Sunday, April 23, 2017

04.24.17 Read My Pins (and GET OFF MY LAWN)

I don't get very many comments on the blog, but when I do - I also get an email notification - and I do a little happy dance...until recently...

After I wrote about the Women's March and my pink pussy cat pendant, someone left a comment that said (essentially) I should stick to jewelry and leave politics out of it (not unlike telling the Dixie Chicks to "shut up and sing").

I deleted the comment (because it was rude, and it IS my blog) and considered sending a private message to the person who posted, but then thought better of it - and I'm putting my response right here - on the blog.

Photo credit:
Jewelry doesn't have to be political - but it certainly can be - and there is no better example of the use of jewelry to make a statement than former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Let me confess right now that I am a huge admirer of Secretary Albright. When her memoir, Madame Secretary, came out I bought and read it immediately.  After reading it, I was so moved that I wrote her a letter. Well, damned if she didn't write me back and send me a bookplate. I treasure that bookplate and her gracious letter.

Years later, after she finished her term as Secretary of State, she wrote another book, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box, in which she describes how she used different pieces of jewelry to express herself as America's most senior diplomat.

On the inside flap of the book jacket she writes:

"Before long and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal.  Former President George H.W. Bush had been know for saying 'Read my lips'. I began urging colleagues to 'Read my pins.'"

Photo credit:
I was fortunate to be able to see the exhibit of pins at the Smithsonian in 2010, just after the book was published - and I spent hours looking at the over 200 pieces of jewelry.

The brooches run the range from molded resin, to plated metal department store costume pieces, to this exquisite diamond encrusted panther from Cartier.
Photo credit: Katel Riou, Cartier

The exhibit of pins continues to travel - it is currently in California at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library through late June.  If it comes to a museum near you, I encourage you to go see it - for both the rich lesson in political history and the beautiful jewelry.

Until next time.

P.S. In support of the March for Science, from now until the end of April - purchase the Cherry Pi or one of 3 Chem Lab pendants currently featured in my Etsy shop and I will donate $20 from each sale to the Nature Conservancy.

Monday, April 17, 2017

04.17.17 What's My Line?

Photo credit: Wikipedia
In the 1950s and 60, the game show What's My Line ran on CBS television.  It featured celebrity panelists trying to guess the line (of work) of a guest.

If I learned anything (and actually, I learned a lot) in my Creative Side class with jewelry business expert Marlene Richey, it was that no one should have to guess what your jewelry is about - everything you say and do to market your work should be as clear to the buyer as it is to you.

Photo credit: Creative Side

I've been in business for myself for a long time - nearly 20 years - as a policy consultant...and there are some things about running your own shop that are the same no matter what you are selling. However, there is a big difference between selling a service, and producing, branding, marketing and selling stuff.

...and when that stuff is a luxury item (jewelry, even moderately priced jewelry is an economic luxury) it's even more important understand the process...

As Marlene said at the very beginning of class, people buy jewelry because they WANT it, and it is always a gift (even if it's a gift to yourself).

Ladybird Wildflower Love Note
What's my line is also a way to think about how pieces of your jewelry work together.  A collection of jewelry is often called a line. Some jewelers only have one line; some have several - and they may or may not mix and match.

When marketing jewelry, it's important to decide if you are going to try to create a line and go into production, or if you want to focus on a wider range of pieces and styles.  My pendants do all have a similar look and feel - but after taking the class - I realize that I might have some "lines" forming.

Currently, on my Etsy site, I have pendants classified as "Love Notes" or "Other Pendants".  I realize that "other" is probably not the best way to try to sell my I'm rethinking those categories.  I like the Love Note theme, and will keep that one -  but I'm considering grouping my western and Texas themed pieces together, as well as creating an "Art for Good" section. Watch the shop for changes, and let me know what you think.

Photo credit:

Marlene literally wrote the book on how to succeed in the jewelry business, and spent two solid days walking us through it step by step, with the benefit of her personal knowledge and wonderful stories. By the end of her class, my head was spinning with new ways to think about approaching my continuing journey.  As always, I'm glad to have you - my blog readers - along for the ride.

Until next time.

Monday, April 3, 2017

04.03.17 Hot Stuff!

We had a great time raising money for Hill Country Ride for Aids and hanging out at the Salado Glassworks a couple of weekends ago.  Watching glass artist extraordinaire and gallery owner Gail Allard and his colleagues heat, shape and blow glass for hours was a blast.

When you walk into the gallery you are met with an explosion of color...there is glass on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, on the shelves - in all sizes and shapes - and all created by Gail and his fellow artisans.

From the gallery you can walk through to the huge studio where, on this particular Saturday afternoon, Gail and three others, were all working together to make amazing creations.

The studio is huge - with bleacher seating so that you can sit and watch (for hours...) as glass artists work their magic.  The process starts with a small amount of clear molten glass (about 2400 degrees and it has the consistency of honey) - called a "gather" - collected on the end of a long pole.

The hot glass is then rolled and dipped into chips of colored glass, heated in a furnace and shaped - often multiple times - before the blowing a small amount of air into the pole and trapping it - causing a bubble to form and expand the size of the glass.

It was amazing to watch one of the guys blow just a puff into the tube, cover the opening and see the glass expand as the air inside got hot.

It's definitely a team effort - and takes at least two people to make a single large piece.  After the air bubble is created, there is a transfer to another pole (made me nervous just to watch) and then the open end is heated, shaped, and you can see the piece evolve until it is finished.

Gail spinning a huge bowl open
Photo credit: Salado Glassworks.
The finished pieces are separated from their poles (another impressive and highly skilled task that appears to involve just a few taps - but watching you know better) and placed in an annealing cabinet to cool.

When I first learned that in glass making the term annealing refers to the slow cooling that takes place to ensure that the piece doesn't crack when subjected to future changes in temperature (such as mug that hold hot coffee or cold beer).

When I first heard someone talk about annealing glass (last summer at the Corning Museum) I was a little confused - because while glass annealing involves cooling, in jewelry making (or most other types of metal work) annealing involves heating the metal to make it more workable.

Photo credit: Creative Side 
As metal is worked, it becomes harder - so you anneal a piece as you go in order to make it softer and ensure it doesn't break as you bend or shape it - because metal, especially argentium silver (my metal of choice) can crack if you stress it when it is too hard.

Back to the glass...I spent a lot of the day watching, and learning - and the staff was so gracious with their time and information - they even sent me home with a couple of trinkets and some glass to play around with.

Until next time (which will be in two weeks - the kiddo is coming home for break - so the blog will be back on April 17)..