Monday, April 16, 2018

04.16.18 Celebration - reprise

Tzimmes for first night Seder
Last year, when I wrote about Passover, I began my post by saying...

Ostensibly, this is a blog about jewelry, but you (gentle reader) and I both know that sometimes I write about jewelry, and other times I use it as an excuse to write about something else.  This post is very much in the latter category.

Well, this year my Passover post really IS about jewelry - a very special piece given to me by my dear friend, Don, who - along with his wife - has hosted the first night Seder we have attended for going on 15 years.

From year to year, the number of folks in attendance at the Seder varies - it's been really big (upwards of 30) and smaller (a dozen or so people), but regardless of the size, I take tzimmes and Don pays careful attention to the seating arrangements. Some years we have been seated together as a family, other years we've been spread out - and the idea is that over the celebratory meal we will talk to new people - or at least people we don't see very often.

Ricky Frank teaching at Creative Side Jewelry Academy
Photo credit: CSJA
In the spring of 2015 I had just started taking metalsmithing classes, and had talked about it a little bit over dinner with Don's wife, Sherry and his mom, Jean.

In 2016, Don seated me across from Jean - she remembered our conversation about jewelry, and asked if I was still taking classes. I told her that indeed I was.

We began to talk about a jeweler she knew well - cloisonne master Ricky Frank.  Jean and Don's dad, Peter, knew Ricky's parents and had been friends since their days as college students.

As it happened, Ricky was going to be teaching in the coming week at Creative Side - although I wasn't signed up for his class.  One day shortly after the Seder, when I arrived at the studio, I said hello to Ricky before he started teaching and told him about my connection to Jean. We agreed that it was a very small world, and it was clear that he had a great fondness for her.

Jean's pendant
I saw Jean at Seder again last year (2017), shortly before she was scheduled to have heart surgery.  She was very pleased to hear that I had connected with Ricky.

Sadly, the surgery turned out to be more complicated that expected - and she never recovered.  My heart broke for Don, and his family.

This year, when we arrived for Seder, Don said he had something he wanted to "pass over" to me - it was this beautiful Ricky Frank pendant that belonged to his mother. I was so honored, and moved by his gift that honestly, I'm still processing the depth of my emotions even as I write this post.

I also knew immediately that I would wear it with my mom's gold hoop earrings - which I wrote about in one of my earliest posts.  In fact, just a week after receiving the pendant, I wore it with the earrings, to the ballet.

Every piece of jewelry really does tell a story - and the story of this pendant is one of lifelong friendships and deep connection. It is truly a treasure.

Until next time.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

04.02.18 Wildflower season

Photo credit - SmartSeeds
I love spring - and not just because I hate winter. The sun comes back - the days get longer and warmer, and in Central Texas, mother nature paints virtually every patch of open space with vibrant color!

It's starts with deep purple mountain laurel, which smells like the most fragrant grape kool aid you can imagine when it blooms.

Photo credit - Emily Ling

Then come the wildflowers popping up along the sides of the road. No matter my mood, I can't help but smile when I see the bright colors - blue bonnets, yellow black eyed Susans, pink primroses and red paint brush in the medians on city streets and along the sides of the highway.

Jewelry inspired by wildflowers is certainly nothing new.  I have vintage pieces from long time Texas jewelers Jeep Collins and James Avery that belonged to my late mother.  More recently I discovered the work of fellow Austinite (and fabulous instructor) Vickie Hallmark.
Photo credit - Vickie Hallmark

When I first spotted her mountain laurel earrings, I knew I had to have them! Then, after taking a precious metal clay class with her, I asked if she would make me a pair of bluebonnet earrings - and she did.

Photo credit - Vickie Hallmark
If you follow my daily earring posts on Instagram, you know that both of these pairs are in regular rotation - especially this time of year.

Inspired by the landscape, these jewelers, and my love of the saw - I started creating my own variation on the wildflower theme -  pendants made from millefiori and vintage glass with a Texas cut out on the back.

I'm excited to report that a few of my Texas themed pieces are now available at Russell Korman Jewelers here in Austin. I have a long relationship with these folks, and was thrilled when they asked me if I would be interested in having my work in the store.
Photo credit - Russell Korman Jewelers

Spring is definitely a time of new beginnings - and I'm excited to see where things go from here.  I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me by liking, commenting on and sharing my posts, reading the blog - and, of course, buying my jewelry.

It definitely takes a village, and I love the new creative home I have found.

Until next time.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

03.19.18 Soon found out, I had a heart of glass...

I've been using glass cabochons in my jewelry for a while now, and as I have said before, I've developed an increasing interest in learning more about glass fabrication.

When we were out at the Salado Glassworks last year, owner and master glass artist Gail Allard recommended that I look into classes at Blue Moon Glassworks (which, as it happens is five minutes from my house) - so that's exactly what I did.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting about my classes - and hopefully - ideas for incorporating fused glass into my jewelry.

We started with a very simple impression project - and a technique know as kilnforming -  cutting shapes out of a heat resistant fiber board, and then placing the glass over the form before firing.

I decided to stick with a motif that I am familiar with - Texas and hearts. I've learned that - especially in the beginning - it's important to keep designs simple. I cut out the Texas and a small heart, and we glued them to a piece of special paper that doesn't stick to the glass when firing, and then placed two sheets of glass - one clear and one colored - on top before fusing.  The result is an impression glass plaque - suitable for hanging in a window.

The second project was more involved - requiring cut pieces of colored glass to create a design on a six inch square.  Our instructor advised us to have a good idea of what we wanted to do before class.

I have long loved the work of Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian - so I went looking for a simple example of his work to use for my design.  With a quick Google search I found exactly what I was looking for.

To get the look I wanted, I started with a black base and colored opaque glass for the top layer. I cut and arranged the squares so that black lines would show through after the pieces fused together.

I am thoroughly delighted with the end result!

I'm also excited about learning new things - there are three more weeks in the introductory class, and I've already signed up for my first open studio.

Stay tuned as I start to experiment with ideas for incorporating glass projects into my jewelry.

Until next time.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

03.05.18 The Passage of Time

My hollow form earrings -
I like them with this necklace
Time passes more quickly once you become a parent...I know this because it seems like just yesterday that our youngest was born, and yet she will graduate from college in less than 100 days.

I was thinking about this when I pulled out one of my many "mom" necklaces to wear on a quick trip to Boston a couple of weekends ago.

I went to visit our daughter who has been criss-crossing the country to do interviews at graduate programs. School was on February break, and she had a few days off between trips. I thought it would be nice to squeeze in a little extra rest, some good food and a few hours of fun.

Rather than having her schlep home - I decided to do the traveling.

The Boston skyline - from our hotel room

As if it to remind me how time flies - and how much things change - this picture popped up in my Facebook memories reminding me that it's been almost exactly five years since she and I made our initial trip to Boston to look at colleges.

One of our tour guides invited her to see the organic chemistry lab - where, it turns out, she would spend a significant amount of time over her four years (she's an organic chemistry TA and a biochemistry major).

I on the other hand - would not set foot in a jewelry studio until almost two years later!

During her time there, she has come to love Boston - the food, the arts and culture, and the extensive if not always easy to navigate system of mass transit. 

On previous visits she has shown us the city and introduced us to some of her very favorite places.  We crammed several of them in on the last afternoon of this visit.

Our first stop was Tatte bakery - where we had a fabulous lunch and dessert -

then on to the Museum of Fine Arts, because I really wanted to see the "Past is Present" exhibit of contemporary jewelry based on ancient themes.

Photo credit: MFA Boston

I have to admit, that based on the previews for the exhibit - and that it was underwritten by Cartier - I expected it to be bigger.  There were only about 70 pieces - but it was still very interesting.

The first case focused on ancient themes that had been recreated by contemporary jewelers - and featured this scarab brooch by Cartier - placed next to a very similar Egyptian antiquity.

There was also a case full of jewelry with pieces that depicted images of travel destinations.  I really liked these, because as I have written before, I don't wear t-shirts, but I love to buy jewelry as souvenirs.

I didn't see anything in the museum shop cases that I wanted to take home - but that's okay - the best souvenir from this trip was the chance to spend a sunny afternoon making memories.

Until next time.

Friday, February 16, 2018

02.19.18 Girl Power

 When I took Marlene Richey's jewelry business class last year, one of the things she recommended was becoming a member of the local chapter of the Women's Jewelry Association. Recently I did just that - and attended my first meeting. It was wonderful not only to get to know the women behind so many of the brands and stores I have shopped for years, but to be in a room full of smart, creative, empowered women.

That's what WJA does - it brings together women in the jewelry industry (which, like so many things, has been traditionally male dominated) and provides opportunities for networking, mentoring, business development and training.

The Austin chapter is relatively new - and I'm excited to be a part of it.

It was fun to visit with Sara Dominguez and Elizabeth Gibson of Eliza Page - where I have shopped for years - most recently for this sweet Hamsa ring that was one of my daughter's Hanukkah gifts.

Photo credit:
Jodi Rae Designs
I also met Leigh Navarro, whose line, Leighelena I first purchased years ago at Blue Genie, and Jodi Rae Brownstein' whose bright colored druzies and bold stones have always caught my eye!

I met some new folks, too...

Me, Jodi and Amanda
Amanda Deer, whose East Austin studio is home to both her store front and work space. Not too long ago, I stopped by her charming shop. Her jewelry is fun and delicate - and I see her pieces in my daughter's future!

Haley LeBeuf, whose architectural jewelry has found it's way into my heart and on to my ears - because as I've said so many times before - there are NEVER too many earrings.

Haley was wearing these included crystal drops from her new "Violet Crown" line at the WJA event - and I have since added a pair to my own collection.

Photo credit: Haley LeBeuf
A couple of weekends after the meeting, Jodi held a "Tiny Tucson in Austin" gem sale. I went and had a wonderful time!  I bought some beautiful cabochons, pearls for the birthstone series I am doing with my wind chime earrings, and got to visit with other Austin jewelers.

In addition to all the pretties for sale - Jodi had an amazing cake - which was as delicious as it was beautiful.

So far, 2018 is off to a really good start - and I look forward to sharing more of my jewelry adventures with you!

Until next time.

Monday, February 5, 2018

02.04.18 Bird Watching

Gentle readers - I know some of you like winter, but at this point, I'm just hunkered down and waiting for spring.

Over the holidays we spent some quality time with our kiddos at my mother in law's house.  Because we are in Texas, she has birds in her yard all year long - and it was on a previous visit to her house that I was inspired to put a hummingbird on the back of one of my pieces.

No sooner did I post a photo of this chrysocolla pendant than I had a message from someone asking if it was already sold (it was not).

So...I started thinking more about birds.

When I was visiting my college roommate this past summer, we spent several wonderful hours sitting out her lovely deck watching all varieties of feathered friends came to dine at her well stocked bird feeders.

There is a pair of cardinals who make their home in one of her big trees and they appeared every evening, almost like clockwork, for their evening meal.

Thinking about this pair - and the folklore that surrounds cardinals (some people say when one visits, it is the spirit of a loved one who has passed) - I decided that it would be perfect for the back of this wonderful piece of vintage red glass.  I named it "The Visitor" - and it is available in my Etsy shop.

I did another hummingbird pendant, this one a labradorite - and again - it got snapped up as soon as I posted a photo of the piece in progress.

Then there's the "Happy Bird Day" pendant.  When I first posted a photo of this fabulous rainbow fluorite, a friend of mine went crazy over it...she wrote "LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this shape and stone"...and I thought, well - I know what she's getting for her birthday!  I especially like the way a shadow of the cut out is visible through the translucent stone.

My most recent bird may be my favorite.  It's a speckled hen. As soon as this dendritic opal arrived, all I could see were black and white feathers and I knew that I had to put a chicken on the back.

I realize that chickens don't fly - so they aren't like the other birds in this group - but it's my blog so I can put it in here if I want to.

Even though most people don't see them, the backs really are my favorite part of my pendants and cutting them out is the part of the process I enjoy the most.

If you have a favorite bird, let me know - I'd love to tell your story.

Until next time.

Monday, January 22, 2018

01.22.18 Hacked

Jewelry hack kit
Late last year I got the following message from a friend -

One day towards the end of 2017, two women went for a walk... And we talked. A lot. We realized that we each knew how to do certain things to make our lives a touch easier and joked that we should have a Life Hacks Party to find out all of the things our friends know, too.

That joke is turning into a real thing.

Join us for a Saturday of idea-sharing to help make 2018 a bit more manageable!

I started thinking about what I knew that would be useful and it dawned on me - many people love their jewelry, but don't know how to do simple repairs or keep it cleaned and polished - but I do!  So I put together some small hack kits - a pair of silicon ear nuts, a square of anti-tarnish paper and a small piece of Sunshine cloth - packed up my hand tools and some earring findings, and off I went.

I also created a "jewelry hack list" on Amazon, so that after the event folks could go buy more of anything they wanted - including some relatively inexpensive tools to do their own simple repairs.

It was an incredibly fun afternoon - I showed folks how to replace an ear wire, keep their jewelry polished and talked about repairs and even recycling old jewelry.

It was wonderful to meet so many smart, talented women - and as a bonus, I walked away with some great recipes, time and money saving tips, and new friends (and even sold a pair of earring!).

I hope your new year is off to a good start!

Until next time.