Wednesday, August 26, 2009


A guitarist friend of mine once told me that a musician's fantasy was a band composed of clones of themselves, with each one playing a different instrument. That way, you would have total artistic control over tempo, phrasing, improvisations, etc. I could see his point, in a way-- I was in a few bands and if you could find a bass player with rhythm, then the banjo player couldn't keep up with the fiddler, or the backup singer couldn't sing harmony. Synchronicity-- similar ideas happening independently of cause and effect-- seems to happen only when the right combination of personalities and talents come together.

This tale begins with an e-mail from Lorelei Eurto, a jewelry designer I met this spring. She traded one of her lovely necklaces for some of my beads (that she took and transformed into “The Convertible” a necklace which will debut in The Best of Stringing, due out on September 22). She and Heather Powers had cooked up a bracelet exchange--a la A Charming Exchange, a book by Kelly Snelling and Ruth Rae--that featured artists collaborating on various jewelry pieces. It was tremendously inspiring and looked like a heck of a lotta fun! Now they were inviting ME to play with them! along with Erin Prais-Hintz of Tresori Trovati and Erin Siegel of Every Heart Crafts .

Alternately thrilled and nervous-- would I sing out of key in this “band” of artistic sisters or lose the collaborative beat in the flow of my own ideas? Due to blips in my personal schedule, I chose the caboose position on the Bracelet Train, an exalted or a hellish position, depending on your point of view. Most of the design was already in place--would my editions to the final product add or detract? Well, I was up for the challenge-- I might be scared but nobody ever said I was a quitter!

We started by supplying something to get the process started-- a bead, a section of chain, a clasp, some fiber-- the items were as individual as the artists. Then, beginning with Heather, each person added to the bracelet as it was sent on to them. In order for you enjoy everyone's point of view of the process, visit the blogs of the participating artists (see links, above) for their comments on their additions. I'll discuss the final additions and present the completion photos here.

Lorelei's bracelet came with a wonderful color scheme—lemon-lime-- based on the saucy little bottlecap bead that she supplied to start. I decided to keep that color going using one of Cindy Gimbrone's slinky chartreuse glassblown links, connected with some antiqued bronze chain. To add a little tension to all the curvature, some bronze cubes joined the party. Finally, to partner the large circle link proclaiming “Motivation”, I built a hook from a copper-coated flat forged donut from Jatayu with a polyclay slice in my Apocalypto colorway. I've fallen in love with 50s-era copper jewelry and this was my homage to the work of Marjorie Baer (see my post "A Good Nose For A Deal", July 28 ).

Erin Prais-Hintz supplied an incredibly elegant start to her piece, a wonderfully embellished button clasp with wirewrapped goodies and resin. It was my intention to add my “signature” to every bracelet so I made up some mokume gane clay I call “Erin's Mokume” in shades of pear, deep lilac, cordovan and gold leaf and made a couple of roundelles with it as dangles. Lorelei had contributed a round brass locket so I put a tiny circlet of Erin's Mokume inside as a surprise! Two color-fumed Czech flower trumpets peek out beneath her clasp and I added one of my signature swirl beads in bronze. I think my additions are uniquely my style yet enhance the whole without overwhelming what had been added previously-- my goal throughout my process.

On to the other Miss Erin, Erin Siegel of Every Heart Studio, and the woman I knew the least about. But I did know she used beautiful, vibrant colors in her clay pieces and I was getting a strong color direction from the other additions. I have lately fallen in love with Picasso-finished seed beads. The fine chain and black waxed linen cord seemed to beg for some color to play with so I strung some stone amethyst color no. 8 Toho beads between the strands. Staying subtle but wanting to add some shine, next came a couple of labradorite chip stacks, dichro-dotted glass beads and a silver-washed pewter spike from Jatayu. I forged a figure-eight clasp end from silver and saluted all the bracelet's colors by adding several purple/tanzanite swirl half-Picasso finish roundelles and an “Erin Mokume” roundelle to play off Heather's. The result--lovely, intuitive colors in a soft, informal stringing style.

Heather's bracelet reminded me of an adornment to celebrate Midsummer's Eve in Lothlorien! Shimmery silver tones everywhere, fairies and dragonflies and swallows and splashes of blood-red color paired with jade green baubles. I would have to channel the Lady Galadriel for inspiration on this one! Many elements in interesting variety were already in place-- what could I possibly add to enhance this eclectic yet magical mix? I pondered for days and finally the Muse came to my rescue-- one night the moon was circled by a misty ring of ice crystals, and an idea was born! I looped two fine strands of polished steel in a bezel around Heather's bead and looped on Karen Hill Tribe molten silver drops, tiny carved silver rounds and sparkly no. 11 seed beads to halo her amazing disk. A few soft gray pearls with silver spirals rounded out the tones and I was content.

My own bracelet came back home to me as well, my starting element of a simple faux jade bead transformed into a strikingly colorful, woodsy and wonderful symphony of form and texture! Technically and artistically, it was complete. Did you notice that all the pieces had a word included in some clever way-- a hammered disk, a forged ring, a resin charm? These were the brainstorm of Erin of Tresori Trovati, who asked us all at the beginning of the process to supply one word to describe ourselves. Well, my word was “transformation”. I decided to transform my bracelet into a necklace! I used several strands of different antiqued brass chains from Vintaj and a bronze ring from Michael's to balance the ornate antique button that Lorelei had crafted into a clever clasp. After repositioning a few elements so they would hang properly in their new orientation, I had an adornment that was not only handsome but something to make me smile every time I wore it, remembering the happy and challenging collaboration we five shared. If you get an invitation to be part of something like this, jump at it! You won't be disappointed.

Thank you ladies all! I celebrate your creative spirits and generous gift of your time, thoughtfulness and skill!

Monday, August 24, 2009


It's always been a real chore here in rural Vermont to get together with other artists for the kind of idea-generating, think-outside-the-box, give-and-take of artistic energy that's the real excitement about taking a class. That's one of the reasons I am so looking forward to the Bronze and Copper Clay class that I'm taking at Celie Fago's studio next month. I have fond memories of Friday afternoons after class in my ceramics program at the School for American Craftsmen. The wood shop folks, at the studio next to us, would wander in and frequently the glassblowers and textile people would stop by as well. Lively conversation was usually about the work and design ideas were thick in the air. We potters often visited the studios of other craft disciplines and found inspiration in the creations of the other student craftsmen. It was heaven!

Now we have a powerful tool for forming working relationships with other artists-- the Web. We swap photos, ideas, sketches, and inspiration easily. We share our work, critique and encourage each other and benefit so much more than if we stayed isolated in our own little worlds. Lately, I was priviledged to collaborate in two different projects with other jewelry artists. The enrichment that this has created in my personal artistic life is immeasureable. I'm writing about them in separate posts--one today and the second later this week.

I first met Cindy Wimmer virtually through a tutorial that was published in Step by Step Wire last summer. I'd been thinking about a necklace all composed of various styles of silver links and loved the ones in her creation, called “Heart Strings”. I saved the article in my design notebook for future inspiration. Next thing I knew, she had e-mailed me that I was the winner in her blog giveaway, and was shipping me a lovely little mixed metal pendant called “Joy”. This gift came at a time when I was struggling with the bureaucracy of a mortgage re-finance and I can't tell you how many times looking down at that word—JOY-- around my neck saved my spiritual equilibrium!

We started up a correspondence and shared ideas and personal stories and when the opportunity came to submit a design to the Objects & Elements blog of Susan Lenart Kazmer for a challenge called “Summer Colors”, I suggested we collaborate on the piece. I loved the idea of dangling charms in mixed metals and we agreed that stamping them with the names of colors would add an extra interest. Cindy's clasps are amazingly well-crafted and inventive so she agreed to supply that element as well.

The rules of the challenge require using items from the O&E shop. The colorful recycled sari silk yarn caught my eye immediately and served as the inspiration for the colors in the polymer clay pendant disk. I have to say I've been very influenced by Robert Dancik's book “Amulets and Talismans” that I purchased last month so I did a faux ivory disk to back the main pendant and set the colors off. I added a handforged bail and wirewrapped the silk around it and the clasps and named it “Midnight in Mumbai”.

It was a dream working with Cindy-- she is a superb craftsman and we seemed to swap ideas almost by ESP! Her metalwork was even better than my expectations. We are planning future adventures together, maybe a magazine submission? Anything is possible when like artistic minds meet and the result is synergistic.

Oh, the voting is open until August 26, 10 pm EST this Wednesday. There are a wealth of beautiful interpretations to choose from and, if you feel so inclined, we'd love your support!

*Synergy--from the Greek syn-ergos, meaning working together, is the term used to describe a situation where different entities cooperate advantageously for a final outcome--meaning teamwork will produce an overall better result than if each person was working toward the same goal individually.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sometimes A Great Notion

Living in the brave new world of instant communication as we do, new ideas are hitting us at the speed of light. Trends live out their lives in nanoseconds-- sometimes it seems as if we just hit our stride on a technique or style when something touted as better comes along and off we go, chasing the new and different.

As a designer, I feel a great responsibility for my jewelry to be stylish but sturdy and comfortable as well. As much as I love those gallery photos in various magazines showing rings for two fingers or crazy-shaped bangles that you just know wouldn't be practical to wear, at the end of the day, it's gotta feel good and fit the client.

I love the notion of a cuff bracelet. They are a bold statement in any style and have an ancient lineage in the history of jewelry. As a clay artist, they are large enough to show off my patterns and colorways to their best advantage. But the way I have been doing them is very labor-intensive and allows little leeway in sizing. So I'm retiring them in favor of a tile bracelet design I've been working on.

I finished up my last one yesterday and for the swan song of my grand experiment in cuff bracelets, it ain't bad-- at least I like it! I actually made the base mosaic in January, from remnants of my entry for the Van Gogh Art Bead Scene challenge for that month. I lined the inside with a different pattern-- that was my big innovation over my previous designs-- but got stuck on the edging. I hated doing those dang edgings! Plain black had a nice elegant look but showed every little eensy mark and metallic clays – with their tendency to show the mica shift as a blemish-- were hellish.

After spending an inordinate amount of time smoothing and smoothing again and fussing and pinching I managed to drop the precious thing on the cat-hair-and-dust-ridden floor of my studio!I think I probably blistered paint for a 5-mile radius with what I had to say about that! Now my exquisite little border was dinged and crud-embedded. But just as I was ready to drop the whole annoying project in the wastebasket, a little voice said “Texture the edge and then those little mica shifts wouldn't show up so much”. Thank you, Muse!

So here's my little gallery of cuffs-- you were a great notion while it lasted and some of you are still for sale in my Etsy shop. I could do matching earrings for any of these if you convo me. Coming soon to a blog near you--same sorts of colors but as tiles with wirework. Sometimes change is good.

Dark & Stormy Night Cuff

Alhambra Cuff

Byzantine Cuff

Cozumel Cuff -- Available in my Etsy shop

Aztec Cuff -- Available in my Etsy shop

Mayan Cuff -- available in my Etsy shop

Tramontane Cuff