Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Seasonal Recipe

Wishing everyone a festive season with family, friends, and good food.  For a treat I thought I'd share this decadent cranberry chutney recipe with you.  We just enjoyed it with our Christmas dinner, but I think it would be very fine on scones too!:

two 12oz bags fresh cranberries
zest & juice of 1 large orange
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup port wine
1 cup sugar
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup dried cherries
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon

Bring first 5 ingredients (through sugar) to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer.  Add apricots, cherries, salt.  Cook over med/low heat about 10 min. stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to burst.  Add spices and stir well.  Continue cooking on low until thickened (5-7 min.)  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  (Recipe credit: Elizabeth Karmel, Associated Press)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The story IS the thing.

L - R: A vase of my parents' that was always a part of "home" , a smoke fired vase I found on a family trip to NZ, a raku urn by Jose Drouin from Quebec, a vase I threw on the wheel and didn't quite squish, and a wooden cardinal from a cousin.

 I've always admired people that divest themselves of all their worldly possessions in order to experience a freedom from the commercialism of life.  It sounds so noble.  And yes, I imagine it does make activities like travelling and house cleaning much easier.  But I can't follow suit.  I look around at all the stuff I've accumulated over the years, and I treasure it.  Sure, I can purge every once in a while too, and it is uplifting to pass things on and create space, but I don't think I could ever let it all go.  I'm attached to my things, because in them are stories.  When my eyes fall upon a particular ornament or a piece of furniture, it takes me travelling in my mind, back to the person that gave it to me, or how it was that I acquired it in the first place.  These stories give me a sense of security about my place in the world, amongst the people I know and have known.  Maybe I should be able to remember all these stories, in the absence of the things, but I'm a very visual person, and just like losing oneself in a good book, and being transported to another place, so too do my things occasion such reminiscences.  I like the randomness with which memories will pop to my mind, and it all begins when I happen to glance at a treasured object that has found its way into my personal space.

L - R: "The Home Guide to Taxidermy & Tanning" a book into a mug by Maaike Charron, "Leap" glass sculpture by Urve Manuel (that brings to mind a trip to Goldstream Park with a dear friend and her Mom many years ago - my what a smell!), a tiny seal sculpture from Greenland, a humpback whale sculpture by Clyde Drew, and a capelin dish by King's Point Pottery.

I think this attitude towards things parallels my attitude towards the "handmade" in general, and keeps me moving forward along this path of making my own work to sell.  I hope that when people choose a piece of my jewellery, (first of all that they love it!), but also, even subconsciously, that they recognize the value in the story they are participating in.  That's not to say that my part in the story is overly-significant, other than I was the original maker, because that is only the first chapter.  By buying something handmade, it has a uniqueness, that hopefully will be valued by the recipient, and will bring to mind for them the occasion on which they received it, or the person who gave it to them.  And so the story begins to grow.  Maybe it will be treasured by one person only, but perhaps it will change hands, as a gift or maybe a flea-market find.  All these transactions and interactions add to the story of the thing, which may or may not be remembered and valued.  But it is my hope as a participant in this current trend of "supporting handmade", that some pieces of my jewellery will travel on into people's lives, and start building stories that bring fond reminiscences to mind over the coming years.

I have one last craft event to participate in before I pack up my workbench for a Christmas break:  The Anna Templeton Tea & Sale is this coming weekend!  Friday 12-8, and Saturday 9:30-4:30.  It's a very relaxed and social affair.  And they serve lunch!  Or just a plate of sweet treats with tea or coffee if that's more your style.  Prices vary accordingly.  Admission is just $2.  My booth will be in the same place as last year: up on the second floor.  There are three full floors of hand-crafted goods, so make a bit of time to stop by Friday or Saturday and do some perusing for those last minute gifts!
(And if you register for winter craft classes before Dec.16th, you save 10%!  I've got two workshops coming up this winter... just sayin'... :) ).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Making a life

I should be in a panic getting ready for the first craft fair of this holiday season.  But I'm not.  Granted, I have been working steadily away at my jewellery, so I've got my base inventory just about ready.  And I have been working on several exciting one-of-a-kind pieces.  They are the ones I enjoy the most.  And as there is an endless number of ideas for them, there will never be enough time!
It also helps that I've done these fairs before, so I know relatively well what to expect.  This has assuaged my guilt therefore, in taking time away from my bench to do some short workshops in topics entirely unrelated to jewellery making.

I freely admit, I am a workshop junkie.  I find endless fascination in learning new techniques.  Especially traditional skills.  I'm passionate about the preservation of old knowledge.  Every workshop I do gives me new ideas for working in other materials too.  I'm finding that Craft is so much more than a fulfilling (albeit hardscrabble) way to "make a living".  Coming to an acceptance of just how much I enjoy learning new skills has broadened my perspective and my purpose from simply "making a living", to "making a life".  See how much more inclusive that is?  I like it a lot.
My "ketchup-mustard-relish" pillow-top.
Pillow-top weaving frame with "bake-apple blossom colour scheme.  Historical samples in the background.
This past weekend I took a pillow-top workshop put on by the Heritage Foundation.  This is a textile technique that was practiced by the men in the lumber camps on Sundays, when they couldn't work for religious reasons, as a token to bring home to their wives.  (You can read more about it here on the Intangible Cultural Heritage blog)  If you have any historical knowledge about the practice of pillow top making, I'm sure they'd be glad to hear from you.

Bowl, Jay Kimball. With "chattering" technique.
I also took a workshop at the Clay Studio.  This was taught by Jay Kimball, on the topic of texturing on the wheel.  It has been ages since I sat down at the wheel, but winter is coming, and that should bring a lull.  (I think!  Although I remember thinking the same thing last year, and it did not happen.)  Jay packed two hours full with interesting new ways to embellish wheel thrown forms.  Shown above and at right are the process, and the result, of what he calls a "chattered" texture.  Lovely!

But the holiday season is coming up and so I will be selling my jewellery at a few different locales over the next number of weeks.  Making a living is  a vital component of my efforts at making a life, as it is for so many craftspeople.  So consider yourself officially invited onto the "support small business" bandwagon!  As an appetizer before you board, here's a couple teaser shots of what I've be working on recently.  Much more is waiting for a sunny day to be photographed.  At left is a peek at one of my submissions the the annual Comfort & Joy exhibition at the Craft Council Gallery.  Don't miss the open house on November 24th, 1-4pm!  Below is a shot of the necklace I made using the texture from a cabbage.  Yes.  A cabbage.  It's made of fine silver, sterling, and bronze. 

I hope to see you at one of these fine venues over the coming weeks:

Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador Christmas Craft Fair :
November 14-18, 2012 
St. John's Arts & Culture Centre,                                               My booth will again be on the first floor, near the doors to the children's library.  Booth #114.

A Studio Tour!:
December 8th & 9th, 2012:

Susan Lee Studios 
Running the Goat Press 
Blue Moon Pottery 
Alexis Templeton Studio

Anna Templeton Tea & Sale : 
December 14th & 15th, 2012
Anna Templeton Centre
My booth will probably be on the second floor, as it was last year. 

Below are a selection of other fabulously talented local artists and craftspeople who's work may be just the thing for someone on your Christmas list.  Check out their blogs too why don't you?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Fallen

I've just come from The Rooms Art Gallery this evening, and I'm brimming with inspiration.  I may have to move in there to live until the next exhibit arrives.  The current exhibits are full of just the sort of stuff that inspires me: bones, and stones, and seed pods, birds, and detritus of all sorts.  Let me elaborate:

"Earth Skins: Three Decades of Drawing by Susan Wood", is a sensitive display of drawings and sketches, none of which are have a barrier of glass or frame to distance the viewer from examining them closely.  The portrayals of dead birds and mermaid's purses, dying flowers and women's gowns are so beautifully rendered, and seeing them exposed on the paper adds to the intimacy of the exhibit.  So much trust is implied in showing the work this way, I feel it's preciousness must be better appreciated.

 Still on the theme of mortality, and possibly morbidity, is the exhibit  "Any Sharp Knife Will Do", Curated by Jeff Nye, Installation by Seema Goel and Lee Henderson.  A fascinating variety of quotes on the subject of taxidermy, death, and hunting adorn the blackened walls.  In recessed cubbyholes, with wee lights operated by the viewer, are the heads of mice, mounted, as trophy heads are.  Another room shows images of more traditional mounted game with the view through a camera's viewfinder superimposed over the image; the animals posed ready to be "shot", as it were by a camera.  Staring at these images from the floor of the room are three taxidermic dogs observing the images of the mounted game heads.  I stared each dog down just to creep myself out a bit.  It worked.  I don't think I will ever need to immortalize a pet in such a way!

The third and most exciting exhibit to me, and the one amongst which I'd like to set up housekeeping is  "Where Rivers Meet Sea", by Lyndal Osborne.  Oh my!, the collections of things are mind boggling!  I wish The Rooms website had sneak peeks of the items on display, because they are intriguing in the extreme.  Osborne was artist in residence for a time at Gros Morne National Park, and also spent time in Australia.  She collected natural and manmade objects that accumulate as detritus in the natural world, specifically along shorelines.  The quantity is staggering!  And it's sorted methodically and with great attention to pattern and form into bowls, or on platters.  These have been set amongst a "river" of empty clear glass jars that wind along the floor throughout the space.  (My initial {suppressed, obviously} instinct upon entered the gallery was to run kicking through the jars for the sheer clatter and chaos of it!)  In a few cases she's added a bit of paint to some leaves or pods, for a cohesiveness of colour, but mostly the objects are left in their natural state.  There's even a faint but distinct aroma of being in a room so very full of bits of nature.  Possibly it's the exoticism of the natural objects from Australia, but I think it has more to do with the meticulous sorting of so many little things, that draws you in, to examine the details of each.

And what, in all of this, has inspired me?  Well those of you who know me, will already get it.  I enjoy the repetition and detail in nature, flawless and never-ending, a cycle repeated each season.  Although my companion is also a collector of sorts, I am more exuberant in my enthusiasm for treasures found.  So for the sake of harmony in my home, I most often bring back photographs of these natural objects, rather than the objects themselves.  Recently in my tramping about in the world, I've shifted my lens from the ever-fascinating world of fungi, to the variety of seed pods that in this fall season are in their glory.  I don't know what I plan to do with these images just yet, but they are quickly forming a collection on their own. So in the absence of tantalizing images of the exhibits at The Rooms, here is my collection of seed pods in the sky.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy news!  I recently took a trip up to King's Point Pottery, and I'm excited to announce that Susan Lee Studios jewellery is now available in their fine craft gallery.  If you haven't yet had the opportunity to visit, it's well worth your while.
This summer King's Point Pottery was rated the #1 shopping destination in Newfoundland and Labrador on TripAdvisor.com.  And it's a well deserved title.  Along with their own range of exquisite pottery, David and Linda have selected fine works of craft from the Atlantic provinces to showcase in their gallery.  Amongst other fine pottery, you'll find wood carvings, glass work, jewellery, and photography.  There is truly a gift for everyone to be found there.  Even yourself!  As I write this I'm enjoying a beverage in my new shino glaze crab mug, one of Linda and David's signature lines, that just had to come home with me.
King's Point Pottery is located on the Baie Verte peninsula, and there's tons to see and do in the area.  I had never been there before, and I only barely scratched the surface.  I'm looking forward to a return visit.

Until August 25th, you can save 10% on your registration for workshops at the Anna Templeton Centre.  I'm teaching three workshops there this fall.  A repeat of the same one I taught in the spring: Piercing & Riveting, as well as two new ones: Textured Ring Bands, and Pierced Ring Bands.  Visit the Workshops page of my blog for more details, or visit the Adult Classes page on the Anna Templeton website to register.  They have lots of exciting things on offer this fall!

Last but certainly not least, I'm so thrilled to be a part of the Doors Open Days event facilitated by the Newfoundland Historic Trust.  On September 8-9 from 10am-4pm, visit locations around the city that you might not otherwise have the opportunity to see.  While you can visit my studio by chance or by appointment year round, this will be a perfect opportunity to drop by and see me working at my jewellery.  Feel free to ask questions!  I'll also have jewellery on display for sale.  Be sure to visit the other participating sites as well, you might learn something about what goes on behind the scenes that you didn't previously know!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cutting Trees

A lot of my jewellery features trees.  Specifically these coniferous trees.  I've even adopted one of them as my logo.   These trees as imagery in my jewellery go right back to the first ambitious piece I tackled after returning from the silver workshop I did at University of Taxco in 2001.  It is pictured here:

I think there's almost as much solder in this piece as there is sterling silver sheet!  I had only made a couple of rings before this piece, so it was a steep learning curve to getting it actually assembled into something that resembled the idea in my head.  Woodworking clamps and play-doh were involved because I didn't yet have a third hand, and my torch then was on a propane canister... But the bird makes a pleasant jingling sound when he deigns to face forwards, and the mirror I set in the back luckily didn't chip in a spot that's visible from the front!
All the same, I'm pleased this piece now resides as part of my own personal collection when I reflect on what I've learned between then and now about assembling jewellery.

In the intervening years, I've become enamored with riveting, and the more recent incarnations of this shadow-box pendant utilizes this cold-joining technique.  The only soldered component on the pendant at right is the copper moon/sun.  I love this design, and the few I've made have sold well.  I like the sculptural aspect to them too; they can stand alone as a miniature diorama.  But I must find a way to conceal the chain...

 Now that I'm working more with copper and bronze in addition to silver, my most recent renditions of these pendants are incorporating multiple metals.  I've just finished these pendants this week and they're waiting to have their chains put on.  Still mostly assembled by riveting, not all are shadow boxes, but the layering is a feature I really like. 

I love trying out new ideas of course, but sometimes the reinvention of a design I've worked on before can lead to exciting new places too.  I don't yet see the end of the evolution of these pendants.  For example, the dangling bird that was in the first one from 10 years ago is a detail I'd like to include in future pieces, but I need to improve upon the mechanics of it, so for now it remains a puzzle in my head.

If you'd like to see these pieces in person, why not drop down to the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival in Bannerman Park, August 3-5.  Susan Lee Studios will have a booth in the craft tent.  I'd love to see you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Dilemma of Design

Fortunately I've not be someone who runs out of ideas for things I want to make.  (Knocking on the proverbial wood presently...)  There are as many techniques for developing designs as there are people with opinions to offer on them.  When I was away at Haliburton School of The Arts we tackled design from many different angles.  Mostly we started with nothing, and by gathering random shapes through varied means, and shifting them in different ways, we created interesting patterns that could be developed into a design for a piece of jewellery.  I was pleased with the patterns I produced.  They were unlike anything I'd created before.  But they were all quite non-representational. 

This was starkly different than my usual design process.  I like representational things.  Even if they're distorted in the final product so that the viewer might not necessarily recognize what they're looking at, I do tend to begin with a "thing".  A tree, a bird, a landscape, or a detail of one of those, is the catalyst that inspires the beginning of a piece of jewellery for me.  From there, I look towards what contrasts I will create within the piece to best highlight the details.  Sometimes the contrast is created with space, which draws attention then, to the detail of the "thing" I'm portraying.  Other times the contrast is created with texture, inviting the viewer's eye to explore the piece to find the "thing" portrayed there.

In creating a piece of jewellery I must also be cognizant of how I use my materials.  The cost of what I incorporate must be considered with a mind to the future use of the scraps.  This is luckily where I also find inspiration for new pieces.  By spending the few extra moments necessary before I cut out a piece of metal, to consider the shape I'll be leaving behind, I am able to make adjustments that allow this "scrap" to be a more usable shape for a future project.  In this way I stumble upon new design ideas that would not have originally occurred to me.

The photos that accompany this post illustrate my design process nicely.  They are components of the pieces I've been working on for the Annual Member's Exhibit at the Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador.  They have been submitted to the jury, so I won't reveal too much about the final pieces here until that result is known.  However, you can see in the first two images that my original idea was to create leaves from bronze and silver.  In selecting where to cut the leaves out of the bronze sheet I was able to create an interesting piece of "scrap" with the resulting negative spaces.  This "scrap" then lent itself to a new design into which I incorporated granulated silver.

Everyone's design process is different, and thankfully there are many techniques for when you're "stuck".  So far this is what has worked for me, and I hope that the well of inspiration that I draw from doesn't dry up any time soon!

The Annual Member's Exhibit is always an inspiring glimpse into the work that the talented fine craftspeople of this province have been creating over the past year.  This year is also the 40th Anniversary for the Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador, and the Gala evening planned for the Exhibit's opening promises to be a fabulous celebration of all that is fine craft.  Won't you join us?  June 22, 7pm at Devon House, 59 Duckworth St.  Click the link to RSVP.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On Community and Solitude

A friend recently gave me a link to the PBS series Craft in America and I've been sucking it up like an elixir.  The series has connected some dots for me in a rather unexpected way with regards to my sense of Community. 
As craftpeople we often toil in solitude with the vague hope that what we're working our fingers to the bone on, might in turn provide us with some cold hard cash if only the right person happens to lay eyes on it.  This is the mindset that we're groomed culturally to pursue.  But most often the drive to create exists anyway, regardless of the marketability of the finished object.  There is a deep satisfaction in expressing oneself through the crafting of a tangible product unlike anyone else's; definitely unlike anything that comes from a factory.  And the very presence of that mindset, as I found was clearly evidenced in the Craft in America series, validates for me an intangible but immensely valuable sense of community amongst craftspeople.

Solitude is a state I've come to recognize as being most comfortable.  It allows me the space, mentally and physically, to feel at peace.  And that is the crux of where my creative energy grows from.  Finding satisfaction in solitude comes from recognizing that a connection still exists with all the Others out there who are making, creating, & fabricating from their own sense of identity, objects of Craft that fulfill their personal desire for tangible expression.  A Community exists of solitary people that are
crafting objects of beauty and contemplation that serve to help define our cultural identity.
On that note, I will leave you with a link to an inspirational blog whose post for today coincides nicely with this topic.  (And there's beautiful photos!)  Enjoy:
Solitude & Silence, Steve McCurry

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Open Studio at May Day Craft Weekend

Well I've done it.  I've leaped, and with both feet landed squarely on the open studio bandwagon.  And although right now I feel like my arms are madly pin-wheeling to help me get my bearings, it's a pleasant sort of off-balance sensation, and is turning out to be highly motivating to my level of productivity.  And on May 5 & 6 I will be ready to fling wide my door and show off my new products!

Pictured above is an example of my newest excitement: photo-etching!  I have so many pictures of birds and trees and mushrooms and plants, and now I have a way of integrating them into my jewellery.  I will be launching this new line at the open studio event, and have so many ideas for possible designs in the future, so stay tuned!

I also have new jewellery incorporating Crystalline Cabochons by Alexis Templeton!  These recent pieces she's given me to work with are stunning, and they've taken me in new design directions.  At left is an appetizer to tide you over.  I roller printed a series of mountain outlines onto the sterling silver background, and cut the top of the pendant to have a mountain profile.  On the left side I textured a piece of square wire and riveted it in place.

This open studio event is organized by the Craft Council of Newfoundland & Labrador.  There are several studios participating, most are open Saturday and Sunday May 5 & 6, 10am-5pm.
Visit each location, get your passport stamped (available at each location), for a chance to win a basket of loot comprised of work from each studio!  For full details check out http://www.craftcouncil.nl.ca/news/may-day-craft-weekend/

Participating locations:
Clay Studio at Devon House                                                          59 Duckworth St.

Alexis Templeton Studio                                                                75 Quidi Vidi Rd.

Running the Goat Books and Broadsides                                       8 Mullock St.

Susan Lee Studios                                                                           116 Bond St.

Anna Templeton Centre/Craft Council Seconds Sale Fundraiser   278 Duckworth St.

Newfoundland Chocolate Company                                               166 Duckworth St.

CharlotteStreet                                                                                181 Water St. (special event location: window of Johnny Ruth/Living Planet)

Sin City Crafters Handmade Market                                               272 Water St. (special event location: third floor of Rocket Bakery)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Another new avenue on my map

I've taught my first jewellery workshop.  Phew!  And Yay!  "Pierced and Soldered Ring Bands" was hosted by Peyton Barrett and her family at their studios in Sandy Point.  What a beautiful setup they have there.  Bright and spacious, with different workrooms for different tasks, as well as a little retail shop.  We were made to feel most welcome there, and she cooked for us too!  Divine! 

In terms of the workshop, I do believe it was a successful experience for everyone.  This was my first experience teaching adults, and I found it far less stressful than teaching kids.  I've only done that in a very limited capacity, but remember feeling utterly drained during and afterwards!  Adults are much better at intuitive self-directed learning.  I think I managed to help everyone in some way, even those who were somewhat familiar with the techniques I was showing them.  So that was rewarding.  You can see the fruits of our labours in the photo at the top.  I will make a few adjustments to my lesson plan if I teach it again, but the aspect I was most concerned about: the pacing, was pretty close to accurate for the time we had allotted for the workshop.   I think the time and planning I put into this first lesson plan were well worth it.   

A huge thank-you to my "guinea pig" class, you were most agreeable and hard-working!  And of course to Pete for getting the ball rolling in so many ways.  
Now I must more thoroughly tackle the lesson plan for my next workshop at the Anna Templeton Centre, "Piercing and Riveting"...  


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oh, this must be why I did that MUN certificate.

I started taking distance education courses at Memorial University a few years ago, when I was still working full-time as a welder, to earn my Certificate in Post-Secondary Education.  Jewellery was still a part-time activity for me then, and I had a vague idea that I might teach welding one day.  But my passions shifted over the years, and now jewellery is what keeps my creative juices flowing on a daily basis.  I kept plugging away at my certificate, however, since I'm not one to leave loose ends dangling and I completed it last year.  Now, with people asking on occasion if I could please show them how to do this or that jewellery skill, I've decided to put together a couple of lesson plans for beginning techniques in metalworking for jewellers.

At the top of my blog you'll notice I've added a new tab: Workshops.  So far, I've got three coming up for this spring.  The first is in Sandy Point, and will be a great weekend of ring-making, hosted by the effervescent Pete Barrett.  (Oh, you'll die for her "flummies", so delicious!)  She can arrange billeting if you're not sure where to stay in Central.  The second (already sold out!) and third workshops are being hosted by the Anna Templeton Centre in downtown St. John's.  A wonderfully historic building, bound to get your creativity flowing, as we make pierced and riveted pendants, earrings, and keychains (hint hint, now that's something a fellow might like to make isn't it?).  Click on the Workshop tab to get all the registration details for each. 

As an avid workshop junkie myself, I love seeing the varied results when students are provided with the same skills and materials.  We each bring such personal interpretation to our creative practice, and I'm so excited to be able to provide a bit of a basis for those who want to see what jewellery-making has to offer.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


The internet is great.  I love how much inspiration and knowledge is at my fingertips.  However it sucks my time up in an increasingly addictive way.
For me, the morning is my best time for accomplishing creative things.  But too often lately I've let that niggling voice in my head that tells me to just check my email, to see if there's any new messages on Facebook, or to pop in to the discussion forum with my etsy team, win the first part of my day.  And "suddenly" the morning is gone.  The afternoon then coerces me into getting out of the house, and before I know it, the day is gone, and nothing creative has been accomplished.
So last week was a necessary and welcome intervention.  We fled the city and it's conveniences of internet for some cross-country skiing and a bit of ice-fishing, with only the occasional access to internet when we chose to drive into town for other necessary things, like food.  
Aaah, what an elixir.  The plentiful fresh air and the freedom to work on some wire trees, as well as an owl sketch for a piece of jewellery that was, hitherto, stuck in my head, was blissful indeed.

Repurposing the long-gone railroad.
Every 10 yards or so, coyote did the soft-shoe.
In progress.

And now that I'm back in the city, it is my determined goal to not succumb to the Siren call of the computer in the mornings, and get right down to some tangible creative endeavor.