2018 Blog - recap of 2017

Feb 05 2018

Good riddance, 2017.   2017 was one of the most insane years I've ever encountered and for the majority of us humankind.   With Trump in office, it was a mad, mad, mad year.   Never knew what was going to happen each day.   Trump and the Republican Party has managed to turn the clock back decades and have done so much damage to our basic rights, our lands, laws, and making it so much more expensive as well.    I'm ready for some peace and calm, instead of volatile DC and whever the heck is going on down there. 

2017 was a year of change as well.   I was offered a new job working for a new gallery in Concord, NH - the Goldsmiths Gallery.    There is a funny story so to speak.   25 years ago, a local goldsmith in Concord, Mark Knipe Goldsmiths hired me to work as a benchworker ( a goldsmith who works on a jeweler's bench and does a wide range of repairs, custom work and stock items), and I was with him for 2 years.    After 2 years of doing jewelry repairs, I was burned out and ready to go out on my own which I did.   Flash forward to Feb 2017, Mark Knipe retired and sold his business to his office manager, Paula Heath.   Paula asked me if I could be the creative goldsmith, which I accepted.   So, full circle in my life for I come back to the same place I worked for 25 years ago.  The entire gallery and workshop is pretty much the same but the jewelry/artwork is totally different.   I just think it's funny I'm come back to my roots, in my favorite city, Concord.    Naturally, I had to leave Tates Gallery in New Boston in order to take the new job.   I've found I'm doing work I've never done before, and on a really tiny scale as well.   As so many of us goldsmiths say, Thank God for the laser, for the laser welder allows us to do work that would have been really tedious, impossible or a royal pain in the butt to do.     

On a sad note, my beloved Spike, my fiesty boy hedgehog, passed away in mid-January, 2017 of sheer old age - 7.5 years, which is extremely old for a hedgehog.   For the past year, it's just been me and Pumpkin Peanuts, my cranky, cankerous girl hedgehog.  She's now 7, and with cancerous tumors bulging, she's doesn't have long to go - I know she'll pass away within weeks or so.   I've been through this with previous hedgehogs.  All I can do is keep them comfortable and warm.    Luckily, a new hedgehog, a 9 month old girl came about 3 weeks ago, so now I have a new hedgehog to enjoy!   I couldn't pronounce her original name so I've renamed her Moonstone for she looks white but has dark ears, dark grey skin and black banding on her quills.  She's a pretty girl.   It'll be a few months before she's completely comfortable with me.   It takes months, sometimes a year for hedgehogs to relax, become comfortable with their human "parents".  Here's a pic of Moonstone.  I just love her to bits. 

I've found I'm tired of making bezels and setting stones, so I've done a lot more all metal jewelry for the past year.  Give me some wire and I can run with it and that's what I like doing the most.   Amazing how many pairs of earrings and neckchains I can make, just using 20g and 18g. sterling wire.   I'm known for my silver jewelry but I have worked more in gold than any other metal for the past year.   Luckily, it's other people's gold, but I get to work with it and stretch my tiny hoard of gold as much as I can.   I have made more gold/silver jewelry in the past year.    Back in the late 90's, right up to around 2007, I used to make a lot of combined sterling with gold rings, necklaces and not much earrings.   After the '08 recession which sent gold and silver prices to triple in value, I basically stopped working in gold.   3 years ago, I was able to work with gold a lot more, even through it belongs to other people.   I don't care, I get to practice and work with it, without having to pay for gold.  I've a silver gal, always loved silver and will love it, but I do appreciate how much faster it is to clean up gold and polish it.   It takes twice as long to carefully finish and polish silver than it is for gold.

The Annual Craftsmen's Fair at Mt Sunapee Fair went well, for once.  My booth went up very well, and smoothly.  This is probably the first and only time I didn't have a problem with my booth setup and booth.  My mom still can't get over it.  Usually setting up a booth can be a free for all, oh shit, what the he^% I'm doing at Sunapee?   Not 2017.   However, thanks to complications from antibiotics I had to take in July, I had the most miserable summer, physically.   I don't want to go through that again!   My Thorny Dilemma candleholder won Best in Metals award for Living with Crafts, which I was quite shocked to get.   Winning the same award back to back, never happens to me.  It was probably the only high note of the fair.    The fair went well.

RISD ( RI School of Design, my alma mater), in it's infinite wisdom, decided to permanently cancel all alumni sales  which used to be held in May and Dec.   We alumni were very, very pissed off, for we lost thousands of dollars in lost sales.  We RISD alumnis are still not happy.   As a result, 2 ladies teamed up and created Art Providence Holiday Show to replace the lost RISD Holiday Alumni Sale.    The Art Providence Holiday show went well in terms of setting up and how it was presented.  However, it was a different crowd that came, and they were very relucant to spend money.  Doesn't help we had a snowstorm that weekend, which made for a most hair-raising drive home Sat night that took over 4 hours, instead of a hour and 45 minutes.   As I said, it's been a most enlightening and educational year..........................................   Got to find new craft shows for this year.

I finally got to take a Michael Good workshop in Nov.  Michael Good is famous for his 18kt anticlastically formed jewelry, and I've wanted to try.   As a result, I really enjoy taking 1/8" to 3/16" strips of 26g sterling silver strips ( very thin ribbons if you can imagine it), and by using one specific hammer and a hard plastic form, called a stake, I can create these one of a kind silver spirally "ribbons' which makes great pendants.   Metal can be hammered in a specific way that you can make it go into directions you didn't think it was possible.  That's why it is called anticlastic ( meaning non-water holding) for you can hammer the metal into weird or funky or interesting shapes for the want of a better term.   Sometimes as I teach, it's tough to try to explain a specific technique, so by means of my made up sign language, demo-ing and explaining, I get it across and the students get it.  I've got my students trained to say the words I can't quite pronouned.  They are great kids, even through they are mostly older than me.  Doesn't matter, we all are a team, we know each other and follow me from class to class, so I call them my "groupies".  

A former student turned friend and I have teamed up to flip antique/vintage jewelry.   Tammy first came to me to learn jewelrymaking and soldering, but it didn't work out.   After some time, she asked if I could help redo old jewelry into new jewelry, setting off a new passion for me.   She buys old, sometimes broken jewelry, and I fix them, or change them into something new.   Like for example, brooches and pins were very popular for hundreds of years, so the majority of old Victorian and Edwardian jewely, Art Deco, right up to the 1960s, ;millions  and milliions broochs and stickpins were made.    The problem is, nobody wears brooches, pins and stickpins, so you find them scattered all over Ebay, Etsy, pawn shops, consignment shops, jewelry stores carrying estate jewelry, so forth.  Tammy buys a lot of brooches, and then I cut them up and remake them into earrings, pendants and sometimes bracelets.  She got me hooked and now I buy Victorian, Edwardian (circa 1901-1910) and Art Deco brooches and stickpins.   I flip them by remaking them into rings and pendants, althought I did do a bracelet with 6 vintage brooches.   I can't solder the antique/vintage jewelry for the most part, so I have to use the laser weldering.   If it is all gold, no stones, no solder seams, then I can solder on a ring band.   If you are curious, check out https://www.etsy.com/shop/SimonsTreasures?ref=l2-shopheader-name for some of the jewelry I've flipped for Tammy.   In the images above at the top, those are my own antique/vintage jewelry I've remade into rings and a bracelet.  Most are for sale, but some rings have sold.  I've learned a great deal about Victorian jewelry and Edwardian/Art Deco jewelry and how to work with them, how to fix them.  Again, the laser welder is the key to being able to work with such old but glorious pieces. 

As for my own personal life, I've drastically cut back on teaching, which is nice, giving me some breathing room.   I did do a lot of gardening last summer, trying my hand at veggies, more flowers and of course, my favorite - BASIL!   I had 2 basil crops that were 3 ft tall.   I made a lot of my famous pesto, to the point I got "pesto out".    It was a weird summer, but my garden was happy.   The strawberry plant kept producing strawberries all the way into Oct, if you can believe it.   The cucumbers were sneaky little buggers - I think I have no cukes and then lift a leaf and there's a 3" cuke growing!    The bell peppers were good.  I'm going to be growing more cukes and peppers this summer.    I seem to have good luck with rose bushes.   I  planted one 2 years ago that produces old-fashioned red roses, and a varied pink rose bush last year.   Both were hog wild last year.   I had roses all summer long, all the way into late Oct till first frost came.   Never thought I could grow.   I'm gotten more involved in cooking and gardening, and less in jewelrymaking.   I did spend the first 3 decades utterly and completely devoted to jewelry/metalsmithing and teaching, and now, I don't want to work so hard.   34 years in the metals field is a long time.  

I also hit 50 last year.  It was a most enlightening and educational year for me.  Mentally I think, ok, let's go for it.  My body goes, Not so fast, young lady!   I've had to learn to really slow down and pace myself.   As I said, it was most enlightening.  Other than that, I'm steady as a rock and sturdy, thanks to my ancestors. 

I'm going to try to do more blogs this year.   I felt like I was in statis, not moving forward or going anywere.    Well, my knitting is calling me.  Love to knit yarn now and working on a 6 foot by 2 foot scarf.    My dog loves to watch me knit and snuggle with me as I'm knitting away.


Leave a Comment
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Gerald Johnson wrote on November 7,2019
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