Monday, September 18, 2017

09.18.17 Beach Week

Getting our three adult children and their significant others in the same place at the same time is kind of like a game of Tetris. Last year (2016) we couldn't make it happen over the summer, although we were together for Thanksgiving...and that's when I started planning for vacation this year.

By May, plans were well underway. I'd arranged a Saturday to Saturday rental in Rehoboth Beach - only a couple of hours from DC, where both our sons and their girlfriends live - and made arrangements for the rest of us to fly in.

I was excited - not just to see everyone - but that we were going to be there for the Rehoboth Art League's Summer Outdoor Fine Art and Craft Show.

Friday morning we were packed up and ready to go when I received a text saying our flight was cancelled...I was not having it.  I had worked too hard to arrange for us to all be together.

Fortunately, through the wonders of the internet (and some very helpful folks at Southwest Airlines), I was able to get us on another flight out the next morning, so we were able to pick up our daughter at the airport and the keys to our rental house in plenty of time.  The rest of our crew arrived later that evening and our beach week was underway.

Sunday morning I got up and made crème brûlée French toast (because...vacation) before we headed to Helopen Acres for the art show.

Show program and souvenirs

The weather and the setting could not have been more perfect! It was 75 degrees and sunny, the trees were green and the sky was bright blue!  There was food, Dogfish Head beer, and of course, lots and lots of art to see!

With Hannah Long

I didn't have to wander far before I found Hannah Long, a fellow member of the Aspiring Metalsmiths group on Facebook.  In fact, had it not been for Hannah, I might not have known about the art show at all.  She had posted on the group page that she was going to have a booth - so finding her was at the top of my to do list.

I've written before about the wonderful people I've gotten to know - mostly online - in the metalsmithing community.  It was a really special treat to have a chance to visit with Hannah (and shop her gorgeous jewelry) in person.  I couldn't resist a pair of her fabulous geode earrings - not only did she set them, she did all the lapidary work too!

I didn't want to monopolize Hannah all afternoon, so I ambled on and found another jewelry artist - Courtney Gillen - whose silver, sea glass and pearl pieces spoke to me as well. Immediately I spotted her pearl vine earrings (there was only one pair) and I knew if I walked away without them, they'd be gone by the time I got (no surprise) I snapped them up.

We stayed at the show a little longer - my family was happy, they had beer; I was happy, I'd purchased two pair of souvenir earrings (to go along with the pair I bought at Taliesin in Wisconsin) - and we headed back to the house.

The rest of the week was wonderful - although it went too fast - and I'm already thinking about where we will go next year (perhaps I should search for more art shows...hmm...).

Until next time.

Friday, September 1, 2017

09.01.17 Harvey

Hurricane Harvey as seen by the ISS.
Photo credit: New York Times
I normally post on Monday, but things are not exactly normal right now.

I was planning to tell you about our wonderful family vacation at Rehoboth Beach - but that's going to have to wait...because at the moment Texas coastal towns are on my mind more than any in Delaware.

We knew this storm was going to be bad, really bad...and we've seen big hurricanes before.

My husband - who grew up in south Texas - lived through Carla. His family still lives in Houston, where they spent almost two weeks without power after Ike. After Katrina, Houston, and our hometown of Austin took in thousands of refugees.

Nothing anyone had ever seen prepared us for Harvey. Nothing.

Photo credit: Emily Cawood
Thursday night before the storm hit, we agreed that my mother in law should come up to Austin and stay with us - so my husband drove to Houston and back to get her.  For three days we sat at our house in the pouring rain (but otherwise fine), with the TV on, and watched as the devastation hit.

First the coastal towns where we have had family vacations - Rockport, Corpus Christi and Port Aransas; then Victoria - where my college roommate and her family lived for many years before moving to Wisconsin; then Houston, where it seemed the rain would never let up. Harvey dumped more than four feet of water on the Texas Gulf Coast, and there's no telling how long it will take to rebuild - let alone truly recover.

We all want to DO something - and in the short term - the most important thing those of us who were not impacted can do is donate to the relief effort.  Financial donations are best - because they allow the organizations on the ground to obtain the goods and services they need to help those who have been impacted.  I have a list of organizations on my Facebook page if you want to help.

Many Texas artists have stepped up to support and donate to relief efforts.  I participated by donating a surfite pendant to an online Harvey Relief Auction (today through 9/3 on Instagram) - and 100% of the proceeds will be donated the Houston Food Bank and Global Giving.

For the remainder of the year - throughout the holiday season - I'll be donating a portion of my jewelry sales to the relief efforts.  For every custom Texas pendant  I sell from now until the end of the year - 20% of the price (which will vary based on the type of stone and size of the pendant) will be donated to Houston's relief efforts.

The last few weeks have been difficult - and I am anxious to get back to the bench, and to return to blogging about less serious topics - like vacation.

I hope this finds you safe, well and dry.

Until next time.

Friday, August 18, 2017

08.21.17 Art and Architecture (Wisconsin - Part 2)

Kerry's butterfly
**We now return to our regularly scheduled programming**

We didn't JUST eat pie for week - Kerry also toured me around south central Wisconsin to see some wonderful sights.

Before we went to Hubbard Avenue for our first slice, we had a wonderful morning at the Vinery Stained Glass Studio taking a fused glass class.  Since going to the Corning Museum of Glass last summer, and recently spending time at Salado Glassworks, I've become more and more interested in learning about glass and with an eye towards incorporating it into my jewelry.
With our finished garden stakes

For over than 30 years, the Vinery has offered art glass supplies and classes in Madison.  Kerry had taken classes there already, including a fused glass class where she made a butterfly garden stake.  As luck would have it - there was another garden stake class scheduled for the first weekend I was there - so we signed up.

We had a great time creating our floral stakes - two each.  We decided that we would each keep one of our own, and swap one - as keepsakes from our week together. When we picked them up - we were delighted to see that our designs were being featured on the the flyer for the next class!

Our next "art" outing  was a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's home and architecture school at Taliesin.  Wright's family had deep roots in Spring Green, Wisconsin, which is only about an hour from Madison, so Kerry signed us up for a half day tour of the campus - which included both the school he built and the home where he lived most of his tumultuous life.

We got there early, giving me time to wander through the gift shop in the visitors center where I spotted, among other things, some lovely glass earrings (it was clear fused glass was going to be a theme for this trip).

I was further intrigued when I turned the earring card over and learned that the artists - both immigrants - create their work using both original art and recycled glass.

Earrings from Momo Glassworks
We took the tour - which I highly recommend if you are ever in the area - and we returned to the visitors center. Without much more hemming and hawing, I decided that I needed this pair of earrings, and that they would make a wonderful souvenir.

In addition to traipsing through the buildings at Taliesin, we walked off our many slices of pie on a number of other outings...

We spent a wonderful day in the artists community of Mineral Point where we wandered in and out of delightful shops (and maybe did a little holiday shopping - but of course - I can't post pictures of those purchases here).

One of the many gorgeous restored
wagons at the Circus World Museum

As I mentioned in my previous post, Baraboo was the home of the Ringling Brothers, and while there, we visited the Circus World Museum.  There was plenty to walk around and see, including  their wonderful collection of restored circus wagons and an hour long one ring show under their big top!

On our way home - after our pie - we stopped at Wollersheim Winery for a tour and tasting (and of course, more cheese).

We spent the last day before the guys rolled in from their week in Iowa exploring downtown Madison - including another Frank Lloyd Wright landmark - Monona Terrace, with beautiful gardens facing the state capitol and a rooftop cafe overlooking Lake Monona.

It was a wonderful week - and I have some lovely mementos of my trip - but more than any trinket I could pack up and bring home, I am grateful for the time with my college roommate and friend of more than 30 years.  We picked up - talking, laughing, cooking and eating - right where we left off when we were much younger...and we don't plan to wait nearly so long to do it again.

Until next time.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

08.16.17 Charlottesville

I graduated from the University of Virginia in 1985.  This is my class ring.  Since this is ostensibly a jewelry blog, here's a picture - but this is not a typical post.  It's not going up on a Monday, and it's not about jewelry - it's about Charlottesville.

What happened last weekend in this city that I hold near and dear has shaken me to my core.  I've seen several posts along the lines of "can't we all just get along" or "can't we just talk about something else"?

No and no...and because I write a blog, I am going to use it to speak out.

We can't "all just get along". I will never, ever, ever "get along" with people who are filled with hatred and spew vile, racist, xenophobic, homophobic rhetoric and march through our streets with symbols of Nazism and weapons in an attempt to intimidate and harm people who don't look or think like they do.

We can't "talk about something else" because that's how we got here. Talking about our country's history is hard - because there is a whole lot of ugly stuff - but we can't move forward until we acknowledge that as great as our nation is (and I do believe that), much of it was built by slaves - and there continue to be white men (not exclusively, but largely) who want to hold on to wealth and power at the expense of everyone else.

We must acknowledge that the man who currently sits in the Oval Office is an avowed racist who knew exactly what he was doing when he courted white supremacists in order to win both the nomination of the Republican party and the electoral vote.

The Nazis who marched through Charlottesville don't scare me nearly as much as the people who just "want to be nice". As a survivor of WWII who has been quoted recently said:

"Nice people make the best Nazis. They got along, refused to make waves and looked the other way when things got ugly."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

08.07.17 On Wisconsin!

Photo credit:

Greetings readers!  I told you I had lots of plans this summer - and I recently spent a week of it in America's Dairyland.

My college roommate and her husband have a lovely home (and a beautiful garden) just outside Madison, WI (which, for purposes of this trip, is not too far from Iowa - certainly not as far away as Texas).

This matters because our husbands thought it would be great fun to get on their bikes and ride upwards of 400 miles across Iowa in a they signed up for RAGBRAI (the Des Moines Register's Great Bike Ride Across Iowa).

Kerry's garden
Kerry and I had absolutely no interest in the ride, and thought it would be much more fun to spend some time together catching up and doing touristy things - so that's exactly what we did.  We went on an art and pie filled tour of south central Wisconsin.

I had always planned to write a blog post about the trip - but turns out - it's going to take two. So, here's Wisconsin - part 1.

One of many pie updates -
apple and cherry
With her quick wit and mad baking skills, Kerry was the inspiration behind my Cherry Pi pendant, which I took to her as a hostess gift.

In return, she saw to it that I was appropriately "pie'd" during my visit (as were the guys, who sent regular updates with photos of the slices they ate along their route).  It's important to understand that pie and cheese are to Wisconsin as barbecue and tacos are to Texas...and people have very strong feelings about them.

Our pies - apple walnut caramel and chocolate silk

Our pie tour started in Madison, at the Hubbard Avenue Diner, where we went after taking a glass fusing class (details about that in the next post).  Words and photos don't do these slices justice - the apples and walnuts were still crisp (a must, as I have learned - the fruit should still be recognizable, and not mush), the crust was flaky, and I ate every bite.

On our way home, we made a stop at Carr Valley Cheese.  I told you - these people take their cheese very, very seriously.
That's a whole lotta cheese!

From there, we went home and enjoyed wine, cheese and the gorgeous weather (which was a wonderful respite from the 100s we'd been having in Austin).

The following day, Kerry made our next pie, which was probably my favorite all week...perhaps because it was made by request, and contained some of my favorite flavors - tomato, basil and cheese.

That's right, not all pies are sweet, there are lots of recipes for savory pies...and this one took the cake (so to speak)!

I kept eating this one - for lunch and dinner - all week!

Kerry makes baking pie look deceptively easy - as does any artist who is a master at their craft.  She puts flour, butter, salt, water and some magic into her food processor; plops the dough out onto her floured counter, pulls out her rolling pin and - voilà - pie crust.

The next day we took a short road trip to Baraboo, the home of the Ringling Brothers, to visit the Circus World Museum and dine at the Log Cabin Restaurant where we had (you guessed it) more pie.

Peanut butter cream for Kerry, caramel apple for me

You can order pie as a side item (instead of french fries or a vegetable) and Kerry told me in advance that was the way to go.  I was glad she did, because even with just a turkey sandwich for lunch - I couldn't finish my dessert.

You'd think by now I might be pie'd out - but I wasn't.  There were two more fruit pies in my future...peach and mixed berry...the last of which Kerry sent home with us, and I polished off before diving into almost two weeks of ignored emails and held snail mail.

We didn't JUST eat pie - we had some great Italian food (including cannoli for dessert) and saw some wonderful sights. But the pie was so good, it deserved it's own post.

More about the trip next time...

Sunday, July 23, 2017

07.24.17 Everything's bigger in Texas

I love doing custom work - there is a special sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes from taking an idea or request from a client, and turning into a piece of jewelry that tells their story. When a request comes from a fellow artist - well, making that kind of piece is truly an honor.

I've purchased a number of wonderful cabochons from Chip and Deborah Allen, including this beautiful Kingman turquoise. They are wonderful folks.  I've gotten to know them through the Cabs and Slabs facebook group - and it turns out that they, too, are Texans.

Not too long ago, I had a message from Chip asking if he could send me another piece of Kingman so that I could make a custom pendant for Deborah.  I said "of course" and "thank you" because his request is an enormous complement.

When the stone arrived, I was not surprised by the quality - but I was amazed at the size - and excited to get started working on the pendant.

Deborah had seen some of my other pieces with Texas cut outs on the back, so she knew that was what she wanted. Because of the size of the stone, I made the cut out almost a full square inch - so lots of the color could show through on the back.

I used the same style as the other piece of Kingman - serrated bezel surrounded by twisted wire - to set this piece, but because of it's size, it needed a substantial bail rather than just a small wire loop.

This style of setting has become something of a signature for me - I love the look that I get when I put a patina on the twisted wire and then give the whole piece a high polish.

The last step before setting the stone is making sure there are no scratches or patina in the wrong places, then I hand polish, both the pendant and a chain that has been oxided to match, with a Sunshine cloth.

I'm really pleased with the finished piece, and delighted to have had the opportunity to make something so special for people I am glad to call my friends.

The Allens are among many of the wonderful folks I have met in my metalsmithing journey - hopefully we'll meet in person on one of their trips through Texas.

Until next time.

Monday, July 10, 2017

07.10.17 Can I see some ID?

Our daughter (and youngest child) turned 21 the end of last year, right before she took her finals - which meant no real celebrating.

When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she said "some Southwest drink coupons please, so I can have an adult beverage on the flight home".  I said "ok" and put some in her birthday card - and she toasted to the end of her semester at 30,000 feet.

Maybe it was that conversation that planted the seed in my brain that led to my series of "adult beverage" pendants...maybe not...but the theme has sort of taken on a life of its own...

First, there was the wine glass, which I liked so much I kept - and then decided to keep a pair of earrings because they match... came the margarita...

I bought this great amazonite heart, and to me it looked just like the color of that wonderful frozen concoction of lime and tequila - so I thought, that's what I'll put on the back!  It turned out great (and has since sold) - but I was definitely on a roll.

A few weeks later, while having dinner at Dai Due, one of our favorite spots in Austin, I had a fabulous summer shandy (beer mixed with orange juice, lemonade - or my favorite - grapefruit juice).  I'm not a huge beer drinker, but this was a wonderful grapefruit gose combined with fresh squeezed juice and it was amazing!  It was also inspiring - as I had been looking at some fossilized coral cabochons - which look like citrus slices.
I'm particularly proud of the Summer Shandy pendant because the saw work was tricky.  I wanted to leave just enough silver in the cut out to separate the glass and the fruit wedge - and I managed that - then I had to be very careful with torch to make sure I didn't melt it!

Next up a martini - using this great piece of rutilated quartz - because it turns out my daughter (who has become a student of cocktails) is a fan of a dry, dirty gin martini (as was Julia Child).

What ever your drink of choice - I hope you find time this summer to lift a glass, visit with friends, and enjoy.

Until next time.
Photo credit: