Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Silver Prices - The Good and the Bad

First the bad news: The price of silver is through the roof. Many jewelry artists depend on this metal for their work - some exclusively, and others partially. Either way it's not good, as the cost of buying it as a material or a finished product has never been more expensive.

I started out using exclusively sterling silver findings (headpins, ear wires, accent beads), and over the years have used more and more fine (pure) silver as I worked more with precious metal clay. The two materials work well together - you can embed fine silver wire into metal clay to make very functional components.

What are my options? Well, 50 grams of metal clay that cost me around $70 at the beginning of the year now cost close to $100. I could bit the bullet and buy more, or I could consider other materials. Perhaps the key is to just use less silver in my work, and to consider it more of an accent than a main element. Raising prices right now is not something that artists want to do. I've recently been using more alternative metals like brass and copper in my pieces, and liking the results.

One of the bright sides is that maybe this pressure will nourish a spate of creativity in us all as we look for new alternatives. Maybe (I hope) we will come to appreciate more kinds of beauty than just that associated with this one particular metal. Maybe repurposing and recycling itself will become the sought after, instead of some arbitrary, manipulated commodity.

This necklace by Reworkd on Etsy incorporates recycled vintage typewriter keys and steampunk elements, typically consisting of watch parts and other mechanical bits. Typewriter key jewelry is rampant on Etsy.

There are tons of recycled elements found in jewelry these days, from scrabble tiles, bottle caps, license plates, skeleton keys, dominos, plastic shopping bags, bullets, saris, broken china, skateboards, vinyl records, and even recycled sneakers and more.
Kathleen Plate is using recycled wine bottles for jewelry, home decor, and even clothing. This kind of work just makes me feel good inside. You know someone had a good time drinking the wine, she likely loves making things from the bottles, and when you bring one of her pieces home it makes you happy to look at it and for helping the planet.

I doubt that a rubber bracelet will ever convey as much value to its wearer as a silver one, but the other bright side of this is that now is a great time to sell your silver scrap. I'm also taking it as a personal challenge to find more creative elements to use in my jewelry, and I think that's a good thing.

How are you dealing with the price of precious metals these days?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Have you tried these?

If you told me that one day I'd be blogging about a cracker I'd have raised an eyebrow. But here I am, enjoying some homemade white bean and ham soup, and some of the best crackers I've ever, ever eaten. They are the Raincoast Crisps, and this one is the fig and olive variant.

Canadian chef, philanthropist and entrepreneur Lesley Stowe has found the perfect recipes for these amazing gourmet carbs, and I'm aiming to try each and every one. These preservative free crackers have been around since 2006, but I've only discovered them in the last year in our nearby mountain market. They come in the original recipe, rosemary raisin pecan, salty date and almnod, cinnamon raisin, fig and olive, and cranberry hazelnut. They're great on their own but are amazing with other toppings such as cheese or olive spread.

If you want to find out if they're in a store near you, click here.

Practical Jokes for Home Builders

Neighborhood development entrance seen in a recent trip to Memphis.

Ahhh, the power possessed by the developer. Can you imagine living there?

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Have you ever hearted just about every item in an Etsy seller's shop? That's what I want to do with motleymutton's delightful, though sparse shop, long one of my favorites for her needle felted animal sculptures. How can you not smile?

She even presents mice in a way that doesn't make me squirm.

Awwwww. Stay warm, peeps.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Come to the Bead Bazaar!

What are YOU doing tomorrow? Making turkey soup? Shopping? Starting your new gym membership? I hope that a visit to see me at the Santa Cruz Bead Bazaar is in your plans. It's going to be more like a party than a bead show, with food and music and FIRE, and it would totally be fun to see you there.

The show is sponsored by Kiss My Glass and hosted at Western Design. I learned to make beads from Jackie Marr years and years ago, and am happy to finally be doing a show with her.

Here's the fine print:

When: Saturday, Nov 27, 10a - 4p

Where: 6996 Soquel Ave (Frontage Rd) in Santa Cruz, between 41st Ave and Soquel exits. Map it, and look for the signs.

Who: Jana Ashley * Polly Bettencourt * Kathy Corby * Ann Fortina * Vera Hansen
Patty Lakinsmith * Jackie Marr * Cindy Peoples * Nivedita Phoenix
Heather Richman * Kim Weber * Sally Wood * Simone Young

What: Beads, Jewelry, Live Torch Demos, Raffle, Live Music

See you there!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Rejeuvenation

First rains
We've recently had some of the first rains of the season, and things in the garden are looking up.

I just love how the rain washes the summer dull away and brings everything back to life. One of my favorite plants to gawk at in my bleak winter garden is this succulent. It plumps itself up in delight and captures the moisture in such beautiful ways.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Uncommon Finds

Today I'd like to invite you over to the Love My Art Jewelry blog for a piece I wrote there on uncommon jewelry materials. Have you considered using newspaper, model train landscaping, old doll parts or even dead animals for your jewelry? Read the post and maybe you'll change your mind.

This week I'm preparing for the Santa Cruz Bead Bazaar (on Saturday, near the 41st Street exit), and I hope you can come! I'll post more on the show in a day or two, before I become woozy from my second dose of turkey in a week.

Have a great day!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Loaner Dog

Yes, I said "loaner dog". I get lonesome for canine companionship when my dog is gone hunting with his dad for an extended time. Recently I was lucky to get to spend a great fall afternoon in Paco's company. We hiked to the creek, and found the forest very different than it had been all summer. Amazingly there was still a fair amount of water in the stream, which tells me that maybe a mountain spring feeds it.

The canopy had thinned, as most of it was now on the forest floor. The steep path that had been slippery from dry leaves on top of dry dirt was now reassuringly stable, thanks to a few recent rains. Ferns were starting to look vibrant again, and new growth was evident. Life and death, juxtaposed.

Thanks for the date, Paco. Maybe we'll do it again sometime. But don't tell Bodie.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More On Tools

It's easy to lust after new tools like the Peddinghaus block, but seems I should try to make use of the ones I have first right? 'Specially if I haven't used them at all yet. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that part of the thrill is in the hunt and in the collecting, but a girl can only hoard for so long and at some point she needs to buckle down and use that new (insert favorite item here: tool, glass, software package) or she's wasted her money.

The other night I enjoyed a nice little session on the torch and finally tried Jeri Warhaftig's puffy mandrels for hollows. Well, technically I guess they're Dr. Fab's mandrels, but same family.

Jeri's Puffy Mandrel

What took me so long? I got these mandrels at the Gathering in July, and they've sat near my torch since then, undipped, while I've been making hollows my old stand-by way: make two disks on a regular mandrel and then seal them together. The expanding heat trapped inside the bead inflates it just a little and you get a nice hollow bead.

Well I finally used the puffy mandrels and they worked perfectly! It was easy to go a little wild and make ginormous beads, but other than that I really liked how easy they were to use. Lightweight too, and the beads were nicely thin and symmetric. I can see that I'll be grabbing them for making shards too.

Big Hollows
One of my typical hollow beads (lower left) next to two that I just made with Jeri's puffy mandrels.
Are there steroids inside those tubes??

The other tool I finally used and really loved was my curved mashers (the tong style), another thing I picked up at the Gathering but hadn't used yet. I can't find a picture online to show you, but they're like Zoozii's Kalera shape but in a BBQ masher style, with brass ends. They turned out to be just the thing for a very large bicone focal I made - gave it just the right amount of spread and graceful tapering along the sides.

What's your favorite, perhaps newly discovered tool?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tool Lust

Here's something I'm hoping to add to my tool stable sometime. A Peddinghaus block. The channels are the thing that my dapping block from Harbor Freight doesn't have, plus the smaller dapping areas and multiple holes for riveting. Santa? Santa? Are you listening? I know what Santa will say though. "Gonna take a lot of beads to pay for that tool, ho ho ho!".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bead Soup Blog Party Jewelry Swap Challenge

I participated in Lori Anderson's first Bead Soup blog party and had a blast. It's a group of bead and jewelry makers who love to swap components and make pretty things to wear.

Now the group has done a jewelry swap challenge where they've exchanged pieces with one of the other members and reworked them into new designs. I so wanted to participate in this, as I love to see all the faces that one piece of jewelry can project, but life got in the way and I didn't have time. But I'm loving visiting the blogs and seeing how everyone has re-purposed the pieces they were sent.

It's so exciting when you take a piece that didn't work out as you had hoped, or just lacks that certain something to be incredible, and someone else gives it a whole new life with a new twist that you yourself hadn't thought of. It's funny that many of the participants *loved* the original pieces that their partners sent them so much that they didn't want to deconstruct them. Just goes to show you that the piece of jewelry sitting in your jewelry case (or Etsy or Artfire shop) has a fan out there somewhere, even if it isn't you.

You can come to the party too! Here's the list of participants:

I know you're going to fall in love with some of these pieces, either the originals or the revamped ones.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Chinese Pistache with leaves
Chinese Pistache tree, November 10

Chinese Pistache one week later
6 days later, after lots of wind.

Madrone Fruit
Fruit of the Madrone tree, in the early morning sun.

I hope your day is fruitful!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blog Your Art Out

Have you taken Lori Anderson's free eCourse on blogging? It's called "Blog Your Art Out" (great title, Lori!) and it contains some really great information on how to make your blog an extension of your personality. It's a fairly quick, easy read and contains some things you should strive for when blogging and some things you should definitely avoid. I missed it when it first came out, but caught up with it today, and thought I'd share it with you. Her free course is here. Thanks for taking the time to do this, Lori!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Beader Interviews on Lark Crafts Website

My lovely and talented beader friend Rachel is interviewed by Ray Hemechandra of Lark Books in a new series of blog posts asking some prominent bead artists about how they got started with beads, the things that inspire them, what beaders have in common and how they stand apart. He interviewed Rachel, Laura McCabe, Shery Serafini, Marcia DeCoster, Diane Fitzgerald, and Maggie Meister for his blog and Rachel kindly mentioned me.

Check out their insightful and amusing answers, and Ray invites you fill in your own answers to his questions in the comments.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Snow Bunnies
Papa Snow Bunny was extremely pleased.
He and his family would eat all winter on this catch.

Snow Bunnies

Have a most abundant Sunday!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Something for me...

New buttons

It's almost never that I make beads for myself, although I will admit to adopting some pieces that have lingered in my shop just long enough to capture my affection. But the other day I did just that, and also addressed a task that's been nagging at me every time I've sat down to make beads.

Last fall (two falls ago? where does the time go?) I snagged a bargain sweater in a lovely dark grey and great knitted stitches at Marshall's for only $15, but it was missing two buttons. The remaining buttons were large, and I thought I'd just replace the two that were missing with some nifty glass buttons. Tick tock, tick tock, and no sweater buttons came out of my kiln for at least a year.

Fast forward to Sunday, when I deliberately put that sweater right next to me at the torch as a reminder. I got 'er done, as they say, and here are the results. I'm thinking I'll probably make 3 more and replace all of the original buttons. What do you think?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

You dirty rat

Squirrel, or rat, or both? These devils (or maybe, just this one very healthy territorial defender) have been emptying our varmint proof bird feeder as fast as we can fill it, almost. This model is designed to close the food hopper when weight is on the perch in the front. But I bet they never expected a critter to eat from the back, hanging by his tail, did they? Thieving gymnast.

Many times during the day I see this image through the kitchen window. Sometimes he is hanging by his tail while munching away, and sometimes he's grabbing another cheekful, but either way he's packing it in like there's no tomorrow. It also has become evident that this animal's less popular cousin has been dining here at night, and that's just not cool. Measures will be taken.

Thank goodness I didn't see this creature out there. Then I'd have really freaked.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Amethyst and Amber Necklace

Amethyst and Amber Necklace

My heart is weak for these colors, I'm afraid. This latest piece has a hint of seasonal inspiration (the tree in front of our house is positively ablaze right now in golden color), and the best kind of sparkle there is: purple.

I started with a transparent amethyst focal that was wrapped in vibrant silver glass and swirled with magnifying clear, and picked one of my favorite new ribbed and encased beads. I just love the subtle mystery that the etching gives to the treasure within. Echoing this shape and hue is a great light amber colored cut glass bead, some ametrine for spiritual cleansing (amethyst and citrine), fossilized coral and African yellow opal (for fellow Librans with birthdays this glorious time of year).

Amethyst and Amber Necklace

Etched purple spacers are a nice contrast to the shiny focal bead, and the antiqued brass chain pulls it together nicely. Available in my Etsy shop.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Santa Cruz Bead Bazaar

What are YOU doing on Thanksgiving weekend? Making turkey soup? Shopping? Starting your new gym membership? Scratch all that - you need to go shopping for beads and beadazzled jewelry at the 50th annual (just kidding - I think it's 5th) Santa Cruz Bead Bazaar sponsored by Kiss My Glass and hosted at Western Design.

When: Saturday, Nov 27, 10a - 4p
Where: 6996 Soquel Ave (Frontage Rd) in Santa Cruz, between 41st Ave and Soquel exits.
Who: Jana Ashley * Polly Bettencourt * Kathy Corby * Ann Fortina * Vera Hansen
Patty Lakinsmith * Jackie Marr * Cindy Peoples * Nivedita Phoenix
Heather Richman * Kim Weber * Sally Wood * Simone Young
What: Beads, Jewelry, Live Torch Demos, Raffle, Live Music

See you there!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Love My Art Jewelry Monday Giveway

LMAJ giveaway bead Nov 8

Wanna win this bead? Head on over to our Love My Art Jewelry website and see how easy it is to win.
Enter before Monday, Nov 15.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Great news!

Just got this from Kendra Bruno, President of the ISGB:

Good Morning Everyone,
We are very pleased to announce that the Convergence II exhibition will be shown at the Kobe Lampwork Glass Museum from April 16 to July 4, 2011. During this extended time period, the exhibition will be moved to also participate as part of the Bead Art Show in Yokohama from May 20 to 22, 2011.
We will certainly let you know of additional details as soon as we have them available.
Congratulations to all of you as artists involved in Convergence II. We are proud to have the exhibition requested in Japan at these prestigious locations.

Kobe Lampwork Glass Museum
The Japan Lampwork Society

Bead Art Show
The Japan Bead Society

Here's the piece that Cyndie and I did for this exhibit, entitled "The Bone Goddess":

The Bone Goddess


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