's" on Hypolita Street.  Those marketing wizards!

Where Scarlett's is a multi-level, old home turned into pub-style restaurant and college hot-spot, Rhett's is a new, super-cool, upscale piano bar and gourmet dining experience.  Sort of like what I imagine Mr. Butler would also be...but that's another story.

I can hardly manage to wolf my Caesar salad with all the burbling piano music, lovely and attentive staff, and don't get me started on the saxophone guy...oozing talent and fresh-scrubbed college cuteness. 

My lovely waitress just stopped by to ask what I thought of my salad.  I so wanted to drawl, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."  Don't worry, I didn't.  But I could have!

So, I sip my beer (yes, I am not afraid to order a draft in a place like this, after all, I am a street person), and stare at the antique tin tiled ceiling, plotting my next move.  I am interrupted by the arrival of my lobster stuffed chicken breast on truffle-infused mashed potatoes.  Oh. My. God.


I don't want to simply eat this meal.  I want to marry it.  I want to wear it next to my skin.  I want to take it for a long walk on the beach, holding its hand.  In case you don't get what I am saying, this meal is an orgy in my mouth.  Wait, that is really gross.  This meal is...delicious.  Simply, elegantly, delicious.

If I could eat like this every day I would become one of those house-bound people who eventually make the news because a wall of their home had to be destroyed so they could be removed by crane.  And I would be grinning ear-to-ear while dabbing at the truffle oil staining my chins.

I ran away to St. Augustine because many, many, MANY moons ago I used to live here, and to this day I adore the place.  Don't get me wrong, St. Augustine, America's oldest city, has its share of ridiculous tourist-traps.  Many crap shops selling T-shirts and chocolate on a stick in the shape of an alligator, "ghost tours" on every corner, and sangria bars with exhausted locals sweating their asses off dressed as Spanish soldiers, grinningng through gritted teeth at drunk, fanny-pack wearing families from Wisconsin taking their pictures.  But, as I sit under a painting of the Battle of Atlanta, sipping cappuccino, I marvel at how hip little places like Rhett's coexist with the Nation's Oldest Drug Store and Ripley''s Believe it if Not!  Somehow, St. Augustine has managed to grow up, while still retaining it's core personality.  Kind of amazing, really.

By the way,  I am totally getting into this whole runaway street person thing.

I was about to say that my dining experience was marred by the arrival of a huge party of really loud people seated right next to me.  I was, until the woman in charge of the group came over to me and apologized in advance for her boisterous group, and offered to buy me a drink to make up for it. God, I love St. Augustine!

Holy crap, I just realized that after it gets dim in Rhett's, they give you menus that LIGHT UP WHEN YOU OPEN THEM.  I can't stand it. You crazy kids with your fancy toys.  God bless you, no more squinting, or lighting your menu on fire because you held it too close to the table candle in a vain attempt to read it.

Back to the charm that is St. Augustine.  One of my favorite memories is of walking down a side street one evening after a great meal, and hearing laughter and music coming from a hidden courtyard.  The yard was surrounded, as many are, with an ancient stone wall.  I peeked over and found a group of locals, off work but still dressed in their Spanish period costumes.  They were relaxing, drinking beer, and cranking some great tunes.  They saw me and immediately insisted I join them, a total stranger.  Of course I did, and had a great night getting buzzed with soldiers, pirates, and wenches.  Totally awesome.

That is why I run away, as often as I can, to St. Augustine.  And you should too.  Living on the street has its advantages...

So, Rhett's, I'll let you carry me up that gigantic winding staircase anytime.  Really, you can, because I am so stuffed I can't walk right now.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Thank You Kim St. Jean

It's funny what gets me to finally bite the bullet and try something new. I've never taken a jewelry class in my life, and am grateful to be alive in the digital age, where you can find almost anything online. There is a video for just about everything (YouTube) and great books and DVDs at our fingertips.

I mentioned Kim St. Jean's new book, Mixed Metal Mania, in a previous post. It's great, go get it right now. Because of this book, I finally tried using stering silver solder paste, wire and sheet to create my own bezels. I am a huge fan of copper and brass tube bezels, which I make using recylcled pipe. But, I also wanted to learn the traditional methods of creating bezels, but didn't have the courage to go for it before now.

Turns out, in my recent studio cleaning frenzy, I found a tube of sterling silver solder paste I totally forgot I even had (and don't really remember buying...Jeez, I'm old) as well as a nice selection of solder wire and sheet. I guess at one time I thought I might actually give this a go! Good thing I did stock up, and I'm very proud to say I now am a soldering fool.

Kim made it look and sound so simple, I figured I had to be able to do it.  The photo below is of a ring I created from scratch--sterling on brass bezel with a nice hunk of Boulder opal.  I am pleased with the results, need to perfect my finishing a bit (you can see the line where the bezel wire, but overall I think it 'aint bad for a first try.  FYI, the ring is available in my Etsy shop...just sayin', a girl's gotta eat, so take a peek if you like opals...

I am eager to try more complex designs now, just wish sterling silver prices weren't so crazy.  Remember the days of silver at 50 cents a gram???  Thems was the good ol' days, that's for sure!

Oh, and I also just ordered my very own Fordham FlexShaft.  I burned up my third Dremel set up trying to make it behave like a real machine.  So, that's exciting and totally emptied my wallet....wish me luck!!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spring Cleaning - It Just Might Kill Me

So, I've spent the last three days feverishly attempting to bring order to the chaos in my house and studio space.  Spring Cleaning sounds so optimistic and bright...yeah, right.  My back is killing me, I've hauled three giant lawn and leaf bags of junk to the curb and I still haven't touched my cave of a closet.

On the bright side I did tackle my work bench with damn good results.  It was such a complete disaster--looked like a bomb went off--and I had given up actually working in the space.  The upside, besides re-discovering the actual surface of the table, was finding all the stuff I forgot I had buried in the mess.  Sort of like a shopping spree in my garage.

I know the new-found organization won't last, we creative types aren't known for our neatness.  But I will enjoy the open space while I can...Now, on to the closet!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Web Shop Shout-Out...

Ornamentea, hurry up and go there. Really, just put the name in Google or click the link and go there! I discovered this shop a while ago and have been so pleased with the fun bits of this and that I have found there. It's a grab bag of a place, with everything from tools, to base metal findings, to super cool 3-D cast pewter twigs, to lace inset plexyglass sheets. The tutorial pages are also very nice, with great tips about coloring metals like brass (rip some paper towels into strips, put in a lidded plastic container with a few drops of ammonia, add your brass, close the container and shake for a few minutes--voila--aged brass). Don't skip the "Micellaneous" tab, that's where the odd bits live, from brass bullet casings to tiny acrylic leaves.  Oh, and did I mention that the prices are FANTASTIC?   Enjoy...

A pendant I made using a bullet casing and heart charm from Ornamentea, along with pewter wings and a rutilated quartz bullet.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Stuff and a Book Shout-Out

So, I've been working on a new line of neclaces featuring pendants created using vintage photographs, optic lenses and brass gears.  I really love old photos, and mixing ecclectic elements with the designs.  I am lucky to have a huge antique/flea market right near me, with monthly shows.  I have been finding some really cool photos, tin types and old ads that are great for pendants.  Most are from the mid to late 1800s.  I especially like old tin types for thier creepy yet beautiful poses.  So, here's a slide show of some of the new stuff, all available at Clay Glass Metal Stone Gallery in Lake Worth.

Next, I want to give a shout-out to jewelry designer and author Kim St. Jean.  Her new book, Mixed Metal Mania, is fantastic and a must for all jewelry mixed metal enthusiasts.  Great photos, projects and tips, including a list of ways to easily color metals like brass and copper with home made patinas.  I've really enjoyed the jewelry projects, and have further educated myself with her soldering, folding, and metal work techniques.  THANKS KIM!!!  Oh, and Kim, hurry up and get a website, okay?  We want to see more of your work!!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Not Enough Hours in the Day

Hello!  It's been forever (it seems) since I've posted.  As with so many of us, life is so busy!  I have been working closely with a wonderful little co-op gallery in Lake Worth, Clay Glass Metal Stone Gallery, run by Joyce Brown, a talented sculptor and supporter of all things art.  Joyce is a real voice for the arts community in Lake Worth and has a spectacular back story involving peddling to the Amish, promoting hippy folk concerts and proudly declaring her Communist affilitations.  I love her.  The gallery is a funky, ecclectic mix of everything from gigantic metal sculpture to fused glass earrings.  The member artists (28 and counting) all work together to keep the doors open and host events twice a month.  It's a big challange to keep the gallery up and running, considering todays economy and wholesale evisceration of most communities arts budgets.  Anyway, I help the gallery by running their Facebook page and blog, both of which I expect you all to immediately follow and "like".  Go ahead, I'll wait till you get back....

Thanks!  Now, on top of working with the gallery (where I also show my work), I also manage several other blogs, websites and Facebook pages for both my jewelry business and my "real job" with the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation.  Again, please follow, like, etc.  As much as I enjoy working with social media and web design, I am at capacity with all the groups I support, and find I need to somehow figure out how to juggle it all AND find time for my own work.  Welcome to the digital age.

So, what have I been up to?  Well, last Sunday we hosted the fifth annual WILD THINGS Art Show in support of RSCF's conservation programs.  This event is held every year in Loxahatchee, right around the corner from RSCF, at a private studio owned by Gisela Pferdekamper.  Gisela is a wonderful artist--famous for her "fat horse" sculptures and paintings.  Every year she allows us to hold the show in her studio, a converted barn.  The space is amazing and we have a great time.  All the art is wildlife inspired and this year we had some of the best artists in the region.  I have to give a "shout out" to a couple of artists that joined us for the first time this year.  First, Anthony Burks.  Anthony is a spectacular painter/mixed media artist and his work is just breath-taking!  We are so lucky to have him in the show!  He created the bongo painting you see here specifically for the event, and it sold (of course).  Check out his online portfolio and prepare to drool....

Next, check out Melinda Moore's art photography.  GORGEOUS work, almost dream like.  Her bird photos are just stunning.  Again, a great addition to our show.  We look forward to seeing both Melinda and Anthony again next year.

Finally, I have to thank Georgette Pressler of Devious Body Art for her amazing work during the show.  She painted Andy Fields into a living cornucopia of wildlife!  Parrots flock across his face and shoulders, while bongo graze on his chest and abs....Can you say SUPER-COOL-AMAZING?  Whate a great night...

So, I've been busy!  AND, I've been making a whole new line of necklaces using vintage photos and tin types.  More on that later...this post is long enough!!  See you later...