Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bad night, Happy Tuesday?

There is nothing like being woken at 3:30 in the morning by the sound of two pugs fighting like a couple of gladiators over a fallen half of rustic baguette. I'm not sure if you readers are familiar with the demonic sounds a pug can produce when locked in battle over food, but crazy and somewhat like a cross between an angry howler monkey and an out of sorts gremlin probably describes it fairly well. The kitties and pugs have decided to work in tandem against us now, it's four on two at the House of Bean. The kitties must have knocked the baguette from the kitchen island (it was wrapped in paper and the kitties love to shred paper), and the fighting then commenced between the pugs over the forbidden booty. Gunter, angelic in all other respects, has a food obsession that clouds his better judgement, Dieter is just a devil. (And yes, it was hilarious, despite the early hour.) It was a rough night though, and I'm now trying to motivate myself to leave for the studio. This is one of the harder aspects of being self-employed...having enough internal motivation.

Ah well, enough of the winter blues. I finished the wax from yesterday and wanted to share some photos. This is probably the largest stone I've really worked with, so I'm interested to see how it will turn out.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meet my muse

Ha ha. Just kidding. But I do love him a great deal. Especially when the tiny pug is being a wicked devil. (Like the other day. Another venture onto the kitchen table, thank goodness there wasn't anything up there for him to eat.)

It is so nice to be able to take them to work! On the days that I don't take one of them, I feel so lonely! (Of course, the tiny pug can be annoying. He really likes to chew on stray pieces of carving wax that find their way to the floor..I'm pretty sure that isn't good for him...)

Speaking of carving wax..I'm working on this three stone ring for a friend, and I'm having a bit of a problem. I thought it would be pretty straight forward, but the center stone that she provided is a old cut sapphire, super deep and rounded on the bottom. Almost like a cabochon, but obviously a faceted gemstone (but one that you could turn upside down and make into a rose cut almost...it's also a strange oval, 6.5x7mm) Anyway, this is making my life difficult. The center stone is so deep that to set it in a ring with two side stones that are significantly smaller is creating,....,.....,....., um.....weirdness. In order to not look like they are on separate planet, I have to lift the smaller side stones up a bit, and to add to my troubles, I can't just make the ring flat to the finger, she wants the wedding band to sit snug with the three stone. I'm not sure if I can do it now, after spending hours and hours working on it. It might be a bit clunky and awkward...but that is my task for today. I also need to answer all the emails that piled up over the weekend. So I'm sitting in front of my happy light (a new addition to the home studio and one that I think I really needed. The PNW winter was starting to get to me) preparing to dig into my email...

Okay mes amis! Have a great Monday! (I'm going to try!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Niello! Nee-ello, ni-ello, you say potayto I say potahto...

I'm not quite sure how to pronounce this, but I love the effect anyway. Of course, working with lead is a bit of a drawback.... the black parts of the design are created by "a mixture of copper, silver, and lead sulphides, used as an inlay on engraved or etched metal. It can be used for filling in designs cut from metal. The Ancient Egyptians are credited with originating niello decoration, which spread throughout Europe during the late Iron age and is common in Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, and other types of Early Medieval jewellery." (Thank you wikipedia!)

I love the black! It is just solid and there. I've done a series of illustrations using mostly black calligraphy ink, here is an example:

I'm not sure if they are super related, but I feel there is a slight connection.

Here is something a bit more recent that I've been working on lately. I think the connection here is much clearer, yes?:

I am loving these gold and silver paint pens I recently bought.. Pen-touch and Krylon, I'm sure your noxious fumes might one day lead to my demise, but I care not!

I probably won't ever work with niello, but I think I might look into some enameling classes soon. I'm going to do a bit of research and maybe write a quick post about the different types of enameling out there (I'm almost 100% sure that I would be most interested in cloisonné, but who knows!?).

Okay, not the most coherent of posts, but I'm hungry for lunch right now and am probably not thinking clearly. Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This is the year of organization

This is it! This is the year that I embrace rationality and organization. This is the year that I become an adult about my finances. Instead of an envelope/desk drawer/paper bag of crumpled receipts, I will keep meticulous records! I will develop a process for analyzing my out going and incomings! I will not be crushed at tax time like a tourist fleeing before the bulls of Pamplona! I will triumph over entropy and have an organized studio and mind.

Ugly used file cabinet (50$, City Liquidators) taking up precious studio space, CHECK!
Hanging folders, CHECK!
Interior folders, CHECK!
Plastic tabs, CHECK!
The discipline to organize receipts, CHECK?

Good tax preparation person? No. Still looking, any recommendations?
Decision about the new website? No. Contemplating, template versus custom site, any thoughts on this or experience out there? I'm really not sure what route to take.

Spread sheet to calculate prices and costs? CHECK! Now I am pricing according to a rational formula instead of just guestimating and wildly pricing, willy nilly! It makes answering emails much easier and less stressful. Credit goes to the Shop Monkey, an Excel Wizard.

Spread sheet to calculate a rough (very rough) estimate of what I should withhold for taxes? CHECK! (Has anyone noticed how quick the government can cash those estimated tax payment checks? It's like KAWHAM! We can't provide health care for you, or even decent public schools, but we can sure cash checks efficiently. Keep'em coming!)

So there I am. Planning for the future (sort of) instead of flying by the seat of my pants. What a strange feeling. Do any of you seasoned small business veterans have any tips or pointers? What else can I be organizing? I would love a reason to go to the Container store, I heart that place!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Growing up

I'll tell you what, getting older has is perks. Perhaps I don't look as good in a bikini as I once did (and didn't appreciate it, of course...), but I feel I'm starting to have that certain something that it takes to actually pursue things with diligence and perseverance. Taking the time to actually learn things, instead of expecting it to just "come to me". I look back at my early adulthood and cringe. How could I expect to know things that I hadn't yet learned? So silly (and arrogant), and a waste of my youth, in way. Too impatient to practice and research. But, the lesson is learned and I hope that my best years are still to come. I would really like to be creating the best stuff I've ever made when I am a little old lady with short silver hair.

This book is winging its way towards me as I type this (I love you Amazon!...Seriously, I have a bad Amazon habit, I shudder to look at my account and see all of the orders I place over the year (which I just did, to get my business receipts in order, and it was an eye opener, let me tell you. Vow made to be more selective in my purchases from now on, scouts honor.)). I'm pretty excited to get it, I hope it's useful. It had decent reviews.

I (and I suspect many of you reading share this ability) can sometimes create/draw/cook etc. etc. something that is pleasing/beautiful/well balanced/visually interesting without quite knowing how I did it, or why it turned out well. I was satisfied with that (and myself...but that is another story for another time) for a long time, but now I want to know why things turn out well, instead of groping around with blind instinct. At the same time, I'm a little afraid that if I delve too deeply I will muck up the gears somehow and will no longer be able to do what I did before without thinking too much about it. But I'm also beginning to get the idea that I am reaching the limits of what I can do without conscious effort. I know that the gears are turning in there somewhere, I can almost see it, but actual control over it is another thing. (Related? This also happens with math problems and puzzles, my unconscious mind solves things, never really letting my conscious mind in on the process (show your work!). Leaving me just as confused as before, but with the answer. Crazy?) So, I'm faced with the prospect of hitting a wall, or possibly ruining my natural creative ability with too much thought and study. Does this sound like a lot of self indulgent navel gazing to you? Oh, it is!! But this is my blog and my life, so I'm going to try to make the most of it. Feel free to tune out. :-D

Another thing I've been contemplating lately:

What if all of the ideas in my head are not endless, like I have always supposed (and taken for granted). What if they are finite, and at some point in the future the well will run dry? I look back in horror at all of the great ideas (or even mediocre or bad ideas! Who can say?! I can't remember them!) that I just threw away because I was too lazy to write/draw them down...foolishly believing I would remember them later. I really feel like the mind is an evolving thing, that changes and goes through different stages/periods over the course of a life. And what if in a few years I don't have any more ideas!? What if the fertile idea making period of my brain will come to an end? I guess I would just have to turn back to my old ideas and refine them. That doesn't sound so bad, but I might need to have a record of these ideas to turn to when the flood is over. (Ah, a metaphor! What if this creative, idea generating period is like the flood of the Nile? And the real making/creating happens after the flood ceases, leaving a rich deposit of ideas to work with/grow from? I like to think of the fields of my mind being steadily covered with a thick silty muck of ideas, bits of plant matter and the tiny skeletons of water bugs strewn throughout.)

Okay, that is probably about as much of a glimpse into my inner workings as you wanted (or more than you wanted! Ha!). It might be the coffee...onto my second cup.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Oh yellow gold, how I love thee...

If you've been reading this blog, you probably already know that I have a deep and abiding love for 18kt yellow gold. I love it. I. LOVE. IT. But judging by the little poll that I'm conducting (over there on the sidebar), I'm one of the few people that do. Why does everyone love white metal so much? Please explain. :-)

I don't know why the color of yellow gold is so appealing (to me anyway)....I do like bright colors and high contrast. Plus, yellow gold is so festive! (..according to my future MIL, and I couldn't agree more. It is festive!).

White metals are lovely, I don't deny it. And they tend to make a white stone appear larger, but my heart belongs to 18kt yellow (ever since the day my mom got a fat, heavy chunk of it for her wedding band...). I do find it slightly ironic that as much as I love yellow gold, I hardly ever get to make anything in it. So you can imagine how stoked I was when a customer approached me to make this ring:

in 18kt yellow. Oh the joy that burst out in the singleB studio! Yellow gold! Finally!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What is the difference?

Two solitaires, white gold. One is 18kt, one is 14kt, one stone is G color, one is H color, one is VS1 clarity, the other SI1. But can you tell? Not really. White gold is white gold, G and H are similar. The difference in color between 14kt and 18kt yellow gold is noticeable, but I couldn't really see the difference between the white. Maybe the 18kt was less gray? Not really sure. The main difference between these two is stone size:

Right around 1mm difference in diameter, but the difference in appearance is noticeable. The larger is around 1ct and the smaller is a half carat. Both are fabulous, and big enough to get noticed. I just wanted to post a side by side comparison, because I know that people sometimes have a hard time visualizing what the the difference between the two is. This is also why I don't get too caught up in the numbers, a .49ct stone is going to look the exact same size as a .50ct stone, and the difference in price can be substantial. :-)

Monday, January 10, 2011

(RE) Opening!

Okay! I'm not sure if I'm ready to start the year, but I think it is best to plunge right in. If I wait any longer, I might decide to sell my equipment and move back to Hawaii and spend the rest of my life surfing and eating eggs and rice with portuguese sausage.

I had a whirlwind trip down to Hell-A this last week. Seeing family (and meeting new family) was fabulous, but it was definitely not a relaxing trip. Plus, I hate southern California with a passion that defies description (I'm sorry so-calians, it is just a personal preference and I don't hold it against you...). Urban sprawl, strip malls as far as the eye can reach. People people people....I think I might do better out in Montana, I like a low population density (I think I'm a bit of hermit, deep down).

But, now I'm ready! (Ready, as in ready or not!) The shop is open, and the pugs are snoozing away in their old shipping box/dog bed, and I'm waiting, breathless, at the other end of the internets. :-)

This is something new that I'm pretty excited about:

I really dig two tone jewelry...especially rings for some reason. This one is palladium for the shank, and 18kt pink for the bezel. I love the 18kt pink, it is so peachy! I think I might have to do more dual color versions. I think an 18kt yellow shank, with a palladium bezel would be pretty awesome.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Since moving in the with the Shop Monkey in September I've had to make a few adjustments to my schedule. Things are just different in a new house in a new part of town. Now, instead of being a mile away from my studio, I'm more like 10+ miles away. It makes the studio day more separate from my life somehow. I do spend part of every weekday there, but I would like to have a spot at home to do some more creative work. Enter the home studio:

I remember when I was younger how I would look longingly at photographs of artists studios in random magazines or books. Maybe a home and garden magazine that showed photos of a home studio, built out back, with gray french doors...white shelves of books, and cases of drawers, and small containers, large flat tables....organization and light! Oh, the light. The majority of my childhood seems to have been spent in dark rooms with one small square window covered by plastic venetian blind (I'm sure there are people out there who can relate...)...Then I would sigh, and go back to my painting/whatever random art project, the only space I had for it would be on the floor by the bed.

Of course, I've carefully framed the above photo to avoid the unmade spare bed, piled with my clothes (which are homeless after finding mold in the closet in the master bedroom....but that is another story and one that hopefully does not include another 1 month stint at the future in-laws), the telescope, the un-boxed sewing machine sitting on the floor homeless, and the dog crate. I'm sure there is more junk in there, but I can't bear to describe it.

It is a good start, and I feel pretty cozy in there when I get to work. The Shop Monkey put up the shelf yesterday and it has really been helpful to have my pens etc. out where I can see them instead of jumbled in a drawer. I could put some more effort into the work studio (which I already like pretty well..) but I can't shake the feeling that the work studio is temporary and I don't want to pour money and time into it. I would really like to build a home studio when we buy a house (we start looking in a year!), so I guess I will have to continue sighing over Dwell magazine clippings....at least I'm no longer working on the floor. :-)

I've been working on some sketches and color studies of flowers. Nothing too naturalistic, I really like a stylized look. It's been interesting to just sketch and practice and do multiple renditions of things without any particular aim in mind. I feel like this is what I should have been doing from day one (at 6 or 7 years old), instead of thinking that every thing that I made should be a piece of art. It seems so silly now, to assume that something can be perfect straight away (or at all), instead of the product of countless hours of practice and refinement. I'm finally learning this lesson at 31. Better late than never!

(( I think these are my two great life lessons of the last couple of years:

1) If you want something to happen in your life, just stretch out your hand and make it happen. It is that easy. All you have to do is start.

2) The only way to accomplish something is to practice, study/research, and DO. Again and again. Anything is learnable. It just takes time and patience. ))

So what did these sketches teach me? That my vegetation needs some work. I can't just scribble in the stems and leaves. I need to think more about what will make a pleasing flow, what relationship the leaves and blossom have to the stem.

Wait! I thought this was a jewelry blog. What happened to the gold and shiny stones! Get back to regular programming, please.

Well, I am planning on a floral ring soon. I would really like it to be Persian or Turkish inspired. I looooooooove the floral designs on Turkish pottery. So I am practicing. When I go to design the ring/earring/bracelet/necklace I want these flowers to drop from my hands naturally, I want the style to have seeped into my design process, instead of it being a struggle. I need to understand the relationships between the sizes and the lines and curves...and I think the only way to do that is to practice.

But I do have new stuff coming out that doesn't require this sort of legwork! I plan on sharing it with you all soon. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of shiny stones involved. ;-)

(p.s. I am closing in on an engagement ring for myself....a possible stone for the solitaire arrives tomorrow....I'm pretty excited, but I don't want to get my hopes up.)