Monthly Archives: February 2011

No focus Friday…

…as in: What is there to post tonight?

This is when “Post a Day” is a challenge to me; at the end of a day when I feel like I had no focus. Which also means it is  exactly the time I should write a blog post. It causes me to look back at my day and note what was more interesting than I thought it was, or what I accomplished that I forgot about because I ended the day focusing on what didn’t get done.

For one thing, I sent off a large selection of glass and lucite beads to my sister-in-law Karen for the upcoming Empty Bowls fund raising event in Baltimore. I had hoped to be there to help out in person on Saturday, March 12. I was going to lead a family-friendly activity by providing supplies, instructions and help for people who wanted to make a beaded elastic bracelet. It is something that does not require a lot of time or prior knowledge and provides participants with a piece of jewelry to take home. It would have been easy and fun, but I couldn’t be in Baltimore on the 12th and still get home in time for our town’s annual Town Meeting, two days later. So I sorted through the huge stash of beads I haven’t used in a while and those I was willing to give away, and I packed a bunch up in zip-lock bags. I took the time to write out clear instructions and make several copies. I fit it all into a “large flat rate box” from the post office and saved over $5 by sending the heavy box to Karen that way. An accomplishment.

Hint: When working with beads, spread terry cloth hand towels out on the table where people (especially kids) will be working. It keeps the beads from rolling around and it makes them easier to clean up afterward.

As for something interesting: My friend Stefanie called me around 9 a.m to say she was on the island and planning to take her Dip of the Month today since it was 40º. February is such an iffy month. You always think you can wait until a little later for it to get warmer, but the weather does not always cooperate. If someone wants to take a February dip, and you are a member of the club, you better just do it. My plan was to just accompany her to the beach as a life guard, and wait for our friend Cindy to return on the 11a.m. boat and go for a dip with her later in the day when it might be even warmer. (like 47º) I knew as soon as I hung up from Stefanie, that I would feel like I was missing something if I didn’t go in the water with her. So I did. I dipped at 10 a.m. and stayed in my damp bathing suit at home until noon when I went for another dip with Cindy! Yes, my interesting part of the day was also another accomplishment. The oh so rare February Double Dip. The water temperature was 37º.



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I worked in the studio this morning and then took the 11:30 boat off the island to take my mother to a matinee  in Bar Harbor. During the winter, Reel Pizza, one of the local theaters, shows movies on Thursdays at 1:30, for a “cabin fever special.”  Senior citizens pay $3. They make delicious pizza, and the theater is set up to allow you to eat a pizza while watching the movie. Most evenings they show 2 movies at a time, (two small theaters) to a full audience, but the matinee is usually crowded or not depending on what’s showing. Today it was not too crowded; there were maybe 15 of us there to see the Selected Animated Shorts that will be voted on for an Oscar. (Some were good and some were so-so, but this will be the first year that I watch the Academy Awards and know what films they are talking about in that category.)  We didn’t care what we were watching. Mom lives in an assisted living facility and this is an easy outing for us to take with her wheelchair. It is a win-win situation for both of us. Mom gets to get away from the tedium of seeing the same 15 residents everyday, and I get a break from hearing about it. For two hours, any of our mother/daughter baggage is suspended and we are just two friends at the movies. Next week the movie is “The King’s Speech.” I saw it a few weeks ago when I was in Baltimore and it was fantastic. I can’t wait to see it again with Mom next week. We’ll be getting there early to make sure we get a good seat.

On my way home on the 5 p.m. boat, I looked out the window and saw what was a pretty, but unspectacular sunset. Not worth putting my book down to take a photo, I thought. A few minutes later I looked out a window on the other side of the boat and realized I was a few minutes too late for a pretty spectacular moon rise. One thing about my commute, it’s never dull.

Starboard side sunset:

Port side moon rise:



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Help on the shelf

Yesterday, when I began my riveting experience, I knew that somewhere I had a chart that would show what size drill bit I needed to match the gauge of silver wire I was using for my rivets. I had 20 gauge wire and 18 gauge wire and a number of drill bits in various sizes.

I found what I was looking for in the book: “The Complete Metalsmith an Illustrated Handbook” by Tim McCreight. I’ve had this handy 150 page book since the 1980’s (before metal clay was invented). The version available on Amazon is the revised edition from 1991. It is full of information and charts, such as the one I was looking for.  Of all the books I own, this is still the one I turn to most consistently when I want to figure out the mechanics of a clasp, learn about specific alloys, or just about anything else. (Like, what size drill bit do I need to make a hole for a rivet using 18 gauge wire?) The illustrations are clear and the spiral bound book lays flat. It is packed with information. I highly recommend it if you don’t already have it.

The drill bit size for 20 gauge wire is 65. I bought some from Rio, in the fall, after taking Celie’s class.  I must have had the information in my notes to remind me to order them at the time.  They were handy by on my workbench. The drill bit size for 18 gauge wire is 56. Not something I had among the new packages. But last year when I did a major overhaul of my studio, I made an effort to put things I wasn’t using into labeled drawers. At the bottom of the “drill bit” drawer, the last package I checked, was this:

I purchased these from Rio Grande a long time ago. Glad I held onto them, so I had them to use  yesterday. It was just the kind of instant gratification I needed to keep moving forward.


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A riveting story

Today was the day I finally addressed my last resolution from last year. I taught myself to rivet.

I’m shocked that I put off learning this simple cold connection for so long. What was I thinking? (I admit it. I was afraid to fail. Let that be a lesson to me. It was actually pretty easy.)


For my first rivet experience I used an unfinished piece I made in Celie Fago’s  workshop last September. I had already drilled holes in the back of the piece where I wanted to put rivets. That’s as far as I got. No holes were drilled on the front because I would be drilling all the way through, one hole at a time, to make it easier to line up each rivet.

I had two of these unfinished pieces. Potential pendants. Below are 3 successful rivets with 20 gauge wire. (And one unsuccessful spot.) My very first rivet is the one inside the red marker. The rivet at “12 o’clock” on the piece was made with a piece of silver wire that I balled on one end.

Now, about that unsuccessful spot. When I drilled through the hole in back, the hole in front was half on the silver and half on the recessed area with the polymer clay. Arrgh! First I tried to make up for it by using a balled end piece of wire:

Yeah, I knew it wouldn’t work. But maybe adding a little washer would work. (Notice the hole in the washer is too roomy for the wire…)

The look I wanted…

What actually happened…

I kept trying to make a bad fit work. It never did.

This is the point where I stopped worrying about making this into a wearable piece. I left this trouble section alone for a while and started to drill holes in other spots to see what would work for a rivet. 18 gauge wire vs 20 gauge. Copper wire. Gold-filled commercial head pins. Glass bead washers. (That one didn’t work so well.) Another attempt with 3 washers to fill in the trouble spot.

I knew this was not a piece to wear, but it was a great opportunity to figure out a way to make a bale and rivet it, so it could be worn. Now I’ll know what to do when I do make a piece to wear.

A tight fit is necessary for hot connections. (Are they called hot connections?) Solder won’t fill a gap and fine silver won’t fuse across a gap. This I already knew. Today I learned, from experience, how important a close fit is for a cold connection. The hole and the wire rivet need to be the same size/gauge.

Designs with rivets are flying through my head. At last!



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My Valentine

We’ve had our ups and downs, but after being together for 34 years, 31 one of those married to each other, we both recognize that we have a pretty good thing going. I wish everyone felt this way about their partner. I know I’m pretty lucky to have a partner with a good sense of humor, who knows how to be silly, who likes to cook, and who leaves me notes as often as I leave them for him. Almost any day I head off island to the grocery store, Bruce has written a little note to me at the bottom of my list, and I discover it while I am racing through the aisles with the boat schedule in the back of my mind. Whenever I am away from home overnight, I leave a note on a heart under his pillow.

If I were asked what the secret to a happy marriage is, I would say it comes down to 3 simple things: Find humor in everything and laugh a lot, thank each other for even the simplest things, and leave little notes around.

One morning, Bruce had already left to go lobster fishing for the day, and I came downstairs to clean up the stuff I had left out from the night before. Something that had involved q-tips for some reason. This is what greeted me in the kitchen, on top of my laptop:

My favorite note, dates back to Valentine’s day 20 years ago. It may have started our habit of leaving notes for each other. Bruce woke me up and said, look out the bathroom window in about 5 minutes. This is what I saw:

It was the best use of a spray bottle and red food coloring I’ve ever seen, and it’s the best Valentine I’ve ever had. We keep the photo on our refrigerator and people still comment on it. I hope they are inspired.







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Love these…

…ceramic beads made by Keith O’Connor. I purchased them a few weeks ago at the Beadin’ Path while passing through Freeport, Maine.

The size, the weight, the glaze and the surface texture all work so well together. I love the color. I wanted to create a metal clay bead that had some echo of this design without copying it, so I could combine silver and ceramic in a necklace. I was not sure what direction to take, but as I looked around my studio for inspiration, I found what I was looking for. A texture plate I had carved last year that could work quite well with the ceramic beads.

When I have not worked with precious metal clay for a while, I start back in by making beads. Sometimes the possibilities for designs still overwhelm me, and I can feel quite confused about what to start first.Today I was able to get right to work, making several shapes and sizes of  carved line beads. It was quite a relief.


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A day in the studio, at last

It seems, so far, I have found plenty of other things to do this winter, and it was a relief to get back to thinking about jewelry today. I have an abundance of things to inspire me, like components I have purchased from other artists on Etsy, that I plan to combine with my own handmade silver beads.

I am pretty excited about these glass headpins from SueBeads and the dark blue glass beads made by Dreamscapes Studio.

I love all the colors in the components below. Again some glass headpins, and some red glass beads from Suebeads, the patina-ted copper links and copper beads from Miss Ficklemedia, and way in the back are a few of my own copper and bronze beads, reminding me to find my bronze and copper clay and get to work making more of those.

I have also drilled some local beach stones, and they are ready to go for some new necklaces.

Unwaxed stones:

Same stones after polishing with Butcher’s wax, to enhance their already smooth surface, giving them more of a wet look:

It’s time for me to begin my 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. routine of uninterrupted studio time. I find if I avoid answering the phone, or starting any house work, and simply stay in the studio for 4 hours straight, I can be pretty productive and usually continue my studio time into the afternoon. I don’t understand why I have such a hard time disciplining myself to make time for something I love to do. Having a set schedule and telling people I am unavailable for those four hours helps me believe that’s what I deserve to be doing.

If you work from your home, how do you make the time to do it?  How do you keep from becoming distracted and drawn away by the day to day maintenance of your home, community, kids, etc? I’d love to know. Please leave a comment!


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Bruces lobster buoys?

All painted.

A big block of his winter work is done. 750 buoys painted. (Also 100 new traps built.) When I came home this afternoon, from a long day off island, running errands and spending time with my mother, I walked in to see the results of Bruce’s post painting energy. He had vacuumed and dusted the whole house. What a guy!  (I know. I’m one of the lucky ones.)



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Cleanup confusion

How is it that I have a box and a bag full of books to go to Goodwill, a silver chest to take to my son (I hope), and a reduced and organized box of birthday cards and notecards, and it still looks like I have the same amount of stuff to put back in the bookshelf? Even my husband said, this afternoon, “This doesn’t look any different…really.”

Well, now I’m just about finished with the job, and Bruce and I are going to watch a movie. So, in the interest of blog a day or post a day not being BLAH a day, here’s one of my first digital photos and still one of my favorites.

Charlie’s poppies.


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I thought I was headed to the studio this afternoon…

…but I needed to straighten up a few things first.  I wanted to create space in a cupboard to store my little photo props, papers, milk jugs, tripod, etc. all in one place. I knew it was not going to be a quick sorting solution and I felt like I was inside one of these:

You know those sliding puzzles where you move one piece at a time to make room for another, sometimes backtracking, before you eventually get everything lined up and in order?

The cupboard was already full of assorted paper and paper work. So I thought, maybe I’d clear off some space on a nearby bookshelf to organize and store the things that were in the cupboard. To make room on the book shelf, I thought I would take everything out to make a stack of books to give away. I started to move some 30 year old photo albums and the photos started falling out.  I took them all out to place in a new album..someday. (Meanwhile I need to find a box to store them, where?) Next thing I knew there was stuff everywhere.

Could I get any deeper into this mess before putting it away? I could make more room by moving the wooden chest with the silver plated flatware we received when we were married 31 years ago. Our son and his fiancee in Baltimore are pretty well established in their house, and they just may want to register for their own silver pattern since they don’t need any blenders, etc. Maybe our son and his girlfriend in Portland would like it? (I’ve inherited some family silver since then and we never use this set.) Hello oxidation. Why would it make sense for a mother, who works mainly with silver, to pass on this kind of tarnish to anyone?

So, I took a break from the “organizing” to polish a dozen 6-piece place settings and their serving pieces before placing them back in their little chest and moving them out of the dining room for good.

A few weeks ago, I made lunch for a group of island students who are working long hours on the weekend to take an EMT course. Many of us, who are not taking the course, are taking turns with lunches and dinners so the students won’t have to stop and cook. It is really nice community support, organized by a really nice person in our community. We all want to show our appreciation for the people who are working so hard to be prepared if there is ever an island emergency. It is a huge responsibility. I finished preparing the meal just at the time I had to deliver it, so I left my husband a note letting him know I wouldn’t be leaving a giant mess in the kitchen. We kept that sticky note on the cupboard in case either of us had an occasion to reuse it.

Today was the occasion. By the time I finished polishing the silver, it was time to make dinner, and I knew my organizing binge was over for the night.

(That pile of photos happened to be just below the note. They were the group that had fallen out of the album. In the top one, I am the same age my sons are now. You know, I also had to spend a little time reminiscing and looking at photos while I was trying to clean. I seem to have such ADD at times, its a wonder I get anything finished!)

Tomorrow I’ll be back to finding a place for everything and putting it there. I really hope I don’t spend all day on it because  I would like to find time to get into the studio and have a place to rest my eyes when I come back out.


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