Monday, June 28, 2010

A Week of Excitement

Quite unlike our normal household routine, last week was exciting and eventful. My sister from Maine came to visit along with her son. Thank goodness we had an 8th grader in the house to help me out with some technology issues we were having! Unfortunate timing on our visitor's behalf to be here for a fast and tremendously furious storm that hit on Thursday afternoon leaving us without power for 24 hours during a heat wave.

(photo from

We were lucky and had no damage to our property, but have friends who live down the road from the downed tree shown above. Thankfully, the mom and daughters who were in that car escaped without serious injuries. We only had to contend with sweltering heat in the house, but we made up for that by telling stories by candlelight.
I also spent time getting ready for my Saturday workshop at Wallingford Community Art Center.

This being my first workshop, I did not appreciate how much 'stuff' I would need to bring to ensure that students would be able to leave with finished projects.

The focus of the class was riveting and after doing an initial exercise to get comfortable with installing a rivet, I had the students select materials so they could design and construct their own pieces.

I was envisioning that the class would use the open frames and pieces of metal that I had precut to make pendants similar to some projects that I had previously done like this 'CENTO' pin. But..being creative types with their own vision, different paths were taken which was fun and exciting to watch.

This was one of the necklaces made. I like the combination of different metals and textures. This was linked to a long chain and had a nice, dramatic effect.

This necklace included two discs cut from an old platter that were then riveted to a hand forged copper ring. The sterling 'A' charm was taken from a bracelet that the student had purchased at an auction. Wire wrapped lapis beads connect the pendant to a plated chain.
We worked the full four hours slotted for the workshop. I'm already planning other topics to cover in workshops that I want to schedule for the fall and winter sessions.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Special Gift

A call came in a few weeks ago from my older twin's school nurse. As she will always (and thankfully) do when applicable, she immediately said, "There's no problem here at school." Whew! With that out of the way, she asked if I might be able to help her out with an 8th grade graduation gift that she wanted to give to her daughter. She had her mother's wedding band and thought it would be nice to turn the band into earrings for her daughter. I said that yes, that was something that I could do and explained how a band could be saw cut and then shaped using a mallet. I made up a mock pair of earrings with copper to illustrate what I described.
I brought the mock-up to school when I dropped off my son, saying "I can do this, but I would prefer not to." It made me cringe to think of cutting a wedding band that represented family history. I presented the idea that the ring be kept intact and made into a necklace allowing a part of Grandmother's story to remain more intact. The idea was embraced, and I waited for the ring to be dropped off at my house.
When mom and daughter dropped off the wedding band, I asked daughter what her favorite color was. "Black," she answered. She is thirteen. I told her that I was very sorry, but I was not going to be accenting the wedding ring necklace with black stones. Next choice?
I used heavy gauge sterling wire to wrap around the ring because it is a wide band. Faceted rondelles of aquamarine, prehnite and quartz crystal were wire wrapped and accented with sterling spacers. One large tear-drop shaped crystal hangs with the other semi-precious stones. I used a long sterling chain and accented the clasp with more pieces of aquamarine.

Mom presented the necklace on the afternoon of graduation so daughter could wear it to the ceremony. I got a call the following Monday telling me that the necklace was loved by daughter. Wearing it to graduation was like having Grandmother there.

That brought a smile to my face.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Real Talent in This House

I would like to think that I have some creativity, but talent?....that might be another thing.
In my household, the true talent is my younger twin.
The posting about my recent painting of the dining room captured some of the artwork on the walls. Two of the framed pieces were done by my son who, along with his older (by 2 minutes) brother, turned 17 recently. The above 'Cluster of Pears' was done last summer (whoops- this is the picture I took before he added the stems). This 'Van Gogh Inspired Wheat Field' was also done last summer. These two were done during a summer session pastel class at the nearby Wallingford Community Art Center.

Last summer, my son crafted his own job. He created artwork. At the beginning of the summer, we sat down and developed a business plan. I had him figure out how much he would make if he was paid minimum wage at a summer job. We then assigned an average value to a piece of artwork to determine how many pieces he would have to produce to make an equivalent amount of money.
I made him treat his artwork like a professional. He had to get up in the morning as if he was leaving the house for a job and get to work after some household chores.

These are some of the pieces that he produced which were part of our mother/son home show last holiday season.

It was obvious that my son had a unique ability as soon as he held a crayon at toddler age, and it has been so satisfying to watch his talent mature. As he produced these pieces for his 'summer job' I matted and framed them. While the goal was to make money to set aside for college, I did let him know that the choice to keep a piece or to sell it was completely his choice. The thought of some of these pieces leaving (as the previous four pieces did) made me sad, but it was very empowering for my son as his artwork practically flew out of our house once the show got underway. My son set the prices, and they were not inexpensive!

Thankfully, my son decided there were some pieces that he would not part with. 'Leaping Salmon' was done for a national art competition sponsored by Save Our Salmon, an organization in Washington state. My son's piece won second place and was on display in the rotunda at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.'Plate of Mangoes' won Grand Prize in our district's Congressional Art Competition and it was on display for a year at the Capitol in Washington, DC. This also won First Place in the category of Illustration in the Wallingford Community Art Center 2009 Member's Show.
This piece 'Prairie Dusk' created quite a stir. An image of this was used on the postcard that I sent out to announce our show, and everyone wanted this. The first person who came to our home show purchased it. How nice that it was my son's beloved 4th grade art teacher.
The thing that I consider remarkable about my son's talent is that he is legally blind. He and his brother were born more than 3 months premature and have lifelong complications as a result. Fortunately, my younger artist twin is only dealing with vision issues. But unfortunately, his vision has been deteriorating. I am thankful that he has already produced a body of work that clearly illustrates his talent and has given him pride of accomplishment. That is something that he will have for the rest of his life.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I Am Totally Stealing That Idea

A friend came to my recent Home Show, and I commented on how nice she looked. She had a fabulous, summery white shirt accented with a wonderful necklace. As I was telling her how much I liked the necklace, I paused and said, "Wait a minute.....did I make that?" As it turned out, I had sort of made it.

A few years ago, I made a collection of key rings using silverware that I gathered at thrift stores and flea markets. These key rings were an opportunity to use beads that I didn't really want to for my jewelry.

I have lots of forks, spoons and knives in my cache of supplies. Like old photos, I am drawn to old pieces of silverware. I like the interesting patterns, the patinas and the scratches or worn tines that indicate years of use. My friend had purchased one of the keyrings last year, decided she didn't really need the keyring, removed the keyring-thing and inserted a long chain. The new necklace, previously known as a keyring, looked great!

Well...I went through my bins of forks and spoons and selected some with necklace-worthy patterns. The utility end was removed with my jeweler's saw, and the cut was filed and sanded smooth. A hole was drilled into the top for wire wrapping. I chose crystal beads that were reclaimed from an old chandelier.

In another effort to make these necklaces more special than my earlier keyrings, I made bead caps from brass that I had run through my rolling mill with some lace. Discs were cut from the milled metal, drilled at the center point and then domed to match the curve of the bead.

My new silverware pendants hang from long chains- I cut the chain at around 30". Some of the pendants have dangles at the top.

I am always reading magazines and books to see what other people in the jewelry world are making, but I make a determined effort to develop and maintain a design 'voice' that is distinctly mine.
What a unique opportunity to steal an idea from myself, with a bit of help from a friend!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Etched Discs

I have been in an etching mood these past few weeks. I was so pleased with the results of my etched bangles that I decided to etch a batch of discs which in turn could be used for a variety of projects. In order to use the same etchant that was used for the brass bangles, I prepared silver nickel discs. To etch sterling silver discs would require the use of ferric nitrate, a chemical that is more difficult to work with from a disposal point of view. I prefer to remain with the ferric chloride which can be used with copper, brass and silver nickel. The discs were sanded and pressed onto pieces of duct tape to protect the back side from the etchant.
I let the discs remain in the etchant for approximately one hour after which I placed the discs (still on the duct tape) into a container with baking soda. The baking soda neutralizes the ferric chloride and stops the etching process. I then scrubbed each disc with soap and water.

I like the ghostly quality of the image. (Sidebar: Speaking of ghostly.....I did something very unusual last night and saw a movie, 'The Eclipse'. My schedule rarely permits such a luxury, so how fortunate for me that I really enjoyed this movie which is part ghosty/paranormal, part romantic wrapped in a great character study featuring fabulous Ciaran Hinds and Aidan Quinn.)

Anyway....I sanded the edge, drilled holes and domed each disc in my dapping block. After doming, I used my sanding block ever so lightly to clean the domed surface which helped to highlight the etched text.

The discs are now ready for projects like this pair of earrings. Amazonite beads wrapped with balled sterling wire dangle below and gold plated shell charms hang, along with the etched silver nickel discs, from sterling earwires.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Some Changes Around Here

There's nothing like an upcoming home show to make one look around one's home and say "Blehhh!" The many things that need to be updated/improved/repaired/etc..... become glaringly apparent. I got busy working on some of the items on my looooong list of improvements. The front hedge was trimmed and I gave the kitchen ceiling a fresh coat of paint. The most satisfying change was in the dining room.

We moved into this house in 2002 after buying it from the estate of the original owner. I'm fairly confident that everything in the house was original to the 1950 construction. The kitchen cabinets were UPS brown, the bathroom tiles were pink and maroon, and the rooms were painted either pink or that particular shade of green that was used in the elementary schools of my youth. I was anxious to put up a color in our new dining room that would help claim the house as ours.

We ended up with a pumpkin kind of color which I mixed on my own. Too many trips to Home Depot trying to find the color that looked good on the wall resulted in an assortment of pints of reject oranges. I took all of those rejects, emptied them into a large bucket and began to play paint mixologist, adding bits of other paint that we had leftover from other projects. I could never recreate this color.

Last week I decided that pumpkin is not what this room needs. Our house is not very large, and the cozy effect of such a warm and saturated color was beginning to feel claustrophobic. I felt a need for lightness and freshness.

I went to Home Depot and felt overwhelmed by the color selections. I quickly made a choice not because of color certainty, but because I knew that my one son's school bus was due home soon. Anxiety can give me real clarity or, more typically.... exhausted resignation.
I luckily have no disappointments with my hasty decision. I am very happy with the new look!
Two coats of primer were needed to cover up the pumpkin. Good timing on my part to begin this project as the first heat of the season moved in and our house was around 90 degrees. The evening that the coat of paint went on, I was determined that I would not stop until the project was completed. As I was cleaning the brushes at 3:15am, I did debate staying up until I could get my one son ready for his 7:30 school bus pick-up. I made the unfortunate choice to rest for "a short while" which turned into "a longer while" which resulted in me having to drive my son to school after a groggy phone call to our beloved bus driver, Bob . Whoops!!

I have no reject cans of paint left over from this project thanks to the fabulous, little testers that Glidden has available. I thought that 'Polished Limestone' was the right color, but confirmed that by spending a few dollars on this 2 ounce bottle and painting a couple of test areas. I like it when companies make consumer friendly decisions. That's the kind of thing that makes me a loyal customer. Thank you Glidden!