Friday, December 2, 2011

A busy weekend for most

This weekend there are a lot of crafters opening their studios up to the public for some pre-Christmas context to the artistic pieces they create.  I'd thought about having one myself, but I feel far too scattered this year, to do a nice job of it.  I'd like to feel prepared for such an endeavor, and right now I feel like I'm just keeping my head above water, dog-paddling towards the post-Christmas season, when I envision I will start to feel the solid earth beneath my feet again.  Such is the life of a crafter, I suppose, and yet others are organized enough to host open studios on top of all the craft fair commitments, orders, and other festive obligations that crowd our lives.  Next year, I will participate in this weekend of open studios.  There.  I've written it down for the world to see.  (eeek!)  There will be gingersnaps.

SO, if you are about town this weekend, Dec. 3rd & 4th, here are a few places you might choose to poke your head in and see what's happening:

Charlottestreet Clothing  Saturday, 1-5pm, 20 Barnes Rd.
Alexis Templeton Studio 's "Glorious Goblets" Event, Fri 7-9, Sat & Sun 11-6, 75 Quidi Vidi Rd.
Running The Goat Press Saturday & Sunday, 10-4pm, 8 Mullock St.

Other great stops on your studio explorations this December might be:
Blue Moon Pottery Tuesday - Saturday, 10-6 (Saturdays in Dec. are tax-free!), 17 Outer Battery Rd.
Leyton Gallery of Fine Art New Works for Christmas exhibit, Dec 3-24, Tues-Sat 11-5pm, 6 Clift's-Baird's Cove.  Here's a fine example of new work by Philippa Jones, who's work was very poetically reviewed in The Telegram:

"Life's not a walk in the park with you, but I like the wilderness", by Phillipa Jones

These are just a few of my favourite's, but if you look, you'll find talented local artisans tucked into most nooks and cranny's of this fine city. 

Next weekend is the annual Anna Templeton Tea and Sale.  I will have a booth of my jewellery on the second floor.  The fair runs Friday December 9th, 12-9pm, and Saturday the 10th, 10-5pm.  I'm so excited to be participating this year!  There's no better festive atmosphere to get the Christmas spirit singing inside you than this mash-up of talented craftspeople, yummy treats, all in a beautiful historical building.  There are booths on three (!!!) floors this year!  It's stupendous! Here's a sneak peak of the tortoises that will be accompanying me to the fair.  I had thought they were turtles, but they patiently informed me that turtles would have flippers, or at least flipper-like feet with claws, whereas they clearly do not.  So in the company of the tortoises, as well as a new herd of sheep, and a couple new Crystalline Collaboration pieces, you will find me on the second floor of the Anna Templeton Centre December 9th and 10th!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The vigor returns.

The recovery time after a craft fair is shockingly long.  I have slowly come back to my bench in the last few days, and focused my energy on doing something.  But it has felt forced.  Today, however, the tides have turned, and I feel invigorated by new ideas and inspirations.  I happily blame this on the snow that was blanketing the world when I awoke this morning.  (Just yesterday I bought new winter boots!)  The crispness of the wintery air was exhilarating.  After spending the morning working on jewellery, it was out into the world we ventured.  First to The Bookery which was having another 30% off day as it slowly (sadly) fades into nonexistence.  Snapped up a novel and book on owls that I can't wait to settle down to read.  Then on to Devon House to partake of the open house event accompanying the opening of the Comfort and Joy ShowVery neat Kitchen Party scene in the works of Kevin Coates carvings.  Just a few carvings in the "kitchen" just now, but as we draw nearer to Devon House's 20th anniversary, more carved figures will arrive to share in the celebration.  Drop by between now and then and have a look, and even place a bid on this exquisite silent auction collection.

Home again and back at my bench I got to work making fleece for a new flock of sheep pins, since I sold out of the last (and first!) ones at the Craft Fair.  It's nice to have hit a popular nerve with this idea.  I've got plans for turtles next...  and squirrels and foxes and owls and and and..... !

The excitement of fresh ideas is tempered somewhat by the news of Nova Scotia College of Art & Design's struggles as of late.  Although I've never attended (yet!) it is shocking to think that an institution that offers such a diverse range of professional art and craft skills training could be in jeopardy.  If you value the vitality that a growing community of local craftspeople brings to your community, please take the time to sign this petition to help governments understand that these hands-on programs are valued in our post-secondary educational system.  keep-nscad-university-intact-and-independent

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fine time for a trip to the Fair!

think I'm ready!  The Craft Council's Christmas Craft Fair starts on Wednesday and runs until Sunday at the Arts and Culture Centre.  Tomorrow is set-up day.  I was working on the last of my jewellery until about 2 hours ago.  My Mom is flying in again to give me a hand, and I'm sure I'll need it, as this year the fair is a marathon five days long!  This year is also the first year there have been booths on the first floor.  I'm on the first floor, and I'm a little leery about that, but my fingers are crossed that people will find me down there.  (My booth can be found halfway between the box office and the children's library.)

The hours of the fair are as follows:

  • Wednesday from 12-9pm,
  • Thursday from 10-9,
  • Friday from 12-9,
  • Saturday from 10-9
  • Sunday from 10-5 
 Pictured here are some of the new things I've been madly creating for the fair.  I'll still have a wide selection of the more familiar line of botanical silver earrings I've developed over the past year, but I wanted to work on a selection of more one-of-a-kind pieces for this fair.

At the top are four brooches. You may recognize the crystalline cabochons by Alexis Templeton, this time shaped with mountain horizons.  The lower portion of these pieces are sterling silver with 14k gold rivers trickling down from the peaks.  The back of each brooch is bronze.  It was interesting working with gold and finding ways to highlight it against the silver.

I've also been obsessively making cuff bracelets.  Each one has a different etched pattern.  I've made
them in copper, bronze, and sterling silver.  I hope these prove popular, as I'd sure like to keep making them!

Awhile ago I had etched curly-cues on a piece of silver to test a pattern, and decided it would make a great design for a series of sheep pins.  And so my little flock emerged.

I posted the first of these pearl rings on my facebook page.  Now I've made more in a variety of sizes, and will take orders on other sizes.  I'm so pleased with the elegance of them, I just had to keep one for myself!  I may try making this design into matching earrings as well, but will have to see if they would be too tangly in long hair.

So that's a snapshot of what's kept me busy this last while.  Although it's hectic preparing for the Christmas Craft Fair season, I feel lucky to have more ideas than I have time to explore them, rather than the other way around.

An aside:
I'm loving the new sprout mix that I got for my birthday (at right), the little round balls bursting with life contrast nicely in my mind with the beauty of dogberries at the end of their season (at left).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wind-up Toy

Click, click, click, click.....Click, click, click, click....Click, click, click, click....
It's less than one month until the Craft Council Craft Fair, and I feel a bit like a wind-up toy.  The anticipation of a great fair is so dependent upon my stamina right now to keep making jewellery, more and more jewellery.  I've focused lately on the repetitive things, have done much filing, bent many, many shepherd hooks, polished, and polished again.  I still have the daunting task of packaging these things, but for now, have left that for a later date.

Now I'm moving on to the higher end, unique items.  Much more stimulating creatively.  But slower to make in many ways.  Mostly in the design process.  I've learned from experience that even if I can clearly see the finished piece in my mind, I need to pause, and rethink, consider carefully the process, to ensure I don't get ahead of myself and find I'm one step beyond something I wanted to do.  Jewellery is so sensitive to the "order of operations", as it were, and once you've gone too far, there's often no way to economically retrace your steps.  I like this aspect of jewellery fabrication, because I am, by nature, a very methodical person when I tackle a task.  

I have many unused cabochons in jasper and agate that I hope to set in jewellery before the fair, also some gorgeous cabochons made by Alexis Templeton that I'm focusing on using right now, both for the fair as well as potential submissions for the upcoming exhibit Comfort and Joy.  I finished up a pair of earrings today that were barely started during my time at Haliburton School of The Arts, of fish with fire citrine in their mouths.  I'd finished one earring some time ago, but then broke the second gem when I was setting it.  Aargh!  Now I know to order more than two gems, just in case! I'm also planning to sell a men's ring at the Craft Fair, but I'm unsure about the surface finish.  Which would appeal more to man in a ring like this, a mirror finish or a matte brushed finish, I wonder?  Both are pictured here.  This is substantial ring, and although I prefer the high polish, I wonder if it's "too much" on something like this!  I welcome your thoughts. 
So my time is pleasantly busy right now!  I do believe when someone finally lets go of the winder on that toy, hopefully not before early November, that I'll be ready to trade many fine jewels for that fine green (and pink and brown) paper that makes the world go round!

Friday, September 30, 2011


 Finally I've found myself between projects, and with a quantity of tools still unpacked after recent workshops, I decided the time was right to shift my jewellery workspace to my new bench.  I can't believe it took me so long, but I like to be organized when I settle in somewhere new, so I've put it off until now.  
There's still more stuff to shift, but I'm pretty happy with my new setup.  The new bench will take some getting used to though, having worked at a desk of conventional height so far, whereas a jeweller's bench is designed so the bench pin/working surface is around the height of my breastbone.  I have to keep reminding myself to relax my shoulders!
Not pictured is another small desk I've set up behind my bench so I have a place for my vise, my drill, as well as doing metal clay and design work. 

This space is also handier to the front door, so when customers visit they don't have to wander through so much of our home space.

Although I'm missing the view out the window in my old space, I'm loving this fresh new start.  Hopefully fresh new ideas will follow too!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Crossing disciplines

Pictured above is a Brummel Hook, a connecting device originally used in the marine industry.  At left is Cutlers Rivet, used in the making of knives.  While neither was intended as a jewellery component, they both have migrated into this industry.  I love learning about things like this!  It's such a valid reminder of how knowledge can cross disciplines and add variety and value to the final product.  The brummel hook was introduced to me by Don Stuart at the workshops and artist talk he gave this week at the Anna Templeton Centre.  I learned about the cutlers rivet on a DVD by Tim McCreight.  I find that whatever discipline is currently absorbing my creativity, I'm always looking for ways of integrating other interesting techniques into that creative process.

Last weekend I attended the Anna Templeton Centre's annual Craft Retreat.  This wonderful event offers an eclectic range of workshops, this year at the beautiful Brother Brennan Environmental Centre.  This year the workshops I took were spinning, tatting, and an iris fabric folding technique that resulted in a greeting card.  Spinning I took just for a bit of practice.  Tatting I'd thought might lend itself to interesting jewellery using fiber, but wow, that is a VERY tedious technique, it would take a lifetime to make a necklace or anything substantial.  The iris folding technique (referring to the iris of a camera lens, not the flower) lends itself to many possibilities, multiple irises, off-center irises, etc.  It would be interesting to apply to metal, but the issue of bulk would have to be addressed somehow, even with the fabric, the puffiness accumulates.

New design ideas are everywhere, they sometimes just need a little translation to be applied to jewellery.  I find it helps me from getting stuck in a rut to look for these possibilities.  And it's so fun to keep learning new things - no matter the material.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Some frame of reference

Took a day off in the studio to go daytripping in search of blueberries.  It seems we're a bit early.  The plants are easing into fall, though the summer's been so short I think they're a little confused.
This lovely fat caterpillar was happily munching on an alder.  I wish him (her?) many, many alder loving offspring.  Indian pipe are so enticing in their ghostly garb and they posed so demurely for their photo.

I have been puttering away in my studio, but there's nothing really to show and tell, so I'd thought I'd post some useful jewellery links I've found.
Recently I was getting a bit of metal sheared and discovered I was speaking a different language than the guy behind the counter with regards to the thickness of copper.  He was talking ounces, and I was confused.  Here's a helpful chart I found that cleared things up:

Another conversion I find I am often making is between grams and troy ounces.  This quick link gives you an instant answer:

For the hardness of gems, a rudimentary chart can be found here:

International ring sizing methods vary considerably!  This is a very useful link to help determine what size you're looking for, or convert from a size you know you have:

If I encounter technical roadblocks when I'm fabricating jewellery, there are two sources I tend to check first.  Most jewelers are familiar with Ganoksin, their "Tips from the Jeweler's Bench" archive is great for getting lost in:

I also find the folks on the Starving Jewelry Artists forum very helpful:

One more resource that is probably very helpful, but I just haven't checked often is Rio's (newish?) blog: The Studio:

Hopefully you'll find these to be of some use.  If you have useful links you'd like to pass along, please feel free!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Post fest activities rolling on!

Isn't that idyllic? That was last night.  What a beautiful evening on the water.  And moments after we got in the skies opened up and it POURED!  But the miserable weather seems to have broken (briefly?) because of it, and today is sunny and warm.  Wonder if summer is starting now???  It better not steal Fall!  There's no better season than that.

Well after the turmoil that was the Folk Festival last weekend, everything turned out all right in the end.  It was great to hear from customers, new and returning.  And to get such positive feedback on my new products.  The jewellery with Alexis' crystalline cabochons was very well received, which makes me excited to make more of it.  I've already picked up two new "stones" from her this week; they're a beautiful deep rich blue.  And my Investment Property brooches in silver and copper made many people smile.  I've just dropped some off at the Shop in Devon House.  It will be fun to do custom orders of them too, if people want a particular house done.  It's always great to chat with other crafters at the folk fest as well, and do a bit of trading.  It was a great surprise was to see one of my instructors from Haliburton there as well! 

We had a house full of family as well, so the weekend turned into a week of activities.  I hadn't been on a bird/whale tour in many years, so that was fun.  Seriously: is there any bird cuter than those wee puffins?  I did, however, confirm that I do still get sea-sick.  Boo.  Some shopping with Mom, Tea in the Crypt, Folk Night at the Ship to hear Gordie Tentrees (since I missed his act last weekend), the quilt shop, finishing up a course at MUN, phew, we fit a lot in!
And now I'm working on a few little orders from the folk fest, looking ahead to new production, and getting my kiln up and running, but I need an electrician for that.  Ugh.  Small hurdles, small hurdles....

Hey can anyone tell me what kind of flower or weed this is?  It doesn't seem to be in any of my books....  Enjoy the warmth sunlovers....  Cheerio!  Oh and go on down to Middle Cove today, the clay studio is having their beach firing.  Bring a bit of money and bring home something truly one of a kind!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fabricating for the Folk Festival!!!!

What a whirlwind few weeks this has been! A great trip around the bay, caught some fish, rowed and rowed and rowed a punt, and in the spare moments worked on jewellery.  Only so many things are portable projects though, so this week has been a steady exercise in disciplining myself to work down through my list and get as much as possible ready for the Folk Festival this weekend.  I love having a booth in the craft tent there.  It's such a great venue, especially when the weather cooperates, and the bonus is getting to hear all the great music all day long!  And what an exciting line-up this year.  I've heard that Friday night is sold out already.

So I've got two new series of jewellery I'm excited to be launching at this year's folk festival: above is the series of pins I've titled Investment Properties.  They're etched silver and copper, each one unique, and I'm thinking of doing custom houses in this same vein.  The other series I've been working on in collaboration with Alexis Templeton (  She made porcelain cabochons and glazed them in her signature crystalline glazes.  Then I set them into jewellery: necklaces and brooches so far.  We'll see what comes next...  I'll also have a great selection of silver earrings in a variety of styles.  In copper, I've etched some earrings in new designs, along with some in my new popular cattails pattern.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hard at it.

What a week!  Churning out the jewellery like never before!  Phew!  The Folk Festival is coming up, and we're fitting in a wee camping jaunt before that, so the pressure is on!  I've made some exciting new pieces in the Crystalline Cabachon series, and I've got another series that I think I'll call Investment Properties (oooo...the mystery....). Both will make their public debut at my booth at the Folk Festival.  I also managed to finish up a commission that I've been working at for some time.  Sense of accomplishment is running high right now, and yet I still see miles to go before I sleep!  I will be filing and polishing silver at the campsite I do believe!  One thing that's made life easier is the arrival of my new mini drill press.  A gorgeous little machine that makes the delicate operation that is drilling 20 or 22 gauge holes much less back-breaking. (See first image: back-breaking, second image: aah, not back-breaking!) She is Chinese, so the language barrier upon our introduction was amusing.  Some snippets:
"It is of novel design, small and exquisite bulk, handy carry.  The cent of product has no class to adjust soon with single soon two kinds."
"It for bids to wear gloves, do not bare the body not knot tie while operating."
"The operation please read the manual before."

And the garden is once again holding her own.  It took years, but finally I can let it do its thing, while I do mine.  Still some gaps to fill in, but for the most part, at most times of the summer, there's a blooming jungle out there.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Crystalline Collaboration

Friday and Saturday at Alexis Templeton's studio were great fun.  She had made a selection of porcelain cabochons and glazed them in crystalline glazes.  What precious little gems!  The jewellery process is slow going and challenging when I was working from a portable kit of tools, so I didn't create masses of new pieces in the two days we spent together, but the exchanging of ideas was very fruitful, and was aided no doubt by the decadent chocolates she sells - oh divine!  I am excited about the continued development of this collaboration, with new shapes of cabochons depicting the night sky over mountains, and the perfecting of the frosted look of the glaze on the wee pieces of clay.  Now that I'm back in my own studio, the jewellery designs to compliment the clay pieces can be more substantial, and incorporate more silver.  My wee torch just couldn't tackle all the grand ideas I had in my head at Alexis'!  So we'll see where this all leads, but it sure is exciting to have put two heads together and come up with a focus for a new line of jewellery that incorporates such beautiful pieces of glazed clay.  There is nothing quite like crystalline!  Thank you to Alexis for inviting me to share in this project, and to everyone who stopped by the open studio to see what we were up to!  Stay tuned for more!