Saturday, November 22, 2014

how did you get to here?

mary jane dodd

small offering bowl - mjd 2014

first of all, i would like to wish that you all be safe. there are parts of the country where changes in weather threaten your safety and we are thinking of you. 

a friend and i were speaking the other day about things that really impacted us as we were trying to find and define our voices as makers of adornment. 

three books came out in 2008 - and they blew our minds. i remember falling asleep with one of them or another on my stomach. semiprecious salvage by stephanie leea charming exchange by ruth rae and kelly snelling and making connections by susan lenart kazmer

grungy and tattered? yes, please. providing fascinating, interesting ways of designing and solid techniques, these women inspired so many of us. 

it takes years to pick and choose techniques and materials, to find what works for you. i had many 'awkward' designs - where my inspirations didn't quite come together as harmoniously as i wished. but i learned. 

i think one of the reasons i thought back to this was staci's post on chain. these books taught us how to make chain in addition to so many other things. i think they are definitely worth a revisit. 

the gift of time and experience is that you build up an arsenal that you cannot even necessarily catalog. over the past 6 months or so, i have had a project in mind. i want to make pieces that can help a person create small sacred spaces in their home (or work or wherever). places to stop, take a breath, get centered. a place to do whatever makes you whole. 

one of the items is a small offering bowl - because i understand copper i was able to move to a slightly larger scale in my shaping. and i ended up forming a base with copper pipe and plumber's solder. something i learned years ago from these books but hadn't used in a very long time. 

are there any books or teachers that created such fireworks in your mind that you were overcome with ideas and couldn't even work because you didn't know where to start? 

let us know!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Getting over the Big Hump

By MaryAnn Carroll

This year I started to direct my creative energy into another part of my life. We built our house eight years ago and moved in when there was still so much work to do. Both Bill and I worked as teachers at the time and we each came with one teenager in tow. They were our youngest from our previous marriages. Together we have six.

Needless to say, what you want to have happen and what really does happen are two totally different things. What did happen in terms of designing our interior to fit our style was pretty much


This summer, during my break, I was hell bent on painting and remodeling. It was time to start weeding out the old so that I could bring in some new old.... We (I) were on our way to becoming a little obsessed with antique shopping, which lead to an auction addiction. I discovered through this process that my addictive personality can cross over to other areas at any given time. I tend to get a little obsessive until that energy or money (whichever happens first) wears out.

We are on home stretch with this project. Next summer, we are going to work on our gallary that will be in our downstairs, which currently serves as a very large storage unit!!!

One of the last things for this year's project is that we will be adding a custom country pine table that my very talented (now retired) husband Bill is building.  It should be ready to start the urethane process before Thanksgiving gets here. Here it is upside down in our living room (try not to focus on the dog hair that has been neglected). The wood looks a little rough on the underside because it is old pine that Bill was able to gather. We had to put the rougher side down to have, what I think, is very cool pine on the top. I hope to have pictures to share when it is all done.

While this project is nearing its end, we are also preparing for a show that starts today!!!  So, last night, the table sat while we got prepared. Hopefully, our older unpredictable dog Buddy does not think that we just offered him for new posts to relieve himself on while we are gone. Throughout the week I have been working on a few things. I have wanted to make dangle earrings with ear posts for a long time. I just have not been able to make what is available on the market work with my style. At one of the auctions I went to they were auctioning off metal cutters. I won the bidding war.... yup..... the addictive personality with a credit card in hand. In retrospect, I wish I would have gotten more than the ones that I did get. This particular pair cuts triangular notches. While getting back into creating the little stuff again, I finally came up with ear posts that work with my style.

I also came up with some new styles for bangles while I was practicing my soldering skills. Soldering is a technique that I am not sure I will ever perfect, but the challenge is something that keeps me wanting to try it again and again and again.....

That is pretty much it for now. I have been going non-stop. Hopefully, once the table is all set and the house is cleaned and back in order, I will just work on creating small again. Bill just built a small gas/wood kiln out by our large wood kiln that I will write about next week. 

Wish me luck at the show!


Oh.... my current kitchen table..... a mix of everything that is going on..... pieces of wood that need practice stains before I stain the new table, a sander that I wore out refinishing furniture that just needed to have a new velcro sticky thing added, paint stirrers for all 20 different paint samples that I bought.... and, finally... jewelry on the far end.

Do you ever get like this? 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

There are No Afterthoughts in Good JewelryDesign !

by Staci Louise Smith

Those of us who make jewelry, especially those of us who use beads and gems, I know we can get caught up in the fun of the BEADS!  The colors, the textures, the flow- GAH!

For me, that is absolutely my favorite part.  Designing the layout of a piece and fondling, I mean, playing with, I mean, laying out the beads is where I would like to stop sometimes.

But we can't.  We cannot spend all that time, all that energy creating a wonderful piece, and then throw it on some cheap, un-attractive chain.  Chain, cannot, and should not, be an afterthought.

Now, this rule can apply to clasps too, as well as many other things.  Today, we discuss chain.

I am a stickler about chain in jewelry.  I think the right chain can either make or break a piece.  I think it has to be the right thickness or daintiness to accentuate your piece just so.  I also think, that once you find some chains you LOVE, they will not become an afterthought, but you will find joy in using them in your work, all most as much as the beads.

One artist whom always has fun new chains is Lorelei Eurto.  She uses chain as part of her designs almost all the time.

Here is one of her latest designs featuring a few different chains to keep it interesting!

I also LOVE the choice of rosary chain that our own Karen McGovern used to create these awesome sugar skulls.  This was definitely part of the plan for her piece.
Of course, if you are into a lot of work and torture (I kid....sort of) you can make your own chain.  It is really the best way to be sure it compliments your work, but it takes time, and tools and patience.  Here is one that I made (I didn't make too many 'cause I know the torture of  

Another person who has made awesome chain to accentuate her work is Nikki Z. of Love Root.

Here is a gorgeous all chain necklace (that I heard she is keeping for herself- and trust me, when you have made chain, and you can't charge a million $$$ for it, you want to keep it!)  

And here is that same design of chain used to accentuate a piece made with her own handmade beads!  See?  The chain can really make a piece!!!  Don't skimp on it!

Now, not everyone has the set up (or desire) to make their own chain.  So we are forced to shop for it.  So, what do you look for?

One thing to consider when picking out chain, is how sturdy it is.  I have had too many chains that could be pulled apart by hand- and to me, that is just not acceptable.

Sometimes I prefer my chain to be soldered links, but at times, if it is REALLY strong and well made, I like the open links.  
My favorite place for open link chain is

I use their more substantial chains, since my designs are substantial.  At first I was hesitant to try them, because they are open links, and in the past, these have come apart too easily.  I have not found this to be the case here- AT ALL.  I have to open them deliberately for them to come apart.  Why I like this???  Well, I can attach things by opening the links like jump rings- I can adjust the length of things the same way too.  I can even use the links themselves as jump rings!  Plus, their antique brass chains are plated over brass, so, I like the fact it is not some mystery base metal underneath.

Now- for my fanciest stuff i like to use a solid brass chain, and I cannot say enough good things about 

Not only do they have handmade solid brass chain, but the chain is as simple or as fancy as you can get!  If you have a design, they have a chain to match it!

I hope you will embrace and enjoy creating your pieces from start to finish.  And if chain is not what is right for your piece, then by all means, use leather, or fabric, or whatever it needs.  Just make sure its a deliberate thought.  After all, you put all that time and effort into a piece, make sure its wrapped up in a manner that will only make it more amazing!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to make bookkeeping and taxes FUN!

Carol Dekle-Foss
Ok yes, that was just a ploy to get you to read this post, but stay with me!  I'm going to review an indispensable software program called Jewelry Designer Manager by Barbara Carleton. It's not only amazing for keeping track of finished jewelry, but it's also great for keeping track of handmade components as well.

I have been using it for 3 years now and absolutely love it! There are just so many unique ways you can utilize the program. I'll be honest though, you have to enter all you data and that can be a bit time consuming. But once that's done, you have a powerful tool that can track and manage every aspect of your business. Seriously, this program rocks! 

Ok, so here are the top reasons I use this software.

NUMBER ONE. Inventory! This is where the genius comes in. You input your beads and other components into the Jewelry Parts section, and then when you make a piece of jewelry, you build your piece in Jewelry Assembly. (See next pic)  You select the parts that are included in the finished jewelry piece and the program adds up the total cost of materials. 

NUMBER TWO. Pricing.  Basically the program does this all for you. It takes into consideration all your raw materials, your labor and any other costs, and recommends the price according to the mark-up options you have set up. It helps you calculate your prices so you get paid for what you are worth, and also so you are charging a fair price to your customers.

So now, not only do you have raw inventory data for all your beads and components, you also have finished pieces data. This comes in very handy during the dreaded tax season when you are calculating your COGS. Now that's fun stuff!

NUMBER THREE: Keeps track of customer purchases. The above pic is the field where you enter customer data. Below is the invoice field.

You can also print detailed invoices to send to a customer.

NUMBER FOUR: Lastly, the software creates comprehensive reports. Being a detailed person, ok, obsessive, I like to track things. You can manage your sales, parts, customers, create PDF catalogs to send to customers via email, and create professional labels.

This program keeps me organized and on top of things so I can then spend more time in the studio. Well that's the theory anyway. Now if I could get it to feed my animals and do the laundry that would be great! 

Check out the program for yourself here and see if it's right for you!

I would love to know how you track your inventory. What works for you, do you use spreadsheets or Craftybase

Here's a collage of some of my recent studio creations.

 I hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday!
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