Monday, August 31, 2009

Something I made recently

I've made so many good things this week, it was hard to choose which to feature! Actually, it wasn't, because this is the only one I've finished varnishing-- the rest of them are still in the queue for finishing touches. More new design excitement to come as soon as I catch up on varnishing!

In the meantime, here's my Three Petals necklace-- torn paper, raw pigment, gold filled wire and chain, 24k gold leaf, and resin.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Overthinking Jewelry

Time for another installment of "Overthinking Jewelry"! I promised that I'd have a go at talking about my thoughts about text on jewelry, so here goes.

We put text on lots of stuff we wear-- T-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers (worn by proxy), hats, etc...most of it is fairly direct in terms of content. Short, snappy, pithy, witty, meant to reflect fairly clearly our affiliations, views, and experiences of various sorts (I like this sports team! I like this band! I have this political view! I was at this event! I visited this place!). You can certainly do all that with text on jewelry, too. But there's also the potential of being more personal with jewelry, more vague. I want to say "more artsy", but that isn't very specific. Less direct may be what I have in mind. For example, you can put a line of poetry on a bracelet, but I don't see too many people going around with poems on T-shirts. Why? What does wearing a poem say about you? Other than that you like poetry? The reader has to make some inferences to figure out what it says about you-- it's not basically a label, like so many T-shirts are. A poetry bracelet says you're a literary type, maybe you particularly love that poet, that the words and the mood conjured by the poetry are something you'd like to remember, are relevant to your inner, spiritual life. That may be it-- jewelry can say something about one's inner life, something more private, while other forms of clothing with words are public. This may have as much to do with size as anything else.

The smaller size of jewelry makes the text less visible-- you can assume that you're not broadcasting the contents quite as widely as you are when you wear a T-shirt with something written on it. It can remain private, or can be shared with people close enough to you to notice and ask, which opens a door to an interesting conversation. With more private expression, you are freer to express things close to yourself, integral to your identity. In a public forum, sure, those things can come across too, but there's often more distance. The distance provided by irony, for example. A witty shirt with a sarcastic or ironic tone creates a certain kind of public face for the wearer. Jewelry doesn't need irony. [Though it can certainly have it, I'm not disputing that.] I realize that kind of contradicts what I said in the first paragraph about jewelry being less direct than other forms of words-to-be-worn. Maybe what I meant was 'more general, less specific', rather than 'less direct'.

I have more to say about this, but I need to think more and if I do that here, now, I'll just keep rambling. Best to keep the rambling to short episodes. But remind me to talk about (a) topic and (b) parts of speech (oh yeah! I think about grammar! You better believe it.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Cat Blogging

About that new cat...earlier this spring when I was working outside a lot, she started coming up and rolling around in front of me begging for attention. Soon she was up on the deck, begging for attention. And food. And then begging to come in, waiting patiently at the door, staring at us through the glass. Sometimes she'd just follow me on in like she owned the place. This went on for about 4 months. Eventually we gave in, took her to the vet, and officially welcomed her into the family. We've decided to call her Persistence.

Vindaloo is not happy about this state of affairs, and crouches down making the weirdest theramin-like growls when Persistence is near. She often tries to block her way in and take a swipe at her. We're hoping she gets used to the situation sooner rather than later.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Useful Tip

Another one for the folks who work with resin. I only use a very small amount at a time (a tablespoon at most), so this may not be as practical if you're working with larger amounts, but the instructions that come with resin are usually a bit wasteful-- you have to use a new mixing cup every time, and 2 new popsicle sticks to stir.

Here's what I do: Line a small cup with plastic wrap. I use a condiment cup, but any kind of little cup would be fine.Put some double-stick tape on the back of the cup, and fold the plastic wrap over to secure. Mix your resin in that, and bundle the whole thing up and toss the remains when you're done. Then reuse the cup.

Also, forget the popsicle sticks. Scrap cardstock or thin cardboard (from cereal boxes or what-have-you) cut in strips is cheaper and works just as well.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Something I made recently

Here's a good example of a not particularly feminine yet (in my opinion) intriguing pendant. This is one of these serendipitous landscapes that emerges in the dyebath-- the colors are dark and moody, and remind me of a night scene, where something is going on just over the horizon, just beyond the trees....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Overthinking Jewelry

These past couple of days, I've been reading this dissertation by Jean E. McElvain. She explores the details of how and why people choose to wear T-shirts expressing support for a cause (political, health awareness, etc). She asks questions like: Is there a relationship between your personal identity and the clothes you wear, when you're wearing a T-shirt supporting a cause? Do you think that people view you differently when you wear such a T-shirt? How do you feel when people comment positively/negatively/not at all on a T-shirt you're wearing? What kinds of sentiments would be inappropriate to wear on a T-shirt in public? Where would you be willing (or not) to wear a T-shirt supporting a cause?

These questions may equally well be asked of any kind of wearable object, even those not directly representing a social cause, or featuring text at all.

Is there a relationship between the jewelry you wear (if any?) and your personal identity? How do people view you when you're wearing this type of jewelry (any type-- pick one: handmade, mass produced, precious metal and gemstone, crystal and wire, clay, paper, glass...)? If your jewelry has words/text on it, what kinds of sentiments are inappropriate to wear on jewelry in public? Do you want people to be able to read and comment on your jewelry? Where is it appropriate to wear certain types of jewelry, and where would you consider it to be inappropriate?

So many intriguing questions. I'll try to answer some of them for myself.

Personally, I think that there is a hugely important relationship between the jewelry I wear and my identity. For one thing, chances are good that whatever I'm wearing, I made! It represents my identity as an artist. But beyond that, my jewelry that I wear most often represents the value I place on handmade objects, on uniqueness, on quirkiness and acceptance of idiosyncracy, boldness, and the discovery of beauty in imperfections.

I hope that these aspects of my personality are made clear when others see the jewelry I'm wearing. I think people do view you differently depending (in part) on your jewelry. The reactions may not be as strong as they are for something like a political T-shirt, but they're there. I try to avoid off-the-shelf pieces that look mass-produced, even if I generally like them stylistically. I find mall-jewelry-store type jewelry (setting plucked from a catalog, set with a faceted gemstone also plucked from a catalog) particularly inconsistent with my sense of identity. I think that the perennial popularity of certain styles and materials is wrapped up in ideals/fantasies of femininity. I reject many of those ideals, so because of that I also tend to stay away from jewelry that would give the impression that I accept these ideals.

Words on jewelry. This is a complicated question for me! I think it deserves its own entry. And I have to think more about appropriateness of different types of jewelry to different situations, too. More on those, later, then.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these questions. Tell me, tell me!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Return of Friday Cat Blogging

I was expecting a great hue and cry in favor of the return of Friday Cat Blogging, but really only one person came out strongly in favor of it. (And surprisingly, there was no objection to the proposed The Randy Composter feature. I had thought that would unite people against me for sure.) But a hue and cry of one is enough for me to give it another go. I listen to my reading public. I still have reservations about it; this is supposed to be a business tool, and if someone thinking about buying my work for their gallery pops by, I'd like there to be a good chance that they will quickly encounter something here actually about jewelry. But I'll give it a try and see how it goes. "Frequent posting!" the philosopher advised, so that's what I'm emphasizing.

We're putting in a new deck. The cats were at first very disturbed by the disappearance of the old deck, but now the new one is together enough for them to explore. Here's Ballyhoo, checking out the new nap-and-sun-platform, as he thinks of it. Actually, that's not too far off from how I think of it.

We also have a new cat, but more on her later.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I've been continuing the Great Blog Improvement Brainstorming Session. Here are my ideas:

1. Blog with greater frequency.

2. Use more exclamation points, to lend an air of excitement and provide continuity with my business name, My Word!

3. New features, including:
  • Here's something I made! (once a week at least)
  • Here's something someone else made! (once a week at most)
  • Here's a shop who now has my jewelry, or who has a fresh batch! (as often as possible)
  • Here is a Useful Tip! (Weekly. I'll try to keep it art-related, but no promises)
  • Jewelry eggheaditude! In which I indulge my academic urges and opine insightfully about jewelry beliefs, practices, folklore, historiography around the world. Also I imagine there will be a lot of talk about performing one's identity. I'll also try to relate these ideas to my own work when possible. We're talking real content, here. I'll try to keep it to a minimum, but I'm afraid I must do it. I'll try to think of a catchy title for this series soon.
  • Here is something I did this week! Entertaining personal anecdotes.
  • The Randy Composter! A weekly short feature in which I update you on the progress of my compost piles. I'm not so sure about this one, but the purpose is to illustrate that I have a life outside of jewelry making and blogging. (I do! Really!)

So that's five weekly topics and two occasional topics, all highly entertaining, which include a smattering of themes which, if done in isolation, might be boring or pretentious or both, but when done together will, I hope, result in an ever-changing carousel of readability, illustrating the many facets of my work and life, while bringing you readers back over and over again. [10 points to anyone who can correctly diagram that sentence. X-bar diagrams only, please.]

The question that remains is, should I bring back Friday Cat Blogging? Or would that be too much?

I've been thinking a lot about this blog lately. I had wanted it to be a window into my jewelry making/other artifications so you all can get to know me better, get some idea of what I'm about and what I'm thinking and making. But, um, I'm afraid it's been a bit less interesting that I intended for some time now. Sorry. I think it went downhill when I got rid of the cat blogging.

The model I've fallen into-- "here's a thing!"-- is just not that interesting to read. Not bad to look at, sure, but not so engaging on other levels. I myself don't read blogs that are all, "hey, look at this!". So I've been asking myself, what kinds of blogs do I like to read? Maybe mine should be more like that. But I like to read things that are a) excessively whim-driven (like this), or b) excessively eggheady, like this or this or c) personal anecdotes from friends, like this or this. Sometimes, on a lucky occasion, I find one that's all three of those combined-- whim-driven personal anecdotes from eggheady people. I also like to read about food. None of these are especially appropriate to a blog about my jewelry, so I'm not sure I can adopt these as models.

Other approaches to blogging that I don't like, in addition to the "here's a thing I made!" type, include the "here's someone on the web who is interesting!", and "here's what someone else made!" and "here's a useful tip!". I don't have any useful tips. Well, that's not true (here's one: it turns out that resin does not stick to plastic wrap, so you can line your work surface with plastic wrap to mitigate disasters), but I don't have enough of them to make it an ongoing topic of discussion here on the blog. And even if I did, I wouldn't want to do that, because that's kinda boring, too.

So I'm not sure yet exactly what I'm going to do about the situation, but I hereby vow to try to mix it up a little more, at least. Increased frequency! Wider topic range! Eggheadier! And a little more of me in it, for better or worse.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More new brooches, this time with layers and adjuncts.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I'd like to offer a warm welcome to the latest gallery to carry my work, Artswork in LeClaire, Iowa. They'll be carrying a nice selection of my mosaic earrings, calligraphed initial necklaces, wabi-sabi pieces, and more. Plus, they have a (very cute) gallery cat! Welcome aboard, Artswork!

221 N Cody Road
LeClaire, IA 52753
(563) 289-3316

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New brooches

After a long period when I did not make any pins or brooches at all, I've finally discovered a way to make them work. The problem I had had with them previously was that a) pre-fab pin backs are mostly pretty ugly and more importantly b) pin backs glued to paper can pull off very easily, no matter what kind of glue you use. They just pull off, taking as much paper as necessary with them. Now armed with the techniques I've developed for making my wabi-sabi pieces, I find that a handwrought pin back looks very sharp (no pun intended) and isn't going anywhere once embedded in resin. Success! Here are the closeups of these first three brooches (the third picture is incorrectably sideways, thanks to glitchy Blogger), followed by a picture of the back with my hammered sterling pinback integrated with resin.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I'm working on dyeing papers in fall colors now (I know! Fall!), and for inspiration stopped in at fashiontrendsetter. Now, I know it's hard to talk at length and intelligently about something like a color palette. I understand that. For me, color choice is such a non-verbal process, I wouldn't want the job of having to write about it. I would probably get so far as, "I thought these looked nice together", and that would be that. Not a whole lot of story or romance there, I admit. And yet I contend that sometimes, less is more. When reading the designers' descriptions of their color palattes, my Nonsense-o-meter was lighting up, spinning and beeping. I swear, if I hadn't taken the batteries out, it would have gone up in a kerpoof of smoke and sensible outrage right there and then.

For example, here we read, among other things, that "the interaction of functional blues and structured browns open out onto turbulent explorations that burst forth in stormy alchemies." And then it continues, "Casual colors reflect the style of mixed technologies. Juicy orange tones, drunken scarlets, and neutral nuances combine in dangerous relation."

"Dangerous", sure. Last time I wore red and grey together I was nearly attacked by wasps wanting to oviposit on my hemline. Beware, gentle wearer of clothes!

Also, dear fashion designers, you really should know the difference between a palette, a pallet, and a palate. Jus' sayin'.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another torn paper necklace, in bluegreen and silver. I got a nice shot of the back-- people tend to ignore the backs of things, but I think it's important to make the back as beautiful and interesting as possible. I love it when someone browsing in my booth turns a piece over out of curiousity to see how it's made, and then exclaims over how lovely even the reverse is. It always takes them by surprise. Sometimes pieces have become flipped around by accident and no one even notices that it's not the front....