What draws you back to blogging…

…after almost 9 months away? For me it was reading that Genevieve Williamson, whose blog I follow regularly, was going to spend some time in Maine. “Where?” I asked, in her comment section, hoping that a trip to my little island might be in the cards. I have admired Genevieve’s polymer clay work for years, starting with finding her Etsy site, Jibby and Juna, and then finding and reading her blog.

I started working with polymer clay over 20 years ago, learning a lot about making my own canes and beads from a book called “The New Clay” by Nan Roche. Once I got my hands on metal clay, I left most of my polymer work behind, but I never stopped looking at it.  The polymer clay world has progressed and expanded in amazing ways. Check out some of Genevieve’s work from her Etsy shop:



I love her colors, her carvings, her design….her whole approach to the medium.

When Genevieve responded to my query, it turned out they were planning to stay in Friendship, about a 2 1/2 hour drive away. Her family has a history of visiting Maine islands and they thought it would be a manageable day trip to spend a day on Little Cranberry. Yippee!       For so many reasons.

The first being that I finally cleaned up my studio. I’m always curious about another artist’s studio space, and I wanted to be able to show Genevieve my tiny studio without all of the clutter. (When my creative energy was renewed from her visit, I benefitted myself with an organized spot to get back to work.)  The second reason the visit was a plus is that I got to see my island through new eyes. I live in one of the most beautiful spots in the world, but it is still the place where I do my laundry, pay bills, plan meals, and work. It’s easy to lose sight of so many wonders, until I have a chance to start showing it off to someone who is appreciating it all for the first time.

We fit a lot into a short number of hours. Starting with a prearranged visit to Ashley Bryan to see his studio, his dahlia paintings, and hear how he makes his stained glass window panels from sea glass and paper mache.


Ashley spoke of starting his dahlia paintings last October.) He showed his stained glass windows in progress:IMGP2621

And talked about making his puppets.IMGP0322 IMGP0323

(I can’t believe this is the only picture I have of you guys! None of Genevieve, but here is her husband Kyle, and sons Ben and Samuel, before we headed back to the dock for some lunch.)


The very best reason to have Genevieve come to Islesford for a visit, is that we opened the door on a new friendship. It felt like I had known her before, and I know we will keep in touch. As I introduced her to friends at the restaurant or people we met on our walks, they asked, “How did you meet?” We laughed and responded, “We met on the internet!” Thank you for your visit and for inspiring me to get back to blogging. You are welcome to come back any time. I hope we meet up again before too long.



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Busy bee


Getting ready for two shows in November and one in December. First, a trunk show at the home of my friend Val Storms in Greenwich, Connecticut. I stopped progress in the studio to make a flyer to e-mail out to friends and family in the area.

2014 Greenwich Show 1

It seemed to come out okay, but could I translate it to an email that would look like this without having to download? Nope. I spent way too long trying to figure it all out, and in the end sent out just the text in the email with attached photos one could see without clicking to download. The good part about all of this is that I will finish the e-mail and post about the upcoming trunk show in Baltimore in much less time after spending so much time now trying to learn this one.

Now back to things that look more like this:





Work in progress!


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Taking the 6:30 boat


Everything in me resists getting out of bed early in the morning, but when I have to, I do it, and I’m always glad I did. Today I took the 6:30 commuter off the island to take my car in to the Subaru dealer for a service appointment. At 5 a.m. the just-past-full moon was still high enough in the sky to pour light into my dark room when I lifted the shade. I got to see Bruce before he headed out to haul traps for the day and I made it to the dock without rushing. A good start to the day, made even better by the chance to see the sun rise.

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And I had pleasant travel companions on the boat!



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Still enjoying my golf cart…

As many of my friends know I write a monthly column called “The Cranberry Report” for a little newspaper known as the Working Waterfront. It is a wonderful publication put out by the Island Institute in Rockland, Maine. I am honored to be able to write for them, though almost every month when my deadline approaches I am panicked as I try to figure out what to write about. I don’t write about jewelry, but I do try to convey a little of what my life is like on the tiny island where I live all year. In the past few days I seem to have gained some new readers who found my blog via my writing about our wonderful Ashley Bryan School. While I’m still struggling to find my way back to my jewelry studio, I have had other opportunities to pursue some creative endeavors. Writing has been one of them. My latest column was published on September 1 and I had some delightful feedback from it. Especially in the form of a phone call from Mr. Bunker of Mt. View Auto. He really appreciated the shout out. (As if he needed any extra golf cart business….) Anyway, here is a copy of the column from the Working Waterfront web site. Another little slice of island life. I hope you enjoy it.

Fore me! Golf cart dream comes true

 by Barbara Fernald

Used golf carts are one of the handiest modes of seasonal land transportation in the Cranberry Isles. They are a lot of fun to drive, have a top speed of about 12 mph, use very little gas, and I have wanted one for a very long time. I wrote about how close I thought I was to achieving my dream three years ago

click to enlargeBarbara Fernald
Barbara Fernald

(http://www.workingwaterfront.com/articles/Island-Vehicles/14433/), only to have the dream squashed yet again by an able island mechanic and a reasonable husband.

At the beginning of the summer, though, our island car was succumbing to rust. The engine was still running well, but the chain that held it in place was starting to compromise the car’s steering ability. The car made a constant “bad” noise and it was not safe to drive.

I also won’t use my husband’s truck. I’ve driven all of his other trucks with no trouble, but his current one is so big that I have to climb two steps up to get in. The engine is powerful and noisy, it guzzles gas and the clutch is tremendously stiff. The doors are heavy and out of line so one must pull up while shutting to close them properly. I don’t have the strength for that so, even as a passenger, I am pissed off at the truck before we leave our driveway. This attitude is also not conducive to safe driving. Bruce started looking around for our next island car.

As I rode my bike to the dock one day, Donna and Henry Isaacs came up the road in a spiffy new orange golf cart. It had a roof, a windshield and a luggage compartment in the back where the golf bag holders used to be. My golf cart envy returned in a most swift and serious way. With a minimum of research I learned three helpful things: Mountain View Auto on the Bucksport road had a whole line up of colorful golf carts; gas powered carts are easier to service than battery powered; and I actually had enough money to buy one.

A synopsis of our marital golf cart conversation:

Me: Well, I’ve decided to spend my own money on a golf cart.

Bruce: You don’t need a golf cart! What will you drive when the weather gets bad? It’s impractical! What about storing it for the winter?

Me: What about fun?

Bruce: (The next morning.) OK, you can get a golf cart if you really want one.

Me: I know, but what brought you around? The argument for a little fun?

Bruce: No. It was realizing I could put off looking for a new island car.

Me: I’m going off island tomorrow to get one.

On Monday, I passed right by Mountain View Auto, overshooting my mark by several miles. I saw no line up of colorful carts that several helpful friends had described. When I actually did stop to talk to Mr. Bunker, he told me his carts were sold out. (He has sold over 20 golf carts to people in the Cranberry Isles in the past few years.) He took my number and said he would call as soon as the next delivery of golf carts arrived.

I only had to wait two days. By Wednesday I was asking him to pick one out for me and I put a check in the mail. He apologized for the fact that these carts were all white, with no fancy colors.

By Friday morning my new ride had arrived. I was a little concerned when there was only one key, but I figured I could have a spare one made the next time I went off island.

“Oh no,” said one of my friends who has had a golf cart for many years. “We tried all different hardware stores and even the automotive department at a Sears in Boston. You can’t get keys like that made anywhere.”

The thought of losing my one key cast a little cloud over my golf cart euphoria until I looked online to see if I could at least find a blank to get a new key made. It turns out that Yamaha golf cart keys are universal. I got a spare key for myself and one for my friend for less than the cost of a ride on the mail boat!

Within a week, two more golf carts arrived on the island. One was purchased by my brother-in-law, Mark, who had been in tandem with his brother Bruce in their feelings about the impracticality of alternative seasonal vehicles. (These two nay-sayers now discuss things like how to install headlights on their carts.) Mr. Bunker found Mark and Vicky a cart with a back seat that folds down to create a little luggage compartment when needed. They had to pay a little more for it, but that is a really practical adaptation, one that Bruce and I wish we had. And, their cart is red.

When Mr. Bunker told them about the color, his next words were, “Don’t tell your sister-in-law! She might be mad!” (Does he imagine we would never pass each other on the road out here?) He needn’t worry. I have not felt mad even once while driving my golf cart. I’ve wanted one for such a long time and it is every bit as fun as I imagined.

Barbara Fernald lives, writes, makes jewelry and drives her cool golf cart on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island).



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First day of school at the ABS on Islesford

It has become a tradition for parents and townspeople to gather in the schoolyard as students arrive for their first day at the  two room Ashley Bryan School. Everyone is there to wish them well, to see who the new students are, and to feel good about our special island school and its community support.

The crew from Great Cranberry arrives by boat and begins the short walk up from the dock. There are 6 students from Great Cranberry and one teacher and one aide who travel by boat every morning. This morning there were also all of the teachers for Art, Music, Phys. Ed and French. The principal was there too. It made for a solid group of educational energy surrounding the school. The inter island students were all happy to reconnect after a busy summer. All around the school yard  parents of students, and other community members  want to celebrate what a unique school  we have.

I hope these photos  evoke the anticiption that hovered in the air this morning.



There were many more friends from the community than there were students. There are 16 students in all covering every grade from K through 8 with the exception of 7th grade. It looks like it’s going to be an exciting year!IMGP6879

Teachers Lauren and Audrey asked people to exuberantly make suggestions of goals for the year and then Ashley Bryan read them out and worried that the students will have to work too hard to learn all of these things! I don’t know if you can zoom in on the list, but the suggestions are things like: Laughter, building, discovery, adventure, wonder, fun, awesomeness, cooperation and friendship.




Below, someone who couldn’t care less!


Then the kids got together for a group picture, and they insisted that all the community members get in for the second picture.

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At last the students lined up from youngest grade to oldest grade, to move into the school as they were introduced by the teachers.

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I hope everyone got the photos they wanted, else they’ll have to wait until next year to get another shot at the first day of school. Wishing a great year to all of the students and teachers at the Ashley Bryan School!



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Home from Haystack

Last week at this time I was busy in the metals studio at Haystack learning a bunch of cool new things from Chris Darway,  like how to use an oxygen reduction flame to fuse 22 karat metal clay slip (PMC Aura 22) onto copper, and how to mix up “super pickle” to etch that copper piece to make the gold stand out even more. The demo of making bezel settings on stones by dipping them in PMC 3 slip, was genius! So is the whole idea of using Elmer’s Glue and flattened toothpicks to provide a handle to work with dried PMC pieces before firing in the kiln. There are so many ideas and images going through my head that I don’t know where to start.



I’ve not been back in my studio yet and I have to be okay with that. I am an introvert who has  just spent a whole week among people with almost no time alone to recharge. Ideally, I need at least an hour alone  to balance an hour of stimulation from being with people. Simply put, extroverts gain energy from interacting with others and introverts lose energy. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to be around people or go out in the world, it just means we have to find ways to reboot the system after we’ve been there, even among friends.

At Haystack it is ALL FRIENDS and ALL CREATIVITY all the time! It was a blast and I am so glad I spent the week there. My introvert/people energy may still need to be recharged, but my creative energy is brimming, spilling over into my quiet time in the form of sketches, poetry, and remembered images. When I make my way to my studio it will be with a smile on my face and a feeling of coming home to an adventure.

I’ll be posting an album of Haystack photos on my FaceBook page. If you want to see all of them just send me a friend request (if we’re not FB friends already). If you’re not into FB, that’s okay too. I’m going to post some of my favorites right here.

Our cabin: IMGP6711 IMGP6699

The metals studio awaits:IMGP6832


Demo of PMC slip bezels and Chuck’s version of the slip bezel setting:

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Copper clay is still not my favorite medium, but it was at least humorous…IMGP6725 IMGP6731

Random class photos:

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And one of my favorite additions to this time at Haystack: Holly Kellogg and I went for a 20 minute swim every single day we were there, at this sweet little beach. (It only looks warm. The water was still about 63º just like home.)

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Good bye until next time Haystack! IMGP6835 IMGP6720

It’s time to plant myself back in my own studio, and grow.


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Headed to Haystack!!!


What a glorious way to end the summer. Unplugging from the computer, from the busy social schedule, from the crowded mailboat, and going to camp for a week. Many people know about Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, but if you don’t, just click on the link and see what I’m talking about. I have been a few times over the years for weekend workshops in basketry, glass blowing, metals work, polymer clay and keum-boo. It’s great to know the freedom of trying something totally different from the material I usually work with, and a weekend is the right amount of time for that. Now it’s time for an intense focus on the material I like to use most, metal clay. 

Tomorrow I will drive over to Deer Isle and settle in to my cabin with my good friend Holly Kellogg and we will begin a one week metal clay session taught by Chris Darway.  

“Not Your Father’s Metal Clay

Precious Metal Clay© made its first appearance in this country fifteen years ago at Haystack. Well, we’re back and this isn’t your father’s metal clay workshop. This workshop goes beyond the “thumb in the lump school of design.” We will be combining PMC, copper and bronze metal clays with titanium, copper, glass, and sterling. You will be introduced to Aura 22 (liquid 22k gold) and its application on copper, sterling silver, and fine silver for etching and enameling. Did I mention silver sponge? Now I did. This will be an interesting week of exploring what can be done with metal clay that would be difficult or impossible with traditional metal techniques. Prior use of metal clay required.”

Does this sound like fun or what?! 

There are looms in the photo below because the weaving studio is on the left. That bigger studio on the right is the jewelry studio. Woohoo! That is exactly where you will find me tomorrow night!




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Back to Basics


Last year, toward the end of the summer, my sister-in-law, Vicky, asked if I would show her some basic techniques of soldering and fusing silver. “Sure, maybe in the fall when we both have more time,” I said.  Learning to solder or fuse involves putting two ends of metal together and joining them solidly with the heat of a torch. Although Vicky is very proficient with metal clay and beading, she lacked some tools that would be fundamental to metal smithing. “Just order what you think I’ll need. I have one of those butane torches, but that’s about it,” she told me. Last September I ordered a set of needle nose pliers, a set of needle files, a chasing hammer, a steel bench block, a bench pin, a jeweler’s saw, some saw blades, and some silver sheet and wire. Then our lives stayed too busy to follow through with our plan, until today. 



I admit that any teaching situation makes me nervous, even when I’m with people I like to see, but I do like the planning part, and thinking about why I would teach one technique before another. As we got going I forgot about my nerves.  I had Vicky get a feel for the saw by cutting into some 22 ga. copper sheet. The sheet is supported by a thin block of wood, called a bench pin, that is clamped to the work bench creating room to move the metal around while keeping the saw in one spot. She traced two ovals on the copper sheet and cut them out. I love hearing the change in sound when someone starts to get more comfortable with the saw. Vicky got there very quickly. She filed the edges of the ovals to smooth them and them drilled holes near the tops. Lastly, she hammered the pieces with the small end of the chasing hammer to texture them. Ta da! Two dangles for a pair of earrings. 


(Okay, right here is where I am kicking myself for not taking ANY photos all day. I apologize. The evening pictures of my workbench and tools are a pitiful compensation for showing you Vicky’s work.)

On to the silver sheet. Vicky cut out two triangles for the top part of her earrings. She drilled holes in the middle of the long sides, with plans to solder posts on the backs. She designed the earrings to connect the copper and silver parts with a jump ring. Then I had Vicky wrap 16 ga. Argentium sterling wire around a round mandrel to make a coil. She cut down through the coil with the saw which makes clean edges on each side of the open ring. (You need a tight clean fit between the pieces when you are soldering or fusing metal.) She also made some square rings.

Ready for the torch! To get comfortable with the torch Vicky started balling up the ends of wire with the flame. This is a basic technique I use all the time to make my own head pins for earrings. Vicky closed the ends on her square links by fusing them with the torch. No solder is required, but a tight join is needed if you want those two ends to flow together. She connected the squares links with the smaller round links between and soon had the makings of a cool little bracelet. Vicky was ready to try the solder. In no time, the posts were on the back of her earrings, the two pieces of each earring were linked with a fused 20 ga. jump ring, and my sister-in-law was comfortable with the torch. She even pulled out a broken ring that she brought along hoping to repair, and soldered it back together!

For me, it has been an “off” summer, creatively. I haven’t spent much time in the studio and I have had a hard time wanting to. Vicky, too, said she hadn’t been making anything for a very long time.  Before today, each work space on my bench was a messy pile and I just didn’t feel focused when I walked into my favorite room. It’s a small space (8 x10) and I needed to clean it up to make it workable for 2 people today. I felt focused for the first time in a while as I wrote a little outline for myself to think through the progression of what I would teach Vicky. Her enthusiasm for learning something new and her success with mastering several new tools filled my studio with fresh positive energy. She left wearing a new bracelet, a new pair of earrings, a broken ring repaired, and carrying a box of new tools that she’d learned how to use. I was left with huge satisfaction at her success, optimism for the return of my own creativity, and a clean studio!


  I think this day, in the midst of a crazy busy August, was exactly what each of us needed.


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Claws for the cause

Sponsored by Marian Baker and Islesford Pottery it’s time again for the super cool bi-annual fund raising silent auction to benefit the Islesford Neighborhood House. This year’s theme is, of course, lobstahs! If you’re anywhere near Little Cranberry Island you’d better plan on coming to the Islesford Dock tomorrow (Sunday, August 17) from 1 to 3 p.m. or you will miss out on seeing and bidding on some wacky and beautiful crustaceans.

Who has had their hands in clay in the past few weeks? Who has been making lobsters from alternative materials? Who is bringing back the “Barbie Lobster?” Who will have the winning raffle ticket for Ashley’s lobster plate?


I can tell you who has been up late tonight making lobster cookies… The mug I’m contributing to the show is a collaborative piece. Marian made the mug and I did the lobster design.


If you want to preview a few more  pieces that will be in the show, check out the Islesford Pottery facebook page. See you on the dock!


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Bracelet Bonanza

at Winters Work on the Islesford Dock!

Summer is in full swing in the Cranberry Isles. Life is very busy because it’s full of good things. You don’t want to miss the Ashley Bryan exhibit at the Islesford Museum. It will certainly entice you to buy one or several of Ashley’s books at Sue’s shop, Winters Work. While you are there, why not try on a bracelet or two. You just might want several reminders of your happy time on Islesford. Books and bracelets and more!



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