Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Five years from now....

It's time for the Handmade Division's monthly Talk About, meaning that many of our members blog about a common topic. This months topic is: Where do you aspire to be in five years?

I like to dream about the future. I enjoy my life and my work very much, but there are times, while working in my space-challenged home studio, that I dream of working in a larger, separate space. I envision purchasing a small building and having a combined studio/storefront. I imagine having a large, organized studio with plenty of room for all of my metalsmithing tools, perhaps a separate space for my friend, Julia, and I to set up our letterpress workshop, and, if my husband chooses to share in the dream with me, a space for his studio/workshop too. I like the idea of having a shop/gallery up front to sell our creations and perhaps the work of some of our artist friends as well. Our dogs would come to work with me each day; they'd both enjoy greeting our customers.

Take a look at other members' blogs and read about their plans for the future:

Andes Cruz:
Tess Norberg:
Rebekah Timlin Meddles:
Jewelry by Natsuko:
Bella-Bijou Jewellery:
JJ Papke:
Beth Cyr:
Tosca Teran:
Thomasin Durgin:

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's Talk About Time

This month the Handmade Division's Talk About topic is: Talk about a teacher you'd like to study with. In last month's Talk About post, I mentioned that I'd like to take classes at the Revere Academy in San Francisco. Specifically, I'd love to study with master goldsmith Alan Revere. Several years ago, I purchased his Revere on Goldsmithing DVD series and it was money well spent. (For anyone considering this purchase, I recommend buying the entire set at once, which offers a bit of a savings.) These DVDs are packed with great instruction and fantastic tips. I learned so much from them and watched some of them more than once. I also love his book, 101 Bench Tips for Jewelers. The tips are great. For example, this book taught me how to modify my ring bending pliers which has made these pliers much more functional and turned them into a tool I love and use frequently.

Having learned so much from Alan Revere in print and on screen, I hope to one day study with him in person.

Please check out other Handmade Division members' blogs to learn who they would like to study with:

Andes Cruz:
Nancy Dale:
Tosca Teran:
Rickson Jewellery:
Beth Cyr:
Sand Fibers:
Emily Watson
Thomasin Durgin:
WATTO Distinctive Metal Wear
Pink Crow Studio:

Friday, October 15, 2010

How did I get here?

It's time for the Handmade Division's Talk About. Each month members blog about a given topic. This month's topic question is: Tell us about yourself - how did you get to where you are now with your skills?

My path toward metalsmithing and jewelry making began in a roundabout way while I was a grad student, studying medieval literature. I loved the program and the literature, but was not certain that I'd enjoy a career in academia. One day I happened to visit a fun little rubber stamp store and signed up for their mailing list. A fellow shopper noticed my handwriting on the sign up sheet and asked if I had ever taken calligraphy classes. I hadn't, but the idea intrigued me. She recommended a fantastic calligrapher/instructor in the area. I took some time off from grad school while trying to make a decision about my future, and meanwhile signed up for a calligraphy class. I loved it and pursued additional calligraphy classes. It was fascinating to learn traditional illumination in one of the calligraphy classes, having studied illuminated manuscripts in grad school.

For quite a few years since becoming a calligrapher, I've been fortunate to participate in a monthly artistic exchange with nine talented calligraphers from across the US and Canada. In 2006, I experimented with etching my calligraphy into metal for our monthly swap and from there I became interested in metalsmithing. Meanwhile, I had envisioned and search for a piece of meaningful jewelry but never quite found what I had in mind. It occurred to me that perhaps I could make what I had envisioned, and that's when I began making jewelry. I am primarily self taught, but early on I began to wonder about "proper" technique and if I was going about it all in the right way. I had learned while studying calligraphy how important it is to learn correct technique from the start since it can be difficult to unlearn poor habits. I enrolled in a metalsmithing class but it was terribly disappointing. More than once I drove well over an hour to this class only to learn when I arrived that the instructor had canceled class with no notice. There was no new information, and some of what was taught was actually incorrect. I regretted wasting the time and money on that class. From there I continued learning on my own but with the help of some fantastic DVD resources, such as Alan Revere's Goldsmithing DVD series, in addition to a collection of fantastic books. I dream of one day taking classes at the Revere Academy or Penland School of Crafts, but for now I continue to experiment on my own and work to expand my skill set.

Here are a few glimpes of my earliest pieces:

My first etching experiment in copper:

My first piece of jewelry, a hand carved ring:

My first etched jewelry piece:

I often wish I could thank the woman I encountered in the rubber stamp store, for had I not fallen in love with calligraphy, I would not have discovered a passion for metalsmithing or combined these two skills. Perhaps she will read this post and recognize herself.

Be sure to check out other members' blogs to read their thoughts on this topic:

Andes Cruz -
Tess Norberg -
Jaime Pickering -

Purified -
Nancy Dale -
Jewelry by Natsuko -
Sand Fibers -
Alice Istanbul -
Thomasin Durgin -
Susan Moloney -
Beth Cyr -
Emily Watson-
Tosca Teran-

Tamra Gentry -
JJ Papke-
Alisa Miller-
Mary Spencer-

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


It's time for the Handmade Division's monthly Talk About; participating members blog on a given topic. This month's topic is: Where do you draw your creative inspirations from?

I am often inspired by small elements in nature, as well as by words. A great quote, my current reading list, or favorite poetry are all creative sources for me. My recent luna moth piece is an example inspired by both nature and words, combining one of my nature drawings with poetry. The luna moth is a favorite insect. I kept bumping into the creature in my reading this summer, first while rereading Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer, and shortly after in a magazine article. It seemed time to work with luna moth imagery. I wanted to create a dimensional piece that incorporated poetry. Since I am not a poet, I began searching through some favorite public domain texts for suitable verse. I came across a poem,"The Wife from Fairyland," by Richard Le Gallienne and fell in love with four lines:

Green leaves and silence and two eyes--
'T was so she seemed to me,
A silver shadow of the woods,
Whisper and mystery.

The words inspired part of the design. I used them as background, hand lettered in copperplate script and etched into the silver cupped portion of the piece. Rather than oxidizing the words for contrast, to make them stand out and become more legible, I chose to leave the background silver, the words a subtle fluid texture, whisper and mystery. The etched luna moth hovers above, casting its silver shadow across the words.

This Luna Moth Necklace was included in the recent Art on the Wabash exhibit.

Please visit other Handmade Division members' blogs to discover their inspirations:

Andes Cruz:
Susan Moloney:
Alice Istanbul:
Rebekah Meddles (Lunasa Designs Jewelry):
Jewelry by Natsuko
Bella-Bijou Jewellery
Beth Cyr
ArtJewel Designs:
Thomasin Durgin
Abhaya Fibers

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Grandma's Necklace

I was recently asked to name a favorite piece of jewelry. My first thought was my wedding ring...then I thought of some favorite pieces by other jewelry artists, and then I thought of this beautiful locket given to me by my grandmother. It is engraved with her initial A and was given to her by her godmother when she was born exactly 89 years ago; today is my grandma's birthday. I adore this tiny locket because it's lovely and because she gave it to me and it is part of her history. In looking at the construction of this piece, I think it was designed to open but it is now firmly stuck together. I've never wanted to disturb it too much or risk damage by trying to force it open.

My grandma is an inspiration to me. An artist herself, a painter, she's always encouraged my creativity. She also told me more than once to follow my heart and in fact once made me promise to do so. It has turned out to be good advice.

Her words inspired my "follow your heart" necklace, and I think of her locket whenever I create a monogrammed necklace.

Happy birthday, Grandma.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What I'd like to create

It's time for the Handmade Division's Talk About. Each month members blog about a given topic. This month, our topic question is: "What would you like to create, that you don't have the skills or technology to do currently?

I would like to learn glassblowing and create hand blown glass pieces. Several years ago Mark and I took a hot glass workshop at the Indianapolis Art Center. It was an exciting, fast-paced class in which we became familiar with the glass, tools, equipment and furnaces. We made paperweights. Mine is pictured above (not so impressive, but fun to make). Glassblowing has interested me for such a long time and I'd like to learn more. I already enjoy working with fire.

I've created this Etsy treasury of some fantastic glass work:

Please check out other Handmade Division members' blogs to see what they would like to create:

Andes Cruz:
Jewelry by Natsuko:
Beth Cyr:
ArtJewel Designs
Abhaya Fibers
nova of sweden
Bella-Bijou Jewellery
Pink Crow Studio:
Sand Fibers:
Alice Istanbul:
Thomasin Durgin:
Moxie & Oliver:
Tosca Teran
Delias Thompson

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Embracing My Mistakes

In my studio, I have a "work in progress" drawer containing not only partially finished pieces in progress but also work that didn't turn out quite as I envisioned, pieces I'm reluctant to abandon. This drawer turns out to be an inspirational place for me. It is much-visited in the course of a day, and sometimes I'll have a flash of an idea, a sudden vision of how a mistake might be transformed. Often these pieces turn out to be favorites.

One piece recently languished in the drawer for a couple of months. I intended it to be like the piece above, but I had made the rim too narrow. The piece then seemed a bit too delicate. I thought about soldering it to a solid circle of silver, but it wasn't quite what I wanted; I preferred the delicate openwork. One day I spotted it in the drawer and thought, "what if I made it convex?" I gave it a try and the necklace below was the result. I loved it!

The etched Always Necklace below was a happy accident. I started out making a Forever and Always Ring, but something odd happened during the etching process and when I pulled it out of the etching bath, it had this amazing, organic texture surrounding the "always" that I hadn't actually intended. It reminded me of rough, weathered wood. Because the rustic texture was not consistent across the entire piece and it would no longer work as a ring, it went in the drawer for a couple of weeks. When I looked at it again, It occurred to me to cut the "forever" off and use the "always" for a necklace. I was thrilled with the result. The piece sold immediately.

The Always piece has inspired other textured work, such as the edge of my Luna Moth Necklace:

My third example is an ordering mistake. I accidentally ordered chain that was too substantial, and when I received the spool I knew this chain would overwhelm the delicate pieces for which I had intended it. It occurred to me that it would be lovely for a bracelet. Below is the result. (I was tempted to keep this bracelet for myself!)

While it would be fantastic if all my work turned out exactly as I intended, I do rather enjoy the challenge of a piece gone awry; puzzling out a good solution is immensely satisfying.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Talk About :: Collaboration

It's "Talk About" time again for the Handmade Division. Each month the members of our group blog about a given topic. This month's topic question: "Is there an artist you'd love to collaborate with? What would you like to create?"

I've mentioned in a previous post collaborating with my friend, Julia. Another artist I'd like to collaborate with is my husband. Mark is a potter. (See his fantastic work above!) I'd love to carve my lettering and designs into some collaborative pieces. I think it would be amazingly fun to design and create pottery pieces together. I remember when we first met being intrigued that he was a potter since I'd always thought I'd enjoy learning to work with clay. While we were dating, Mark taught me to throw on his pottery wheel and we had such fun together in his pottery studio. We had intended to do more of it, but somehow we haven't. We're busy with our own work and projects, and some of the plans we had envisioned together have been sidetracked.

We do collaborate well. We've worked on stained glass projects together, we cook together, and we've enjoyed taking many creative classes together. This topic is a fantastic reminder to reevaluate our creative plans and goals as a couple and maybe even spend some time together in the pottery studio again.

These are the first two pottery pieces I made, with assistance and and instruction from Mark. Perhaps the next time I post about pottery it will be to show you the results of our collaborative efforts.

Be sure to take a look at the blogs of other Handmade Division members to see what they have to say about the topic of artistic collaboration:

Andes Cruz -
ceeb wassermann aka howlindoggie:
Rickson Jewellery -
Purified -
Susan Moloney -
nanopod: Hybrid Studio -

Friday, July 2, 2010

Artisans Collective :: Team Challenge

I belong to a diverse and talented group of Etsy artists, the Artisans Collective. Members have the opportunity to participate in "team challenges"; a theme is chosen and those participating each create a piece inspired by the theme. Our latest challenge theme is Bees. For this challenge, I created a necklace featuring a bee that I designed and hand cut from a sheet of sterling silver with my jeweler's hand saw. It's always so much fun (and inspiring!) to see what others come up with for these challenges. Take a look at our team blog to see the wonderful bee-themed creations of other Artisans Collective members. Be sure to check out our new team website too!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Indiana Artisan

I am so happy to learn today that my work has juried into the Indiana Artisan program. Out of 97 applications reviewed by the art jury panel, 15 were selected and I'm pleased to be among them. I look forward to participating in this statewide program.

The necklace above is one of the pieces I submitted. It features a favorite quote by Thoreau: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams; live the life you have imagined.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

My dad is so supportive of my work. He checks in on my Etsy shop regularly to see what I've been making. Every now and then I get an email from him, commenting on a new piece. After receiving one of his emails last week telling me that he liked the new Hurt No Living Thing Necklace and the poem that inspired it, I decided to make him a keychain for Father's Day with the public domain poem by Christina Rossetti. The poem reminds me of him; he has such compassion for all creatures. I hand lettered the poem in a spiral and etched it into a hand formed sterling silver cup. It was a challenge to fit all of the words onto a piece small enough to work as a keychain element, and I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Below is the poem by Christina Rossetti. Happy Father's Day, Dad. Thank you for your compassion and care for even the tiniest of creatures.

Hurt no living thing:
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Handmade Division :: Talk About

I'm a member of a talented group of artists, the Handmade Division. Members with blogs participate in a team "Talk About," discussing a different topic each month. The topic for this month is a fascinating one and I thought it would make a great first post for this blog.

The topic question: Do you consider yourself only a jewelry artist or do you work in multi media application, and or draw techniques from other fields to use in the one you are working in?

I was a calligrapher first, before I began making jewelry, and without a doubt I do draw heavily on my calligraphy skills since I incorporate quite a bit of hand lettering into my etched jewelry. In fact, exploring a new medium for my calligraphy (metal) is what first sparked my interest in metalwork and then jewelry.

In addition to calligraphy and making jewelry, I also design and print letterpress cards with my friend, Julia. While printing on paper is quite different from metalwork, our letterpress cards and my etched jewelry share a dimensional, tactile quality. Many of our letterpress designs are deeply impressed into thick cotton paper; you can run your fingers over the card and feel the letterpress impression. Likewise, the raised or recessed etched designs and lettering on my jewelry invite touch.

Perhaps because of this similarity, I've experimented with sharing designs between the two mediums with satisfying results. I love how the same design can be interpreted so differently depending on the medium.

Below are more examples of designs used on both cards and jewelry:

Sometimes one design inspires another. I designed the "Forever and Always" for this letterpress wedding card, which inspired me to use this theme for some of my jewelry:

I enjoy discovering that a design created for one medium works well with another, or when a theme for one inspires a new design for other work. When I can share designs and ideas across mediums, it sparks new ideas and experiments and new ways of seeing. I have other creative interests, such as knitting and spinning, and perhaps one of these days I'll discover interesting ways to incorporate those techniques and ideas into my jewelry. I look forward to it!
Please visit the blogs of other Handmade Division members to read their posts on this topic:

Andes Cruz:
Thomasin Durgin:
Jewelry by Natsuko:
Maureen BZ (Cosmo's Moon)
Abhaya Fibers
ArtJewel Designs
Susan Moloney
Tamra Gentry
Bill Martin