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Art et the Soul

When I bought a ticket to Paris, I had one, mildly complex goal in mind: To visit friends who had moved there temporarily, using the opportunity to spend my 40th birthday in Europe and get closer to my friends by sharing in some of their experiences there.

What I found when I got there was rather more. I had blithely hoped to experience some clichéd goals such as drinking coffee in a café in Paris; buying food at the market the same day I planned to eat it (complete with a baguette in a bag); and that’s basically it. Sightseeing wasn’t super high on my list, although when my hosts mentioned Stonehenge my eyeballs got huge and I signed up immediately. I hadn’t even thought of visiting museums, other than a vaguely planned trip to a jewellery exhibit (in hopes I could write some of it off, to be totally honest). It was enough to be in a land seeing buildings that were older than my whole country’s history.

These hosts of mine, SS&SC, whom I have lovingly mocked for their endless go-go-go attitude and lifestyle, took my humble “hey I should go visit” trip and turned it into some sort of transformational, beautiful experience that – speaking of clichés – I shall never forget. Despite my horrible memory, I know I won’t forget, because I took ten million photos (as evidenced in this post by SS) and also, I made a determined effort to journal specific things while I was there.

I would have been perfectly happy to blend seamlessly into their lives, watching from the sidelines; and instead they turned their lives inside out in order to show me as much as we could possibly stuff into two weeks.

I have many things I wish to talk about. I’ll try to take it slow and spread it out.

First, the art.

A few months back, SC was in a museum somewhere in Europe, texting me because something she was experiencing there had moved her to tears. I realized that music makes me feel that way, but art never has. Art makes me smile, and I love it – my eyes devour beautiful art, tracing the lines and colours and shapes, working out how it was made – but it doesn’t make me feel something. Music can pull my heart out of my chest, make me close my eyes and grasp at my soul; but art never has. This is surprising; my auditory processing is quite low, while my visuals are jacked up to a thousand – why would I not be more connected to what I see than to what I hear?

I discussed this a few times with others. It became a bit of an interesting question, if not exactly a quest: was there art that could move me?

Europe, I’m sure we all know, seemed up to the challenge. And yet when I visited the Museum D’Orsay in Paris, I was unmoved by Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, even Monet. I could see their beauty, but nothing made me care.

Little Dancer of 14 Years, by Edgar Degas
Little Dancer of 14 Years, by Edgar Degas
Van Gogh
Van Gogh
Van Gogh
Van Gogh

Whistler’s Mother looked on my indifference with disdain.

The statues were a pleasant surprise to me – carvings in the architecture as well as marble and bronze on display in various museums – but while fascinated, I didn’t feel it.

I’ll spare you the suspense. I did find a few, fleeting moments where my soul and my eyes agreed on the importance of what they were looking at.

The first was at a surprise museum. SS and I were meandering around Paris searching for bead shops (more on that later) when we saw an interesting steampunk-looking exhibit poster series on a wrought iron fence, and next door was a lovely looking old church. We walked around to the front and realized that the church was the museum; it was Musée des Arts et Métiers, and we decided to go back and visit the exhibit, which was named Machines a dessiner – a sort of wordplay on machines for drawing and drawings of machines. It was a beautiful building even on the outside, and the statue of the dude holding some gears outside seemed promising.

Upon walking past the gift shop and entering the first nave of the (renovated) church, I stopped dead. The vaulted, gothic arches, the opulent carvings, and above all the light – made me suck air. I stood, transfixed, for I’m not sure how long, taking it in. I think I even backed up a step or two, knocked off balance by the magnificence of it.

This was the feeling I was looking for.

This is now my phone's lock screen.
This is now my phone’s lock screen.
And this is my phone's wallpaper.
This is my phone’s wallpaper.

And this was just the building.

After wandering the hall and gawking at the architecture and the super nifty steam engines and whatnot on display, we moved into the actual exhibition, to be greeted by a haunting display of what appeared to be a real, antique diving suit. It looks like steampunk! This should be right up my alley, I thought.

Moving through the dark space, the first thing to catch my eye was something that stopped my breath and, I’m sure, my heart. I know I put my hand to my chest. The use for this esoteric machine was immediately obvious to me, although I hadn’t seen anything like it before; I didn’t even know something like this existed. But the knowledge of its use exploded directly into my brain.

SS wasn’t sure what it was for, and explaining it doesn’t necessarily help. My art-date-friend Whitney knew what it was once I showed her the photo, and we geeked out over the perspective machine after I got home. But in that moment – I was overwhelmed by evidence of the handiwork and brilliance of artists who had gone before me. Around the corner were antique drawing tools such as beautiful old pens and nibs and colored pencil displays; the astrolabes and the artwork by the artists whose exhibit this was were also beautiful – but I kept coming back to this machine. The beauty, simplicity, and genius of it is still a little overwhelming, to be honest.

Later that night, Notre Dame failed to evoke any emotion except appreciation for its beauty. The architecture of the city, from the Palais at the Seine to the Arc de Triomphe to the wrought iron railings everywhere, kept my total interest, yet stayed separate from my soul.

Someone told me I had to take pictures of me at the places, not just the places. So. Here you go. Me about to attend at concert at Notre Dame de Paris.
Someone told me I had to take pictures of me at the places, not just the places. So. Here you go. Me about to attend at concert at Notre Dame de Paris.

Not until I entered the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille did I feel again; this time, evoked by a large painting whose light and movement took my breath away, yet again. I held a hand up to SC, who was chatting to me, as I tried to sort out what I was seeing and feeling.

"Nymph Abducted by a Faun", by Alexandre Cabanel
“Nymph Abducted by a Faun”, by Alexandre Cabanel

Walking slowly towards the gilded frame, I found more and more in the detail. The lines, the light – wait, does he have hooves? The blue sky and the sun were all perfectly captured. I stood taking it in for quite a while before moving into the statuary room.

The sunlight in this part of this museum might have been the star, lighting the pieces in a way artificial light never could.

Hermaphrodite, by Francois-Dominique-Aime Milhomme, 1808
Hermaphrodite, by Francois-Dominique-Aime Milhomme, 1808

However, other than the Cabanel, few other pieces caught my attention on the trip overall – Rubens comes to mind, and a handful of others. They seem to have lighting in common, now that I see them together. Oh, and naked ladies, always a thing of beauty to me.

Ixion, King of the Lapiths, Deceived by Juno - by Pierre-Paul Rubens
Ixion, King of the Lapiths, Deceived by Juno – by Pierre-Paul Rubens
Allegory on the state of France before the return of General Napoléon Bonaparte from Egypt, by Jean-Pierre Franque
Allegory on the state of France before the return of General Napoléon Bonaparte from Egypt, by Jean-Pierre Franque
The Truth, by Paul Rouffio
The Truth, by Paul Rouffio
La Belle Dame sans Merci, by Frank Dicksee
La Belle Dame sans Merci, by Frank Dicksee

And then, a revelation: In the Louvre-Lens, which my hosts’ guest tagalong/guide called “swimming through time”, were samples of ancient writing pushed into clay or carved out of stone. Stunned, I stared, and the cuneiform, hieroglyphics, kufic and greek made me as close to weeping as anything visual has ever done to me.

Pre-cuneiform writing tablet noting food rations: archives from the Temple of the Sky God (3300 BC, Mesopotamia)
Pre-cuneiform writing tablet noting food rations: archives from the Temple of the Sky God (3300 BC, Mesopotamia)
Cuneiform writing tablet. Poem in Babylonian: dialogue between a man and his god. (1800BC, Babylon)
Cuneiform writing tablet. Poem in Babylonian: dialogue between a man and his god. (1800BC, Babylon)
Tablet commemorating the foundation of a temple in the name of Gudea, prince of the state of Lagash (Mesopotamia, 2100 BC)
Tablet commemorating the foundation of a temple in the name of Gudea, prince of the state of Lagash (Mesopotamia, 2100 BC)
Letter in Greek from Persian king Darius I to a governor (satrap) of Asia Minor (492 BC, the Persian Empire)
Letter in Greek from Persian king Darius I to a governor (satrap) of Asia Minor (492 BC, the Persian Empire)
Fragment of a panel: property deed in Kufic script (Egypt, Middle Ages)
Fragment of a panel: property deed in Kufic script (Egypt, Middle Ages)

Ancient lettering; graphical language; the origins of our language in written form; marks on clay that are millenia old. Words that took hours to inscribe. The graphical nature of these pieces, the sheer, incomparable age of them, their visceral nature – it has all been trying to speak to me on a deep, deep level.

I’ve been struggling to understand the message and put it into words. How it felt being three inches from the surface of an item that had been carved into by human hands nearly six thousand years ago, carved with the intent to communicate using words and concepts. Six thousand years ago. The age of this ancient writing puts it so far away from me it may as well be in another solar system; and yet I was right there, looking at it.

I can’t capture it. But I realized that I wanted to continue exploring it. And so, I will, in any way I can.

In retrospect, I’m not sure why it was a surprise that the thing that moves me is ancient words caught in stone and clay. Words have always been “my thing”, despite not being a great writer. My degree in English, lowly as it is, came about due to my love of reading. I’m never without a book to hand, and some of my favourite people became that way because of their cleverness at being wordsmiths. You might have noticed a mild obsession with calligraphy and pens if you’ve known me any length of time. Tracing down or understanding the origin of a specific word has always been fun, and fascinating. Finding connections between words that seem dissimilar but suddenly make sense when you find out the ancient Latin word they both came from is a delight. But suddenly, I was faced with the origin of writing itself, and I found it difficult to breathe. It evoked a feeling similar to the one I felt while watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos – one of utter smallness and complete awe.

In hindsight, of course the museum of art and design intrigued me. Of course ancient writing filled my soul. Of course I, the artist who works in clay and stones and wire, was more interested in statuary than oil on canvas.

And of course – now I can’t stop looking for ways to incorporate this new knowledge of myself and the world around me into my own artwork.

I’ll keep you in the loop as I figure it out.

JTV

So, like – this happened again! JTV had me down to Knoxville again, this time for two shows on Jewel School. And yes, that says October. I’m a little slow, so sue me ;)

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Their lobby sign is still fascinating to me:

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Christiane had me into her newly-reorganized workspace and I was overcome with plier envy:

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Being on set and seeing my pieces in that space with all those nifty cameras and electronics around, is perpetually cool.

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I really liked watching it live on the monitors when I wasn’t directly on camera!

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Aside from the cool factor and the pretty good sales of the book, the trip was a bust overall – I got super sick and CVS made me sign away my life to get drugs which didn’t even work, so I was miserable on the second day of the show and on the way home, I didn’t get to spend any time doing anything fun because I was so sick, and due to my own boneheadedness I had booked the wrong week so it cost me far too much money to get there – even with the partial sponsorship from Parawire, which was extremely appreciated – and ended up with a 12-hour layover on the way home. I think I’m not really meant to travel  so much. I get sick every time!

Otherwise – very cool that they wanted me back :) Glad I did it! Maybe I won’t again though lol ;)

The Year of YouTube

I decided that 2017 would be the year I did something meaningful and deliberate with my youtube channel. First step was to create a short intro for my videos – key word being short. I didn’t want to bore people or waste their precious time. Next, I had to get my sorry face in front of a camera. This video is what resulted:

Next, I had to get my sorry face in front of a camera. This video is what resulted:

Not too long afterward this was posted, I realized I had just promised the internet I would make more videos. What had I done?! There were 9,000 subscribers on this channel! HAVE I GONE MAD.

Well anyway, I recorded audio for my first, biggest, quietest video and re-uploaded it with the new branding added as well. I was going to keep recording audio for the old ones but realized their quality wasn’t super great, so instead I dug up a video I had recorded last July for crying out loud – with talking, even – and spent a Sunday editing it together. It turned out REALLY LONG but maybe people like that? I know sometimes I like that. So I posted it. Maybe you’ll like it too?

Not sure what’s next. I think a short series of different ways to add colour here, to start with. I’ve got an exciting trip coming up soon, so maybe I’ll alternate audio’ed re-uploads with new content for a while. What do you think? What video would you like to see?

Art & Inspiration

You may have noticed that I don’t only create jewellery with wire – I am attracted to any art form that is simple and colourful. Zentangle is a recent thing that’s fed into my long-term stationery fetish, for instance! So, with the latest handlettering craze happening online (check out pinterest for ideas!) I hauled out my pen collection and added some more, and have spent many a happy evening practicing different alphabets and trying to improve my regular handwriting!

lettering-1

Mostly I use names of people I know, or I watch TV and write whatever words were just said. This one is done with a true calligraphy nib, the kind that spreads out when you push hard. WAY fun:

lettering-2

See? nibs and buckets of ink. And obligatory internet cat, mostly because they are never far away:

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This was a fun evening with a bunch of my happy things – my bullet journal, ink and pens, hot chocolate in a gorgeous handmade mug by my friend Liz, and some nerd tv! Oh, also cat and mom-blanky :)

lettering-5

By the way, that desk is this thing, with which I treated myself and my neck:

supplies-1

No, I DON’T have too many pens. Why do you ask?

lettering-6

Lots of alphabet practice in shitty notebooks that fall apart with a wry glance:

lettering-7 lettering-8

lettering-12

AND THEN I REMEMBERED MY TABLET HAS AN INTEGRATED PEN. it’s no Apple Pen but it’s pretty damn great nonetheless:

lettering-9

Oh look! (different) kitteh! Can you believe these are Crayola markers? Supertips! Try ’em.

lettering-10

(hahah I just noticed second puss in the background)

I used washi tape to make these look different from each other but I still can’t remember which one I’m using for what – also they definitely fall apart. But pretty!

lettering-13

I’ve been using ANY excuse to improve my lettering game – including live-blogging-sketch-noting our Pathfinder games.

lettering-14

I had a HARD TIME in the US – hobby lobby and joann’s were new to me… the temptation! The tiny suitcase!

supplies-2 supplies-3

Meanwhile, I found this ridiculously awesome punch board online and ordered it JUST in time to make boxes for my xmas chocolates. They worked out beautifully with some 8″ cardstock I had lying around. I ended up getting more punch boards from the We-R-Memory Keepers company to make pillow boxes and gift bags – to hopefully end up with custom packaging for my jewellery.

supplies-4

I think I mentioned Bullet Journaling a while back, yes? This is my work setup. Been using it for months and it’s incredibly useful. One page for monthly deadlines and big projects I should be working on:

bj-3

Then each week I use a spread to map out my days in general form, and log what gets done. I have another book with project spreads that include details, and I pull my daily tasks using a combination of the monthly overview/deadlines and the specific project tasks that need to be completed next. It works GREAT, and I’m trying to convert a similar system into something I can do on weekends in the studio.

bj-1 bj-2

At home, the most consistent thing I’ve been doing (since August) is a daily tracker, to find patterns in mood, fibromyalgia symptoms, and whether or not I cultivated a good habit that day or sucked at it.

bj-4

Mostly, I sucked at being an adult and taking care of myself. Working to adjust my plan so that taking care of myself is something I deliberately do instead of passively track after the fact.

bj-5

Finally, I re-discovered Bob Ross on Netflix. From the first moment of the first episode, I realized that most of my personal art philosophy stems unconsciously from this man – work as the flow takes you, you are the master of your world, everyone deserves a friend, find a lazy and efficient way to make something beautiful, there are no mistakes just happy accidents, art-making should be fun – it’s all in here.

inspiration

Thanks, Bob. I’ll keep trying to live up to your soft, peaceful voice and keep making art that makes me happy.

Jewelry Update

I felt like going through my photos for the past couple of months and compiling the bits of jewelry news and photos that I maybe didn’t already share, or only shared on Instagram or Facebook.

For instance, some beautiful components I bought from B’Sue Boutiques (seriously, the greatest quality over there) and I’m dying to play with:

components

A series of Fluorite bangles which nearly sold out!

finished-1

Some pendants and earrings made from carved stamps (Tangled Impressions line) and organic molds (Organic Botanics line) – on the cards I designed for each line! Hoping to take these lines further.

finished-2

finished-3

Some amazing pendants I did by forming slabs of clay over molds I made from Atlantic Ocean seaweed, finished with the Gold Rush crackle technique that I learned from Staci Louise, and a ton of colour:

finished-4

finished-5

Oh right, these things! I filled the empty metal backs of torn-apart watches with Pebeo fantasy paints [Affiliate link if you’re interested: Pebeo Fantasy Prisme Discovery Set of 6 Assorted 20ml Honeycomb Effect Colors]… then glued them to spray-painted filigree pieces…

psx_20161111_221749

progress-1

…and wire-wrapped, of course!

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This display of five separate pendants at a show caused more than one person to ask if it was a single necklace. I think I need to figure out how to make that!

ideas

Oh hey speaking of spray paint – having WAY too much fun with it… in desperate need of more filigree to paint!

progress-2

progress-3

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Finally, here’s me TOTALLY WORKING NOT USING SNUGGLEPUSS AS AN EXCUSE NOPE NOT ME NEVER

tryingtowork

Life & Times

It’s been a strange few months! Lots of good times, but nothing huge. I feel like marking some of the events, so here’s a photoblog! We had my brother’s birthday:

We had my brother’s birthday:

birthday

I started drinking coffee mixed with this delicious thing (simply because I was tired of being tired every day):

caffeine

I did some juicing with my mom, and froze big cubes for smoothies:

juicing

I had a lovely Christmas Eve supper with my husband:

food

And my friends came over and decorated my tree for me – the kittehs and I enjoyed it lots!

xmas

And then my husband got me Christmas in the Eighties in my stocking, which was pretty damn fun:

xmas2

On Boxing Day I felt the need to get some outside in:

me

So, I went for a drive – where I passed the New Waterford Girl houses (they’re in Glace Bay):

\newwaterfordgirlingb

And, despite the chilling wind, enjoyed my beloved ocean:

ocean-1 ocean-2 ocean-3

Oh – and somewhere along the way, my Youtube channel reached 1 million views! The plan for 2017 is to increase subscribers and improve my YouTube offerings – starting with recording audio for my existing tutorials and re-uploading them. That’s an in-progress plan.

onemillion

I’m also working on using the Bullet Journal system to get my shit together. It morphs itself into basically anything, and the community online is huge – so hopefully this will help me take my kickass work ethic and apply it to my own business, and my home life too. I’ll probably make a post about that at some point in the future.

But for now – that’s what I’ve been doing! What has YOUR life looked like in the last little while?

Creating a Cohesive Display for a Jewellery Booth

Sales weren’t as high this summer as in other years – partly, I think, because I strayed too far from my core silver + beach glass for tourists kinda thing. Whatever it was, I realized I needed to increase my income a bit – and so I signed up for FOUR craft shows this fall/winter season, and made more jewellery in silver to try and compensate.

Preparing for this many shows was a little daunting. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t hurt myself, cause a fibro flare, or drop dead from exhaustion; so I had to make a plan to set up, man, and tear down four shows in four consecutive weekends.

As I made jewellery to stock the shows, I took breaks to sort out what my display would look like. I figured out the display pieces I ACTUALLY needed, BEFORE I packed up, so I wouldn’t be carrying unnecessary items. Then – I spray painted as many of the items as possible the same flat grey.

I did a little mock setup, testing the cards, jewellery, and chains on my now-matching jewellery displays.

00-test

Satisfied with the way the background would work together, I next went into my local big box store and found a luggage set that seemed like it would hold a lot, then dragged it to the container section and played tetris in the aisle until I found a combination of acrylic boxes with lids that would fit snugly into the luggage – which had rolly wheels and pull-out handles. I bought the set I’d built, got it home, and began packing. Using the luggage and some offcast shopping baskets, I managed to put together a jewellery booth setup that required only 4 trips if I was alone – two if I had help (which I did – my dad showed up at the beginning of every show to help me unload <3 ). Not bad!!

The first show took a little finagling once I got there, but I managed to figure out what was working and what wasn’t. I was able to remove a few items from the baskets for the next set of trips with them. Here’s how it looked!

01-dth

The venue here was completely amazing. One of the oldest churches in town – built in 1826ish – it has been converted into a museum / theatre venue / wedding chapel. The huge ceiling beams, quaint atmosphere, and amazing marketing/decorating efforts by the show’s creator turned it into a SMASH HIT of a show. I will likely only do this one show in the future. (St. Pat’s is the venue, Deck the Halls is the name of the show, if you’re wondering).

Based on this 6-foot setup, I had to extrapolate outwards to 8-foot tables at some of my other shows. I added an extra display piece which was a little easier to set up but I don’t know – it might be too crowded. I’m not sure if it was the audience, the marketing, the less-tight setup, or what – but the remaining three shows were nowhere near as successful for me. But – I stayed calm, I was able to set-up and tear down without pain or stress because I had planned ahead and knew where things go, and by the end, I was happy I’d done the lot. And even happier that my planning had worked!

Here’s the empty setup at one of the later shows:

01-bare

And the same setup populated with jewellery; this was the Renegade Craft Fair. I felt that there was not enough marketing for this show and suggested they increase the price to vendors in order to get the word out – but they weren’t having it. I will likely not attend again, because despite it being a show of higher quality than usual, with unique vendors, a weekend at a show that nobody knows about is a waste of my precious energy. It’s a shame!

03-rgc

Meantime, I learned that I really DO need two lights. Maybe three or four, to be honest! St. Pat’s has built-in track lighting that was gorgeous and didn’t require extra lighting whatsoever.

Closeup, in which you can see that the lighting is extremely uneven:

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Here’s a similar setup at the CBU show:

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Closeup:

side1

I did this show PURELY BECAUSE OF THIS AMAZING POSTER OMG:

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It was a crowd of students and professors – not a lot of traffic, but lovely nonetheless.

I also did a show at the library, but I don’t seem to have any photos? Weird. I was tired by then, I think :)

Here’s the upside to these less-busy shows – I was able to complete huge chunks of half-finished pendants that I hadn’t had time to get to before the shows began. It was kind of nice to work in such a constrained space, to be honest! And with nothing to distract me (I’m looking at you, Netflix), I was very, very productive. In fact I did so much that by the last show I had no finished components left needing wire, so I ended up bored! There are certainly worse problems to have, let me tell you ;)

show-work1

Joan at My Fair Ladies (a downtown fair trade shop here in Cape Breton) had requested more of those “steampunky flowery things, with the feminine colours that contrast so nicely with the copper and brass metals”, so I was able to get her a good series for her to choose from for her consignment section in the shop.

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And, since these simple gemstone pendants sold so well LAST summer, I made more of these for NEXT summer. Here’s hoping!

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My last show was December 11, and since then it’s been Christmas-City around here. I’ll do a personal update soon!

Teaspoon Jewellery

Everyone knows what you do with old teaspoons if you are a jeweller: you turn them into rings or bracelets by wrapping them around mandrels.

Well. You know me. I can’t do anything the same as other people without developing an eye twitch. And I had this significantly-sized box of teaspoons asking me to experiment. Here’s how it went!

spoon1

First, I bent the spoons to create pendant bails. I had done this one other time and just wired the top half of the spoon to the front of it, but this time I wanted it to be lighter, so I used my dremel and a cut-off wheel to remove the part of the spoon that had the weird plastic souvenir thingy attached.

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Tightening up the remaining spoon handle created a pretty great bail.

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OK. So now what? I need some colour in this project, obvs. First thing I tried was gluing some acrylic cabochons into the spoon bowls. Not bad… a little plain.

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So – I dragged out my Pebeo paints and started using it to fill in the space between the cabochon and the edge of the spoon. I really liked these results!

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When they dried, I used a few different kinds of sealant (matte vs gloss – gloss wins) to ensure everything stayed where it was supposed to be, and wired them up. Success!!

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My eyes then fell on the ENDS of the teaspoons. The part with the gross plastic thing. What on earth could I do with them?!

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And suddenly, I saw them upside down, and realized they were a perfect pendant shape; and also that the plastic crap was just glued on and could be popped right off – leaving a bezel-type shape that could ALSO be filled in with Pebeo paints.

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I did a bit of filing and got to play with so much colour – love love love!

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Oh man. So good.

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A bit of wire to create a bail and some decoration and BAM.

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Just goes to show that there’s always a way to use leftovers if you think hard enough :)

Into the Groove

This year’s progress has been slow. I thought I had a big business idea to get off the ground but it very much didn’t happen. My online tutorial sales have hit the dirt along with my motivation to make more. Physical sales this tourism season are less than half what they’ve been in years past, presumably because customers are not as interested in copper as I am. I want to move, to change, to evolve into something else, but the customers aren’t digging it. Even at work, I am not getting as many Web Design students as I used to, and we’re not sure if there’s anything to be done to compete with the free resources online. The beautiful, sprawling, unpredictable internet that has made my life’s work possible has also begun to crush it.

It’s felt… hopeless. Even a proposal deadine for a possible second book, market invitations, and opportunities to improve sales, haven’t been the motivation to get me doing those things. The market saturation makes me feel like I’m screaming into the void. And the fibromyalgia isn’t helping. How can I stay relevant when I can’t even stay awake on the weekends?! There’s always something stopping me, and it’s been hard to fight the inertia of staying still.

Today I was procrastinating by cleaning the kitchen, doing the dishes, sweeping the living room – all things I definitely never do voluntarily – when my brother texted. Did I want to go for a quick swim? It was 10:30am and he was trying to wear himself out before a graveyard shift. I perked up, grabbed my suit, and went. And – it was glorious.

ocean

I hadn’t been in the ocean yet this year, and as soon as my feet hit the water, I couldn’t stop smiling. It is just so liberating to get into that Atlantic. It feels free and soul-renewing and right.

After a quick walk along the sand, I headed home and … had a nap. Of course I did. Were you expecting a miracle? Two hour naps are the norm when your sleep pattern looks like a zipper.

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When I woke, however, I did manage to put one foot in front of the other and go to the studio. I have a specific set of things I need to do this week – I have vacation from work and it mustn’t be wasted – but I felt like I needed to get back into the groove again, so instead I eased myself into using wire after a long time by working on these organic clay/filigree pendants I had left half-finished for months.

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And, although I had to force myself to start, and despite the pain in my hands, I have to admit that after a while, I did find the groove again.

It helped, a lot, to have a productive afternoon. I even finished up this huge piece that had been glued up and waiting to be completed for most of a year:

garden

I’m not sure what my point is. I guess it’s just… sometimes you have to push through.

Metal & Flowers

I’ve been spending a LOT of time sort of… avoiding the studio. It’s messy in here, my fibro has been acting up so that all I do is SLEEP, and honestly the winter was DEPRESSINGly long and gray.

But that didn’t stop me from buying ALL of the colourful supplies I could find! Especially when I received a royalty payment that was enough to push me up into the official best-seller list! Over 10,000 copies. I’m not a millionaire yet – royalties are surprisingly UNlucrative – but I still managed to get some gorgeous new colors:

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However, it’s only recently that I really DID anything. But once I got started – it was color-city!

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The beautiful mess of painting raw brass metal flowers with an experimental mixture of ranger patinas, lumiere paints, pearl-ex powders, and who knows what else!

I managed to get a couple of dozen flowers put together; I wanted to have finished jewelry of them to show you by today but that didn’t happen. I spent 8 hours doing inventory instead. Yay?

Anyway, here’s some pretty colored flowers to herald the (eventual) coming of spring! Hopefully I can show you some steamflowersiserpunker pendants soon :)

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Organic Wire-Wrapped Pendants: Craftsy Class Goes Live!

Organic Wire-Wrapped Pendants

It’s Freeform! Only In Video Form!

I haven’t been saying much about my Craftsy class – mostly because the launch date has been a secret. But – and this comes on the heels of the news that my book has sold over 10,000 copies so far – that class launched TODAY. And as if that weren’t enough – tomorrow’s my birthday!

What a week!

Check out the intro (and I am NOT going to talk about how I hate looking at myself):

Looks pretty good, hey?

Check out the Lesson Plan for Organic Wire-Wrapped Pendants:

Lesson 1. Frames for Free-Form Pendants [16:49]
Lesson 2. Soldered Frames [14:01]
Lesson 3. Bead & Beach Glass Captures [17:38]
Lesson 4. Stone & Cabochon Captures [19:38]
Lesson 5. Connections & Decorations [17:32]
Lesson 6. Complex Decorations [23:59]
Lesson 7. Final Assessment, Finishing & Clasp [23:38]

That’s, like, ninety minutes of content right there! And it only took two days to film it! And only six months to prepare it! And it looks so good!!

Here. Have a 50% off link to my Craftsy class, Organic Wire-Wrapped Pendants. »

Organic Wire-Wrapped Pendants

Gayle Bird, instructor of Organic Wire-Wrapped Pendants

 

 

Organic Wire-Wrapped Pendants

 

Progress of a different sort

It’s strange, not to have been in the studio – nor to have any new jewellery to share with you – for such a long time as this. If my reckoning is correct, it’s been two months! That’s quite a long time, it seems. And yet, I’m not ready for it even still. It’s too much right now. This happens usually after the fall; January is a time of rest when you’re a seasonally-based crafter; but it was even worse this time around.

Part of it was all the hullabaloo and travel around the Craftsy class; but a bigger part of it was sheer exhaustion. I’ve never been one to sleep well; and to be perfectly honest, since my trip to Tennessee all the way back in September, and its attendant 3am get-ups for flights, I really hadn’t ever recovered. The trip to Denver was easier – I learned my lesson and booked mid-morning flights, and made sure to have at least a whole day between the flight home and returning to work – but I have still been so very, very tired.

So, for the past few weeks, I’ve mostly … puttered. Time around the house to make it better. The bedroom no-closet situation was weighing on me at my home and so I rearranged and fixed it (it’s now super useful, if not overly pretty). The “back forty”, as we call an odd outcropping of our living room containing a bar fridge and snack cupboard, got an overhaul as well. (pics not included)

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OF COURSE THEY DID

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Over the holidays, and since my travels, I’ve started doodling in earnest! Discovering grey brush markers for shading was a delight, and putting colored pencils over top for a smooth colour even more so.

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While poking around for long-abandoned art supplies, I discovered both an old compass and my flexible French Curve, which along with a new marker-safe sketchbook started a rise in these mechanical-looking abstracts.They’re such fun to draw and shade that I’m thinking of making a colouring book out of them!

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The local university’s production of Hamlet, adapted, directed, and stage managed by our closest friends, took up a bit of my time. In addition to helping with the program, I joyfully volunteered to come help paint and decorate the stage – and ended up seeing the production twice! Delightfully morose and full of angst and beautiful little details, it was definitely a highlight.

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Capture

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Much of my time, though, has been spent resting. Sleeping. Snuggling the cats. Reading. Recharging. Watching sunrises from the window. Being snuggled by the cats (and my love!) some more.

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All in all, I’m glad I took this time off. But I’m even gladder to get to the planning and the books to decide what’s next. Cats included.

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And soon, I’ll be back in the studio with a fresh brain, rested body, and joyful heart to experiment anew!

Craftsy Class Giveaway!

Good gravy, I’ve filmed a class for Craftsy.com!

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The experience was absolutely divine. They sent someone to pick me up at the airport, I got to eat at a different downtown Denver restaurant at every meal, and best of all, every single person I interacted with at Craftsy was completely super.

The launch date is coming up soon so I thought maybe I’d let you know just WHY I’m so excited about this, and also give you a chance to win the class when it comes out!

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Why Craftsy Is Awesome

  1. Craftsy is the fastest growing crafty community on the web with over 5 million members in over 200 countries worldwide.
  2. Craftsy only works with top instructors across many creative fields—quilting, knitting, sewing, crochet, jewelry making, fine art, cooking, photography and more.
  3. Online courses are great to take with your friends or children. It’s fun and encouraging to tackle a course together.
  4. With a Craftsy online class you can take it as many times as you want, whenever you want and access never expires.
  5. Craftsy’s platform enables you to take virtual notes while watching a class.
  6. HD quality video and audio make it easy to see exactly how the instructor is creating the craft, with close-ups of the different steps.
  7. Instructors and other students will answer your questions and give feedback.
  8. You can show off your projects to the Craftsy community and be inspired by other students’ work.
  9. Craftsy offers the best selection and lowest prices on craft supplies and class kits.
  10. Craftsy supports independent designers by providing them with a pattern shop to list their patterns, without charging fees or commissions.

Go. Win My Class!

Clicky clicky:

http://www.craftsy.com/ext/GayleBird_Giveaway

Faux Roman Glass (Review)

The Blue Bottle Tree is an utterly irreplaceable source of knowledge about polymer clay. With wire, anything I see I can pretty much figure out how to do – but polymer clay is a mystery to me that I’m still unraveling, so I read as much as I can, and I buy tutorials every now and then as well.

I’ve actually shown you a few things from Ms. Ginger Davis Allman’s Blue Bottle Tree tutorials before – and she’s used my book to wire wrap her own faux beach glass and write a review of the experience – so you can sort of expect me to rave a bit about this tutorial.

Some of my rustic beads from a Blue Bottle Tree tutorial
Some of my rustic/organic beads from a Blue Bottle Tree tutorial

When I saw her Faux Glass Tutorial, I sucked air:

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This is a tutorial for SEVERAL type of faux glass – including carnival glass and beach glass – but what caught my eye was the amazing roman glass on the cover. For those of you who don’t know, recently some enterprising folks have begun digging up glass from the roman period and chipping it into beads. It is stunning in its aged glory.

Check out the real thing at this eBay auction:

REAL Roman Glass

 

So very stunning. And often, extremely expensive. So this tutorial made me REALLY excited. I jumped at it and, like the other tutorials Ginger has put out, it was worth every penny. I again learned new things I should have known or might have figured out if left with the clay long enough, but she made it just so simple and obvious.

First of all – the faux glass is a LENGTHY process, with a lot of steps. You… may not have noticed this, but I’m not a fan of things that take a long time or are too fiddly. I may never make another batch (unless they show themselves to be more popular than I expect!). But I am SO GLAD I made this batch! The multiple steps are absolutely essential to create the ancient, layered effect of the millenia-old glass beads.

Ginger’s steps are perfect to follow. I am a cook, not a baker, because I CANNOT follow steps – I have to read and re-read and re-read AGAIN… but this tutorial made it simple even for this poor global brain.

The Pardo clay, as promised, WAS a bit difficult to work with, but she gave me all the information I needed to keep from getting frustrated. And I am REALLY, extremely, so very happy with the end result.

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I’m not a BIG fan of the way I did the grey gunk – it’s too much. When/if I try it again I’ll do far less.  But I love the distressed look, and the iridescence, and it really does look like glass!

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When I was done I was stymied. NOW WHAT?! I had no idea what I wanted to DO with these. I sorted them into sets and then still couldn’t quite figure it out (been doing that a lot, lately). I had a vague idea that they would work well in a steampunk dangle set but I couldn’t really pull the trigger on that one. I ended up putting them away (which is why it’s taken so long to get this review up!).

Recently, they caught my eye again and I just barreled ahead. I picked through my bead stash and found some beads that really picked up the iridescence of the clay, and went to town.

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I think I like these little sets! And I KNOW that I LOVE this faux glass tutorial. I think you will, too!

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Wire Wrapping Tutorial Bundles

As part of the very slow shift in my business practices, I’ve happily begun bundling my wire tutorials with wire and beads or components from my own personal stash – giving you everything you need (but the tools) to create some of my most popular tutorials right away.

Even better, you’ll be getting the benefit of my colour-matching madness with limited-run colourways and bundles.

There are just a couple to start with – they take a while to produce – but as more are added, you’ll see them at this link: Wire Jewelry Tutorial Kits

One slow, small, step at a time. I know where I want to be. I’ll get there. One step at a time.

Designing

Computer design has been a big part of what’s happening around here lately. Logo design, pattern design, font and brand exploration – it’s all giving me the tingly-fingers.

I thought I’d show you some of what I’ve been up to instead of finishing ANY JEWELLERY EVER. Eep. Ahem. It’s still productive if it’s tangentially related, right?!

First of all.

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Did you know that Illustrator can AUTOMATICALLY create UPDATING patterns for you?! WHAT. THE. HELL. I think my whole weekend might be shot while I move one element and watch it update across the whole pattern. Look at this. Only the top left corner has any artwork in it at all but it shows the whole pattern! eeeeee!

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I might die of excitement. ANYTHING CAN BE A PATTERN DID YOU KNOW

For instance, I took a cellphone photo of this meeting doodle that I keep on my monitor at work.

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When I got home, I turned it into a vector pattern with very little work. And my mind was blown.

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I’ve also been exposed to Design Cuts, which…. I may need to be cut off from. Yipes, there are some beautiful elements in here, and friggin’ cheap, too. You may have noticed watercolour elements being slowly snuck in to my website – they’re mostly from design cuts, although I did follow a couple of designers on to Creative Market and buy individual pieces from there, too. Playing with those led to making things like this for my fans and friends and customers:

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So many amazing pieces to play with. Let me show you some!!

Watercolour textures and illustrations:

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Brushes and banners and illustrations:

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(all of which can be adjusted using the watercolor textures)

And fonts. Oh, the delicious fonts. This Allegretto with the many swashes and alternates might be my favourite:

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Only SOME of the amazing work from Nicky Laatz:

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and some more of my random favourites:

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I might drown in the amazingness on my hard drive. Don’t send help. I like it here.

The other big thing I’ve been working on, of course, is my new brand. You may have noticed? It’s not finished yet, not by a long shot, but the logo is and that’s a start.

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It makes me sort of deliriously happy. I went through MANY ideas and iterations before arriving here. Including the most adorable little squid (I’m still kind of sad he was completely irrelevant)!

I did eventually decide on the feather as the most representative of my new artist’s statement, which came about from a LOT of soul-searching and brainstorming. The main ideas are Colour, Change, Community, and I feel that the feather (aside from the obvious pun) supplies enough metaphor for all of those. The community part has to do with writing tutorials and sharing ideas, for which the feather is a quill; change is when feathers molt to allow new ones to grow; and colour is, well, pretty obvious :)

Even after deciding that, there were like a floppity jillion major and minor adjustments and nudges and delicious font choices before I was pleased. I KNOW THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME TO YOU but it had to be EXACTLY RIGHT. Shush.

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Endless Variations (final logo top left)

In addition to the logo, as mentioned, I started a bit of watercolor-ing my brand, including a couple of sub-brands for my various lines. I’m not sure they’re done yet but take a look so far!

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for these kinds of items, which are made from real grasses and flowers in my neighbourhood:

and this header, made from another doodle of mine:

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for these kinds of items, which are made from zentangle-inspired stamps, many of which I’ve carved myself:

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OK. I don’t know about you, but I’m sort of exhausted by now! I’m gonna go actually do some more of these things instead of showing you about it. Hope you enjoy your weekend! :)

Redefinition

The past few months have been a time of reflection and action for me. The huge success of my book (a best seller, onto its second printing!), an appearance on national US television, and even more exciting things in the works (secrets, secrets!) has made me pause and reflect on what it is I’m doing, where it is I want to go, and how I plan to get there.

I did a ton of soul-searching, lots of exercises from business plan books and jewelry business websites, and came up with a new vision for what I want this business to be. It’s not really a change in direction so much as an acknowledgement of the direction I’ve already been going in, unconsciously, for years. A re-definition.

And what I realized is that I don’t just design and make jewellery. I teach. I chase colour. I innovate.

And so, you should see a lot of changes in the coming year. I’ve re-written my artist statement, begun a re-brand (since I am a graphic designer as well as a jewellery and web designer!!), and while it’s slow going, I’m very excited for the direction that’s going in.

But I also made the decision – helped immensely by my ever logical and reasonable husband – to sell some of the clay components that I have been making. I have WAY too much fun making them and I’ll NEVER make jewellery out of all of them in a million years, so why let them go to waste in a box on a shelf? Maybe I can get a bit of supplemental income, and hopefully I’ll get to see how other people work with my colour and shape ideas, as well. Because – like I am finally admitting, and despite my teenage self’s disagreement – I AM a teacher. I want to spread around the joys of new techniques, bounce ideas off like-minded folk, and share the work I’ve been doing as widely as possible. I have many related plans and ideas, but for now, the easiest thing to start is selling the things I make, online.

With that in mind, here is the first set of listings in the new Polymer clay Components section of my Etsy shop.

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It’s not much – only a handful of listings – but I’ll get there. And the best part is – people are buying! I’ve shipped a bunch of orders in the last couple of weeks and it feels great. I hope to start seeing my humble little clay pieces popping up in assemblage, pendants, earrings, and other jewelry everywhere!

Here’s hoping!