Monthly Archives: December 2010

One of the most useful things I learned to do in 2010…

…was to make and fuse my own fine silver and Argentium silver links. (Argentium is especially useful because of the strength it provides as an alloy.) I had a lot of practice in perfecting my technique when I made large link silver necklaces for Robin’s fiancee and Fritz’s girlfriend,  Stephanie and Meg, for Christmas presents.

I started by wrapping a coil of wire on a mandrel.

Part of the learning curve:  The joins have to fit together very well…

…or else the will separate (melt away from) from each other instead of fusing together:

Adding more heat will not bring the ends back together. It will just move them farther apart and get hot enough to fuse to the next link it is touching:     (Yeah, oops!)

Once they are all fused and assembled, I hammer the links to work-harden them. These were made with 14 gauge Argentium. This technique is so handy for anytime I need a closed jump ring, or even a closed loop on a hook clasp. No solder to mess with either. It took a little practice to gain confidence, but I am glad I persevered. It was well worth it.



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Fun times in Portland and a bread time story

We had a wonderful Christmas in Portland, Maine with our son Fritz and his girlfriend Meg (who live there), our other son Robin (who dropped his fiancee Stephanie off at her parents’ house in Connecticut as they drove up from Baltimore), Bruce’s mother Ann, his sister Kelly and her partner Allison.

“Hey, I have an idea. Let’s pose for a timed photo of ourselves”

L to R: Kelly, me, Meg, Bruce, Ann, Robin, Al, Fritz.

“Hey, I have another idea. Let’s take a second photo and all make faces!”

I couldn’t figure out why everyone was laughing at me after the shot was taken. Then I realized I was setting myself up as a chump if I was the only one  making a face. (This has actually happens to me a lot. You’d think I would learn!)

After opening presents and having a most excellent brunch made by Fritz and Meg,  we took a walk around the eastern prom. It was a little snowy and icy underfoot, but it felt good to get out.

Christmas sunset over Portland. The calm before the storm. (At this same time the next evening, the snow had started and the winds were picking up, and Bruce and I were glad to be back on the island before the blizzard hit.)

After the walk and some rest time, we regrouped for dinner at Kelly and Al’s house.  More presents, more food, more fun. And a chance to learn some bread techniques from Al.

I was inspired to try this at home. I keep my sourdough starter in the fridge, so I took it out to warm and feed it before making bread. Well, I forgot about it, and a day later decided to feed it as the power was blinking during the blizzard. I took the starter I usually would discard and mixed a bread dough with it, using the technique described in the Tartine Bread book; the same technique Al was using to get professional bakery results at home. (At work she has fancy ovens for this.) An hour later a tree came down on the island and lights went off. I stuck the dough in the fridge to wait until the next day. The next morning, with the power still out, I took the dough out of the fridge and folded and turned it at 30 minute intervals. Eventually I shaped the loaf and let it rise for the final time. Using un-fed starter and an interrupted bulk rise was not described in the book. I knew the loaf would probably be sour from what I had read about fermentation times, etc. but, I like sourdough bread. A lot!  And I have never quite been able to get the flavor and texture I wanted. I had nothing to lose with this trial loaf, but my fingers were crossed that I would create something close to what I wanted.  The power came back on in time to put the bread in a cast iron Dutch oven in a 500º oven and I baked according to the schedule in the book. Check it out!

Not only did I get a tangy loaf with a crackly crust and creamy interior, I got something else I had been looking for in making this kind of  bread…



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I really wish I could show you….

…the things I’ve been working on lately. But they are all Christmas presents and I want to keep them a surprise for just another day or two. (The photo above is a hint.)

I think I am finally finished. Ready for the holiday. Literally wrapped up. If it’s not done now, it’s not getting done. We’re off to Portland for Christmas with our sons. Yee ha! One of the last things I finished making this morning, was a batch of English muffins. Something I can show you, and proudly too. This batch was an experiment; the first time I used only the sourdough starter I captured from wild yeast last summer. I haven’t trusted the starter to be active enough to rise a huge batch of dough, that gets handled this much, so in the past I added  just a little yeast to the starter to give it a boost. Not this time. I’m happy to say that “Wild Miss Islesford” is one active mother!


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Short days

I love this time of year. Not that I could take it for a long time, but the short dark days really appeal to me. To see candles in windows, Christmas lights on houses, all the bits of light that people use to enhance the long nights. I don’t mind having the sun set before 4 p.m. It means a ride home on the 3:30 mailboat is likely to be accompanied by some spectacular sky.

Jason Pickering might not share my love of shorter days, but the lights he used, to extend his work day, were a treat to see on an afternoon walk.


This might be the real reason I like the longer hours of darkness:  Battery powered LED lighted branches. When it looked like high winds were going to knock out our power a few nights ago, I moved these to the upstairs bathroom for an emergency night light. They looked so pretty there, I might have to order another set to use every night as a night light. I smile literally every time I look at them.

This is a beautiful time of year, but lest you think I should move to the North Pole, the solstice arrives just in time for me, too.


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Good times at Kaitlyn’s Open Studio

It was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon on Little Cranberry Island. We missed the friends who couldn’t make it, and laughed and created  with the ones who did. Thank you to Kaitlyn Duggan for providing space for the gathering and a large craft table for making reindeer, snowmen and Santas.

I wish I had a cupboard full of Kaitlyn’s pottery. Her designs are so cheerful and colorful.

If I ever get around to re-doing the cabinets in our kitchen, these are the knobs I would like to install. But how would I choose?

When she is not busy being an architect, or creating floor cloths, or playing badminton, or painting, or raising money for Colegio Moriah in the Dominican Republic,  Jeri Spurling makes these great beaded snowflakes. Many of them are made with one continuous piece of wire:

The one I bought is made with six V-shaped pieces of wire:

A couple of artists wearing plaid took time to look at my jewelry:

Then we made the reindeer. Ashley Bryan works on his second creature while Kaitlyn shows Louise and Susannah Chaplin how to get started.

Amy and Adele Palmer made a reindeer family. (Adele, a first grade student at the Islesford School, took one look at the pictures in the reindeer directions and promptly started in with no guidance from the adults around her.  Kaitlyn’s husband, Cory, commented, “Adele, you are spatially gifted!”  To which she replied, “Yes, I am specially gifted in art.”

No Martha Stewart designs for David Axelrod. He created his own version of a community reindeer, to which everyone added something. (Henry Isaacs seems to be in total shock at the creativity of it all.)

Ashley was “only going to stay for a short time” so he could get back to work on his latest book, but he stayed long enough to make three reindeer and eat a few cookies.





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Answering Holly’s official request

Tomorrow, (Saturday) my friends Kaitlyn Duggan, Jeri Spurling and I will host an open studio sale and holiday gathering on Little Cranberry Island. When Kaitlyn did this last year, she included a chance to make Christmas tree ornaments from old holiday cards.  It gave everyone something to do, especially if they didn’t feel like shopping. It was a lot of fun. I took on the challenge this year to come up with a little project. I love these silly reindeer. They have such individual personalities and they’re not too complicated to make. At least, from what I remember. The last time I made them was when I saw them in Martha Stewart’s magazine in 2000. (Holy cow! That was 11 years ago!)

Don’t you love the beaded trees in the background? I wish I could say I made those too, but they were made by the talented Liz DeLaittre of Bar Harbor. I buy one every year at the Island Arts Association Holiday Fair. (Where I was last weekend.)  They are way too pretty to put away after Christmas, so I leave them out on my windowsill all year.

Got any pipe cleaners Holly? I bet you and Maia will be making some reindeer soon!


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Craft Fair. Before and after.

Two nights before the Island Arts Association Holiday Fair in Bar Harbor, I was still taking batches of earring components out of the tumbler, ready to be oxidized. I kept up a crazy busy work schedule in the two weeks after Thanksgiving, but it was worthwhile.

I left the island on Thursday afternoon, at sunset, to be ready to set up on Friday morning at 7 a.m. If you are familiar with the Islesford Town Dock in the summer, this is what it looks like in December, when the ramp is up, the floats are out, and the end of the building is boarded up for a wind break. We’ll be using the stairs to access the ferry  until the floats are back in, in May 2011.

I didn’t even think to take a picture of my booth until Saturday, when it was looking a little emptier. (Yippee!) It was a great fair, and a great time. I loved seeing so many friends who stopped by as they were shopping locally.  I got some of my own Christmas shopping done during the quiet times. I wish I had taken photos of the people there. It was a great group of crafters with a wide variety of products. My friend Gail Grandgent was next to me with her tiles and silk scarves. She was barely set up when I noticed this incredibly beautiful silk scarf. Hand painted birches, at night, in the snow, with the mountains in the background. You can’t see it so well in this hastily snapped photo, but the colors in the scarf echoed the colors of my earring display cards. It’s worth a click to enlarge the photo to see her trees!

The off-island craft fair/trunk show season is over for me, though my potter friend Kaitlyn Duggan and I are cooking up some plans to take place in her Islesford winter studio next Saturday….Fa la la la la!


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