Tag Archives: jewelry

Oooh la oui! Bead soup from B!

My “bead soup” package from  B.R. Kuhlman arrived last Friday. Woo hoo!!

I know, I know. That was a whole week ago and I am just getting around to blogging about it. What can I say?  Summer on this little island in Maine gets extremely busy overnight. We go from a population of about 70 people to a summer population that matches the number of participants in this Bead Soup Blog Party. (That’s 400 people if you are just tuning in to the BSBP.)

My partner B sent me an amazing package of goodies!

Among all of this beady goodness is not just one, but two of B’s  gorgeous wire-wrapped pendants. I have no experience in wire wrapping, so I am especially in awe of the talent and time it must take to produce these unique pieces.

The rest of the package includes crystal beads, Czech glass beads, and natural stones like the  smokey quartz briolettes you can see them in the middle of the top photo, just under the pendants. There are also beads of Chinese picture jasper and brecciated jasper. And…

below are some pretty golden pieces of mother-of-pearl:

These Czech glass beads have a sweet little color palette:

I love the organic shapes of these agate rondelles:

The fact that I just took these photos today means that I have not yet started on any of my Bead Soup pieces yet.  But, at the same time as I enjoyed a visit from my son and daughter-in-law, and have been catching up this week with my brother, and have had several dinner guests on several nights,  and finished writing a monthly newspaper column, I have been thinking about all the ways I might use these beads. The soup is simmering… heated by a big candle that is burning at both ends!


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“Now, don’t get all in a swivet”

Well, I did. Yesterday. As I was trying to get some pieces together to drop off at the Center for Maine Craft in Gardiner, on April 18 when I travel south to see my friend Holly in Connecticut and Susie in New York.

I  went through a jury process 2 years ago at the CMC and was told I was accepted. I was also told they had plenty of jewelry on hand and that they would get back to me when they had an open space.  After a while of not hearing from them, I put it out of my mind. A  few weeks ago I was contacted by the manager and told that I could bring work in if I was still interested.  (Of course I am!)  They wanted it there by May 1, in time for Mother’s Day shopping. Could I bring a selection in sooner so they could choose what to display? It all seemed to fit well with my travel plans, but could I get enough work done in such a short time?

I thought so. As the week ended I planned to do my pricing on Sunday.  I started to gather my finished work. Some of it was very recent and some was made earlier this winter.  I tried to get organized and I started to panic.

I was already thinking ahead to the next deadline after Wednesday. I needed to finish up work for another gallery by the first week in May. I was going to be gone from April 18 to 24. I needed to visit my mother before I left. I needed to visit her again soon after I got home. I had a writing deadline on May 5. My brother and nephew were planning to arrive for a few days on May 4. When could I get more work done? Maybe I shouldn’t go away? Why do I have so much trouble focusing? What if the manager hates my work? Why didn’t I use my time to make more of A , B or C instead of D? Self doubt was pouring down on me…and then I heard words my father used to say, “Now, don’t get all in a swivet.”

My dad has been gone for almost 17 years, and while I hold so many memories of him, I have not thought of that phrase since I heard him say it to me as a child. I even looked up the word, swivet, to see if it really was a word or one that he had created. Yes, it’s a word and it describes exactly what I was in. I remembered advice from a friend long ago, a suggestion to follow when I felt overwhelmed by work.  “Start where you are and do what you can.”

I wrote down the name of every outlet I had for selling my jewelry. I took all of the trays of work I had; including the one where I toss work to be taken apart so I can use the pieces differently, including those pieces I have already photographed for Etsy and have yet to put up in my shop, including the new work I had finished for CMC. I sorted it all. Which doesn’t look like much, but for me it was a huge step. I polished pieces and bagged each one separately with it’s own anti tarnish paper.

I did not have as much work as I thought I had for the CMC, but I had 30 pieces to price and pack up. The display space is only 12″ by12″ so that is more than enough to start with.

I was also able to set aside pieces for the next gallery deadline in early May. It’s enough to give me a head start and a clear focus on what I need to do when I get back from New York.

When I was done, I found I had the energy and inclination to clean out my freezer, another task I had put off for far too long!

Note to self: How about a label next time?  (I could not determine what this was.)

Second note to self: Don’t bother taking other people’s leftover hot dogs at the end of summer if you never eat hot dogs anyway.

Third note to self: Don’t get all in a swivet. Wear life like a loose garment.


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An afternoon spent, taking photographs

I followed the sun from room to room, starting just before noon and ending around 3.  Setting up, taking down and resetting my little props and photo cube and tissue paper to try to get 5 decent images for 10 pieces I want to list on Etsy. Some of them came out well, and some need to be reshot. There are so many things to consider.

How do I show a shiny surface without reflecting myself and my camera in the pieces I shoot? What are the best ways to show scale? I don’t know. I just keep trying, and following the learning curve.

When I look at someone’s jewelry on Etsy, I want to see both sides of a piece. Show me the back, please!

Hey, don’t I have some little plastic doodad that would fit onto that knothole in the drift wood?

(I bet you thought it was going to be one of the angry kitties.)

Along with the mischievous angry kitties I also have a nice little set of creepy creeping babies. I never know if using them, as a prop, is pushing the limit; but they crack me up. (No wonder it takes me so long to take photos.)

Bruce dropped a candy wrapper onto my table, trying to distract me.

I just asked him to bring me a couple more of those Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups he was eating.

Really…the focus of taking images for my Etsy shop is to make my jewelry look like some kind of eye candy.

I had hoped to have at least some of the new pieces up on Etsy after this afternoon, but Bruce and I went out to a pot luck dinner, and I have been packing to go away tomorrow for our 8th annual girls’ weekend. I’m meeting up with 3 very dear friends in Portland. Etsy will have to wait until I get back, but at least I’ll have some photos to use.

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C’mon down to Bar Harbor!

Island Arts Association Holiday Craft Fair

The IAA’s 38th Annual Holiday Craft Fair features high quality crafts by Mount Desert Island area artisans in a wide range of media including pottery, jewelry, knits, photography, quilting, handcrafted bags, handblown glass, woodworking and more. Proceeds from food sales help support the heating costs of the MDI YWCA. Free IAA shopping bag to the first customer for each vendor each day. Free coffee on Friday from 3 to 5 pm. Free cookies on Saturday from 1 to 3 pm. Free gift wrapping for IAA purchases all day on Saturday.
Atlantic Oceanside Conference Center
119 Eden Street, Route 3 Bar Harbor, Maine 04609

Friday, December 2, 2011   and  Saturday, December 3, 2011

9 AM to 5 PM  on Friday   and   9 AM To 3 PM on Saturday
You bet I’ll be there!  I’ll have plenty of necklaces made with beach rocks…
Loads of silver earrings…
And a forest of wire trees featuring earrings that are specially priced for the fair at $20!
And that’s not all….
As a thank you to shoppers who come to the fair to support local craftspeople, I’ll take 20% off the price of all of my jewelry. (Yup. That means those fun little glass bead earrings, on sterling silver earwires, will actually cost only $16 a pair.)
This is a really great local crafts fair with a whole building full of talented crafters. Admission is free. There is food for sale to support the YWCA, and plenty of lunch tables for sitting. It’s my favorite fair of the year. Even if your shopping is done, it’s worth it to stop by and see people you know. You’d be nuts to miss it!


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Thousands of beads and a show in 4 days


If you are going to be in Ellsworth, Maine this weekend, stop by at the Ramada Inn (old Holiday Inn) and check out the talented company I’ll be keeping at the Beads Baubles and Fleece Downeast show!

This is going to be a great opportunity to see some friends I haven’t seen in a while, and to see what they’ve been creating lately. It is also a chance to de-stash my own studio a bit as I offer some beads I haven’t used in a while.

Once upon a time, before PMC was invented, I made a lot of my own polymer clay beads. I created colorful canes to slice fire and drill so I would have plenty of 8 to 10mm  beads to use in multi-strand, multi-colored necklaces.


I like all kinds of beads, but I love making my own beads to use in combination with others. For many years these Fimo beads fit the bill. I could make canes and slice them into beads all day long. I made many many necklaces with them. Then, in 1998, Fred Woell introduced me to a product from Mitsubishi Materials known as Precious Metal Clay. I learned to make beads from silver that started out as a moldable metal clay. Once the “clay” was fired, and the binder burned away, I had beads of pure silver. Eventually I said goodbye to the polymer clay, and stored my many handmade beads high on a shelf in my studio.

Once in a while I would get a request for a beaded necklace like the one above, but the beads mostly stayed out of sight and out of mind…until I applied to the Beads Baubles and Fleece show. I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what someone else might do with my beads if they were for sale. I dug out the boxes of Fimo beads and I was shocked at the number I had put away. There must be thousands. (unfortunately, some of them were never drilled so I still have some work to do before selling them.)

These boxes represent hours and hours of work. I have no idea how to price them, but I will come up with a plan before Friday. Bruce suggested selling them by weight, using a scoop. It sounds like a pretty good idea.

I will also have some jewelry for sale at my booth, though I’m running out of time to finish more necklaces. I’ve never sold beads or components before, but it’s an idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for a few months since I like to buy beads and components from other artists on Etsy.  I enjoy making beads so much, I wonder what it would feel like to stop at that point and sell them, rather than work them into necklaces or earrings.

As I get ready to sell beads I’ve made, and an assortment of other beads I bought but haven’t used in a while I’m thinking:

What if I have the prices too high and I can’t sell them? What if I have the prices too low and I piss off other sellers at the show? What if I sell beads I really like and then wish I had kept them? What if I sell everything on the first day? What if I sell nothing in two days? What if my display looks cheesy, tacky, unprofessional?

What do you know? My insecurities about selling beads at a show are the same insecurities I have about selling jewelry at a show. Only this time I’ll have both beads and jewelry for sale. It’s time for me to remember that I’m not the only one who feels this way before a show. Maybe I could just lighten up and decide to have a good time no matter what. But first…I have a few holes to drill….




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Images from the long weekend

Early a.m. beach walk.

Jewelry dropped off at Winter’s Work.

Surprise party to congratulate Fire Chief Richard Howland on completing his training.

Joining the grill team at the annual 4th of July picnic. The town field was too wet this year, so the picnic took place at the Neighborhood House.

Too pooped to stay up and write more. Happy Independence Day!


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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 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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Thanks to LeAnn, I remember “Keep it Simple.”

When LeAnn, of Summers Studio, replied to my post from yesterday, she asked me to let her know if I figured out the reflection thing. She makes beautiful ceramic beads, pendants and clasps, but with the shiny glazes she sometimes sees more reflection in her photos than she would like. (She also does fabulous work with bronze clay.)

My response was to tell her about the milk jug trick. It is easy and inexpensive. However, in my obsession to set up little vignettes for photographing my jewelry, I forgot to give my handy gallon milk jug a try. What was I thinking?  I wasn’t.

A number of years ago, Ronna Lugosch told me about this trick when we were taking a keum-boo workshop from Jayne Redman at Haystack. I was wondering if I should buy one of those “Cloud Dome” systems to help me take better photos of my jewelry. “You don’t need to spend the money on that,” she replied. Just use a plastic milk jug!”  And she proceeded to tell me what to do: Cut the bottom out of a gallon milk jug, place it over what you want to photograph, and shoot through the hole in the top. (It doesn’t get much simpler than that.)

So I set it up quickly this morning and voila! Easy as pie, or a piece of chocolate cake with a glass of milk. I’ll be remembering two important things as I go through my day:

1. Try the simplest solutions first.    2. It is wonderful to have friends who help you figure things out.

(I also cut a hole in the side of the jug so I could shoot from two different angles.)

The tissue paper is handy to place in front of the big hole if I’m shooting from the top, or on top of the little hole if I am shooting from the side. Tissue paper is another inexpensive way to diffuse light.

The next two photos:  Shot from the top, and same photo cropped.

Next two: Shot from the side and then cropped.

And last, but not least, there is still room inside the jug for you know who…..


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Reflecting on reflections

It’s enough to make a girl want to stop polishing her silver!

Not only does it take more effort to create a polished finish on metal, it’s also harder to photograph without creating a mirror miniature of yourself, or your camera, or both, in the center of the piece. (Yet another reason to hire a professional photographer.) Taking a photography class could help, but a hands-on class is not easily accessible from the island. It might take a long time to figure out what works from trial and error, but I’ll keep pecking away at it with my amateur set up, for now.

These earrings are a simple design, but the convex surface reflects everything. There needs to be some bit of reflection to indicate that the surface is shiny, but hello? The camera? The card table?  Too much info for me to see in a tiny earring.

From the side, there is less surface to show a reflection. An easier shot. I’m happy with this.

But, back to the front of the earrings. I tried a larger piece of white paper to hide behind. I cut a hole in it for the camera lens. It was a little better, but I still need to work on this when it comes to the high polished finish.

Time to see if one of the mischievous kitties could help.

Then I just decided to embrace the shiny challenge…

….by wearing a disguise.





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