A chronicle of the meanderings, false starts (which in retrospect, while sort of embarrassing turned out to be highly instructive), epiphanies, selective apathy (still evolving), wild mood swings, opinions (subject to frequent change), and life lessons of an inveterate dabbler (and her latest dabblings).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Triple Whammy Hammered Copper Pendant

"You are getting verrrrry sleepy. And you are feeling verrrry generous. Look at the pretty spirals, around and around and around. One, two, and three. Keep focusing on pretty spiral number three. Yeah, down there. That's right. You are feeling verrrry generous and verrrry compliant. Look at the pretty boobies--I mean spirals and buy me that leather coat. You want to buy me that coat..."

Just a suggested usage, since he'll probably be looking at your boobs anyway. He won't even see what hit him.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Barbarian Princess Royal Neckpiece

I was busy over the weekend (with dang little to show for it except a fistful of cold hard cash) creating items to replace some things in my shops that I sold. (Don't underestimate the power of a trunk sale--I sold, like, eight things out of my trunk right there on the street and one of them wasn't even MADE yet). I have a new list of things I want to make--one of them involves RIBBON. I'm getting WILD. (Good Lord, what's next? CATGUT? Which ironically is not made from cat guts, but sheep guts.) I've crossed off three of them (and did one of them twice, with a slight variation, it was so fun), and am halfway through two more. Look at me!! Getting on the Focus Train. We're riding the Focus Train. Chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a! Choo choo! (OMG, I thought those mushrooms tasted funny). Thank God for my mobile studio and hour lunches or I'd never get anything done except daydream about Laurence Fishburne. (Oh, did I write that out loud? Oops. "CSI" has taken on a whole new meaning--Criminally Sexy Investigator. Is it just me or is the man wicked hot?) I was disturbing picnickers at the park with my hammering. ("What in the hell is she doing in there?" It's my Car Band. It's like a Garage Band but it's in your car. It's called Acoustic Squalor. We're doing a CD.) But at least my hammering has a purpose, other than venting incoherent pre-pubescent rage. I'm making crap for people to buy. (Did you know there is actually an Esty shop called "Buy My Crap"? Check it out, pretty cool stuff). And I'm going to stay on the Focus Train (except for right now obviously) until the PMS fires up again in three weeks. I have discovered I am useless during the last week of my cycle, so I'm not even going to try doing anything productive then. I'm just going to lay around and bitch and watch HGTV. (I saw an episode of Color Splash yesterday where a woman confessed her crush on David Bromstad and suggested he work sans shirt. My sentiments exactly. Gay men are so hot. It's a cruel irony. Maybe I will become a gay man...) It's like Really Bad Mojo (PMS I mean). And then...the Good Mojo arrives on a tide of (my male readers may wish to take this opportunity to tune out for a moment) red blood cells and endometrium (sorry, getting all earth-mother) and Less Evil Keirsten comes back full of creativity. Apart from the surreally horrendous cramps it's a magical time.

So, on to the actual point of this post (you've been waiting for the "barbarian princess" to appear, haven't you?). I'm still cranking out the metal wire spirals because it's all I know how to make with metal right now. I have no torch, no kiln, no furnace...just a girl and her hammer. A customer inspired me to continue on my earth tone path (in the hopes of seducing her into buying another pendant), so I created something along the lines of the items she bought (my silver and copper spiral pendants), but in brass. I had been intending to do this anyway, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to make it while she was still in the buying mood. Turned out pretty good. If I were a Bronze Age Barbarian Princess I would wear it. With my pelts and stuff.

(Pictured with included extender chain for more barbarian versatility)

NEXT TIME: Triple Hypnotic Copper Pendant. If the first spiral doesn't put him under, the second one will. And if for some reason the second one doesn't work, then for sure the third one (which is nestled nicely in your tastefully exposed cleavage) will make him putty in your hands. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Humpty Dumpty Risen from the Ashes in Three Days

Mixed metaphors, mixed drinks, mixed breeds, love 'em all. And I guess it was more like three months. But Humpty Dumpty is back together again.




Amazing, right? How's THAT for a DIY project. HUGE thanks to "Hoss" (pictured above), our retired boat builder friend for all the guidance and hard work. He labored with Tom like a champ every day, for three months, to get her back together. Work days were short, since Tom had to work and Hoss is retired for a reason (little creaky), but they stuck with it. One more coat of paint, put the hardware back on, and she's ready for a little Indian Summer.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Photography Secrets

A few people have asked me now how I take my photos. Because sometimes they turn out really good. I never really know when that's going to happen but it's pretty invigorating when it does. Not as invigorating as getting a mango tree on Farm Town, but we all live on a continuum of invigoration and have to take it where we find it.

So. My photo taking is pretty low tech. First, my camera: I have an inexpensive but trusty and amazingly feature-packed Kodak EasyShare (digital, of course). I think they run about $150 these days. The important features on this camera: macro lens, white balance, and timer. There are all kinds of other features under the manual settings but I haven't gone there yet (not to mention for taking pictures of things other than jewelry! Like things that move.) You totally don't have to break the bank to get a camera that will do the job for you. I LOVE this little camera (thanks Mom!) I've even dropped it three times (don't do that), but no harm done. I generally have the white balance set on "daylight", even if I'm using artificial light.

I usually try to photograph using indirect natural daylight. In the summer, early afternoon seems best--too early in the AM, or too late in the PM and the light is distinctly blue-green. Too blue to even correct it in Photoshop. Inside, outside, doesn't seem to matter. In the car on my lunch hour (but not generally while driving) works good too. I don't usually use a light box if I'm using indirect light. Partly this is because I don't have a light box. The photo above was taken on my front porch yesterday around noon with a tripod only, with slightly overcast skies.

In Montana in the winter, photos are a challenge because the days are fairly short, and the light can be kind of blue when it's really overcast (um, most of the time). Weekends are the only time I can really photograph in the winter. Direct sunlight doesn't work really well, although I have been able to use that with a homemade diffuser box, i.e., a translucent storage tub. (I cut a hole in the bottom to poke my camera lens through and I upend it over whatever I'm photographing--it serves as both tripod and light diffuser. Of course that's just for straight-down pictures--you could turn it on its side for other angles, in which case you would need a regular tripod.) I have found, though, that the translucent tubs are TOO translucent--the grooves and such in the plastic act like a prism and can scatter weird light on your subject (sometimes cool, though). (I've read that some people use white Styrofoam coolers.) I block some of the light with a thin white cloth and this seems to do the trick. You could throw a cheap white sheet (with a hole in it for your camera lens) over the whole thing to even out the light too--I'm going to try this next. I have used my storage tub with artificial light too, with multiple lamps shining on the subject from different directions to prevent shadows--with cloth over it to diffuse the light. I don't like daylight bulbs. Regular bulbs work fine. I haven't taken any pictures with artificial light in a long time though. You just have to experiment. There are sites on the Internet too for making your own light box with paper. I'm just lazy so I like the tub. You could look in the Etsy forums--search for "homemade light box".

I have a mini tripod. I bought it refurbished on Amazon for $4.99 plus shipping. Just search Amazon for "mini tripod" and read the customer reviews. Five dollar tripod, works great. Telescopes to about 18" high. That's all I need. I use the timer on my camera so I'm not touching it at all when the shutter opens. That's important, you don't want any transferred motion to produce camera shake in your photo. I use the tripod for mostly angled pictures when I want to vary from the straight-on type picture, or for photographing hanging earrings.

I often use a wire plant stand as a tripod as well for straight-down pictures when I have indirect daylight. I mostly prefer this to the tub because it's less unwieldy. My camera lens fits just so between the bars.

I correct or enhance ALL of my photos with Adobe Photoshop. It was pretty hard trying to figure out how to use it--it's not intuitive AT ALL--but I learned the basics: color correction, exposure correction, brightness/contrast, color saturation, and now lately I've attempted to use the Unsharpen Mask, which perversely enough is for SHARPENING your photos (that's what I mean with the counter-intuitive thing--WTF? That's just mean)--but I'm not sure it's working. They don't look any different to me. Back to Photoshop help...Actually, you could probably produce the same effects with Picnik (an application available through Flickr) or Picasa, which is available for free download from the Internet. Just Google "Picasa". Those programs make WAY more sense than Photoshop, and they have the same basic features (esp. Picasa--I think Picasa has a sharpen feature). Picasa even has a cool "glow" feature. (Photoshop probably does too but I bet it's called "UNglow Mask".) You really should use a tool like one of these on ALL your photos--not as a form of false advertising, but to really make sure the photo does your item justice, and really draws the eye. If your experience is like mine, I'm sure you've found that photos rarely capture an item's luminosity or clarity--photo editing programs can really bring that out.

This is just trial and error. Different types of stones, pearls, metals, finishes, etc., look better on different kinds of backgrounds. I myself don't like a white background on everything, although some items just don't work on anything else. I like a little variety, but I think a shop should have a uniform FEEL to it. Some inexpensive backgrounds I have found really effective: ceramic and stone floor tiles from Home Depot, art papers, old weathered wood, painted or stained scrap wood, cardboard (yes really), my own cool clothing, rocks, driftwood. I don't use a lot of props--rocks, driftwood, and sometimes a cup or bowl for posing earrings. Here are some different things I've used as backgrounds that I think turned out nicely:

In order clockwise from top left: Faux slate ceramic tile; Weathered wood; Art paper; Plain white paper; Ceramic floor tile in a sandstone finish; A rock; A dark wood TV tray; Corrugated cardboard; Cheap backer board from unwanted photo frame, painted gray (see photo above); More faux stone ceramic tile; and (center) Mediterranean-style floor tile.

I've been trying to find cool linoleum squares too, but I just can't find any! How can Home Depot have so little linoleum? Have to visit a flooring specialty store sometime. I would like to try homemade paper sometime too. I have found though, that super texture-y backgrounds don't work well. I used sand once, but it scratched the silver.

I take, and retake and retake and retake my photos. Some days the natural light just isn't very good, or I just don't have the right background for an item and I have to scour the house and find something else. And some items are just plain hard to photograph. I've had better luck with pearls lately, but light aqua-colored stones are hard to do. They either look too pale, or they look fluorescent. Any light-colored stone is hard to photograph well, actually. A matte dark gray background seems to work pretty well for that, like the ones Lorelei Eurto typically uses (Lorelei, what IS that?)

OK, off to the Dollar Store to look for stuff. And maybe I'll find the energy to pimp another pair of earrings later...

Seriously Juiced Up. For Real.

OK, as I told you, I recently decided I hated almost all the earrings in my shop. I deactivated all the lamest ones with the intention of, one by one, pumping up the juice. I was going to just riff off the palettes I already had, maybe recycle some stones or whatever, and just make them a little more intentional and artisanal looking.

(I'm SO enjoying the mind-numbing acoustic squalor pouring out of my neighbor's open garage door right now. It's like an aural rendition of the visual/olfactory squalor inside her house).

So here is my first pair of before-and-after earrings. All metalwork is done by MOI using sterling silver wire of various gauges.




I only ended up recycling the quartz ovals in this juicing. The coin pearls were too big, made it look like two big eyeballs. I'm not into eyeballs, freak me out. It took me literally about three hours to make these silly earrings. Maybe more--I made the hammered circles last night and oxidized them, then assembled the whole thing today. I don't usually do this kind of wire work and I'm a little awkward with it. I'm pretty stoked they turned out at all.

On to the next pair of lame earrings.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All Tarted Up With Nowhere to Go

I recently went through my shops and noted which items weren't really attracting any attention. This one wasn't, and I was dismayed by how anemic and pathetic it looked to me. Even the photo was bad:

I removed it and tarted it up and relisted it:

But alas, I think I probably missed the "summer" boat with this one. I tried to suggest the idea in my listing that it was actually a "winter" pendant (i.e., to wear during your mid-winter island getaway) but I'm thinking that probably isn't going to fly.

There are many other exemplars of my early work in my shop that are likewise anemic and pathetic and will have to be tarted up. Especially the earrings. I hate making earrings. Does anybody really buy earrings online? Maybe in multiples. 3-for-the-price-of-2? Half-price if purchased with coordinating necklace?

I have also had to go back and completely redo some of my early wire-wrapped pieces. Clearly I did these prior to purchasing my first pair of reading glasses or perhaps I was wearing mittens. Rather gratifying though to see how much my motor skills have improved. I've also quickly gotten over my aversion to wasting sterling wire, as my most crap-tastic pieces were of course done in silver. It's the cost of learning--learning curves are always a little expensive.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tongue-Tied Tuesday

Almost speechless but not quite. Farm Town has taken all my energy. I have carpal tunnel from harvesting other people's crops for coins last night until 11:30. Had to...stay...awake until---*YAWN*---the grapes were ready...I am now a Popular Farmer and I can buy sunflowers (yessss!). My ambition is to earn enough experience to buy banana and plum trees, and pigs.

Just wanted to share these portraits of Beauty and Grace personified.

Meet Sophie, one of the granddaughters. She is a 10-year-old pit bull/Old English Bulldog cross, and endless entertainment. She snores like a lumberjack. Awake and asleep. Sometimes we babysit. She likes to sit in my lap.

This is my favorite pose. Sometimes a girl just needs to air the hoo-hah.

Good night. Jewelry tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Keep Doing the Same Thing Until It Isn't Cute Anymore

I made a bracelet a few months ago with bronze and steel lock washers from the hardware store, coin pearls and steel wire. People really seemed to like it. I eventually sold it to my boyfriend's sister who now wears it proudly in North Carolina. I've been meaning to make another one, along with a pendant and earrings, but have been putting it off. Wrapping the washers and polishing the steel was a bit of a chore. But I did it this weekend and it wasn't so bad. After I finished the pieces, I took a tiny paint brush and painted the steel wire with acrylic floor wax (formerly known as Future here in the US) to protect it from moisture. Read this tip on the Internet--can't say how protective it is, but it does go on nicely and once dry gives a nice shiny finish that doesn't rub off.

Here is the pendant:

And the bracelet:

And the earrings:

I really like how these turned out.

If somebody buys these I'll make them again. And again. Until nobody likes them anymore. Actually I'll probably keep making them beyond that, because you don't know that nobody likes them anymore until you make the last one that doesn't get any love. And then I'll wear that one myself. Or send it to one of you guys.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Booty from the Itty Bitty Bead Show

There was a bead show today in Kalispell that I went to. Just the other day I told myself, "No. More. Beads." Because I already have so many that one day when my eyes and my wits and my sphincters go I will still have some left. (The eyes and wits aren't what they used to be but the sphincters are still good.) But then I got this little flier granting me free admission to a bead show...

Well, as I expected, it was a pretty petite little show. About 9 or 10 small vendors. But I found some stuff that was reasonably priced, that I sort of had been wanting. I don't generally buy much locally (I prefer the scandalously low prices I find from the Goliath-sized Internet-based stores), but sometimes I find really cool stuff for a good price.

The stuff below was pretty reasonable, I thought, for regular retail, and there was a lot of gorgeous stuff actually. Fabulous pearls and gemstones. The stuff below is what finally hooked me:

Stick-shaped shell beads in deep iris green/blue, two strands of really reasonable blue-green magnesite, a few porcelain pendants (I like Chinese stuff), and some inexpensive metal beads and bead caps.

I grabbed up these pietersite barrels like Cruella DeVille at Puppies 'R' Us, and was captivated by the little tourmaline rounds; couldn't resist the little pomegranate pearls, needed some more amethyst purple glass beads for my Ultra Secret Christmas Designs, and grabbed the copper cones just because I like pointy things. Loved the ornate brass saucer beads--figured I could whip up some eye catching earrings with those without having to try.

Well, I feel cool now that I got to do my own Bead Show Post. I was feeling left out. I better go make something now.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Spiraling out of Control

OK, this is my third and last spiral pendant. For now. Had to practice after I watched Sharilyn Miller's "Ethnic Style" DVD (did you know you can hammer the crap out of worthless foreign coins and make your own dangly things?)--made a pile of spirals in copper (trying to make two identical ones for earrings, took me about six tries) and one in silver (how nice, it only took about SIX FEET of 16 gauge wire.) Finally got to use my itty bitty slate pearls, and had an excuse to buy the 4-foot strand of silver pearls at the bead store. You're probably going to be seeing a lot things with silver pearls now on this blog. For a couple of years. ("Oh look, a silver pearl trivet. And a keychain. And a belt buckle. Is that a tiara?") There are two more little sterling silver spirals joining the strung portion of the necklace to the hand-forged sterling silver chain. I got lucky with those--I'm shocked I got them the same size.

I attempted a square spiral and a trapezoidal spiral (I was going for a teardrop and couldn't execute) in brass. Mmm. Not so much. Maybe I will make them into key chains for the recycling guy and his girlfriend. I did these funky impressions of a split leaf philodendron in brass too, and oxidized them to dark brown. I might have to do the obvious and use them on a strand of chocolate brown pearls. With smoky quartz. (I'm in the grips of Monochrome right now. Time to head back to the Color Palette Generator. Hard not to pop a Sahara Desert photo in there. "Oh, look at all those lovely shades of Sand Beige!!!" Or Sahara Desert at Night. "Oh, look! Black.").

I will make earrings based on this same design, if I can produce two more little spirals that are the same size. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Don't You Tell Me What To Do

I have a longstanding problem with authority and obligation. Any authority or obligation. I even resent aerobics instructors for telling me what to do, which is why I never take exercise classes. I'll jump around and flap my arms WHEN and IF I damn well feel like it. And just so you know, I probably WON'T feel like it. So stop yelling at me. I haven't done well in other types of classes either, because as soon as I sign up I resent having to attend. Even if I'M paying for it. I'd rather just...show up every now and again WHEN and IF I feel like it. (In fact, that's exactly what I did in college. And I rarely felt like it). This is also why I am not a joiner of organizations and clubs. As soon as I join, I get a schedule for the next six months of meetings and events I am expected to attend. How do I know I'm going to feel like going to a barbecue on September 5? Maybe I won't feel like it. In fact, I probably WON'T feel like it. I ALREADY don't feel like it because you just told me I have to. My resentment of having to go to work every day, at the same time every day, all day, and do what I am told to do, is mitigated only slightly by the fact that I am paid to do so. Not a lot, but the alternative (eviction and living on the street eating out of dumpsters) is less desirable. I'd sure have a lot of freedom as a homeless person but I don't like being cold and I wouldn't want to eat food other people had chewed on. And I don't like begging or rejection. Which is why I would never take a job as a fundraiser or a telemarketer.

So imagine my knee-jerk dismay when I recently got a pile of custom orders! And a pile of SOMEONE ELSE'S beads to use for them! I had never done custom orders before, and had never created jewelry out of materials I wasn't able to pick out for myself. Well, the sweet lady who requested the items is a very good customer (and a lovely person as well, too bad she lives way out in Ohio), so I plunged in. She sent me her beads, and some ideas she had for pieces she had been wanting, and I found myself ... rather intrigued by the challenge of trying to create something lovely and unique within someone else's guidelines. It's kind of like an improvisation game at a company meeting--here's a frisbee, a tampon and a throw rug; now make up a skit with that.

Our initial plans for her pieces morphed and changed a bit as I worked with her beads. It was really stimulating, actually, to work within specific guidelines, and frankly a relief; none of that labrador-with-twenty-tennis-balls-syndrome (this bead! no that bead! no this bead! no that bead! thisbeadorthatbeadthisbeadorthatbead!)--and it almost makes you be MORE creative. How to use this set of beads in a unique way, or make the most of them, instead of just moving on to a different bead that provides the novelty for you. Two of the custom items, using some of her beads (and some of mine) are below.

I especially like this set. The smaller lavender beads are amethyst provided by my Ohio lady.

This set used onyx rounds and turquoise chips provided by the customer:

She also had me create bracelets to go with the apple jade and brass necklace, brass and bronze pearl, and carnelian and brass necklaces she bought:

We have a little schedule worked out now, for items I will create for her in the coming months using some of her bead stash. We exchange emails almost every day--she throws more ideas at me and I let them roll around and suggest ways we can make it happen. She has some great ideas for color/bead combinations too, and sends me little extras as gifts with her beads. She sent me a little silver elephant I'm dying to use for something for myself. She's a delightful lady and I'm really enjoying the collaboration. I'm still a rebel though. Totally.