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).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Under-Exposed Genius--Melissa Meman Designs

I came across this jewelry artisan on Artfire a few months ago and hotlisted some of her things. Stumbled across her again the other day when I was Kaboodling from my Artfire hotlist, and was struck again by how beautiful and imaginative her designs are. A really high level of craftsmanship, detail, and intricacy, yet without being fussy. This pendant in particular really impresses me--I find it just breathtaking. The wire mesh cage over the aventurine briolette, and the intricately wrought S-clasp are really something special:

The light oxidation on the silver really gives it an "antiquity" feel--I could imagine a Minoan princess wearing this.

I love the wire work in this pendant--now THAT is a bail. I just don't have that kind of patience. And probably not the fine motor skills. Don't you LOVE peach moonstone?

And these earrings are museum quality wearable art:

I poked around in Melissa's Etsy shop too, and signed on to follow her blog (doing my stalker thing), and felt she needed some love and attention--an undiscovered genius (her, I mean--well, yeah, me too, especially the genius part) who needs some more exposure! I asked Melissa if she would be game to be featured on my blog, and she foolishly agreed (she clearly didn't read back far enough in my archives before giving me the go ahead--too late now Melissa! muahahahaha!)--so I pawed through her personal information on her sites and share it with you now.

Melissa has been designing and handcrafting unique jewelry for over 15 years. She describes her artistic journey at her website, melissameman.com:

My "handmade" journey began many years ago in a small southern town. I am the youngest of five children and we grew up with our mother making most of our clothes (and many other things) by hand. Our father was a house-painter, but also a farmer and we lived off the land as much as possible. My sisters and I have always been involved in some craft or project for as long as I remember...I think my first endeavor was crocheting which I still love! Currently, I live in Maryland with my husband and son.

My mission is to create "one-of-a-kind" designs with a unique, eclectic flair. You know, jewelry that will make someone stop you and ask you where you got it! I am working on a few "limited edition" pieces, and love custom work. I hope to have a new bridal collection ready soon.

I am always trying to incorporate new techniques into my designs. I utilize a mix of materials - gemstones, artisan-made glass beads (lampwork), precious metal findings and wire (sterling, Balinese, Thai Hill Tribe and Indian silver; bronze; gold-filled; and gold-vermeil), freshwater pearls, coral and other organics, Austrian crystals, Czech and German glass...the list goes on!

Most of my designs are created with a "wrapped" link technique, usually utilizing sterling silver, gold-filled or bronze wire. I absolutely love this style, not only for its beauty and versatility, but also for its strength and durability. I occasionally utilize a strung method with beading wire and sterling or gold-filled crimps.

Melissa also designs and makes rosaries--with the same uniqueness, craftsmanship, luxurious materials, and attention to detail as her other designs:

I LOVE all these sweet little earrings too! I don't have the engineering ability to figure out how to do this with wire:

Stop by Melissa's blog, and her Artfire and Etsy shops and show her some love!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Muppets: Bringing the World Together, One Etsy Shop at a Time

"...I take my lead from this immortal style icon--'I find that it is vital to have at least one handbag for each of the ten types of social occasion: Very Formal, Not So Formal, Just a Teensy Bit Formal, Informal But Not That Informal, Every Day, Every Other Day, Day Travel, Night Travel, Theatre and Fling.'"
-Miss Piggy

I recently came across the quote above in an Etsy seller's profile while reviewing her shop on LinkReferral. I immediately wrote my review and told the seller I loved her--she quoted MISS PIGGY (the diva's diva and my junior high style guru--God, why was junior high so hard?), AND she lives in Ireland, so she was double-ultra cool. And thus our little intercontinental friendship was born! Everybody, meet my new friend Rena Roohipour, of Lilycobweb at Etsy! I asked Rena to tell you a little about herself, and share some of her work:

Rena: I design and make crocheted and beaded wearable items and jewelry. I live in South Down, Northern Ireland in a very scenic area. I love music, art and craft. Crochet is something I have studied and developed since I was a child. I love its endless flexibility and sculptural qualities. I'm influenced by Nature and by Romanticism, with an occasional dash of Gothic glamour and a hint of Celtic twilight! I focus on that link between eye and heart and hope that this feeling is reflected in what I make. I love to make beautiful and functional pouches and purses as well as bead and wire jewellery. I occasionally make freeform crochet wallhangings which also incorporate beads and wire. What interests me about crochet is its ability to diffuse light, and still create a strong structure. It's fascinating, and for me, it's like drawing and painting with yarn.

I’m fairly new to selling online, but not new at all to crafts and crochet. I first learned to crochet at the age of eight or nine. I was taught by a neighbour of ours who did beautiful Irish crochet, and I used to marvel at her skill and patience. I gave up handcrafts and anything artistic for a long time. Then, when my eldest daughter went to study music in Boston four years ago, I went to visit her there. On a walk down Newbury Street, I visited the Boston Society for Arts and Crafts Shop. They had a jewellery exhibition there. That was the first place I saw bead and wire crochet jewellery! I couldn’t believe you could crochet wire! I’ve since gone back to yarn and thread, but I still use beads and wire a lot to make my creations. I don’t exclude any material, and I experiment a lot! Crocheting leather is my latest favourite thing!

Creating in the medium of crochet is very satisfying for me. Crochet always amazed me with its possibilities. It’s very sculptural and I love that. In a strange way, it links me to my childhood and my home.

At the moment, I’m obsessed with leaves and flowers and ways to crochet them. I want to do a series of leaf pendants connected with Celtic tree lore. I like to feel a link to nature, and I think that finds its way into my work.

This is one of my personal favorites currently in Rena's shop:

She's called it Pralines and Cream, and it's a "wristlet"--a nifty, whimsical, uber-feminine little purse you can attach to your wrist:

"For someone forever misplacing a purse, this is the perfect solution. Or if you're out 'socialising' (what purse? I had a purse?) this is what will save your dignity!

"A bag you can carry while holding a glass, a plate or loads and loads of shopping bags while answering your cellphone! A godsend!

"The crocheted handbag is designed to hold your keys, phone, money and lots more in a very secure and convenient way. The wristlet features three tiny magnetic clasps that are so easy to open and close on your wrist. Cream, mocha, walnut and caramel all blend deliciously with a cream cotton thread to make a great crocheted fabric. Vintage dark-brown leather buttons make the closure on the pouch and adorn the wristlet. Dark brown leather thonging forms a crocheted border. Very soft to the touch, yet so strong and functional. Perfect for summer evening outings. It has a lovely handsewn faux-suede camel lining."

These are some of my favorites from her sold items gallery:

I especially love her "Orange Lily" wristlet:

These wristlets are just the thing for me--I have left countless personal items in various establishments throughout northwestern Montana. My favorite black "Anna Karenina" faux fur hat, my bank card, my entire wallet, sweaters, coats, sunglasses, doggie bags (the kind with dinner leftovers, not dog poop), etc. Looking forward to seeing more of Rena's creations, and chatting on Facebook! Check her out!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Memories of Places I've Never Been

I've thought so hard, so many times, about how cool it would be to go to Italy that I can damn near remember being there. And I sigh nostalgically for all those lovely mental trips. Tuscany was my favorite. The necklace below sort of morphed itself into a Tuscan palette (or what I think of as such) when I was forcing myself a couple weeks ago to NOT do a monochromatic piece. I had just gotten a pile of little gemstone rounds from the crazy people at BeadBabe.com who can't stop having these 50% off sales (seriously, check them out, they're having some sort of August sizzler sale, even their sterling silver is 50% off), and sort of threw them on the table with some of my other stuff and picked some out. For one frightening moment I thought they looked like Mardi Gras (which scares me, also Carmen Miranda scares me, but I do like fruit) but then I was able to talk myself into the Tuscany thing and all was well. (I'm traumatized by bright colors--too many early encounters with clowns). I used brass wire that I had left steeping in the ammonia fumes until it had turned a rich sable brown. The photo below doesn't show it very well, but the wire retained its luster. The stones are golden agate, olive ice flake quartz, plum jade, honey jade, lemon agate (the lime green ones), and freshwater pearls in olive green, gold and coppery plum.

And in conformance with my personal philosophy of conservation of mental energy, I went ahead and made two bracelets from the same design (if something is working for you, milk it until it's trite and irritating; unrelenting originality is exhausting).

This last bracelet is more in a charm style--I dangled the stones from some chain I had made from brass wire (again oxidized to a sable brown--you can see the nice sheen on it a little better in this picture) based on some industrial chain I saw at the hardware store. Sort of twisted S-links. For more information, or to purchase, click HERE.

I'm pretty proud of myself because the necklace and the first bracelet are already spoken for by a good customer in Ohio who just bought a bunch of stuff. Thanks Ruchi! I hope she has lots of friends who like jewelry too.

Okay, enough of that. Today is the last day of my Staycation (I'm exhausted) and I still have loads of stuff to do. Take more pictures of new stuff, retake pictures of old stuff, make more stuff, do another blog post, work up some interesting backgrounds with tissue paper and Mod Podge (not really working out yet, looks like elephant skin without the hair), figure out unit cost for all the crap I didn't need that I bought yesterday because it was 25% off (BFD), take a shower (maybe), eat (maybe), etc. I need a vacation.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Piggybacking on African Genius

I was just knocked out by these Ghanaian leaf medallions in brass/copper at Happy Mango Beads. I love stuff like that--rustic, luminous, earthy, sensuous, a little wild. The selection of these Ghanaian cast metal beads was stupendous--lots more stuff on my wishlist. One of the things I like best about them is that they're so stunning you don't need any talent or imagination to make something really gorgeous with them. String them on some used dental floss and they're still magnificent. The gold pearls were sort of a no-brainer--I'm always looking for no-brainers in order to conserve intelligence for other things, like remembering where my keys are. I thought the plummy garnets would cool the piece down nicely, so that's all I had to think about. For more information on this piece, or to purchase, click HERE.

I wanted to do another piece that featured the medallions more strongly, so I used three of them in the necklace below. Again, the bronze pearls were a no-brainer, and the "oil slick" crow beads were kind of in the same texture family. Again, no brain strain. For more information on this piece, or to purchase, click HERE.

OK, now I'm off to do more brainless stuff, like watch golf on TV and play with my hair.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Premonitions of Autumn

The weather has been cold, wet and dreary in northwest Montana the last several days; it feels just like October. The high today is 61, and snow is expected in Glacier Park. Some of the maples are even changing, confused by the cold weather. The market is filling with every kind of apple conceivable, from the deep cabernet-hued Red Delicious to the winter-sun-yellow Golden Delicious to the delicate rose-and-green Pink Lady.

The pendant below is a premonition of fall and the apple harvest, coppery autumn leaves and hot cider. Right after I bought this lovely strand of apple jade the weather turned and I knew some burnished copper was in order. I created a hammered, three-dimensional spiral in heavy copper wire (inspired by Sharilyn Miller's ethnic jewelry tutorial), lightly oxidized to an autumn glow, and hung it from a strand of generously sized multi-colored apple jade roundels in shades of red delicious, golden delicious, braeburn and pink lady, and a scattering of button pearls in the same hues. Garnet heishi anchor the piece in a deep Red Delicious tone.

I was having so much fun with this wonderful jade (which I'd never heard of before) that I kept going, finally finding a home for the big brass bead from Happy Mango I'd been hoarding all summer. The brass reminded me of the mellow golden sunlight of autumn and seemed a natural match to the jade as well.

I had made a couple of copper spirals, the second a little smaller, and as I was digging through my stash of supplies I came across the strand of copper rose rice pearls I had bought several months before and thought they would be the perfect complement to the pendant. I had used a few of them here and there, but they were so striking they needed to be used in luxurious quantities in one piece to really make the most of them. I had a pile of awesome copper beads I had gotten here and there as well, and finally settled on the exotic snakeskin flat rounds I had gotten here in Whitefish at Brought to Life Beads. I hung the strand from some copper chain I had made and oxidized with some Midas solution (I have since discovered ammonia fumes work just as well, the finish is more durable, and it is a no-mess approach). I like it so much it makes me wish I still wore jewelry. (I lost interest in wearing it when I started making it, go figure).

The remains of the strand of the first strand of apple jade I bought are all in tones of caramel, apple cider, eggnog, and the pale, buttery color of apple flesh. They will be paired with golden brass, warm wood beads and soft green and taupe pearls. I bought the last strand of apple jade today when I went to the bead store to buy pliers--it was full of merlot, pink, pink-and-green, and the pale green of unripe Golden Delicious. Earrings! And maybe something with cherry quartz. I also have a big trapezoid of deep pink coral I've been carting around for months. Nothing seems to do it justice, but this just might. I KNOW I can change public opinion to make pink an autumn color. Pink cheeks, Pink Lady apples, pink tights...

The back-to-school advertisements are on the television now, and I know some children have already begun school again. If I had children, I would be jumping for frigging joy that they were out of my hair, so it's a great time of year. For quality of life, and for jewelry. Bring it on.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Lost My French Lady

I seem to have lost one of my French ladies. I was utterly tickled to have acquired two new followers in France (how chic and cool is that!)--both terribly talented jewelry designers, too!--but alas, I lost one. She has disappeared from my list of followers. Where did you go, Lilibulle? What did I say? I have pondered for days what I could have done to alienate my French Lady #1. Perhaps the French are very sensitive about Humpty Dumpty and I was treating him too flippantly? Were the boat photos just too graphic? I even went back and looked at comments I left on her blog (was I obnoxious?)--I raved rapturously (did I cross the line into creepy obsequiousness?) about two of her gorgeous recent creations. Nothing inappropriate that I could see, and many other readers had left similar comments. Is it one of those language barrier things? Like I inadvertently used an English word that has really insulting connotations in French? Like, "stunning" is generally interpreted to mean "blindingly ugly" in France?

Or maybe (this is my favorite) it's a Blogger glitch and my French Lady #1 didn't really leave at all! If so, Hi Lilibulle!! Or maybe Blogger is randomly unsubscribing people from blogs without their knowledge. That would be a Bloggerly thing to do. At least I still have one French lady left. French Lady #2, the very talented jewelry designer and polymer clay artist, Veronique Perez. This is one of my favorite bracelets of hers. Check out some of her amazing polymer clay pendants HERE and HERE. THAT is what I was thinking when I bought a bunch of polymer clay several months ago. Hautes fauxtiquites.

It might seem like I'm overreacting, but this is a continuation of a disturbing trend that started last week. I seem to be losing followers. I was congratulating myself on having broken through the 30-followers-barrier ("yesss!" I hissed), and then my little bubble burst then next day when it went back down to 29. Who did I lose? I scoured my list, but couldn't pin down for sure who had left (I think it might have been Joyce Richards--she let me know she's diverting energy from her online presence to deal with health issues; maybe she deactivated her Blogger account--I can't remember if she was following me on here or not!). I wondered if I had said something offensive in a recent post--I wracked my brain and looked through my posts, but apparently I'm too insensitive to figure out what it was I said. Did my "Rode Hard" post offend my transvestite readers? (By implying that having a voice like a transvestite was not a desirable thing?) Or my middle-aged/smoker/mid-western readers? No offense intended to any of these demographic groups. If I actually WAS a middle-aged, mid-western smoker I would be proud of my voice; I just don't feel it is representative of me at this time. Maybe in 10 years I will have moved to Michigan and become severely addicted to unfiltered Camels, but it seems a little premature right now.

Or maybe these readers had dipped into my archives and found something unseemly in there. Really possible. I can't even remember what's in there now. Or maybe I said something wildly inappropriate about crepes or something in another social networking venue. Very possible, that would be like me. But I don't recall encountering many of my blog readers on Twitter or Facebook. Or maybe the recent dearth of actual jewelry-related posts made my blog seem like the old bait-and-switch. You THOUGHT you were signing up for a jewelry blog but you got all this other crap instead about bad garage bands, transvestites and fiberglass. *SIGH*, sorry. I actually have been making stuff (I made SIX pair of earrings in two days--who put the meth in MY coffee?), really aMAZing stuff, I just haven't listed it yet. I sort of want to do a deluge thing on Etsy where I take up the ENTIRE "recent listings" page. Doesn't matter what you click on--for a solid 20 seconds, you're going to end up in MY shop.

For several minutes I was deeply afraid someone had hijacked my Blogger account--Mozilla had a security breach and I had recently purchased Firefox so I scoured past posts for unauthorized donkey sex or Aryan nation posts or something similar but found nothing. I continue to cling to the hope that it was yet another Blogger bug and French Lady #1 still likes me.

Come back, Lilibulle!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Humpty Dumpty Would Have Been Fine If They'd Used Fiberglass

If you're a veteran reader of this blog (with the psychological scars to prove it), you will recall our boat was totaled earlier this summer. Like, one week into official summer. I posted a thoroughly horrifying photo of the damage. I post it again for your morbid curiosity:

This is what it is supposed to look like:

Looked bad, but actually was fixable. That's the beauty of fiberglass. Tom (my boyfriend and owner of said boat) decided to have a retired boat builder friend help him fix it, and his oldest son pitched in. They've been working on it daily since pretty much a couple days after the accident. There's enough progress now to be noticeable so I thought I'd share.

First, they removed the broken pieces you see above. That left the gaping cavernous hole you see below:

Then they started fiberglassing the busted pieces back together. They even went back to the scene of the debacle and found another missing piece. The beauty of fiberglass is you can just recreate whatever sections you don't have, and you can use as many old pieces as you can get your hands on to save yourself some work. Since it isn't metal, it doesn't bend or warp. Just breaks.

They eventually reconstructed the broken pieces, and once everything was fitted properly, they were permanently fastened back into place:

So, the next step is to build up the new sections a bit more, add the final layer of resin which will be sanded to a smooth finish and then painted, replace everything in the interior that had to be ripped out to get down to the fiberglass on the inside, and then do little stuff like replace railings and hardware, and clean it. Probably another week, and it should be just fine. Hopefully it will be seaworthy before my staycation is over. My next photo will hopefully be indistinguishable from the second photo above.

What a weird summer it's been.