Monday, February 19, 2024

02.19.2024 Chain, Chain, Chain...

The second class project in my ACC jewelry techniques class involved making jump rings and connecting them together to create a chain.

Jump rings - for the non-jewelry types - are the open rings used to connect components of a piece together.  They are used to make loops for hooks on earrings, as simple bails for hanging a pendant or to attach a clasp to the end of the chain.

Jump rings - off the mandrel - before being sawed apart

I decided I wanted to fabricate a necklace with graduated links.  I sketched my idea in my notebook, then calculated the size - and how many of each - jump rings I would need.

The inspiration for this necklace came from several other pieces - a beautiful string of graduated pearls my Father brought home to me for my 21st birthday, from a trip to Japan; the Pat Areias silver statement chain I bought last summer in Carmel, and a round push lock charm holder from Cari Streeter, one of my favorite jewelers.

I settled on the design, with the push lock in the front, and small double rings to connect the links. Then I made jump rings...a lot of jump rings.

You can buy preformed jump rings (open - with a cut in the ring, or closed) - but where would be the fun (or learning) in that?  

The facilities at ACC are amazing - and they have all the toys - including a jump ring maker.  You wrap a piece of wire around a mandrel, and put the mandrel in a vice with a crank, turn the handle and voila - a stack of jump rings (that look like a spring).  

Laying out the necklace before fusing the rings
Once you have a coil of rings, the next step is to saw through them one at a time, then finish them by aligning the cut edges and making sure they are truly round.

I made the larger ones (30 for the necklace, plus a few extras) and ordered more small, closed ones from Rio Grande, in order to connect them all together. I'll admit to being more than a little pleased that I didn't melt any!

As I started assembling the necklace, I realized that although it would have the push lock in the front, it really wanted a clasp in the back to make it easier to take on and off, especially since I had decided to add some of Cari's wonderful briolette charms to the clasp.

Push lock clasp and briolettes from Cari
Rather than trying to make more rings and create a clasp in back, I ordered a short (16 inch) rolo chain, and used it to finish the necklace.  A case of working smarter not harder, especially because it only took about 4 inches of chain, and it doesn't show on the front. 

I simple cut the chain, preserving the clasp, and soldered it to the end of the necklace.

I'm so pleased with the finished piece!

It's always great when something turns out as planned

It's always wonderful when a design turns out exactly as I envisioned it (and that doesn't always happen - when I first started metalsmithing classes my visions waaaay exceeded my ability - and I have been away from the bench for quite a while).

I'm also delighted to have jewelry projects to write about again - so watch this space, class continues until May - and I'm planning on signing up for another semester in the fall!

Up next - new techniques for stone setting - starting with this fabulous faceted turquoise (then the tourmaline and opal).

I hope you are enjoying following as much as I am writing about my projects.

Until next time.

P.S. A few of you asked if I'm going to be making things for my Etsy shop, and the short answer - at least for a while - is no.  I had three great markets at the end of 2019, and then as we all know - things changed - and one of the most important things that changed for me was the realization that I've had a career, I built a business, and I don't need to do it again.  Maybe after a semester or two, I'll change my mind - but right now the best part of making jewelry is learning, and being free to do it simply for my own enjoyment.

Friday, January 26, 2024

01.26.2024 Back to School

My bench (for the semester) at ACC
Here we are at the end of January (how did that happen already) - and I realized if I want to start the year with the goal of a post a month, I'd better do something about it...

...happily, I am back at then bench - enrolled as a continuing education student in the Jewelry Department at Austin Community College, so I have things to write about!

It's been a long time (nearly 40 years) since I had a "first day of school" for myself...and I was as excited about it as any kindergartener.

I bought school supplies - metal, wire, sandpaper - and packed up my new tote bag and headed out the door early for my first class a couple of weeks ago.

Design sketch for the piercing assignment
Despite having metalsmithing experience, and an Etsy shop, I decided I wanted to start from scratch and enroll in the Jewelry Techniques 1.

At least for a while, I'm back at the bench solely for myself - with no plans to make anything to sell - I simply want the joy of being creative again.

It might be an introductory class, but we wasted no time getting started.  We hit the ground running - actually working with metal - after taking care of a few administrative things.

My Green Lion saw and 24 square inches of silver
To my great delight, our first project involved my very favorite tool, the saw.  Our first assignment was to design a piece (or in my case, pieces) that would need to be cut from sheet with details created by piercing (sawing the metal).  I decided on a pair of monstera leaf earrings.

It felt so good to have my Green Lion back in my hands, and it turns out it is kind of like any other activity that involves muscle memory - the skills come back pretty quickly.

The inspiration for the earrings came from a pair I bought as a souvenir on our honeymoon.  They were very inexpensive, made of brass, and unfortunately - didn't last very long - one of the earwires broke off, and I wasn't able to get them repaired.  Nonetheless, I've kept them as a memento, and was excited about making something to fill that void (especially since we just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary).

Old and new earrings
I arrived for the second day of class ready to get to work, with my template stickers, my saw and a big shiny new sheet of silver.

I got to work, first drilling small holes to get out the interior part of the design, then carefully moving around the metal with my saw until, at the end of class (and my first week) I had the beginnings of a pair of beautiful earrings.

I also lit the torch for the first time - and made earwires.  I had forgotten just how satisfying it is to watch the little ball of silver form in the flame and crawl up the wire.

I've now finished two weeks of class, and my first project - and I could not be more pleased.   

I am back in my happy place, I have a shiny, new pair of earrings - that of course, have a story - and clearly I'm going to have lots of material for future blog posts.

If you're new to following along on my jewelry adventures - welcome - I've missed sharing them.  If you've been here with me a while, either from the before times or during the pandemic - thanks for hanging around.

Until next time.

Friday, December 15, 2023

12.21.2023 That's A Wrap

2022 ended - and 2023 started - on a rough note.  

Watching the Rose Bowl Parade 
Exactly one year ago, our daughter - who lives in Northern California - was on her way to Austin for winter break (her first flight took off, but then everything was cancelled) when she got stranded in Los Angeles for 3 days.

She never actually made it here and ultimately took a train for 12 hours from LA back to the Bay Area.  Making things worse (yeah, they got worse) while hanging out in airports waiting, but failing to fly out, she got Covid.

We did however, manage to continue our New Year's tradition of watching the Rose Bowl Parade together - virtually.

Ice is never a good thing

Despite hoping for the best - things didn't get much better in the first half of the year.

February brought a horrible ice storm to Austin - we lost power (along with everything in the fridge and freezer) for almost a week - followed by Covid for my husband, 

and me...where the virus overstayed its welcome (ok, it was never really welcome).  Despite testing negative after a week or so, I wasn't really feeling much better...turns out I had ongoing inflammation in my organs, which ultimately led to emergency gall bladder surgery in March.

They took my gallbladder
and gave me socks

Did I mention our daughter had just arrived for her spring break when I went into the hospital?  So much for making up for the missed visit in December.

I spent April, May and June - including celebrating my 60th birthday and Mother's Day - recovering, but I am happy to report that as we end this year, I'm doing quite well.

Fortunately, by summer, things started looking up.

4th of July in Bolivar

We had a fabulous 4th of July trip to the Texas coast with some of our dearest friends.  

We relaxed, ate well and recharged for a very busy fall.  

August, September and October were all about coming and going - to the other two coasts!

Earrings from MB Aquarium
Necklace from Pat Areias
We spent a week in California with our daughter (mostly making up for the two botched visits planned for December and March)...and could not have asked for more perfect weather or beautiful surroundings.  

I'm not sure a could pick a "highlight" from that trip - we saw all manner of coastal marine life - both at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and in their natural habitat, hiked through beautiful scenery, ate incredible food and I came home with fabulous souvenirs - surfite earrings and a stunning silver necklace.  

All of this on top of wonderful, relaxed time together.

McLean Chicks Rock
In September and October I made not one, but two trips to see my high school girlfriends.

The first, in September, was back "home" to Northern Virginia, where we all grew up - and many of them still live - to celebrate with one of our classmates as she marked 20 years of her very successful pop up market business, Chicks Picks by Hillary.

The second, in October, was our annual weekend away - this year in Siesta Key, Florida.
Gal Pal Weekend 2023

I'm not really giving away my age (because I mentioned it earlier) when I tell you that I have know most of these amazing women for nearly 50 years...when we are together, we're all teenagers again and pick up right where we left off...mostly, we're all a little wiser now.

As the year wound down, so did we, quietly - at home.

Our Thanksgiving was small - with only our daughter, and no travel for us - again, we ate well, we shopped and squeezed in some visits with friends.

Who are those kids?
In December, we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary...and I'm not sure where the time - this year or since 1993 - has gone.

Through the ups and downs, I'm reminded how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life, and I am looking forward to more adventures and time together.

I'm also returning to the bench in just a few weeks - starting classes at Austin Community College - so I expect to be posting much more jewelry related content.

Thanks for reading along all these years.

Until 2024. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

11.28.2023 Grateful

Woah, oh I want to know,
Out and about in Siesta Key - wearing my Ciao Bella charms

Where does the time go?

- The Grateful Dead

I'm not sure how it got to be the end of November, let alone almost 2024...but here we are.

In October, I spent another wonderful weekend with my girlfriends, some of whom I've known for almost fifty years.  My love, adoration and gratitude for these women is unbounded...and even just a few days with them restores my soul.

It didn't hurt that we were in Siesta Key with gorgeous weather and beautiful surroundings.

We ate, laughed, walked and took yoga on the beach - where the sand is like powdered sugar - and for a weekend I ignored all my adult responsibilities and the outside world.

I know how fortunate I am - to be able to get away, and even more to have not just one but an entire circle of friends who have known me most of my life and love me.

Ciao Bella charms
from Bamboo Jewelry

I didn't buy any jewelry souvenirs on this trip either (you'll recall I came home empty handed from my jaunt to DC) - it wasn't for lack of trying - but I had just scooped up the fabulous silver necklace from Pat Areias in Carmel on our California vacation.  

I'm not sure I can ever top the souvenir from our inaugural trip to St. Thomas a few years ago.  I bought two of the charms when we visited St. John, and ordered a third - the compass rose - as a way to celebrate a post-Covid return to traveling.  Whenever I need that "girlfriend feeling" I wear these charms - I can definitely feel the love, and maybe even the warm Caribbean sun.

I don't use the word gratitude lightly - I do, truly, have a lot to be thankful for - but we all have tough days and on those days I find that reaching for a particular piece of jewelry can make a difference.

Me - and my jewelry - at the Austin Studio Tour
Most of my jewelry represents tangible reminders of the things that make my life good - a person, a place, a joyous event, an accomplishment.  

Jewelry became my creative outlet before Covid, and I've missed it - but I'm happy to report that it's back in my life.  I participated in the East Austin Studio Tour with  the Creative Jewelry Collective -a group of fellow artists from my days at Creative Side, and I'm going back to the bench in 2024.

I've registered for a metalsmithing techniques course in the Jewelry Department at Austin Community College - and I can barely contain my excitement!  

The class doesn't start until January - but given the way time flies, it will be here before we know it.

I'm hoping to squeeze in one more post in December and looking forward to having lots of new things to write about in the future, so stay tuned!

Until next time.


Friday, October 13, 2023

10.13.23 Coast to Coast

On September 1, I was in California.

On September 30, I was in DC.

On both coasts, the weather was beautiful - a wonderful respite from the heat we had in Austin all summer - which was not unlike living on the face of the sun.  

In fact, the weather in Austin has been particularly unkind this year.  Not only has the heat killed everything green and made it too hot to do anything outdoors, in between trips there was a hail storm that caused thousands in damage to one of our cars, and totaled the other. 

The windshield in my car has been replaced - there is no ETA from Honda on the body parts.

We bought my husband a new Volkswagen - which he is very happy about - but car shopping is among my least favorite activities ever.

Now you understand why there was no September blog post. 

Photo credit:
Monterey Bay Aquarium

After two failed attempts at a good visit with our daughter - the first back in December, when she got stranded in the winter storm and contracted Covid, then in March when she came to Austin, and I ended up having emergency gallbladder surgery - we had an absolutely delightful week on the central California coast.

We started our week at the Monterey Bay Aquarium - which is amazing.  It was all wonderful, but my favorites were the otters, including one named Rosa, who fostered more than a dozen orphaned pups until she "retired".  Now, she spends her days swimming and basking in the sun, and she's adorable.  

We hiked in Point Lobos and Big Sur, visited Cannery Row and Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey, and walked and shopped through Carmel.

Of course, I had to bring home souvenirs - jewelry and tea towels.

In Monterey, at the aquarium (in their wonderful shop), I found bright, striped surfite earrings and a tea towel with otters.

On the day we spent shopping in Carmel, I walked into Pat Areias' beautiful gallery and immediately spotted the necklace - it was actually two shorter ones - but she graciously customized it for me by putting them together to create a stunning (and adjustable) chain.  

I have put all of these to good use since we returned home - the necklace received numerous complements when I wore it to see Ballet Austin's Hamlet the weekend after we returned. 
McLean Chicks Rock!


Technically, I didn't spend much time in DC - I flew in and out of National Airport - but I had a fabulous whirlwind weekend with my girlfriends in Northern Virginia.

The impetus for the trip was the 20th anniversary of my friend Hillary's pop up boutique - Chick's Picks - which I have been going to since she held it in her home.

If you have followed this blog or my Instagram for any length of time, you will recognize the women is this photo from my posts about high school memories and my trips to St. Thomas USVI and Charlottesville.

You also know I love to post my jewelry jumbles...and they are always displayed in a wonderful tray that I purchased at my first Chick's Picks. This particular jumble contains the pieces I took with me over the weekend.

Ironically, even though it was ostensibly a shopping trip - the only thing I bought was lunch! No souvenirs necessary - it was a much needed, soul restoring, 48 hours with my lifelong friends - which is both memorable and priceless, all on its own.

Happily, I'll be seeing many of them again soon on our annual girls' trip - this time to Siesta Key, FL - which I imagine will be worthy of its own blog post in a few weeks.

Until next time.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

08.07.23 I like your style

Me - 2022 and 1982
Remember in January, when I told you I wasn't sure what I was going to write about every month, but I was going to write...and in June I wrote about purging and downsizing...

well, lest you think I've only been getting rid of things...fear not, I have engaged in some retail therapy over the past few months too, and filled up some of the emptied space.

In one of my very first posts I wrote that my daughter thought my clothes were boring, and called them my "Mom uniform". In her defense...she wasn't wrong.  

The truth is my, style really hasn't evolved that much in 40+ years...but by following some fun folks on IG, I've learned it does lend itself very nicely to a "capsule wardrobe". With that in mind, I've had a good time rebuilding my closet with things that work well together.

Universal Standard Geneva dress
Rothy's points
One of the wonderful things about following these well dressed folks is many of them link directly to sites where you can shop for what you see.  I also appreciate that these women are real people; they not are six feet tall, in their 20s, rail thin, nor do they all have extraordinary budgets.

The first things they all suggest is to "shop your closet"...and once I'd whittled down my wardrobe to things I could and would wear, I had a reasonable starting point.

After three years of ratty tee shirts, baggy shorts and yoga pants, I had a lot of enthusiasm for new clothes...but keeping in mind that while I was going to be out and about and traveling again, my life really wasn't going to change that I tried to be (mostly) practical. 

I also looked for companies with sustainable, ethical practices - which can be expensive - so my other criteria included size inclusivity and affordability.

Tradlands Nico dress 
Rothy's flip flops

I've never been a "skinny girl" and appreciate being able to click through a link from Instagram and not be disappointed by the size range.

You'll find links to some of my favorite brands and influencers of all ages and sizes at the end of this post.

Without question, the best thing I've added to my wardrobe is casual dresses...that can be worn with a pair of Rothys or and done.  Just add earrings and a necklace and I'm out the door.

To my daughter's earlier point that I have a uniform - it's still true.  I own the Universal Standard Geneva dress in four colors, and twice that many pairs of pointed Rothys.  

The Uniform with Allbirds

Rothys are my "dress up" shoes; my sneakers of choice are Allbirds (for the same reason I love Rothys - they are comfortable, washable and sustainable).  I own them in a half dozen colors as well. 

I'm nothing if not consistent.

I'm also a firm believer there is absolutely nothing wrong with a "uniform" (aka a capsule wardrobe) with a mostly interchangeable color palette; mine is khaki, denim, white, navy, black and a pop of pink or red.  

Sometimes, just for fun I'll throw in a pattern - floral, stripes or plaid - but solids make up most of what I own.

The thing I definitely change up the most is my jewelry depending on my mood and schedule.  Choosing which pieces to wear - and posting them on Instagram - is one of the best parts of getting dressed and going out again.

Until next time.

People I follow:

Abigail Basset

Audie Metcalf (The Candidly)

Dressing Dawn

Elizabeth (Do You Have That In My Size)

Kate MW

Katie Sturino

Kelly McCoyd

Maxey Green

Places I like to shop - all are size inclusive




Ilana Kohn

J Crew

J Jill

Lands End

LL Bean



Old Navy




Universal Standard

Monday, July 10, 2023

07.10.23 A little R&R

4th of July...mid 1980s
It's been 4 years since we spent the Fourth of July anywhere except at home.

In 2019 we took our last big summer family trip in Napa, California with all of our kids and my mother in law.  No one had any idea that six months later our world - everyone's world - would be rocked by Covid and locked down. We ate and drank, and discussed where we would go in 2020 (the plan was Cape Cod, but we never got there).

Although we have gotten on planes and gone places, my husband and I haven't taken what anyone would think of as a vacation together since before Covid.  

This year, we're making up for a it a bit, and for our first trip we went to the Gulf Coast with wonderful friends, to a house I've visited and stayed in multiple times for close to 50 years.   Even though we didn't go far, we came home feeling much more relaxed.

Market Haul - Galveston edition
Before our generation took it over, it belonged to some of my parents' best friends (who are, frankly like a second set of parents to me).  There's a great photograph - from a long ago Fourth of July party - that hangs in the kitchen, and if you look hard enough, you might see a 30+ years younger me sitting in the middle.

For almost a week, we sat on the porch - a lot - taking time to simply enjoy the company and the view.  

We got up early Sunday morning and took the Bolivar ferry across the bay to the Galveston Farmers Market (since I was traveling with my market buddy from Austin)…and came back with a serious haul.

Dinner at the Stingaree, on the intercoastal waterway, is a must. I've been going since forever, and it was one of the first places our daughter ate solid food (most of her father's snapper throats) before she was a year old. 

Other than that outing, we cooked at the house - and ate really well. If you want to see how well - just scroll back through my Instagram feed.  

Silver and coral earrings
 from Santa Fe Trail on the Strand

We even played tourist for a bit, shopping The Strand in Galveston, where of course, I bought earrings (it's a jewelry blog - I had to buy something to post),

and surveying the range of beach tchotchkes available from Bolivar to High Island.

On the Fourth there were fireworks, and because the porch wraps around the house on three sides we had an incredible 360 degree view.  It was a beautiful, clear night, so we could see professional shows from Galveston, Kemah and Texas City as well as all the ones being set off by families along the length of the peninsula. 

Across Galveston Bay - the Pleasure Pier at dusk

The past three years have been a wild rollercoaster ride, and it was truly wonderful to unbuckle from that rickety seat, and sit quietly for a few days.

Until next time.