Buy the Book! »

Category Archives: Musings

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.

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:

lettering-3 lettering-4

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!

finished-6

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

progress-4

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?

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.

Screenshot_20160808-200146

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.

blue

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:

2016-03-19 09.03.25

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

2016-04-17 11.08.11

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 :)

2016-04-17 12.12.48

2016-04-17 12.13.56

2016-04-17 12.13.35

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)

house1

house2

OF COURSE THEY DID

house3

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.

doodle2

doodle6

doodle1

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!

doodle9

doodle10

doodle3

doodle4

doodle5

doodle7

doodle8

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.

hamlet3

Capture

hamlet2

hamlet1

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.

cats4

cats6

window1

window2

window3

cats2

cats3

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.

cats5  paperwork2

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

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.

2015-10-24_1136

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!

2015-10-24_1138

2015-10-24_1137_001

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.

20151023_105545sm

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

2015-10-24_1259

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:

titles-01

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

Watercolour textures and illustrations:

watercolor

Brushes and banners and illustrations:

brushes

2015-10-24_1149

2015-10-24_1155

(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:

allegretto

Only SOME of the amazing work from Nicky Laatz:

nickylaatz

and some more of my random favourites:

fonts

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.

gbsquare

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.

Endless Variations
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!

organicBotanics-01

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:

tangledImpressions-01

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

il_75x75.841873434_35pu

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.

buy polymer clay components from gayle bird

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!

Artisan Jewelry Times – Featured Artist

artisan jewelry times

A really lovely thing happened to me recently – I was approached to do a tutorial AND be the featured artist in a relatively new magazine called Artisan Jewelry Times. I’ve been a subscriber for a few months now and it’s a lovely little mag.

I’m not convinced I’ve put my best foot forward – I wish I’d had better flower colours left when I shot that pendant – but I am REALLY happy with the featured artist column! Here’s a closeup of the first page.

Gayle Bird bio

So pretty! There are tons of images inside as well. And they even somehow made my little pendant look pretty good on the cover, too.

I suggest you check it out! I’m in the July issue but their back issues look super, too. Here’s that link again: Artisan Jewelry Times

 

Exclusive Jewelry-Making How-To: Make a Baroque Wire Pendant

I recently worked with Jewelry Making Daily to product an exclusive how-to project and thought you might be interested!

0020.baroque-wire-bead-pendant3.jpg-550x0

This beautiful little pendant can be glitzy and glam while being relatively quick to whip up. If you want to be meticulous and precise with your wrapping, you can spend longer on the piece–but I’m not that sort of artist! I like loose and free, which is why my measurements, tools, and materials lists are mostly of the “ish” variety, with any number of alternatives available. It’s not just because I find measuring things slows me down and dampens my creativity–and it’s not just because I forget measurements from one second to the next, either (I am a terrible baker but a great cook!). The real idea is to work with what you’ve got and be free to make something unique to you!

Exclusive Jewelry-Making How-To: Make a Baroque Wire Pendant »

Taking a Breather

There have been so many amazing opportunities coming up because of the book that I’ve been flat-out, working my day-job and completing extra projects, promoting the book, and generally going mad with joyful busy-ness, for months. So at the last minute, I took this past week off the day-job and planned to spend it in the sun.

Unfortunately, the sun didn’t show up for our date, but it was a good idea nonetheless. A bunch of deadlines somehow converged on me for this coming week and I never would have made it while also working 40 hours at the college. But I didn’t spend the whole week working! I finally got outside and made some leaf-based molds (there haven’t been leaves for six months… c’mon sun, get back here!).

2015-06-02 12.16.25

I managed to get in quite a bit of kitteh-snuggling (not that I had much choice):

2015-06-03 08.40.05

My fabulous father made a desk for me recently, and my just as fabulous husband hooked me up with a new computer and dual monitors so I now have a comfortable space for the ever-increasing computer usage for my jewellery business. It’s amazing to get work done and NOT be uncomfortable and in pain the whole time. Amazing.

2015-05-31 13.06.35

I finished up a bunch of patina experiments for a webinar I’m hosting next week:

2015-05-30 20.18.20

EP13019_1 (1)

 

(Feel free to sign up for that webinar, by the way. You get access to it later even if you can’t attend live.)

I was able to get to the beach for a bit – it wasn’t sunny and we’re still experiencing a nor’east wind for some reason so it was pretty cold. But beautiful! And I walked SO FAR!

Having the house to myself was also pretty peaceful. I got to make and eat some delicious food, including this taco salad:
2015-06-02 13.27.01

2015-06-02 13.42.56

And these ridiculously good cookies (from scratch!!):

2015-06-06 16.19.49

 

I played with new translucent clay and a new tutorial by Ginger Davis Allman that I’m going to do a whole review of soon, but here’s a preview:

2015-06-03 13.46.27

 

I studied up on some D&D nerd stuff and started playing with making a different character sheet (as a newbie, the regular one is difficult sometimes):

2015-06-03 19.44.19

 

Did I mention the kitteh snuggling?

2015-06-03 21.59.15

2015-06-04 08.49.16

I think they like me.

I did a bit of design work for this amazing, local youth project called iCreate Cape Breton:

2015-06-02 17.04.22

I broke down the gallery from the book launch and got to see all the lovely things people wrote about my show:

2015-05-30 12.57.00

I got to visit my brother in his new apartment, spend time alone to clear out my head, do a bit of housecleaning with the windows open smelling like heaven, spend some time with my favorite people, and mostly, do a lot of all the things I WANTED to do instead of only things I HAD to do.

Still have blog posts to write and deadlines to meet, but my soul feels recharged and my thoughts are at peace instead of roiling.

It was a good week. Now… back into the breach!

Freeform Wire Art Jewelry – Book launch a success!

At least, I’m going to call it a success – plenty of people came, the chairman of the board at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design said some incredible things about me and my book, I got to see my favorite people, meet some fans, and make new friends, and I sold and signed nearly every copy of the book we had on hand!

Full update (with photos) to come. For now, if you’re looking for a copy of the book try CBCCD (they had a couple left and you can order more), or My Fair Ladies in Sydney – or, try ordering your copy on Amazon.

I’m tired, but happy. Thank you everyone! Stay tuned for what’s next!

PS: I will be on the radio today! Listen to CBC Mainstreet Cape Breton today, May 8, between 5 and 5:30 AST, or maybe it’ll be posted to the website later? I’m not sure! 

Art Date!

I’m super excited to play with my friend Whitney tomorrow… as a visual/doodle artist, she’s just started with polymer clay by carving her own stamps.

a0814b28-2463-4144-91f4-fe8fba87182a
Polymer Clay pendants from original stamps by Whitney Fawn

Meanwhile, I’d love to create my own stamps for my clay – I’m currently using another lady’s zentangle stamps, which I love but they’re not MINE, you know? – but getting MY doodles professionally made is prohibitively expensive!

Some of my zentangles - here's hoping I can figure out how to carve some of this!
Some of my zentangles – here’s hoping I can figure out how to carve some of this!

So Whitney’s gonna show me how to carve…

Speedball stamp carving sheets and cutters
Speedball stamp carving sheets and cutters

…and I’m going to let her play with my clay tools and toys – including a brand new set of patinas…

Swellegant metal patinas and dyes – including metal coatings to turn clay INTO metal!

…and it shall be glorious!

Idea Overload!

Two weeks ago I had some vacation time, and my younger brother and I headed out across our wee island in search of rusty crap. It was a gorgeous summer day, warm but not so hot we needed the A/C so all the windows were down and everything smelled like heaven – pine and hot sand and salt air and just… fresh and wonderful. If I could bottle all of those summer smells for you, I would! As it was, I was too enthralled to even take a single photo the whole day. Remember what it was like to live your life instead of recording it? It was delightful and I’m happy I have the memories even without being able to show you.

But I CAN show you what I found on our little treasure hunt!

Apparently, most of the antique places in Cape Breton are clustered around the middle, so we plotted a course and headed out. First stop, Baddeck. I got a few fun little pen nibs, some random metal bits, and some old keys, really big delightful ones that my locksmith dad was super impressed by – he says they were probably for great big doors.

Keyyyyyyyyyys

Next stop, the Garage Loft. An antiques shop above a literal auto shop in the middle of a gorgeous wood off a rural road, you get in by walking up a hill behind the shop and then across a few planks over a gap between the building and the hill, and then you’re in the loft! The first thing I see? This delightful wall of tools. I bought some calipers which I can see as the basis for a fantastic necklace.

Calipers and... I dunno?

And a great little metal measuring tape, which I took apart, cut off the inside-most ten feet, and put back together so it’s still usable.

A great old chunk of tape measure

I spoke to the owner and he dug out the inside of an old clock, plus the beat-up clock face. My husband is going to have fun tearing this apart!

The whole inside of a clock. It still moves!

The front of a rusty old clock

Then I came across a lovely, unsorted (my fave) box of old horse tackle. The wheels are turning with these suckers!

Horse buckles and such!

Moving along, we found a house that’s been converted into “antiques and art”, with an artist in residence upstairs and so many old typographer’s cases – some with the metal type still inside – that I was almost weeping at being too broke for any of them. My brother bought some local fiddle CDs and the guy at the desk said hey, there’s another building up back – just follow the path.

So, we traipsed up the garden path, past someone’s front door, to a garage – with a blue door – full of more tools and delights. First thing I see? A box full of more keys (the small ones are in the photo above). Next thing? A BOX OF CLOCK GEARS. A whole box. So. Many. Gears. And not little ones, either, these are 2, 3 inches across. It was like I’d won the lottery. But… I was running out of cash! It was 3:30pm on a Saturday! I was in the middle of nowhere! I was counting out as many as I could afford and finally just took the whole box back down the garden path and made an offer – which he accepted!

A BUNCH of clock parts! These are HUGE.
MINE. ALL MINE.

Last place on our list was up in Margaree, further than we’d planned to go but the day was so gorgeous there was no way we were stopping now. And I’m so glad we went! At first I wasn’t sure there was anything for me, but I found a pile of leatherworking tools I thought would be great for clayshaping.

Leatherworking tools

As it turned out, they were part of a set of other leather tools and whatnots which, since I’d bought a pile of leather belts the week before (yet another project I haven’t had time yet to start), I thought what the hell, and bought the lot!

More leatherworking tools

Then we had some delicious meatball subs in Inverness (ok my brother had a lobster one, but: ew), waded through the water at the beach, and tiredly made our way back home.

But I’m not even done! My lovely friend was going through some inherited jewellery, and gave me a box of things she didn’t want/think were useful.

Jewellery castoffs from a friend!

The patina on that silver belt alone is swoon-worthy.

I’d also ordered a few things on Etsy, and they showed up too:

Bottle caps!

Gnarly pen nibs - some used

Random rusty bits

 

So with all of this new material, plus all the sketching I’ve been doing (more on that later), and a rainy vacation with my husband out of town, you’d think I’d be showing you a bunch of finished jewellery next, right?

Well, now we come to the title of this post: idea overload. With the hot mess my studio was in and the sheer number of thoughts running through my head, I was the most ADD I’ve ever been: start this project no wait clean this section no I can’t do that now I’ve got to put these away oh but look at the project I can do with these oh but I need to make earrings for the shop but I can’t do work I have to clean but these things need to go away but I don’t know where they go aaaaaaaaaaa… and I just actually walked away.

DSCF7705
Aieeee!!!

I’ve since got the mess somewhat under control, and some production work, including a wholesale order, sort of where it should be. I’m hoping by my next vacation – two weeks! – I’ll be able to actually show you something delicious.

Cross your fingers for me!

Self-Discovery

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I leaned on each other … each of us were having a hard time and so we spent the day just nosing around town, getting errands done, distracting. I wanted to go to Value Village to look at metal bits, all the while wishing I could get into the piles of things people normally throw away to dig for delights like the old leather keychain I found at the flea market recently. Somehow that made me realize I could probably get some leather belts for pretty cheap, so I bought up a few. My friend calmly followed me around while I dug up some old spoons and helped me sort out the real leather from the fake. At one point during the day, he called me a visionary.

It was stunning. I would never have chosen that word for myself, but at the same time, it also resonated. As weird as it feels to allow such a strong word to be applied to me, I also have to admit that technically, it’s true – I do “see” designs from components. All the time I’m hunting for things – rusty crap, leather belts, beads, gemstones, beach trash – I’m quickly evaluating their usefulness. If it’s a component I’ve never used before, I have to visualize how it might connect to other pieces before I’ll commit to taking it home, so my brain is always going a mile a minute trying to invent jewellery. My whole life I was able to imagine the end result of any crafty project I was working on, even as a child. I actually recall coming up with the prototype for a cat head sculpture using a styrofoam ball and some pipe cleaners, and writing down the instructions for how someone could create it.

Which brings me to another day, another distraction: my dearest younger brother and I spent the day antiquing this past weekend. He helped me make decisions and offer bargaining deals on bags and boxes of random rusty junk (photos to come). At some point in the day he talked about his perception of what it is that I do. He remembers me bouncing from medium to medium, craft to craft, and he feels that I’ve found a focus for all of those things which have come together into this crazy world of making jewellery for folks to enjoy and cherish. His feeling, his understanding of my work is that I “take hard things and make them soft.” Again, some truth to this resonated within me.

These two short discussions have pushed my ideas about myself and my work inward. I’ve been feeling a change in my style and my influences recently. I can feel it, but I can’t – quite – see it yet. The visions aren’t perfect, after all. So, with the release of the 12th edition of the Think and Design Jewelry tutorial series, an amazing set of tutorials that I’ve been reading for a year but not actively doing anything about, I decided it was time to go back and actually start working the exercises. Being a visionary doesn’t do much if you don’t have a focus, or worse, if you forget the ideas you do have! So for the past few days, I’ve been sketching. I’m following the exercises in the TaD series to help me explore various design structures, to help push my work into whatever new direction it’s going to take next. And hopefully, I’ll be creating beautiful new jewellery along the way.