Thursday, December 21, 2017

12.25.17 2017, That's a wrap.

It's hard to believe that I've been at this for three years...

- I've written more than 150 posts,

- sold more than 50 pieces of handcrafted jewelry,

- donated over $1,000 in jewelry and proceeds to campaigns, charities and social justice organizations from the sale of Art for Good pendants,

- met many new people,

- and you, dear readers, have visited this blog more than 15,000 times.

Thank you.

I'll be back in 2018 with more stories about my journey. I hope you will continue to travel with me.

Until next time.

Monday, December 11, 2017

12.11.17 Happy Accidents (part 2)

In the same shipment as the turquoise chips, there were several pairs of drilled bars for earrings.  Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in shipping, one of the stones cracked.

I contacted my sellers, who promptly sent me a new pair of stones, but I hated the idea of not being able to do something with the broken one...

I asked a number of folks I know who work with stones if because it was a clean break, I could glue the pieces back together?

I knew I wouldn't be able to sell the earrings, but if it worked - I could keep them.

With information about the type of glue to use (clear drying two part jewelry epoxy) and some good instructions, I put the pieces back together, wrapped them with painters tape and waited to see how it turned out.

Lo, and behold - it worked!  If you hold them close and look very carefully you can still see the seam where the stone was repaired, but you have to know it's there.

There were several other pairs of stones in my order, and they made their way into my shop, but I'm still feeling pretty proud of myself for mending these...

...and I'm really enjoying wearing them.

Until next time.

PS - my time in the booth doing descriptive audio narration for the Nutcracker went really well! Here's a bonus picture of me - with my script and microphone - just before the show!

Monday, November 27, 2017

11.27.17 Happy Accidents (part 1)

I have so much to be thankful for - this season and all year long...

...including the good fortune to have gotten to know some wonderful lapidary artists that I can call on for custom stone orders.  Recently, I ordered a big batch of turquoise from my friends the Allens, and along with the gorgeous cabochons and earring pairs, there was a string of turquoise beads.

I started thinking about what I might be able to do with them...and it occurred to me that they would make great earrings.

I had just finished a second batch of hammered bar earrings with turquoise cabochons, and started thinking about pairing the beads with hammered silver as well.

Furthermore, when I cut the backplates for my pendants, I always end up with pieces of rectangular scrap silver that are almost always too small to use, except maybe for a really small stone or a bail.

So I thought I'd play around with those small pieces and the beads.

I started with long bars - a variation on the theme of my hammered earrings with cabochons. When I had used up all the larger scrap, I cut some small (half inch on a side) squares and decided to see how those looked...

I was surprised how much I liked the diamond I hammer textured and cut up all the scrap I had left to make a few more pairs.  They are available in the Etsy shop.

I'm so pleased with this "happy accident" design that I'm considering some other stones - because I will certainly have more scrap silver.  So watch this space - because there's sure to be more to come.

Until next time.

Monday, November 13, 2017

11.13.17 I Must Be Nutz

The physicist and the biochemist in 2004
I became a Nutcracker parent (and docent) in the fall of 2004.  I continued in my role - working back stage, driving carpool, making sure we had the right colored ballet slippers - for the next 10 years, until my daughter graduated from high school and headed off to college.

Over the years, I created a charm bracelet for her with each of the roles she danced...and I acquired some Nutcracker jewelry of my own.

After I was done with the schlep, I continued to be a docent - both at the our neighborhood elementary, and at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  When I go, I usually wear one of my Nutcracker pins (along with my Ballet Austin Docent name tag).

This year, I've taken on a new role -  learning to do descriptive narration for blind and visually impaired ballet patrons.  If you had told me even a couple of years ago that I would spend hours in front of the computer painstakingly taking notes about dancers, costumes, and sets so that I could write a script to describe them in excruciating detail...I am sure I would have scoffed at you.  But that is exactly what I am doing.

29 handwritten and 18 typed pages

While it does give me the warm fuzzies to learn this new set of skills - I am not motivated entirely by altruism...

My father was a world renowned theoretical physicist.  He received numerous accolades and held a variety of senior positions at the US Department of Energy during his career - including serving as the Chief Scientist for the Superconducting Supercollider.

Yep - he was a bona fide genius.  But at the end of his life, his razor sharp mind was dulled by dementia, and one of the things I learned in the process of helping to care for him - and coming to terms with his death - is that learning new things in middle age, and later in life, may prevent or at least delay the onset of dementia.

So - along with learning metalsmithing - I decided that becoming a descriptive narrator was something that I could do for my community and for myself.

In 2013, Ballet Austin bought new sets and costumes for the production.  We bought our daughter an ornament on the tree, on the back it has her name and says Cast Member 2004-2013 - so she could always be part of the production - my name is not there.

She, and the rest of my family think it's "cool" but also more than a little hilarious that after saying that I'd be done with the Nutcracker when my daughter was - that hasn't happened yet.

Until next time

Monday, October 30, 2017

10.30.17 Shameless Self Promotion

For quite a while - even before I was making them - I was posting my earrings of the day on Instagram with the hashtag #todaysearrings.  A few weeks ago I got the bright idea that if I had a similar pair of earrings - or other piece of jewelry - in my Etsy shop, I should post that, too.

Lo and behold - I woke up the next morning - and one of the pairs of fluorite earrings I'd posted the day before had sold!

One of the most amusing things about Etsy is that when you make a sale, the app notifies you with a "cha-ching" sound, like an old cash register.  Nothing like a little positive reinforcement to encourage me to keep posting pictures of what's for sale right next to what I'm wearing each day.

So, after two years of writing posts encouraging you to shop local - either in Austin, your own community, or online - this year I'm going plug my work.

I'm really excited about the upcoming holiday season - and would love if it if one of my pieces made it's way on to your gift list (either to give or receive)...and I'm really trying to have a few things at every price point. Choosing a piece of handmade jewelry (or other art) as a gift says "I care about you".

All of my rings and earrings are under $100.  Now, I know $100 can be a lot of money for some folks - and I understand that - but when you are buying handmade (from me or someone else) you are getting a one of a kind piece, and demonstrating that you value art and creativity.

Pendants are more expensive - starting at $125 - because the stones are larger, there's more silver in them, and they just require more time to create.

My sawing has become faster and cleaner over time, so there is less filing required to complete the backs - but each one is cut by hand (by me) and then I put the pieces together, set the stone and give it all a final polish.

It takes 4-5 hours from start to finish to make a single pendant, but it doesn't feel like work - and the final results make me really happy.

There's still time (although not a lot) for custom orders, if I have a stone in stock, or can get one from a lapidary vendor (I know and work with several who are fabulous).  If you have something special in mind - let's talk.

I want to have a well stocked shop for the holidays - so it's back to the bench.

Until next time.

Friday, October 13, 2017

10.16.17 A Thousand Flowers

Murrine frits (pieces)
Photo credit - TahitiNights on Etsy

The term millefiori means "a thousand flowers" - and describes a particular type of glass made in an ancient tradition.

Millefiori is created using murrine - canes of glass which show intricate patterns when they are cut through.  There is evidence of murrine use as far back as 4,000 years ago - and it has been incorporated into the work of Venetian glassmakers for over 500 years.

The pieces - called frit - can be combined in a number of ways to create either finished pieces (such as paperweights or other decorative glass), cabochons to be used in jewelery, or slabs - which can then be cut by a lapidary artist.

When I made my first Texas Wildflower pendant with a millefiori glass heart, I knew I was on to something...but I had no idea how wildly popular these pendants would be.

I've made several, and they've been flying off the bench - with people claiming them even before they are finished...which is fine with me (because I can't keep everything - and I have to pay for my materials somehow!). Eventually, I do hope to keep one.

However, because they are so popular, I have been going on regular Etsy scavenger hunts trying to find more glass. So far I've been successful - I currently have about a dozen hearts.

As I've said before - I would love to try my hand at glass work - and creating fused millefiori cabochons might be a good place to start.

In the mean time, I'm working with what I can find for sale.  Most recently, I sold three small hearts - all to the same customer - as part of my effort to help with the hurricane Harvey recovery in south Texas.

If you are interested in seeing how millefiori glass is created, take a look at this 5 minute video from "How It's Made".

Until next time.

Monday, October 2, 2017

10.02.17 The White Rose

Perhaps it was inevitable (given my 30 year career in and around government) that policy and politics would find their way into my jewelry blog - that has certainly been the case over the past few months.  Since January, the world has become a different place - and not (in my humble opinion) for the better. The events of this year have had an impact on me, my blog and my jewelry.

Pearl earrings - Rehoboth Art League
I've written about the importance of art in troubled times, the Women's March, and most recently Charlottesville. When I was finally able to return to the studio (after vacation then hurricane Harvey) it felt like therapy...and I decided that the first piece I made would be for me (in part because if I made mistakes because I was out of practice, it wouldn't matter).

I knew exactly which stone I wanted to use. I won a lovely piece of white Howlite in a raffle, and wanted to create a pendant that would go well with the earrings I bought while I was on vacation.
I started thinking about what to put on the back of the pendant, and decided that a rose bud template I hadn't used yet would be perfect. Not only did the design echo the earrings - but I could wear it as a way to remind myself of the importance of daily resistance in the face of hate and injustice.

You see, during Hilter's rise to power there was a group of student resisters who called themselves the "White Rose Movement". Although it certainly was not their original intent, they sacrificed their lives standing up for for the rights and dignity of others.

As a soldier on the eastern front, Hans Scholl had seen firsthand the mistreatment of Jews working as forced labor for German army, and heard of the deportation of others to concentration camps.

When he returned to Munich as a medical student Hans, along with his sister Sophie and fellow students Christoph Probst, Willi Graf, and Alexander Schmorell, founded the movement to speak out against the rise of the Nazi party.  The students secretly distributed leaflets that encouraged others to object to the war - but were turned in to the Gestapo by a member of the university community - and subsequently executed.

As Americans, we like to think (and say) "it could never happen here" - but in fact - it did, when more than 100,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated in camps during WWII...and it could happen again.  Proposals to ban Muslims or deport young people who were brought to this country as children sound just a little too much like rounding up people simply because they are different.

History can be ugly and painful - but it is also full of examples of individuals who chose not to look the other way, not to be silent, and to do these things as considerable personal risk.  These good people - ordinary people doing extraordinary things - walk among us every day.  I want to be one of them - and on the days when that is hard, I will wear this necklace.

Until next time.

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...