First Blog of 2017

Jan 07 2017

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'KarIn the Beginning

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Last Blog of 2015

Dec 31 2015

I hadn't felt I had much to say in my blogs, so I let that slide.  As New Year's Day comes closer ( within a hour) it's time to reflect for 2015.   To sum it up, 2015 was just a plain weird year.  Nothing is quite what it used to being and I just can't figure out how or why things are different.  I have no expectations for 2016.

I've had to cut back on teaching, for I was too burned out.   For the first time since I started teaching at Snow Farm Craft Program in 2001, I will not be teaching at Snow Farm for 2016 and problably for 2017.  New director, lots of changes, and I wasn't happy at Snow Farm for the past few years for a number of reasons, so in a way, it's a relief not to teach at Snow Farm for a while.   The warm fuzzy feeling is gone and Snow Farm has changed in many ways, and it's alienating me so I'm done for the time being.   I also cut back on classes and workshops at various schools in NH, so I don't have to stretch myself so thin, as it was happening to me.  

It's been 14 months since I started working for Tates Gallery, as Jamie's right hand and fellow goldsmith.  I've been improving so much on the laser welder, I now use it routinely, and think, I'll laser it instead of soldering.  Sometimes soldering feels odd.  The gold earrings with garnets/sunstones are laser-welded together.   I've been so passionated about laser welding, I even started a Facebook group called Laser Welders for Jewelers and Metalsmiths.   I was able to take an Advanced Laser Welding Techniques workshop at Laserstar in RI in Aug which helped a lot.    Like everything in life, I want a laser welder, for it really does help me a lot, but at $18,000 and up, it's going to take a while to get one, so I am going to try to invest in a PUK ( pulse welder) for it's more budget-friendly.   Laser welders hate silver for it's so reflective, and a pulse welder works better on silver, so when you line up the pros and cons, the pulse welder wins, even though I prefer a laser.

I find myself transitioning from being a silversmith to more of a goldsmith, since I routinely work in gold/precious gemstones now and its changing my work.   I'm more than ready to step up in doing more gold jewelry, but I  need to find a whole new market that is willing to buy my gold jewelry, for most people know my work is primarily silver.   I will always love silver and use it, but as I get older, I don't want to make a ton of under $100 jewelry pieces for that means I work 24/7.    As I grow in skills that are used mostly in the fine jewelry/repair trade, I find myself without the proper tools and my metal shop is not set up for stonesetting.

Over 2 years ago, I came home from a weekend workshop to find a vintage watchmakers bench.   My father had gotten it from a friend who's father had it.  That watchmakers bench sat in my garage till a few days ago, which I pulled it out.  3 buckets of Murphy oil soap/water, hours of sanding and an entire container of linseed oil, I have a new bench in my studio.   It has so many drawers, it just thrills me.  It's going to be my stonesetting bench.  I have different stations for specific processes.    Now I just have to finish upgrading my photo setup and my polishing machine to a new vac suction unit.  I've had to start upgrading various parts of my studio after many years of use.   I'm hard on my tools, machines and vehicles for I'm constanting working.

My father finally lost patience with me, hauled me off to a car dealership and said pick a color for I was dragging my feet on getting a new car for 2 years.  For the first time in almost 3 decades, I finally got a brand new car.   I'm still having separation issues with my old, very high mileage ( 184,500 miles, a record for me) PT Cruiser.  It's going to be painful to let the Beast go ( as I call my old car), but The Tank ( as I call my new car) is nice.  The luxury of a brand new car is quite nice.  I can see why people want new cars.

The Annual Craftsmen Fair in August was good.  I had a different booth location.  That one booth spot I never, ever ask for, I got assigned to it.   It was the flattest spot I've ever had at Mt Sunapee. and my booth walls weren't as crooked, which was a relief.  I finally was able to get Skyline popup walls which is the best you can buy, but very pricy.  This is why I use Ebay so much - I can find the things I need, at the price I can afford.  You just need to be very patient in your Ebay searching, and in time, you will find what you want or need.  Weather was perfect the whole time the Annual Craftsmen Fair was running.    I made a knitted wire belt that won 2 awards, much to my surprise.   I'm still making bowls, but my bases re getting spiker and spiker, thanks to my hedgehog's influence.

As for my hedgehogs, Cody had a series of seizures that left him paralyzed in less than 2 weeks and he passed away June 20th.  Pumpkin Peanuts came in April.  She was originally Peanut, but I kept calling her Pumpkin so I finally renamed her Pumpkin Peanuts.   She's shy but curious.   Spike, who is over 6 yeras ago, which is elderly for hedgehogs ( most only live 2- 4years) but he's a tough trooper.  He has a lame shoulder but he's still very mobile.   He's such a lively, friendly hedgehog, it's hard to believe he came in Aug 2012 as one angry hissing ball of fury, and largely unsocialized. He likes nothing better than chicken, being with me, licking any metal and oddly enough, the Sunshine polishing cloth I use to polish my jewelry.   I'm amazed at his resilense.

I'm finding myself making multiple stone pendants after a long hiatus.  The 2 stone pendant has a story.  I collect rocks here and there, as well as buying gemstones.  The top, rougher rock was a piece of rock I picked up from the ground and cabbed it into a unusual cabuchon.  Same with the bottom stone - it was a cab that broke into 2 part, and it went well with the rough cab.   I'm playing more with the too many stones I have.

To wrap up this blog, I did the RISD Holiday alumni sale on 12/5, and then CraftBoston on Dec 10-12.   RISD is changing their alumni sales to just 2 next year, not 3, so that's new.   I have no idea what craft shows I will do for 2016 but I'll always do the Annual Craftsmen Fair.

Happy New Year's to all of you, and hope 2016 will start on a more positive note.

 

 



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Finally, Spring!

Apr 11 2015

It has been one of the most brutal winters I can remember this year. Extreme snow levels and brutally frigid temps. February was pretty much a blur - neverending snow, almost daily shovelling and snowplowing.  I would get up, go shovel, crash, go out again, shovel, crash, day in, day out.   Even had to learn roof raking and since there wasn't a single roof rake to be found, had to borrowed one.  Roof raking can be classified as a core exercise for I was sore for a few days.  At least 80 inches of snow in my neck of woods.  I had so much snow, I had 4 foot piles on my lawn.  I had deep trenches running here and there as pathways.  It did look like an archeological dig.  I was in a deep state of fatigue for a month, just hauling all that snow.  I had to make up 5 classes, a record.   Thanksfully, it is all over, the snow is almost completely gone from my lawn, and it's finally getting warm.   

March was sunny, but cold, and most of this month was just plain cold.   I'm plumb sick of being constantly cold. Anyways, winter rant over with.   I'm perking up more and more as the days get longer and slowly warming up.   I'm getting back into my groove, and now that I have fewer classes to teach for the spring, I have more time to work in my studio. For the first time, I had to say no to 2 schools, that I will not teach for the summer, but will return in the fall.  

I've been working on my laser welding skills and I'm getting more comfortable with the laser welder.  I just have to remember to breathe as I laser-weld, for I find myself holding my breath as I line up tiny joints under the 'scope before hitting the laser.   I still struggle, but my laser welds are getting better and easier.   Gold, esp. white gold is really easy to laser weld while silver is a pain to laser weld.  I'm still lasering silver and will continue to.   I've forgotten how easy gold cleans up compared to silver, now that I'm back to working with gold on a regular basis.   Jamie Cook keeps pushing me to learn the high tech tools that are now necessary in a goldsmith shop.  Learned to laser weld, learned to engrave rings and just started poking at the CAD program.   I'll be learning to design bezels and jewelry on CAD - had to dig out all my odd shaped gemstones so I can custom design bezels for them, to be printed out on the 3-D printer.    My goal is to be more "gemmy" this year - lots of jewelry with gemstones.  I hadn't been doing a lot of my rings with gemstones for a few years.  Now, I'm getting back to it, since I have lots of requests for my gemstone rings lately.

I'm kinda of feeling like what my students experience in my classes as I learn the high-tech tools ( not without a few tears of frustration).   However, I really needed that for I was in a deep rut for a long time.  I do find my bezel making skills are a lot better since I make so many of them, earning the title, Bezel Queen.   We'll see how learning CAD goes.   I did relearn lost wax casting when I TA-ed for my casting guy, Daniel Grandi of RaceCar Jewelry when he taught a casting workshop.   I had done lost wax casting twice in the past but never was comfortable with it, and always farmed out casting to Daniel. This time, due to Daniel's excellent explanations, I finally got over my fears of casting.   I feel like I can do it solo, and will do so later this year.  There's been a lot of advances in the past decade regarding casting equipment, supplies, moldmaking, etc, so it's actually easier now to cast than it was in the past.  Lot more consistent information as well.

On top of that, had to add a few more toys to my studio - an oxygen/propane torch, now that I'm used to oxygen/propane, a graver's block, and plating equipment.  I found an old recifier hiding under my buffing machine, and after cleaning it off, it still works, so I got all the plating solutions to do my own silver plating and any other plating I need ( gold, copper, nickel, rhodium).   Those old recifiers are real workhorses, and mine had to be at least 40 years old.   I'm almost complete in doing everything in-house, from plating to engraving to casting to laser-welding.  Between Jamie and me, we pretty much can do it all, with our workshops.  I even taught him how to use a rolling mill and make half round wire, and loaned him a rolling mill so he can do it in his shop.  We are learning a lot from each other and that's good for us.   We needed it!  I have my low tech but silversmithing heavy studio and Jamie has his high-tech workshop/studio and I divide my time between both workshops.

As for my hedgehogs, I just adopted a 2.5 year old girl hedgehog, named Peanut.  I renamed her Pumpkin Peanuts since I keep calling her Pumpkin.  I still have my beloved Spike, who is 6 years old, Cody, still a brat at 4 years and now Peanut.   Peanut has very dark quills, while Spike is more caramel color and Cody is ivory color, so I call them the Tri-Chocolate Trio.  Dark chocolate ( Peanut), Milk Chocolate ( Spike) and White Chocolate ( Cody).   I was ready for a new hedgehog, and a few days ago, Peanut came.  I love her - such a sweet girl but with a fiesty spirit.

Last but not least, two places I teach/work at, have new directors so there's going to be a lot of changes.  Should make for a fascinating year for new staff, new policies, different people to work with.  I'm just going to sit back and watch everything unfold and see where the organizations head toward.    I also have a new booth spot for the Annual Craftsmen's Fair in August, a spot I never requested.  Should be interesting as well.  It's right on the main path when people are coming in and out of Tent 4 so it is an excellent spot.  At least Lia Gormley and I will be closer together - we don't like it when we are opposite sides of our tent for we like being boothmates.  

The League of NH Craftsmen opened a new gallery at the Hooksett Rest Area off I-93 North in Hooksett, NH, and it's a lovely shop.  My mom works there now.  The rest area is brand new and quite stunning - very different from the usual highway rest area.

 

 

 

 



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Welcome, 2015 - new beginnings.

Jan 01 2015

First blog for 2015.   2014 was a year best forgotten.   I am going the high tech route this year for I'm finally ready to learn to use CAD, try out 3-D printing, and I have been learning to use a laser welder.   It takes some getting used to a laser welder, and the binocular scope is the hardest part for me to adjust to.   I've been able to successfully welded sterling and have been practicing when I can.   I have been teaming up with Jamie Cook at Tates Gallery.  I've been doing benchwork, and taking some of the repairs/custom work jobs off his plate so he can catch up on his work and custom jobs.   He's been coaching me on the laser welder, and silver is actually the hardest metal to work with, so by the time I get to gold, it's going to be easier.   I used to work for Jamie's father, Fran Cook 20 years ago, so I have a long history with the Cook family.   Funny how I worked for his father, and now for Jamie.  We've been learning from each other - I'm showing him new tricks and tools and he's showing me laser welding and advancing my prong setting skills.  I admit I let my prong setting skills slide, for I never really liked prongs, but many people love them.

Since I have been at a crossroads in my life and career, and I was stuck in a deep rut, feeling worn out, feeling like I had nothing to give or to look forward to, plus fighting teaching burn-out.   Now that Jamie is pushing me to go the high-tech route, it's given me a new purpose, and a chance to learn critical new skills. Once I really conquer the laser welder, it's going to be interesting to see what work I will design and what I can make that truly takes advantage of the laser welder.   I know I want to go back to working with gold, since I used to do that a lot years ago, but stopped when the gold market skyrocketed and the recession us like a sack of potatoes.   I've forgot how easily gold cleans up  and polishes while silver takes more effort to clean/polished.  Guess I was working with silver too long.  It's still my favorite metal and nothing can really replace it, but just the fact gold cleans up/polishes better is a boon.  Gold also welds like a dream.

Jamie has been talking about investing in an induction casting machine, which is a whole new ballgame.  What I know of casting is lost wax casting and how time-consuming the process is.  I am not a good wax carver - I can do geometric shapes and rings, but not delicate carving.  I'm a silversmith and forger ( hammering, not forging money - two different terms, to be perfectly clear), not a delicate carver.  These are two completely different processes and requires two different mindsets.    As we say in the carving business, there's an additive way and a substractive way.   Most sculptors working in stone are carving away from a big block, so that's substractive.  I don't work well that way.   Additive is when you start from nothing and you build up and that's how I work.  Having to figure out a piece of jewelry from a block of wax is exasperating, to say the least and drives me bonkers.  Also, a lot of the tools that were commonly used in wax carving doesn't always work well, and can be too big, bulky or not quite what you need.  No wonder Kate Wolf, wax carver extraordinare designed and created a line of specialized wax carving tools that work better.  I haven't tried them, but it's been so long since I carved wax.  I hate the whole process of lost wax casting, all the toxic fumes from burnout, the dangers of melting metal and using older style dangerous equipment like the centrifugal casting machine which always scares the bejees out of me.  Imagine pouring molten metal into a crucible, release the pin, and watch the centifugal go flying at a really high speed, and sometimes hot metal goes flying.  Not fun.

Anyways, if I design on CAD, 3-D print them, I can cast my prototypes and see how I can go with it.  I have lots of odd-shaped faceted stones that I am going to try making jewelry using them on CAD.  It'll save me a lot of frustrating in creating custom-made settings.

So yes, I'm finally feeling excited about something and I can go on a new path this year.  Nothing will really replace my hand skills but I will be adding a new dimension to them, so I'm expanding myself.   I even am upgrading some of my tools like an oxy/propane torch, and using a graver block to do more of my work, while previously, I struggled to hold things to hammer.    2015 is going to be a truly new year for me.



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End of the year review

Dec 21 2014

Well, it is almost the end of 2014, which has been a year of ups and downs, plus changes.   

The League opened The Craft Center Metals/Glass studio formally this fall, so it's so nice to have a brand new facility to teach jewelrymaking and lampworking. So much soldering space, 6 students can solder at once with plenty of room.   Currently, I'm wrapping up my Guided Open Studio class, and starting new classes in early January.

I did CraftBoston Holiday Craft Show for the first time, which was at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.    I had very little expectations for CraftBoston, so I was pleased that it went better than I thought.   Knowing Hynes has a difficult loading dock, I was fearful my car was going to get damaged again by the truck ramp life as it did in '06 when I lost my muffler off my old car. This time, I was able to use a proper ramp to load in and out, all it all had to be done by elevators to reach the exhibition halls.  I never knew how vast the loading dock is, under Hynes, and oddly enough, directly above the Mass Pike ( I-90).  I was next to Metalwerx School of Jewelrymaking, so it was great to send people next door to see what Metalwerx had to offer, and Metalwerx would send people over to ask me about classes.  I even got to see my old professors from grad school, so it was wonderful to see them, and catched up.

Also did the RISD Holiday Sale as usual which was a tad better than last year.   For once, I organized everything so I only had to do one trip to load in my booth and 1 trip to load out my booth, which has never happened before.  I'll have to remember that next year.   We fair exhibitors dream of easy load in, easy load out.  Loading out at Hynes was one of the most draining of all load outs that I've done so I was bound and determined to have an easier time at RISD, which I did.   

I knew the flatware market was dead, so I didn't really make any new flatware, so no real surprise that I sold only 5 pieces at the 2 shows, but as usually my earrings flew off the walls.   Personally, after 26 years, I'm done making flatware.  I had a good run with them, but no longer want to make them.  My heart isn't into it, and I've enjoyed making jewelry more now, and a few bowls.   I'm changing again, and not quite sure how I am envolving, but it's definitely earrings, rings and bowls.   I don't mind teaching flatware, but I do mind making them for sale.   I'm happy to teach anything in metals, as long as I don't have to mass-produce certain things.

Discovered my hedgehog, Spike, has a thing for metal - he has an obsession with an old clamp vise, which is rather funny.  Hedgehogs are attracted to certain things - lotion, perfurm, leather, metal ( which is like crack to hedgehogs), certain foods, certain smells.  They will lick, chew till they foam up at the mouth and then smear the foam over their quills.  It is called anointing, and it's a hedgehog thing.

Started doing benchwork ( fine jewelry like gold/precious gemstones work and repairs) for Tates Gallery this month.  20 years ago, I worked for Jamie's father, Fran Cook, and now, I'm doing work for Jamie, so I have a long history with the Cook family.   I used to work for 3 jewelry stores from 1992 to 1995, started out at a local jewelry store in MA when I was in grad school, then moved back to NH, started working for a local goldsmith, which I stayed for 2 years, and also worked for a short time with Fran.  I learned a lot about benchwork, which entailed a lot of jewelry repair, making custom work, making fine jewelry, cleaning up gold jewelry that has been casted and needed to be finished, setting stones, whatever is needed in the workshop.   I burned out on jewelry repair, which is incredibly stressful, and went on to be an independent metalsmith/teacher in 1996.

Anyways, too many years of teaching and increasingly challenging students has led me to rethink how I want to go with my life, and as it turned out, Jamie was overloaded with work, and I was ready to work for a jewelry workshop.   The difference is, that afte 20 years since I last worked in a jewelry store, is that I'm so much more efficient, have a lot more skills and Jamie is hardpressed to keep up with my speed.  I feel like I actually working more carefully/slowly, and yet, I'm just better at doing whatever needs to be done ( cleaning up gold rings, setting stones, repairing, etc).  I'm also truly a queen at bezels - I can really bang out bezels for stones, no matter what shape or size.  My secret weapon is my 3M grey deburring wheel, which replaces the tedious emerying.   I can really sand and debur my metals so much more efficiently with my 3M wheel and it saves my wrists from the pain-inducing emerying, using emerying papers of assorted grits.

What I am excited is that I'm going to learn CAD, so I can design jewelry on a computer program, and then have a 3-D printer print out a wax model of the actual design I created.   I'm also going to learn again how to use a laser welder, which gives me possiblitites that I didn't have before.    I needed to take my skills up to the next level, and I was bored, so now there's a challenge to take on, and learn the high-tech aspect of today's jewelrymaking processes.   It's going to be a fun, challenging and quite a ride going the high-tech route next year.  I have lots of odd-shaped stones that would be perfect for CAD and 3-D printing.

 



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Long overdue blog.......

Nov 17 2014

I know it's been a long time since I blogged.  Just didn't have much to say for a while.  Right after the Annual Craftsmen's Fair in August, I went slam-bang into teaching, day in, day out.   I did have a major teaching burn-out after a particularly difficult weeklong workshop at end of August and it forced me to rethink my long-term plans.  I'm just plain worn out teaching basic jewelry classes, and at this stage of my career, I really shouldn't be spending all my time just teaching Jewelry 101.  I have a lot of skills and specialized techniques to teach, and having to teach the basics all the time was burning me out.    It got so bad, I couldn't even work in my own studio, and my skills were deteriorating, which was alarming.  It was pushing me off schedule.  It wasn't till October before I had some time to work and just be in my studio for more than one day.  I really need to focus more on what I can offer, than to just keep teaching the basics over and over, till I go batty.

I was constantly tired and still am.  My sleeping habits have changed, and I simply don't get quality sleep anymore.  Guess I'm getting to a certan age, when I wake up all the time and them fall back to sleep.  Not fun.   Weird habit, my feet must be out in the open, no blanket, no coverings.  My feet run hot.  I joke my internal thermostat runs hot, and I've noticed, every single Wed since early Sept is hot, or wam.  Never fails. I mean, I had to wear shorts in the middle of October, for it was just plain hot.  I had put away all my summer clothes by early October.   Was in the low 70's last Wed.   What is it with Wedsedays?  It runs warm to hot, every single week.

30 years ago in September 1984, I walked into the Jewelry classroom at Concord High and took my first jewelry class. The rest is history.  In September, 2014, I started my Jewelry 101 class at Sharon Art Center, and one of my students was the newly promoted jewelry teacher for Concord High.  I, the student 30 years ago, is now the teacher, teaching Jeffery the jewelry basics for Concord High.  Talk about life coming full circle.  I am now influencing the Jewelry program at Concord Hight.  I even taught there in 1997, when my first jewelry teacher became ill and I had to take over, as a sub teacher, really, but teaching the students what to do.  Life is funny.  Had a classmate from 1st grade contact me recently.  Of course, I remember her!

Finally, after so many years, and many delays, the League of NH Craftsmen ( in Concord, NH) finally gets it's first Metals studio up and running in Sept  I had provided much help and advice in the setup, the tools selection, getting the acetylene tanks hooked up with torches and running.  We are now running jewelry classes.  I am doing the Guided Open Studio which is a nice break from teaching Jewelry 101.  That way, I can help students, but not have to keep pounding the basics over and over into students.   I like doing Guided or Directed Open Studio.  It's a lot more relaxed than teaching a basic class.   My Wireweaving class at Metalwerx, has been one of the best and most relaxed classes ever, for I only have 3 students, but they just love knitting and weaving wire, so when we end in Dec, I'm going to miss them dearly.   My goal is to stop teaching so much all over NH, and focus on teaching in Concord, since we have such a lovely, new studio, with 6 soldering stations.   I find I really don't want to teach anywhere else except for Hanover.    If students really want to learn from me, they can come to Concord and I can teach them. 

I recently discovered my grandfather's old leg vise was a lot older than I thought. Its a Goldie, from NYC, 1842-49, so that was thrilling to discover.   I love old tools, and to find that my everyday vise is so much older than I thought.  My theory is that my Scottish ancestors, coming over to America from Scotland in 1840, must have lived in NYC for a while and then relocated to NH, so it's possible they could have bought the leg vise in NYC and bought it with them.  Just a theory, but my mother father's family was notorious for saving and reusing.  It's the only main vise in my shop, and it's the one I use.  Very practical, much more so than a regular table-mounted vise.  As you know, I love old tools.  Most of my hammers are pre-1960.   I even have vintage paper mallets, which I am finally using.  New ones cost $79 and up.   What can I say, I love old tools.

I've been rather hedgehog-crazy, spending way too much time on hedgehog forums, sharing my hedgehogs with my students and my loyal fans on Facebook.  Here's an amusing cartoon that was in my local newspaper, and a hedgehog in a Starbucks cap, with the caption, Pumpkin Spiked Latte, which I think is a hoot.  My Spike is 5 years old, which is old in hedgehog years, but I feel fortunate that he lived this long.  Cody is finally turning around, relaxing more while I'm holding him, but he still huffs and complains.   He still love to go on walkabouts but is more predictable now.  No matter he goes, he always ended up under my bed, the same spot each time, so all I have to do is scoop him up.

I had been repurposing some of my old flatware from the 90's, and reusing the silver I used, and there was a set called "Interwoven", a fork, knife and spoon set.  Well, the knive, for some reason, the weaving was damaged, so I took it apart, and for the fork and spoon, used the handles to make cuff bracelets.  I actually like the cuff bracelets better than I liked the flatware set, so it worked out well.

I got to learn again on using a laser welder at Tates Gallery in New Boston, MA, which I was guest artist during NH Open Doors, Nov 8-9.  I am now doing benchwork ( repairing jewelry, and making custom work) for Tates Gallery, so that is a nice change for me.  They have a lovely workshop within their lovely gallery, so its nice to work in a place that has lovely views to look out.   I hope to be doing more benchwork, so i can cut back on the teaching.    Don't get me wrong, I love teaching, but doing it so much, and with more demanding/needy students, I got burned out, and I need some time away, but not sure how I can take a break from teaching.    I need to figure out a way to sell more of my work, so I can cut back on my teaching hours, otherwise, I will be so burned out, I will not be effective as a teacher.     I can't afford to get away for now.  Maybe in the future, but not now.

Last note, it was Bosco, my wonderful and funny dog's birthday this weekend.  His birthday was either the 14th or the 16th, for I can't remember, but my mom and I rounded it out to the 15th.  Lots of snuggle time, a bath, some treats.  Naturally, he got a bath tonight, so he is nice and fluffy.  



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80th Annual Craftsmen's Fair

Aug 14 2014

The 80th Annual Craftsman's Fair was the best fair in my life.  I was so relieved.   I think, the new location, the upgrades to my booth, the new work, having a month to myself and probably other factors all helped.  As you can see, here's a booth shot.  I upgraded to LED lights, borrowed a jewelry case from Metalwerx ( where I teach at ), new rug, new posters.  Being next to Kathleen Dustin and in front of Tent 4 was great.  I really liked my new location and hope ( pray to the booth gods) that I will get it next year.   I wasn't too tired after the fair was over and then, bam, back to the teaching grind.  I'm more tired now than I was 2 weeks ago.

I did the latest entry in my Hedgehog Pendant series - Pearly Quills.  I had these long stick pearls that I didn't know what to do with them, and then thought, mmmmm, what about quills?   I had that on display in CraftWear, and even before Preview on Friday night, Aug 1, it sold.  Started the fair off on a good foot.  A dear collector bought it and she buys my work almost yearly.  I asked her if it was going to be a donation to a collection, and she said, no, it's for herself, and then she'll gift it to her granddaugther.

I didn't buy much supplies in July, having spent all my money on the booth upgrades, so I got creative with all the odds and ends in my studio, and remaking old parts, bits and pieces into new work.   It's amazing how creative you can get with, when you have odd stuff.  In the silver pendant, I originally had a number of sterling spoons casted about 12 years ago.  However, the spoon bowl was all pitted, so I cut that off, leaving me with an ornate handle.  That sat in my drawer for a decade.  Finally, I decided I was going to use it, one way or other.  It so happened the pink druzy I had, fit the handle perfectly, and thus, a new pendant was born.   I've found that, once in a while, I'll have an older piece of artwork, and then when I go through my stone collection, I'll find a gem that just fits perfectly and then I remake the piece into something new.

Even the weather has been great.  August was really nice, not too hot, mostly cool, dry and breezy.  There were days that felt like a Sept day.  I am really looking forward to the cool, crisp fall days now.   My favorite season is fall, with spring next.   

Well, fall semester will be starting soon, and back to the teaching grinding.  I finished a weeklong workshop at Snow Farm yesterday.  It wasn't the easiest of workshops to teach, and I was relieved to be done.  I'm still exhausted, and struggling to find the energy to finish my work and the post fair jobs.

 

 

 



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Pre-fair Preview

Jul 21 2014

It's only a week and half before the Annual Craftsman's Fair starts on Aug 2, at Mt. Sunapee Resort, Newbury, NH, but for the first time, I finished all my exhibition pieces for Living with Crafts and Craftwear 2 days before drop-off deadline.   I was bounded and determined to finish everything by Sunday night, so that all of my exhibition pieces will be ready for the photographer on Monday.   Took everything and some old flatware out to Charley Freiberg, who does all of my large artworks, and jury images.  My lightbox isn't big enough to accommodate my larger work, so Charley shoots them for me.  I cannot tell you what a load off my mind, having everything done early, and I can relax.

As my mom says, she's never seen me so relaxed before the fair.  I had the whole month of July to myself - no classes, no workshops except my own open studio classes.   Having a month to myself, no students, no teaching is pure bliss.  Got to sleep late most of the time and take my leisurely pace in my studio.  As a result, I have gotten a ton of work done, and so many earrings, I'm getting "earring" out.   I will have to plan this next year for July 2015 - keep my classes and workshops to the bare minumum to get the most work done.   

For Living with Craft, I had one remaining sterling disc, old stock from the 50's-70's, so I made a silver bowl with it.  I was hung up on bases, and first idea was a wash, second idea - Bubbles theme was a bit unworkable, and then after looking at my silver flower earrings which I made the day before, I thought, a flower base.  The cool thing is that the copper flowers spin around thanks to a tube rivet that holds the flowers to the bowl.  I was trying to keep the soldering to a minumum for the silver bowl and the rivet works perfectly.   The big copper ladle, now that's a story behind it.  Back in '88 or '89, I sawn out a 7" fat flat spoon out of 1/4" thick copper sheet, using a bandsaw.  Forging, stretching, sinking the handle and bowl caused the ladle to more than double it's length.  Over the next 20 odd years, I would constantly lose the unfinished ladle, then it will resurface, then disappear.  Finally when I found it this year, I knew I had to finish it for once and all.   Finished forging and planishing it ( fine, overlapping hammer blows with a highly polished planishing hammer), and lots of belt-sanding it, then deburring/sanding it.   It was one heavy sucker of a ladle, weighting 1.2lbs and 14" long, so I thought, might as well have fun etching it.   Took a gallon of ferrous chlorine to etch it, a random abstract pattern. Patined the ladle to give it an aged look.

For CraftWear, as usual, had to top myself, so made a capelet out of peridot colored copper wire, all knitted, and trimmed with seed beads.  I was trying to think of a title, and the capelet is very Victorian, with French and Russian influences, and bam, got the title.  It's called "St. Peterburg in the  Guilded Age".   Another long-term project, started over a year ago, was this red knitted rope of red copper wire.   It is now called "Red Trumpet", all knitted out of 28g. fine copper wire, finished off with feathers and a sterling vine clasp.   I have another hedgehog pendant which I'll save for the next blog and a few more things.    Got to save some things for my Sunapee fair blog, and whet your appetite.

Now have to do a booth run-through to see what is missing, what needs to be replaced or fixed, and then can go set up my booth in a week from now.   For once, I am ready for Sunapee.

 

 

 

 

 



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Summertime!

Jun 26 2014

Summer is here and this week is a hot, muggy heat wave.  I'm been hunkered down in my cool basement studio, working like a mad scientist getting ready for Sunapee fair for the past few days.  It's been nice to just be in my studio, not driving anywhere.  Even my dog is getting used to me being home more often.  I mean, I put on over 4000 miles on my poor, aging car in two months, which is a record for me.  My car still keeps trucking along, and at over 159,600 miles, I've set a new record for myself since I never had a car go that long and that many miles.  Generally I end up getting a new car while old car is in the 120k mile range.   I'm aiming for the 175,000 mark mile and I hope I can.  We'll see.  

I'm very attached to my car and it's gonna be tough to find one that is similar to it. If you are wondering, it's a cute wee PT Cruiser.  Never thought I would own one, but it's the perfect car for an artist or craftsperson - very compact for city driving but a huge cargo space in the back, once you remove the back seats.  High headroom, so I get spoiled.    I'm gonna really miss my car when it's time to retire it and I'm surprised at the passion I have for a piece of machinery.  I love working with tools and machinery, and you do develop a relationship with them, and you get to know the quirks of them    A car is simply an oversized piece of machinery, if you think about it.  I've noticed cars and dogs are similar - both have to be registered at the town ( or city) hall, have to sport plates ( or dog tags), go for annual exams/inspections, and maintainence.   Both require lots of care and money. Just an observation.

Anyways, I made Green Glow, a necklace and matching earrings for Circles, Squares and Triangles exhibition at the League of NH Craftmen gallery.  All sterling, with Czech half-drilled glass cabs.  I wanted to do something with the lovely green glass cabs, and since they were round, it made sense to incorporate them into a necklace that was composed of circles and squares.   Since many people want matching earrings to go with a necklace or bracelet, it was easier to just keep making the compoments so that I had enough for necklace and earrings, and extra disks left over for another pair of earrings, but with faux pearls. 

There are times I have a surplus of certain parts or materials, and as usual, the assorted silver jump rings got out of control, so I make what I call "Bubbles" jewelry - pendants usually.  This time, I'm trying out cuff bracelets.   Since cuffs get so much wear and tear, I made a wire frame out of 14g. and then soldered on all the assorted jump rings, domed silver disks and silver beads made from scrap silver onto the framework.   It's the most over the top of the Bubbles jewelry I've made.    Every year, I try to freshen up an existing design, and this year, it's adding solid silver beads and silver disks to my Bubbles pendants. Earrings are very challenging to make so I don't make Bubbles earrings.  The duplicating of jump rings, disks and beads and making two pieces alike makes me a little bonkers.  I've only done it once.

My father has the most beautiful stained glass doors on his pastry closet.  It's all clear glass in lead cames, and the pattern starts with teardrops on the bottom, circles in the middle and marquise shape on top, so I duplicated the pattern in a delicate chain necklace.  After looking at those doors for almost 2 years, I had to convey my love for those glass panels into a piece of jewelry so I ended up making two necklaces, one very long one and one that is around 25" long.

Cody, my escape artist hedgehog is finally settling in.  He is relaxing more and more during our nightly snuggles, and by next year, he'll be a different boy.  Still likes to keep me on my toes during escapes, but he's now becoming predictable, making it easier for me to find him.  Spike, on the other hand has gotten to be a fat boy, and he's 5 years old, which it old in hedgehog years.   I hope he makes it to next year.  We really have bonded and he's a snuggle boy.   Still likes to sack out next to my hard drive while I do computer work.   My mom found this funny cartoon, which is a hoot.

To sum it up, my life revolves around Bosco the dog, the 2 hedgehogs, my classes and my studio.  I don't have much of a life.    One month from now, the Annual Craftsmen's Fair opens, and I start pulling my hair out.   No, I'm fine and for once, feeling more relaxed, for I have the whole month of July to finish up all those unfinished jewelry projects.   My PA workshop got cancelled, and I'm kinda relieved, for I can just focus on being ready for Sunapee.   There's an unique ring display I saw on Pinterest that I want to make my own version for Sunapee.  I even borrowed a proper jewelry case with lights, so that I can upgrade my booth to make it even classier.

 



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Musings.............

May 31 2014

Once again, spring has finally arrived after such a long, hard winter. So nice to see all the trees and flowers blooming and green shades as far as the eye can see.

Cody has proving himself to be a master escape artist.  I've never had a hedgehog escape so much or find the darnest places to hide.   I once found Cody sleeping in Bosco's box of dog toys - that was hilarous. Another time, when I pulled Cody out from under the vanity, he was covered in monster dust bunnies.   These days, he hasn't escaped so much in the past month, but still manages to pull a fast one on me time to time.  Spike, my older hedgehog is a mellow boy, now at 5 years, which is pretty good for a hedgehog.

Been to Snow Farm 3 times in May. Here's a view of the creek that runs behind the Metals studio at Snow Farmand the trees in my little parking area.  So peaceful and beautiful.   I take a lot of pics of the scenery at Snow Farm and I personally think I have the best spot where the Metals Studio is located - creek running behind the studio, big ancient pines in front and tons of flowering trees.  As usual, I get my groupies who come back year after year, and got to hang out with my buddy, Dave Z., stained glass instuctor.  Great classes, and overall a good year at Snow Farm.

I'm still stuck in a rut, but slowly gearing up for Sunapee, for that is exactly 2 months from today.   I won't have a lot of stock but will have enough.  I have a new spot in Tent 4, so I'm a little anxious at how I will set up my booth to make it classier since my boothmate has a fabulous booth.   I'll manage, as I always do.   My work has gotten more streamlined and cleaner, and I've gone back to using pearls.   I did a series of earrings called "Unfurling", and I did 7 of them, and now working on a few more pairs.  You can see the different aspects of each pair.

Also playing around with copper wire for a series of cuff bracelets, which I think I will call Tracings for they look like you did a doodle on your arm, which is fun.   Otherwise, I just poke around in my studio, trying to find my missing motivation and get working.  I finally had one day, which was yesterday where I got a whole day working in my studio, and finished a lot of incompleted projects.  Hope I have more of these productive days this month.

 

 

 

 



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Finally, first blog of 2014

Feb 16 2014

First blog of 2014.   I know I've been so tardy, but it wasn't a huge priority this year.   I've been in a major cleaning and destashing mode since before New Year's.   I have been a metalsmith for 30 years, which is a milestone, making it over 2/3 of my life devoted to my craft.    However, in the past 30 years, I've accummulated so much tools, supplies, odds and ends.    I'm a good finder - things find me or I find things so it seems to be a gift.   However, I was drowning in stuff, and my studio was just plain clogged.  Even my energy level was low and I had no desire to work.    I didn't really make much for 2013 in terms of stock.

It was time for a major studio cleanup - been destashing, cleaning up, organizing, getting rid of stuff.   There's a Facebook group called Artist Garage, and it's a venue for us artists to sell off art supplies, tools, booth stuff, so forth.  I've been doing a brisk business selling off unused and unwanted tools, old supplies I will never use, books, so on.   The more I get rid of stuff, the better.   I'm finding I'm not panicking so much, for I have less stuff to deal with, and I can close my drawers with room to spare.  it will take me the rest of this year to whittle down all the stuff I still have, but slow and steady is better than trying to off-load all at once.   At least I don't have to set all the extra stones I had, try to use stuff I really don't want to use.  My ideas and priorities have been changing.

I've been wanting a hedgehog since end of last year, and talking about when a hedgehog will come.  Well, Jan 6, a local hedgehog breeder posted on Facebook that a hedgehog needs to be rehomed to an experienced handler.  I posted that I could take him.   The next day, Cody arrived.  An angry, hissy ball of fury, a young boy of a year and half, he had gone thru 3 owners and I am his 4th.  Hopefully he will settle down and be comfortable with me, for he is with me for life.   He has the biggest mouth of any hedgehog I've known, and it reminds me of Joker, the Joker character in Batman.   I've considered renaming him Hondini, for he's quite the escape artist.    He keeps trying to sneak out and he is the fastest hedgehog I've encountered.  He doesn't walk, he lunges at 100 mph.   I've had to watch out for him.  Poor Bosco cannot stand Cody.   Cody is a handsome boy, all ivory quills with pink ears and nose.

Spike has a new love -  Mary Kay Extra Emollient Night Cream.  He just loves to lick and chew on the tubes and then foam up, contort himself to smear the foam onto his quills.   My mom's Mary Kay consultant is getting such a kick out of it, and Spike got his own tube of night cream.   It's been a running joke now.

I finally got to teach my first workshop at Silvermine Art Center, in New Canaan, CT.  I taught Clasps and Hinges.   It's a nice campus, out in the woods, and the Jewelry studio is downright cozy.  Spike came with me, of course.    I'll be going back to teach Wireknitting on March 28.

Taught my first class for the year at Snow Farm - nothing like a snowstorm and half of us were unprepared.  I had to go to Walmart and buy a pair of cheap boots.   They stay in my car, just in case.  Along with the blankets, emergency kit, extra gloves and what-nots.  I am so ready for winter to be over!

My students and jewelry friends all told me I have to take one of John Cogswell's workshops before he retires in the not too soon future.   I took his 5 Days, 5 Clasps workshop, and was the only one to keep up with him.   It was held at the North Country Studio Workshops www.ncsw.org, which is held every two years, at Bennington College in VT, and top instructors teach.  Most of the workshops are for experienced students, and half of the people attending were League people, so I had my own League family, plus a lot of friends.  I was exhausted, but I pickd up a lot of useful tips, both as a teacher and as a metalsmith.   John was very entertaining.   The pictures of the clasps above shows what I did.  I had to go buy a mitre cutting jig now that I need one, and finally upgraded to a Knew Concept saw.

Along with my new sawframe, I also had to upgrade to a mitre cutting jig and more hand tools.   It never ends, the hunt for new tools to accommodate your ideas and fabrication.   Now, if I can find the energy to work in my studio.   Winter has been long and dready, and I'm just not in the mood to work.  I pretty much teach, sleep, clean, talk to my hedgehogs and dog - a rather boring life, to say.

 



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Last Blog for 2013

Dec 31 2013

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Well, this is my last blog for 2013.  What a year it has been.  Probably one of my most disappointing/frustrating years in terms of everything.  I'll be glad to start fresh on New Year's Day, 2014.

I had to make some changes in my teaching.  No more teaching for 1 student classes, and I now require 3-4 students to start a class or workshop.  I had to drop one major class at one school for the student body was impacting my professional life and making it impossible for me to work.  After the spring of 2014, I will leave that school for good.   I went throught the fall of 2013 making almost nothing except special orders and a few things for Philadelphia  I have definitely dialed back on the passion I used to show, for I used to get very excited when I demo, but I've gotten older and wiser.  I've toned down some of my passion, althought the last workshop I taught, I was downright silly.  I think I was punchy from shoveling snow so early in the morning, having to drive at 45 MPH on the highway to Metalwerx right after the snowstorm of Dec 13-14 for a hour and half and lack of sleep.  Susan K., who is my groupie that faithfully takes my classes at Snow Farm, also doubles as my TA as needed.    Apparently I was at my funniest while I was doing my Beads to Jewelry workshop.   Glad I can entertain so well in class.   I aspire to be a standup comic while teaching.  A little humor goes a looonnnggggg.... way.

Because of Spike's Great Escape, I've been on a month long cleaning and reorganizing of my studio and I can tell it's working wonders for Sunday the 29th, I got so much done, I couldn't believe it.  I hit my groove, and did 3 rings, 16 pendants, made some ingots, and rolled out some bezel strips.   I also realized I had more tools and supplies than I was ever going to use, so I was able to sell off my enamels and enamelling tools, and now moving on to selling my hydraulic press and some stakes.  Since I have given up flatware for retail, there is no need to keep some of the tools, and I could use the space.   Getting rid of stuff is doing wonders to my spirit, and I feel much more productive.   You can see how much of the enamelling tools and supplies I had, and most of the enamels are the old, lead-based enamels serious enamellists lust for.   Most of the enamels I had were from the 50's and 60's, so I had the good stuff.  It's gone to a good home. 

Back in 1988-89, I ordered a 5" piece of 1/2" thick sterling barstock and paid $72 for it.  I had that piece for so long, I forgot about it.  In 2005, while I was teaching a spoonmaking class at MassArt, my class and I decided we would try the power hammer in the Sculpture Dept.  I used my 1/2" silver barstock in the power hammer.  I got a migraine from the noise, but it was worth it.    Well, after debating for years, I finally melted down that piece of silver.  It was 6.7 troy ozs, so I had more than doubled my value of the silver.   I melt it down into small ingot bars that I will roll out into wire.  An old load was finally lifted off my shoulders.  It was interesting how giddy I got in melting down that hulk of silver after keeping it for 25 years.

Another oldie but goldie is a copper ladle I made back in 1988-89.  I sawn it out out of 1/4" copper sheet ( which I still have some on hand), and countless hours later, forged, formed and planished it into a ladle..  I kept losing the ladle, and it would resurface time to time, and then disappear.  Finally I found it once and for all.    I swear there's a wormhole in my studio that sucks things in, and then I find them years later.  I love sci-fi, so yes, I believe in time travel, the paranormal, space travel, all that weird stuff.  I also love science and high-tech, so when you combine all that together, I'm in heaven.   As for the copper ladle, I will hopefully etch it and finish it for the 2014 Annual Craftsmen Fair at Mt. Sunapee.  Yes, I need goals and it helps to have things on a timeable.   I have to plan my life 9-12 months in advance.

Well, my goals for 2014 is to make it a better year, less frustration, and more creativity.   Since I gave up flatware for retail, I'm refocusing on rings, which I love to make, but have neglected in favor of earrings.  I also hope to spread my wings, and find new venues to teach at.   I've signed up to take a workshop from John Cogswell, who is a true master metalsmith, so that should be a great professional development workshop for me in a few weeks from now.  I want to plumb the depths of my ideas and really expand on my Pod line, for I really enjoy working with the pod shape.      Here's a funny cartoon for your enjoyment for it really shows how much  time we jewelers have to spend looking for wayward stones that goes flying at the precise moment you are trying to set it.  Flashnights are a necessary!

Happy New Year's and hope 2014 will be a better year!



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Spike's Great Escape

Dec 16 2013

Last week, I did the RISD holiday sale, which was slightly better than the last 2 years, so that's some progress.  Althought I was at my most disorganized for I had spent the previous day getting 7 orders/custom jobs done and out in the mail.   I also went to CraftBoston on Sunday the 8th to see if it is worth doing it for Dec 2014, and I've decided I will do it.    Well, that same night, I discovered Spike missing.

I have no idea how he escaped or got upstairs.  I know I had him Sat night, and put him back in his cage. Sunday night, no Spike to be found.  I proceed to take my basement apart, over two days.  I got my fall cleaning done ahead of schedule.  You think after looking at every cubbyhole, moving furniture, moving boxes, vaccumming the heck out of the studio, Spike would be found.  Even looking under the water boiler where a previous hedgehog used to like going under - warm, dark, snug - just what a hedgehog needs.  

Not a hair or quill to be found.   I found my rolling mill handle that was AWOL for a year, and other stuff I needed, so it was worth doing.   By 1am Wed morning, I gave up.  48 hours of seaching to no avail.   Spike is not to be found.  Half hour later, my mom comes down with a towel in her hands.  I said, Spike?  Is he still alive?   At that precise moment, Spike "popped" and I knew he was fine, and as fiesty as ever.  I said, where did you find him?   He was in her bedroom.    At that point, I didn't trust myself to talk, but put him back in his cage with fresh water/food.   He was hungery, but didn't seem thirsty.   The next morning, I was so hung over from worrying for 2 days, it hurt to get up.   I asked, is Spike in his cage?  Mom said, yes, still there.    I'm not sure if I ever will truly forgive him for scaring the daylights out of me or being missing for so long.   

Generally hedgehogs leave a trail of poop and sometimes urine, but after a thorough search of house, only one piece of poop and one small urine spot, so I have no idea where he was holed up.  I was turning furniture over, checking underneath to see if he found a hole to crawl into.    Spike really likes to go on walkabouts and a previous walkabout earlier in the fall, he discovered a cache of dust bunnies, and proceed to thoughtfully spread them all over my closet floor.  What a mess!

Since the Great Escape, Spike has been so much more relaxed so I know it did him a world of good, but took ten years off my life.    However, he has a taste for freedom, and more than twice already he tried to go on walkabouts.   Found him running by the tree, and last night, he kept "sliding" off the coffee table while I was talking pictures of him.   Some hedgehogs just love to leap off furniture or from high up, and Spike is one of them.   He's the nosiest, most curious and adventureous hedgehog I've ever had.    In fact, he likes to poke and prod me with his nose.   I tell him to knock it off and he keeps butting in.  He's such a wiseguy.

Poor Bosco ( my dog) didn't get much attention for two days.  I told him I wish he was a search dog.  Bosco does not like Spike, and will keep his distance - at least 1 foot or more away from that heaving ball of spikes ( that descibes Spike to a T).  One Facebook friend posted that I should call the fire dept and find out where I can hire seach dogs - I came very close to doing it.   I did not want to find a dead body months later, so I was incredibly relieved Spike was more than ok.    He's such a cheeky little rascal!   However, Miss Daisy, a tiny zebra finch, escaped this summer, and I caught her, put her back in her cage, and then next day, she escaped again.  To this day, I still haven't found that tiny body.   I think Miss Daisy wanted to die, and on her own.  You know how cats will wander off, never to return?  Same thing with Muffin, a tabby cat I had as a little girl.    She wandered off and never returned.  She was an old cat by then.

On the jewelry front, I finally finished the two pink Viking knits I started last year, or maybe 2 years ago - can't remember.  One of them has 8 colors and the other one is 3 colors.  To dress up Viking knit chains, I like to justify the cost ($195 and up) of making them, so I will make toggles with gemstones set into them.   Black onyx on the 8 colored chain and a faceted hemalite on the 3 color chain.   I also wanted to make some sterling and goldfilled Viking chains that I could hang large pendants on.    I find I like the subtle gold/silver look I get.   I am currently working on a pink goldfilled/sterling viking knit, but a slightly thinner chain.   I had taken a long hiatus from knitting wire, for it's hard on my hands.

I'm pretty much done with classes for this fall session, and next round of classes start Jan 15.   I'm so relieved to get a few weeks to myself and planned not to make any jewelry, but do other stuff like refinishing the vintage watchmaker's bench my father gave me in July.  It needs a lot of work, but will be a good, large project to do.  Once in a while, I have to go big.

I'm ready to crash tonight, with Spike, a good book and a glass of wine.   

 

 

 

 



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November news

Nov 27 2013

 

 

Thanksgiving came very late this year, and it also was first day of Hanukkah, so it kinda feels a bit strange.   Once again, my small family had dinner at my aunt's house, which my aunt always cooks a feast, and then we all go home with leftovers. Last year, my aunt forgot the cranberry sauce.  This year, she forgot the biscuits - there's always something that gets forgotten.

I wrapped up the 2013 season at Snow Farm, and I go back in mid-January.   I'm scheduled for 8 classes for 2014 and I'm starting to feel overwhelmed by that, so I'll have to try to cut back on the number of classes if I can for 2015.  Anyways, my last two classes were back to back, so my students were creative.  Here's some of their work, so you can see what my Lo Tech class came up with.  I taught Spoonmaking for the first time and it was nice to be able to teach my favorite subject at Snow Farm. Susan K., a student groupie and sometimes my TA, was thrilled to make her first spoon.

As for the toolbox saga, I had to return the one from Walmart for it didn't close properly.  I told my father I needed a new toolbox and giving him the gift assignment for Christmas.  As I was describing and drawing out my requirements, my father practically jumped up, said follow me, and we ended up in his garage.  Lo and behold, he had the exact type of toolbox I needed, so it's an early Hanukkuh/Christmas present.  The required 3 drawers, the large well for my hammers, so it is what I needed.  It's a big bruiser of a toolbox but should be better organized than my trusty old red toolbox, a faithful friend for 27 years.  I think I will make the old toolbox into a stonesetting toolbox, just for setting stones.  All those burs, hand tools, calipers, so forth.  Stonesetting can take up a surprisingly amount of tools just to set one stone.

Did the Philadephia Museum of Art Craft Show a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a very disappointing show.  Once again, the economy is still on the skids, so it makes me wonder if I should just forget being an artist and get a boring old job that will bore me to an early death.   It is clear the market for flatware is nonexist, so I will not make any more flatware for retail, just for exhibitions and special orders.  I'm going to stick to jewelry, custom orders and teaching for that is what allows me to be able to pay the bills and keep me going.    I loved making flatware, but there is no sense in making it if nobody will buy it.   I also will not apply to Philly again for quite a few years.  I do better when I'm a "new" artist, and when I do a show year after year, it does not work out for me.  The only exception is the Annual Craftsmen's Fair at Mt. Sunapee for that's always a good show.   I'll sell off my remaining flatware stock, take apart any of the old sterling spoons, and just focus on jewelry.   I want to get back to my rings, for I miss doing them.

I was teaching a stonesetting class a almost 2 weeks ago, and I usually tell my students to buy prong settings, rather than try to make them.   Making a basket setting can be a challenge, and I do an ok job making prongs.  Here's a very large emerald setting I made to show how it is done.  Even where the notches are and how the prongs are bent is important.   If you are working with large stones or freeform faceted stones, then it is best to make your own prongs, but for small stones, save yourself the trouble and buy prong settings!  I don't love prongs, but they do have their purpose.  I'm a tube bezel person myself.

Back in August, I was TA to Cynthia Eid's anticlastic workshop, and I had bought only 1 large anticlastic stake from her.   I was able to finally acquire the rest of the smaller anticlastic stakes, so I am finally all set. I hope to play after Christmas on new metal forms and shapes, work on ideas and try to develop new work. I've been in a rut all of this year, and I really need to challenge myself, for I can't keep making the same old designs over and over.  Even the ever-popular Raindrop earrings were getting old for me so I kept tweaking the basic design to keep it fresh.   I'm still on the one piece of wire, one solder joint assignment I gave myself, and the very simple but elegant wire wires above is a reflection on that.  Strip away the excess, so that you see the purity of the form.  That is the Bauhaus philosophy, "less is more" and it's been mine right from the beginning, even before I heard of the Bauhaus.

I did get a possible teaching opportunity at GoogleWorks in Reading, PA for July 2014, so that should be a nice change of scenery.  I'm been wanting to teach in other parts of US, not just in NH, MA and sometimes VT, so I need to expand my horizons.  Was guest artist on Monday at the Montpelier High School in VT, showing how to do resin inlay.   Amazing how much expoy high school students can go thru in less than 3 hours, and an emergency run to the hardware store for more expoy was necessary.

Only two more weeks of classes left to teach and then I get a few weeks to myself.  YAY!!!!  I am more than ready for a few weeks downtime.  All I do these days is teach, drive, sleep, teach, drive, sleep, so forth.   In fact, I've made the least amount of stock this year and it's a problem for I simply had such limited time to work in my studio, it's making it difficult to get my custom orders done.   I won't work if I'm exhausted, for I need to be alert and able to handle my tools.   Otherwise, I screw up and have to start over.

Well, that wraps it up for now.  5 weeks from now, it will be 2014.  I sure hope 2014 will be a good year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Tool boxes and other stuff

Oct 19 2013

I didn't have much to say for the past month and half, so that's why I didn't blog at all in Sept.   I made some decisions for I was so overwhelmed, I could not make anything or work in my studio for over a month.   I seem to be trapped in never-never land and a zombie a good part of the time.  Couldn't make anything or do it right the first time.     I finally dropped a class in MA that was a thorn in my side - I simply had nothing left to teach to the same students, over and over, semester after semester.   The summer morning class was the most irritating class I ever experienced and I was in a terminal state of crankiness all summer.   I find I can no longer be an effective teacher and have run out of options to try to help students, esp. the difficult ones that no matter how much I try, no matter how many ways I try, I simply can't get the students to grasp certain concepts or relax, or get more comfortable with soldering.    I'm at the point where I feel I'm not an effective teacher to these particular students, and it's time to walk away.  I do care too much, and that's my downfall.  As a fellow teacher and glass artist says, I have to stop caring so much, stop taking everything personally.  I'm trying, but I may never get the thick skin required. 

As  you can see, 2013 has been a challenging year, and I'm in a dark place, mentally.  Need to find my way back to the light, somehow.......................

I do so much volunteering for the League of NH Craftsmen, it was draining me, so I had to drop one of the committees, so that I can focus on my work and business, not on the League and teaching.  I am on Standards committee, Education Committe, Board of Trustees, metals juror and also metals consultant for the new jewelry studio at the League.  Something gotta give.  I can't seem to  work in my studio anymore and spend my time pushing stuff around, organizing, organizing, so forth.  Things that normally are easy for me has been extraordinary difficult and I keep having to fix them, over and over.  Not a good sign.      

On the good news, I finally got a chance to sign up for a workshop at the North Country Studio Workshops, in VT, which will be in January, 2014.  It'll give me a chance to observe John Cogswell, a highly respected teacher and jeweler in action for I've been told he's an amazing teacher.   5 days, 5 clasps is the workshop.  Rachel Morris, who used to run the Brookfield Craft Center metals studio and I will be classmates, so it'll be fun to be back together.  Another good news is that Brookfield Craft Center is reopening so that's great.  Seems like there is light at the end of the tunnel.   The government shutdown had me worried and still gives me grave concerns for the future.   The GOP really loathes President Obama, and the lengths they go to discrediting the White House is unexcusable.   I can see that people are not buying, being very cautious, so is there hope for the future?   Right now, it looks pretty bleak.  I tend to look at the glass as half empty, so yes, I tend to see the worst in many things.  Not a great character reference, but I seem to be born that way.  

Got accepted into CraftBoston for 2014, a high-ended craft show that is in April and Dec.  Have to decide which one I will do.   I never did well at the April shows which I've done twice in the past so I may just do the Holiday show, which will be at the Hydes Convention Center.   I know that center well and lost my muffler on my car the last time I did a show there thanks to the truck lift.   Not the easiest load-in.   There's always an adventure in doing shows and convention centers loading docks can be hard on vehicles.  The RI convention Center loading dock ramp takes the grand prize - my bumper suffered as a result.   I honestly don't know how truckers manage that ramp - maybe I should find one and ask.  You have to make a 360 turn to get onto the ramp, uphill if you are turning left.   I'm certainly watching out in Dec when I do the Dec RISD Holiday sale.   The Georgia Dome in Atlanta was a nightmare I never wanted to repeat when I was loading out.   At least I know and can avoid.

 Trying to get enough stock for the Philly Museum of Art Craft show in a few weeks from now, which I was shocked to get in again this year, after doing it last year.   I'll have a lot of friends at this show, so that's good.   Last but not least, sort of submitted at the last moment, my Intermezzo purse was chosen as a finalist for the Niche Magazine Awards.  I hope my purse makes it to the awards, but just being a finalist, first time, is great.  

On the last subject, I'm afraid I have to retire an old friend.  My red toolbox, a familiar sight at every school I teach at, is proving to be inadequate to all the tools I need packed in.  That red toolbox was bought in Providence in the fall of '86 and had faithfully served me for 27 years.   Still functional and tough, but just a bit too small for all the tools I seem to require for classes.   I found a new one at Walmart, but already, it has a malfunction, so I may have to return it for an exchange.   My other bag, the black bag is bursting at the seams, as you can see from the middle picture, so I found this big tool bag at Harbor Freight, that is on wheels.  All of the supplies fit in, so far, so good.   What I would like is an tool box that had at least 3 drawers but they either are the metal shop cabinets, or fishing tackle boxes.   Guess I have to turn to Ebay to find what I want.   I love my trusty old red tool box, but it's challenging to find all the tools at once.   I need more compartmentization in the drawers that I don't have in my trusty box.  

Hopefully I will have a nice blog in mid-November.   Spike the hedgehog and Bosco the dog are doing great, and Robert, my parakeet is over 10 years old and still going strong. 

 

 



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Reflections on Teaching, Part 3

Aug 25 2013

 

After a month that was just one thing after another, leaving me only 4 days to be home in August, I'm finally able to slow down.  Right after I finished the Annual Craftsmen Fair, I only had one day off, and then I had to finish my last two classes in Lexington.  Then I spent 5 days being Cynthia Eid's TA ( teaching assisant) at Metalwerx for her Creative Hammering in Anticlastic/Synclastic hammering at Metalwerx.  It was very interesting to see how Cynthia taught, and we definitely think a lot alike in trying to streamline our working processes and finding ways to work smarter, not harder, for we women don't have the upper body strength that men have.  I also gain a new appreciation for the humble cameraman, for I had to spend 4 days manning the closeup camera that showed the metal being shaped on the big screen as Cynthia worked the metal with her hammers and stakes.  I had to keep track of a vast inventory of hammers and stakes, plus hand tools. Let's put it this way delicately - most of the students spent a ton on the tools.  I was the only one who spent the least, just one anticlastic stake and a plastic mallet that was for another school. The 3 pics above are of Cynthia's hammers and her samples, plus her students' samples.

The 3 pics on top, shows my growing hammer collection, my new forming blocks ( grooves carved in wood) made by a fellow Snow Farm woodturning instructor, Rick Angus, who is very funny, and my samples that I manage to do in between my TA duties.  The one odd pic is the ski lift control center at Mt. Sunapee Resort, and the way the sunlight reflects off the wavy glass makes for some very cool abstract images.  I was fascinated each day I was in my booth, looking out and above.   I tend to notice the odd things, and they can keep me in thrall just at the variations in colors, patterns, shifting patterns, so forth.

I could have splurged on some of the new hammers that Cynthia had for the students, but as it turned out, I had acquired a bunch of old hammers ( pre 1960) , and they turned out to be mostly perfect for anticlastic raising.   I just got a few more hammers from a tool swap, so I can do anticlastic raising pretty easily now.   As a trained silversmith, I was taugh to raise metal synclastically, so trying to do anticlastic was not going well for me, for over 15 years struggling.   My brain needed to be re-educated.    Metal is a wonderful material, however, asking it it move in directions it does not want to go is a lot harder than it looks.  That was an adjustment factor I had to take in, for I'm now going where I was not taught to go.

That's why we have to use very specific hammers and stakes to coax the stubborn metal to move in directions that would have been impossible a hundred years ago.  NC Black, Fretz Hammers and Allcraft had developed new hammers in the past decade, but when you think about the thousands of hammer variations that had been developed over the centuries, the older vintage hammers are almost the same as the new hammers.   Furthermore, some hammers can be regrinded into the specific shapes you need.   That is what I did with my vintage hammers.  For almost every new hammer available, I had an older hammer that just had to be tweaked a bit and presto, it functions just like the new hammer.   You can see we metalsmiths take great pride in our hammers and baby them.. They are not the kind you use for hammering a nail into the wall.  We keep them polished and cover them or keep them in special racks.   We love them like our children.  Call us crazy, but our hammers are our identidy for it is what enables us to create wonders in metal.

I had to go back to Snow Farm to teach over the Labor Day weekend.  Weather-wise, it was like a wet blanket covering everything - just miserable humidity.  I did learned a few things while teaching my Stonesettting workshop.  Newbies and intermediate/advanced students don't work well in an intermediate stonesetting workshop.   I had a total newbie student and 2 repeat students that had intermediate jewelry experience.  It was just too difficult trying to teach intermediate stonesetting techniques, and then teach very basic jewelrymaking skills to the newbie student.  I'm afraid I lost my patience a few times on the first day and didn't handle this very well.   Also the newbie student was very fragile and I was a nervous wreck watching out for her, plus trying to teach her for she did have a tendency to injure herself over two days.    Let's put it this way delicately, I couldn't hold my dinner down for two days due to stress.   I did put a skill level requirement for 2014 workshops - beginner, intermediate or open to all levels.  I don't think I want to go for EMT training on top of my heavy schedule for this fall/winter.

We teachers do learn just as much as students does.  That's why I TA when I get a chance - its a good way to see how other teachers teach, and handle awkward situations.    It's also a way to combat teaching burnout, for I've been fighting burnout in teaching for the past year.   I prefer not to teach beginning jewelrymaking classes, for it's just sheer repetition - did you flux?  Did you heat the metal enough?  Did you file a proper butt joint?  So much, that I go home and tell my hedgehog or dog what to do.  I know I'm in trouble.  At this point in my life and career, I have a lot of great skills to pass on, and I prefer not to waste my time teaching ( I hate to say this) mindless Jewelry 101 classes, where I have to repeat over and over, the basics, till I'm dead on my feet.  I'm good at seeing the weak spots in experienced students and pulling out what they need to improve, and helping them advance.  Therefore, I rather concentrate on students who are experienced and pushing them further along, and introducing advanced techniques.    I burned out on beginner jewelrymaking  long time ago.  Massachusetts has a large pool of skilled students and it's fun for me to take them and push them up to the next level.  NH, not so much, they seem to like to stick to the fundamentals, which is hard on me, mentally.

Another pet peeve of mine, as a teacher, is answering the hundreds of questions that invariably arises in classes or at mealtimes at Snow Farm or other students.  That's why I paid the big bucks for my website, so that the basic info is there for everyone to see.   I remember one time I sat down to eat breakfast and one participant asked me, oh, what is going to be the final bracelet design, what type of stones going in. At that point, I had a mouthful of sausage and eggs and started chokiing on it.  I got up, took my tray and relocated myself outdoors and told my new tablemates, "don't talk to me, don't ask me questions, just let me eat my breakfast in peace".   They did but I was still coughing up sausage for the next hour.     I can only do one thing - either I eat, or I don't eat, and just sit there while my food is cooling and just answer the neverending questions about my work.  It's bad enough that I don't even dare to wear my jewelry or show jewelry, otherwise, I have to spend a half hour explaining how this is made, how that evolved, so forth.  It's pretty pathetic, when you think abou it.  Being deaf, I can only focus on one thing.  So if I'm eating dinner, or trying to get ready for a demo, and someone is constantly talking, guess what happens.  I have to focus on the talker and lipread like crazy.    Nothing can happen when I'm listening for I have to give the speaker total concentration.  For the first time, I had to tell a student I can't do anything but lipread him/her at all times and I'm so jittery, I can't do anything for I have to watch you every single second.    That was a revelation in a way.   

However, I did get to hang out with Dave, my stained glass buddy and Rick Angus, a fabulous woodturner at Snow Farm.  The two of them kept me fascinated and laughing.    Rick was so great at helping me make the grooved wood blocks I needed for spicilim forming, and now I'm thinking, I should take a wood turning class to make my wooden forms for sinking.  Sinking is a way of hammering metal discs into a wood form that has a round bowl like depression, so that the metal sags into the depression, creating a bowl. 

Maybe I sound like I'm whining but I am burned out, kind of dreading the start of the fall session, and I really would love a few months off from teaching so I can just be at my desk, making new work.  I'm mostly doing custom work for clients, so I don't get as much time to create new work, and there is demand for new work.  I do what I can, but I can't promise I have fabulous new work every few months.  Maybe later this year or after Christmas.  I do need to find some new galleries to sell my work for I hadn't been able to focus on my galleries selling my work for a few years.

My agenda for September - get some rest, some downtime from August and do my classes.  Spike has already gone for walkabouts in the house and my dog misses me.  They have greatly amused me since I came home from Snow Farm.  Oh, did I tell you that I went on vacation and the only shirt I had was on my back?  I had to go buy new shirts, and at a thrift store, I bought a black tee, that I thought was in my size.  By the time I checked the shirt tag hours later, it said 6X.  I've never seen 6X for size, and man, that tee was a good 3 feet wide.  Fortunately, it was only $1.50, so I'm sure I can sew it smaller.   That is a story that will live on for a long time.

 

 

 

 

 



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80th Annual Craftsmen Fair

Aug 12 2013

Yesterday was the end of the 80th Annual Craftsmen's Fair at Mt. Sunapee in NH.  It was an interesting year, so to speak.   I didn't do quite as well this year compared to last year.   All of the talk of the economy improving, but I still don't see signs and people are still very tight with their money.  Guess it will take another 5-10 years for the economy to recover.   I had a new location, booth 403, which was closer to the front of Tent 4 rather than be in the back.   I miss the little hut that provides a nice shadow in the afternoon in the back, but I did get more foot traffic this year.   I'm still unsure how I feel about my new location.   I did get a wicked sunburn from being in the sun so much when the afternoon rolls around.  I'm still quite bright pink right now.

 This year is an odd one for me - I'm either indifferent or undecided on many things.   I had to have a floor platform put down, which my father built for me.  It was too much for him, but at least, I had a level floor that kept my new walls from buckling or deforming.   After having my walls permanently warped and damaged last year in my old booth, and getting new walls, I was bound and determined to keep the new walls from getting warped.    It was nice having a fairly level floor rather than the pronouced slant that characterized many a Sunapee fair booth, even to give you vertigo if you are not careful.    We all make jokes about the slanted ground, after all, we are at a ski resort.   Some exhibitors have an 18" difference from one end to the other end in their booth.  Mine was probably a foot in the slope difference.

I wasn't going to bring Spike, my hedgehog to Sunapee, for he was still rather huffy, but surprisingly enough, he behaved pretty well, tolerating the touching by many people without huffing and popping too much.    Spike ended up coming to the fair twice, and I got him exploring on my island, next to my purse.      I was in a hedgehog mood this year, and made two hedgehog pendants.  I had these ideas in mind for years, and finally got them out of my mind and into reality.  Triple Mohawk silver hedgehog pendant - triple row of silver quills.  I had done a Double Mohawk twice in two variations and Single Mohawk.   Not sure how a quad mohawk will look, but that's something for the future.   I finally made a silver pendant with polymer clay  in it and many actual hedgehog quills embedded into the polymer clay.  I have found that polymer clay is the perfect medium to hold hedgehog quills and you can bake it without any problems.   I'm going to try that with porcupine quills, which of course, I have a supply of, thanks to Etsy.   Anyways, the Hedgehog pendant won the Most Original Piece award in CraftWear.

For Living with Crafts, I made an departure from my usual salad servers.   I made a pair of sterling silver bowls from vintage sterling discs that I was saving,   I figured, I have this 18g. 5" silver disc, and here's a chance to make as silver bowl.  I also made matching spoons to go with the bowl.  After making small ladles for the Phidaphedia craft show in Philly,  I wanted to make more ladles and small serving spoon.  



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Sad week and one week before Annual Craftsman's Fair opens

Jul 26 2013

It's been a very long week.  My cousin, Mona, died unexpectingly on Sunday.  She was only 49, but lingering complications from a very rare aneurysm removed years ago was too much for her. She had a heart attack, which for someone young, is not common.    I only have a few blood cousins left now.  I have a small family that when one member passes away, it's a shock for it reminds us of our fragile mortality.  Even my head injury back in the spring was a wakeup call of how unpredictable life is and how we can go from healthy to disabled or ill.   I tend to have a delayed reaction to bad news - it usually hits me days after and I had a major meltdown yesterday.  Not a pretty sight, but the realization that Mona was being buried at 5pm yesterday, I lost it completely.   My cousin Joanne and I are the last young ones left of my father's family and it is sobering.   I'm still grieving.

In the midst of all that, my CraftWear and Living with Crafts exhibition pieces were due this week, so I had to get the work done and delivered.    Here is a sneak preview of some of the exhibition pieces.   I am in a hedgehog mood, so I had made the Hedgehog box back in January.  This time, I made a Triple Mohawk silver hedgehog pendant, which I neglected to get a picture ( which I will get next week) and a silver pendant with hedgehow quills embedded in polymer clay.  Definitely a pendant to wear if you don't want to get hugged.  It was good to get that out of my mind and execute the idea into reality.     I also went old school for I made two silver bowls from vintage silver sheet that I was saving, and a series of ladles from large to small.      I also made another purse, in vibrant magneta color, on a nickel purse frame, with a polymer clay bottom, and a silver flower brooch, as seen in picture above as an accent.

The showstopper is a biker's vest, biker's cap and gauntlets, all made of knitted black copper, on a male mannequin for CraftWear.   I can't wait to see the complete setup once Stacey, the exhibition coordinator gets finished.   Making the vest took forever in the finishing part - the wire edges all had to be wrapped.  What a pain to do, but it's all done.   It's called Ready to Rumble, so it's going to be fun to see everyone's reaction to my biker's outfit.

One week left before the Sunapee fair opens, and it's going to be a mad, mad week in setting up booth and Opening Day is Sat, Aug 3, 10am to 5pm. 



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Hot, hot, hot - just too hot these days.

Jul 16 2013

It's been too damn hot these days.  I think this July is the hottest we've had for years, and it's been hot for the entire month, which is unusual.  Even I had to give up walking most nights, for the air was just too hot and humid.  Not fun to be outside.  Only the early mornings and late nights are bearable.  Thank god for A/C! Even poor Bosco finds this weather a tad too hot for him, and he's a Southern boy dog, seeking warmth ( fun to watch him follow the sun over the course of the day, seeking the sunbeams).  I think only Spike with an Attitude ( hedgehog) likes this weather.  I had to turn off his heating pad a few weeks ago for hedgehogs require warmth all the time ( 72 to 80 degrees preferable)

I'm in panic mode right now, for all the CraftWear and Living with Crafts exhibit pieces are due next week, and I'm only about 3/4 done.  It's the last stages that take forever to finish, all the redoing, thinking of scale,s size and how it will come together. Many late nights as well.    I was going to make a triple mohawk hedgehog pendant, but so far, the rib structure is not cooperating for the pendant,  I may have to go to Plan B, which is a silver almond-shaped pendant with actual hedgehog quills ( thoughtfully shedded by my hedgehog herd).   We'll see.  I'm wrapping up making 2 black wire knitted "biker's vests" for CraftWear, complete with gauntlets and hat, several bowls, and a set of ladles from very small to very large.  On top of that, wrapping up custom orders for various clients, which all needed to be done this month.  I'm down to my last two, which is good, cuz I'm losing my mind.  On top of that, teaching a weeklong jewelrymaking intensive right now and a double workshop in Hanover this weekend.  Just knock me out, ok?

I have been making progress in setting many of the pot melt glass I liberated from the scrap bin at Snow Farm ( with the teacher's permission, of course!), and here is two of them.  I love the Green Stripes pendant, and probably will keep it for a while, while Night Sky reminds me of a black landscape, with the night sky still slightly light from the afterglow, but the starts are twinkling.  As for the time of day, I prefer twilight for it is the best time of the day, or early dawn, if I'm ever up that early which is not often.

I got into a delightful conversation regarding bench pins on Facebook, where there is a Metalsmith 2.0 forum.   I posted my battered benchpin so that we metalsmiths can all enjoy.  Only a jeweler or metalsmith can truly appreciate a customized bench pin.  Such a small thing, that thin piece of wood with a V slot, yet, half of jewelry fabrication cannot be done without using a bench pin.  Sawing metal, filing, trimming, cleaning off solder and ragged edges, so forth.   For those of you fellow metalsmiths who know what I'm talking about, this is my bench pin I'm currently using.  It's getting close to being retired, having been in faithful service for over 2 years.  I'm trying to break in a new benchpin, but it's a long process with growing pains.  Breaking in a new benchpin is not easy on the soul and hands. It has to be customized, filed, tweaked to just right.   I know, you think I've lost my mind?   Too bad, it's a little thing that I'm so dependent on.  I can truly say I'm co-dependent on my bench pin.  I know I wax poetic but again, it's the little things you appreciate the most.

That bin under the pin is my silver reclaimation - anytime I cut, file or trim silver, it all falls into that bench under my desk.  I frequently sort out my silver scrap, melt down the clean scrap to be made into new wire and filings goes into a dirty scrap bin that will go to a refiner.  Fortunately, I've pretty good at reclaiming much of my silver and I get my wire stock to use.    We metalsmiths are very good about saving our precious metals scrap.   The price of silver finally came down and has been under $20 per oz for 2 weeks.  Really warms my heart.  I joke the precious metals market is my stock market.  My metal friends understand completely.



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Crappy day..............

Jun 28 2013

After a crappy start this morning when a place I left years ago I swore I would never return, I found myself involuntarily working for them due to a merger last year, which they didn't do a certain thing in a timely manner..  Now I find myself having to waste weeks to resolve the issue.  Then the cherry gets added onto the sundae of crap - I received news that Brookfield Craft Center (BCC) is shutting down as of 6/29/13.   They closed for a few months in 2010 and was able to reopen.   This time, unless BCC can find a sponsor that will keep them open for years, it does not look good.  I have many fond memories of BCC and many adventures regarding BCC, esp. trying to get there in the first place!   This economy is still lousy, and after 5 years of struggling, I am exhausted.   If I die an early death, you know why!  I'm worn out from trying to be an artist.     I've turned from an idealist to a pessimist and now assume the worst from anything.  I know it is a bad attitude, but I've had a lot of reasons to have an pessimist attitude.

I've had people tell me they would love to sit on my shoulder and watch my creative process.  All I can tell you these days, I live in days of sheer terror and sheer rapture, but many day in sheer repetition, making the same things over and over..    I hate to disillusioned my loyal friends and fans, but it's been such a struggle to be creative.   I spend more time trying to cheer me up and get going.  To borrow a phrase from the British during WW!!, "keep calm and carry on", that is all it is keeping me going for some time.   Every so often, I rebel and do something new.  I have to make myself to do something new while the pile of stones and gems beg me to set them into something nice.   Sometimes I have to get out and escape in a walk and look at the vegetation that grows like crazy here in NH.  I've found a little stream in Bedford that just draws me in.

 

6/30/13  - Anyways, I realized I never finished this blog.   Apparently I was so tired I fell asleep in my chair ( it happens time to time).   I guess I needed to rant a little last night and got it out of my system.   Back to the pictures - I TA-ed for Karen Karon, who is a queen of chain maille, so I finally got to learn chain maille - specifically European 4 in 1.  I only got to make a few samples but it's enough to give me an idea.  However, opening and closing the aluminum jump rings was murder on my thumbs and they still ache a bit now, even after 2 weeks.  I'll have to try silver for it's softer.     By the way, the price of silver fell so much, it is now under $20 an oz, something I haven't seen in over 2 years, so I'm thrilled, big time!   Nothing like falling prices on gold and silver to get my blood pumping - I know I'm a little nuts, but when you work with silver, you appreciate any price drop for it means we can get more silver for our money.

I was treated to this cute little chocolate hedgehog pastry a week and half ago.  I had to take a picture of it before it was consumed.   Chocolate on top of a shortcake cookie, and the quills are slilvered almonds and enrobed in chocolate.   I'm surrounded by hedgehogs, both real and fake.  I have lots of fake hedgehogs all over my house, thanks to many gifts from friends.   I never started out to collect hedgehogs, but they all find me, one way or other.

Trying out hoop earrings, but with a twist.  I have a few more designs to execute in silver and then I can unveil them at the Annual Craftsmen's Fair which will open on Aug 3 and end on Aug 11.  I only have 5 weeks before fair open but I have stock, so that's good.  Working on my exhibition pieces, which I have half of it done and need to get the other half finished.   I'm either going to be ready for Sunapee, or not, but I feel like I'm slightly ahead this year, since I had much more time to work this month in my studio.  Thanksfully, in this crazy heat wave, never-ending rain, my studio stays cool and I can pretty much live down there.

Last but not least, I have been collecting pictures, both old, new and interesting.   My mom forwarded me a bunch of historical images from the mid 1800's to the 70's.   The redwood trees in pre 1900 are huge, as you can see the lumberjacks showing off.  The other image is the Statue of Liberty being made in France in

1882.   The Statue of Liberty was made of copper sheets that were formed, repoussed and chased, but on a huge scale.    I work big, but seeing the arm and how tiny the metalworkers look against her arm, it puts things in perspective.   Last but not least, a library of my dreams.   It's an actual bookstore in Europe, but I would love to just move in and take up residence, surrounded by books and fanciful wood carvings.

 

 

 

 

 



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Jumpy June

Jun 09 2013

 

It's been a rather  wacky few weeks, weather-wise.    Hard to believe we are 12 days shy of first day of summer.   May was nice, but then Memorial Day weekend was quite wild.  I was teaching at Snow Farm during Memorial Day weekend, and man, it was bloody COLD on Sat May 25.  41 degrees during day, 30's at night, and had to break out the emergency gloves I keep in my car year-round.   By Monday the 27, sun was out, low 60's and a lovely day.   Had a nice group of students, 5 in all, so it was a smaller class for once instead of the 9 I've been getting for the last few years.   Then by May 30, the East Coast had a monster heat wave - mid 90's.   June came in with a blast.   I basically hunkered down in my cool studio when I wasn't out teaching.   I never know what's gonna be, day to day, but definitely an New England obsession with weather.    I'm just your typical New Englander - as we say, we have two seasons - construction and winter.  Construction is now in full force on every darn road and highway.

I've had a chance to TA ( teaching assistant) a lot this year so far.  I just TA for a mold-making and casting resin workshop today.  I've always been curious about mold-making, but put off on it for it seems so complicated.  In making rubber molds for lost wax casting, it is a big job, requiring a lot of materials, some knife skills and a vulcanizer.  I've always sent out my metal models to be casted and have the casting company make the rubber molds for me.   I know my limits and casting isn't my forte.  I rather pay a casting company to do the rubber molds and cast for me.  However, there's a whole world of mold-making rubber that I discovered.   There is rubber that comes in two parts - mix and pour and let cure.  Some rubbers require pressurization and some requires a vaccum to pull out the air bubbles.     The rubber we all used in class can be mixed and poured into a simple mold using plastic cups to contain the rubber.  You can pressurize it or leave it alone.   I just mixed mine and let it cured. 

I used this thing ( brown object on right side in picture), it seems to an extra-large acorn cap ( probably some gaint seed) that has been bumming around my desk for the past year or 2, sealed it with wax and them made a rubber mold of it.   I didn't pressurize the rubber for there was too many students using the pressurizer and I just wanted to just try it out.   Anyways, the mold was successful and after mixing this really nice liquidly resin with some Pearl EX mica pigments, I got 3 castings.  The green one was the first, the red was the second and the brown on the left is the last casting.   One of the teachers remarked it should be a helmet for a chipmunk.. Now, if I can get one of my many chipmunks that live on my land to stand still long enough, I can certainly try making a chipmunk helmet.

Bottom line:  it was a lot easier  to mold something and cast it in resin, than I thought.   It wasn't something I would have taken willingly, but since a TA was needed at the last moment, and I was available, I figured, why not?   I'm glad I did it for I learned it was quite approachable to do your own molding and resin casting.    I'll be TA'ing for a chain maille workshop on Friday the 14th, and that should be fun for I've never really did chain maille.  Opening and closing hundreds or thousands of jump rings isn't my cup of tea - knitting wire is my cuppa of tea.   I'll post an update on how it goes and what I end up making.

 



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May

May 13 2013

It's been a while since I last blogged.   The past month had evolved a lot of indepth thinking and soul-searching.  I substained a head injury, requiring 5 staples, so I've had a lot on my mind.  Fortunately, I'm ok, but it did make me reevalute my life in general.    I find I don't want to keep going the way my life is, and is looking for some changes.   I generally enjoy teaching, but having taught non-stop without a break for the last few years, I'm in serious need of time out, but at this rate, it probably won't happen for another year.   I want to do more designing and working on new work, but the teaching schedule makes it hard for me to work daily.

I did a baby spoon for a client last month.  She asked me to make a silver spoon with the baby's name on it, and a truck motif.   I had to really think about this, and do some truck images research.  After finding a picture of a model truck, circ1942, I knew I had the right image.  I reproduced the truck image out of a piece of silver sheet, did some chasing and stamping, plus stamping the baby's name onto the truck.  I also made a "smoky" exhaust cloud with the baby's last name on it.   On the back of spoon had the baby's birthdate, birth weight and height.   Truly an one of a kind spoon for the lucky baby.  I've never done this kind of detailed work on spoons before so my client and I are delighted with the results.

I was able to teach my first gas welding workshop at Brookfield Craft Center last month, so it was nice to show jewelry students how to weld steel using the Little Torch.  Gas welding is liberating in a way for jewelers, for you can stick mild steel together, and fuse the edges together.  Traditional jewelrymaking soldering requires lots of filing, fitting edges together, using various melting solder points, so forth, so gas welding is freeing in a way.   I love jewelry soldering ( technically "brazing") but it does require a lot of filing, fitting joints together, soldering, pickling, soldering, pickling, so forth...............   

Right after I taught at Brookfield, went to Snow Farm for my weeklong Jewelry and Metalsmithing workshop.  As usual, I had a full class and a TA, which was an emournous help.  I was hoping the magnolia tree at Snow Farm would be in full blossom, and it was.   There's something about that tree I just love, and apparently, a lot of people at Snow Farm enjoy the tree.  Marta B., a glass artist, was reproducing the magnolia blossoms in glass, so she made this white flower blossom for some competition.  I wish her luck and that her flower makes it.   

I did the RISD Spring Alumni Sale, and May is either freezing cold/rainy, or very hot, in the 80s's.. This time, it was cold in the morning and warmer but still a little nippy in the afternoon.  Sun all day, so thanksfully no rain.   One thing I noticed, the clothing and hairdos were a bit subdued.   I am used to wild hairdos and crazy outfits thanks to my RISD years, but this time, I only saw a few wild colors and no crazy 'dos.  Guess the crappy economy had an affect with the hairdos or RISD just wore out their students.   RISD is considered the MIT of art schools, and I can tell you, by the end of my junior year, I was so exhausted, I was seriously considering taking a semester off to recuperate, but I didn't.  RISD has a punishing pace, so you are tough, but exhausted by the time  you graduated.   Hey, I survived!  Went to grad school right after I graduated from RISD, but grad school was wonderful and relaxed compared to RISD.

That brings up another odd topic.   I happened to be teaching in Waltham during the Boston Marathon and the bombing that occurred.  I was teaching in Lexington the day before Boston and surrounding towns were in lockdown on Friday, April19th.  I didn't realized Watertown was next to Waltham, for some reason, I thought Watertown was more east toward Boston.  A lot of my students were affected, and couldn't leave their homes during the lockdown.  I've never seen anything like this so it was surreal.  One of my students was a former art teacher and 2 of her former students lost limbs in the bombing.    I felt bad for my craftsmen friends, which a number of them were doing CraftBoston, and they all lost a day of sales during the lockdown.   I was glad I didn't participate in the fair this year, just because of the timing.  I also never got to visit CraftBoston either, and I usually go every year.  I had to teach every single dayfor a week.   I knew Boston was tough and scrappy, but boy, Boston really showed it's spirit this time.  Boston is a such a great city, and such a strong one.   Having gone to school in Boston, having spent so much time there as a young kid, Boston is dear to my heart.

What was difficult for me regarding the Boston Marathon bombing is that one of the bombers was a student at University of Mass at Dartmouth.  That alone left me stunned in disbelief.  I loved UMassDartmouth, I had a great time there as a grad school and it restored my faith in the college years that RISD didn't.  It bothered me that the bomber went to my school, so that is something I have to find peace somehow.  If you are looking for a good metals, ceramics, textiles or wood program, the Program in Artistry is a really strong program to enroll in.  I wanted that program so I'm glad I had the chance to participate and be a proud grad of Program in Artistry at UMD.



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New toys for the studio

Apr 01 2013

Winter is over and spring is finally here.  54 right now, so it feels good to have the air more balmy.  Most of the snow is melting away and the landscape is barren, but there's a freshness in the air that promises new growth now.   It's been quite sunny these days which is a nice change.

After TA-ing for the Resin Inlay workshop back in Feb, I picked up good tips on improving my resin inlays.   One of them was UV Magic Glos, a resin that goes not require mixing, and cures under UV light ( blacklight).   Of course, I needed all of the tools/materials necessary for successful resin inlays, so I got the Pearl EX pigments, which is mica powder mixed with color and has a 3-dimensional quality to it, micro beads, an embossing heat gun, a UV light, Magic Glos and good old quick-setting expoy.  There are tons of expoy on the market, but my favorite is Devcon Quick setting expoy, for it cures clear.  Loctite expoy tends to yellow badly and doesn't cure well for me.  The heat gun helps to pop bubbles in the expoy and make it more liquid.   It's smaller than a hair dryer so it works better.

As you can see I have all the necessary tools/materials, and after doing a bunch of silver rings, I have had much more improved resin inlays.   I had scrap bezel cups that I made, but stones don't fit or are broken or missing, so I put together two bezel cups on an U-shape ring shank.   After filling in with quick-setting expoy mixed with Pearl Ex pigments, I had a series of colorful, fun rings.   I domed the top of resin with the UV Magic Glos so that I had a perfectly clear, domed top, much like a stone cabachoun.     i did have to cure the Magic Glos uner the UV light, but the results were so much superior to what I was doing in the past.   I'm really happy that I can have glorious resin inlays.   One ring, I used tea leaves for a more earthy look.   In fact, almost anything can be used for resin inlay - paint, tea, spices, sand, glitter, eye makeup powder, glittery nailpolish, enamel powder, the list goes on.

As for fun, it's hard for me to get out and have fun, but I did go see the Paradise City Art Festival in Marlborough, MA in late March.  It was nice to see my craftsmen friends, and see new work.   

 



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March Madness..... ( couldn't resist!)

Mar 08 2013

Well, it is March and it's a truly mad March.   Digging out from the latest snowstorm, which I hear it dumped up to a foot of down down in VA to CT.  Only got a few inches.  Its suppose to go into the 50's by Monday.  It snows one to twice a week these days now.   Again, it's nice to be home more often and not stuck in my car, commuting from one school after another.

I've been finishing more Czech glass button rings and some pendants, esp, for the larger ones.   I also have been trying to make inroads in my unfinished ring dept, and making some progress.  Of course, I keep coming up with new ring bands so that compounds the problem.  What can I say?  I'm efficient.  I like to make lots of blanks, whether they are ring bands, bezel settings, spoon bowls, so forth, so that when I have inspirations, I can grab the blanks and put them together.    There are days when I do nothing but make bezels, or rings, or little things.   It really does help with production work.

I was given a pinblock that was from a 1920's Steinway piano.  It was going to be thrown out and I could see it could work well as a tool holder, so Al  and Karin Bulter ( lovely couple, good friends) said, take it and knock yourself out.   I had my father cut it into 4 pieces, and I enlarged many of the smaller holes.  It works perfectly as a stamping tool holder, so it was worth salvaging.    I can truthfully say I own a part of a vintage Steinway.  If I was going to get a piano ( which I will never), I would go for a Mason-Hamill, a much superior piano with great tonal range and sound.  I got quite an education on pianos from Al, who repairs/restores pianos.



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February musings......

Feb 24 2013

   I've been on a ring roll this year.   My stones and glass cabs are out of control and I needed to get as much as I could set into jewelry.   These days I just want to make rings, after making so many earrings in the last 5 odd years, I'm a little "earring" weary.    These pictures show the majority of rings I've made so far.  Continuing the glass theme, I've been setting many modern Czech glass buttons into rings, as well as glass cabs.   After setting so many gemstones over the decades, glass is refreshing, in its colors and sparkle.   I really am a glass artist as well as a metal artist.  My way of trying to merge both glass and metal together, and the glass button rings are wonderful.  Big, bold, colorful and fun!   I find most of my Czech glass buttons off Ebay, directly from the Czech Republic.

Once again, I took a busman's holiday and TA for a resin inlay workshop for a fellow jeweler and friend.  I've done resin inlay, but pretty much taught myself how to do it.   However, I did pick up a lot of new tips, which will make a huge difference in the quality of my resin inlays.   The green leaf ring in the upper picture is resin inlay and one of the best inlays I've done.   I've learn a product called UV Magic Glos, by Lisa Pavelka, which cures under UV light and what a great product to have.   I will get them when I can.

Winter came with a ferocity that was quite stunning.  Feb 8 to 9 was the great Nor'easter of 2013, setting new records, rivaling the Blizzard of '78.  Even the MA highways were closed, which never happens.   It was pretty much snowed every weekend now for February except for Feb 2-3 which was clear.    I don't know what March will bring, but you betcha a few more snowstorms to wrap it up for winter.  You can see when I opened the garage door, the level of snow and how much it was on the side porch.  It was 2 feet deep in most places but 3 feet deep in some areas and in the back yard, where there was so much snow drift.  I really got a good workout for 3 days straight hauling the snow out.  My poor dog does not like snow and he had to wait till we could shovel out a dog path for him and a path for the heating oil man, who can show up without warning to pump oil into my ever faithful heating oil tank.  I was just glad I could stay home and not do much. 

Ever since I moved to my house in the early 2000's, the winters have been very challenging.  I've seen more destructive storms since 2000 came around and I've developed a healthy respect for the powers of Mother Nature.  Of course, a part of me is NH native American Indian, courtney of my great, great grandfather, so I appreciate what Mother Nature is capable of.  The family story is that my great, great grandmother had an affair with the local Indian handyman and my great grandmother was the result.  I don't know what happened to the Indian handyman but I bet you he was ran off the farm.   That was back in 1888.  Another colorful family lore.  The rest of me are Scottish, Irish, Swedish, German and Ukranian, so it is clear I'm a cold weather person.   Winters, no big deal.  Tons of snow and ice, that is a problem!

I also had the opportunity to teach at Guilford Art Center in Guilford, CT on Feb 2-3.  It was my first time teaching there and it was a great class, and a very nice metals studio, so I would be happy to come back anytime to teach.    Hopefully in the fall or next year!   I really want to try teaching at other schools for a nice change of pace.  I'm still waiting for my invitation to teach at Haystack, which I love, or at Penland!  Hopefully one of these days.  You never know where you will end up at.

Last but not least, my local newspaper did a feature story on me.  I never expected to be on the front cover, but I did. It was a nice article.  It was funny to walk into the library, and have the librarian recognize me.

 

 



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Farewell, sweet Gump

Jan 26 2013

My fiesty Forrest Gump passed away unexpectly last night.   He hasn't been wheeling for the past few days but still eating.   I was holding him during our nightly snuggle time, and he kept getting cooler in my hand, and more limp but he didn't wanted to be covered in a warm blanket.   By the time he was fully stretched out on my hand, hind legs dangling over my wrist, I knew he was dying, so I just stayed with him, as long as he was with me.   Just before midnight, he passed over the Rainbow Bridge quietly and peacefully.   

Gump was a rescue, from an unknown pet store or breeder and owned by a MA couple that was neglecting him so he was taken by a hedgehog breeder, and he was offered for adoption.  I was the only one interested in adopting him, so I took him in.     Gump was one angry hedgehog, a ball of spitting fury and a nasty bite to match.    I was told he didn't like to be touched or petted.   Well, after much handling, and nightly patting/lap time, I managed to tame him, so the point he would purr in my hand.   He enjoyed our nightly snuggle time.   Still was the nastiest hedgehog biter I've known, so he did have anger issues, so I always had to make sure my fingers were out of the way for once he starts biting, he will not let go.    I found I'm good with the temperamental hedgehogs, especially when they needed to be socialized or get used to being handled, so a number of difficult hedgehogs found their way to me.

Gump made me work for his affection, but he turned out to be a sweetie with a nasty bite, and in the past half year, was a different boy - mellow, easy to hold and interact.    He was happy to look at you while wrapped up in a hedgie blanket or hedgie bag.  He was the only hedgie that was content to look at you, or just lay there, looking.  Most hedgies prefer to hide their heads, not Gump.  He was an original, an one of a kind hedgehog.     I loved him, and he was my buddy, and I would call him, The Gumpster.

Now, I just have Spike, another difficult hedgehog that still needed to be tamed.  I just pat him and talk to him, let him explore.  Spike certainly enjoys going on walkabouts and generally pull one every once in a while.    Gump on the other hand, liked to play hide and seek, but out in the open.   He didn't want to hide, but let me see him, which is not normal hedgehog behavior, but then Gump was an Original.

I'll miss his oddities, his quirks, everything but the bite about him.   I'm going to really miss him.   Farewell, Gump, may you find peace and lots of things to bite at the Rainbow Bridge.

 



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2013 - New Year

Jan 05 2013

Despite all the Mayan World ending prophecy, we all survived to face a new year.   Once again Congress makes it a difficult holiday season with the fiscal cliff crisis - as a friend said, if she hears "fiscal cliff" one more time, she'll scream.   I got a good laugh at that, but then I was pretty ticked off at Congress, esp with the Republicans for dragging their feet for so long.   As a result, holiday sales were pretty dismal with the craft fairs my craftpeople friends and I did last fall.   If you were thinking of going the craft route circuit, find a backup plan, or get a part time job.   That's why I teach so much and try not to do too many craft shows.   It's not worth it for the most part and you barely clear your fair expenses as so many of my friends are experiencing.

It was nice to not teach for 2 weeks, just hang out at home, putter in my studio, catch up on my yarn knitting and reading.  I think I went through 2 dozen books in the past 3 weeks, and just bought home another half dozen today from the library.  No real heavy reading, but good, entertaining mysteries and fictions.   I can't bring myself to read the classics - too depressing when there's lots of great books out there.   My local library get heavy use with the townfolks - the hardest part is to find a place to park.

I am pretty much done with the custom orders and orders, and can focus on new artwork.   After going back to flatware for the first time in 5 years to do the Philly Museum of Art craft show last Nov, I find myself wanting to do more spoons.   Sometimes you just need a long break and I needed it.    I am exploring pod shaped forms, actually picking up what I left off 3 years ago when I did the Spectre servers.   I did two baby spoons for an exhibit called "A Child at Heart" which opens Jan 11, at the League of NH Craftsmen gallery in Concord.   I didn't want to make just a plain ole baby rattle, so I thought I would combine rattles and baby spoons together, so "Shake it, Baby!" was the result.  I think it functions well, and very elegant as well.   The other baby spoon was Whimsy, which was a fold-over handle, which is the first one I really did.   

I'm still working on the purse format, but trying a less formal design, the simple evening bag.   I knitted various colors of wire to get a gradual "fade" from dark to light.   The lining is the part I'm stuck on so I'll be working on that.  I may have to enlist some of my leather or fiber friends to help with the fabric lining so that it is cleaner and more professional.      Sometimes when I get new ideas, I get stuck figuring out the technical aspects and so it can take a few years for my skills to catch up with my ideas, but once the skills come, it gets easier.  

As for work for the future, lots of big rings, as well as small rings since I have so many stones for ring designs, so I have to get cracking on that.   Not sure how my jewelry will evolve so, this will be a lot of thinking and planning this winter and spring, so that I can have a new collection for the Sunapee fair in August.

Hope we all have a better year!



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December musings.....

Dec 17 2012

Well, I am winding down and just about done with classes ( YAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!).  What can I say?   2 to 3 weeks without classes is bliss for me.   I need some downtime now.    I'm finding I'm even slowing down, reading more, spending more time with my beloved Gump and Spike, although Spike and I need to talk. Spike has to learn to relax more, for he's so darn jumpy!   Gump is a warm lump, just loves to lay on me and soak up my warm.   He's such a different hedgie since I bought him home in Feb, 2011.   I caught Spike just gazing this afternoon and got some snapshots of him, in his condo.  

My computer is back, so I'm been making up for lost time, and I'm loving having my computer working so much better.  Turned out there was so many spywares conflicting with each other, the poor hard drive just shut down.  I don't blame it - I would probably do the same thing.  It also makes it clear I am a little too dependent on my computer, but that's the way the world and business is.   We humans are literally tied into the computer.   I can see why so many computer people ended up taking craft classes - they need something hands on to do.

Here's a few pics I took in the fall.  Last session at Snow Farm, so you can see the late Oct landscape in my favorite corner.   Picture of Ben Franklin Bridge in Philly - I am a bridge fanatic and it's always a thrill to go over bridges, so I got quite a few pictures as my mom drove over the bridge and I shooting away with my camera.

One of my favorite glass pieces, a piece of pot melt scrap I found at Snow Farm last year.  I finished the glass scrap on a cabbing machine so it became a glass gem, and I set it in fine silver bezel with sterling bail.  I love how the green moon peeks out of the black clouds and the starts twinkling, and the rusty landscape on the bottom.   I see landscapes and images in stones such as jaspers or agates, and in glass.    I either see an image or I don't.  I try to keep the settings very simply, to let the images shine.    That glass really spoke to me.

Well, NH is now cold, snowy, and we are just a few days away from first day of winter season.  I hope this winter won't be excessively snowy.  Gets harder every year just to dig out the snow.   Tip - if you have an ice scraper, that will be your friend in leveraging out stubborn clumps of snow as well as ice.  I love that tool.   Back to shovelling!



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RISD Alumni Holiday sale and 2013 winter classes

Dec 04 2012

I know it's been a long time since I last blogged, so I'm catching up.   I wrapped up my 2012 season with Snow Farm so it was bittersweet at ending a season, but I'll be back in January for a weekend workshop.   I also sort of lost my mind in late Oct/early Nov when I had classes and workshops every single day from Oct 22 till I left for Philly on Tuesday Nov 5.   Didn't have much time at all to make flatware adn other metal objects for the Philadephia Museum of Art Craft Show.     I managed to have enough stock.  I even did ladles, which I hadn't done in years.

I hadn't done the Philadephia Museum of Art Craft Show in 15 years so I was "new".   Easy fair to do, much to my surprise, setting up, doing the show and breaking down.  Of course, I kept hitting every single red light in Philly and every green light in New Jersey.  Became a running joke between my mom and I.   Also, Philly has so much one-way streets, I would have to go down five blocks to make a turn, another 2-5 blocks to make another turn, so forth.   Those darn one-ways!    It was nice to revisit Philly and just how old that city is - the birthplace of America in a way, and the birthplace of our government.  No, I did not see the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall - did that years ago.

In some way, I hasn't done high ended craft shows for quite a few years, mostly because of the economy and not applying to them either.   I had forgotten how stunning the top American crafts could be, and how much the best craftspeople, really, artists in their fields, made extraordinary crafts.   In fact, it is no longer "craft" but art.  There was a woodworker who made wooden eyeglasses - I bet you they were comfortable.    It got me inspired again to go back to the one of a kind artwork I used to do, so I hope to get back after Christmas is over..  I really miss my playtime, being able to just create, explore ideas, so forth.   I'm been stuck in production mode since July and resenting it these days.

I wish I had pictures to post, but my current computer crashed big time, so I'm back using my cankerous old hard drive, which runs ok, but cannot download images from cameras or CD's anymore.  Hopefully I will have something functional by next year.

During Philly, I started losing my voice, and came home with a lovely case of bronchitis - Philly's gift to me.  Of course, I had to resume my full teaching load, and by Sunday the 18th in CT, my voice cracked in the middle of a prong setting demo and couldn't really talk for almost a week.   I think I really scared my father for he got me to get medical care.  It's nice to have my voice back, just so I can finish teaching.    It's been a long time since I had my voice crack during teaching.  Not my finest moment.   I was pretty useless for most of November.

IIn an interesting twist of fate, Sharon Art Center of Sharon/Peterborought, NH merged with NH Institute of Art (NHIA)  a few weeks ago.  I have a lot of mixed emotions regarding the merger.   I used to work for the NHIA for over a decade, and had to rebuilt the jewelry program for it was a mess when I first starting working there.   NHIA burned me out and I ended up getting pushed out.  I made the jewelry program a little too successful and so many new teachers started showing up, so there wasn't room for me.   I really do not want to go back to working on the Manchester campus, so I have a lot of mixed feelings so I have to do some major decisions for the future.  I can only hope Sharon Art Center does not lose it's regional flavor, for the Monadnock region in NH has it's own character - definitely a little quirky, but steeped in the fine arts.  I didn't plan to be back working for NHIA, but I teach at Sharon Art Center, and I'm pretty much the only metals teacher.   We'll see how it goes.  We do live in interesting times.

Just finished my Tuesday night classes in Lexington and my Currier classes, so another two weeks of classes to finish, and I will have about 2-3 weeks to myself, which is pure luxury!  Only a /artist/teacher would consider a few weeks off as luxury.   Sleep late, spend some quality time with my hedgies and my torch, do some experimental work - I've got ideas for ladles. 

Well, got to do the RISD Holiday alumni sale on Sat the 8th, and wrap up about 5 more classes and 2 workshops.  Gump is old, but still doing good, Spike still has an huffy attitude, and Robert, my parakeet will be 10 years old come next year.  Bosco is still lovable, but definitely has eyes for my pillows - we have nightly tussles to cope with.   Only a small dog can commander a bed and make it difficult for a human being to get in and sleep.  How can a small dog get so big and heavy in bed?  I have no idea so if someone has a theory, I'll love to hear it!



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Fall season

Oct 08 2012

I know I haven't blogged in a long time.   I didn't want to be on the computer very much in the past month for I feel like I'm on 10 hours a day and I get tired of it    I think I only averaged 5 days at my workbench in the past month and half, which is pretty pathetic.

Anyways, I managed to set a new record for the most workshops in a month.  I did 5 workshops in two weeks, in 2 states so yes, I had driver-lag ( like jet lag, but from driving so much).   One was fun - the Hasbro retreat at Snow Farm - yes, the Hasbro toy company.  Imagine this - 120 toy designers gone amok in 14 different workshops.   They were a fun lot - very creative, very quick to pick up and lots of fun things they made.  I taught wireworking, out in a tent in a parking lot.   I thought teaching in a root cellar was my worst, but being outside in the 50's,under a dark tent, and rather dark was also challenging and it was physically exhausting.    Hey, I can teach anywhere, as long as I got tables and chairs, I'm ok.   Right after the Hasbro retreat was over, the Boston Chapter ( Society of Glass beadmakers) had their retreat at Snow Farm, so I got to hang out with my glass family for an entire weekend.   Finally got to make some glass beads, which I so rarely do these days.

Got to teach at Wesleyan Potters in Middletown, CT for the first time and it was a pretty good place.  I'll love to come back and will in the fall of 2013.    As a result, Guilford Art Center in CT asked me if I want to teach a stonesetting workshop, so again, a new place to teach so it's exciting.  I really like to try other schools to teach, so just feel free to ask me.

Did the RISD alumni sale on Sat and it was ok - I can tell the presidental elections are having a real impact on spending.  Hopefully once the elections are over, people will be more optimistic.   I have a joke about the RISD sales for May and Oct.   The weather will either be cold and raining, or hot and sunny. Oct always seem to bring out the hot, humid days for the Oct Alumni sale, and once again, it was hot but then cooled down in the afternoon.  You think you can put away the shorts and tanks for the season, and nope, you got to dig them out!   We did have a lot of wind so my poor table was covered in leafy debris by end of day.

Anyways, I'm looking forward to being home a lot more and get some work done for the Philly show.   I don't have much time, only about 3 weeks to get all kinds of fabulous metalwork done.  

Spike, the new hedgehog is coming along.   He loves to explore and poke his nose into things and he's just as bad as licking as my dog is - the two of them are addicted to licking.   Gump has been sick and had to be treated for an abscess that popped up so fast - literally in a matter of hours.   Most hedgehogs hate taking meds.  Not Gump - that guy couldn't wait to get his meds and chew on the syringe.   Gump is not a normal hedgehog for his behavior isn't always like a typical hedgie.  Still loves to bite and got both me and vet, who called him a brat, which is true.   He's still my boy and I love that grouchy boy!   Here's a pic of Gump snoozing on a friend's finger, which he didn't bite, amazing enough.

I recently taught a boxmaking workshop and a spoonmaking workshop, which I haven't taught them in years, so it was nice to do them.   I made a mushroom box as my demo box and it's the first time I've done a box in that format.   Kinda cute and I was fooling around with the picture using light effects.   Sometimes you just gotta play with the editing tools in your Photoshop or whatever program you use.

Well, got to get cracking and get some work done today!



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Post-Sunapee

Aug 22 2012

Well, it's been a week and half since Sunapee fair ended, and I'm still exhausted.  It takes a few weeks to really recover from the 9 day fair, which really translated into a full week and half when you count the set up dates, trying to fix things and get your booth together.    This year was hard on me physically for the weather was really lousy - hot, humid days.  Only 2 days were really nice while the rest of fair was long, hot and too much humidity.   In fact, I ended up with 3 asthma attacks in one week due to the humidity/heat, when I normally get 2, maybe 3 a year.  That shows just how hard the weather was on us League of NH Craftsmen members and staff.    I just hope 2013 will be a little cooler and dryer.

Another casualty was my booth walls.   I use 2 pop up walls as my booth, for it is very professional, clean, sleek, goes up fast and showcases my work well.   However, my walls didn't survive Sunapee - the wall panels came apart and the frames have a permanent list to one side.   I ended up ordering 2 new walls for future fairs.   Every day during the fair, I would walk into Tent 4 and pray my booth was still standing.   Several times, the panels just peeled off and let's put it this way, a lot of duct tape was holding my booth together.   Tearing down booth at end of fair entailed a lot of peeling off the darn tape. 

Despite all that, Sunapee turned out to be my 3rd best fair overall, so that was a relief.   My Red Bolero jacket and skirt won Public Choice Award in CraftWear.   I cannot tell you how many people, especially men just loved my red jacket and skirt.  Almost as many people loved my candlebras, so I can see I'll be busy making lots of candleholders in the future.  I ended up delivering one to a customer down the road from me, so talk about personal delivery!

Right after Sunapee ended, I had to do quite a few private lessons and my weekly classes, so I didn't get any downtime till almost a week after Sunapee.  Went to see a friend and she took me out on her boat on Lake Monomonac in Rindge, NH.   I finally get to fulfill an old dream - getting on one of those tiny islands that dot the NH lakes.   I always wanted to get on those little islands and be in the middle of a lake, so I got to do that.  Micky, my friend's dog was keeping me company.  Doesn't matter if they are just rocks with a few trees, I just want to climb onto them.   There's something very New Hampshire-ist about our little rocky islands on our NH lakes - all those scrubby pine trees, white birch trees and firs. There's a very unusual house called Saint Marie, which looks like a yault sticking out of a low cliff.  The story behind the house is that it was built by a retired priest turned art collector long ago.  It just fascinates me. 

Spike, the new hedgie is coming along slowly.  He's not quite so defensive and I'm getting a purr time to time from him and he's very slowly relaxing.  It just takes time and patience to get a hedgehog to relax and lay his/her quills down.   However, he is like greased lighting - moves fast and does not slow down, long enough for me to get a decent picture.    Spike learned to use a wheel to run so progress made.  He is a very curious boy and likes to explore, so that's a healthy attitude he has.  By next year, he'll cuddle down with me.  Gump is still good, but I can tell he's getting old and not as well as he should be.  Gump is so much tamer than he was when he first came in Feb 2011.   Still loves to bite - man, that little guy has a serious anger issue.   If I can find tiny pacifiers, I'll be getting them for Gump!

 



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Day 4 of the Sunapee Fair

Aug 07 2012

I sat down to write this blog on Monday night the 6th, and fell asleep in my chair.   The Sunapee fair will do that to you - wear you out completely.   Anyways, I have a new hedgehog - meet Spike.  He belonged to one of my Monday night students, and she said, if I want him, he's mine, so she bought him in, and now Spike has a new home with me.   He will require much socializing for he wasn't handled very much, but give me a year, and he'll be totally different.   Gump was the same way - very antisocial and hostile, and now he's my buddy.  He bites me a lot so I have learned to keep my fingers away from his mouth.  Hope Spike will not be a biter - 2 biters will be too much!

Well, I finished Day 4 of the Annual Craftsmen's Fair at Mt. Sunapee Resort.   It was a brutal opening weekend - wicked hot and extremely humid, monstrous downpours on Sunday, but it was a georgous day on Monday.  Cooler, dry and just plain lovely.  Tuesday was nice but a bit hotter.    I'm doing better than I though, and running out of some stock , but don't have the energy or time to make more work at night.   I did have some booth adventures.  I was moved to a slightly different location, so it's closer, but the uneven ground is causing all kinds of problems with my booth structure.  I don't think my booth frames will survive Sunapee.   I am not asking for that same spot again!   I also had to borrow my father's big pickup to haul my booth up, and it was an adventure driving it.   I have been shaken and stirred to an inch of my life driving his pickup, but it ferried my booth up to Sunapee.     I'll repeat my truck adventure during breakdown when the fair is over, and I'll get shaken and stirred like a fine martini by then.  

I did have some pleasant surprises - won Best Original Piece for my Red Bolero Jacket and Skirt, and Best in Knitting/Crotcheting for my Tangerine Dream purse.  I must have been the first non-fiber artist to win the knitting award in Craftwear - not too many people knit wire.   Men just love my Red Bolero Jacket and Skirt and have been telling me all about it - it does look like chain mail.    I also did some candlebras that were inspired by a client's doorknobs and the movie, Hugo.   People are going wild for those candlebras, so I'll be expanding my ideas for more candlebras.   It's a great challenge for me and each one comes out a little different.



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Countdown to Sunapee

Jul 11 2012

I've been home barely a week from my California trip and it was a good trip.   I've never been to the farm belt part of CA, and stayed in Gilroy ( otherwise known as the garlic capital of US) with my delightful hostess, Grace Santos of Graceful Customs lampwork studio.  I taught hinges and clasps one day and tube/flush setting the next day, and then some private lessons.   One of my students took me on a tour, and Grace took me over to Monterey which is a lovely seacoastal town - touristy, but nice.  Got to see the harbor seals and the pelicans are bigger than I recall.    The weather was just beautiful, cool, dry, lots of breezes - I was lucky to be in CA when the heat wave hit the Midwest and East.  The timing was perfect for I really hate hot humid weather, and CA was blissfully dry.   The evenings were cold.   The strawberries were so good - there's a reason why so much of our produce comes from CA for they are just plain good!   Frank, who was Grace's husband, reminded me so much of my quirky grandfather, complete with a great machine shop loaded with lots of old machinery, and he taught me how to tig-weld, which I wanted to learn.   Someday, I'll get my own tig welder.

Anyways, now that I'm back home, I had to start 3 new classes this week, and 3 weeks left before Sunapee begins.   I hope I can get my CraftWear and Living with Craft exhibit pieces ready in two weeks.  A hanging lamp, a double candleholder, maybe a small lamp, a purse, boleo jacket with skirt are my exhibit pieces.   Stretching my creative muscles and trying new things, otherwise, I'm bored.  Just couldn't face doing yet another set of salad servers for Living with Crafts.

Anyways, my bench is calling so I'll wrap up for now.   I took this shot of Terminal B at the Las Vegas airport for it is so 60's, it screams Mad Men.   Two box clasps made by two of my students, one who had never done any jewelry or soldering before, so that was impressive.   Last, my Bosco, who just loves to lay about in my chairs.



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Summertime!

Jun 25 2012

It's been a while since I last posted, so here are some updates.   Last week was my first full week off from teaching since Christmas/New Years, so it was so nice to stay home and work in my studio.   I've decided this year is the Year of Glass and Stone, so my work is heavy on glass and gemstones.   I wanted to let the glass artist in me out, and also get a grip on my stone collection.   Most of us jewelers and goldsmiths tend to be gem junkies, and I'm no exception.     As a result, I have way too many stones and I gotta set them all!   I've vowed to get half of my stones set this year, so that's spurring me on.     In that one week I stayed home, I have made more bezels than I've ever done in a short period.    Will have lots of lovely gemmy rings for Sunapee, which is about 6 weeks from now.  Yuks!! Will I be ready?   I don't know but I always managed to get it all together for opening day which is Aug 4 this year.

When I'm in class, my hands are restless, so I can be found often wire knitting or doing something mindless as I watch my students.   In the past few weeks, I've found myself doodling in wire, so here's a sampling of my wire doodles.  22g. seems to be the best overall wire size.  I've made a lot of spirally, low tech earrings out of goldplated wire and sterling wire, as seen in the goldplated spirally hoops and spirally earrings with green glass beads.   Since I can't be in my studio very much or be able to solder, I've developed a small line of low tech earrings that only requires one piece of wire, and bend it into an earring, and sometimes hammer it.   The Paper Clip earrings have turned out to be pretty popular.

Another twist I've been doing is that I often find vintage jewelry or metal parts, and once in a while, will acquire a lot of old tools and jewelry parts.   Anyways, there was a length of sterling chain, circa 70's, in a dated cable link style that was too dog-collary for me, so I was able to flatten the links and hammer them to give them a more handcrafted look.  Great way to update a dated chain or piece of jewelry.  Never hurts to tweak or alter a commercial product to make it more one of a kind.  I've gotten good at doing that.   I also had a piece of 1/4" silver bezel strip that was sterling, not fine silver, so being stuck with it, I started plaiting it, and ended up with several pairs of plaited hoop earrings.   It was one of those things I was like, why did I get it in the first place?  Life gives you lemons, make lemonade out of them.   Same thing in jewelry/metalworking - got some weird stuff?   Repurpose it and you'll have some great products.

Well, in a few days, I'll be winging off to California to teach.  My first out of New England teaching gig.   I really want to expand beyond the East Coast and try other places to teach.  All I ask is that my airfare or traveling expenses, and lodging expenses to be covered, and I'll be happy to teach.

 



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Farewell, Cal

May 16 2012

My dear sweet Cal the hedgehog passed away on Monday night.   He was ill for awhile so it was a matter of time, but it still hurts when he slipped away into the evening.   Cal first came to my life as an 8 week old boy, a little shiny from healing tissues.   His hedgehog mother mauled him when he was a few days old, so he was left with a tattered ear, a small part of his foot gone and lots of scarring on his back.   His breeder gave Cal to me for she felt she couldn't sell him.    Cal was the best hedgehog I ever had - so sweet, so social, and just a perfect representative for hedgehogs.    He was a well-travelled boy, coming to all of my classes so many of my student met him, and he's visited quite a few places.   Cal tends to represent me and was my Facebook profile picture, which I will leave it for a while in his honor.    The images on the right and middle are when he first came home, still a baby.  The picture on the left is the last one I took, day before he passed on.

Farewell Cal, you will be very fondly remembered.



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New work

Apr 02 2012

Well, after an intensive few weeks of creating and making, I finished what I needed for two exhibitions - one down in PA for Moss Rehab and the other for the League of NH Craftsmen gallery.   All the earrings and necklace have been shipped off and being set up in the All about Art at Moss Rehab.   The purse and lamp are at League of NH Craftsmen gallery in the upcoming show called "Giving Back".

I've been in a purse and lamp mood this year and since I'm tired of flatware, and want to work slightly bigger, lamps and purses fit the bill.   I have a need to make vessels, but to be realistic, who's going to want to spend $500 on a hand-raised copper bowl with a base, or handmade bowls, vases, etc.   On the other hand, women in general love handbags, and for some reason, I'm totally indifferent to purses.  Not my cup of tea - I joke my purse is a toolbox.   So, I thought, why not make purses - they are a vessel, but with a handle and are made to be carried around.  That way, I satisfy my need to make vessels and have something functional that people can relate to better.   I hope it will make me understand what is so special about handbags/purses.    I generally make a rigid form out of heavy nickel wire, and then either weave or knit a "skin" that wraps around the framework and provides the body of purse.   

This is the 3rd purse I've made, but the first one that has a knitted body.   I made several frames, but only one is finished.  This purse is called "A Touch of Paris".  I used black and hemalite-colored copper wire and then switched to silverplated copper wire.  That way I have a subtle, French shading of black to white and then back to black.   The purse has a double ruffle that adds flair to the purse, and the handle is also quite dramatic in the ball on one end and spiral on other end.    I love this purse and it's starting to make me understand the appeal of a great handbag.    The next purse is more flirty in the asymmetrical handle and I am going to use magneta color wire to make it more dramatic.  I think I will call it "Flirty" for the handle is a real teaser.  Makes me smile.   I will make one out of orange for the CraftWear exhibit this summer, since this year's shade is Tangerine Tango.    Now I just need to order more wire for I'm all out.

The lamp is also new.   After doing the huge copper knitted tube for a Florida rehab wall installation, I really wanted to explore the large scale knitted form, so I thought lamps would make a good vehicle to have a knitted skin over them.   The original idea was to have a hanging lamp, but it wasn't practical, so I made a table lamp instead.  It is pretty big, over 2 ft tall.    I kinda ran out of ideas for a title and just called it Disco Lamp, for the shade does twinkle under the overhead lights.  Nickel wire substructure, stainless steel lamp base with some red copper accents, and the shade is aluminum wire that I hand-hammered each loop, and trimmed with red copper wire.     I will go back to the hanging lamp idea for my Living With Crafts submission for the Sunapee fair this summer.

The earrings and necklace are all based on skeletal pod forms.  Last Christmas, I had to do a rush job on a pair of custom earrings for a client, who gave me a sketch of what he wanted.   Anyways, the dangly pod-like form stuck with me, and I decided to expand on that and take it further.    I like the skeletal form, but added beads and more to them.  I also tried a Celtic-like form where I take 3 long skinny teardrop links, solder them together so they look like a 3 point star, and then dome them into an elaborate teardrop form.    I'm trying to get back to my architectural roots but still retain some fauna designs.   One thing I learned, and every stonesetter should know that - double-check your cabochons before ordering bezel cups!   I was going to use 50's Czech glass cabs in the necklace but I didn't check the size.  The cabs were labeled 5mm but they were really 6mm, so I ended up using resin to add a little color to the necklace.  It is called Buds to Blossom.   The red beads are Czech glass beads from the 20's and 30's.   I've been using a lot of vintage Czech glass this year.



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It's finally Spring!

Mar 24 2012

This past week has been quite a week.  It was still technically winter, and yet temps were up in the 70's and stayed that way till today ( Friday the 23rd).   It even got up into the 80's for 2 days.  I actually got sunburned and forgetten about the joys and pains of dealing with sunburns - it's been that long!   Here in New England, we have a joke - winter and construction.  Our summers are so short, and winters so long, we are starved for sun and greenery by March.

The winter semester, with 7 classes per week, plus weekend workshops really took too much out of me, so I've got to be more careful not to overschedule myself. I was seriously exhausted and dealing with a case of teaching burn-out.     I couldn't work in my studio for quite a while and was having torch withdrawal issues.  The other day, I said I needed a vacation from stone setting and my whole class exploded in laughter.   That was just after I did a flush-set stone setting demo.     I do standup comedy as part of my teaching.     Yes, it's easy to miss being able to just work at my bench, and make stuff.  All I could do was just do my best to do the custom jobs for clients.    I'm all done now with winter classes and the spring classes start next week.

I had to make a double candleholder for a client, and this is the second commission from her.   She had Victorian glass doorknobs from her old house, that was torn down.  The first set of doorknobs, I made them into individual candle holders for her daughter.  This second set of doorknobs, was for her son in NYC.    I was watching Hugo, a great movie the same day I was making these candleholders, and all the visual imagery ( clock gears, old train station, robotic man, etc) had an impact on the swooping curves of the wires making up the candleholders.    I ended up making another set, minus the doorknobs, as a mockup for Living with Crafts exhibit, for August.   I never know what kind of commissions I will get and some of them are quite interesting.  I'm game for most challenges!

Two weeks ago, I had to go to Brookfield Craft Center in CT to teach stonesetting, so with a friend, did a side trip to NYC to see the MJSA convention which I've never gone to the NYC version.   While I was at the convention, there were stone dealers, and I kicked myself for not buying a wonderful, magical pair of sapphire cabs.     Today, when I was at the Int'l Jewelry and Gem show in Marlborough, MA, lo and behold, the same stone dealer was there, and the sapphires were still there!  The stone dealer recognized me as well.    I was so happy to find them.  Of course, it costed me double, but here's the sapphire cabs.   For most people, they seem so ugly, or included, really rough and not what a sapphire should look like but to me, you can see the multiple colors in the crystalized structure.   I'm keeping them for I was so kicking myself for not getting them in NYC, but I have them now.   The camera can't really give full justice to the sapphires.    I've always liked the weird stones.  The pretty ones are for the majority of customers who like color and bling while the weird stones are for me.

Right after the gem show, I went to CraftBoston to do my volunteer duty with Metalwerx, who had a booth there.   It was so nice to see my crafts friends and see new work.   There's a lot of stunning crafts and handcrafted art to be seen, bought and admired.    Well worth a visit.   Of course, half of my friends are asking, where's my booth?    Alas, I didn't have a booth, but it was nice not to worry about having one.   There was a guy who did incredible work with a sawblade, using tiny rivets in titamuim, and I was trying to keep from drooling.   I admire really technical metalwork that is different.   Of course, I check out all the jewelry and metalwork that is to be seen.   I'm so glad I'm a metalsmith, for I know what goes into making a fine piece of jewelry or metal object.    Give me a torch and a planishing hammer, and I'm content.

 



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California Dreaming and wall installation

Feb 21 2012

A few weeks ago, a local gallery I work with ( Art 3 in Manchester, NH) enlisted my help for an wall installation.   Once we fiqured out what the clients wanted, I went ahead and knitted this huge copper tapered "donut" that is to be hung on a wall at a rehab facility in Florida.   650 ft of 16g. non-tarnished copper wire went into this donut - a record for me.  Fortunately, the technique I used was pretty easy, but hard to describe - make a long coil, flatten coil, carefully pull coil apart to have individual loops, and then insert one row of loops into another row of loops, and keep going till you have a tube that has a knitted structure.   Now, the poor gallery has to figure out how to hang the darn thing!   I consider it my first "wall installation".   Now, Art 3 wants me to think of new installations we can hang in different offices, rooms and whatever that needs some art on the walls or ceiling.    Given my crazy teaching load and being on the road so much, I'm unable to work in my studio or get any work done in a timely manner, so I find myself doing more artwork that is portable, that I can do anywhere.  Therefore, knitting wire is very portable.

Along the same time, I cancelled a workshop to be a TA ( teacher assistant) to Andrienne Sloane, a fiber artist who can knit fantastic things in thin wire, using just a simple crotchet hook.    Workshop was called "knitting on the rocks" so here are some rocks that I knitted a "skin" around it.  The bead was my first attempt, the rock in upper right hand side is knitted with a crotchet hook.  Rock in middle is 3 colors, using the Viking knit method ( which I am a Queen of Viking Knit).   The two knitted strips, one with small knitting needles, and other, with a crotchet hook, shows just how much I have improved.   I always hated knitting with a crotchet hook, for it gave me a messy look with wire, and knitting wire on knitting needles is very different than knitting with stretchly yarn.   I can knit yarn well, but wire has no give, so it can be messy to knit with knitting needles.  However, I can see I'm much better now.  Still not my favorite way of knitting.  Give me a Viking Knit or Woven Chain method, and I'm happy as a clam.   I did finish my wool sweater right after New Year's, after spending 2 years knitting it.  Warm and comfy.   At one point, Andrienne asked me what am I TA'ing for her?   I said, "Busman's Holiday" .  I just can't stay away.  It's good for me to see how another teacher approaches knitting wire and I can always use more tips in knitting neatly.  I am obsessed with a neat, clean knit, rather than something that looks like a tangle of wire, which too often, I see that.

 

Last year, I had a student from California in my Beads to Jewelry class at Snow Farm.  She said she wished I could come out to California to teach.  I told her to find me a place to teach, pay my airfare and lodgings, and I'll be happy to come out.  Well, she came through, and I'm gotta teach at Graceful Customs Lampwork Glass & Jewelry Studio in Gilroy, California this summer.   First time I get to teach outside of New England, and I'm excited!    Of course, I love garlic, and Gilroy is the Garlic Capital of the US.   Should be fun.   Onward to the next adventure - let's hope I find new venues to teach and spread my tips and tricks for working with metal. 



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Currier Museum faculty show

Jan 31 2012

Once again, the annual Faculty Show at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH is going on.   I usually try to make something a little bit different.     Over a year ago, I tried to make a second box with the silver stripe on nickel pattern, but the lid wasn't gelling, so that got put away for a while.   This time, I thought, try again and simplify the lid, which I did, and it worked out well.  Box is called Sailing Through Time.  I am fascinated by time and space, so I try to work in a time or space theme in some of my more adventurous work.    It is about 4" long, 3.5 tall and about a little over an inch wide.   I don't make conventional boxes, but that defy all boxmaking logic.   I get a little over the top at times.

I had to do a rush job just before Christmas, making a pair of earrings per client's specs ( try to translate a crude drawing into a nice piece of jewelry is half the challenge).   After I was done, I was inspired to do open pod shapes in wire, but have them move freely on earrings or necklaces, so my Bud earrings were my first finished attempt.   I used these golden-orange beads that seems to glow, so that earrings seem almost magical and yet regal.    I'll be working more in the open pod format, and hope to have a number of earrings and necklaces this summer.

I try to photograph my work as much as possible, for records, and for PR such as Facebook, marketing and more.   The current trend in photography is a pure white background, so that artwork seems to "float".   I did get a lightbox for that, as well as keeping my old grey/black backdrop.   However, as you can see from the images above, the white lightbox seems to "flatten" out the work, taking the life out of it.   On the other hand, when I use my gray/black backdrop, my work seems livelier.   I still prefer to use a dark backdrop for it makes silver pop out more, while a white background makes silver fade out.    Gold looks better against white, rather than silver.  It was an interesting observation I noticed when I was editing my images. 



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Cold War and glass gems

Jan 08 2012

 I am a Cold War baby.  Born in the 60's, came of age in the 80's which fondly remember as the Yuppie Decade,  of the big hair, linebacker shoulder pads and "Teflon Reagan".  My parents and I grew up in the shadow of the Cold War, when we Americans wondered since we lived in fear of being nuked by the USSR.  My mother still remembers Duck and Cover when you drop to floor, under your desk and cover your head in the unlikely situation when a nuclear strike occurs.   Since the downfall of the Soviet Union, it has been an very interesting world, with free enterprise ruling the marketplace.     However, it still blows my mind when I get Ebay packages from Romania, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine and other former East Bloc states.   Maybe it is difficult to let go, having grown up under the long shadow of the Cold War.  There is a certain romantism in the Russian-American conflict since we knew our limits.  Today, with the Middle East, the Arab countries, the Gulf war conflicts, we don't know who our emenies are, and the boundaries keep shifting, so it leave us unsettled.

I do want to visit Prague, Hungary, and other Eastern Europe countries - that's on my bucket list.   The architecture, the old world charm, the fact most of Eastern Europe wasn't rebuilt quite at the speed Western Europe was, so from what I hear,  much of the Old World architecture is left alone, esp. Prague.   I've had quite a few students from Ukraine, Russia, Poland and other Eastern European countries so I get a tiny glimpse into their former cultures.  I have a glass beadmaker friend who is from Moldova, and she is hysterically funny, with her stories of Moldova, her years in Moscow at Russian universities and much more.  I love hearing her stories.  

Maybe I am of Ukraine/German ancestory, but I find myself wondering more and more about the Old World.  I can feel the different countries of my ancestors coming out - the Scottish, the Irish, the Russian, native American Indian, much more.   I can feel them influencing me.   My preference for cool/cold weather climate is definitely Scottish/Swedish/Russian.   I do not like hot climates.  My Indian ancestor has his influence in the way I observe nature, the sun, the moon, the earth cycles.    I can tell the time of the day by checking the sun, and where is north, south, east and west.   That is natural to me. 

In my search to find more vintage crystal buttons to finish a knitted necklace, I came across the fascinating world of Bohemian glass buttons.   All of the Bohemian glass buttons were made in Jablonec in North Bohemia, formly Czechoslovakia.  Since the fall of USSR, the borders of Eastern Europe has been opened, and all the local crafts have been making their way around the world.    I am fascinated and blown away by the sheer variety of the glass buttons, glass beads, and fine quality faceted glass gems.    I've been buying quite a bit of the lovely glass gems and buttons, which I will make into jewelry.    All the glass gems in the picture above came from Czechoslovakia, which came the other day.  I have more coming, so it will be fun to play with the new buttons and glass gems I've ordered.

I find myself working more and more in glass.   I first discovered hot glass ( glassblowing) in 1987 when I took a glassblowing class in college.   I was a glass major for about a week and half before I transferred to Jewelry/Metals in undergrad college for it was really my true calling.   However, I never lost my love for glass, and tried to incorporate glass and metal together for my flatware, but I was limited to what I could use.    When I first came to Snow Farm Craft Program to teach in 2001, I met Nancy Tobey, and I got right back into lampworking glass.  Since then, I've tried to make glass beads whenever I can.    It's tough, since I don't have the equipment to make my own lampworked beads, so I try to do it at Snow Farm or at Sharon Art Center.      I may not have much time to make my own beads, but I make up for it by being intense and working as much as I can in a limted timeframe.

Anyway, in an attempt to bridge glass and metal together, I have been thinking of ways to use my glass beads so it is not just another bead strung on a neckcord, but carefully meshed with metal.   I had made some glass beads in a vaguely vase-like shape, so I thought, a bouquet of flowers in a vase, so I used silver wire that was balled up to resemble flower buds.    I'm glad I have a solid metalworking background, for it gives me a platform to work with when I am trying to do more with my glass beads.   Here's the dilemma every glass artist faces - made glass beads, now what do you do with them?    Therefore, I have been pairing up with glass artists to do Beads to Jewelry workshops and classes - first the students make glass beads, and then I take the students and show them what to make with their glass beads using wire and metal sheet.

Glass is an utterly fascinating medium - it's not really a solid, but a liquid in suspension.   Glass can be molded, shaped, blown, swirled, casted and more much to create so many things.    It is a chameleon material, with the ability to be almost anything.   The only problem is that it is brittle, so it does shatter or break easily.    I have to be careful and use the glass in a way so that it is not too exposed such as necklaces and earrings.  Glass rings or bracelets, I'm a little leery off, for I am a little rough on my jewelry, and many people are brutal on their jewelry.    However, the allure of melting glass keeps calling me to the torch, so that I can melt glass and shape it the way I want it to be.   As the glass beadmakers say, the song of the torch keeps calling.    I so love using a torch for metal or glass.   In fact, a student said to me today, I don't get unhinged when metal separates while soldering.  I just calmly push back together what needs to be resoldered.   Too many years of practice!

 



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Last blog of the year...........

Dec 31 2011

This is my last blog for this year, 2011 so it is time for farewell to a very interesting and challenging year.  I'll be glad to start a new year, in 8 hours or so.    Last night, my mom and I went to see Recycled Percussion, a local band from Goffstown ( next town over) that made it big.   Recycled Percussion is a hoot - they use tools, buckets, everything from a hardware store in their gig, drumming at anything they can drum a beat.   Justin, who is the founder and main star is a very creative comedian and the fastest drummer known.   They are the only non-singing band in Vegas, which makes them unique.  It's so nice to see local boys become internationally known.   If you ever get a chance, go see a performation.    My mother was lucky - she got picked to go on stage and participate, as you can see in the pics.   As a toolhead, I do wince when power tools get flung around as the band does - wonder what the life expectancy of each tool is?    Since they are local boys made famous, they do make sure to do several performances at the Palace Theater in Manchester, and being a small theater, the boys get very close with the audience, so it gets very interactive.     You can even meet them after the show is over.     I saw them last year and so I try to see them every year now.   I'm not much into bands or music, but Recycled Percussion is not your average band.   I prefer off-beat venues.

It's been nice to just take it easy, do lots of reading and hanging out with my hedgehogs and Bosco, catch up on my sewing, watch movies and sleeping late.  Day after New Year's, I go back into the teaching harness and get ready for the winter session.    I'm heading back to Brookfield Craft Center and to Snow Farm, where another full class greets me.      I hope 2012 will be a better and more creative year.   I was run ragged all year teaching so I wasn't as creative as I usually am, so I'll have to try a different tack and see how I can push the evelope.   I do want to make some more metal purses, and make more 3-dimensional chain necklaces.    

Anyways, enough rambling and everyone, have a wonderful New Year's!  



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More Pot Melt Magic

Dec 17 2011

I am seriously hooked on pot melts ( which bits and pieces of glass are melted and allowed to ooze out from a container to create random patterns).    These pieces of glass were "liberated" from the scrap bin at Snow Farm.   Fused glass students make all these fascinating pot melts and throw out quite a bit of glass, so I usually have a ball looking through the scrap bins.    These pieces were rough around the edges, so I used a cabbing machine to trim and even out the sides of the smaller pieces, and then put all of them in a kiln to fire polish them.  Fire polishing means you slowly heat the glass up in a kiln till the sharp edges melt and become more rounded, and then you let the glass cool down slowly.   The smaller pieces, I will bezel set in sterling to make great pendants and the large piece, I will frame and hang on a wall.  It's too big to be a piece of jewelry, and I rather not cut it down to size and lose the fabulous colorations and patterns.   Sometimes it is a matter of knowing when to stop.  

I am pretty much done with classes, with the exception of one, for the year.   My sewing machine has been calling me for 2 months, so I hope right after Christmas, I can go on a sewing spree.  I have some coat ideas, using shrunken wool scarves and wraps to make a multi-color jacket.   I also had a sweater I started knitting back in May 2010, and I am now just finishing it up.    Taken too long!

Now, if I can keep from losing my mind trying to keep up with the orders that are mostly due in the next few days, and then start on the Christmas gifts for my family.     I'm starting to walk sideways due to exhaustion - not a pretty sight and endless entertainment for my mom.

 



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Holiday RISD sale

Dec 02 2011

        I haven't been very inspired this fall, so I don't find I have much to blog about these days.   However, it is now December and 2011 is almost over.    I've run myself ragged trying to be everywhere, to accommodate all my classes and workshops.   I'm just glad I am left with one fair, and two workshops to finish and I'm done for the year.  

Weather wise, it has been a fascinating few weeks.   I came home just a few hours before the historic October blizzard that slammed the entire East Coast, from my weeklong Snow Farm workshop.  It actually snowed at Snow Farm and it was bizarre.  First time I seen snow at Snow Farm, for I usually come in April, and finish up at end of October.   We ( participants and instuctors) all left really fast on Sat the 29th morning to beat the storm.   14" in my neck of woods.   In fact, the towns I drove through like Fitzwillian, Troy, Richmond, NH, all got the most snow - 23 to 25".   I've never seen a white Halloween in my 40 odd years.    In fact, nobody can remember a white Halloween. 


Well, I'm off to do the RISD holiday alumni sale on Sat the 3rd, so I hope it is a good one.  Car packed, ready to roll, as we like to say.



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End of Snow Farm 2011 season

Oct 23 2011

As I type this, I am reflecting on the end of the 2011 season at Snow Farm Craft Program.  This week is the last class held for 2011, so it is bittersweet for it is the end of one year.  Next year will be a new year, a new beginning.  The Metals studio is getting a sink with hot and cold water, which I can't wait.   For so long, I've had to use an old-fashioned water pump outside of Metals Studio, so it will be a pleasure to have an actual sink.  It's the simple things that I appreciate the most.

The picture of this surreal glimpse of the universe is a pot melt.  A pot melt is when you take an unglazed ceramic flower pot, pile in broken bits of glass that is all the same melting type, put in kiln for about 15-22 hours, and the glass will melt, flow through the center hold of pot, and puddle on a kiln shelf.   None two are alike, and every pot melt is different.  It arose as a way to use up bits and pieces of glass left over from fused glass, but taken on a life of it's own.   Anyways, this piece of pot melt was found in the scrap bin so I "liberated" it.  I just fell in love with this particular piece, so I want to frame it and hang it from my wall, so I can look at it.   It looks like a supernova glowing in deep space.  

I am fascinated by deep space, and as you guess it, love to watch deep space shows and movies.    This pot melt has me in thrall, at the complexity of patterns and colors.    I'm not a fan of fused glass, having set one too many pieces of fused glass, but if I do take a fused glass workshop, it is strictly to make pot melts.  I could be happy making a bunch of them and seeing what happens.  I'm big on "what if" and randomness.

Well, enjoying my last week at Snow Farm, with my trusty hedgehogs keeping me company.



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Vessels remade into Purses......

Sep 21 2011

I was trained as a silversmith back in college ( god, that was a quarter century ago!) so I learned to raise sheet metal into vessels, and forged thick metal bars into utensils.   Well, 20 odd years later, who's gotta buy hand-raised copper or silver bowls, or pay for expensive flatware?    Not to mention the sheer wear and tear on the body from the thousands of repetitive hammer blows required to shape flat sheet metal or thick square metal rods into something functional.      I will no longer just sit down and hand raise a copper bowl unless it is a special order, or just for the heck of it.   Same with taking a 1" thick copper rod and hot-forging it into a spoon or knife.   The last time I hammered a 1/2" thick sterling rod was a long time ago, and I got to use a power hammer ( which gave me a migraine, but worth it) and I loved it.   Of course, I still have that hunk of silver rod, with a flat spoon-bowlish shape, but haven't done more with it.

This year, I was thinking, why is this obsession with purses and handbags?   Maybe I am a tomboy, but I really don't get this love for purses.  Granted, my handbag is a battered felt bag given to me but people loves it.    I throw everything into it and clean out occasionally.   Now, I was thinking, rather than make yet another lovely bowl that no one will spend $500 on it, I thought I would transform the humble vessel form into a purse.  That becomes functional, and in a form that women can relate to.   Therefore, Intermezzo Purse was born.   I made a sculptural purse frame out of nickel wire, which is tough, durable and ideal for sculptural forms, and then using silverplated wire, bronze and nickel bezel strip to weave into the purse form to give it detail.

I spent a half year thinking of the hinge mechanism for the purse cover and the solution came to me in one afternoon.  A pivot hinge - so simple, so elegant and works perfectly.  Now, I've got the urge to make more purse forms and use other textile techniques to enclose the purse body.    I am thinking of wool felt, knitted wire and more.  

This purse, Intermezzo, as I called it, was on display in CraftWear at the Sunapee fair, and now is in Penn, for Art Ability exhibit, opening in Nov.   The bracelet is new - "Black Moons" , Argentium sterling knitted, sterling, and onyx/quartz druzy, with black spinels and green amythests as accents.  It is on display at the new League of NH Craftsmen HQ on 49 S. Main St, Concord, NH as part of "Setting the Standards", featuring the work of the League jurors.   I wear many heads, and I am Metals juror, serving on Standards Committee, Curriculm committee and on Board of Trustees for the League of NH Craftsmen.   I have my hands full.   I really don't get to spend much time at my workbench anymore.



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Wild ride on the precious metals market

Aug 23 2011

Yesterday ( Monday 8/22) was an eye opener when I looked at the gold/silver market.   Gold was up to $1877 an oz, platinum up to $1892 and silver at $43.49 per oz.     You know how people who invest check the stock market daily?   I check the precious metals market daily and if silver has dropped down quite a bit, I'll order some.  If silver is really high, I will hold off buying.   In my 27 years as a metalsmith, most of those years, the silver and gold market was pretty stable.  

 In fact, in the early 2000's, gold was so cheap, as low as $262 an oz, I worked constantly in gold, and silver was around $5 an oz, so it was a bargain.   When I started out in the 80's, silver was pretty much in the $8 range for a long time, and then slowly dipped down to $6 in the 90's, and stayed at $5-6 an oz for a very long time.   After 2006, and then when the recession came, gold/silver started climbing.   I have been watching with horrified fascination as the silver starting skyrocketing late last year and this year in particular.  I saw silver hit $49 an oz back in the spring, and was wondering if it would be $50 an oz, unseen since 1980 when the Hunt brothers tried to corner the silver market.

For the last 3 years, as the price of silver became unaffordable, I started melting down the clean silver scrap I had, and since then, I've gotten very good at recycling my silver scrap.  Any silver that does not have silver solder on it gets melted down in a crucible, poured into a casted iron ingot mold, and I get 1/4" to 1/8" short silver rods, that I roll through a rolling mill to make it longer and thinner.  Once I have rolled my silver rods down to 12g-14g. square wire, then I pull them thru a drawplate to get them down to 16g, 18g. or 20g. round wire.   It's a lot of physical work and as a result, I've got the shoulders of a linebacker now.    It does help to stretch out my silver budget so that I can have silver wire on hand, and not worry about having to order often.

I used to put in several orders a month to various jewelry suppliers, but it's now down to once, maybe twice a month, usually for special orders I have to do for clients.   Today, one of my suppliers posted this banner saying they are experiencing technical difficulties with pricing.   The wildly fluctuating precious metal market is causing trouble giving accurate pricing.    

 That brings us to another point - how do I price my work?    Sufficient to say, here's my formula - take price of raw materials, double the cost, add labor fees, 25% indirect costs ( ulities), add them together to get wholesale cost, and then double that to get retail price.   For example - $75 raw materials, x 2 = $150, add 1.5 hours of labor ( at $60 a hour ) $90, add $15 for ulities, and it comes to $255.  Double that, and it becomes $510.   Now, psychologically, $510 may be too much, but $495 is easier to deal with, so most pricing you find tends to end in 99 or 95.   Sometimes I will make something and a price comes to mind.  Other times, I wrestle with the price, trying to find a good fit.    Older work tends to be less and newer work tends to be more.  

These days, when I have to give an estimate, esp. on gold rings, very often the estimate comes out over $1500.   There is nothing I can do to make the price more affordable, unless I am paying for it out of my pocket, which I shouldn't have to do.  It really hurt to crunch numbers to give an estimate, let me tell you that.  The precious metals market is really tough on us jewelers and metalsmiths, so be understanding when I have to charge more!

Here's a pic of my wire, ingot rods, bezel strip and some of the rods rolled down to square wire.   This is as raw as you will see it.

One last note, if you want some new gold jewelry, I'm happy to melt down your old gold jewelry, and make new jewelry out of it.  All I will charge is the labor, and any new things added to jewelry ( gemstones, clasps, etc).



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Sunapee Fair 2011

Aug 21 2011

I survived yet another Sunapee fair, and this year was quite extraordinary in the usual sense.    When the stock market plunged in early August and the US government debt, I thought, great, we are all going to crash and burn.  Nobody will buy, and I was mentally preparing for a crappy fair.   Well, it was my 2nd best fair of all times and very close to my best fair which was back in 2007.   I was so relieved.    It seem like people were hungry for new work, and I had a lot of all metal jewelry.   I tried to go back to my less is more, cleaner architectural style, and I think my customers appreciated it.

I also gave myself an assignment - 1 piece of wire, 1 pair of earrings.   One solder joint or one connection, or no connection.   I had quite a variety of earring designs, all with just one piece of wire, bent, shaped and hammered.    I sold out on half of my stock, so I had to make more work in the evenings, so I was very glad to have a successful fair.   Some of my most expensive work sold, so it was great!

This year is also special, for it is my 25th year as a juried craftsperson with the League of NH Craftsmen, a milestone in my career.   I was at the tender age of 19, 3 days shy of my high school graduation when I went for the state jury for the League.   I had been making jewely barely 2 years when I got accepted, and to this day, I'm still known as one of the youngest members to get juried in.  There was a 14 year old and a 17 year old who got accepted, but I was pretty darn young!   I'm not even 50 and I'm an old-timer with the League.   

Here's a pic of my booth, and a view of the mountain from my peaceful little corner in Tent 4.   I love my booth spot and usually request it year after year.



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Sunapee and Snow Farm

Jul 28 2011

Once again, it's the time of the year - the Annual Craftsmen Fair, or as we craftspeople like to call it, the Sunapee fair.   In a week and half, it will open.   Am I ready?  NO!   I am at half of my normal stock, so I'll have to take stock back from some galleries since I've taught so much ths year, I am unable to work at my normal pace.    I've never had to teach so much, so intensely since back in the mid 2000's when I was younger, had more energy and was like the Energizer Bunny.   Well, now that I am older, wiser and not inclined to stay up so late anymore.    Althought I was up till 5am the other day, completely wired and unable to sleep thanks to pre-Sunapee jitters.   It happens to all of us Sunapee exhibitors.

Here is a sneak preview of some of my work in the Living with Crafts Exhibition and CraftWear Exhibition.    I was thinking, ughh, just how many salad servers can I make, year after year, for Living with Crafts ( or LWC as we call it), and I just couldn't get any good ideas going.     I was thinking, I've never see a metalsmith make bartending tools, and that cocktails have been popular for a few years, why not try making bartending tools?   Of course, I had to do some research and look at commercial tools to get the dimensions right, but loo and behold, I made my first bartending tools.   Here's the list - 1 oz and 2 oz Jigger, Leaf Strainer, Leaf ice tongs, Slightly Tipsy Muddler, Long Stirring Spoon which does double duty of stirring, and olive spears.

 As for CraftWear exhibition, I have my GreenGold pendant, and a new necklace that actually was inspired by my Overlap rings and a pair of cuff links I made for a custom job.   It is called Dancing Dots.   The last piece is a purse, not quite done, but it's my first all metal purse and a sculpture in it's own right.  I'll post a pic once it is done.

I hope you come visit me in my booth, Tent 4, booth 409 during the Sunapee fair, which runs Aug 6 to 14, at the Mt. Sunapee Resort, Newbury, NH    www.nhcrafts.org/fair

Well, I'm off to teach at Snow Farm this weekend, teaching stonesetting and hanging out with my pals, esp. Dave Zaltsberg, a stained glass master who positively dotes on my beloved Cal, the hedgehog.  Wonder how many funny stories and jokes I'll hear this weekend.  My favorites are " Whatever happens at Snow Farm, stays at Snow Farm" and "Whatever stirs your pot"   ;-)

 

 



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25th HS reunion and lapidary

Jul 18 2011

I had my 25th High School Reunion last weekend.  It was interesting to see how much we've changed or not changed since we all left 25 years ago.   I've only seen a few of my classmates.  We are all definitely a lot older, grayer, more chunky, but we still know each other.   My classmates are not surprised I still have lots of pets and all admired my jewelry.   I guess I'm not as sentimental as a lot of people are, and I was more curious ,   Carina brought her lacy satin pink prom dress - that poor dress isn't going to hold up for the 50th reunion!

On the other hand, right after my reunion, I took a lapidary workshop that I signed up last year.  It was really nice to be able to cut my own cabs, shape them the way I liked them, and the whole process was a lot easier than I though it would be.  Michael Boyd was a good teacher and a superstar in gems on top of gems jewelry.    Very funny in his own quirky way.   I can relate to him on several things.    It was great to be able to salvage some of my broken cabs, recut some lousy-cut cabs into better shapes.   I had a lot of odds and ends, and quite a bit of whitish, quartz-like rocks that I was able to saw and lap into decent cabs.    A friend of mine gave me a big chunk of labradorite which I wasn't sure what to do with it, so I sawn it into slabs and grinded them into cabs.     One of them turned out to look like the State of New Hampshire, and that was purely by accident.

I do like lapidary, and love the fact I can tweak my stones to the way I liked them.    Someday I'll invest in the equipment I need, but for now, I can use various schools' equipments till I'm ready to get my own.     You'll be seeing my cabs, all set at the Annual Craftsmen Fair, which opens Aug 6.

One last thing - I've gotten a nice color pattern going on with my 8 color Viking knit.   Final piece will be a necklace with an oxided sterling clasp.     It was nice to know it was possible to do 8 colors on Viking knit.

 



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Multi-colored Viking knit chains

Jun 16 2011

I've had a brutal teaching schedule in the past month and half, which entailed the most commuting I've had to do in years.   CT twice, Snow Farm Craft program, and 3 weekly classes that were a long commute each day, so I'm pretty much "commuting" out.    People think teaching is easy, but throw in long commutes, being stuck in a car for hours, lugging heavy tools and supplies, much prepping, and you get a very weary teacher.     Now, I have to do my best to try to get some work done for the Sunapee fair, which I hope I have enough time to get some exhibition work done in time.  I only have a month left to make about 12 exhibition pieces for CraftWear, Living with Craft and an upcoming exhibition at the League of NH Craftsmen Gallery.

Right now, I'm on a Viking knit spree.    I saw this 7 color Viking knit bracelet on Etsy, and you could buy a tutorial to do the 7 colors knit.   Me, having an engineering mind, thought, it'll be fun to figure out how to do multiple colors.  First, I started off with 3 colors, as you can see in picture, I have black/green/silver, black/gunmetal/silver, silver/gold/peridot green, dark brown/light blue/silver.   Yesterday, I thought I would try to do 7 colors, but ended up with 8 colors, in various pinks, reds, purples, orange and brown.    A curious thing happens when you work with multiple colors in a single stitch row, is that you get this continous spiral of color.  A double stitch row will give more of a herringbone look.     It's fascinating how the patterns and colors develop as you work on the Viking knit.

I have quite a few students completely hooked on knitting wire, and every week, I see a new color pattern or variation as my students get done with one pattern, and then start a new one.   I can see I'll be teaching knitting techniques for years to come.  At least knitting wire is portable, I can do it anywhere, does not require much tools, just a pair of pliers, wire cutters, a spool of wire and a dowel.   I'm known for having tools in my bag at any given time - tools of my trade.



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Lollypop Daddy and teaching.....

May 13 2011

May is already an exhausting month.   After a very long time with very few classes running per week, I have 4 classes at two schools running per week, so that keeps me on the go.   I took on a new job teaching metalsmithing at Lexington Art and Craft Society in Mass. so it's going well.  Of course, it'll take me about a half a year to memorize the studio and the tool cabinets, but it's going really well.   Sharon Art Center finally had some jewelry classes running, so that's good.  It seems like the economy is still lousy, but people are more willing to spend on education and take workshops or classes, so that's good for me.     I spent a week and half at my favorite place, Snow Farm so I got my working vacation.    While I was there, I got some lampworking done, got a few of the lampworking students hooked on my beads on wire technique so who knows where that will lead.   I made Lollypop Daddy, a big bird with many beads on his "feathers" and tail.  A good friend  of mine won him at the Snow Farm auction that we have every week long workshop.

As for the hedgehogs, Forrest Gump is slowly coming out of his shell and his personality is coming thru.  He's a biter - loves to chomp down on my fingers or on fabric, so I've learned to keep a big wad of fabric between his mouth and my hand.   He's fiesty, and he likes to explore, so now that the days are getting warmer, I can take him and Cal outside on the lawn and let them explore, under close supervision.

One last thing, I was featured artist of the month for Parawire newsletter for May, so I'm thrilled!



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Ouch! $40 per oz silver....

Apr 08 2011

Today, the price of silver went up to $40 an ounce.  I never thought I would ever see the price of silver go up so high in my lifetime, and I still have a few good decades left to go.   Platinum hit $1810 an oz and gold came close to $1500 per oz.    All this ups and downs is very trying for me and my fellow metalsmiths.   When I started making jewelry back in '84, the price of silver was around $8 an oz, give or take, and pretty much stayed that way for years.  In the early 2000's, it was $5 an oz and I was buying silver like crazy.   Gold was as low as $264, so I did a lot of gold/silver jewelry, and a number of gold rings. 

Not anymore.   Now I conserve my silver like people conserve water, and ration it out.   I've cannibalized a number of my jewelry to reuse the silver, and made my scrap gold last as long as I can and I have very little of it left.   I've even started having brass/bronze chains and jewelry silver or gold-plated now, which is something I normally reserve for flatwere.    At least I've gotten very good at melting down my clean silver scrap, pouring it into ingot molds and rolling it out into useable wire.   I'm even eyeing old silver jewelry I don't wear anymore and wondering should I scrap it and reuse the silver? 

Once silver start hitting $50 an oz which it did in 1980 when the Hunt brothers tried to corner the silver market, I think we in the jewelry business will be paying for that dearly.   People want to pay for nothing, or the lowest price possible, and unfortunately the cost of raw materials has double or tripled, so I can't lower my prices much, only reduce and reduce the amount of materials I use or use brass or copper, which is not my favorite due to never-ending tarnishing.  I would like to keep my prices down, but it's not possible.   I'm afraid I will have to increase my prices just to keep afloat.   My jewelry friends and I agonize over how to price our work.    

Here's Cal Jr and Forrest Gump, my two hedgies.  Enjoy them!



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Pearly Moon bracelet

Mar 25 2011

I've made a new batch of work for the All About Art at Moss Rehab, an exhibition I do every year, that is held in Elkin Park, Penn  every April to June.    I made some bracelets that were knitted from fine silver or Agentium sterling, and accented with stones.  The larger bracelet is a druzy quartz with a metallic coating to give it's otherworldly glow, and the smaller bracelet has a round ruby set in the center.  

As for everything else, spring is here!   I really was in the doldrums during the long gray winter days, with the weekly snowstorms in Jan/Feb and a few smaller storms in March.  Now that the snow is melting, I'm feeling perkier.   Trying to think of new things to make.   Finally found Wolf Myrow in Providence, a huge warehouse of old/vintage jewelry parts, chains, real and fake gems, and everything else.    Managed to make 2 trips this year, and still want to go back.  So much to look at, decisions, decisions, ahh..... truly overwhelming.

Forrest Gump the new hedgehog is settling in.  He's a biter, that's for sure, but he's a handsome boy.  Makes me work for his affection, but he's my baby.   I've already taken him to my jewelry classes.   I always bring my hedgehog to jewelry classes, so my students can meet Cal or Gump.     I did get to visit a hedgehog breeder in Hubbardston, MA  - www.crespocrazycritters.com, and I had fun holding all of her hedgies and dwarf rats.  The baby hedgehogs were the size of a hen's egg and too cute for words.

Did visit CraftBoston today and there was a lot of extraordinary beautiful crafts, jewelry and clothing.   Well worth a visit.  Running from 3/25 to 3/27.   www.craftboston.org.



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"Square"

Mar 05 2011

Last year in Vegas, I read about a new credit card processing device, called "Square" by www.squareup.com.   It's this little plastic square that you plug in on your smartphone or iPad, and you can swipe cards and process transactions right on your smartphone.   I thought it was cool, but didn't have a smartphone, so I couldn't take advantage of it.  Well, my mom gave me a smartphone for Christmas, and it's one of the best things I have - I just love my phone.   I don't make calls, but am always online checking things.  

In business, you always have to find ways to work more efficiently and more frugally.   I wanted to ditch my merchant program ( which allows me to process credit cards) since the monthly fees went up drastically, and I was only using it 3 months out of the year.     Well, during a meeting, I was reminded about the Square back in January. 

Of course, I immediately signed up for it, got my little Square card reader, downloaded the app, all free, and Square only takes 2.75% per transaction, or 3.5% for a manually keyed in transaction.  No monthly fees, no hassles, and it takes every card known on Earth.   I was very happy to cancel my costly merchant program and only be charged for each transaction, rather than monthly fees.    It's great to have if you have a mobile business.   I highly recommended it!  Works on all smartphones, either Android-based or Apple-based, and on the iPad.  Now, my wish list is an iPad or something similar.

 



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Winter weary.......

Feb 27 2011

It's been a very weary couple of weeks.   I feel like we are in a prelude to a nuclear winter, with multiple snowstorms per week.  Thankfully in mid-Feb, we had a thaw, where the temps got up to 70 degrees one afternoon, so that all helped to reduce the towering snowbacks all over New England.  Two weeks of sun helped to calm the cabin fever restlessness that always happened during the dark days of winter.    I finally came to the conclusion, as much as I am a die-hard New Englander, I need a more moderate climate during the wintertime.   I can see why the snowbirds have to leave the winters and go South.   The last round of snow ( 3 storms in 5 days) left a good foot of snow and as you can see from the pics above, my welded sculptures are in danger of disappearing into the snow.   My bird is 3 feet tall and he's just about buried in snow.   Every day I look out and see how much of the bird can be seen or not.  He's sort of my unofficial snow level indictator.

As for hedgehogs, I thought I was just happy to have Cal Jr, my 2 year old boy, but unexpectly, another hedgehog came home with me.  He is Forrest Gump, from the greater Worcester MA area, and he needed a new home.   Apparently, his former owners weren't too happy with him, but they left him alone all the time.  No wonder!  A hedgehog breeder, Jennifer Crespo of Crespo's Crazy Critters had taken Forrest Gump from his previous owners and I was the only one on Facebook who was willing to take him.    Forrest Gump is about a year and half old, very huffy, but he's gotten more comfortable with me.    He'll never be like Cal, who is so laidback, Cal can't be bothered to even huff.   Now I have two boys to enjoy, quills and all. 

As for work, it's been in spurts and fits.   During the stormy weeks, I'm too weary to get much done, but when the weather is calm, I can get more done.    Been working on an old idea but new designs based on the idea.   Multiple rings soldered together in a 3-D form, so that it is very sculptural.   I also have been making more earrings with stones, often with cool multi-colored glass cabs.   I've gone back to stonesettings with a venegance, since I have so many stones, I gotta set them all.  You'll be seeing more of them as this year goes by.    My purple stones pendant did sell, to a great friend, so I'm happy.



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School starts......

Jan 19 2011

Well, it's time for school to start this year.   Tomorrow, I start up my new classes at Metalwerx, and next week, start my wire class at the Currier Museum Art Center.    Already, I have a workshop running this weekend at the new Nashua League of NH Craftsmen Gallery, so looks like this year I'll be busy teaching.   I already have a full teaching schedule all the way thru Sept, and only have a few openings for scheduling new workshops for the rest of the year.   Phew, makes me weary thinking about it right now.   It's good for teaching has it's good moments.   Sometimes it's the commute that wears me down. 

 I've been enjoying not working much this month.  January is my time to take time off from my bench and do other things like sewing and I've read probably 20 books in the past month and half.   I keep my local library busy with my book requests, but that's what the library is for, to keep you busy with reading and other resources.

Here's another picture of Cal, my hedgehog.   He requires monthly baths, so here's him trying to climb out of his bath.   Enjoy him!



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New Year - a fresh start.....

Jan 11 2011

Well, it's a new year, a fresh start, a blank slate, whatever you like to call it.   For me, out with the old and in with the new this year.    I've been in limbo for most of 2010, and it was a very frustrating and at times, discouraging year, so for me, it was necessary for me to start fresh.    I've been purging my work and my supplies, getting rid of pearls and some beads, and odds and ends, and focusing on what I'm good at - stone setting and rings.   

 Like so many jewelers, I'm a gemstone junkie ( a phrase I borrowed from a dear friend, a fellow goldsmith), and have more stones than I know what to do with.   Of course, I keep buying more stones - it's an addictive habit.   I have so many beautiful stones that are just sitting there, so I've made it a priority to do as many stone settings as I can.   2010 was metal-heavy, meaning I did a lot of all metal jewelry,  lots of chains and earrings.   This year, I want to add more color through gemstones, and some polymer clay.  I'm trying a few new things that I've never tried before or cared to.  I am actually going to take a lapidary workshop, so I can cut my own stones, so that should be fun ( and very messy!)

The pendant above is a pendant that has 4 dyed turquoises, an amythest and 3 sapphires, all in sterling.   I also tried something different.  Rather than bezel-setting stones and pushing the silver band over the stones, I used a thicker bezel as a silver rim and expoyed the turquoises into the settings.   I Iike how the silver bezel is more of a frame, so I will do that more with other stones I have.  Right now, the purple pendant can be seen in the exhibit, Shades of Purple at the League of NH Craftsmen, 205 N. Main St, Concord, NH till March.



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Wrapping up the year

Dec 15 2010

I finally wrapped up the last fair of the year, and no more fairs till either May or August 2011.    This year has been an interesting year, with everything out of order or not what they used to be.  It's an "anything goes" time these days.   What used to be popular isn't anymore.   No real trend in term of what is sought after, so I have no idea what to proceed next.   As now, I'm clearing the decks, and starting over with new work after Jan 1, with an empathis on one of a kind exhibition work which I will need a collection of, for a few upcoming exhbitions.

The pendant above on right is the sixth piece in the Flames series, called Fiery Flames.   Every year, I try to make one or two pieces that has silver/gold flames in a pod-like shape.  I love working with fire, esp. with torches.   I do tend to do work that relies heavily on fire - welding, lampworking, soldering - you get the idea, so I do pay homage to fire.   As one of the basic elements - air, earth, fire and water, fire is crucial to providing heat for us, and yet we've controlled fire to make it work for us.    Anyway, back to the Fiery Flames pendant, it is sterling,18kt and 3 sapphires to provide a little sparkle.

I also found a green turquoise that has brass veins running thru it, that just happens to fit a brooch perfectly, so I remade the Shield brooch into a pendant with the turquoise on the bottom.  Occasionally I'll find I need to tweak a piece of jewelry.  Other times, a stone will find it's way  to me and find a new home on a piece of jewelry.    Apparently the turquoise and the brooch were meant to be together, so it is called Green Gold.   Both Fiery Flames and Green Gold are at the Currier Museum Faculty show, till March 7, 2011.

I didn't plan to go to CraftBoston, a high-end craft fair, but won free tickets to CraftBoston, so off I went.  It was nice to see my craft friends, and I found this lovely little paper and wire shell that was made by Jessica Beels.  She's a paper artist that she covers wire armatures with wet paper and as it dries, it becomes a taut skin that reminds me of parchment or leather.   The little couch shell looks like a hedgehog, so of course, I had to have it.    I have quite this hedgehog collection that people keep giving me, like mini hedgehog statutes, sculptures, toys ( which my dog takes off with), so it's quite comical.   God know how much I adore hedgehogs, and usually have a pet hedgehog around.   I just realized my Fiery Fire pendant does have a hedgehog shape.  Subconciously, I make my work with hedgehog shapes or spiky "quills", so I'm not always aware of how much hedgehogs influence me.  It's a good addiction to have.



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New tools - a tool orgy

Nov 25 2010

A week ago, I went to a lady's house to see jewelry tools that her father had.  It was an estate sale.    Apparently he was a jewelry teacher back in the 1950's to 70's.    I found many tools that are very hard to find, many hammers, some silversmithing stakes, enamels from the 50's and 60's, pewter sheets and disks, some that were found wrapped up in newspapers dating 1962 and 1963, and copper.   I was so excited for I found hard to find tools and supplies.    It took a few days but I was able to clean off the rust on the hammers, and refinished most of the hammers.  There were a few hammers I had no clue what they were for and had to contact other fellow silversmiths to find out what they were.  The oddly angled hammers are for boxmaking.   That's good to know!

I even found notes, and a note with a very familiar name ( an old friend's name) so I will have to find out if it is the same person.   You just never know what you will find.   You can find gems in the dustiest of basements or wood sheds.    I was one happy lady to have all those tools.   I love tools, and get more excited in a hardware store than a department stores.  Only shoes can get me more excited.   Shoes and tools are my favorites.

In the meantime, I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!



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Meet my supervisor, Bosco

Nov 07 2010

My dog, Bosco, likes to get on my lap and then hop onto my desk. For some reason, he likes to walk around my desk and poke his nose into everything.   Not very often, but at least once weekly.    I've had Bosco for about 2 years, having found him at Salem Animal Rescue League ( Salem, NH).   He's the perfect dog, on the smallish size but big enough so you know he's there.   I love telling people what he is, a chihuahua/dachshund/Yorkie mix - the baffled expressions I get is fun to watch.  Bosco is clearly half long-hair dachshund with chihuahua ears and hind legs, all in a smoky dark chocolate shade.   His hair is like soft silk - he's hard to keep your hands off him.   He is very protective of me but once you get to know him, he's playful.   He is a serious dog, an old soul with those big worried brown eyes of his constantly watching.  When he runs, it's like watching a racehorse, the way he just gallops, and soars like a bunny over obstacles.  

An update on Hercules, the little Maltese I rescued from Philly, he is no longer with me.  Hercules and Bosco weren't working out, and it was clear Bosco was happier as a solo dog, so I found a new forever home for Hercules with one of my students.  

To my protective supervisor, Bosco, here's looking at you, kiddo!  In fact, he was in a photo for a doggy farm ad, looking so serious and proper.   If you are in NH, and need a place to board your dog, I highly recommend Toad Hill Farm in New Boston, NH  www.toadhillfarm.net, for your dog will get the run of the house/backyard, and sleep with the family in a true family home situation.   Bosco enjoys his stays there.



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Viva La Vegas.............

Oct 29 2010

Recently I went to Las Vegas for the first time.   Let just say it's a eye-blowing visual feast.   I hadn't been to Vegas before and have been told I must go for once.  It was fun to see all the neon - Vegas is better at night with all those neon lights dancing everywhere.  By day, Vegas is curiously monotone in it's earthtone colors and lots of whites, beige, terra, browns and beiges.   It was fairly easy to drive around the city but the Strip is the slowest to drive thru.   The lower part of the Strip is all those grand, newer casinos like the Bellagio, while the upper part is the older, more original ( and tackier) casinos, more wedding chapels than I can count and the most video stores of any city I've seen.   I didn't gamble but it was fun to see the casinos.

I've always wanted to see the Hoover Dam and I did and it's stunning, and beautiful in it's Art Deco grandeur.   They had just opened the Hoover Dam Bridge which soars over the dam, and I got a chance to drive over it twice.   I did see the western part of the Grand Canyon which is on an Indian reservation, so it's not all tricked out.  You can literally walk right up to the edge of the canyon and look down 4000 ft.  I actually ended up eating dinner perched on the edge of the canyon.  No fences anywere - you exercise due caution and hope you don't fall over the edge!

I discovered a boneyard of the old, often original neon signs and watched a little crane move a Wedding Chapel sign so I guess that's where the old neon signs go upon retirement.    I stayed on Fremont Street and it had the dazzling overhead movie screen which is the largest in the world, and watched zipliners zip across.   Last but not least, here's a sign I enjoyed - "Emergency Arts".  Even the building had a neon Medical Facility sign.



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New box for exhibition

Sep 29 2010

I found myself in a state of limbo for a while.   I didn't quite realize doing the 9 day Annual Craftmen's Fair in August, then 3 workshops in 3 weeks at Snow Farm, and dealing with a dog I rescued knocked me me out of a loop.    Only a week ago or so did I finally get the urge to work  and did quite a bit of work.    Here's a box I did for the upcoming Baskets, Bowls and Boxes exhibition at Gallery 205, League of NH Craftsmen HQ.   The box is called "Soaring through Time" and is made of nickel with sterling inlayed stripes and patterned sterling.  

There's something about boxes that really speaks to me - it's a container that can hold anything you want.  Small boxes are particularly appealing, so I usually make an unusual, non-traditional box once in a while.   Generally, I like to jazz up the metal by using stripes, patterns, textures, odd shapes, odd lid configurations, and sometimes funky bases.    Maybe I should start making more boxes!   Although, my boxes are not that small and this box is one of the biggest I've made, a good 4.5:" long by 4" tall.    Anything bigger than 5" starts to get very tricky to solder for metal expands under heat and it can be hard to control the expansion movement of metal as you are trying to solder it.   It's doable, just more patience and lots of binding metal together to hold it during soldering.  Anyway, enjoy the box!



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Annual Craftsmen's Fair, 2010

Aug 18 2010

I did the 77nd Annual Craftmen's Fair  which ran from Aug 7 to 15th.  It was long, as usual, and I joke that it is not just a craft fair, but a marathon since I usually spend 3 weeks up at Mt. Sunapee for the fair, not a week and half that most craftspeople do.   I did the floor plan and exhibition layout for CraftWear before I put up my booth.   This year was full of surprises for me. For my Living with Crafts submissions, I had a pair of candleholders made of curly copper wire all woven together, plus a pair of salad servers and a set of 4 sterling egg spoons that were a collabration with Sarah Burns's ceramic egg cups/dishes and tray.  Much to my surprise, I won the Joe Tucker Best in Metals award for my candleholders, called Medusa's Sisters, which is a tough award to win.   

For CraftWear, I had two necklaces and a pair of painted brass shoes.  I thought it would be fun to have a pair of shoes made of metal instead of the usual piece of exhibition jewelry.  Again, much to my great surprise and delight, my shoes were bought for the League of NH Craftsmen's Permanent Collection.  Of all things I made, it was the shoes that made it.  I am a frustrated shoe designer - got to let that out of the bottle.  I can do so much, but my main medium is metal.  

For Sculpture Garden, I thought it would be fun to blow up one of my little nail hedgie birds and make a really big bird for the garden.   Well, blue bird got a lot bigger than I planned, and he is 5'7 long, 3' tall, and 2' wide, all in various shades of blue, and called Lophodino Bird, which means crested dinosaur bird.  Not sure what I'll make for next year.

As usual, I had my corner booth in my favorite corner, back of Tent 4, facing the mountain and lots of cool breezes.  Here's a pic of my black booth, hosting my jewelry, flatware and a small army of hedgie birds.   Even my hedgehog, Cal, made an appearance, and you can see him posing with the "I love it here" NH logo.   Cal was a very popular boy, and for days afterwards, people kept coming to my booth asking to see the hedgehog.  

Overall, the fair was good, the weather cooperative for the most part.  Opening Day was great, with beautiful weather.  By Day 8, I had cabin fever from being in my booth so long.   It was good, but I'm glad it's over.  If you never made it to the fair, here's some pics for you to see.



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Good ideas = not so great attempt but a successful result

Jul 27 2010

I have these ideas and images in my mind, often for a few years.  Sometimes I have to wait till my technical skills catch up with my ideas.   There are times I bite off more than I can do.   I had this vivid image of a woven pod rising above many forged wires that are welded together into a solid handle for at least 2 years.   I finally got around to trying out my idea, and in the picture on left is my first attempt, made of iron and mild steel.  The woven pod tip and the upper end of handle where the forged wires cup the pod is good, but the welding on the lower part is not so good.   I tried brazing the second handle with disastrous results.      

     It was time to got back to the drawing board and simplfy.   The second set of salad servers came out much better.   This time I used brass wire and brazed 9 pieces of 12g. wire into one solid handle, and left the pod tip unwoven.   I finished off the set with sterling casted bowls, a trademark design of  mine that is particularly suited to my style.   Even the title changed as well.   This set is called Sceptres and will be on display at the Living wtih Crafts Exhibition at the Annual Craftsmen's Fair, which opens on Aug 7.   I can only hope I'm prepared by then!

I do have a habit of creating really complicated designs and then I have to streamline it, distill to the purest form and still express my ideas.   That is the key - simplfy, keep it clean and not cluttered.



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New goodies - beads and turquoises

Jul 09 2010

Every year in Marlborough, MA, generally in May, July and Nov is the International Jewelry and Gem Show.   I used to stock up on gemstones from this trade show long ago in the '90s, but I stopped going to the shows for a fquite a few years.   Last year I came back and bought some pearls and unusual beads.   Today I went down to the gem show, and it was pretty empty.   It used to be so packed, it was hard to move or get someone's attention to buy, and I think I stopped going.  Must be the economy but the crowds are not there anymore and it was easier to shop.   The vendors were overheard saying the customers are not coming anymore.  

This time, I stuck with beads and some turquoises.   I must be "pearled" out but I didn't get any pearl strands.   I'm moving away from using pearls as "chains" or neckrings to hang my pendants on.  Sometimes using a silver chain is too plain, and too boring, so using a colorful strand of pearls or beads can perk up a silver pendant.   I found myself drawn to the faceted rondelles as you can see above in glass, prehnite, aquamarine, kyanite and turquoise.    I'm finding myself moving up to faceted beads for a more upscale look.   

I hope to have most of these beads made into necklaces for the Annual Craftsman's Fair in a few weeks from now, so if you come to the fair, stop in my booth in Tent 4, booth 409 and see what creations I came up with.   I never quite know what I will end up making.  That's the fun thing about making jewelry.



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There's a big bird in my studio......... and fireworks

Jul 04 2010

Every year for the Annual Craftman's Fair at Mt. Sunapee Resort in NH, I participate in CraftWear ( which I do the exhibition layout), Living with Crafts, Sculpture Garden and a booth.     Generally, doing the Sculpture Garden forces me way out of my comfort zone, since instead of working on a small scale ( under a foot), I have to go up 3-6 ft big.   Last year, I did a 6'4" bird woman sculpture, which was huge for me.  This year, I though I would blow up one of my nail hedgie birds and make a big one.    Well, by the time I got finished welding, bird was 5'7 long.   I always have to keep the size manageable, for anything I make has to fit in my compact car.   Bird just manages to fit in my car, laying down.    He looks like a dinosaur bird so I've nicknamed him DinoBird.   He's glaring at me as I type this!

Last night, my mom and I went to see the local fireworks that Manchester usually puts on.   At the local Lowes and Targets in Bedford, they are situated on a hill, in Bedford Highlands, so high, you can look down on Manchester, so I thought it would be a good vantage point to watch the fireworks.     Much to my surprise, I not only saw Manchester's fireworks, but 5 separate displays from other towns.   I guess my vantage point must have been that high.   I wasn't the only one, quite a few of the locals camped out in the parking lot and watched as well. 

Last but not least, I have a new dog, Hercules.   He was a sadly ignored Maltese that needed a new home, so he came from Philly.    I thought Hercules would make a good companion for Bosco, my other dog, but it's a really interesting relationship the two boys have.  Poor Hercules doesn't quite know how to be a dog, and acts like a little boy much of the time.  Bosco is like this little old man, and acts just like an old man even thru he's two years younger than Hercules.   Bosco makes me laugh a lot and he's my faithful companion.   I'm still working on Hercules to get him more comfortable.   I got a crash course in learning to shave and trim dogs - took 4 trimmings to get Hercules to look decent.



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A jungle of ferns

Jun 17 2010

I'm feeling like I live in the Pacific Northwest instead of New England.  We've had so much rain, it's been a virtual explosion of greenery everywhere.   The ferns are overtaking my land, and lots of new trees are taking root.    I don't have ferns, I have shrubs of ferns - it's so thick as you can see from the pictures.   I have massive granite boulders lining my driveway and back wall, and you can see how large the ferns, weeds and greenery has taken over the rocks. Vast, cool, dark forests surrounds me whatever I drive, usually on back roads.   I've been nicknamed the Queen of Back Roads since I know so many of them, but there are stunning wild natural beauty to be found.    I love the little winding streams that are frequently along the roads, and discovered a new stream in Goffstown as I was cutting thru another back road.    It is really green these days and even the light has a greenish tinge to it.   I may be a city slicker but I really do love the forests, esp. driving thru them.  I feel protected with the trees towering over me as I drive. 



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Washers Overload.....

Jun 05 2010

Like every good New Englander, I have all kinds of weird stuff hiding or lurking in the shadows of my studio.   I had a box of copper washers I had for years, and thought it could be a funky compoment for neckchains.  Well, I finally got around to looking at my copper washers and along with a bunch of old brass watch gears and oversize brass rings, I sort of threw them together, soldered them into a series of cuff bracelets.   The result are funky, freeform, somewhat industrial bracelets that have a mind of their own.  Most of the washers have been altered by hammering or texturing, and stacked on top of each other in random patterns.    I like how they came out.    Sometimes you have to go in with an open mind with assorted odds and ends, and play with them till you find something you like.  Then you solder or attach them together so it becomes a functional piece of jewelry or accessory.    

Some designs I think about for years, some I have to work at, some comes to me immediately, and others are a result of accidents - something went wrong and it became a new design.  As the old saying go, make lemonade out of lemons.   It's so true for that is how so many interesting designs come alive.



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Reflections on Teaching, Part 2

Jun 01 2010

Every so often I get into teaching dilemmas that makes me reflect or reconsider how I teach or how the studio is set up.    In my last week at Snow Farm, I had a very interesting class that really challenged me.   2 students didn't want any hammering or the noise from hammering, and let's face it, it's kind of hard to make jewelry or metal art without some hammering.   I kept having to think of ways to make metal more simple, less work, and more creative.    I'm not sure how much more I can reduce metal down to a point that it is super easy to bend and shape and yet be very rigid in a very thin or delicate form.   Sometimes you do hit the limits of the material and I was at the very limit of what I could do to keep metal extremely low tech.

The other adventure I had during teaching, was to teach a soldering workshop at a bead store.  I know what you are thinking, beads and soldering?  I was hesitated to have soldering indoors in this lovely, airy bead store so I had the workshop outside on the lawn.   Well, the lawn slopes, so all my tools and solder kept rolling off into the grass.  With the sunlight, none of us could really see the flame in the soldering torches.  On top of that, I got the worst sunburn since I was a kid.   It got me to thinking, how can I have a portable soldering setup I can use, that is easy to transport, has all the tools and torch I need, and can be used anywhere.

I thought of this simple box, using wood I had, and constructed this box, that has a 12 x 12 Solderite pad fitted into the top, a propane torch wedged into one corner so that it doesn't move, a pickle container and a water container.  Under the Solderite top, there is space to put the tweezers and hand tools, flux containers, silver wire solder and anything else needed for soldering.  Handles provide easy pick up and toting.  It works great as a portable soldering station, and already I have students interested, so tentatively, price for a fully equipped soldering station would be $250.  Everything is included, but you may have to buy the propane and/or butane from the local hardware store since gas tanks cannot be shipped.    All in a neat little package under 20" long or 14" wide, and 6" tall.

Last but not least, my most memorable memory of teaching is when I taught in a root cellar.    It was one of the hottest, humidiest days of summer I recall, and I had to drive down this grass path to back of the gallery to unload my teaching supplies.  When I saw the studio, I was pretty taken back for an uneven dirt floor, very old, ricky tables and chairs, poor lighting, and 7 students are confronting me.  On top of that, my cochlear implant processor breaks down and I'm unable to hear.    It was quite a day, and I somehow manage to teach everything.   

Let's just say it took a good 5 years before I came back to teach.   This time, a proper floor was put in, better tables and chairs and more lighting.   That building was built in 1927.  Houses and buildings in New England tend to have weird basements/cellars/root cellars all in one.  I've seen built in beehive ovens in colonial houses.  I once lived in an old duplex house that had a bizarre basement that would scare the daylights out of me if I had to go down at night, and part of my studio was down there.  I now overcompensate for that now in my very well-lighted, airy, open studio with more outlets than I need.  All I need now are windows.  

  Oh boy, the pains and joys of teaching, in all kinds of places.   I've learned to bring everything but the kitchen sink to whatever new place I go.  



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Crazy May....

May 25 2010

May has turned out to be one of my most hectic months I can recall.  I pretty much spent two and half weeks traveling, teaching at Snow Farm twice and at Harwood Union High School in VT.   I'm guest artist at two high schools, so the VT high school was one of them.   

 Here are some pics of Snow Farm.  The massive pine trees is the most ancient part of the campus, considering the farm started in 1750, and one of my favorite spots.   The yellow flowers on tree were quite stunning, inspiring the lampworking students and teacher, who is one of the funniest people I've ever met, a delightful Liliana Glenn of Natick, MA.   She's a superb lampworker and can tell the most interesting stories of growing up in Moldova, going to college in Moscow and much more.  I've glad to have met her.

The last pic shows the main road showing the metals studio on the right and the lampworking/fused glass studio on the left.  I've spent so much time in those studios, they are my homes away from home.  This year, Pat Bennett who is supply coordinator and Ms. Fix-it and I were able to spiff up the metals studio, putting new working surfaces, so it's more of a pleasure to be working.   I can't wait to get a new 4 person stations long soldering bench, and we'll really be in business.

Now, I'm not quite sure what to do next, but get myself into gear for Sunapee.   I've got most of my welded steel bird, who ended up being 5'7 long together for the Sculpture Garden exhibit.  I just need to put the legs on or poor bird won't be able to stand.     Guess I'm taking a few much needed days of rest and then I'll be working non-stop.   Now, where are my tools..................

 



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Farewell, Brookfield Craft Center

May 12 2010

Yesterday, I received sad news that a favorite craft school, Brookfield Craft Center in CT, closed their doors.   They were a premier crafts educational institution in Brookfield, CT, along the Still River ( which is the only river in North America that flows north), since 1954.    Brookfield Craft Center or BCC as it was nicknamed, has a lot of fond memories for me,  since I was teaching there since '98.    I'm really going to miss all the wonderful people I met there, teaching or meeting, so BCC will leave a big hole in my heart.     The recession is proving to be pretty lethal now, and it's very bad in NH this year.    I just hope everyone else can hang in there and survive this year.   I hate to see any more schools or institutions shutting down.  Even Worcester Center for Crafts in MA closed but then reopened as a glass studio after a local community college took over.

Farewell, Brookfield, I'm going to really miss you and all the adventures I have there.



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Greetings from Snow Farm

May 10 2010

I've been at Snow Farm twice in less than a month, and going back in a few days to teach my 3rd workshop.   Here are pics of my students' work that they did in my Jewelry/Metalsmithing weeklong class.   8 students and they all did great work, even thru they were a very lively lot.   All I have to do is give some basic technical info, get them to learn to solder and then turn them loose and boy, do they produce!   Lots of great work, incorporating forging, hammering, wireworking, stone-setting ( which seems to be the favorite) and more.   Next class is Lo Tech Jewelry, which is learning to make jewelry using low tech techniques that doesn't require a lot of tools or equipment.  

While I was at Snow Farm, I was able to make many glass balls on iron wires, that I will use to make more hedgie birds.   The irony is that I have so much trouble making round beads or rondells on mandrels, and I can make them so much easier  when I'm making the beads right onto the iron wire, which is premanently fused on.  Now I don't want to make focal beads, just balls on wires for the birds.   I'm finding it's harder to get back to my jewelry when I want to just keep making glass and weld.   Sometimes it's hard to switch gears and go from one medium to another, because it's different tools, different materials so I have to mentally adjust.  Some days it's easy, other days not so easy.  If you were wondering, I weld my work right on my soldering bench, but I have to clear away the jewelry tools/bricks, and pull out the welding bricks, and not mix the iron wires with my silver solder.  Keep an eye out for my next batch of birds, hopefully by end of this month, when I'm home long enough to work!



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New direction with glass beads and nail birds

Apr 29 2010

Last year, I had the oppunturity to meet Sara Sally LaGrande, a glass bead artist from Kansas  ( see her boat-like brooch in the left photo).   I really like how she combines wire weaving/working with her funky glass beads.   She has a trick where she makes the glass beads right onto the steel wire and then wrap the wire ends into her creations.       I thought I would borrow her technique and make lots of glass beads onto thick steel wire, and weld the wires onto my nail birds.   After some experiments and using both borosilicate glass and Moretti glass, the boro glass kept cracking on the steel wire due to expansion differences, but the Moretti glass was comparible with the steel.     I had to get used to working with Moretti glass since it's not my favorite to work with.   I've made a few birds and welded the steel wires onto their tails with the glass beads, and I really like the color "pop" it gives to the birds.   I also made long glass beads with a hole halfway thru the bead so it can be expoyed onto the bird's head.

It has been very satisfying to get back to beading and making a lot of the small beads onto the steel wires, and I'm trying to make as many as I can, so I can have enough to make a dozen birds or more.   

I'm heading back to Snow Farm on the 2nd to teach a week-long workshop.   I also hope to do some serious welding inbetween teaching and maybe a few glass beads.    I'm getting serious about my glass beads now.



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Happy Birthday, Cal!

Apr 19 2010

Today is Cal Jr's birthday.  He is 1 year old and officially a "man" hedgehog.   I've been his mom for the past 10 months and have enjoyed my time with him.    Of course, my dog does not care for him, but that's ok, I have enough love for both of them.

On my artwork, I've been doing lampworking glass beads, and making a lot of large, long beads with one hole, so that I can put them on my nail hedgie bird sculptures.  I also made a lot of glass beads permanently fused onto steel wire that I weld directly onto the birds.   Matching the glass color is the hard part, but I'm excited at this new direction, melding glass and metal together in a non-jewelry format.   I'll post a pic when I get done.

I'm off to Snow Farm in a few days and can't wait to start.  I teach at Snow Farm 3 times in one month, which is a lot for me, but it's a wonderful working vacation.

 



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Recycling gold and silver

Apr 08 2010

For the past 3 years, I have watched the precious metals market climbing to skyrocketing prices per ounce.  It used to be that gold was in the $250-400 for a long time, and I did a lot of gold jewelry, and silver was a bargain at around $5-6 per oz.   I used silver for everything, demos, prototypes, finished jewelry, you name it.   At the beginning of the recession, the price of gold, silver and palladium started climbing rapidly.   Silver did hit $20 an oz briefly, but it seems to hover in the $17+ range for the past year or so.   Gold did climb up to $1300 once, but seems to have settled in the $1000-1100 range for now.  Platinum did hit $2000 an oz but now is around $1500-1700 range these days.   I've never seen such high increases, and it's agony for us jewelers and metalsmiths.  I don't  have much hair left from tearing my hair out.

To keep my silver and gold budget from bankrupting me, I've gotten very good at recycling my silver and gold scraps.   I usually sort out the clean silver scrap that has no silver solder on it, and melt it down into small round bars, that I roll thru the rolling mill into thinner square wire.  Then I draw the square wire thru a drawplate, a thick steel plate that has holes that get progressively smaller and smaller, resulting in round wire in the specific size I  need.  It's a lot of work melting, rolling and drawing wire, but it helps to reuse the silver and gold scrap and lets me have wire on demand.

One of my students and friend asked me if I would take her mother's old gold jewelry as well as old gold that is not worn anymore, and make some new jewelry.   By the time, I finished melting all the gold, it was a 7 oz slab of 14kt gold.  It took me almost a year to roll out, forge, hammer and texture a part of the gold slab into a wide cuff bracelet which she loves.   There is still more gold left, so I've made 3 pairs of earrings, a chuncky chain bracelet - see picture above, and a gold necklace that is stunning.   I still have 2 more bracelets to make from the gold still remaining.   I've never made anything so big in gold before so it was nice to make some serious bling.

When you think about it, it's worthwhile to take your old gold jewelry you don't wear anymore, and have a jeweler or me melt it down and remake it into more modern, wearable jewelry.  I'm doing the same thing for another client - took her old rings and melt them down to make new bracelets.   Something to think about.   By the way, don't sell your old gold to CASH4Gold - there's a lawsuit pending since they don't really give you full value for your gold.   You are better off selling your old gold to a responsible refiner like Hoover and Strong which I sell my old silver scrap that I cannot reuse.

Think about it - here's a chance to have new jewelry made from your old gold at a fraction of the cost that it would if you bought new gold jewelry.  I'm happy to do a gold makeover for you!

 



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New take on an oldie design

Mar 27 2010

I've done many things in jewelrymaking and metalsmithing, so I don't always do the same thing every year.   Back in the mid to late 90's, I used to make a chain link that looks like two cotter pins that slided together, making a dog bone-like link.    I had completely forgotten about it and then back in February, I was demostrating to a class on how to make chains, and I recollected this particular chain link.  This time, I wanted to do a different twist, balling up the ends of the wire and then making them asymetrical so as they slided together, they created a new look.   I liked them so much I made a plain chain necklace and bracelet.

I also wanted to add stones, but not necessary a pendant, so by using unusual shaped black onyx and frosted quartz beads, it gave the chain linkage an elegance.   Wirewrapped links with beads has been around for a long time.  I used to make many chains made from wirewrapped beads links, and burned out on them 20 years ago.    This time, rather than just wrapping the wire around the beads, I thought if I can ball up the ends of wire that wraps bead, it would add an extra dimension.   I love the new chains I made, esp. the black onyx chain.    It does pay to dust off an old idea and make it a little different for a fresher look.    It's more time consuming to make these links so I'll have to work out a way to make it more productive for me.   Maybe have the links casted so I can make more of those chains and do more variations.



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Update on Cal Jr the hedgehog

Mar 23 2010

Cal Jr is almost a year old now, and will be a year old on April 19th.   Here's a picture of Cal trying to get out of his bathtub, giving the impression that he's hauling himself out of bath.  A second picture shows Cal being cozy on the sofa pillow.    Sweet, but has his options on everything and can be a fiesty boy.   I'm enjoying him and he travels well to whatever I go.  I can put him in a "hedgie" bag and in my bag, and off we go to school or whatever I go.



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Spring fever and ladles

Mar 19 2010

Technically, it is still winter, but this week has been like late April/May.   Beautifull, in the 60's all week, windows open for fresh air, who can resist being outdoor?    It is a little odd to have such nice weather in March, but Febrary and March has more than their usual sunny, spring like days this year.  It helped a lot with the winter blahs.

As for work, I'm doing my own spring cleaning with my odds and ends.  I had a lot of odd bits, pieces, stuff here and there, so I'm been trying to make jewelry or flatware.   Take ladles for example.   I very rarely make ladles - not sure why, maybe a spoon I don't use much.   My first ladle was a heavy forged copper ladle that I spent much time handsawing it out of 1/4" thick copper sheet, and spending years forging it.   To be honest, I don't recall the amount of time I spent on it - I've blocked out quite a bit of my RISD undergrad years.    It is finished with the forging, but I still have to clean it up and make it look good.

I have made a few garden-theme ladles of brass and copper that I've sold and 2 smaller gravy ladles.   This ladle in the picture above, is from a handle I forged in grad school, but the spoon bowl was an old copper bowl.   I have picked up a number of old copper small bowls and small dishs from the 50's to 70's that were originally made for enamelling, but never quite got there, so I've been reusing them into spoons, and one water fountain.   I liked the way the copper ladle came out, so I may do more.   I'm going to make an effort to make a few more ladles this year, since I did make the brass bowls for large ladles.  It's getting the handles on is the hard part.



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Spring!

Mar 06 2010

Today was like spring!    It's been a wild week and half thanks to the wind storm.  So much tree destruction in NH, I'm still amazed at how big the trees are and how many have fallen over.   Doesn't do much for my state of mind but trying to stay focused on my work which isn't easy, given that I have spring fever to cope with. 

Nancy Tobey and I collabrated on another big piece that we are submitting to a glass bead exhibition.    Nancy wanted to go beyond just stringing her handmade glass beads onto a chain, and I just happened to be knitting a silverplated necklace, so I knitted another tube, so that we could have an "Elizabethan" ruff collar.   I took all of Nancy's beads and attached, sewn, and tied the beads into the knitted necklace.   It's an outrageous, over the top collar that Queen Elizabeth the First would have loved to wear.  It's the most dramatic necklace I've ever made, and Nancy was in high heaven when she saw it.  We both didn't quite know how we would do it, but I figured out how to attached the beads onto the knitted surface.

I'm starting to wonder if I have a future in the costume industry, since my work is taking on a larger scale, more costumey look.     I don't quite know how my ideas evolve and sometimes I have to ride it out thru experimenting.  Some ideas work out, some don't but at least I try.   Now, I'm going to try making a large, or tall purse.   I'm not big on purses, but it may be fun to try it.   My ideas don't always follow a straight path, and it's bits and pieces that I follow thru.   At times, I have a clear image of what I want, and other times, I don't, and have to fall back on trying it out and see how it look.

I have a quote - "Creating art is an act of destruction before creation."   My metalwork often go thru hell and fire before it becomes beautiful.



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Blackout of '10

Mar 01 2010

These past 4 days are best forgotten.   We had a terrific wind/rain storm on Thursday night the 25th, that turned into a disaster in New Hampshire and New England.   Many very tall, old, large trees were pushed over, creating a lot of property damage.  Brush, tree debris, branches, stuff all over the place.  We are going to be cleaning for the next few months.   So many power lines knocked down, I had no power for 4 long days.  You do not want to have a blackout in the middle of winter, and I've had two long blackouts in the wintertime.

All I want is to get back to normal, clean up and get back to my workbench since I haven't been able to work since Thursday afternoon.    I was afraid my hedgehog wouldn't survive the cold, but heat packs work great in keeping him warm.  All pets are good, heat, light and water are back, and all is good in the world. 



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Horses!

Feb 14 2010

In our car-obsessed society, it's rare to see horses used as people movers.  Today, I saw an unexpected sight - 2 horses tied up at the rail in front of the local Dunkin Donuts.   It was so funny, so odd and yet amusing to see the riders just hanging out on the porch with their coffee while the horses waited patiently.   You don't think of horses and Dunkin Donuts.  Guess the riders needed their daily java while riding their horses.  

Surprisingly, New Hampshire has a lot of horses, and I often see horses but very few cows.  Makes me wonder if the horses outnumber the cows in NH.   Even one of my students is a horse vet.   NH does not deserved it's nickname - Cow Hampshire.   In my town and next town over, we do have quite a few horses and a riding school.   It's been 30 years since I've been on a horse.



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New venue for my work

Feb 10 2010

With all those internet online stores and marketplaces like Ebay, Etsy, and much more, it can be a little overwhelming and you can get lost.  Before I got my website, a very limited selection of my work was on various websites, sadly, most are gone, victims of the online craze of the late '90's.   Since my website is not a selling site, but for info purposes, I needed an webstore, which, thru  Artisan's Accomplice.com, an easy to use format.   It's nice to be able to upload my images, write my blogs, send out email alerts on a monthly basis.

A few weeks ago, NativeMotif.com contacted me, interested in selling my work.   After some deliberating, I decided to get them a chance.  So far, in within a month, they sold a bracelet, so I'm hoping it will be a good online selling venue.    I don't really like to do fairs, and it's hard to get around, so trying to sell more online seems easier, less wear and tear on me and my poor car, and more economical, since doing fairs, traveling expenses can be very draining.   We'll see what happens.  Go check out http://www.nativemotif.com/  and see what you think.

Never thought I would become good with computers.   I had to be led kicking and screaming into the computer age in grad school, and to this day, Mac computers still make me break out.   I'm a PC user.  I swear, Mac computers immediately act up the minute they seen me coming.   Now, I can blog, do my own images and much more, but a lot of that is just sheer practice on my humble computer.   You hear and read about people interacting with computers, even being implanted.   I am a cyborg thanks to cochlear implants. Never thought I would have computer chips in my body, and I ended up with two cochlear implants.   Creepy, but it's the only way I'm going to hear.  You hear the old joke that you have a hole in your head?   I literally have 2 surgical holes in my head.  That old joke is very true for me.

Enough of computers and back to my art.



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Snow in Philly and DC

Feb 08 2010

I've been watching the monster snowstorm that slammed into Philly, DC, Maryland, Virginia and the mid-Altantic area.    As an seasoned New Hampshirer, I'm so used to snowstorms, blizzards, nasty weather, whatever Mother Nature dishes out for us hardy New Englanders, I couldn't resist chuckling at the discomfort the mid-Altantic residents had to put up with.   I go thru this every winter, and pretty much spend 4 months straight yearly just shoveling snow.   Heck, I even injuried my shoulder and I've come to hate snow.  I'm so happy I didn't have to deal with the 30" snow that hit Philly, DC, Pittsburgh and more.  This Saturday and  Sunday were beautiful, sunny days.   We New Englanders have a wry, weird and distinctly sarcastic sense of humor regarding bad weather.   It's how we survive every winter.    I do have to confess that I'm weary of snow and seriously thinking of relocating to areas that get little snow.  Guess I'm getting old and creaky and cranky ( again, that New England humor!).

I know Mother Nature isn't quite done with us in New England, and I know we'll get a few more nasty snowstorms before spring comes.  On the good side, the days are getting longer.    Maybe I can work longer in my studio.  I've been joking I have a 30 second commute to work since I've found it easier to work at home or very close by.

On the fabric issue, I've been working on my yarn knitting, and just finished a decent knit and purl sample with a border all the way around.   I'm ready to try more advanced knitting techniques.  Keep in mind, I'm solely self-taughted on knitting.



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Art Abillty

Feb 02 2010

I

I made "Chaos" knitted collar necklace with sterling leaf tendrils threaded thru the knitted structure last summer.  I originally called it "Dancing Leaves" but Bev, one of my students nicknamed it Chaos, so I renamed it as "Chaos".   I had this vision of silver leaves on wire, surrounding the neck like a wreath.   After trying to weave multiple strands of wire, I gave up and started knitting  a large tube that I cut open to create a Elizabethan ruff.   I originally was going to have a silver leaf on each end of each wire, but it got a little overwhelming.  I alternated hammering and balling up each end of wire on the bottom of the collar.   I ended remaking it but it's more successful.

 I had it on display at the CraftWear Exhibit at the Annual Craftsmen's Fair last year, and then sent it off to Art Ability, an international juried art show at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital in Malvern, PA, that is hosted every fall.   I have been doing Art Ability for years so I do my best to create new work that I normally don't make or sell in NH/MA.    Chaos ended up winning 3rd place in the craft division, and I was asked if I would allow it to remain on display for a full year.     Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital just bought it for their permanent display, so it's fitting that Chaos will be on display for many years.   It can be worn but it's not the most practical necklace, but that's ok, it's the creativity that matters.   Sometimes you have to go out on a limb and make work that isn't practical or wearable because your vision or idea requires you to make a leap of faith.   I do enjoy pushing myself beyond what I normally do and stay fresh.  



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NYC and Mood's Fabric

Jan 25 2010

While I was in NYC last week, I wanted to go to the fabric district. Years of watching Project Runaway and watching the designers run amok at Mood's Fabric store made me want to find that place.   Well, I was in a state of shock.   I thought I died and gone to fabric heaven.   It's a big store, on 37th St between 7th and 8th Ave, spread out over 3 floors.   I didn't buy much but I had a good time drooling over the vast array of fabric, stuff I cannot find anywhere.  Mood's is expensive, so I didn't get much, but I found more fabric stores on 39th St that had a dazzling assortment which I picked up more fabric much cheaper.  As usual, I made a quick stop at Metalliferious and got what I needed.  

I'll have to make the fabric district a must stop for every time I got back to NYC.  It's worth checking out, even if you don't get anything.



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Off to CT and NYC

Jan 20 2010

I usually teach at Brookfield Craft Center - www.brookfieldcraftcenter.org - a few times a year.  It's next to Danbury, CT, about 10-12 miles from the NY border.   Brookfield or BCC as it is called, is an old mill that was converted into a craft center and lots of good workshops/classes to take.   I'm teaching how to make clasps this weekend, a nice change from what I usually teach.    I plan to go back to NYC this week and go to my old hangout - Metalliferious!   I hope I find some new things.  I'm gotta try to find the fabric district, but it depends on how much time I have.    I really cannot get enough of fabric and have been sewing quite a bit this month.

Off I go to my next adventure!  ( with hedgehog in tow)

 



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Knitted Necklace

Jan 12 2010

I am really smitten by the knitting bug.   I didn't realized how obsessive I was going to be about knitting wire after knitting Glorious in Purple wire dress last summer.  Oh well, better than smoking or bad habits, right?      Now, most knitted wire is in a small tube or a narrow ( under 2") wide flat  necklace or bracelet.   I thought, if I knitted a giant tube, about 16" - 18" in diameter, I could cut it open and make it into a wide bib-like collar type necklace.   I got two necklaces out of that giant tube, and this is the finished one.  Silveplated copper wire with black copper wire border, finished with freshwater pearls and a vintage glass button for a closure.   It is named Cleopatra Collar.     The other necklace is unfinished for I am not quite sure how I want to finish the edges, but I found a lovely black jet Victorian button I will use as a closure.   If you are curious on how long it takes, I started it in Dec, and finished it in 3 weeks, working a bit at a time.



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Felted jewelry

Jan 06 2010

About 2-3 years ago, I tried my hand at felting wool, and took a few workshops.  I loved making felted flowers, but had difficulty making ropes.  Anyway, an exhibit was coming up, and I thought I would try getting back to the felting.   This time, I didn't enjoy felting as much, but then I have a bum elbow, which made it hard to massage the wool for a long time.   I still had a few felted flowers and a bunch of thick felt cords, so I put together 3 flowers and two cords together into this necklace, and put a few glass beads of mine inside the flowers.  I'm inspired to finish 2-3 more necklaces with the remaining flowers and cords I have.    Not sure what to call it - Vines and Flowers?  Garland of Flowers?  I'm open to suggestions.



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Measuring spoon overload

Jan 05 2010

I was on a measuring spoon and salad server roll.   I just got into the groove and finished 5 sets of measuring spoons and 5 sets of salad servers.   Since there's a lot of grinding, deburring, polishing, soldering, it's a really labor-intensive and dirty job.  I tend to put it off till it gets to the point I have to do it, and then do it all at once.  Might as well get seriously dirty.   It's really nice to have lots of new sets on hand and not worry about doing them for a while.  

Now I'm working with felt, glass beads and fiber, trying to make a few once of a kind jewelry that is not metal.   I also finally learned to do a proper purl and knit after doing a basic knit all my life.  Thank goodness for the Internet for basic instructions.   I have a lot of wool yarn that I want to finish knitting and then throw into the washing machine to felt them.  Who knows what I will do with them, but it'll be something weird, fun and unexpected.   I'm never sure where I go when it comes to alternative materials.



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Happy New Year's!

Jan 01 2010

It's a new year, a fresh start, the beginning of a new decade.  May 2010 be a calmer decade and more positive the the previous decade.  I've been shifting a lot in my work and feeling restless so I'm going to be trying to raise the bar to step it up.   New designs, new materials and try to do more glass beadmaking.  I would like to get back to cutlerymaking, so I'm been looking for a weekend workshop so I can understand steel better to work with it. 

Who knows how things will work out this year.   I'm going to try to keep blogging as much as possible, since someone told me I should be keeping a mini-journal since I tell interesting stories.   When I think about it, this blog feature is my mini-journal.   Therefore, I can keep telling my stories and my adventures in my craft.  After all, I have a lot of "happenings" that occur in my life, making my artwork and my teaching.   My students can crack me up at times. 

Today's funny comment was that I said my dog was a holy terror, and my mom heard me as "holy terrier".  Bosco is a sweet, reserved dog, but he does get a little wild in my car.  I've never seen any dog so in love with cars.  My dog will do anything to be in a car.  One last note, I finally got a male finch to keep Miss Daisy, my lone finch company.  Here's a picture of both finches.  

Now, if I can find the motivation to get some jewelry made today!



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A New Year Coming.........

Dec 31 2009

I took some downtime away from my metalworking/jewelry.    I always need to stop for a week to 3 weeks after Christmas to recharge.   Even we artists need a break from our art.    I did go on a 4 day sewing spree.   I'm a frustrated apparel designer for I love fine clothing and fabulous shoes.   My mom jokes that every time we go by shoes, I'm irrestibly drawn to them.   Anyway, I do a lot of sewing for I love working with fabric, buying fabric, cutting them up and making stuff out of fabric.   I have so much fabric it's a little ridiculous, but I can't help it. 

 I confess I am a fabric addict.   Here's a picture of some fabric I bought last night.   I really go for the funky retro patterns.  The 1950's produced some of the most quirky and appealing designs and I really appreciate that and the color combinations.  I have had designed jewelry and spoons inspired on patterns I've seen, but tried to make it more my own.

Considering I love to sew, I'm unfortunately not kind to my sewing machines.  I've burned out 3 of them, am using 2 refurbished ones, and I also have collected some old ones like a beautiful New Home 1888 sewing machine, a Singer from the 20's with an early Art Deco pattern and a few other scattered here and there.  The running joke is, do I have enough sewing machines?   My mother says don't bring home another oldie from the local town dump ( excuse me, the "transfer station").  

Now, I'm racking my brains trying to think of how to make some warrior like or quirky neckpieces to be made out of felt, fur, ribbons, yard, some glass beads and a little wireworking this week.   I need to have some finished pieces ready next week for an exbihit coming up.  Since we are in the middle of a snowstorm, it's perfect for staying in studio for the next few days working.  I'll post pics of finished work once I'm done.  This is new territory for me.



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Countdown to Christmas

Dec 20 2009

After all the news about the blizzard blanketing the East Coast with 2 feet of snow, I count myself lucky to get 2 inches of powdery snow.  Can't complain.  

Since I usually work myself into a frenzy in December to get everyone's orders done, this time, there wasn't as much to finish, so it was kind of nice to relax a bit.  Still have to make gifts for my family, but that's easily done.   Already thinking and starting on new designs for next year.   Usually, I spend January and February making new work for 2 annual exhibits held in Princeton, NJ and Malvern, PA.    I'm all fired up to create new work.   I really love hanging around my studio, finding excuses to solder - what can I say?  I'm a torch fiend!

I've also have experimented with my photography.  I bought bright white 50watt fluorescent bulbs that are frosted so they give a very even white light that is great for lighting.   A friend told me to try a piece of  Acrylic sheet which my father gave me, to give some reflection to rings and bracelets.  I'm going to switch to a piece of smoky glass for it's easier to keep clean and scratch-free.  For once, I managed to get some professional looking shots of rings.  However, it's time to upgrade my camera - just can't get the crisp clarity I need.    I'll be shooting more rings in the near future.



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Mysterious Footprints............

Dec 14 2009

 

This morning when I went out to scrape the driveway clear of the icy snow, I found these odd human-like footprints marching up my driveway, up the snowy lawn into the woods.  I don't know if it's a bear, or a really large dog, or a wolf or coyote.   I have plenty of deer, small animals in the area, but bear sightings are not that common in my neck of woods.  If anyone knows what these are, let me know.

Note : a student says these are bear prints.

Yesterday, I went to CraftBoston at the Cyclorama in Boston, and it was a small, intimate, high-end craft show.  Beautiful show, lots of exhibitors I know, but I don't know if I want to apply, since the hours are very long for 3 days, parking is a big issue, and a lot of my exhibitor friends say sales are not wonderful.   When you do the math, let's say, a 10' x 10' booth costs $1000, add $85-97 for electricity, up to $50 for parking, $30-50 for food, lodging if you have to stay at a hotel, gas, and more, on top of what you've spent for materials to create your artwork. 

You can easily spend 2 grand just to do a craft show.  If your profits are not good, then you have to decide if you want to do that show again or not.  If I don't do well at a show, I don't apply again or wait a few years to try again.   As one exhibitor said, she has to look at the big picture and see how CraftBoston fits in her future plans.   It's made me rethink if I should even apply or not for 2011 or 2012.   RISD alumni sales are easy for me to do, the booth fee is low, it's one day, and I can sell my seconds as well as my good work, so it's worthwhile for me to do them.

 



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RISD Fair a hit!

Dec 12 2009

I did the RISD Alumni Holiday Sale today and it was very good.  Sold so many earrings I lost count.   It was so cold, it was painful to load my car and unload my car but I'm done with fairs for 2009.  Next one won't be till May or August of 2010.   I'm now done creating work for sale, and can take a few weeks off from my bench.  I've got fabric projects, furniture restoration projects and other non-metal stuff I'll like to do.  After Christmas, I have downtime to recharge my batteries.  Debating to take an intensive bladesmithing workshop or a weekend one next year.   It's time to take classes for a change.   Even us teachers need to go back to school and take workshops and often sends us into new directions.  Who knows where I'm thinking of.......

I'll treat myself on Sunday by going to CraftBoston, a high-end craft show in Boston and be a "civilian" instead of being an exhibitor.  Looking forward to seeing great crafts.



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Getting ready for the RISD sale

Dec 09 2009

Today was another snow day - 6" this time, wet, icy slush.   At least I get to stay home and get ready for the RISD sale.   Do you know it can take up to 4 hours to bag, tag, write up an invertory sheet for stock, pack it and ship it?   Some days are devoted to getting stock out in the mail for galleries.  Getting ready for a craft show usually requires 2-3 days of prep.  Find the booth setup, make sure there's nothing missing, pack it, find wall drapes, boxes, tissue paper, pens, loose change, jewelry tags and sticky labels, the evertraveling calculator, so forth.  I try to tag all the jewelry and flatware ahead of time, make sure it's clean and tarnish free which can take a long time. 

By the time all that is done, I'm exhausted, and I haven't even gotten the car packed.   No wonder I dread having to do fairs these days.   I limit myself to 5-6 fairs a year, but many craftspeople do anywhere from 6 to 50 fairs a year.  I once did 18 fairs one year and that was too much.   It's also physically hard on the body and if you look at the average craftsperson, they are anywhere from 45 to 70 years old.  It's rare to see young craftspeople exhibiting since they are more online-oriented, having grown up with computers.   

I was once asked how many hours I spend per day working on my jewelry.  I think about it time to time, and most days, I'm lucky if I get a hour or two to work on my bench.   Usually once a week or so, I'll get 5-7 hours of work done, but most of the time, it's less than 3 hours per day.  The rest is computer time, commuting, teaching, taking care of the pets and whatever that needs to be taken care of.   I will do some work while watching TV, or if someone is driving, I can do some wireworking.  I almost always have something to work on in my bag.

When I was younger, I used to work pretty much everyday, for many hours.  Now that I'm older ( and wiser), I don't work so much daily, and find I still get a lot done since I'm gotten efficient.   My skills are so well-honed, I'm fast and get things done quicker.   I do drive my students and fellow craftspeople crazy with my speed and skill.  Oh well, I've been doing metalsmithing too long. 



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First snow storm of Dec and done with classes for 2009

Dec 05 2009

Today was my last workshop for the year and I'm done with classes for a few weeks.   In January, I start anew with the winter semester.   I was teaching Soldering 101 at Sharon Art Center today, and it snowed all day.   Winter is here, whether I'm ready or not   My mom has already decorated the house for Christmas, the warm glow of Christmas lights are everywhere.    

Twilight is my favorite time of the day since it's getting dark, not not quite nighttime but the trees are black again the slowly darkening sky, and the lights of houses twinkle, making it very cozy.   This is the nicest part of New England and the best time of winter.   Once all the Christmas lights are gone in January, it can get pretty bleak in February and March.  I get to slack off a bit, not work so hard on my jewelry, do other stuff and then get back into full gear in January, creating exhibit work for multiple exhibits for spring and summer of 2010.

 



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New Hedgehog pendant

Dec 02 2009

Since I am a faculty member at the Currier Museum Art Center in Manchester, NH, I was encouraged to participate in the Faculty Show at the Museum this month and next month.   I submitted my Flames of Passion brooch and made a new hedgehog pendant.  Since it has been a few years since I made one, I thought I would make a new hedgehog pendant. This time, I wanted to try putting the "quills" on the sides but wasn't sure how it was going to look.   Definitely looks like a naked hedgehog with lush sideburns.  No other way to describe it!   I also put a piece of rough calcite crystal inside the pendant to give it some funkiness.   I like putting crystals and other rocks inside woven pendants so it's not just a quartz crystal glued onto an end cap.   My next hedgehog pendant will have a wavy stripe of quills going down in front.  I'm not quite certain how it will look, but I'm game!



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In Memory of Mr. Blackstone

Nov 27 2009

My little dwarf hamster, Mr. Blackstone, passed away very early Thanksgiving day.   He was 24 months old, which is at the edge of a dwarf hamster's life expendency ( 18-24 months), so I'm surprised but pleased he lived a good long life.   He was such a dapper boy, so handsome in his smoky black fur with white feet, chin, belly and tail.  He has gotten wizened in the last few months and his fur had faded to a silver gray, but he was still fast on his feet.  He was a good boy and I'll miss his feisty spirit dearly.  Farewell, Mr. Blackstone..............



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Photographing jewelry

Nov 25 2009

Photographing jewelry and metal objects, or glass is very challenging.   I usually do all of my own photographing of my work since I've found most professional photographers don't shoot my work the way I want it, even if I'm there in person to tweak my work.     I learned to photograph the old fashioned way, with black and white film in high school, shooting, developing and printing my films and prints.   For most of my artistic career, I shot a ton of slides, documenting my work over the decades.  When digital cameras came along, it became harder and harder to find slide film, much less finding someone to develop them.  Also, all of the major internet jury sites require digital images.  I bit the bullet and got my first digital camera back in the early 2000's.

In some ways, digital cameras are great for you can get instantous images.  If I screw up my images, I delete them and start over again.   No more waiting for my slide film to be develop ( which could take 3 weeks), and find out I completely ruined half of my slides.    It has taken me longer to figure out Photoshop and actually, for some reason, my computer will not work with my current Photoshop 7, so I use ArcSoft PhotoImpression 6,

I was careful to get a camera that had 4 mega pixels or more, and now that I have 2, one with 4 pixels and one with 7.2 mega pixels.   The newer camera is a tiny Sony that is great for traveling and the old camera is a big workhorse Olympus.   These 2 cameras couldn't be more different when it comes to shooting my work.  The background color can be all over the place.   I find the old Olympus much better for shooting all of my jewelry work.   As you can see, the picture above is my basic light box.  It's a small 3 sided collapsible box with a black back and base.  I use black or gray paper for my background, hang my necklaces from a wire brace hanging from the top, and use a black earring tree to hold my earrings.   Bracelets, I generally lay on the paper, as well as brooches.   As for flatware, I lay them on the paper and shoot as much as I can above.  For earrings, I try to shoot straight on or slightly above, which goes for necklaces as well.

I constantly move 1 or 2 lights to get the best lighting angle so all details shows up but not be washed out by too much lighting.  That's why I have extra white fabric draped over the light box to diffuse the lighting even more.   One curious fact I discovered with digital cameras is that they are extremely sensitive to light, while my very old but good 35mm camera with macro lens required 200-300 watts of lighting.   I actually have to tone down the lighting to compensate for the light sensitivity of my digital camera.   The light needs to be as pure white as possible, but it does not have to be more than 50-60 watts to provide enough lighting.

I generally have to shoot anywhere from 2 to 20 images of each piece.  Some pieces shoot beautifully and other pieces, I have to keep trying over and over.  Some of my big brooches are a royal pain to shoot while many of the little earrings are a snap.   Of all jewelry, rings are the worse.  Their tiny scale requires extreme magnification, careful lighting angles and trying to keep those little suckers upright is enough to drive anyone batty.  That's why you rarely see rings on my website.   I'll try again in the future to get more rings posted on my site.

Once I downloaded all my images, I look at how they came out, crop,and/or straighthen them and pick out the best ones to post online.   Considering I was shooting images before I even started jewelrymaking, I'm very much at home with a camera and both go together well.   After all, images and marketing is everything in today's digital world.  I do love being able to send images on demand, take pictures before my work gets sent off to whatever it has to go.  Many artists have learned to shoot their own images well, but many don't, and rely on professional photographers to do all their work.  Having your work professionally shot is very expensive, and it's hard when it's not the way you like it or your work isn't posed the way it should be.   I'm lucky I learned to be a good photographer and I wondered sometimes if I didn't go into jewelry, I would have been in photography.

If you are wondering, it takes a long time to shoot my work and it can take a while for me to post new work online.   A few days to shoot, crop, write descriptions, measure the work, and post it.  It's easier for me to do a big batch of work while I have the light box, lights and everything set up for me to shoot.



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Craft fairs...

Nov 23 2009

I did the Duxbury Craft Showcase over the weekend in Duxbury, MA.   As craft fairs go, it was the usual.   I've been doing craft fairs since 1996 when I first debuted at ACC Baltimore Wholesale Show, my first big craft fair.  Since then, I've gone to do most of the major craft shows on the East Coast.  I've avoided doing fairs out in the midwest or on the West Coast.  The logistics of trying to transport or ship my booth was daunting, plus having to fly, so I prefer to drive to any fair.  I've driven to Chicago, Altanta, Washington DC ( DC in particular many times), NYC and more.  

Now I just confine myself to NH, RI, CT and MA, where it's easy enough to drive and I have a clientele.    I only do the Annual Craftsmen's Fair at Mt. Sunapee Resort every August as my only NH fair.  I've done both mid-range and high end craft shows such as CraftBoston in MA, and always do the RISD Alumni sales in RI.  For CT, sometimes I'll do the Guilford Craft Expo, althought the excessive heat and humidity in July has made me reconsider ever doing that show again.   High heat and humidity is really hard on me, and doing a 3 day craft show with very long hours ( 10 hours easily) is too much.

People think craft fairs are easy to do, fun to go and newbies think they can do a killing at a craft show.  Once you've done your first craft show and do a few more, you realize just how much work it is to get ready, have plenty of stock, set up your booth, stand on your feet for 5-10 hours for a few days, and then tear down your booth for loadout.   By the time you get finished putting together your expenses, travel, food, gas, etc, and then if you have a lousy fair, you've not made your expenses.   Craft fairs were booming in the 1980's and 1990's but by the end of the 90's, too many fairs and now the bad economy has made craft fairs unprofitable.  The customer base is simply not there anymore.   Also, there is too many craft fairs, and people think they can get a bargain buying crafts.   I get really irritated when people ask if I can do better on my price.   I've put my prices as low as I can and still cover my labor and material costs.  I'll only raise my prices if the cost of materials goes up which it has gone up a lot this year.

As for my fair booth, I've experimented over the years with various booth configurations, and am on my 3rd booth setup.   Most fair exhibitors generally start out with a table with a cloth thrown over it and work spread out, and work up to pipe and drape, which is a pipe framework with curtains hanging from the top bars.   I've had pipe and drape for a 10 x 8" space, but after using it for 6 years, I was sick of it since it would take a hour just to get the corner bolts together.  I had display cases that would take 2-4 hours to set up which after 2 years, I sold off them and moved onto long narrow display tables that broke down easily.   

A few years ago, Kathleen Dustin ( polymer clay artist) and I were doing a fair together, and she had a new booth that I admired, so I got the booth info.  It's a pop up wall, that was used in corporate conventions for many years, but it's slowly making it's way into the craft world.   I went out and got a couple of pop up walls  ( see www.aceexhibits.com for their walls) that I can set up in less than 10 minutes and looks very professional.  Best of all, it breaks down into a compact pile that will fit into a small car.    That's really important if you are a fair exhibitor that your booth can fit your vehicle.   Since the wall panels are carpet, I can use velcro to attach things to the wall or use straight pins to pin things on.    After years of cumbersome, bulky jewelry cases, I love to hang my jewelry and flatware right on the walls.  It looks better hanging up and you can see it better.  

The key thing with booth display is to keep it clean, organized, very well-lighted, prices attached to each item on display and accessible for people to touch, try on or handle.   Also, don't cram so much stuff into a small space or you get overwhelmed trying to see everything.   I've seen booths that were so overloaded with stock, you couldn't focus on anything.  My mom tend to walk by booths that are too busy.    Less is better. Showcase each piece rather than jumble them all together.    I've learned over the years how to display my work, and doing an exhibit layout every year for the League of NH Craftsmen's fair, I gain more info about effective displaying.    I never thought I would be doing exhibit layouts but it's good training for me.



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Burning the midnight oil

Nov 17 2009


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NH Open Doors

Nov 10 2009

Over the weekend, I opened my studio to the public as part of the NH Open Doors weekend.   Since I have a very large studio ( which is not typical of most artist's studio) I had more room than usual.   I invited 5 of my artist friends and students to participate in my Open House.  Val Barnes, Tanya Cheropova, Lia Gormley, Marcia Herson, Julia Parkhurst and myself all showed off our work.   We were all jewelers but we all had a different style, so there was a wide range of styles.   It went well, and a lot of friends, former and present students, clients and new people all came.    My studio was really clean for a change and looked great.    Alas, my studio is now back to it's usual mode for working.    I won't be doing  NH Open Doors again for the next few years so it was a good open house for me and my fellow artists.



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NH Artisans Trunk Show

Nov 06 2009
I was invited to participated in a trunk show at a Concord, NH law firm.    Apparently it was billed as NH Movers and Shakers - NH Artisans, so I had no idea what to expect.   I dutifully packed my car with my jewelry stock, my display stands, boxes and bags, but forgot to bring a receipt book.   Once I arrived at the law offices, it was quite a lovely office space, with bright purple and soft green walls.    I set up in one of the conference rooms, and my roommate was a dear artisan friend, a great felting artist, Annie Frye of Hopkinton.    I wasn't expecting much, thinking it was a night for people to hang around, eat, drink, talk.  Well, my work flew out of the door, and sold two necklaces before the reception even offically opened.   I had lawyers running around, making sure all of us artists and guests were good and fed.  Great food, great conversation, excellent guests and overall, it was a fabulous night.   My hat is off to you, Shaheen and Gordon PA of Concord, NH and thanks for a great evening!     I knew all but one of the artisans participating in the trunk show so again, it was nice to catch up with my fellow artists. 

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Sad news

Oct 30 2009

My oldest finch, Chatterbee, passed away this evening.  He was about 4 or 5 years old, and had survived 2 previous finches.   Right now, Miss Daisy is all by herself, so I will have to get another finch in the next few days to keep her company.   Finches must be housed in pairs for they are very social and don't do well alone.    Robert, my parakeet was making a funny sound so upon investigation, it was found that Chatterbee had passed on.   Animals can sense that something is wrong long before we rather dense humans realize what's going on.    Chatterbee truly lived up to his name, being a nonstop chatterbox, always chirping since he came home.   

My dwarf hamster, Mr. Blackstone is also shrinking in size, since he is approaching 2 years in November, which is amazing, considering dwarf hamsters only live 18-24 months.  Mr. Blackstone is almost at 24 months, so he's a toughie.   He's still very fast and like quicksilver if you don't anticipate where he's gotta go next. 



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End of the Season at Snow Farm

Oct 26 2009
I just came back home from Snow Farm Craft Program, where I taught a wireworking workshop.  It was the last weekend workshop of this year, and this week is the last weeklong Adult Intensive session.  It's always bittersweet to see the end of the season for it means winter is coming, and I have to wait 6 months before I can go back to Snow Farm.   I had 9 students in my workshop so it was a full class, and there was 60 students for all workshops, making it a very lively weekend.     I finished up by leaving some of my jewelry for the famous Seconds Sale that Snow Farm hosts every November.  Then I cleaned out and closed up the metal studio so that it is ready for winter.  Since I was on top of what we needed for supplies and tools, thanksfully there will not be as much new supplies or tools to be ordered for the 2010 session.   I've been appointed the Metals Tech by Pat Bennett, who is Supply Coordinator ( and a great artist as well) for Snow Farm.   I'm sorry that this year's session is almost over but looking forward to next year.  In the meantime, go enjoy finding great artwork at reasonable prices at the Snow Farm Seconds Sale -  http://www.snowfarm.org/secondssale.html.

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Experimenting.....

Oct 22 2009

In metalworking and jewelrymaking, there's always some metal waste, and goofs.  Over a 2-3 year period, I accummulated a bunch of sterling bezel settings that the stones wouldn't fit into anymore.   I had over 50 sterling bezels that I had to scrap.   They sat in my sterling scrap container for a while and every few weeks, I would sort thru my silver scrap for any usable silver.   I pulled out all the bezels, looked at them, and started arranging them into patterns.  I add sterling square wire for extra detailing, and by the time I got finished soldering all the bezels together, I had 5 funky pendants.   Now, I wanted to fill in the bezels, so I thought of using my enamel powder.   I had bought 5 boxes of enamel ( glass grounded into fine powder) and all the tools needed for enamelling years ago.   Now, I find doing enamelling ( fused glass on metal) tedious, so I don't do it except as demos for class which is not often.

I took clear 2 part expoy, mixed assorted colored enamels and filled in all of the bezels.   I tried to arrange them in a pleasing color scheme, like the browns, greens, yellows and purple for the flower-like pendants, and bold, graphic colors for the more abstracted pendants.   Once the expoy was cured, I sanded down the resin as it is called, to even out the surface.   It gave a flatness that I liked since it made the pendants more stylized.   I actually liked what I achieved in my pendants, so I'm going to try to make more of the resin-filled pieces.   You just never know where you will go when you experiment.  That's the part I like to do.



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Reflections on Teaching

Oct 17 2009

I've been teaching nonstop for 13 years now, starting with a local art school that became NH first art college, at various schools, education programs, at MassArt, and now, I teach at Metalwerx, Currier Museum Art Center, Sharon Art Center and a handful of small jewelry programs.    I've taught so much, I can't always remember where I have to be at any given weekend, so my pretty battered calendar keeps me on track.   I have to schedule my life 9 months in advance.

Like so many jobs that were hard-hit by the recession, education  in many schools took a hit.  Enrollment are down and record number of workshops/classes keep getting cancelled.     It has been interesting ( and frustrating at times) to go from teaching 3-4 days a week plus weekend workshops to one or two classes a week, and the occasional weekend workshop.    For the first time in over a year and half, I've finally back teaching two classes back to back at Sharon Art Center.    Maybe it's not teaching so much and not having to teach a regular weekly class, but I have noticed a few things that have been a consistent lately this fall.   Or I'm being introspective lately.

Students, like people, tend to fall into two groups. One are the anal ones, who are obsessive complusive or prefectionists, and others are impulsive, are into instant gradification, and are too eager to sit still or never stop chattering away.    I find the instant gratification students are very impatient, cannot slow down or relax on certain jewelry techniques like piercing, which is using a very thin, fine sawblade to cut patterns in sheet metal.    After trying to teach a very chatty, implusive student a few weeks ago on how to saw properly, she was too abrupt and kept breaking every blade.   Finally, I said, fine, you don't need to saw.  Here, take these shears and cut the sheet metal.  Simple shapes, nothing fancy.   Keep it simple.   I have to give marching orders to the point, I actually have to move students around.    She was happier and I stopped being so frustrated.  It's the quiet students who often do very well with time-consuming, finicky, precise techniques since they work at a slower pace, taking their time.   Wish more people were like this. 

Implusive people are like kids, you got to keep them occupied with quick, easy to learn skills and keep the tricks coming all the time.     They can be very needy, requiring me to be next to them at the expense of the other students, and it is very draining on me.    I've had classes where one student would hog me for  the entire day/class and I would turn into a zombie a hour or two before it's over.  The worst ones are the chatterboxes, which means I have to focus on them for the entire class, thus draining me to the point I'm barely functional.    I lost much of my hearing, some of it from pounding metal for so long, so I rely on cochlear implants to hear and reading lips to understand.  Works well except if I have someone who speaks very poorly or has a ( forgive me) a motormouth.   Just having to concentrate on lipreading for 2 hours is enough.  Add 3 hours or a full day, and I cannot focus anymore.   Lipreading is hard enough. 

Of course, so much of fine jewelrymaking and metalworking isn't quick, or easy, and take years to learn and master.   After 25 years, most of metalsmithing is as natural as breathing to me.   Trying to convey that it takes time to master the skills is too long for many people.   Fortunately, there are some people who get it, and can fall into the rhythm of metalworking if they are willing.    I'm content to knit wire all day, solder metal all day and hammer metal.   Just don't ask me to saw all day.    To the right person, once discovering metalsmithing or jewelrymaking, it's like magic and it changes your life.   I took a jewelry class in high school and 25 years later, I'm still as passionate about metal as I was back then.  I just love working with metal.  It is the perfect medium and I can do so much, and not enough time to do everything. 

 Another observation I made just recently is that if I get a class or workshop that is a mixture of rank beginners and some experienced jewelry students, the beginners go thru so much wire and sheet metal, it costs me a lot of money in the materials alone.  The more experienced students use less metal and are more thoughtful of what they make.  The beginners are so eager to learn, they make as much as they can crank out in one day, thus using so much metal, they clean me out, often leaving nothing for other students to use.   Makes calculating cost of materials per student a nightmare so it's hard to put a fixed rate per student.

Those two observations I made will help me much more in figuring out how to keep the implusive ones happy while giving the quiet ones ( or the anal ones) the time they need.    Definitely a lot of wireworking is the key for the most part.    The learning pace and needs of students has changed tremendously in the past decade, and it's more of keep it shorter, simpler, project-oriented that they can take home things they've made than hardcore metalsmithing.   There are times I worry that traditional metalsmithing or jewelrymaking will suffer and that the skills hard-earned since the Egyptians will be lost, but somehow, skills get carried on from generation to generation.   I feel an obligation to keep passing on my skills so that it does not die out but be carried on by future generations.   

I know this is a long blog, but it's overdue in a way.   I had burned out on teaching thanks to too many very needy students and after a fairly long absence of teaching regularly, I was back into a weekly teaching schedule.    I do look and approach teaching differently now than what I did when I first started out.    One last thing, once I teach how to forge or hammer metal, my students turn into hammering fiends, making as much racket as they possibly can.  Pounding metal does relieve stress, but it's hard on the tools and on the body ( plus my overly abused ears!). 



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Snow!

Oct 14 2009

I had to drive up to Lebanon, NH which is the Upper Valley, over by Hanover where Dartmouth College is located this morning.  Usually I go up to Lebanon/Hanover 3-5 times a year.  It's a long drive but necessary. This morning,  I left the house while it was still dark, at 6am.     By the time I was driving on I-89north past New Loudon, NH, there was snow on the ground.  It's only Oct 13th, and it's snowing in upper NH.   I don't think I'm ready for the snow.  Good thing I put some gloves and a snarf in my car.   Living in NH requires that you have cold weather gear and snow removing tools such as scrapers/brushes in your car.   I've even had shovels, and salty sand in my car.   Winter has come very early this year in NH.  I only hope I don't have to deal with 3' snow piles too often.  Last time I measured the snow accumulation on my lawn, it was 16" and that was in Feb-March.    I'm still looking for a heating pad that can run 24/7 without shutting off to keep my hedgehog warm for the winter.  The heat had to be turned on for the first time since April in my house. Brrr.....  The wool sweaters have been taken out of storage and I'm keeping warm. 

As for work, I am rolling out silver ingots into wire, so I can make more sterling wire to make silver chain necklaces for the Currier Museum Gift Shop, which carries my work.   Still working on making my studio presentable ( and organized for me) for the NH Open Doors on Nov 7-8th. 

 



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Oct RISD Alumni Sale

Oct 11 2009

Yesterday, I did the Oct RISD Alumni Sale in Providence, RI.   As usual, it was a madhouse.   It started off slowly, with a small crowd in the morning due to the unpredictable weather, but by noon, it was so packed, you couldn't move easily in the aisle.   We were out on Benefit Street, but we were all under a long tent to provide a little cover from the rain.   I kept getting hit by flying leaves as the wind whipped the tree branches.   I'm still finding dry leaves in my booth stuff as I unpack today.   The sale was ok, which was unusual since people look forward to the 3 yearly RISD sales ( May, Oct and Dec), so I'm not sure what was going on.   I'm glad it's over, for it's exhausting.       

Now I need to get my studio cleaned and organized for the NH Open Doors in less than 4 weeks from now.   I really like it when my studio is clean, organized and I can find everything!   Artists are not necessarily known for their neatness but as I get older, I really have a need for order.   Chaos throws me off and makes it harder to be productive.  A little order goes a long way.................



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Beautiful Fall Day

Oct 08 2009

Today was a beautiful day, and the air felt delightful.  Every year, I photograph the trees and greenery around my rural driveway, and the colors changes yearly.  This year, the ground cover wasn't as vividly red as it used to be.   However, some of the trees glow red, peach, yellow in the sunlight and I love looking out of the windows.  The lighting changes from morning to late afternoon and it's fascinating to see what colors pop out during the day. 

With the lovely weather, it's distracting trying to work.  After a year of not making any flatware, I managed to get multiple sets of measuring spoons and salad servers made.  Some are in brass/copper/bronze and some have been sent out to be silverplated and rhodium-plated.  Now, I'm trying to get some silver chains made for necklaces.   This Sat I am doing the RISD Alumni Sale in Providence, so I have to finish tagging all of my stock and get the car packed with my booth stuff.   I rather enjoy the weather but duty calls.  Back to work!



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Cute Overload!

Oct 04 2009

Every day, when I turn on the computer, I have to check my email to see if there's any crisises that needs to dealt with, any emails that needs to be responded to, so forth, then I go to Cute Overload for my daily cuteness quota.   Cute Overload is a website of animals in cute positions or situations.   In a world full of ugliness, cruelty, and dispiriting news, it's soul-lifting to feast on cute animals and pets.  Hedgehogs, kittens, dogs, sloths, hamsters, birds, you name them, they are all on Cute Overload.   Certain pets get posted more often, and Winston, the longhaired cat is a Cute Overload favorite.   There was a video of Winston being bathed, and I was laughing so much.    I just love to see what new posts are daily and always leaves me smiling.  Even the captions are funny, for the creator of Cute Overload has a gift for writing.    My favorite section is the hedgehog section, and then small animals for I love to look at the dwarf hamsters and squirrels.    If you ever get a chance, go visit Cute Overload and get your daily cuteness quota which I need on a regular basis.  

If you ever wonder about the 4 legged creatures in my household, the list is - 2 finches, 1 social parakeet, one lopsided face syrian hamster named Elvis, an elderly but spunky dwarf hamster named Mr. Blackstone, Cal the hedgehog and Bosco, my chihuahua/dachshund/Yorkie dog ( yes, you read that correctly).   I cannot be without more than 5-6 pets at any given time.  I tend to have small pets, for I love holding and playing with small pets.   I've had many pets over the years and will continue to be a mom to all creatures, small or large.



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Fall is Here!

Sep 28 2009

Fall is finally here and I'm loving the cooler weather.  Fall is my favorite time of the year, and it's astonishing just how many colors the leaves can change.  I see shades of yellow to peach to orange to reds, to coral, salmon, eggplant purples and a few other shades as well that cannot be defined.   Living in New Hampshire allows me to see the fullness of the fall foliage, and being out in a more rural suburb, I get to see so many colors, depending where I stand.  I also spent a lot of time commuting on back roads which my mom calls me the Queen of back roads, so I can see foliage off the beaten path.   Somehow all those colors doesn't exactly translate into my artwork, but my house is colorful, with bold paint schemes that work very well.  I do have a colorful, funky basement studio that is pretty much my domain.   I can see why so many men retreat to their garages, dens or workshops, because I'm always in my studio, surrounded by pretty much everything I need.  

Now, if I can get my groove back so I can create new work, I would.  Nearby two months of traveling has left my productivity shot, so I'm slowly getting back into working.  I have a series of sterling neckchains I would like to finished.  I had so many sterling bails which are the little loops that connect pendants to a chain, so I linked all the bails together and it made a very nice chain.   I'm always creating something from odds and ends.  I have a box full of brass bullet casings that are given to me so I want to make some necklaces, bracelets and more measuring spoons out of them.  

As a last note, Cal Jr, my hedgehog is all grown up at over 5 months and is like a hamster in a hedgehog body.  He's the most mellow hedgehog I've ever had, and he's my ninth hedgie.



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Traveling

Sep 21 2009

I've been traveling so much, I'm not always sure where I have to be, so I rely on my increasing battered calender to see where I go off to next.   I just came back from Brookfield, CT, where I was teaching Stonesetting at Brookfield Craft Center, in Brookfield, CT.  A great place to take a workshop or class, in a historic mill or 1800's train station.    I built in two days, so I could go to NYC.        

Usually, I drive down to NYC, park on Riverside Drive, walk up to Harlem on Broadway St to pick up the Metro at 145th St.  Parking is free along the Riverside Dr in the 100th streets up to 166th St, and that came from a tip from a student of mine who lives on Riverside Dr.   There's a great place to look for jewelry supplies and a fascinating selection of brass, copper and steel stampings, called Metalliferous on 134th 46th St, between 5th and 6th Ave.    I can lose myself poking around in the cramped showroom, just crammed with all kinds of great stuff.   I only go 2-3 times a year, and the staff now knows me.  It's nice to be recongized in NYC.    You can browse Metalliferous on their website, but it's worth visiting their showroom. 

Hopefully, I can stay home for 2-3 weeks before going off to travel again.  I've been at Snow Farm twice in one month, CT, doing the Sunapee Fair in early Aug, so I just want to stay home a bit.  My productivity is completely shot.   It's hard to get motivated now.  I also finally finished Dan Brown's new novel, The Lost Symbol.  It's an interesting book, and made me think.  I need to reread it again. at least twice to really get the guist of the book. 

Now, it's time to get a little rest and get ready for new classes starting this week and next week for the fall.



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Recovering from August

Sep 04 2009

August was an brutal month for me.  I had to do the Sunapee fair for 9 days, and then go straight to Snow Farm to teach.  I think I was only home for a week, and we had a heat wave which left me a limp rag.   I went on vacation up in the mountains of NH, visited a couple of the League galleries, gave them new jewelry stock and played tourist.   Now that I'm back home, I recently finished a sewing spree that resulted in new shorts, new skirts, some mending.       

 I'm not quite ready to go back to my workbench.   Sometimes I don't want to pick up my tools and work for a few days.    Now, it's time to look at what's left on my desk and see what I want to get started on.  I haven't done any measuring spoons in almost a year, and I want to make some new patterns.  I have some delightful brass leaf stampings that will look fabulous on the handles of the measuring spoons.   I also want to make some unusual fancy sterling neckchains that incorporates leaf shapes.    I'll post some images once I get some done, maybe in a week.  



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The Wienermobile!

Aug 21 2009

Today, while doing errands, I stopped at the local grocery store.  When I came out, I saw a sight I never thought I would ever see.  It was the Wienermobile, in all of it's hot dog glory.    I never thought it would come to little Bedford, New Hampshire, but it did.   It's one cool car, spotlessly clean and very colorful.   I'm glad to see it once in my life.   May it keep on cruising, bringing hot dog delight everywhere!



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Being lazy

Aug 18 2009

The past month had been very hectic with the Sunapee fair, which thanksfully went well, with great sales, and then I went straight to Snow Farm right after I broke down my booth to teach for a week.  Finally came home Sat afternoon from Snow Farm, gave my car a much-needed carwash, and unload all my teaching stuff.    The weather was very hot, hazy and rendered me completely wiped out.  Couldn't do anything for two days but be listless.  Got some reading done, some serious quality time with my dog and had a little adventure trying to find my hamster, after he pulled a fast one on me, escaping.  My dog found my hamster and little Mr. Blackstone is unharmed after his escape.  

Now, my sewing machines are calling me and I want to get some sewing done this week.  I'm a frustrated apparel designer and have been sewing since I was 11, starting with doll clothes.  I've burned out 3 sewing machines, and the fourth is barely hanging on and the 5th machine is a heavy-duty oldie but goodie.   I make many of my clothes, just because they fit better than commercially made clothing that requires major alterations just to fit properly. Not to mention it's nice to be able to repair clothing as needed.  I do make covers for my booth, cloth bags to hold my flatware and things needed around the house.    I love working with fabric.



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Tree of Life Lamp

Aug 08 2009

This is my second lamp I've made.  It is called Tree of Life, made of copper and brass.   Nancy Tobey, my glass bead friend, gave me a number of tiny glass shades she made and asked if I could try making something using them, so after a half year of thinking, this is my result.  The lamp base was a copper tube I formed into a sculptural stem back in college, which is over 20 years ago.  It's taken me this long to do something with the copper tube.   The bottom of lamp is to represent water ripples.  The tree branches is recycled copper electrical wire I had.   5 pieces of thin copper tubing were used to hold each glass shade.  I had my father wire the lamp, and it was a challenge for him.   He ended up using Christmas lights since it was the smallest he could find on short notice but it works.  

The lamp is shown on display at the Living with Crafts Exhibition at the Annual Craftsmen's Fair.



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Glorious in Purple dress

Aug 08 2009

Today I found out I won Public Choice Award for my Glorious in Purple wire dress, which I handknitted over a 3 month period.   It's the same  dress I've written about in previous blogs, and it is on display at the CraftWear Exhibit at the League of NH Craftsmen Fair, which is ending on this Sunday the 9th.    It's not typical to find a dress made out of wire but I enjoyed knitting the wire and proved it was possible to make a wire dress.    Now the hard part to figuring out what to do with it after the fair is over.   I'm going to bring home the mannequin with dress on it and figure out how to take dress off, since it's literally knitted onto the mannequin.  I can worry about that later this summer.

One more day of Sunapee fair to go and then I'm done for the year.  I go off to Snow Farm right after I break down my booth to teach for the week.   I have 9 students and will have my hands full!



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Guardian of the Garden

Aug 06 2009

This is my Guardian of the Garden sculpture which I've nicknamed her "Bird Woman".  She is the largest piece of artwork I've ever done, being 6'4 tall, with 2' feet, a 4' arm span, a beak that is a good foot long, and big hands!  She's all welded steel, which I started at Snow Farm back in May, worked on it in July, and finished it on 7/29.  She is painted in shades of black, bronze, deep red and some gold, and has copper panels stitched into place around her waist to give her some definition.    She is currently on display at the Sculpture Garden at the League of NH Craftsmen Fair, which is running Aug 1 to 9th in Newbury, NH.    I hope she sells, for it's going to be a headache getting her home since I have to borrow a van for my little car is too small.  It is nice to go really big and know I'm capable of working big.

The Sunapee fair ( as the League of NH Craftsmen Fair is known as by locals), is going great, much to my surprise.  The weather is great, people are coming in and buying and just enjoying the good weather.  I'm a lot more tanned than I expected to be.   I brought my hedgehog, Cal Jr. up so that my craftmen friends can meet him and he was a big hit at the fair today.  People were coming to my booth to meet the hedgehog.  Cal Jr was so outgoing, and so active it was like he was on speed, the way he was running around in the grass or when I'm holding him.     3 more days to go and then the fair will be over.



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Sunapee Fair, Day 4

Aug 04 2009

For the past 3 weeks, I've been pre-occupied in getting ready for the Annual Craftsmen's Fair up at Mt. Sunapee Resort in Newbury, NH.  On Sat, Aug 1, the fair opened to the public, and turnout was good on Sat, plus, Mother Nature gave us sun for a change.  I had good sales on Sat, so that was a relief. Sunday was rainy ( no surprise), but Monday was great.   Tuesday was unexpectly busy and very good with lots of my work selling, so I'm ahead of what I expected.  It was so nice to see friends, old customers, students and people I haven't seen in a while.   I was not optimistic in sales, but people were buying, so I was happy for a change.    My 6'4 Guardian of the Garden sculpture is huge compared to most of the other garden sculptures in the Sculpture Garden.   People didn't recognize my knitted wire dress as my work and were very surprised, so it's nice to show that I can be unexpected in my new work.  Overall, the Sunapee fair is going great.  Only problem is I need 30 hours a day to get anything done at home!

I'll post some pics of various images of Sunapee if I can get out with my camera so wish me luck.  It's hard to get away from my booth.



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Sunapee fair madness

Jul 27 2009

I've been preoccupied for the past 2 weeks in getting ready for the Annual Craftsmen's Fair, which is held every year in Mt. Sunapee Resort, Newbury, NH.  It always opens on the first Sat of every August.  It's a huge fair, lasting 9 days, so it's an endurance marathon for us craftspeople, League of NH Craftsmen staff and the staff at Mt. Sunapee Resort.   For the past 4 years, I've been the Layout Designer for the CraftWear Exhibition, which is an exhibit and retail shop of clothing, jewelry and accessories.   It's hard on me, for I have to get my work done, and be up at Sunapee for two weeks befoe the fair even opens.   I don't know why I do this, but I get good experience in doing display layout, to showcase crafts at it's best ( as much as I can do).   I'm almost ready for the fair, but need to tweak my booth a bit.  I have the jewelry stock but more concerned in being ready.

Also, over the past weekend, I taught my first welding workshop.   Since it was a trial by fire to speak, I bought everything possible for welding.  It went well, and I proved I can teach small-scale gas welding in a jewelry classroom, so I am going to do more welding workshops for the future.   My students enjoyed being able to weld, but it was the jewelers who had to make quite an adjustment to weld since they were so used to jewelry soldering.  Welding is different from jewelry soldering, and I find that if I do a lot of welding, and then go back to jewelry soldering, my soldering suffers a bit.   I can do things with welding that I can't do with jewelry soldering, so it's nice to be able to do both and let my ideas flow. 

I could barely get anything done in the last two weeks.  I wish I could have more work done, but it's hard to do artwork when you are physically and mentally exhausted, as I have been in the last 2 weeks.  Maybe I'll get some earrings done, but I'm not going to hold my breath.  In the meantime, I hope whoever reads this blog can come visit me at my booth at the Annual Craftmen Fair or Sunapee as we like to call it.



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Knitted Wire Dress

Jul 09 2009

In a previous blog, I had said that I was making a knitted dress out of wire.  Here is it.  It's about 3/4 done, but needs a few more inches on the skirt, and finish knitting the neckline.   I also need to figure out a strap to keep dress on the mannequin.   A ruffly knitted bracelet adds decoration to the bare arm.   I had to go climbing in the packed barn at the League of NH Craftmen headquarters ( HQ as we League members call it) to get the mannequin out of storage.   I'm bringing the entire mannequin with dress on it to Mt. Sunapee Resort in Newbury, NH for the Annual Craftsmen Fair http://www.nhcrafts.org/craftsmens_fair/fair_home.html which is Aug 1-9.   The dress is part of the CraftWear Exhibit.   I also do the exhibition layout design for Craftwear which is good experience for me.  I get to work on how to effectively display beautiful handcrafted clothing, accessories and jewelry in a professional setting.

I do like to push myself out of my comfort zone and do exhibit pieces that really challenge me.  It's easy to make more beautiful jewelry, but after 20 odd years, I like to think outside the box when making exhibit pieces.   I also have a welded steel sculpture that is over 6 feet tall that is for the Sculpture Garden, again at the Annual Craftsmen Fair.  I have enough stock for my booth, just focusing on the exhibit pieces that needs to be done by the 21st.   I hope you get to come up to the fair.  You can find me in Tent 4, Booth 409.



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Torches and more

Jul 01 2009

My favorite activity is soldering, and using torches, so I tend to design my work to be quite solder intensive, so I can spend as much time soldering.   I have a large range of assorted torches, plus a number of "retired" torches.     Recently, my trusty 15 year old Little Torch wasn't working properly, so I took it out and put in a second Little Torch in it's place.  Sure enough, it wouldn't turn off when I was done soldering, so both torches needed repair.  On my old welding torch, one of the tips wasn't lighting correctly, and despite cleaning, wasn't  performing. 

I took both Little Torches and all of the welding torch tips to the local Airgas office where I get my acetylene/oxygen supplies.    The Little Torches were taken in to be fixed and then the office guy tried to look up in the catalog for more of the welding torch tips.    His partner went off to call the welding manufacturer to get the correct code of the torch tips.   She came back and said, my welding torch was an antique.  It was over 50 years old and they no longer make the parts for the torch.   We were all laughing in disbelief as just how old my torch was.  Why, the torch was practically new when it was given to me by my father, along with another welding torch.   So when I got home, I found the original manual to the torch plus ads for welding supplies.

Here's a picture of the "antique" welding torch that is laying on the paper with the tips in the middle.  The torch on the bottom is by Purox, again an oldie, plus a fabulous curvy old tank wrench I use, and on top is my grandfather's cutting torch.  I had that one serviced and the guys at Airgas were drooling over it since it was a big, nice one, from the 80's.  The torch on the left with the coiled hose is an UniWeld acetylene torch, my very first one that I bought and  used for many years.  It's now my backup torch and when I travel, it often comes with me. 

The second picture is my gallery of "retired" torches, odd torches I've picked up here and there, some from my undergrad college where they were throwing them out.   I just like hanging old tools on the wall.  In fact, an antique dealer pulled out this thing when I was browsing thru her store and I recognized it as an old torch so I told her that.  She just gave it to me plus a few odd things.  Torches have a way of finding me since so many of my torches were given to me.  I think I only bought 5 or 6 and the rest which is probably a dozen given to me.  My motto is, you can never have enough torches.   The more, the better!   As long as the working ones are kept maintained.



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Update on Cal Jr the hedgehog

Jun 29 2009

Cal Jr has gain weight and is a good inch bigger all the way around, so he's growing into adulthood.   Hedgehogs become adults after 3-4 months, so a few more weeks for him.  He's delightful, a lot more curious and just a great pet.  Even my dog is starting to tolerate Cal Jr after a few tense encounters.   All is well with all my pets.



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Rain, rain, will it ever go away?

Jun 29 2009

Generally in New England, the weather is never predictable.   We joke we have construction and winter.   Fall is my favorite season - the air is cool and crisp, the sunlight is so bright and clear, and the trees look like they are flaming in their vivid fall foliage colors.  

However, for the past 3 weeks, it has been nothing but rain, overcast skies and generally miserable weather.   I said on Facebook this is the year that summer never came.    I think we got 3 sunny days out of 3 weeks.   We are going to have a bumper crop of mushrooms from all the rain.   It's hard on me as well, and it's despiriting on my spirits.  I've had to push myself to work and discovered I cannot hammer as much as I used to.   Just hurts my hands too much, so sticking to fabrication and stonesetting right now.

   I'm in the final 4 weeks leading up to the Annual Craftsmen Fair at Mt. Sunapee Resort - www.nhcrafts.org/craftsmens_fair/fair_home.html  so I have to start burning the midnight oil to be done on time.   I should be, I always manage to be finished in time.   I hope we have a good turnout for the fair for it's fun, lots of good things to see, demos to watch, live music and much more.   I've been involved in the Sunapee fair as we NH'ers tend to call it, for over 20 years, and it's interesting to see how each year goes.

Let's hope the darn rain stops soon!  Or I'll have mold growing everywhere which I don't want.



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Still enjoying my hedgehog

Jun 19 2009

I'm still enjoying my hedgehog very much - I feel like a mom adoring her newborn baby.   His name is Cal Jr - in honor of Calgary, probably my favorite hedgehog that I had for 3 years and passed away a few years ago.   Cal Jr. has so many of the same mannerisms and quirks that Calgary had, and Calgary was a very distinctive hedgehog.  This little baby has the same loud "voice" but very little of the chronic grouchness Calgary was notorious for.   Here's Cal Jr checking out the newly made Ruffly bracelet.

I've had to take some days off from working after overdoing it on hammering metal and knitting in 20 gauge wire, rather than the thinner 22g. wire so my hands/arms were very achy this week.  It's taken me years to learn to take it easy and work in moderation.  As they say, wisdom comes with age and experience, and it's very true.  After 25 years of working in metal, I can ease up a bit when needed.



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Hedgehogs!

Jun 14 2009

I used to keep hedgehogs as pets and I had 8 various hedgehogs over a 8 year span.   My last one, Pumpkin, passed away over a year ago.   I thought I would take a break from hedgehogs and got a dog last fall.   This year, I went into severe hedgehog withdrawl, and really wanted a hedgehog but kept telling myself to wait till next year.   Well, life works in unexpected ways.   My hedgehog breeder ( Prickly Pair Hedgehogs of Swanzey, NH) emailed me earlier this month and asked if I wanted to take a baby hedgehog that was unfortunately got mauled a bit by his mom hedgehog ( it happens sometimes for birthing female  hedgehogs can get a little aggressive for no clear reason).   I'm known among my friends that my home is open to pets that need a home, and at least 4 hedgehogs came to me because they needed a new home.  

Well, little Mr. Spunky which is his nickname for now, is 8 weeks old, and despite a split ear, some scarring, is so gosh-darn cute!  I love, I mean, I love my new hedgehog, and he fills the hole in my heart.   I adore hedgehogs in a way it's hard to describe, and I had missed them terribly.  Mr. Spunky has such a beautiful little face, has so much spunk and inquisitiveness and is used to be handled.   I fell so hard for him  and he's my baby now, having wrapped his "quills" around my heart.  He fits in my hand so well.

I don't care if hedgehogs are perfect or are the runt of the litter.  I rather give the underdog hedgehog a home than a perfect one, which sometimes does not have half the personality of an underdog hedgehog.  Mr. Spunky is tiny for his size and age, but makes up for it.   I love hedgehogs and I'm known as the hedgehog lady in the crafts world.    My life is now complete, with 1 hedgehog, 2 hamsters, 3 birds and a chihuahua/dachshund/Yorkie dog who is my faithful companion.

Hedgehogs have influenced me in such a deep way that I create jewelry with "quills" such as silver hedgehog pendants and my hedgie bird sculpture is a direct blending of hedgehogs and birds.   I think in terms of "spikeness" since I really like the hedgehog quills, which are hard and sharp, but when hedgehogs are relaxed, it  is like stroking rice.   I'm so used to hedgehog quills, fur often feels too soft for me.   My hands are like hard leather from working with metal for so long.



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Knitting wire

Jun 06 2009

I've been weaving wire for over 20 years, all freehand, or basketweaving, or on a rigid frame I make like a bowl form.  I've never attempted to weave wire on a loom nor do I want to.  I like to weave wire in a 3-dimensional format.   Last year, I had an idea to knit a dress out of wire  ( yes, you read that correctly) while I was weaving  my copper bustier and hat that was on display at the Annual Craftsmen Fair at Mt. Sunapee Resort, NH last year. 

I started knitting the bodice back in March and finished it in late April.   I started knitting a sleeve to go onto the bodice, and as you can see, it's the tall dark purple tube with lime green edging.   I figure, I'll either cure myself of knitting wire or love it even more.  As it turned out, I got very hooked on knitting wire.   It's done by make a smaller loop, threading it thru an existing loop and enlarging the smaller loop to make it the same size as all other loops.  The little funny-looking tool at the lower left side of picture is an old awl I found in an antique shop, and it's perfect for making consistent loops.   So far, I have 3 knitted bracelets and one sleeve.   It doesn't take as long as it looks, and I can do it by feel, even though I check each loop quickly to make sure I'm not dropping a stitch.

You can knit wire with knitting needles, but it has to be 26g.or thinner wire, and it's very loose, which I find it is untidy.  A crotchet hook can be used as well and there are artists who do amazing work with a crotchet hook, but I find I fight the hook a lot.  A simple awl works best for me since it's used mostly to make the loops a consistent size.  There's about 4-6 ways to knit wire, so you have to find one method that works best for me.  I like to do the Viking chain method best.

Now I have to figure out how to attach sleeve to bodice and then finish the skirt, which will be hundreds of wire loops that attach together to make a flexible mesh skirt.  I wanted to change the texture so that the skirt and bodice are slightly different.   I need a mannequin to put the bodice on so I can do the skirt.  Where can I find one?   I'll see if I can borrow one.  



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Glass bead madness!

May 27 2009

I spent a week teaching at Snow Farm but I wasn't ready to leave Snow Farm, so I stayed on and took a hollow glass bead workshop that ran for 3 days.    I made a number of glass beads, both in Moretti glass and borosilicate glass.   I prefer working in borosilicate glass which is often called "boro" glass by lampworkers and glass artists.  Using a propane and oxygen torch that is clamped to a fire-proof bench, 1/4" glass rods of assorted colors are heated in the flame and melted onto a steel rod.  Using dots, stripes, swirls, marblizing patterns, you can get a very wide range of patterns, shapes and colors.   I have a tough time doing round beads, so I make a lot of large tubular and bi-cone beads.    This time, using boro glass, I was able to make more roundish beads and some interesting shapes. 

I also made a small number of hollow glass beads and forms, all out of boro glass.   It is safe to say I will never be a hollow form glass artist - it drove me crazy trying to keep the hollow beads and shapes symmetrical.  I rather make beads in boro glass.   Boro glass has an incredible range of colors and metallic tones that are out of the world.   Moretti glass, often called soft glass, is a lower-melting glass that is more brittle, and I find it too "droopy" to work with.  The colors tends to be opaque or transparent, with very little of the incredible metallic shimmer that boro glass is known for.    Boro glass is stiffer, requires more heat to work with, but I like the stiffness of it compared to soft glass.    

Now, I have to figure out what to do with my beads.   I have many beads in my drawers, since I have been working with hot glass off and on for over 20 years.  I have even blown glass in college and it's not as easy as it looks.    Glass is a second favorite material to work with.  Metal is my first love, glass and photography are a close second.  Fortunately, I'm able to do all three.   I do all the photography in my webstore if you were wondering where's my photos.



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Enjoying Snow Farm

May 22 2009

Just finished up teaching my weeklong workshop at Snow Farm.   My 7 students were a handful, that was sure.   I was kept hopping all day long attending to students' work, answering questions and handing out supplies as needed.   I found I did not want to leave Snow Farm and wanted to stay longer, so I'm staying to take a glass lampworking workshop over the weekend. 

   I did try to make Bird Woman but scaling up to 5-6 feet tall is much more work than I thought in cutting the steel, welding it together, grinding off excess steel and figuring out how things will fit together.  If I can try to cut all the steel rods while I'm at Snow Farm, then I can gas-weld them together at my studio.  I'm used to working on a 1 foot to 2 feet scale, and going up to 4-6 feet is challenging.  Some of the steel rods were so hard to saw thru, I had to use a plasma cutter to cut it and it's really cool to use a plasma cutter.  Boy, I sound like a hardcore metalhead, do I?     I really am a hardcore metalsmith, not just a jeweler.  So many tools, so little time or money ....... the bane of a craftsperson.   I love tools and will get excited in a hardware store.



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I know it's been a while.......

May 17 2009

I know it's been a while since I last blogged  ( hangs head in shame )    I don't know if it was a delayed reaction having recovered from bronchitis in the past month, but I felt like I was hit by a truck for a week.  Just too tired to do anything.   Now that I feel a lot perkier and raring to go, I'm packing up to go back to Snow Farm which I've anxiously waited for.   I have 7 students in my Jewelry/Metalsmithing class which is very large for me for a Snow Farm class.    Car is slowly being packed and I hope I don't leave anything behind.  I joke I bring everything but the kitchen sink when I do a workshop.   Since I operate on the assumption that whether school or studio I'm going to be teaching at will not have what I specifically need, I bring everything I will need and more.   Sometimes I bring too much.   Knowing Snow Farm's metal studio by heart, I know what to bring.   I gave the metals studio a good cleaning and organizing a few weeks ago, and having plumbed the depths of the metal studio, I know where everything is, once and for all.

I bought a lot of steel rods and steel tubing and hope to get started on Bird Woman, a steel sculpture for the Sculpture Garden for the 75th Annual Craftsmen Fair in Newbury, NH, Aug 1-9.  Here's a picture of a mockup I made to figure out how I want Bird Woman to look like.    I will make prototypes of projects if I'm not sure how it will come out or look like.  Comes in handy when I make wedding rings for clients and I'll make a silver prototype ring so client can see how their rings will look like before I do it in gold or other metal.

I'll post new blogs while I'm at Snow Farm. 



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RISD Spring Sale

May 03 2009

Just finished with the RISD Alumn Sale that was held this Sat, May 2 in Providence, RI.   With the economy being so bad, I wasn't sure if sales were going to be good, but man, the morning was a madhouse.  I did much better than I dare hope and exceeded last year's sales so that was great.   People were in a buying mood.   Weather was typical New England - cool and rainy in the morning, sunny and high 60's/low70's by mid-afternoon.    My mother and I joke that the RISD Spring sale, which is always held on the first Sat every May, the weather is either miserable cold, runny and in the 50's, or blistering hot in the 80's.  Today, the temps were perfect.    Saw many of my customers and quite a few friends, so that was great to reconnect with them.    Now, I have to hope I can get into the October alumni sale but I'll certainly be doing the Dec alumni sale.  I had a chance to introduce my welded nails bird sculptures at the RISD sale.



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Back home from Snow Farm

Apr 28 2009
I'm back home now from Snow Farm.    As usual, I enjoyed Snow Farm, but it can be tiring.   I managed to get some glass beads made in the lampworking school, so I have to figure out how to incorporate my glass beads into my hedgie bird sculptures.   A little color would be great on the birds.   Now, I'm trying to make more work to ship out to a couple of galleries and be ready for the RISD Alumni Sale on Saturday, May 2, on Benefit St, Providence, RI, 10am to 4pm.    I only hope I can be productive all week.   At least I'm feeling better and my bronchitis is going away, so that's great for me.  

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Snow Farm!

Apr 23 2009

I'm back at Snow Farm Craft Program to teaching Stonesetting this weekend.   I got the metals studio cleaned out and all organized.  Now I know where everything is in the studio for the first time for once.    Normally, when I go teach at a school or at an educational program, I have to spend the whole day figuring out where is everything, where is all the tools, on top of trying to teach whatever subject I'm teaching.   To have the metals studio at Snow Farm all put together, I can actually relax a bit and focus on my students instead of searching for tools.   I'm deep in the woods in the Berkshires and it's beautiful.  I'm waiting for the flowers to bloom.

On another subject, I got my welded "hedgie birds" nail sculpture accepted into the League of NH Craftsmen, so pretty soon my birds will be taking wing and flying to the various galleries.   I'll be sorry to see my babies leaving the nest but happy to know they will go on to good homes.    Those birds will in my booth at the Annual Craftsmen Fair at Mt. Sunapee Resort in early August.



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Still under the weather.....

Apr 22 2009

I'm so glad to have spring and balmier weather but still under the weather.    I got my first cold in over a year and that went quickly, but bronchitis moved in and took up residence in my lungs, so I still feel crappy.   Hopefully that'll move on and I can enjoy the growing flora and fauna.  Every day, the land gets greener and greener and makes me feel more optimistic.   I'm off to Snow Farm this week to teach Stone Setting.  Last weekend I was teaching up in Littleton, NH, way up north, not far from the  Canadian border.  

I'll post any photos of Snow Farm when I get a chance but I'm glad to be back at one of my favorite schools.  Go check it out if you get a chance - www.snowfarm.org.     I highly recommend it if you want to take a weekend workshop or a weeklong workshop.                      



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Just an update

Apr 15 2009

I know I haven't blogged in over a week, but been dealing with taxes, catching up on studio work and just now, my first cold in over a year.   I hate getting sick and having to start new classes for the spring semester.   I'll survive as usual - New England makes you tough.   I'll post a blog about my new paper flower earrings soon, when I get pictures of them.     Wild flowers are blooming, the grass is green and spring is here.  I'm feeling more optimistic as the weather gets warmer.   I'll be in touch ..........



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More Birds!

Apr 05 2009

After having some torch tip issues, I was able to get new torch tips and finish 5 birds - 4 in progress birds and 1 new bird.  I was busy welding Sat and today and spray-painting  all birds today.   I did start a 6th bird but decided to wait till Monday.  It feels so good to finish all those twittering birds that were perched all over my studio.   Even the Flying Hedgehog bird got painted, in shades of black, copper and dark green.  My favorite is the two small ones - Bristling Baby Bird and Quilly Bird.

When it comes to torches, you cannot mess around.  I use oxygen/acetylene welding torches for gas welding, as it is known in the welding trade, and straight acetylene for brazing torches for jewelymaking.  Welding torches have temps that go up to 6300 degrees while brazing torches ( or jewelry torches as they are known) go up to 2000 degrees.  When you work with steel or iron, you need a welding torch to melt steel at 2300 degrees or higher.  If you work with silver, gold, brass, bronze, nickel or copper, they all vary between 1600 degrees to 1900 degrees for copper for the melting point of each metal.  Gold, silver, brass and bronze generally are around 1600-1762 degrees, so we jewelers work in a 1200 to 1450 degree range when we solder the metals together.  

When you work with such high temperatures, even 2000 degrees seem low.   You do have to be careful not to touch any metal that is on a soldering block and I'm in the habit of always using tweezers to pick up any metal.  You have to constantly check to make sure torches and gas tanks are not leaking, that all connections are tight, the hoses have no holes and secure tanks so that they don't fall over.  If you knock over an oxygen tank, it will turn itself into a missile, since all the oxygen is trying to escape at once, the tank literally blasts thru any obstacles.  I've never had any tank issues since I'm always aware of that and make sure that my tanks don't get banged around.   If you ever wonder why propane tanks are always outside, it's because propane is a heavy gas, it sinks to the ground and pools at the lowest point.  The slightest spark such as flipping a light switch can cause an explosion.    Acetylene, on the other hand, tends to dispere if there's a leaking tank, so it's easy to clear out a room if there's a gas leak.  That is something that rarely happens.

Anytime I start teaching soldering, I always ask my students if anyone has a fear of fire.  You'll be surprised at how many people are afraid of fire and I don't push it if a student is really fearful of fire.  Fire doesn't bother me since I'm so used to working with it.  In fact, I joke that I have torch in one hand and hammer in other hand, since torches and hammers are my favorite tools.

One of these days, I'll write a blog about the wondeful world of hammers.  In the meantime, enjoy the twittering birds.



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Guest Artist of the Month

Apr 01 2009

I am the guest artist for April to June for the Collective Gallery, so come visit the gallery if you are in Woodstock, VT.   I'll be there for Friday the 3rd for the Wine and Cheese Reception.   Hope to see you there!



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Birth of a new bird - the Flying Hedgie

Mar 31 2009

 One One of my students challenged me to make a flying hedgehog so here's a new arrival.   Wobbly from just hatching, the Flying Hedgie takes tentative steps, balancing himself from toppling over onto his beak as he tries out his new wings.   Will he take flight?   Will he be able to fly........      We'll see.  He's rough around the edges, just fresh off the welding table, not cleaned up or painted.  He's as raw as they come.

Flying Hedgie is dedicated to you, Julia.   May you get a chuckle out of him!



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CraftBoston

Mar 29 2009

Usually, when I am at a craft fair, I'm an exhibitor.  Once in a while, I will go visit a craft show and I joke that I'm a "civilian", not a participating exhibitor.  This weekend was CraftBoston, in Boston, MA, a very classy, high-end craft show with a lot of fabulous artwork and crafts.   I was an exhibitor back in 2005 and 2007, but chose not to apply for this year due to the economy.   This year, I play host to Sara Sally LeGrande, a glass bead artist who combines wireworking/weaving with her glass beads, so she has very unique jewelry.   Since she didn't have a booth, I rented her my booth, and helped her to set it up.   It was very strange to see my booth, but with someone else's work in it.    Her work looked great and she said she had a good fair, so that was reassuring.

It was really nice to reconnect with fellow craftspeople, some that I hasn't seen in years and just catch up on what they were doing.    It was good to see new exhibitors, new artwork and if I had a million dollars, I would spend it on fine crafts.   We craftspeople usually end up trading which is a very nice bonus.   I had fun wandering up and down the aisles, seeing the wider range of artwork.   Once in a while, it's necessary to get out and see what's out there.    I have some  new ideas and will have to sit down at my workbench to create what I have in mind.

My next fair is the RISD Alumni Spring sale, May 2, on Benefit St, Providence, RI.   That's one thing every craftperson will ask - "when's your next fair?"   I only have 2 scheduled for this spring/summer.



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NH Made

Mar 28 2009

I signed up to be a member of NH Made, an organization promoting New Hampshire products, services and businesses.   With this economy, I'm trying to spread out more, be more creative in getting my name out there and join various organizations.   I'm not a "joiner" by nature, and don't sign up to become members of many organizations, only the ones I want to be but now I have tried to get out more.    

Before the Internet, it was a lot of meeting people, going out to every gallery opening, trying to call people or send letters.  I was shy by nature and it was terrifying to have to deal with people when I was younger.   After teaching for so long, I'm comfortable dealing with people for the most part and I'm gotten more outgoing.     

Now, with the Internet, it's easy to find whatever I want, send emails, sign up with this or that.  Even Facebook was a leap of faith, but I'm reconnecting with classmates and friends I haven't seen since grad school, so that's good for me.    I'm joining a lot more organizations so I'm starting to feel less isolated.   Being an artist can be very lonely.  Artists work alone, for many hours, many days, and sometimes only personal contact is at the grocery store.   Even my mother tells me I have to get out more so being online does helps.

The point is, to get out, reach out, and connect as much as you can.



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New ideas, new possibilites

Mar 21 2009

For a very long time, I was a hard-core metalsmith, meaning I only used metal, gemstones and occasionally, plastic handles for my flatware.   In the past few years, I've been loosing up, trying out new materials.   A few weeks ago I was at an AC Moore craft store getting rubber stamps and ink.  I happened to pass thru a scrapbooking aisle and saw these fabric and paper flower cutouts.  On a whim, I bought them and thought how I can make them into earrings.  I was wondering, what is exactly scrapbooking?   I think I get the idea.

Anyway, after a few experiments with thread and needle on the fabric flowers and lacquering the paper flowers, I made a series of flower earrings using the paper flowers with a metal earwire.   I think they are very cute, and just perfect for spring.   You never know where inspiration hits you.  Sometimes it hits you over the head and other times, it takes a while before ideas crystalizes.  I do go through a lot of trial and error  to get some designs right.  Other times, my work magically come together and I'm like in a state of wonder.  That is rare and generally I spent a lot of time, sweat, sometimes a few tears and just get the job done.  



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Makeover Part 2

Mar 20 2009

As I reported in the previous blog, I was making over 2 pairs of earrings.   Here is the finished version and I like them much better than the original version.   I really enjoy the new look of the earrings.  One pair has a light, sagey green glass pearls and the other pair has black glass pearls.



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A Makeover of a pair of earrings

Mar 18 2009

 

Like everything else in life, even jewelry needs a makeover.   Last year, I had a bunch of Precious Metal Clay ( PMC) that I wanted to try.   After all the hype of the wonders of PMC, and the zillion questions my students ask me about PMC, I figure it was time to try it out.   PMC is extremely fine pure silver particles in an organic binder, so it is a silver clay.   Upon playing with it, it was like a plasticized rubber, it doesn't stick to itself and you have to be very gentle with it.   Once you finish working with PMC, you let it dry out, just like regular clay, and then you fire it in a kiln at 1500 degrees or less, depending on the type of PMC you are working with.  There are 3 grades of PMC, Original, PMC Plus and PMC3.   Once the PMC is fired, the organic binder burned off the and silver particles fuse together to create a piece of pure silver.   You have to brush it or tumble it to get it shiny.  

I found I did not like PMC.  I prefer to pound my metal, torch it, fight with it and having to be very gentle, using delicate movements was not my cup of tea.  In other words, I like metal fighting me.   I made a series of 4 petal flower earrings out of PMC, and used glass pearls as accents.    After a year, it was clear people were not responding to the earrings, so yesterday, I took a pair of earrings and completely made over it.  Took off the glass bead, took off the original earwire, and added little flower accents, added a new earwire that I coiled to give the tendril look.  I really like the new look very much.  

As you can see from the photo, the earrings on the left are the original design and the earrings on the right are the new made-over version.   I will be making over the original earrings asap.   Now I have to think of a new name for the made over earrings.

PS - it was 60 degrees in NH - yeah - Spring is coming!!!



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Miss Daisy

Mar 14 2009

As I reported in an earlier blog, I have 2 finches, Chatterbee and Miss Daisy.   Miss Daisy has been sitting on 2 eggs for 2 weeks.   Alas, the eggs never hatched, and under bright light, all it shows is egg yolks.    It would been very exciting to have baby finches.   Maybe the love birds will try again and I'll keep my fingers crossed for a successful hatching in the future.

In the meantime, here's a picture of Robert, my very social parakeet.



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Snowing Again!

Mar 09 2009

After a glorious springlike weekend, once again I woke up to another snowstorm.   Weather forecast was 3" to 6" of snow, but it's clear I have more than 6" of snow.    I probably got 8" at least.

As an artist, I'm trained to look at the world in a different way, to see beauty and wonder in the most mundane way.    While getting my mail, I stood there looking at my mailbox, which had this lovely cap of snow.   I took several pictures and here how it looks with it's snowy cap.    That brings up another story involving my mailbox.   Living out in the country has it's own challenges.   We have a joke in my town that you either live on ledge rock or on swampland.   I happened to live on a rock pile and it is so rocky, if you try to dig into the ground, you pull out more rock than soil.   My first year in the town I currently live in, I tried to install  my first mailbox on a post.  Trying to find a spot that was all soil was almost impossible, so I ended up putting my mailbox next to a culvert.   For 4 years, the mailbox stood there, getting a little more tilted yearly.   Finally, the mailbox fell off one day.  Took a few weeks and a new cordless drill to reinstall a new mailbox.   That held up till the spring, where the maibox and post drifted almost a foot back, and it was either falling into the culvert every time I want to get my mail.   That was not something I was looking forward to.

I decided it was time to relocate my mailbox and post.   It got moved about 50 feet downhill, and again, it was an impossible task to find a rock-free area to put post in.  I sort of jury-rigged post and put a pile of rocks at the base for stablity.  You do what you can.   Almost a year later, the mailbox fell off again.  This time, I knew I had to do something different. My father suggested I get a steel wheel hub, put a wood post on hub and mount mailbox on the wood post.

I went to a junk car lot, which happened to be a "green" lot and a lot cleaner than I expected.   Found a wheel hub, hauled that heavy sucker home, wired a steel post mounting onto the hub, nailed two 2 x 4 lumber together to make a post, put wood into the wheel post mounting, installed the mailbox onto the wood post and voila, I have my first freestanding mailbox that I can move around as needed.   Hopefully the mailbox will never fall off!   The things I have to do just to get my mail.   



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Quirky old illustration of the human brain

Mar 08 2009
As I said in my previous blog, I love old stuff.   I found this great page of a human head on Etsy, and it is from the 1920's.   I had to get it for it shows a very humorous picture of how you imagine the brain as a "big business".   I especially love the camera men in the eye sockets.   Hope you enjoy the picture as much as I did.

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Ahhhh....... Springtime!

Mar 08 2009

When you think you have enough of winter, Mother Nature will surprise us New Englanders with a warm, balmy day in the middle of winter.  This Sat and Sun were in the 50's, sunny, and a most welcome break.   All the sun and balminess just lifts my spirits and remind me that spring is around the corner.

My friend Marissa, ( www.brokenbranches.com) has this amazing rubber stamp collection that is out of this world.    She wanted me to teach her etching, so about a month ago, I went down to her house, and we merrily stamped our way thru multiple pieces of copper sheet.  I had 6 fabulous copper panels that looked like very old scientific illustrations.   There are thousands of great rubber stamps and I was using scripts, writing, astrological themes, astronomy, eyes, nature themes and more.   I'm fascinated with scientific themes, antique scientific intruments, astronomy, some astrological themes, astrolabes, orreries, hydrometers, glass, the universe, the moon, and how things work.   I also love old illustrations and prints, and it's fascinating to look at 1700's and 1800's prints of machines, orreries, flora and fauna, the universe, the 1920's and 30's, 50's images and more.   I collect old prints and use them as themes.   Also along the lines of old stuff. I love old electronics.   Radio tubes, old tv, old radios, fans, etc, you name them, I love them.   I retro-fitted an 1950's TV cabinet to hold my circa 1992 TV which still works perfectly and a 1939 radio cabinet became a shelf case which doubles as a nightstand.   I keep all the old electronics and try to incorporate them into my artwork.  Currently a huge glass cathrode TV tube is awaiting to be made into a garden sculpture.  I use 60 year old metal fans in the summer and they are better than today's plastic crap that are supposed to be fans, but don't blow air at all.

Anyway, to get back on track, I went back to Marissa's this weekend and did some more stamping.  I used paper to create my own "scientific illustrations" and some more brass/copper plates to be etched later.   Here's a picture of what I've been doing.   I am loving the possiblities of stamping images onto metal.  To etch metal, you need to use an acid-resistant medium such as nail polish, lacquer, permanent ink, rubber sheet, plastic tape, to name a few.   Clean a piece of copper, brass, bronze or nickel sheet very well, so that there are no fingerprints, oil, dirt or anything on the sheet metal.  Tape up the back of the sheet metal, then apply the acid-resistant medium, which I use dark nail polish or permanent ink, so that the bare metal that is exposed will be etch.  Put sheet metal face down in a plastic or glass container, add enough ferris chloride to cover metal, and check periodically.  I find 1 to 2 hours is enough to get a good etch.      In using the rubber stamps, I choose the pattern, apply Starz-O permanent ink on the rubber stamp and them press stamp firmly onto the metal surface.   That will leave a clear, dark image in bold relief.   As you can see in the image, the brass sheets have the black ink stamped on and not etched yet.   I'll etch the brass sheets at a later time.

I now want to start collect specific rubber stamps so I can continue on with my explorations since I really love how the images come out on paper and sheet metal.     I normally don't etch on a regular basis, but I may just do so this year.   Thanks Marissa for turning me onto a new hobby!



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March Nor'easter and Finches

Mar 02 2009

Today I woke up to the aftermath of a Nor'easter.   It is March 2, and it promises to be a stormy March.   19 more days before spring is officially here.    I counted 10.5" of snow on my lawn.   My mother and   I've gotten the driveway clear and the pathways shoveled out now.

 On another note, I've had finches for almost 20 years now.   When you get a finch, you have to have a pair of finches.  Doesn't matter if it's same sex or a male/female pair, because finches are very social and require pairing.   I've had zebra finches, Cordon Blue finches, Gouldian finches, society finches, spice finch and orange-cheek waxbill ( my favorite).  Right now, it's Chatterbee, a very dark society finch and Miss Daisy, a gray/white zebra finch.  Miss Daisy has been laying eggs, and right now, she's sitting in her nest on 4 eggs.  I have no idea if they will hatch or not, so my mom and I are anxious to find out if we will be having hatchlings.  I'll post any news about new baby birds.    I'll probably be having finches for the rest of my life!   Those little eggs are only about 3/4" and perfect in their wee size.

   My other bird is a parakeet, a very social one, who loves to hang out with me and any other human.   He came from a good friend of mine, and was originally called Donald.  For some reason, my mom kept calling him Robert, and it got to the point he wouldn't respond to Donald anymore.  He's officially "Robert" and it's hard to believe he's been with me for 4 years now.   He's probably 6 years old by now.

Here's a picture of my Adirondark chair and side table completely covered with snow.  2 days ago, it was bare and ready to sit in and now you can see the 10 plus inches of snow.   I use the chair as a barometer of how much snow accummulates per snow.   I've seen worst but it's impressive how much snow you can get in one day.



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Winter Blahs

Feb 23 2009

                                                                 I've got a serious case of the winter blahs.   3 snowstorms in 5 days and still another 4-6 weeks of winter left before spring finally gets here.   In NH, we have a joke - 9 months of winter and 3 months of summer.  That also goes for road contruction - it never ends, just takes a break for a month or so in the winter.

Remember the flower pin posted in a previous blog?  I decided to go flower crazy, and made another flower brooch, and then proceeded to make a new series of flower earrings with coiled stems, which is completely new for me.   I just need to have a little springtime to remind myself it'll get warm soon.   I finally posted some of my welded hedgie birds on my webstore, and also on www.Etsy.com.    If you want to check out my work on Etsy, my seller name is spoonlady so come and visit my Etsy store.

I also ended up on Facebook, so you can go to my Joy Raskin page if you are a Facebook member.   I sort of got sucked into it thanks to my college alumni "connection" who had to set up a new RISD page for all the RISD alumni.  For those of you who don't know, RISD is Rhode Island School of Design and I'm a jewelry/metal graduate, '90.  That was over 20 years ago!

Enough of my ramblings and let's hope spring come soon!



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New work and welding

Feb 08 2009
I've been posting new work on my webstore, so there's a variety to choose from.    I've been taking so many pictures, I've had to do some serious editing, reorganizing and putting pictures into the appropriate folders.   In between, I have been teaching 4-5 classes a week, and working on several custom orders.   I also have been making more hedgie birds - I certainly love welding now.   I even made 2 hedgehogs out of welded nails.  The hard part is figuring how to make those skinny little legs hedgehogs have.  Having a lot of hedgehogs over a number of years as pets has shown me how hedgehogs look and behave.   Sadly, my last hedgehog died last year, and I've gotten a very comical dog this time.  Here's a picture of my soldering bench, which is a mess since I have nails everywhere, and a few welded pieces.   I spent a lot of time with my torch which is my favorite tool.

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Deep in Snow

Jan 28 2009

It's been a while since I posted a new blog, so here goes nothing.   I've been starting new classes at the Currier Museum Art Center in Manchester, NH  and at Metalwerx in Waltham, MA.   Now I'm writing up class proposals and workshop proposals for spring and summer, so check my Workshops section on my www.joyraskin.com site to see where I'm teaching.   I'm gonna offer small-scale welding workshops so that people can try welding right at their jewelry bench without needing large welding equipment. 

I've decided to try Etsy to sell, so you can find me as "spoonlady" as my Etsy shop.    As for artwork, I've made a few more hedgie birds from welded nails, and doing custom work for clients.   In between all that, I struggle to keep Mother Nature at bay, shoveling more snow than I care to remember.  Today was a snowy day, followed by icy rains.  Not the most ideal conditons.    My dog does not like the rain!   It's fun to watch him do his best to avoid getting wet.   Now, if I can train him to help me work in my studio, that would be great. 

Here's a picture of a flower brooch I made for an exhibit opening on Friday Feb 6 at Gallery 205, 205 N. Main St, Concord, NH.   For those who are weary of winter, this flower brooch will remind you of spring when the flowers start blooming.  Spring is not that far away!



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Welding birds and playtime

Dec 28 2008
Been doing my end of the year fall/winter cleanup and working on projects I want to do.  I got back to my welding, and I was able to do small-scale oxygen/acetylene welding with my Little Torch.  I made a series of small hedgehog/birds, which I nickname "hedgie birds", since they are birds with spiky quills.  This bird is the 3rd one I did.  It's nice to put down my jewelry tools and just be casual, weld nails, steel, iron, whatever I get my hands on.  The next few months are going to be very experimental, since I don't have any fairs or shows to do till May, so it's playtime for me.

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Merry Christmas!

Dec 25 2008
I wanted to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year's!  2009 promises to be a very interesting year.   

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Snow and more snow!

Dec 21 2008

I got my power back after 4 days of blackout thanks to the Ice Storm of 2008 in NH.  It was so bad, electric crews from all over US and Canada came to help restore power.  Even through it's been a week and half since the ice storm, some communities are without power.  Now, Mother Nature keeps dumping snow, and as of 5pm, I've counted 17" of snow on my lawn.   I thought I could try uploading some images but so far, it's not quite working.  I'll keep plugging away.      I've spent 2 days just shovelling, plowing, scraping ice off car, anything to keep the snow at bay.   It's beautiful, seeing all the snow, everything is white and pristine. The best time is at the end of a snowstorm or when the snow is just drifting, and it's another world.  Of all seasons, fall is my favorite but nothing beats a snowstorm and all of it's white glory.  At twilight, when the sun is down, but the sky is not quite dark, and the house lights are on, twinkling thru the dark trees, now that is the magical hour.  Add snow, and I'm content.

I haven't done any jewelry work, and am content to work on other projects since it is end of the year.  Who knows what I'll be making after New Years.  Hopefully I can get back to making garden sculptures, since I relearn how to weld, and made a series of garden critters out of nails, which are delightful, whimsical creatures.



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RISD madness

Dec 14 2008

Well, I did my RISD Holiday Alumni sale yesterday in Providence.  As usual, it was a madhouse, didn't quiet down till mid-afternoon.   The economy may have been bad, but people were happy to be out shopping at the RISD sale.    I am just glad to have it over with and can get back to my desk.   It was good for me, so I'm pleased.

As you may have heard from the news, there was a nasty ice storm on Thursday/Friday morning in the Northeast.   I have had no power since the ice storm and completely pissed off.  You forget how much we depend on power and to be in a cold, dark house is not fun.   At least I had plenty of candles and it's amazing how a few candles can really light up a room.   After all, our pioneers survived for thousands of years, using candles and fireplaces for warmth and lighting.   A number of us exhibitors at the RISD sale were all complaining about having no power and how it threw us off.  I was grateful I had packed my booth and stock 2 days in advance so I didn't have to do much but pack my car.  This is one of those rare times I was pretty prepared ahead of time.    I was supposed to do a craft fair in York, Maine for Friday but never made it to York.  I wasn't going to try driving in an ice storm.   Pray I get power back soon! 



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Welcome!

Dec 10 2008

This is my first blog so bear with me as I explore the new and strange world of blogging.   Since I just set up a new online website, I figure it was time to start blogging.  I've forgotten how much time it takes to photograph my work, upload them and organize them to create my catagories, such as earrings, bracelets, etc...............

I'll try to post a few times a month of what's up, what I'm working on, where I will be teaching or doing a fair.  This Sat, Dec 13, I'm off to do the RISD Holiday Alumni Sale at the RI Convention Center, 5 Sabin St, Providence, RI, 10am to 5pm.   My booth is #528.   RISD fairs are always good for me, but they are so exhausting to do but at the same time, it's great to see familiar friends, catch up on friends and customers.  

Nancy Tobey, who is a fabulous lampworking glass bead artist, and I have collaborated to create a small line of silver jewelry incorporating her beads and my silverwork.   We hope that people will like the new work we have done together and I plan to unveil the new work at the RISD sale.   There will be earrings, bracelets and necklaces for sale, as soon as I can get the images downloaded into the online store.

I'll be in touch...................



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