Monday, June 30, 2008

When At First You Don't Succeed...

Pretty.  Not metal clay!  The three images of mine that have appeared in other people's Treasuries have all been examples of my fabricated work

Have you ever had a task to complete? Of course you have. You do your best - you think.  You start the process, whatever it is - writing a memo, creating art, filing papers, making dinner - whatever.  You finish it, make sure it's right and call it done.  You feel a sense of accomplishment and give yourself a figurative pat on the back.  Then a while later you look at it again and wonder what in the world you were thinking!

I didn't use the close up as my first shot and I warmed the color up too much

This afternoon I decided to design an Etsy Treasury.  For those not familiar with this online marketplace the Treasury is a feature/program that allows a member to create a pseudo boutique using images of products that are sold by the shops that do business there.  It's fun. Like shopping; nesting; putting a look together - but not spending any money.  And other folks get to look at your selections and tell you if they like them.  And if it's a really great treasury the Grand Poobah's in Etsy management put it on the front page.

A nice shot, but I made this five years ago and it doesn't really represent my current work

I've made three or four treasuries now.  I'm getting addicted to putting them together. Today's collection features metal clay. You're not supposed to include your own work.  The polite thing to do is to draw attention to other artist's you admire, not sing your own praises.  But I thought I'd sneak something of mine in anyway.  Just one little picture. Hardy offensive. I'd use it as an alternate. But I couldn't find one I liked enough to include.

Nicely framed, but way over photoshopped and too warm

The computer takes the thumbnail from the shop's front page. When you click on the thumbnail, it gets bigger and my enlargements are pretty good.  But the thumbnails just don't rock my boat.  And a rockin' boat is important for Treasuries.

The color's pretty good, but the earring in the front isn't placed well.  It looks broken

The thumbnail is the thing that the viewer sees first.  It's what inspires them to click and find out more about the item.  If it's a bad thumbnail, chances are their eyes move on to the next image and their fingers click to get to the next shop and then you've lost them.

The focal bead is too small in the frame and again, too warm

I knew that my photos were only okay.  I knew that some of them were over photoshopped.  I knew that the thumbnail should have been a closer detail shot.  But it took all day to take them to begin with and I just didn't want to re-do all that work.

I must stop using that color correction tool.  I obviously don't know how to use it effectively

But if *I* don't want to use them in my own Treasury, it's no wonder that other folks don't want to feature them.  So I found one last wonderful piece by another artist to complete my little gallery.  I won't be able to try for this Treasury until my current one is over in two days (told you I'm addicted).

I actually quite like this one.  I just didn't want to use something with this Liver of Sulfur patina

Pictures on Etsy are verrrry important.  They should be in focus of course, well lit, not too busy with props and the photo you list first should be a show stopper.  Being seen in a Treasury and (other places on Etsy) is great free advertising.  And the more folks see images of your offerings, the more likely they are to lust after them and want to caress them in person.  In other words, a good pic gets you sales.

Nice shot.  So nice that these are the first thing I sold on Etsy

I'm too busy this week, and maybe next and then I'm out of town - but I see a photo session in my future. And I'll remember to lose the warm, sandy colored stone under the gray rock which is leading my re touching astray.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Weekend Eye Candy

Every year Rio Grande sponsors a jewelry design competition named after their founder, Saul Bell.  Take a look at all the winning work and try to decide which you would have voted for Grand Prize Winner. Must have been a bear of a decision.  Each and every entry is original, well made and worthy of the accolades they're receiving.

The categories up for consideration were: 

Gold and Platinum
PMC - Precious Metal Clay
Emerging Artist
Swarovski's "Create Your own Style"

After you've had your fill of this week's eye candy, print out an entry form and start designing a masterpiece to submit for the 2009 award. 

Hurry!  The deadline is September 19, 2008.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tool Time Tango

Good, thoughtful customer service is a skill that can make old clients remember why they loved you and wonder how they ever could have forgotten about your excellent business.  A bad or even indifferent salesperson watches money flowing through their fingertips without a clue that they did anything wrong.  Every small service that we can offer a potential client goes a long way towards developing a loyalty that we might not see signs of right away, but which has long lasting effects. 

I offer a small array of tools and supplies as a convenience for students who take my classes and have needed to replace my stock of clay rollers for months.  While I was recovering from my foot surgery, my local OSH remodeled and got rid of a circular saw they used to use to cut 5 foot pieces of PVC pipe into shorter lengths for me.  I asked a salesman I'd dealt with before if he had any suggestions and he just looked at me blankly and uttered a mumbled Uh-uh.  

The guy at the small neighborhood hardware store down the block seemed put out that I'd even suggest that he take the time to cut my pipe, even though there wasn't another customer in the store and he was reading the paper. Home Depot just said they didn't have a saw and sent me on my way.  

Then my friend Paige reminded me about B & B Hardware.  A relatively large, very fabulous neighborhood hardware store in a neighboring neighborhood.  A mile away.  I don't think of them often enough, probably because every time I  go in I find some treasure of a tool that I know I don't need - but want desperately.  I took a number and waited in line.  They're always jammed with people.  When it was my turn, I explained what I wanted - a bunch of PVC pipe cut into 6 inch lengths.  The salesman explained that they had a policy of one or two cuts free, but .50 per cut over that.  Oh well.  I turned around to leave when he said they had a tool called a Ratcheting PVC Pipe Cutter that was really easy to use.  He took me into the back room, showed me what he was talking about and let me use the store's tool so I could see if I liked it. Boy did I!  It cut like a dream, didn't create a lot of debris that I'd have to strip off the end of the pipe and vacuum up off the floor and was only about $14.00.  A real bargain considering the frustration I'd been dealing with for a week. He cut two 10 foot lengths of pipe in half for free (so they'd fit in the car) and away I went.  A happy camper.

I got home, cut the four 5 foot lengths myself and not only felt a sense of accomplishment, but a gratifying ache in my right hand from the bonus workout.  Using this tool is exactly like using one of those grip and release hand exercisers that are recommended by physical therapists.

So a salesman who was willing to do a little detective work to find out what it was I actually needed to accomplish and really wanted to help me succeed in my task not only made my day, but developed a loyal customer for life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hollow Wear

Another version of my new compulsion.

This one reminds me of something that a Who down in Whoville might wear for some reason.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Busy Work

I've been a busy bee today. I'm really enjoying making these hollow rings. The Parapet Ring was my first, made for an exhibition when I was just entering my confinement.

I decided to make two more designs and I finished this one today. The second had a little tear/split during firing so I'm oil pasting it together and will re-fire tonight.

This one feels really good on and I can't decide whether to keep it for myself or not. It's a perfect size 8. Looks wonderful on my middle finger.

This method of making rings may be habit forming. Think I should be worried?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Take Two

Straight out of the kiln... by Christelle Forget-Boulay

A student brought these to me this morning to fire.  They're a gift for her Mother in France and are the names of all the grandchildren.  They were cut out of lump clay, freehand, using a hand cut paper template as a guide. Of course the photo doesn't do them justice.  At all. Sometimes you just can't take credit for the artists you teach the basics to.  Christelle definitely has talented fingers.


Libby Mills, creator of the blog Lizboid has just featured me in her great Studio Snapshot series!  Libby regularly interviews jewelry makers about their workspaces, complete with enlarge-able pictures and links to their sites.  I've been a fan of her interviews for quite a while now.  They're always interesting and the artists she profiles have such a wide range of different skills, studio set-ups and interests.  I'm really honored to have been placed in Libby's spotlight.

Why doncha go take a little look at Libby's beautiful work and then make a detour to her blog and  see the cozy Studiolo where I create my mini masterpieces?!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Welcome to the Carnival!

Image via LD Photography

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 query is:

What's Your Favorite Metal Technique Related Book?

Okay, let's start the hash marks.  How many of us do you think are going to top the list with Tim McCreight's "The Complete Metalsmith"?  This book has been the bible for every kind of jeweler since it was first published in 1991.  Since that time it has been through a number of revisions and is now available in three versions.  The student edition is just as comprehensive as the more recent Pro Plus with very easy to understand descriptions of basic jewelry making techniques along with great diagrams and illustrations.  I've had this book since before I really knew what metalsmithing really was and don't think I could create anything without it.

"The Art and Craft of Making Jewelry" by Joanna Gollberg, "Making Metal Beads" by Pauline Warg and "The Metalsmith's Book of Boxes and Lockets" by Tim McCreight are three of my favorite metal making project books.  The step by step instructions are very easy to follow and adaptable for metal clay artists as well as being highly do-able for a beginning metal worker.

As far as dedicated metal clay books go, there are just too many in my extensive library to review - and they're each wonderful.  I do think that Tammy Powley's new "Picture Yourself Creating Metal Clay Jewelry" is a fabulous choice for makers new to metal clay.  It's really more like an encyclopedia than a simple how-to book. Every tip and technique you ever wanted to know about is thoroughly described and illustrated with lovely photos of work by nationally known artists. There's a section on how to set up a workspace, a great gallery and projects suitable for a beginner as well as more advanced projects designed by the afore mentioned well known contributors.  

To discover which is your favorite book, I highly recommend a trip to your local library.  There are some wonderful books available there that would be very hard to find in the marketplace, out of print must-reads and just released publications to peruse to your heart's delight.

Read about even more great books by visiting the blogs of the other Carny's:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fabulous Phalanges!

Image via The Carrotbox

I just had to share.  In case some of you don't click down my jewelry link list every day...  This amazing ring by Yu-Wen Lu is a little personal engine.  When you drum your fingers in boredom or while thinking deep thoughts, wires riveted to other wires and silver levers rise and fall - animating the red ball of  fluff.  It's like a shiny, steamy Borg inspired robo spider playing a human finger organ.  I'd love to know what it sounds like.  

Friday, June 13, 2008

Urban Wild Life

There's nothing like being woken up at 5:00 in the morning by a flock of screaming parrots.  No alarm clock made could ever do as well.  Actually I quite like them.  And the noise.  Although I'm also grateful when they move on for the day.

It's quite the phenomenon, these city dwelling jungle birds.  There are reports of wild parrots residing in Pasadena, Venice, Long Beach and other parts of Los Angeles; San Diego; Brooklyn; Miami; and most famously San Francisco.   "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" is a very good documentary that I happened to catch on PBS recently about one of these flocks and a previously homeless man who took care of them and documented their every move for years. You can see an interview with the film makers here

I'm sure there are flocks in other states too, I just haven't read or heard about them. I'm familiar with the myth that a pet store burned down in the 20's or 30's (or in the case of L.A. - Busch Gardens closing) and the birds escaped, and so is every other resident of every other city where wild bird meets city bird.  It's a mystery as to how these gorgeous creatures decided fly our friendly skies, breed in our palm trees and otherwise populate our landscape.

Whether escapees from the exotic bird trade or a pet store disaster - or even if they're simply long distance travelers enjoying the flora and fauna offered in our lands up north, I love every little bit of wildlife that inhabits my big city. 

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Senior Status

It's official! I'm a Senior... Citizen.  Got my AARP card in the mail today.  When did I get so old? Well, at least I get cheap dinner at Denny's.  Gotta be grateful for something.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tag... I'm it!

My friend Catherine tagged me.  I'm 50.  I haven't played tag since elementary school.  Ah well, I must need the exercise.  The rules of the adult version of the game are this:

1. Write the title to your own memoir using 6 words.
2. Post it on your site.
3. Link to the person who tagged you.
4. Tag 5 more blogs and link to those too.

I never do chain letters.  Ever.  So I feel a little odd about tagging other peoples blogs. Especially because I don't know too many other people with blogs.  But here goes.

Life lessons - You never stop learning

Every day it's something new.   A lesson about your own life, your parent's life, your cat's life, a still life.  What's it all mean? What's it mean to me in particular?  I've been reflecting a bit on images I come across in the surf, trying to define how they make me feel.  The looking inward has been a little cathartic. If you're interested take a look at my Cache.

Okay, now for the final inning of the game. Sophie, Susan, Tammy, Tamra and Angela... Tag YOU'RE It! 

(scroll down to find Angela's English version)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Weekend Update

Kelp Basket by Leah Danberg

The Craft Market was great! I got through the whole thing, saw lots of really beautiful work and said Hi to some of my friends, but only lasted two hours instead of my usual 4 1/2.  Every time I went to a friends booth, I made them get up from their chair so I could rest my foot.  Owwie.  But I'm not complaining.  Just loving being able to walk.

I was a baaad girl and bought this lovely basket.  It's made out of actual dried seaweed. I've been gazing longingly at Leah's work for years (really), but am such a bad housekeeper that I wouldn't allow myself to own one.  I was just sure I'd drop it, crush it, damage it, something.  But I recently got a glass case, so I bought myself another little prezzie.  Gotta stop that.  Leah doesn't have a website, but if you're interested, e-mail me and I'll give you her phone number. I also picked up a little some'in-some'in for a friend's b-day, but I can't take a pic for you for obvious reasons. Her birthday isn't until next month.

Then when I got home, I read an e-mail telling me that my work was in an Etsy treasury!  Woo Hoo.  My first one.  So exciting. 

Fleur de Ring

Yesterday after my Guild meeting, I thought I'd peruse other Treasuries and lo and behold, I was in a second one.  So in the month I've been with Etsy, I've sold two pairs of earrings, been in two Treasuries and applied for membership in EtsyMetal.  Won't know if I got in for a few weeks.  I'll let you know. 

Hommage a Matisse - Brooch

Hope you had a great weekend too!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Weekend Eye Candy

Santa Monica Civic Auditorium

This weekend the Contemporary Crafts Market comes to the Santa Monica Civic in Los Angeles.  I was due to have a booth in this show.  My first big show in 5 years!  But then I had to go and trip, which changed many of my plans.  I cancelled my participation three months ago, when the accident first happened and was always worried that by the time of the show, I'd have felt 100% better and would have been able to do it after all.

I'm happy to report that I am indeed walking, driving and doing my own grocery shopping, but even happier to report that I'm not up to standing in a booth all day for three days in a row, so I made the right decision.  I do have a few friends who are doing it though and I'm definitely going to support them.

Ruffled Vase

Mickey Steuwe is a member of our local PMC Guild and sells a bit of metal clay jewelry, but has really gotten into fusing glass and loves working on large boxes, vases and plates.  

The Angel Within

I like to claim Stephanie Frymeyer as a student of mine, but she only took two classes and went off on a tangent, developing her own style and making the most beautiful pieces.  

Unmentionables Necklace

I met Ling-Yen at the show many years ago and we've become friendly if not honest to goodness friends.  She lives in Northern California where she makes her lovely fabricated and pierced "Unmentionables". 


Of course I have to visit Sandy Kreyer.  I buy one of her lovely dishes or other ceramic work every time I see her.  She only sells retail at shows, so I have to hunt her out.

Miriam's Cup

Ruth Shapiro is one the working "students" in my fabrication class.  She has a wide range of styles and techniques, but I really like her Judaica.

And other participants include the totally phenomenal enamelist Marianne Hunter; clothing designer Claudia Grau; furniture maker Roger Combs; wire sculptor Diane Komater and woodworker Jerry Kermode among many talented others. 

Why don't you take yourself on an Artist's Date this weekend and go to a gallery, boutique, library, museum or craft show in your community and soak in some inspiration too?

Oh, and if you live in L.A., click here and then on one of the photos to download a "get in free" ticket!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Gratitude Reigns


Lots of reasons to be grateful  today.   

I made my first sale on Etsy!  Huzzah!  And to someone I don't even know. My Three Stone Leaf Earrings are winging their way to the wilds of Maryland even as we speak.  I hope they love their new home.

I've had way over a thousand visitors from all over the world to my little blog since I started it at the beginning of April and I'm averaging  between 25 and 40 individual visits per day. 

And I just did an interview with another terrific blogger talking about my Studiolo (er... little workspace in italiano). Details of publication to be announced in the near future.

What else could possibly go right today?  Can't wait to find out.  

Thanks everyone for reading what I write and for coming back for more!  I wouldn't do it without you.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Evolution of a Ring

Cash Ring

A cyber friend of mine named Janos Gabor Varg recently made this stunning Mercury head coin ring using an ordinary iron pipe for the shank and was generous enough to share some process shots on Flickr. Look to the right for a double photo box titled "tube setting tutorial set" and click on each right hand picture.

Janos trained as an agronomist, specializing in animal breeding - but now works as a jeweler full time.  His jewelry is just beautiful, as you'll see if you take a look at his photostream. And it's available on Etsy of course, under the shop name "Blind Spot Jewelry". (Does it seem like I'm stuck on Etsy lately? There's just so much great talent to be discovered there.)

Take a minute to check out his workshop space too. It's a dream for me, working out of my own 11' x 7' studiolo to have a bench as well equipped as his.  If you read all the little notes on the photos, you can see how much of his equipment is "make do", things he found or had around the house and modified to suit his purposes.

If you couldn't tell before, I've become quite the Flickr junkie during my convalescence and am finding it hard to cut back or break the habit.  But the amazing insight that these cyber social groups offer into the lives, thoughts and endeavors of our fellow world travelers is just so exciting and inspiring. If you haven't explored the world wide web in this way yet, I highly recommend it.