Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Garden

Last summer's photography class at Main Line Art Center has greatly improved my relationship with my camera- Nikon D40.  Now that I have a much better understanding of how to shoot in manual mode (I highly recommend it), I have been chronicling my garden as it changes through the season.  I read an article recently in which the expert said, "You can't be taken serioulsy if you're taking pictures of flowers."
Pish posh....I'm happy to remain completely irrelevant.
Front garden Crabapple
New Hydrangea for front garden.
Rhododendron that I planted 6 years ago, trying to build up a screen between my front yard and my neighbor.  It finally decided to grow and bloom this year.....worth the wait.
Deutzia gracilis that is completely covered with flowers in the Spring.
Mock Orange (Philadelphus) by my front door.....not an especially beautiful plant, but the flowers are wonderfully fragrant. 
Back garden Peony
Front garden Hydrangea
Front garden Rhododendron with mid-flight bee.
Back garden Hollyhock
Front garden Hosta
I like to think of my garden as telling a story. I remember where my plants came from....which nursery, which friend. They each carry their own story and come together in my yard to tell the story of my garden.
Some of the plants are especially dear to me.
These irises came from my parent's garden.  My mother bought them at Verona Park in Verona, New Jersey and repeatedly divided them, spreading them around her garden.
She also spread them to my garden.
Also from my parent's garden...a cluster of daylilies.
I have never seen daylilies that I consider to be more lovely than these.  The blush of pink is so delicate and beautiful, it never fails to make me smile when they come into bloom.
My parents have passed away and the family property sold just recently.
I like having the irises and daylilies in my garden, keeping me connected to our family story.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


The moniker of 'starving artist' has become more and more meaningful in recent years. 
I do use many recycled materials when making jewelry, but I frequently have to place orders with some of my regular suppliers.  The price of sterling has been fluctuating in an appealing direction for a few months.  While I'm happy to see that it's now hovering at around $29.00 per ounce instead of last year's high of $48.00, it's sobering to know that when I began ordering sterling around ten years ago, the price was less than $5.00 per ounce. 
As I continue to learn how to paint with oils, or at least try to learn, I'm appreciating that many of the necessary supplies come at a surprising cost.  Since my goal is to eventually sell paintings, I'm being very mindful of the assorted expenses.
The cost of frames?......enough to make me gasp.
Factoring in the cost of a nice frame would probably make it difficult to price one of my paintings at a tempting level.
I now hunt for frames during my thrift store searches for metal.  
Most thrift stores have a collection of dreadful framed posters, prints and factory produced 'paintings', and that's where I like to browse.
I recently found a grouping of small wooden frames.  I'm not sure what the wood is (cherry?), but they are well crafted.
At .50 per frame, I took the whole grouping of nine.
I was sure that I wouldn't want the natural wood finish; I instead wanted the lustrous look of gold leaf. 
Was I going to gold leaf these frames? way!
Krylon to the rescue!
Specifically, Krylon Premium 18kt Gold Plate Metallic spray paint.
There were other gold metalic spray paints that were available at a cheaper price, but I trust the quality of Krylon and spent the extra amount.
I set up my 'professional' painting old shoe box to capture residual paint, in my driveway.  I actually did the painting far away from the stucco of my garage to avoid airborne, unwanted gilding.
Lovely golden frame, ready for a painting!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sirens of the Sea

When I recently cut up a vintage platter to make bookmarks, I saved the pieces of the rim, knowing that I would find some future use for them. 
Part of the rim made me think of waves which got the ideas churning in my mind.
I knew that I wanted to make a piece featuring one of the photos of my Mom and her friends at the Jersey shore.
When she was young, my Mom was a member of an accomplished water ballet team.
The team traveled around the country competing and performing at various venues.
When back in New Jersey frequenting the beaches, they liked to pose for pictures.
I love the photos that have a choreographed look, but my favorite is one of my Mom (in the center) and two friends standing on the rocks of a jetty with waves crashing behind them.
I've always liked the ethereal, dreamy quality of this image.
I reduced scanned images so that they would fit into a 1" diameter brass bezel and printed them out onto regular paper. 
I decided to layer the brass bezel with another piece of metal to get the substance I wanted, and pulled out some of the scrap metal left over from my vintage platter bookmarks.
My idea was to make the base look like a splash, and I sketched out ideas to scale until I had a shape that I liked.  With rubber cement, I glued a copy of the splash onto my metal and cut out the shape with a jeweler's saw.
Because the splash is made of plated metal, I needed to use cold connections.  My rivets serve a double purpose- connecting the bezel to the front of the splash and a bar pin to the back.
The rivets did present a bit of a problem.
I had planned to lay my photo directly into the bezel, but the rivets created an uneven surface.  My solution was to cut a 1" diameter circle of  thin sheet metal to which I glued my photo before setting it in the bezel. 
With the image of a small propeller plane trailing an advertising banner (always present on a summer day at the Jersey shore) in mind, I cut out a piece of 18 gauge brass for my stamped message.
A length of 'waves' from the platter was cut, filed and sanded to hang below the banner.
I joined the 3 sections of the pin with sterling jump rings because I wanted both the banner and the waves to have movement.
So....I did have a bit of a problem with the banner.
This is what happens when your drill bit snaps off while you're in the middle of drilling (always a bit startling).
I was drilling the hole above the 'y' when the bit snapped, and of course it snapped right at the surface of the brass, leaving me with nothing to grab hold of with my pliers.
I tried smashing it through with my center luck.
I tried drilling it out with a new drill bit of the same luck.  That only ruined another drill bit.
I ended up using a larger drill bit after more smashing with my center punch.
I did get through, but only after ruining my stamped 'y'.
This pin is a keeper for me, so I don't will help to remind me of how to do a better job the next time.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ring Display

I tend to be a 'do-it-yourself' kind of person. 
I always made the Halloween costumes when my kids were younger....none of that store bought stuff here!
When I was in college, working in the experimental fields for the Vegetable Crops Department, I learned how to can homemade preserves.
And when it comes to my jewelry displays, I like to make them so that they are distinctly unique.
A few months ago I made a series of 'Lunar' rings, but struggled with displaying them in an effective way.
I wasn't interested in purchasing the velvet cone displays that are offered in most wholesale jewelry catalogs, and had ideas of making my own display cones out of sheet metal.
Before I undertook that project, I saw a fabricated display offered by one of the vendors at Philadelphia Bead Fest that caught my eye.
I begrudgingly admitted to myself that I actually like this fabricated display, even though it wasn't perfect for my needs.
When I saw that it was priced at $20.00, I decided that I could make modifications so that it would become perfect.
When purchased, there was no backdrop behind the display cones.
I considered this a problem since background information would compete for attention when all focus should be on the rings.
I pulled out the white burlap that I've used for other displays and stapled some to the back.  Since I could still see through the burlap, I added a layer of polyester batting followed by another layer of burlap.
Now the focus is where I want it to be.
One of the things that I tell students in my workshops is to carefully consider what the back of their pieces look like.
I take my own advice when it comes to my displays, and I learned this the hard way.
Years ago, I was in a holiday show at a local art center and expected my location to be along one of the walls. 
I was instead located on a large table in the middle of a gallery space.  Although another display was behind mine, the backs of my display pieces were clearly visible as people moved through the gallery and it was not a pretty sight.
I felt somewhat mortified that I had not planned for that possibility and have since made sure that the backside view is clean and presentable.
The backside view of my new ring display is a bit lumpy at the edges because of the tension from the staples, but I've decided that I can live with that slight lumpiness.
The staples were covered with vintage velvet trim that I happened on hand which happened to be a perfect color complement to the wood of the display.