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).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Feeling the Love

I was recently FEATURED (that's right) on one of my favorite blogs. Well, really the only blog I read every day. Usually more than once a day because the author is a posting fool and I don't want to miss anything. TileMeBeautiful is an odyssey of self-discovery, courage, pain and loss, pee-your-pants humor, creativity, the occasional bedtime sprinkling of Ambien-induced loopiness, remaking yourself, laughing at yourself and, of course, Tile. (Go check it out, and be sure and start at the beginning!) I stumbled across Michelle (in an alley, no less) one day and I've been looking forward to connecting with her online every day since. Just kidding about the alley. Actually, she submitted an article to Artfire, a website dedicated to the sale of handmade items (where she sells her glass tile creations and I sell my jewelry), and her story about the recent painful changes in her life and a sudden, unexpected obsession with glass tile really touched me (I know how bad it hurts to have your heart broken, and I too have an inexplicable, visceral, acquisitive reaction to glass tile, in spite of not being a homeowner). Anyway, I wanted to send a little moral support her way (sometimes it helps to hear that someone else knows you're going to be OK, even if you think it's looking iffy), I was fascinated by the creative metamorphosis she was going through, and loved her sense of humor (kindred spirit), so I sent her a note. A girl just needs a break, you know? And if she didn't turn out to be even cooler than I thought. She's only 25 (a baby!) but an old soul, seems to me, with lots of scrappy courage. She's putting herself back together piece by piece with a fierce determination, and a whole lot of grout.

These are some of my favorites of hers--go check her out at http://TileMeBeautiful.artfire.com and http://TileMeBeautiful.etsy.com:
A Serving Tray in my favorite colors (I don't know what it means that my favorite color is taupe right now)

A Vanity Mirror in ocean blues (and I'm all about vanity)

A Decorative Cross in sunset colors (this would look AWESOME in a mission style home)

It never occurred to me to do this kind of thing with glass tiles. I would just watch HGTV Kitchen Rennovations or Color Splash or Divine Desgin or whatever and I'd see them put those glass tiles on a fireplace or on a kitchen wall and I'd sigh and think, will David Bromstad NEVER take his shirt off? And then I'd think, maybe someday I'll have a fireplace and I can put glass tiles on it...But glass tile has been taken to a whole new level. People are even making pendants with it. And here I thought I was all imaginative.

So my plan is, when my massive jewelry empire is off the ground and Tom and I have moved into an obscenely large house, or a house with a third bedroom where I can put a workbench with longer legs and a chair (I'm finding the on-the-floor Studio Seating from Pottery Barn in the Kilim pattern is not very functional), I will commission Michelle to make me a new tile top coffee table. And end tables. And console table. And probably a couple of plant stands and a mirror and a couple picture frames. And a hanging coat rack for the wall. My house will be very reflective. Like me and Michelle.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Handy, and pretty too

FINALLY put together my first two hardware experiments. Hit the wall the other night and napped instead of producing. But last night I drank a bottled Starbucks Frapuccino and sequestered myself with the mini vise and a handful of delightfully hammered bronze lock washers. And some steel wire. And this bracelet is what I came up with:

I'm pleased with the way it turned out. Really does a lot for the pearls. I especially like the steel wire, the matte-ish texture really sets off the bronze and the pearls.

I made this the other night but hadn't had the energy to photograph it until last night:

The pendant is made from a hammered bronze lock washer with one of my hammered brass wire flowers hanging from it. That particular flower (made in the car) was oxidized with the ammonia fumes method. I put the item in a little open plastic container inside a ziplock back with a rag soaked in household ammonia, and seal it up. (Don't get any ammonia on the items, and try to keep moisture out of there or it will get black or green spots). Go about your business and come back in a couple/few hours and the brass will have turned a nice reddish shade of brown.

Barring another energy crash tonight I will try and make some more. I have some other washers in a different hue (I guess from being treated somehow), but I don't know if they're soft enough to hammer. Might do that tonight too.


Friday, May 22, 2009

The Artist in Her Studio

As I read other artists’ blogs, I see lots of pictures of their new studios, their old studios, their new-and-improved studios. So I thought I would post some photographs of my studios. Yes, I have more than one, since I never know when inspiration will strike and I like to be able to just stop wherever I am, while an idea is fresh, and make some jewelry.

My main studio. I love Asian décor, and as you can see I have a glass top Japanese-style work bench, i.e., it has short legs so you have to sit on the floor. The glass top is so I can watch myself work. I have cleverly paired it with easily interchangeable/movable on-the-floor Studio Seating from Pottery Barn in a Kilim pattern. Sometimes I put this seating on the couch because it’s pretty. I might lean against it when I’m taking a break or watching Lost, or rest my head on it if I’m taking a nap.

I am a big fan of multi-purposing, you know, use what you have for multiple things (because I love the Earth) so my studio is currently being double-purposed as a living room. I love that my glass top Japanese-style work bench is right in front of the TV so I can listen to HGTV while I work (someone needs to spill coffee on David Bromstad so he will take his shirt off). And my boyfriend’s favorite TV chair is right next to my work bench so I can get some nooky while I work without having to really get up. That’s good because getting up from my Studio Seating is kind of hard.
I’m really into efficient design. Sometimes, when I put all my jewelry supplies away, we use my glass top Japanese-style work bench as a sort of “coffee table”. I like to have my bench right in front of the couch, which is a handy back rest, since my Pottery Barn Studio Seating didn’t come with any. Japanese seating doesn’t have backrests and I wanted to be culturally authentic.

My Auxiliary Studio. Sometimes when I have multiple projects going on, or multiple designs laid out in my main studio on my glass top Japanese-style work bench, I will work in my compact Auxiliary Studio, that has a handy portable worktop. Actually, it came as a set of four folding work tops. I use one at a time. Sometimes I even eat off them. Tom does too even though that’s not what they’re really for. The beauty of this little portable studio is that it can be used in any room of the house. I like to use it in the kitchen since there’s no room in the living room because of my glass top Japanese-style work bench. I have paired my portable worktop with my favorite chair that I got at a second hand shop and painted glossy black. I just love the apple green Naugahyde upholstery.

My Plein Air studio. I love the inspiration of nature, and I will sometimes work outside with my portable work top when the weather is fine and when it’s not windy. I learned an important lesson about that though—you can’t really find a bead once you’ve dropped it in the lawn. So if I work on the lawn I spread out a drop cloth.

My Mobile Studio. I just love my new Toyota Mobile Studio—what a great idea. I never go anywhere without my tools because I never know when I am going to have an idea for a jewelry design and I will need to pull over and get started on it. This studio model is called “Yaris”.

There are lots of handy places to stow your tools within easy reach, and all kinds of nifty cubbies for all your stuff. I always take the Mobile Studio to my day job, because I like to go to the park on my lunch hour and work. It’s a great place to do wire and metal work. Bead work, not so much. I always keep a supply of finished items in the trunk too, in case any passers by show any interest in what I am doing and want to buy something. Sometimes I open up the trunk and put my portable work top right there next to the studio and do some work—it’s a marketing thing. The only thing I don’t like about it is the black interior gets very hot and things melt. My Birkenstocks melted last summer.

Candid shot of the artist in her Mobile Studio

Candid shot of the artist doing metal work

Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my creative life! This summer I will be working part time on my Floating Studio at Flathead Lake. There are some logistical issues with that though (I get seasick and the beads tend to roll around a lot) so my production might drop off a little. But I’ll be back. All tan.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Recovery May Be Over. Thanks A Lot.

Uh oh. I think I might have just discovered something that may succeed in shoving me off the wagon. The No More Shopping Wagon. Where was I when all these wonderful little Scrabble tile pendants were flooding the market? I guess I was at Target vainly trying to find jewelry that wouldn't fall apart. Look at these little pendants!!

Check out more of these at ItsAllAboutthePrint's Etsy shop.

Artisans, like LiiLii at Etsy, are making glass tile pendants too:

You can see more of these at both ItsAllAboutThePrint at Etsy, and lots of glass tile pendants at LiiLii at Etsy.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Recycle and Reuse

OK, in these tough times, been thinking about how I could economize. I have been cannibalizing my own jewelry to make stuff, and I have been convinced that if I just thought long and hard enough I could even figure out how to make valuable stuff out of trash (stay tuned for my revolutionary egg shell and coffee grounds bracelets). I don't do any kind of sophisticated metal working yet (like, no soldering or casting or anything like that, no torches), so I've been thinking about pre-made, hefty metal forms I could use for pendants and the like. EUREKA!! Belt buckles, I thought. Brass ones or steel ones. They have cool shapes, they're hefty, and they might just look cool hanging around your neck. So I went to the Salvation Army and scrounged through the belts--what a motley collection of ugly-as-sin-circa 1984 accessories, but the buckles!! Ugly webbing belt, nifty buckle! Paper-made-to-look-like-leather belt with a cool buckle! Plastic-made-to-look-like-leather belt with...a nicely antiqued brass buckle! Bought about 15 of them and took them home and took them apart. And the pendant you see above is the first result. That was the coolest buckle in the bunch.

Finally managed to overcome most of my engineering difficulties with my hardware stash (hammered the crap out of a bunch of stuff--fun!!)--now I need Uncle Bob and his tools to help me with the last one. Have a couple designs laid out, just need to put them together. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in the car. While I'm driving. Just kidding.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hardware is Making Me Hyperventilate

And I'm not talking about a smoking motherboard. I was just at the hardware store and I stumbled across some VERY cool little doodads and some truly LUSCIOUS wire. Wire! So long Rio Grande!! So long Fusion Beads!! I'm goin' to ACE. Ace ROCKS. I feel like I'm having a manic episode. So many ideas, so much crap to work with, so little time.

Oh, and then I just had to go over to the thrift store to recon some stuff for this other idea I had (I've gotten on this recycling/cheap supplies kick) and of course they had shitpiles of what I wanted. My head is spinning. Maybe I should call in sick tomorrow and play with my trash. I'm too revolutionary to work.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Delicious Booty from the Sack of Troy

No, no, not THAT kind of booty, you pervert. PILLAGING booty. The spoils of war. My friend Alan said he thought the pendant pictured here looked like something pocketed during the sack of Troy. And by golly it is. Yes it is. Yeah. I bought it from a Turkish collector of antiquities for ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Nah, actually I made it. The other day. I disassembled a pendant given to me by an Eritrean woman about 11 years ago (thank you, Meaza). I loved the little house pendant, and wanted to combine it with something really stunning. I adore these bronze pearls and thought that was just the ticket. I made another necklace, sans pendant (since there was only one) with more of the oxidized metal beads and pearls. I like that one too. The chain is hand forged by moi, also oxidized, just so, by moi.

I have lots more of the little metal heishi beads from the original pendant, and I think four more of the large metal beads. I don't really know what kind of metal they are--I'm thinking maybe a copper alloy, possibly bronze. Bronzes are fairly common in Africa, and I can see a lot of copper in the pendant. Could also be brass, as brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. But who knows, they don't really have a lot of safety legislation in Africa. Could be plutonium. Don't let any babies chew on it. And maybe you don't want to chew on it either. I wanted to but I didn't.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Well I've never been to Spain but I kinda like the music

I bought this stone donut a couple weeks ago with a vague idea what I would do with it. I nearly drooled in the store over the creepy black veining in it--makes me think of the black moss that hangs from the conifers up here. It is so not my usual style, but I was determined to try something different (I think the market for casual jewelry is probably a little bigger than the market for royal interview/Academy Awards/ballroom jewelry.) I was nervous about making the bail though (I mean, my God, 16 gauge wire is, like TWENTY THREE CENTS an inch--that's like, a quarter. Seven more and I could do one small load of laundry.) I wanted to make something kind of almost noir, maybe sort of Old World, maybe it would turn out kind of Mad Maxx. Or Anne Rice. Or sort of industrial. My only goal was that it not be frou frou. I collect shiny things and hide them and then make jewelry out of them that tries gamely to be casual but doesn't quite make it. Too much flash. Things start out as Just a Simple Pendant and end up as a Coronation Neckpiece.

Well, this one didn't quite make it to Mad Maxx. Little too dressy probably for Aunty Entity. Stopped just shy of casual. It's more like, maybe, something the wife of the Mayor of Barcelona would wear. But I think it's a step in a good direction that it looks more like Spain than Beverly Hills. I think that's partly because of the focal piece--it doesn't glitter or anything. Just trying to diversify. My current inspiration is an artist named Lorelei Eurto. Here is one of my favorites of hers:

(CLEARLY I HAVE A REALLY LONG WAY TO GO). This kind of design doesn't come naturally to me (being, apparently, a disturbing human-magpie hybrid, all the supplies I have are really shiny), and I'm trying to be disciplined to use what I have before buying more. But I did buy four bottles of highly caustic substances for oxidizing metal in an effort to increase my inventory of "casual" (non-shiny) jewelry--if you never hear from me again you'll know that I used it in a poorly ventilated area.