August 27, 2012

Dragons, Dragons & More Dragons

This is what my work board looked like this weekend.  I've never had this many of the same thing on hand at one time before.  It didn't last long - right after this photo, I started adding clasps to finish them off and then packaged them up.  These guys were headed all over the place - New Hampshire, Oregon, Michigan, Massachusetts, Florida, and even Slovenia. 

After I memorialized this work board moment for history, I got sidetracked a bit with the colors and patterns.  Oops.  I'm going to blame this one on Dragon overload.

August 22, 2012

Everyone Starts Somewhere

Art Jewelry Elements just posted about folks starting out making jewelry and how intimidating it can be.  They concluded (and rightly so) that everyone has to start somewhere.  I would add that most first attempts are not perfect.  I can speak from experience in saying that mine certainly weren't.  I don't have any photos of the FIRST time I did macrame.  After all, that was probably 40 years ago.  Yep, I did macrame with the rest of the flower children.  I remember making several plant hangers and I really liked the knotting.

Fast forward through 40 years of other crafts to 2008 when I saw some gorgeous jewelry done in micro-macrame.  I was blown away.  Absolutely mesmerized.  I really couldn't afford to buy the pieces I wanted.  Of course, you have to remember my all-or-nothing personality.  I didn't want one bracelet, I wanted them ALL.  And the earrings.   So I decided "I could make that" (yes, I'm always thinking that, too, and it doesn't always turn out so well).  I bought an earring kit and pattern from Knot Gypsy Designs and I was off and running.  That was my first purchase on Etsy, too, by the way!  

After a few months of making stuff for myself and selling a dozen or so pieces to friends, I decided to open a shop on Etsy.  Looking back at those first listings, I am embarrassed - mostly by the quality of the photos.
See - I warned you.  IF you could see the detail on this cuff bracelet, the knotting isn't bad.  But the photo certainly doesn't show you that. I did have a few photographs that were better and I managed to snag a sale on the second day my shop was open.  I sold this watch:
It really isn't up to my standards now - the lines aren't as straight as I'd like.  But I was darned excited to have sold something.  And after seeing how long it took some people to make their first sales on Etsy, I was darned lucky.  I did do a lot of reading on the forums back then and figured out very quickly that I needed to improve not only my product, by my photography.  I built my first lightbox from cardboard and typing paper and managed to get some shots that weren't terrible.  Still not very interesting, though.
Then I found "the hand".  Yep, the HAND.  It creeps my kids out big time, but it's interesting enough to get people's attention.  I had some ladies recognize me at a craft show - not from my macrame, but the HAND:)  
I still had a bit of refining to do.  I invested in a real light box (one of the best investments I've made, by the way) and learned how to use the macro setting on my camera:
My knotting was getting more precise and my photos were improving, but I still felt like they were missing something.  I added a piece of scrapbook paper and TA DA!
When I look back and the evolution of my work and my photographs, I think I've come a long way.  The cool part is that I still have a million ideas and things I want to try and I'm absolutely positive that I am still evolving.

August 18, 2012

A Time for Healing

My beloved grandfather passed away this week and his death will forever leave a void.  He was the kindest person I've ever known, the most unfailingly optimistic and the most unselfishly loving.  He was my Papa.  He was also a beloved husband to his wife of 67 years, and treasured father to three daughters.  I shared him with seven other grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.  He made each and every one of us feel special and he will be sorely missed.

We came together the last few days and in taking care of the details and final arrangements, we began to heal one another.  Every hug held some magic ingredient, some magic little spark of energy that made both people just a tiny bit stronger.  Every tear shed was a little easier to bear because it was shared.

Over the days, the stories we told became a little easier to tell and a little easier to hear.  The focus moved from his passing to his life and his love.  We relived all the little things -  the phrases he used, funny little things he did.  All the little things that made him the person he was.

In mourning, we heal.  In celebrating, we remember.  In living by his lessons, we honor.

Yes, he leaves behind a void.  But, as a family, we close ranks around that hole and knit it into the lacy pattern of the fabric of our lives. 

August 13, 2012

A Little Rusty

So, if you've been following me for any time at all, you know I have the attention span of a gnat and I want to try EVERYTHING.  I can't help it - I'm an Aries.  My latest adventure involved Modern Masters Iron Paint and Rust Activator:
It says to use primer if you're using it on wood or metals and I'm always a "read and follow instructions" type of gal... OK, maybe not so much, but I did at least read this far in the directions, so I bought the primer, the iron paint and the rust activator.  And a few disposable foam brushes.  They also have other paints (copper and brass maybe?) and patina activators, but I went for rust.  It says you can use it on anything, so I chose some victims:
I found a seashell and some wooden beads, a couple of cameos, a pair of old earrings, some odd tin star brooch, a metal clay (maybe?) heart, and some random plastic/resin pieces.  I gave everybody a coating of primer, just to be on the safe side.
The directions said to let the primer dry for 12 hours.  Huh.  There is no project in my world where I wait for 12 hours.  I did wait an hour or so - it was really hot and sunny outside, so I figured that was good enough.  Besides, I was dying to get to the good part, so I brushed on the iron paint.  Here's how Mr. Monkey looked at that point:
This part didn't take long to dry.  They suggested an hour, but mine was dry after only about half an hour.  You can put the activator on with a brush or a sponge, or you can spray it on.  I settled for a sponge brush, because that's what I had handy.  After a short wait:
 Way cool!  So I brushed a good coat of the activator on everything before I went to bed.  I let it pool in places and didn't even try to be neat about it.  The next morning was like Christmas - the anticipation as I went out to see what I'd ended up with - I felt like a kid again!  And this is what I found:
Some pieces seemed to rust more than others and I'm not sure why.  I did also lose some of the rusty color when I sprayed it with sealer, but I really thought that was necessary - can't have folks getting rust stains on their clothing from my jewelry, now can we?  But those pieces just needed something, so I got out my Gilders' Paste and rubbed a bit here and a bit there:
Most of the colors of paste I had on hand didn't show up much.  The only one I was happy with was the teal blue, but it sure is pretty on the flower, isn't it!

I think this was a very successful experiment and I've got lots of fun pieces.  Now I just have to figure out what to make with them!
Cameo before & after rust technique

August 11, 2012


My very favorite thing to do on a Saturday morning is to go garage saling with my cousin Amy.  I know, I know - it's not for everyone.  My husband thinks it's the dumbest thing ever to drive around and look at stuff other people are trying to get rid of.  Then again, when I said I wanted to spend 10 days in Egypt, he said he'd rather spend 10 days in the hospital - so I guess we don't always have similar interests:)  Amy and I, on the other hand, are soul-mates.  We just get each other.  I'm pretty sure we'd be friends even if we weren't related.  But enough on that - just in case she happens to see this.  I don't want her thinking I like her or anything.

Part of the reason our garage saling expeditions are such fun is the back and forth banter between us.  You have to have thick skin if you're going to hang with us.  Not for sissies.  A typical exchange goes something like this:
Me, while trying on a pair of sandals (because I buy TONS of sandals at garage sales - I love sandals):  I love these sandals... Well, crud - they're too big.  Hey, Bigfoot, come try these on.
Amy:  Shut it, Hag.
Well, OK then.   Like I said, not for sissies.  

We've been going to garage sales together for around 20 years now, I think.  We're professionals at it, too.  We should write a book.  We have rules.  You know, things like... used underwear should never be sold at a garage sale.  We never touch maternity clothes (or other motherhood-related items) either, for fear of being zapped with an unexpected pregnancy (and that's not EVEN funny at my age!).  We added a new rule today - either party can call "time".  So if one of us is finished looking at the offerings while the other is still digging through a pile of books, the person who's ready to move on to the next sale can call it.  It's basically a nice way to say "let's move it, already" without being quite so rude (although I'm not sure why that is even a consideration!) and it's expected that the other person will finish up quickly.  Unless, of course, they don't want to, in which case more arguing will ensue.  Not for sissies.
 We were finding lots of good stuff today.  I found this leather jacket and talked the seller down from $3 to $2.  The sandals were too big even for Bigfoot, but they were only a quarter, so I bought them, too.  The whole bag of watches was another quarter and the purse shaped locket pendant was $1.  I plan on cutting up the jacket to make leather bracelets.  The leather "flowers" from the sandals with cool metal accents should work in some sort of jewelry, as will the pendant.  Watch parts are great for Steampunk pieces.
This dress was actually pretty cute, but had some very worn places where the embroidery was coming loose.  For a quarter, though, it will be excellent for jewelry (torn in strips & used to wrap bangles, etc.).  The three wide leather cuffs were $1 apiece - my splurge of the day.  But I really like them and I think they'll be great layered on with a stack of other bracelets.  The plastic bag full of corks and the whole pile of bangles were each a quarter.  The little woven zippered pouch was a dime.  I paid $1 for the two letter bracelets at the top with the whole stack of letters, but the letters are metal, so I didn't think that was too bad.

I also got a couple dozen paperback books (yes, I'm a Kindle/Nook holdout) for less than .50 each, a Franklin planner (never used) for a quarter, a basil plant (see, you never know what you're going to find at garage sales!), and a creepy jewelry display hand (more on that another day).  But the real find of the day?
The ceramic pitcher at the top of this post and this pot were for sale by the lady who made them.  Aren't they incredible!?  I asked if she sold her things like on Etsy or somewhere and she said she might when she got good.  Huh.  I'm pretty darned impressed already!  

All in all we had a darned good morning.  A little coffee, some good conversation and bargains.  Ahhhh....

August 5, 2012

A Little Time Out

I got take a mini-vacation this weekend and spend some quality time with my family.  We went to do some back to school shopping, but got most of that out of the way and cleared some time for adventuring.  We headed off into the mountains and came to a cut across where the signs said something about minimal winter maintenance.  Um, yes.  Well NOW we know that means there is barely a road - much of the way was pretty much one lane gravel.  It was wonderful!  It's such a beautiful place.  Wild and unabashedly untamed.
See what I mean?  And when we'd gone what seemed like forever on this narrow, twisting, sometimes-unpaved road, we came out at one of those perfectly quaint old mountain towns.  Pretty as a picture postcard.

Isn't it adorable?  We wandered around the town, poking around the shops for most of the morning and ate lunch in a cute little tavern.  I even managed to find a few tidbits for jewelry making at a rock shop, including a fossilized shark's tooth, a trilobite and anemone.
It was a lovely weekend.  The grandeur of the mountains always seems to bring things into focus for me.  Petty day-to-day problems and worries just seem so insignificant in comparison.

August 1, 2012

The Lizard Experiment

I had someone ask me to design a piece of jewelry around a photo.  Cool!  I love doing this - I do it all the time in my Color Combo Challenge Group.  And not only do I like working from a photo, this photo is in MY colors.  I love sorting through my beads to find colors fitting the palette:
Lisa's Lizard Palette
I had a couple of missteps before I really got something to come together.  Someone pointed out that there was a pinkish-purple in the photo in addition to the colors I had pulled.  I tried working that into a spiral and got way to much of it.  Not to mention I goofed up the stitches:)
Not good.  Not good at all.
And then there was the near-miss where my cat tried to carry off the piece I had started:
Also not good at all.  A quote from the soon-to-be-owner of this piece:  GET THOSE KITTY LIPS OFF MY NECKLACE
I finally got something looking like what I had in mind.  And don't you just love this grouchy little lizard face?
I really love the colors and the way the beads in the spiral come together in a way that almost mimics the scales on the lizard.  I added a macrame spiral to either side of the beaded spiral go make a necklace:
The finished necklace - a Cellini spiral focal with spiraled macrame.
A closer look at the beaded spiral
I'm really pleased with the way this turned out and I had a lot of fun doing the project.  I see many more Cellini spirals in my future!

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