2016 has to be the weirdest year ever. It was an election year and of all people, Trump ran for President and won. Through the whole year, it was like life was on pause. We all were in a holding phrase, nothing really happening, people not doing anything but waiting for the election to be over. It was also my most challenging year in business since I started many years ago, making me wonder if I should get out of the jewelry.metals field for good. That indecisiveness also carried over into teaching, and many of us art teachers ( of the arts, crafts, jewelry/metalsmithing, etc) had the most cancellations of classes and workshops. On one hand, it hurt that so many of my workshops/classes were cancelled, but on the other hand, I was grateful for a break. I really needed time away from the classroom, being so burned out, I was not in a good place, mentally. Once the election was over, it was like, we can breath................ again!
After a crappy year in retail, December turned out to be my best December in sales since the Bush years so after starting out on a low point, I finished this year on a high note, which I hope carries over for this year. I was very happy. I've also seen changes in my life so as I go from teaching constantly, I'm doing more goldsmithing, which is nice, for I can be at my bench, creating, making, designing and repairing. I've been repairing for over 2 years now at Tates Gallery and I'm not burned out, all because of the laser welder. The laser welder has transformed the goldsmithing field, making repairs that would have been impossible, doable now. My skills have been broadened and I've been on a roll, for I seem to be doing really good work in the past few months.
This spring has it's own trials - my dog had to have surgery, my 2 hedgehogs had to have surgery to remove mouth tumors and my mom had surgery, all at the same time. Needless to say, I was the nurse, and I became sick from trying to care for everyone. Whatever you do, don't try to schedule surgery on every warm body in the household at the same time. With the hedgehogs, it was imperative that they got their tumors removed for they couldn't eat. I also had to take on the gardening duties, which was my mom's duty, and all household duties. I discovered I had a green thumb after all - I planted so much basil, I had to go on a pesto making spree. In fact, I'm really considering selling my pesto at the local farmer's market, for everyone who had my pesto loved it. I have my own recipe, and I use pecans and if possible, roasted garlic instead of pine nuts. The pecans and roasted garlic gives the pesto a more mellow flavor. I planted sweet basil, Thai basil, spicy basil and purple basil, and used them all in my pesto. I tried growing stevia and they thrived in the garden, shooting up to 46" tall. This spring, I'm going to go all out on herbs and plant even more basil. I'll be up to my ears in pesto. I planted some herbs in pots so I could have fresh herbs in the winter, so it was easy to bring indoors the potted herbs and keep them going all winter long. The stevia is thriving in my bedroom. It's also a learning experience on what plants do well and what don't do well indoors.
As for the hedgehogs, Spike is now 7, which is a record for me, and still hanging in there. Poor guy can't walk very well and his front legs are lame, but he's still healthy, still bright-eyed and perky, but he does sleep a lot more. He's also smaller - funny how we shrink as we get older. I try to hang out with hime as much as possible. Pumpkin Peanuts is now my #1 escape artist, even more so than Cody, who was a master escape artist. She's a strange one, I can't quite figure out her personality but netherless, I love her. She's a pretty one but you got to watch out for her. She's fast! Bosco, my dog is 19 now, and growing all silvery around his face and muzzle. He's a leg snuggler - stays glued to you.
It was not my most creative year, so I had to dig deep to find my creativity. I've taken a lot of workshops this year, which was nice, for I got to learn new things, see how other teachers teach and new materials to play with, like concrete. In one of the workshops, I came up with new ideas and work, so my work is smaller, and more delicate, and I'm known for my large jewelry pieces. I went small on my bowls, for I still exploring the bowl theme, but on a smaller scale, more like 2" or 3" size bowls. It was nice not to have to struggle with big bowls, and it was much more satisfying doing mini bowls. I also have gone back to my architectural roots, which have defined my early work ( 1984-2003). When I moved to my house out in the country, all the wild greenery around me caused me to go all leafy and flowery in my work, but now I'm back in my more geometric style. I still do a lot of stone setting, and experimented with some wild pieces like the rings in the images, multiple stone colors and using more gold. After all, I'm more of a goldsmith than a silversmith these days. I'm feeling more comfortable doing difficult things, now that I have the laser welder to help in tricky soldering situations. In fact, I actually got rusty in my soldering skills early in the year and had to go back to soldering a ton to get the groove back.
The Annual Craftsmen Fair in August 2016 was a challenging one for there were so many changes within the League of NH Craftsmen. I celebrated my 30th year as a League juried member and I'm not even 50. That's how long I was with the League, I practically grew up within the League. The bronze bowl with the porcupine quills won the Joe Tucker Best in Metal award at Living with Crafts exhibit at the Fair, which is almost impossible to win that award.
I finally got a chance to go back to Haystack Mt School of Crafts, up in Deer Isle, Maine after waiting years for the right workshop to come along. I took "A Cut Above", making your own jeweler's sawframe. I thought blacksmithing would be right up my alley, and man, did this workshop kick my butt so hard, I basically got my butt handed back to me on a silver platter. Blacksmithing is tough, and I spent 3 days working a coal-fired forge, and forging multiple pieces of steel. I've had to have my hands taped for 5 days, never had so many blisters before in forging. I spent over 30 years forging silver, gold, mild steel, copper, brass, bronze and nickel, and it didn't even matter in that workshop. I was a complete novice at blacksmithing. At least I had excellent filing skills and my sawframe was filed more carefully than half of the class did. It's very rare that a jeweler or metalsmith or silversmith makes their own sawframe so I'm glad I did my own. I learned a lot, and I was grateful to be able to go climbing over the rocks along the rocky shoreline. Haystack is right on the water and even had a small beach. If you ever get a chance to go to Haystack, do it!
As someone who loved the TV series, Babylon 5, as we watch Trump become President and the Republicans change so many of our governmental programs, we are going to see a lot of changes and upheaval in the next 4 years. Here's how I feel:
"It was the year of fire, the year of destruction, the year we took back what was ours. It was the year of rebirth, the year of great sadness, the year of pain, and the year of joy. It was a new age. It was the end of history. It was the year everything changed. The year is 2261; the place: Babylon 5."Babylon 5 Main Cast, Season 4 Opening in The Hour of the Wolf
"It is said that the future is always born in pain. The history of war is the history of pain. If we are wise, what is born of that pain matures into the promise of a better world, because we learn that we can no longer afford the mistakes of the past."G'Kar, In the Beginning
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