Thursday, May 23, 2013

Teacher's Gifts

Yesterday was the last day of Sawyer's first year of preschool and tonight is his "graduation." Since his two teachers, Ms. Jen and Ms. Sher, have been SO fabulous this year, I have been thinking about what kind of teacher's gift I was going to give. Remember, of course, that this is my first foray into the world of teachers' gifts, but I knew that, as a maker, I wanted to give them something from my heart. Hopefully your budget for teacher's gifts is vastly larger than mine, but if not, you may agree with me that this design (not mine) fits the bill for sweet, not-too-expensive (even in Sterling wire), and not-too-hard to make.

Maybe you aren't that into hearts. Here are a few other fabulous pieces that I thought were great gift inspiration:

Or perhaps even:

Okay, so maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch. But, if Michael Boyd happens to be in your budget, that would be an excellent choice, I think!

Here's what I put together:

Teachers' Gifts 2013

I used 18 gauge sterling silver for the bracelet and 20 gauge copper sheet to saw out the heart charms, which I then stamped with 1/16" letter and number stamps. The main differences from the original design is that I added some charms (like the fourth picture above) so that I could write the year, "Thank You," and personalize the bracelets. I also added some "squiggles" by the heart to make the bracelet somewhat adjustible. Sawyer's teachers happen to be petite and I was pretty sure their wrists were smaller than mine - but I had no idea how much.

Besides the bracelets (partially because I'm never sure how excited people will be to get handmade jewelry) I also got them each a bottle of hand lotion from my favorite lotion company, Thymes. They are SO creamy and have the most magnificent scents. I figured that'd be a winner, for sure.

So, do you think I did okay for my first year of teacher gift-giving? What do you all do for your teachers' gifts? How do you handle middle school and high school when the kids have so many teachers?

I always appreciate when y'all stop by! Thank you!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Earrings In The Soda Lime Times

I have a pair of earrings in the June 2013 issue of the Soda Lime Times that came out today. The issue theme was making jewelry with lampwork beads; something that I'm really passionate about (as evidenced by my large Lampwork Jewelry board on Pinterest).

Diane, the editor of the e-mag, wrote to me several weeks ago asking if she could include a pair of my earrings that she saw on Pinterest. Of course I said yes!


For the many of you that may not be familiar with the Soda Lime Times, it is a monthly e-magazine published by Diane Woodall about lampworking. It is available by subscription for less than $5 per month. There are monthly themes, like things you can do with frit, floral themed beads, color, surface decoration, cold working ... and each issue features the work of many lampworkers. This month's issue was the 24th to be published. You can read a sample issue for free, available on the Soda Lime Times website.

Diane became familiar with my work when, for the April 2013 edition about non-bead lampworked items, I asked if I could submit some pictures of my lampworked buttons and headpins. I was fortunate enough to have both a button published in that issue.

Autumn Splendor

It's always a little nerve wracking to put myself out there, but little by little I'm getting it done. Yay!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Upcoming Classes

I'm a little tardy in publishing my May class schedule. I apologize. There are some really, really fun ones coming up, though. These are the kinds of classes that had me dreaming of teaching out of my own studio. While I am still working on getting my studio ready for more local students, I am so very thankful the Studio and Rush Creek and I found each other!

So, here they are. If you're interested in registering, head on over to the Rush Creek Class Schedule page.

Lampworking II: Forming Bead Shapes
Thursday, May 16

This class is for anyone with a basic lampwork class under their belt. You’ll continue to refine your lampworking skills like glass application and heat control, and learn how to use a few new tools while learning to make basic bead shapes. Shapes, like the tube, oval, cone, cube, and heart, make great focal beads and are a great canvas for surface decorations. Even if you just want more experience at the torch, this is a great class for you!

There will be demonstrations of different steps in the bead-making process and plenty hands-on time for you to practice, with personal guidance, at your own Hothead torch station. You will leave the class having made a handful of your very own handmade beads!

Lampwork Shapes

Drilling Stones For Jewelry
Saturday, May 25

Rocks are everywhere - from the parking lot at the grocery store to the beach – and they are free. They provide a great opportunity to make interesting, inexpensive jewelry. You can certainly use them without holes, but learning to drill holes in stones provides a huge range of design opportunities! We’ll be using standard smooth beach rocks to introduce you to rock drilling. You’ll learn about safety, the different drill bits available, why some are better than others, how to get the most life out of your drill bit, and techniques for making your holes straight, preventing blowout and cracking, and finishing rough edges. Julie will bring lots of design ideas so you can play with your rocks when you get home!

Rocks I've Drilled

Lampwork I: Beginning Lampworking
Saturday, May 25

Come join Julie as she teaches you how to make your very own glass beads. You'll practice safety and build confidence as you learn what to expect from glass at temperatures from 70°F to 1800°F and how to use that to your advantage making simple beads. There will be demonstrations of different steps in the bead-making process and plenty hands-on time for you to practice, with personal guidance, at your own Hothead torch station. You will leave the class having made a handful of your very own handmade beads!

Beads for Big eBay Lampwork Sale

Spinner Ring
Thursday, May 30

This is a great intermediate class for anyone wanting to refine and expand their soldering skills. Spinner rings offer a wide range of design options and are fairly easy to construct. You’ll learn how to size your ring blank and spinner rings. Then, the instructor will demonstrate soldering and ring construction techniques, how to shape and harden the ring, and polishing. Julie will bring lots of design ideas so you can express your individuality in your design!

Spinner Ring

Stackable Rings
Saturday, June 1

Stackable rings are a great way to learn and practice basic metalsmithing skills like sizing, cutting, filing and fitting, soldering, forging, and creating different textures and finishes. You’ll also learn how to solder a prong finding to your ring and set a small stone. An excellent class for beginners and beyond and you’ll leave with a lovely set of handmade rings.

Stackable Rings

I did make major strides in cleaning out my teaching studio this week, once the snow finally all melted and the temperatures seemed to stabilize. Seemed. Today broke a high temperature record for this day at 97. We may have missed our apparent 48 hour annual window for comfortable classes in my non-temperature-regulated studio. I'll keep working at getting it class ready, though; miracles can happen. Right?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hard Getting Back In The Saddle

Once momentum is lost, it's hard to get it back. I've been trying, in fits and bursts, to get back in a creative mode; to get enough exciting projects started that I feel inspired to start planning blogs about them. In my head, if I don't have a week's worth of blog ideas, then I feel like I'm a hack. I do, despite this feeling of inadequacy, work to blog even when I only have the occasional idea. Something is better than nothing. But, my motivation doesn't really start to pick up until I can see a sequence of events. Excellence is that which we do repeatedly. I believe that, but somehow I've come to subconsciously translate that as, "if you don't have a bunch of great things to show off, don't bother."

Hair Sticks Custom Order
Hair Sticks. A custom order from a friend. Something I don't normally do, but based on my frit spacers. Sometimes something new is an important catalyst for the creative spark.

Fortunately, it is possible to turn any kind of energy into creative energy. Getting frustrated enough and wanting to kick a little a$$ help on that front. Gradually I've been turning that frustration into one project, then two. Those projects turn into new projects using old stash items and new design concepts. Finally! Some new ideas that I feel inspired to write about.

Mother's Day: Sheep and Yarn Necklace
My mom's Mother's Day present. Lampwork beads by me (inspired by Julie Libonate).

Ironically, it's when I have those new blog ideas, that I realize the little futzy things I've been working on in my studio were actually blog-worthy, too. So, Sawyer permitting, I'm starting to feel like I'm getting back on track. New blog ideas turn into the motivation to photograph some of my lampwork bead stock I have accumulating, which turn into more sales, which turns into a whole new level of confidence.

While I feel like I'm on the upward swing, the hard climb reminds me what a short time it really takes to let everything go - how important it is to keep plugging away every day, little by little, so all of this effort isn't lost to the currents of chaos.

There's an important quote that I work hard to keep in mind, because it's really, really important:

I don't want to sound arrogant, but I know I'm capable of good work. I'm so proud of the technical ability and attention to detail I was able to summon for my piece for the Bead Soup Blog Party:

Bead Soup Blog Party 7 - Steampunk Necklace

I just hate the frustration I feel when I've worked hard to produce quality work and I see someone with mediocre work outselling me. Talent and hard work. Both. It'd be nice if the hard work could just be applied to talent. Difficult as it is for me, I know that isn't the case. I have to work hard in marketing, in sourcing materials with the highest value for my money, in finding inspiration, staying motivated, and more. So, there's always something to work on - little by little, day by day. But every day, I feel like I've conquered one more thing and each notch on my belt motivates me to achieve a little more tomorrow.

So, ladies and gents, here's to tomorrow. Figure out what you need to do to starve your frustration and see how it empowers you. You may not get sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, but you might find some lost creativity or some lost energy, and you never know where those can take you!

Thanks for coming by!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Best Client

Why is your best client your best client?

For me, and I suspect, for most artists, it isn't wholly about the amount of revenue they represent. I think that it ends up being true that they are your biggest buyers, but I think that's a result of their being your "best client" rather than the cause. Let me explain.

I met my best client while I was working at a local bead and yarn store. Among other things, I made a lot of the jewelry samples for sale in the store and did the jewelry repairs that came in. What I've loved about Marina from the beginning was that, simply, she believed in me. She would bring in a stone and say I want you to make something with this. I need it for event X. She would ask me to do jewelry repairs - things with a strand-full of Tahitian pearls and 14K gold. For me, being given the opportunity to work with such beautiful materials was an inspiration all on its own. I'm not going to say I'd have done it for free - I have a little boy to feed - but to be making money, a significant amount of it, doing something I truly lovee and wasn't just a routine chore is a magnificent motivator I can never truly repay.

When you're challenged, when you're motivated, you make magnificent jewelry! Who wouldn't want to buy that?

Just before the Bead Bash, and before the epic illness I've been whining about, she gave me a new order. I'm embarassed to say that she ended up having to e-mail me to see if aliens had abducted me. Fortunately I'd finished everything but one part, and I get to give her jewels back today.

Marina's Earrings

When Marina gave me these earrings they had a medallion at the top with post earrings - one of which that broke - at the top, a stylized monkey in the middle, and this stylized figure on the bottom. She just wanted to keep the bottom with a new earrings finding. What I love is that Marina doesn't (usually) say, "do whatever's cheapest," she says, "do whatever's best," both aesthetically and in value. I knew that I wanted to use lever back earrings because of their security and relative value, and I wanted them to have a brass disc like on the earring it would hold. Needless to say, I couldn't find any ready-made findings that fit the bill. This ended up being the project I left until last because I knew, simple as it would appear, getting those discs onto that fine silver earring finding would be tricky. I cut some brass discs, dapped them, soldered a jump ring inside and, after removing the hinge and tension spring, soldered them onto the earring finding, then re-riveted the hook and closure back together

Marina's Rings

Marina gave me the ring on the left and said she needed two rings: one (like it is now) with one less wrap and the same size that it was, and one (like the ring on the right) with the same number of coils but a half size bigger. I cut the existing sterling silver ring and carefully balled up the end, filed off the pitting, shaped the new end, and set it in the tumbler with stainless steel shot to harden and polish it. The new ring was made out of 14 gauge (g) fine silver to make balling the ends easier. I measured the original ring at 14g but it must have been a thin 12 gauge, because the new wire was a very thin 14g and was visually different - grrr. It was also set in the tumbler to polish and harden it.

Marina's Tahitian Pearl Bracelet

It's projects like this one that make me dance with joy. Genuine Tahitian pearls that she gets when she visits, yes, Tahiti. That clasp is just stunning. The silk had worn through and needed to be retied. The attached end caps have tie bars inside that you string the silk around so you can pull it snugly against the pearl. That was a sexy feature that I haven't used in my work before ... but will now.

Partly because she had to wait, and partly as a thank-you for her generous patronage, I made her a simple gift. She has a cabin on Lake Superior, so I thought she'd like the water-and-wave-like theme. The small gemstone cluster accent has topaz-colored tourmaline, iolite, and blue sapphire. I included a sterling makers tag on the back of the cluster.

Lampwork Pendant with Gemstone Fringe

I hope she likes it! Is it totally selfish to hope her friends like it, too?

Thank so much for checking in! What are you working on?