Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's Not Christmas On My Workbench!

I know that Christmas has not yet arrived, 
but my workbench is already on to the next thing.
These hand cut copper hearts were annealed and then textured with a variety of global coins.
(coins, courtesy of my globe-trotting friends)
I'm thinking necklaces, but I'm going to start out by creating riveted layers and see where that takes me.
In the meantime....
Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Made in America for the Holidays

Yes, it's that time of year
when I shamelessly promote the places where my jewelry is on display.
 I have been busy at my workbench preparing for the season of holiday shows, and even busier this week setting up displays.
It's always fun to watch gallery spaces transform into temporary gift shops, highlighting local artists and craftspeople...
like the Duke Gallery at Wallingford Community Arts Center yesterday morning,
and my completed display.
The preview party is tonight, with the show opening tomorrow, December 7.
More information is at the Community Arts Center web site.
A few days ago, I set up my display at Main Line Art Center in Haverford.
The Holiday Fine Craft Show opened to the public today, and more information can be found here.
With new inventory arriving daily, the Holiday Store at Woodmere Art Museum is a local favorite.
I recently delivered new inventory to Portfolio, the wonderful gift shop at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. 
And new this year is Earth Wood and Fiber, a beautiful gift shop in Newtown Square.
It was a very pleasant surprise for me when I first entered this shop, tucked away on a residential side street.
The owners have developed a beautiful gallery space that features unique art and American craftsmanship.
If you enjoy supporting the 'Made in America' effort and live near me, these are just a few of the great options featuring local artists.
Happy Handmade Holidays!!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Tale 2013

Yes, we still tell stories on Thanksgiving.
This year’s story dates back to my graduate school days in the University of Illinois Landscape Architecture program.
 In the Spring of my first year, a group of graduate and undergraduate students decided to attend the annual conference of Landscape Architecture students, LABASH, hosted that year by the University of Arizona in Tucson.
 My recollection was that our contingent of attendees added up to 4 carloads, and we headed out as a caravan as we began our long journey from the department studios in Urbana.
We made a group decision that if we were driving over 1,500 to Tucson, we should visit some of the landscape highlights in Arizona, so we detoured to the Petrified Forest National Park and then the Grand Canyon.
 I think if you have a heartbeat, it’s impossible not to be overwhelmed and humbled by the visual spectacle of the Grand Canyon.
 And…if you’re a group of young and impetuous college students, it’s almost as impossible to avoid making rash and ridiculous decisions.
Standing at the South Rim of the canyon, we decided to hike to the bottom and camp out overnight. We were, of course, completely unprepared to camp anywhere, even a suburban backyard. Undaunted by our profound lack of knowledge, we grabbed our sleeping bags, some food and beverages and began heading down a nearby trail.
 It didn’t take too long to realize that the whole going down to the bottom part was not especially easy.
 Parts of the trail had been wiped out by rock slides, making it challenging to negotiate in sneakers.
It took around an hour of strenuous hiking for our logic to catch up, and cries (literally) of mutiny began.
The majority of the group wanted to turn around and continue immediately to Tucson.
I was not prepared to give up on the adventure, and luckily (?), neither were John or Brett.
We continued our downward journey while the wiser members of our group returned to the cars.
I was exhausted when we finally entered a small camping area where groups of hikers were already set up for the evening…already set up with tents, cooking apparatus, and….you know, camping equipment. 
John, Brett and I, the 3 U of I dopes, laid out our sleeping bags and unpacked our food…a jar of peanut butter, some bread, a jar of jalapeno peppers and a couple of avocados.   
Some of the other campers came over to check out our curious setup. 
“Where’s your tent?” 
“You have a tarp, don’t you?” 
 “That’s your dinner?!” 
Clearly, we were candidates for the Darwin Awards.

Someone took pity on us and came over to lend us a tarp as a park ranger entered the site.
That's when we learned from our fellow camper that permits were required and the lack of a permit would likely result in a fine and immediate expulsion.
We had a panicked 5 minutes to come up with a believable story...members of our party had turned around and they had the permit.
Our friend's boyfriend had applied for the permit, and we only knew his first name.
It might work, but just in case, we thought it wise to use our secret weapon...Brett.
Brett was probably the kindest, most sincere person in the Landscape Architecture program.
He was also one of the best looking.
Lucky for us, the park ranger was female.  John and I voted that Brett should do all the talking.  As the ranger approached, Brett smiled and offered her a slice of avocado.
It took one walkie talkie conversation for our story to crumble, but surprisingly, we were allowed to stay. 
I like to think it was the combination of Brett’s smile and the avocado, but it could also have been my borderline weeping/pleading that I would not be able to turn around and make the hike back to the rim.
So, we spent a very cold night on the rocky ground with unidentified animals crawling over us while in our sleeping bags. 
One of those animals chewed though a backpack and ate our bread that was supposed to be breakfast.
It was an uncomfortable night of little rest in one of the most beautiful and magical places I have ever seen.
The trip back home to Urbana was a pretty frightening and eventful one...
but that's another story.

Monday, November 25, 2013


During a week of Thanks....
I'm so thankful for my twin sons who do their best and work their hardest in spite of significant challenges.
 My older twin, Ethan, in his last year at Overbrook School for the Blind.
My younger-by-two-minutes twin, Hayden, a junior at Swarthmore College.
Hayden has been having a news worthy season....
featured in The Swarthmore Bulletin, here...
and The Philadelphia Inquirer, here.
So much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Donating MY Artwork

The images of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines are overwhelming and they leave me wanting to do something to help.
(image from AP)
I have always told my son, "No matter how little you might have, you will always have enough to give to someone in need."
So, here's what I'm doing...
my painting 'Walk to the Horizon' is being auctioned off, and all proceeds will go the Red Cross Philippines Typhoon Response.
'Walk to the Horizon' is oil on an 8" x 10" canvas...
and is already in a 14" x 16" frame, wired for hanging.
('Walk to the Horizon' was recently in a Community Arts Center show in Wallingford, PA, priced at $325.00)
Here's how it will work...
bidding starts today and will end at midnight, Tuesday, November 19, 2013.
I will ship the painting to the winning bidder once payment is received.
I will pay for shipping so that the entire bid can go to the relief effort.
The opening bid is $95.00 and the bidding increment must be at least $5.00.
Bids can be made here in the comments, on my personal Facebook page, on my Cynthia Murray Design Facebook page or through email at
I will post the top bid at the end of each day at my various sites just in case anyone might want to know where the bidding is. 
With permission, I will announce the winning bidder once payment is received.
In the big picture, I know this is a small effort, but all the small efforts can add up to something that makes a difference.
Want some original artwork?
Bid away and let's make a difference together!

Monday, November 11, 2013

New/Old Jewelry Display

When I first began to sell my jewelry years ago, I went to some of the jewelry supply companies to select my display pieces.
I did my craft show research, and it seemed like most of the jewelers went with black display pieces and black table/display covers.
I thought they all know what they're doing, plus the black display pieces do have an elegant look to them.
I got on board and ordered black velvet necklace displays, black velvet display boards and I bought yards of black fabric for table covers.
That worked for me for a number of years, but as my jewelry making evolved in new directions, so did my thoughts about what I wanted to communicate through my display.
I began to think that if I wanted my jewelry to be unique, my display should also be unique.
Focusing on the fact that I incorporate recycled materials in  some of my jewelry, I began seeing some curbside trash and thrift store finds as great display pieces.
I also decided that the black wasn't working for me any more.
I wanted everything to be brighter.
I started repurposing old frames, infilling them with creamy burlap.
I ordered some new necklace displays, this time choosing white.
I kept my black table covers, but now cover them with vintage tablecloths that I've found in thrift stores.
I'm feeling much better with this brighter approach.
I'm always looking for new possibilities for my display, and my newest find.... 
I'm not sure what this might have been used for, but I immediately thought that I could use it to display bracelets.
I like the fact that the dividers are a bit adds to the charm.
I didn't like the idea of having wood as a backdrop for each display compartment; it's too dark.
No problem.
I cut pieces of insulation board and polyester batting.
Pieces of creamy burlap were laid over the batting, wrapped around the sides and secured with a staple gun.
The burlap covered infills are now snug in the compartments and hardware was attached to the back of the piece for hanging on the wall.
Easy upgrade for a thrift store find, and I have a new display for this holiday season of shows.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Donating Your Artwork

I received a mailing inviting me to contribute to a Black Tie Silent Auction event for the benefit of a private university that’s somewhat near where I live.  I don’t know how my name made it to their mailing list since nobody in my family has any connection to this university, but I imagine that the organizers collected names of artists who exhibited during events at some of the local art centers. 
Part of the letter of invitation really annoyed me.
As a means to entice me to participate, there was particular focus on the suggestion that the audience of this event will be filled with those who are considered to be prominent members of the community and the university would basically be doing me, the artist, a favor by granting me access to these future, enthusiastic customers. 
Well….I’ve been around the block a few times and have a pretty good understanding of these events.
As someone who has been donating regularly to a variety of silent auctions for over 20 years, I have yet to see any of these auctions treated as anything other than an upscale yard sale…yes, even when it’s Black Tie. 
At one event that I attended, I watched as some of the attendees (mostly parents of the children who attended the private school that was the beneficiary) bid on their desired items in increments of twenty-five cents.  Honestly….twenty-five cents?!
A fellow jewelry designer, K., told me one of her silent auction stories.  Benefitting a local hospital, this was a formal event with many local celebrities in attendance.  K. donated one of her necklaces that usually retail for $600 and above.  She was in attendance and was approached by a very disappointed TV personality who had been bidding on the necklace but lost the bid.  She had really wanted the necklace and wanted to know if there was another one available.  K. had a similar necklace in her studio and gave it to TV lady. 
At this point in the story, I looked at K. and said, “Wait a minute…you gave it to her?  Why would you give it to her?!”  I mean…it’s public knowledge that TV lady makes more than half a million dollars a year, which is around half a million dollars more than K. makes.  K. thought that it would be a good business move; maybe she would cultivate a great, new customer.  
TV lady never bought anything from K. and never referred anyone to her.  I heard this story several years ago and still, every time I see TV lady in the local media, all I can hear is blah, blah, blah coming out of her mouth because I’m thinking, “Shame on you for not paying for that necklace.” 
I’m sure that they exist, but I do not know one artist/craftsperson who ended up getting work because of their involvement in a silent auction. 
Is that a problem?, not in my opinion.  We are all members of a community that thrives when we are active participants.   I think it’s important to step up and help those who are helping others.  Promises of introducing me to the elite who will advance my business fall on deaf ears.  
Once a piece is donated, it’s out of my hands and I choose to attach no expectation to it other than the hope that the money raised will do good deeds. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Studio Storage Holy Grail

I'm not one to covet other people's possessions.
I'm pretty content in the small part of the world that I occupy.
when it comes to really cool studio storage units,
I can be unbecomingly jealous.
When I see something like this....

I can obsess over it, thinking how life would be just a little more complete if it was in my studio.
Just like with many of my jewelry components, I love storage pieces that are a little beaten and weathered, with a story to tell.
I follow a few blogs of other jewelry makers and some of my favorite postings are ones that offer a glimpse of the work space, the place where creative magic happens.
I like seeing how other people manage to organize the many tools and supplies that typically occupy a jewelry studio. 
When I saw and read about the new studio space that Nina Bagley created, I found myself thinking, "That's what I want my studio to look like when it grows up."
A Welsh farmhouse cupboard? antique pedestal sink? still my heart!
If you're not familiar with Nina, her jewelry and her poetic postings, you should visit her site.
The loveliness of Nina's studio renewed my determination to find the right storage piece of my own.

And then it happened.
My sister had her own mission of finding a particular night stand for her guest room, which I found for her at a local consignment shop
When I arrived with my van to pick up the nightstand, I entered the shop through the back storage room where new and sold pieces are kept, and there it storage Holy Grail.
It's beaten up, it's paint stained, it's missing a drawer, and....
it's perfect!
The piece had just arrived in the shop and had not yet been priced.
I made sure that I was there at opening time the next day so that I could have a chance to end my search.
The price was acceptable, it fit in my van and after a bit of a struggle to get this moved into my basement by myself, I confirmed that it was just the right size for my studio.
My round bracelet and hoop mandrels and large cupola daps now sit on top.
The deep drawers have let me clear up some of my workspace surfaces.
My bangles that are ready for etching, stamping and wire wrapping and my containers of itty-bitty parts...
my templates and sterling wire...
etched and roll printed metals...
and selection of tools are now logically organized and wonderfully easy to find.
So much tucked away, and I still have empty drawers!
The search is over.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Etched Brass Cuffs

Hot off my workbench....
brass cuffs that were etched with ferric chloride.
After the etching was complete, I neutralized the etchant and cleaned the cuffs with a brass brush.
I then heated the surfaces with my acetylene torch to get a darkened, oxidized finish.
A quick sanding with a fine grit block brought out the details of the etched pattern.
All ready for delivery to Woodmere Art Museum in a couple of weeks.
Inventory from a variety of local artists will be delivered to the museum beginning November 1 in preparation for the  November 9 opening of the Woodmere Holiday Store.
If you live in the area, it's a wonderful place to find to find unique, one-of-a-kind items.
After browsing the Holiday Store, you can then enjoy beautiful artwork.
I don't think holiday shopping gets any better than that!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Etched Metal Put to Use

I have been forcing myself to use some of my etched metal that has been a heavy presence in my jewelry work tote.
It remains a real challenge for me to cut up some of these pieces of metal as I wonder if the project that I'm imagining will be worthy of the beautiful etching.
It's a completely ridiculous hurdle that I place in front of myself...I can always etch more metal.
But....there it is, and I am happy to say that I cut up a piece of etched nickel to make a commissioned piece.
A collection of small, rectangular pieces were cut using my metal guillotine.
All edges were then filed and sanded.
I wanted to be able to continue away from my workbench, so I pulled out my hand punch.
Sitting at my workbench, I would normally use my flex shaft, but this hand punch is nice to have when I can't be tethered to my studio space.
When I'm making holes for connector pieces, I'm usually very particular about the location of those holes. 
It's especially important when the components that I'm making are as small as these little etched chiclets.
If I'm more than a smidge off, the balance of a piece can be less than what I find acceptable and then things end up in my metal scrap box that I keep on the floor under my workbench.
Even though I was using this hand tool, I prepared as if getting ready to drill with my flex shaft.
I marked each hole location with a Sharpie marker and then marked each of those locations with a swift hammer hit on a center punch.
This gives me a nice dimpled indent for the hole punch to nestle into before applying pressure to actually create the hole.
The process is a little time consuming, but worth the effort...I really do not like tossing etched metal into my scrap box.
Once the holes were made, the chiclet pieces were slightly curved by shaping them on my bracelet mandrel.
I was then ready to make the necklace that had been requested.
I normally like to add a variety of wire wrapped gemstones and pearls to my chains so that I can develop interesting color and texture schemes.
This commission was for a necklace that was all metal.
I used sterling wire to wrap the etched components to very short segments of sterling chain.
The short segments of chain were included to make the necklace fluid so that it would lay in an appealing way.
I couldn't resist adding just a touch of color.
One sterling wire wrapped, faceted aquamarine bead was attached to the last ring of the chain extender.
I've had a few recent requests for simpler chains.
A man stopped by my booth at the recent Media Fine Arts & Crafts Festival and spent a good amount of time looking at my necklaces, especially this one, featuring Swarthmore College's Parrish Hall (home to my son's dorm room) in the pendant.
He finally looked at me and said, "You know....I think I could carry off this pendant real nicely, but that chain is just too poofy for me."
We both cracked up laughing and I said, "You are so right about that!"

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fine Arts & Crafts Festival

Saturday was the perfect day for an outdoor festival.
Having done outdoor festivals when it rained, when it was cold and when it was windy (windy is really bad), it was such a joy to wake up to a day that was perfect.
Lots of people strolled along State Street to see what the Fine Arts & Craft Festival had to offer.  Good weather puts people in good moods.
Nice people, lots of beautiful art made for a great day!
Lucky me...I had such a good location.
I was close to the music tent and was entertained throughout the day with a good variety of live music from local performers.
My space was adjacent to the talented pastel artist Nanette Noone.
We kept the sides of our tents open so that our spaces flowed together, and I got to enjoy her beautiful artwork all day.
Well, good for Nanette that I didn't get to enjoy all of her work all day....the top pastel sold by mid afternoon.
My day had a nice highlight...I was selected for the 'Best in Craft' award.
Didn't see that coming! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I've been busy at my workbench, getting ready for this Saturday's
in Media, Pennsylvania.
If you're in the area on Saturday and looking for something to do,
Media is the place to be!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Featured Artist

My easel is being put to use.
Recent oil paintings include.....
 (still in progress and yes....I think cows are irresistible)
My painting has had purpose.
Until the end of October, I am the featured artist at on the walls of BeaDazzle, the gift gallery at Wallingford Community Arts Center.
If you live in the area, the opening reception for both BeaDazzle and the Duke Gallery is tomorrow, September 22 from 2:00 to 4:00.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Grungy Brass Discs

I recently came across some brass discs that caught my attention.
What I especially liked was the size....2" diameter.
I don't normally work with metal discs that large, but the price was low enough to make me confident that I would be able to come up with a plan.
Yes, they were somewhat grungy, but grungy metal never scares me.
Actually....grungy metal is most definitely very appealing to me.
I decided to experiment with etching some of the discs and began by cleaning the surfaces with a fine grit sandpaper.
Images were transferred to the surfaces with a resist before settling the discs into a container of ferric chloride.
Around one hour later....very happy with the results and wishing that I had bought more of these grungy, brass discs.

Friday, August 30, 2013

I Love Tools!

One reason that I love making jewelry is the fact that I can easily justify the purchase of tools.
I love tools...all kinds of tools.
I'm the type who enjoys wandering the aisles of local hardware stores, admiring the power tools, hand tools and other products.
So when Beadfest came to town last weekend, I thought, 'Ooooh...time for tools!'
I have been wanting a set of wooden punched/dapping block for a long time....done!
Same for an oval shaped, stepped bracelet mandrel....done!
Shaping my fold formed cuffs on a circular mandrel was not ideal which led to multiple smashings of my left thumb and forefinger.
I had not planned on purchasing this hammer by Fretz, but it is such a beauty that I could not resist.
Also, if I ordered by catalog, it was going to cost me an additional $25.00.
And on my workbench, progress is being made in preparation for upcoming shows.
The leaf pendant that I made last year has finally been put to use.
With many of my pieces, I like including something special on the back. 
Something that will hopefully be meaningful to the eventual owner.
The front is a roll printed copper leaf that I riveted to the brass base using balled, recycled copper wire.
A liver of sulfur bath and gentle cleaning afterwards helped to highlight the textural details.
The completed necklace includes sterling chain and wire, green agate, howlite, citrine, smoky quartz, garnet, handmade brass and copper rings and handmade beadcaps.