Monday, April 28, 2008

Avoi-Dancing With a Star!

I've hit a wall.  Maybe it's because I'm going back to work on Saturday (yea!) and feel unsettled and rusty. Maybe it's because I've just spent too long alone in my apartment and the lack of stimulation has really gotten to me.  The upshot of it, whatever the cause, is that I not only don't want to open a package of clay and play with it, but I also wasn't too interested in my blog (or anyone else's) this weekend.  I can't think of anything to write about.  Can't think of anything I want to make.  And my usual busy tasks are just too dull to bother with.  I can usually get myself started by making bails or jump rings, granulation balls, re-hydrating dry clay... anything to make my fingers touch metal clay.  It's all out on my desk, but I keep thinking of other things to do.  I'm the winner of the avoi-dance. 

You'll remember that last weekend I was happy to do some finishing, firing, soldering, pearl setting.  I was very happy and excited about my work.  This weekend... nothing!  I have a play date tomorrow with friends, at a house I haven't been to in over two months, and I'm doing nothing to prepare.  Paige is going to share her wisdom in the vitreous enamel field.  Michelle has spent all weekend designing, making and finishing her piece so it's ready to go.  Me?  Not so much.  I do think it'll be a big boost just to get the heck outa Dodge, and I'll enjoy the time with the girls, but I'm not all that interested in making anything specifically for this project.  I'll just bring something I have hanging around.

So, what do you do when you're stuck?  If you have any tricks, exercises or advice for me, I'd really appreciate it.  I think my students will appreciate it too.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Jumping the Gun

Yesterday I posted my carnival blog a day early, so I want to remind you all that the other artists will be adding their entries on their blogs today.  Be sure to check them out!  The links to their sites are in the post below.

And after you're done with that, search the web for info on Philipe Halsman's "The Jump Book".  He developed the concept of "jumpology" in the late 50's and photographed the rich and famous jumping as a relaxation technique before they sat for a portrait.  He thought it made them more comfortable with the camera.  The photo of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor is wonderful as is the one of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. And the psychology behind their body positions as they jump is very telling.  

I'm going back to work next weekend and I may try out M. Halsman's theory with my students.  Jumping before playing with clay is sure to get the creative juices flowing!  I own this book and can testify that it's wonderfully inspiring and just too funny for words.  It's still available from Amazon.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Welcome to the Carnival!

Step right this way...  Each month a group of jewelry artists use their blogs to get together online and answer the same question - each in their own way.  This month's participants are :
Come Friday be sure to click on their names to view six other very erudite answers to the burning question:

If you suddenly became wealthy and didn't have to sell your jewelry anymore for income, would you still sell it?  Would you still make it? Why?
It's actually a kind of tricky question for me.  I've always been creative in some way and have always kind of fallen into a new profession at key points in my life.  I sang in choirs in jr. and sr. high school, so of course signed up for one in college.  It went semi professional and poof... there I was, in a jazz choir being nominated for a grammy (Manhattan Transfer won). When I left that, I took a four week night class on studio make-up... just for fun of course.  My instructor was on a film, needed help and hired me as an assistant.  Seventeen years later (doing mostly commercials) when the silly actors decided to strike I was looking around for something to occupy my time until they came back to work and took a class in something called metal clay.  Well, it was just so darned exciting that after the six month strike was over, I was firmly ensconced in yet another obsession. Then I started teaching, which I absolutely looove.  I really can't imagine not teaching.  It's too rewarding.  But I've never been good with deadlines and making things on demand is stressful to me, so I might could see myself going back to making jewelry for fun, for gifts, for shows etc (I'll always make jewelry). But I can also see myself selling for a good long while to come.  I like the high I get when I know that someone loves my work and wants to wear it.
I have had a recurring fantasy about opening a gallery though.  And if money wasn't a factor, and I didn't have to worry about paying the mortgage, I bet I'd do it in a heartbeat.  I'd love to be able to gather my favorite artist's work around me and share it with other like minded souls. For instance the artist's whose work is peppered throughout this post. Grace Zabriskie's wonderfully imaginative boxes; Molly Hatch's lovely ceramics; anything felted by Lisa Klakulak; Dale Talley's whimsical furniture; Lynn Ludemann's re purposed clocks and of course jewelry made by some of the talented folk who participated in this carnival.  
So, what would you do if someone showered you with gilt?  Would you sail the seven seas, move to the country and learn to lounge, start a business or just keep on keepin' on?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Walk Right In...

Wait, no - I meant ...sit right down. The doc says no weight bearing for two more weeks. Arrrgh! Put a pair of pajamas on it and I'd feel just like this "Creeping Spine" sculpture by Amy Larkin! After that I'll be able use 50% of my body weight, which means more time with the crutches or a walker. Then after ANOTHER month I'll get to walk on my own two feet. Right in time for the conference. Ahhh... a silver lining. Gotta look for 'em. Sometimes they're not so obvious.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Aluminum/Steel Contamination Test

As promised for the readers of Metalclay, silly pictures of my latest earrings.  It wasn't an intentional test, but I recently experienced an anomaly that has been reported before concerning aluminum or petroleum contamination in combination with metal clay. Textured PMC was formed and allowed to dry on a steel dapping punch which produced small brownish areas leading me to believe that either the metal or a protective oily coating applied by the manufacturer contaminated the clay.  I decided to fire the elements as a test and indeed, there were slight blistery blemishes where the discoloration had developed before firing.  I finished, polished and patinated the earrings and will wear them myself so I can tell if the contamination created any structural defects.  I really like them though and will definitely add this style to my line. 

Sunday, April 20, 2008

No Quiet Sunday Morning for Me!

Woke up, got outa bed, didn't drag a comb across my head (maybe I should have), but I did make another Sconce Pin.  This one was cobbled together using  a lentil bead that I had made as a classroom sample and never fired.  I cut it in two using a Fine Saw Blade by X-acto, like this one, sanded a bit so the closed end would fit inside the open end and attached them to a backing sheet. Then I carved out a space in the back for a pearl to rest in. The pearl represents a light bulb. After firing I added some Keum Boo to the inside of the outer shell, soldered a post for the pearl and a scatter pin finding, and voila! I also hung a little green turquoise briolette which represents nothing in particular. All my photo stuff (lights, tent etc) is in a box up high on a shelf and since I can't stand, I can't get it down - hence more quick and dirty photos. Someday maybe I'll do an edit and replace these shots with better ones. In the meantime, whaddya think? Right now I'm loving how the turquoise matches the background of my blog layout! Too funny.

The pin/post was/were a bear to solder. I'm in a tiny apartment and am not into having a full studio set up so I only have access to a creme brulee torch and my newest toy, a Bernzomatic ST900D torch which runs on one pound tanks of propane. I just loove it, but the last two projects I've done (or tried to do) have been too beefy for it. I might need to get more fire power. This little pin is just 1 1/2" x 1/2", but with all the metal involved the propane/atmosphere combo almost didn't do it. I was afraid I may have melted the whole thing, it got so hot before the solder flowed. But luck and sheer perseverance did the trick.

Have you reached a point in your particular craft that's telling you it's time to move on up to a "big girl" tool? That's what I call the torch at school which has more power and heat capabilities. The Big Girl Torch. Have you had to change the way you design a project to accommodate the tools that are available to you? Do any of you work in a well stocked studio away from your home? I get up so early (sometimes 4:30 a.m.) that I really need my things to be ready, willing and able to be used if I ever want to get anything done. I fantasize about sharing studio space, but I like to work in my jammies. And that would just scare my potential studio mates!  

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Road trip

What a great Thursday I had!  My dear friend Sherri Haab had to go to Santa Barbara for an appointment and I went along for the ride.  It was one of those super lovely California mornings with clear blue skies and wispy white clouds, no traffic at any point and bright yellow mustard flowers blanketing the foothills.  Such a treat.  We went out to lunch at a strip mall of all places and had a really nice sandwich and salad combo.  Mine was roast beef with a yummy horseradish sauce.  Afterwards we decided to go to one of Sherri's favorite little galleries called Imagine to look at their wares.  I tried on an Eric Silva ring that I'm pretty sure was a test sample for an article in the April issue of Jewelry Artist magazine (that's his stunning work above this post).  Fit like a glove, but the price tag said no, no, no.  I may try to make an "inspired by" simulant out of Faux Bone (tm). We drove home through one of the windingest canyons ever (two hairpin turns) and down along the coast. I'm pretty sure I saw a whale. Or a really big dolphin. When we got back to my apartment, I took off the walking boot to take a look at my foot and it was the size of a nerf football! And I was using my crutches all day. Too much too soon I guess. Later it was all ice, all the time, all evening.

Then Friday morning a neighborhood friend called to see if I was in the mood for a bacon breakfast. What a question. So off we went to The Omelette Parlor for a yummy breakfast. Again, too hard on my poor tootsie and back into the freezer for more ice. I'll be good until Wednesday when I see the doc and hopefully get permission to walk. I'll report back later in the week about that.

I listed some great jewelry info sites, blogs etc. in the right hand column under "Read More About It..."  I'm trying to find some really interesting and educational information out there and when I do, that's where I'll let you know about it.  I found Simone Walsh just from surfing and her blog really captured my attention.  Melanie Lukacs designed the charming ceramic faces for the Urushi Goddess pendant I created for Metal Clay and Mixed Media by Sherri Haab. Melanie makes wonderful ceramic beads and elements.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Procrastination Predilections

I have an irrational fear of deadlines. So much so that I think that there oughta be a name for it. Surely I'm not the only one who suffers from this affliction! Not only did I wait until the very last minute to send a check to the government, but today is the last day to get my class proposals in to a national bead show. I have the same problem with photo deadlines. Any call for entry is sure to get put on my back burner. No matter how much I want to participate. I'm not really sure why exactly. Is it the fear of being declined? Naw, I don't think that's it. Is it the effort involved? Nope. That's not right either. I think what I really suffer from is technophobia. I hate taking the pictures (and I use the Auto feature), I hate re touching them, re sizing them... I think the list might go on if I let it. I'm afraid of Photoshop. I understand it's because I don't really know how to use it, but even thinking about taking a class makes my eyes glaze over. I just don't understand the lingo. I used to tell folks to talk to me as if I were three year old, but three year olds are more familiar with the computer than I am. They grew up with it.They're comfortable with it. They wouldn't know what to do without it. I'm still doing actual cut and paste. You know the kind. Using scissors and glue?
Anyway, I finally got my three class proposals out. Technique Sampler Bead, Hinged Pendant and Little Alters. Then a girlfriend calls and tells me the deadline is actually MAY 15, not APRIL 15. Doh! I was so freaked out about rushing to complete the entry form, that I mis read the date. I have a friend who thinks I think too fast. That I jump to conclusions. Like I assume something was lost or stolen instead of looking everywhere for it first. She may be right. So it may be a case of Speedy Gonzales Syndrome in conjunction with technophobia. But although it took me until the last minute, I took care of my business today - in more ways than one.Woo Hoo!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Notes From Zenda

Back from my very productive weekend! Saturday morning I completed a Sconce Pin that had been lingering on my bench for weeks and I'm pretty proud of the way it turned out. The lovely "fence" type silver work around the top rim is manufactured gallery wire soldered to the hand crafted fine silver helmet shaped body. Inside the gallery wire is a bezel set labradorite bullet cabochon which is surrounded by warm orange and pink felt (sorry that this quick and dirty photo doesn't show it). The labradorite symbolizes the hot inner blue cone of a flame while the felt represents the soft, bushy cooler area (did y'all know that there are different temperature zones within the body of a flame?). At the bottom of the Sconce, I've wired a dangling golden sapphire briolette to indicate the flickering dance of fire. This is the first in a series of Sconce Pins that I have planned. Tell me what you think of it.  Here's a ring I made in the same manner.  It's being shown at an exhibition at the PMC Conference at Purdue University later this summer. Please forgive the noticeable museum putty.

Then Sunday I escaped my self imposed prison to attend a local PMC Guild meeting. What a joy to have a reason to put up my hair, wear something pretty and see my friends. The meetings are held at a bead shop where I teach, so I was able to say hi to all of the gals that work there too. As an added bonus there was an employee trunk show going on. Lots of pretty things to oogle and admire. The guest lecturer at the meeting was Mickey Steuwe who spoke at length about firing glass, making cabochons and shared a little about how she creates her lovely art glass boxes and vases. It was a really great talk and gave me more insight into an art that I haven't fully explored.  I'm feeling more in tune with my creative impulses and think I may spend the afternoon making a little something metal clay.  Mickey gave me a really unusual glass cabochon with tiny blue bubbles captured in clear glass so perhaps I'll design something inspiring with that.

Friday, April 11, 2008


I think of momentum as the idea that things in motion stay in motion and things that are static, stay static and still. A perfect description of my creativity. At least the creativity that's supposed to be flowing out of my fingertips. As artists and people who live full lives, we're always wishing there were more hours in the day to make beautiful things, when in reality we have to spend a certain amount of our precious time taking care of the mundane day to day doings of life. Now that I'm feeling better, and with so very much time on my hands... er ... feet, one would think that I'd be at my bench every morning, eager to greet my tools, anxious to rip into that alchemically blue package. But noooo. I've become an expert keyboard surfer, a master channel changer. Homer's couch cushion's butt groove has nothing on mine. I need one of our famous California earthquakes to shake up my equilibrium.

Funnily enough is doing a great series of articles called "What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do?" Although it doesn't quite speak to my exact dilemma, it got me going this morning. I especially enjoyed Part Two and the interview with Marcia Zia-Priven. Trying to decide what to do with your creative life as part of the big picture involves the same thought processes as trying to decide what to with your creative life in the here and now. The next five minutes can sometimes be as baffling as the next five years.

One thing that I realized as I tried to problem solve my lack of process was that I only like being hands-on creative in the morning. Early morning. As soon as there's light. And I'm over it soon after lunch. After lunch is when I'm good at exercising my left brain. Paying bills, cleaning up, writing. My mundane, day to day doings. And it's the perfect time for keyboard surfing. Since the accident, I've been sleeping late and resting almost immediately. The body's way of healing. Now that I'm almost back to normal and waking up at the crack o' dawn, I'm still in lounge mode and I've realized that getting on the computer early is, to quote Frank Herbert, "a mind killer". I've enjoyed my time with my blog, learning my way around the intricacies of it's HTML, my visits with the many talented professional bloggers I've found in the surf, but I'm afraid I need to ween myself away from the early morning trysts. I'm craving time with my first love. My shiny new laptop will wait until I can give it the attention it deserves, with my afternoon tea. And my jewelry deserves to be treated with the respect it has been missing for a month and a half.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Well,We're Movin' On Up...

Well, I just don't know whether to be tickled or troubled.  I'm tickled because our wonderfully efficient state government has requested that I start filing my sales taxes quarterly instead of yearly.  Surely this must mean that I'm making an impressive amount of money. Non?  I know I'm in the green (although I've yet to start my income tax).  Does this mean I should start looking for my bigger slice of the pie?  But I'm troubled because I have to do the stupid paperwork four times a year now.  Although it will take a quarter of the time.  So many pluses.  So many minuses.  Minused right out of my bank account.  I know, I know, I take it in when I sell something.  I shouldn't mind it going back out again.  After all, it's not mine and I did get the benefit of the tiny bit of interest it brought in. And if I send it away four times a year instead of just once I'll have less time to get attached to it.  Maybe I won't miss it so much.  Like I miss freeway kitty, Max (rescued off the 10 Fwy in downtown L.A. at high traffic hour with me on my stomach under the car next door).

And our wonderfully efficient government is also so very accommodating. I was able to file and pay online. No more late fees for me. I usually get held up just getting the envelope into the post. So I guess I should look at this as the glass half full. It's really a bonus. I just didn't realize it until I spelled it out for y'all. And due to my accident it's really a gift. I haven't sold anything for the past two months so I only owe Fifty Eight bucks! Gotta love that!

Income tax is gonna hafta wait until summer. I just can't get around to it and can't make it to Pasadena to see my accountant anyway. I blame everything on the foot. What a good excuse. And a legitimate one at that. I just applied for a temporary handicap placard. The minute I can drive I'm going to some big mall and park near the door. I doubt I'll be able to do much walking and shopping, but I really want to take advantage of it while I have it. It's like when you realize there are two of you in the car so you get into the carpool lane even though traffic is speeding by you. Too bad there's not a handicapped lane of the freeway. Although... Kinda sounds scary doesn't it. Did you know that Stevie Wonder drives? Now that's a scary thought.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"And it shook when she laughed..."

I walked to all three of my schools. A little under a mile to elementary, a little over a mile and half to jr. high and pert near two miles to high school. This is just to testify to the fact that my calf muscles have always been the most developed muscle on my body ( my tongue notwithstanding). Now, I know that was over three decades ago, but after a month and a half of inactivity, they look like my Nana's underarms (may she rest in peace). I had no idea that muscle tone decreased that rapidly. This morning I was bound and determined to start some floor exercising, but after just 30 seconds of bicycling in the air, I was exhausted. I'll have to start gradually and do many sets of ten seconds each. Many, many sets. Anyone got a Thighmaster? Maybe bicycling is too ambitious. Maybe I'll start with scissors. Leg lifts? Savasana!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Welcome to my Blog!

I've been trapped in my apartment since February 24th recovering from the stupidest trip and fall accident ever. I did nothing but turn around and take one step and my foot hooked into the gas line of a Smith Little Torch and down I went. One fractured bone and torn ligament later (and surgery and the pain and suffering connected to that) here I am, trying not to go crazy and getting down to the business of taking care of things I should have done long ago.

I spent the past weekend updating my web site, after three years of doing nothing at all, and I have to say - I'm pretty proud of the way it turned out. I have a new shopping cart so interested patrons can avail themselves of my pretty baubles easier. And then I decided to try out a blog, so here I am. Typing away. An attractive design will have to wait for another day. The foot is slightly throbbing so I should go to the couch and put it up.

Next Wednesday I'll go back to the doc to see if I can start walking. Oh yeah - did I forget to tell you I also haven't walked since February 24th? It's all been hands and knees for me. Gotta admire babies for not complaining. And for not getting scabs on their tiny knees. Must be a special dispensation for 'em, the lack of scabbage. Okay enough for one day. Take care and watch where *you're* going!