Thursday, December 17, 2009

How many months does it take to start an Etsy shop?

For me, the answer would be 10. For most people, I'm sure it was less. Last January I joined Etsy and in February, set up a shop. Soon thereafter, I shot pictures and little by little (over several months), I worked on making a banner and setting shop policies (shipping, payment, etc.)... today, I finally got around to listing some items.

Over and over, I debated opening the shop, but finally decided it seemed like a good thing for those times I get requests or interest from people who aren't near a gallery, or for after a show. And if new people find my shop and buy, of course that's a good thing... I don't know how much time I'll have to promote it, but I do hope to be good about adding more items. I don't have unrealistic expectations for work to fly out of the shop, but hey, you can't win if you don't play... sound familiar?

It's a fact that I love making earrings. So no matter what, I see the shop as another possible way to spread some joy... if just one person buys earrings that make them happy, it will all be worth it.

For now, I'm just putting earrings in the shop. I may add some larger items like pendants or pins down the road. We'll see what happens. Anyone have an Etsy experience to share - as either a buyer or seller?

Monday, November 30, 2009

The joy of making earrings...

Some of you know I've been making a lot of earrings for my upcoming show. These images represent just some of what's in production. I get lost in the process of earring-making and especially love making bunches of earrings. It's another kind of meditation for me. The parts for the earrings are made a dozen or more at a time, over several hours (with breaks). This might sound like mass production - it is, but it's much more than that. As I make each metal or metal clay part - form or shape it, file or sand it - however I might handle the piece, I think about that earring finding an owner or being a gift, and wish it to bring joy to someone.

Not everyone might agree, but I believe that the energy and thought we put into our artwork comes through in the finished product. And I like to be mindful of the quality of my work and in touch with the process of making. Some people have suggested I hire help so I can make more jewelry. At least for now, I can't imagine not making each of the pieces I sell, though on occasion, I have had help with adding the ear wires and such. This total involvement may not be for everyone and sometimes there are reasons to have others make your work. Even putting your energy and positive thoughts into the design of a (mass) produced item will probably have this effect also. Personally though, I really like to have the hands-on contact.

From time to time, I encounter a person (a stranger) wearing a pair of earrings I've made and I engage them in a conversation about them. I don't tell them that I've made the earrings. The response is usually how much they like/love them, and I might hear the story of how they were a gift or that they got them at a gallery or show (maybe years ago). They often say they were made by an artist, but most of the time they don't remember the artist's name. I don't really care - if they're happy, I'm happy. Depending on the circumstances, I might identify myself as the maker at the end of the conversation, but not always. I'm not in it for the notoriety (if they happen to remember the artist's name, that's a bonus). I just like to hear the stories and see them smile.

Maybe all this energy-putting and joyful thinking is for naught, but who's to say? It seems the responses to my work support the theory... and in any event, doing it makes me happy. When people lose an earring, they contact me (or the gallery) for a replacement and are always glad hear I'll make one. So I'll continue to put my positive energy and joyful thoughts into my work (with all pieces, not just earrings). The bottom line: I really want those earrings to make someone happy - to make them feel good. The payoff is when I know I've done that. If I hear someone say "these are my favorite earrings," then I know they feel good when they wear them.

I'm sure many of you treat your work (or gift-giving) similarly. If not, try consciously sending some positive energy with your gifts or artwork. In this upcoming holiday season, think about each gift you're giving and the person you're giving it to. Give the gift with joy. Send your holiday cards with good thoughts towards each recipient. If you're a jewelry maker (or other craft maker), think about what you're making and your reason for making it. Be aware of the making, rather than just going through the motions. Think about the person who will be wearing/receiving that item and wish them well. If nothing else, it will make you feel good to think that way.

Spread the joy! I'd love to hear from others who think this way about their craft.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

ArtCraft Holiday Sale

This is probably my favorite show of the year. I'm happy to be one of the guest artists again this year at the ArtCraft Building Open Studio Holiday Sale. This popular show features over 20 ArtCraft Building artists, along with more than 30 other regional artists–now in it's 22nd year (though I've only been a part of it for the past several years). It's a wonderful community of artists, a great atmosphere filled with positive energy–not to mention amazing artwork for sale. If you're in the Cleveland area, put this on your list of must-see Holiday shows.

December 5 & 6 2009. For more information and a list of participating artists, please visit the show's website:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fall Kaleidoscopes

I just couldn't resist a little creative procrastination yesterday. When I looked out the window, the trees just seemed aglow with color. So, I grabbed my camera, went outside, and shot a few pictures. Then I wondered how the images would look in a kaleidoscope program I like to use. If you've been reading this blog, you know I love Mandalas. Watch out, it's rather addictive to create these amazing images. You can try it with your own images by following the instructions and links below.

(Note that some of these were cropped into circles with Photoshop and background color fill was added - matching the image)

To make your own kaleidoscopes:
For the Mac, there's a "hidden" program in the development tools on Tiger's install disc called Core Image Fun House (and it does a lot more that kaleidoscopes). This link will tell you how to install it.
For the PC, you can download a filter that works in Paint or Photoshop. You do have to put it in the folder with your other plug-ins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Smooshing it all into one post...

So this could probably be about 4 blog posts, but since I'm so busy trying to keep up (is that still, or again?), I'm gonna smoosh 'em all into one... (for my students - yes, that's a reference to my favorite "smooshy" tool*).

I got a little grief from friends for not blogging about my recent article in November's Art Jewelry Magazine (I admit I'm not very good about self-promotion). The article is about inlaying BRONZclay and COPPRclay. It was fun to write and I hope people enjoy trying the technique. AJ did a great job laying it out - there was a lot of info and many pictures to fit into the layout. I couldn't believe it was 7 pages!

Zipping around the state... the weekend before last, I had the opportunity to teach two workshops for the Columbus, OH Chapter of the PMC Guild. One day was on water etching (my favorite technique and the subject of my previous Art Jewelry article), and the other was on the inlay process from the current article. What fun - and such a great group!

My blog post "Showing up and playing..." has touched several people who appreciated the encouragement and who have shared their stories about facing rejection. I was recently contacted about reprinting it, so I'm pleased to be able to share the post with a wider audience. I had the happy experience of seeing that advice in action this past week... someone whose piece had been rejected from a book just submitted the very same piece to a juried show and was accepted. Congratulations!

I recently listened to a couple of interviews. One was with Michael David Sturlin and the other with Tim McCreight. Definitely worth a listen. Both are talented metalsmiths, excellent teachers, and thoughtful about process and art-making. Both had many interesting experiences to share. I liked Tim's suggestion for metalsmiths to consider using metal clay as a design tool. Many of them are hesitant about (or averse to) the possibilities of metal clay. It doesn't have to replace traditional techniques, but might prove to be the right material for a certain design. And Michael said something that resonated with my philosophy of jewelry making - about how we get to make things that bring happiness to people - be it the gift giver, recipient/wearer, or the viewer. He said "we're pretty much in the happiness business." I think that's true of the teaching part as well... and from what Michael said in the interview, I suspect he'd agree.

COPPRclay and enamel update... because I don't have enough other things to do, I'm teaming up on some research with COPPRclay and enamel that will be presented at a later date. For now, I decided to put the other enamel data I was working on aside, as this new study should produce new and up-to-date information. More on this as I am able to share it.

I'd better get back to "the happiness business" - making some jewelry for upcoming shows and gallery events... I don't know how some of you who blog regularly manage to do it along with everything else you do, but I'm very impressed!

*a "smooshy tool" is known to some as a Colour Shaper =) and despite the Urban Dictionary's definition of "smooshy" as crappy and messy (and worse), WE use a "smooshy tool" to make things neater and better...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

It's Show Time...

'Tis the season for Holiday Shows to begin. It means a lot of art-making and the fun of all the associated cataloging and organizing (can I say "ugh" about that part?). At least I know I have a lot of company in the "very busy" department.

And to kick things off, I'm thrilled to be a part of a show of Cleveland artists in Cincinnati called "north/south" that opened just yesterday at "indigenous, a handcrafted gallery." It was curated and organized by the energetic and talented Cleveland artist Mark Yasenchack. Mark is also the gallery manager at River Gallery.
Mark is really wonderful about encouraging and promoting local artists. He's a big part of the driving force behind the ArtCraft Building Open Studio Holiday Sale that will take place the first weekend in December, with over 50 studio and guest artists (more about that as is approaches). I know that he, and some of the artists in the "north/south" show, along with many others, join me in busily working towards the ArtCraft show. Then, there are the local galleries with their own events, in which many of us also take part. Heights Arts has a wonderful Holiday Sale at their gallery featuring the work of local artists from November 7th through December 30th.

There are many, many wonderful artists in the Cleveland, Ohio area... I thought you might enjoy seeing the work of just a few of them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pursing Happiness... by way of a slap on the forehead.

This morning I was mentally running through my exceptionally long to-do list. It was scary. I was thinking about how I really need to get myself onto a schedule with more discipline into my routine so I can accomplish more every day. We already know I'm overcommitted... I've given up on magically being granted more hours in the day. Oh yeah, and I was looking at the dust bunnies in the corner and thinking (only thinking) "I need to sweep..."

All of a sudden two sayings came into my head. Sayings that reminded me that there's more to life than meeting deadlines and living in a constant state of craziness. Talk about your V-8 moment... I felt that slap on my forehead - that slap came from my wise grandparents, who have been gone for many years, but still influence my life.

Years ago I got an autograph book and began collecting autographs. I think it was the summer before 7th grade - about 1971... I gathered them joyfully, all sorts of notes written in various colors of ink from friends and family... I had one of those "cool" pens that had about 12 colors of ink with those little sliders all the way around the top to choose the color. Two of those pages contained advice along with the signature - words of wisdom that stuck with me - that I think of fondly from time to time. Today those words hit me like a ton of bricks. "Listen up" they said to me.

The first saying I was reminded of came from my grandfather - he didn't originate it, but he wrote it down in my book. "Take time to smell the roses." Yep. Stop spinning in circles. Stick your nose in a flower. Appreciate what's around you. SLOW DOWN. Got it Grandpa T.

The the second one was from my grandmother. It was a Chinese proverb. "If you have two loaves, sell one and buy a lily." Who needs two loaves? One is enough. If your belly is full, you should feed your soul. Enjoy something beautiful. It also implies (to me anyway) "slow down." You could also take "live for today" from that one. Actually, I see many ways to analyze it... (and I won't go down the "stimulating the economy" road). My grandmother was among those responsible for encouraging my artistic side. Thanks Nona M.

So, today I'm taking a deep breath. Now all I have to do is inform the people whose deadlines I'll be delaying that I'm busy smelling roses and looking at lilies. Piece of cake. Well, I'll do it with a smile - that'll help ;-)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where did THAT come from? The more unusual sources of inspiration...

Maybe this post should really be titled "Creative or Crazy?" or "Aliens Live in My Rug... " (I bet that got your attention). I've been busy with a million things - I still promise that Enamel PDF, but life is full of distractions (who, me?)... plus, it's taken more time than I expected to complete it.

I'm overcommitted for one thing. Many of them are artistic commitments, which is good. Inspiration for them (or something entirely new and different) can strike at any time and from anywhere. It struck this morning... and so I was inspired to share an example of that experience (which also illustrates how inspiration can function as a distraction).

One of those commitments is participating in a group that's doing creative exercises with jewelry making. We've had an assignment a week for the past 7 weeks (1 week to go). It's a cool concept... but I'm behind. This morning, I was taking a shower, thinking about assignment 6 (which should have been finished the day before yesterday), when suddenly....

[Ok, this is where the "Creative or Crazy" part comes in. Assignment 6 was to get inspiration from a children's book. So I'mthinking about this, and how I love Dr. Seuss, and how he inspired me as an illustrator and how I might interpret one of his books for this assignment. I love his drawings, his take on "beings" and buildings, and his overall attitude and philosophy. Over the years I've done many different types of illustration, even drawn cartoons–and I love to doodle...]

So I'm letting my mind wander about the assignment and looking out past the curtain at my bathroom rug. The rug is rather plush - but very worn, so there are lots of lines formed by the way the pile lies down... and I start seeing faces. Of course, I'm not wearing my glasses in the shower, which softens the details that say "rug" and only helps increase the plush-pile "line" effect. The
faces/figures ("aliens") I see are just simple lines connecting that create expressions, shapes, etc., we've all seen them in tree branches, clouds and such....

As soon as I was finished, I had to capture some of the many images on paper, then head to the computer to draw them into the very cool program Scribbler (thanks Gail Lannum* for sharing this), and voila! Crazy fun faces... but that's not the end...

This brings us back to the "one thing leads to another concept... or everything happens for a reason..." and reminds us to trust the process - it will lead us somewhere...

I got so lost on scribbler that I dusted off
my USB tablet device and was inspired to draw some other fun stuff that I'll be using in the future. And I don't want you to think I'm not serious about art or inspiration... I am totally serious. I'm just willing to go with the flow and not afraid to admit that sometimes the craziest things get you to that inspired place. The aliens in my rug probably won't lead me anywhere (wink), except onto the next inspiration... Now, about that assignment...

PS.... Gail, I know you did some cool cats in scribbler... but I swear this kitty was there in my rug :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The start of the fall class session

I'm really looking forward to the start of classes this fall. I teach three metal clay classes every week (ongoing, fall through spring). This summer, I took time off to recharge my creative batteries (and begged forgiveness from the students who objected)... even skipped the show circuit and just did gallery work. Summer's been great for creative time. The school year is very hectic, so it was nice to slow down and have more family time too.
I played with COPPR and BRONZ clays, did a lot of enamel testing on the COPPRclay, wrote an article, and created some new pieces. The best part is that I have some new tricks to share with my students...

It will be great to see returning students and meet eager new ones. I love to watch the progression of skill (and level of work) as people grow more competent and confident. And there's nothing like the enthusiasm of a new student just starting out in metal clay-it's such amazing material. I particularly enjoy addressing the challenges that the advanced students encounter. Problem-solving is great fun. Part of what attracted me to jewelry and metals more than 30 years ago, is that intersection of design and engineering.

Teaching metal clay came to me almost by chance. Many years ago, a friend who manages programs for an organization was looking for more art offerings. I'd been telling her about metal clay and she asked if I'd be willing to teach a class. I agreed, and I was hooked. It wasn't that I hadn't taught art before-in volunteer ways-with Girl Scouting and through the schools. But this time, it was teaching my medium in such a focused way-to eager adult learners, that opened a new door. It's funny, because art education was suggested to me when I was in college, but a bad experience with an opinionated (and probably burned out) high school art teacher scared me away from that.

So why do we teach? I'll make a guess that it's not for the money... in any area of teaching. For me it's the whole lighting a spark thing. I think learning is contagious... and when people get excited about what they're doing and learning, it's just awesome. There's great satisfaction in helping someone find a way to express themselves creatively. Someone did that for me once upon a time :) -which I appreciate. There's also tremendous satisfaction in seeing people succeed and be happy about what they're doing. And teachers like to share-we can't help it. Some days it seems like all I really want to do is tell you about making jewelry with metal clay and truly hope you'll to like it as much as I do. I had lunch today with a couple of metalsmith friends and caught myself enthusiastically touting the merits of metal clay (they've heard this before...).

People sometimes wonder if working artists who teach feel threatened by their students' success. I can't imagine if we were, that we'd be very effective teachers. The whole reason we share our knowledge and help people express themselves, is so they WILL be successful. If a student finds his or her voice and excels, then I've done my job. I wish them well.

I'll post some more enamel results soon, but I had take a break to get organized for classes. And in doing so, I realized how much I was looking forward to the start of the fall session. If you have a minute, it would be fun to hear what motivates other teachers and what students like about taking classes.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Enamel Tests on COPPRclay

It's been a very busy week. You know the sort, where yesterday was Monday and today is Monday again.... and the rest is a blur. I met many deadlines... stayed up way too late, and didn't get to a few things I'd hoped to do.
On the agenda was more enamel testing on COPPRclay, as was putting together a PDF with some info on the results thus far. The PDF will still happen... but for now, here's an update with a few pictures for those of you patiently waiting...

In the early days of testing the Metal Adventures COPPRclay, a few of us tried using enamel on the fired copper. We encountered problems with pits and bubbles in the enamel. At that time, because we were trying a number of firing schedules and had inconsistent results with the enamel, the consensus was that incomplete sintering was definitely an issue. On pieces that appeared to be fully sintered (but apparently weren't) we might get two or three successful firings before the pitting and bubbles started to occur.
On some thicker pieces, the incomplete sintering allowed copper particles (like that powdery center you see when the copper isn't fully sintered), to migrate into the enamel-enough to make the enamel cloudy and transparent colors look almost opaque. In traditional copper enameling, some of the copper does go into solution which can affect the transparent colors, but higher firing will usually clear that. Not the case with an incompletely sintered COPPRclay piece. The piece above was water etched... fairly thick and not completely sintered. Note how the cloudiness/copper make the green transparent color appear almost black.
At one point, some of us started doing a shelf firing (a suggestion by Darnall Burks), where the COPPRclay is fired on an open shelf before being fired in the (coconut shell) activated carbon filled container. There's been a lot of talk about this more recently and a number of people are trying this now. Shelf firing was a step forward for enameling. At first, I was still having some (but fewer) bubbling issues, though I could get more layers of enamel fired before the bubbles appeared. When I was careful to place the pieces in the hottest part of the kiln, this seemed to help. Pam East, who was also testing COPPRclay with enamel, agrees that shelf firing yields much better results. She too, has been able to consistently achieve numerous enamel firings without bubbles.
All the pieces above were fired in carbon (full ramp to 1700F). The pieces on the left were only fired in the carbon, while the pieces on the right were shelf fired before carbon firing. You can see the difference in the color and shrinkage of the pieces. The discs were all cut using the same two sizes of cutters. This really illustrates the impact of shelf firing. I actually re-fired the ones that had been fired only in carbon to be certain they were fully sintered.

When I visited Thompson Enamel recently, Woodrow Carpenter suggested that the bubbles may be caused by carbon dioxide which is created and trapped in the carbon environment. He suggested trying to fire the piece with a layer of enamel from a cold kiln like glass, allowing the CO2 plenty of time to escape before the enamel fused. He created a sample that was fired that way and followed that with 4 more traditional hot firings-with no bubbles. From a cold kiln, he heated the first flux layer to 1450F in about 1.5 hours (which I later calculated to be a 1000F ramp for my SC2).

Using Mr. Carpenter's theory of the initial cold kiln firing, I was able to fire pieces that were NOT shelf fired with success. Both of the discs above were fired only in carbon. The one on the left was then fired with the flux layer from a cold kiln, followed by 7 more traditional firings. I'm sure I could have fired it more times, but stopped at 8. On the right side of the image, the piece was fired with the first layer traditionally in a hot kiln (1450F), then 7 more firings. Note the difference in clarity of the first layer. There were problems with several of the subsequent firings with the right one - chipped edges and pits in the back, but still it survived the 8 firings pretty well by using the hard flux layer beneath. I want to try this again and fire the first hot firing to a higher temperature to see if it makes a difference.

One thing was clear - both the shelf fired and carbon fired pieces worked out well with a base layer of hard fusing flux (Thompson 2040) fired from a cold kiln - especially with opaques and transparents layered on top. And shelf fired pieces were fine with traditional firing. Mr. Carpenter also suggested leaving the back open as long as possible, so there was no counter enamel applied until firing #5. I tried some other fluxes as base coats, and some worked better than others. I'll cover this more in the PDF document.

These are tear-away textures which were shelf fired, then carbon fired. They have two layers of transparent enamel fired directly onto the copper (no flux layer). They were NOT fired from a cold kiln... that creates too much fire scale for this technique. But this illustrates that the flux is not necessary for a good transparent look. They were fired at 1550F and the copper cleared nicely giving good crisp colors (a common practice with copper enameling). The tear-away texture creates a beautiful basse taille effect. I'll post some more pictures of this technique soon.

What does all this tell us? Well, more than I want to go into here... but basically, we have the advantage of knowing that the slow firing from a cold kiln will allow us to fire enamel on carbon only fired pieces. This is important, as we may not always be able/want to shelf fire. And we like knowing that the shelf fired pieces can take the transparent colors in a traditional hot firing with such clarity.

We know that COPPRclay firing results can vary from kiln to kiln, as can enamel timing. Using my Paragon SC2 kiln, the shelf firing was a 560F ramp to 560F, hold for 15 minutes. The carbon firing that followed was a full ramp to 1700F, hold for 3.5 hours. Shaped/formed pieces need to be supported during the shelf firing with a fiber blanket to avoid cracking. Shelf firing has its advantages, but not all pieces seem to tolerate the shelf firing equally well. Sometimes you risk more cracking in complicated pieces. Keeping them well supported is critical. The shelf firing appears to improve the sintering process by creating a copper oxide (pieces will be dark or black after shelf firing) which completely reverses in the carbon (pieces are shiny copper).

This is still new territory and as we learn more, opinions may change. Please feel free to ask questions (in the comments section) and I'll do my best to answer them... we all have a lot more testing to do - none of us have all the answers... as you probably know the whole COPPRclay experience is still a learning process.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A sequence of events

I'm one of those "everything happens for a reason" types. Not that I believe that life is predetermined... more that new directions can be discovered by events that unfold. Maybe it's part of the positive mindset - that I can see where something came from and where it will lead and I'm always putting a positive spin on things (I acknowledge that some people find these traits to be annoying, but–it is what it is...). I'm happy to say that recently, events have unfolded which have taken me in some very productive directions.

This week I've been busy testing enamels on COPPRclay again. The results have been very good. I've tested the clay in various ways (including enamel) since the end of December. At first it was frustrating because the enamel wasn't behaving as it expected. A few of us have been trying to get consistent results and the more we test, the more we're figuring out. Pam East and I talked today - she's been having lots of success lately too. It's interesting because we're doing some things differently. This is good. We like options. We had lots to share and compare. It's exciting stuff. For those of you who may try enamel on COPPRclay at some point, we hope that our discoveries will save you time and materials–get you right to the fun part.

I might not have gotten so completely caught up in the enamel testing this week if I hadn't visited Thompson Enamel last weekend. And I wouldn't have visited Thompson, where I worked with copper/fired copper clay, and with Woodrow Carpenter, who shared his experienced point of view and the suggestion that became a starting point for my tests, if I hadn't had to drive teens to volunteer at a camp in southern Kentucky. That adventure came about due to a (somewhat last minute) change in transportation plans. I'll admit that initially I saw the 18 hour round trip as a drag, but I wanted to help the cause.
I decided that since I was driving (practically) right past Thompson, I should see if I could stop and play on my way back. It's the old lemonade out of lemons thing. Now, I look back after my testing and see the reason... having to drive those kids was the catalyst for the testing this week that yielded these positive results. If the driving plans hadn't changed, I doubt I would have spent the last 4 days intensively testing enamels and getting these results (they're just tests - not works of art:).

Sometimes it's interesting to think back about twists and turns that have lead us to new places or new discoveries. And when a situation presents as less than positive, try to look for the silver lining. It's usually there... not to minimize the few truly bad situations we may encounter... but remember that sometimes, even in those, we can experience growth.

I'm in the process of organizing and documenting my test results so I can share them. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Showing up and playing...

The other day I was at Trader Joe's, with my bags in hand as I was checking out. The cashier asked if I wanted to enter the drawing to win a gift card - a "reward" for bringing my own bags (as if saving our planet isn't reward enough, but that's another post). I almost said no, because I fill out a ticket every time–and haven't won yet. But then I thought about the saying "you can't win if you don't play," which I often use to encourage people who ask about entering a show or submitting work to a book or event. So I filled out the ticket–again.

This lead me to thinking about entering, submitting, and the whole jury process for artists. It seemed like a natural topic to follow validation. Woody Allen is quoted as saying "80% of success is showing up." I think that goes hand in hand with "you can't win if you don't play." Many people don't even try to submit work because they don't think their work will be accepted , or they fear rejection.But in order to have any chance of being accepted, you have to show up and play.

I've been on both sides of the jury process over the years and know that there are always going to be people whose work is accepted and rejected. Recently I acted as a juror again, and as expected, had to "reject" some of what was entered. There are always more entries that spaces. As a part of a team, I knew there was also a subjective factor. It's human nature to rank things a bit differently, despite certain criteria. With space constraints, the pieces that received the highest overall rankings were ultimately accepted. The others faced rejection.

I always think about those whose works are rejected-especially when they are new to the experience. It's tough to face it the first time. But never let that rejection shut you down. We know that there are many reasons for rejection and it doesn't necessarily mean that the work doesn't have merit. Depending on the show, event, or book there could be any number of reasons for the outcome. For a show, it may have to do with what the jurors envision. Or it may be that you "just missed" the cut, space-wise (too many jewelers applied, for example). Maybe it was the quality of the image submitted. Look at what was accepted and see how your entry might differ.

Once I had the same pieces rejected from a show that had been previously chosen to appear in a book. When I later viewed the show, I understood that what I submitted didn't fit with the jurors vision of the show–which probably became clear as they viewed the entries and how they might relate to one another to create a cohesive show.

If you face rejection, ask some questions. Was this my best work? Was it truly unique? Did I pay attention to detail, craftsmanship, design? Did I photograph the best possible view? Should I have opted for a professional photograph? And for more input, or if you experience repeated rejection, try to get some suggestions from a teacher or professional artist. Know that the more you enter, the easier it gets to separate yourself from that risk of rejection. Of course, acceptance gives us a great sense of validation, but we can learn from rejection. It's part of the balance. And when you're accepted, be thankful, and remember that someone else probably wasn't–it really keeps things in perspective.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Wow. This blog thing has really taken off. I had no inkling of the response it would generate. Thank you! So many wonderful people have commented, emailed or contacted me in some way. It's real validation. Catherine Witherell (whose HappyDayArt! blog is a great read), was so kind... she asked her readers to welcome me and put a great review of my book on her blog... and several of her readers contacted me–all truly appreciated!
"You are awesome!"
We can all use a little validation. There's a wonderful short film on YouTube called "Validation" that really makes me smile (granted, those of you who know me realize it doesn't take much). But this film makes most everyone smile. In case you are not one of the more than two million people who have already seen it, click the link (film title) and watch. Know that you need to relax and enjoy. It's well worth the 16 minutes of your time to watch this entire short... after all, there isn't one person on Earth who couldn't use a smile, and this will make you smile.

Recently, I had an experience that reminded me of this film... We have a UPS store in our neighborhood where I had to drop some packages for pick-up. I hadn't been to this store in a while, but the man who took my packages was just brimming with happiness. He said kind things about me for no reason and with no prompting. It wasn't odd or uncomfortable–just nice... very genuine. He talked about his wife and daughter and was really proud of them. And I didn't mind listening either... I didn't feel like rushing out of there. I got the feeling he must do this all day long. I left with a smile on my face. Maybe he saw this film, maybe not. Truthfully, I suspect he's just like that. But when I need to drop off another package, guess where I'm gonna go... ;-)

Enjoy the film, then go spread some smiles-say something encouraging... "validate" someone... and imagine a world where everyone does this... it's not world peace, but it's a start...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mandalas and meditation

Have you ever been captivated by the symmetry of a flower? Appreciated a Celtic knot or cross design? Wowed by a kaleidoscope image? Looked at the spiral formed by a snail's shell? Seen or walked a labyrinth? If so, you have encountered a Mandala.

Mandalas are many things. The loose translation from Sanskrit is "circle." They are as simple as a flower or as complex as the Milky Way Galaxy. They can be decorative, highly organized, symmetrical patterns formed within a circle and used for focus in meditation. The Mandala is found in both Eastern and Western religious traditions, Native American and secular cultures. The Labyrinth is a kind of Mandala which is used as a tool for prayer, meditation and centering. To find out more about Mandalas, visit the Mandala Project. There are many books about Mandalas available and images online for you to color. Just the process of coloring a Mandala can be mind clearing and meditative, not to mention fun =)

I love to walk the Labyrinth and do it whenever I can. I don't pretend to meditate regularly, but I do it with some frequency. It works for me like an adjustment, a centering. It brings new thoughts and new perspectives. Meditation is good for creative renewal. It relaxes you and allows the creative process to flow. It can have healing effects on the mind and body. Many forms of meditation work, from a silent walk in the woods, to listening to the ocean, to some quiet time focused on a Mandala.

My work has been filled with spirals for as long as I can remember because I am totally captivated by the design. Doodles in my high school notebooks had spiral and labyrinth-like qualities. I find it a strong, positive, life-affirming symbol that appears across many cultures since the dawn of time. Even when I consciously try not to include a spiral, they still seem to appear. And I really like to work inside circles. Do you find symbols or patterns or shapes repeating in your work?

Here we go...

OK. I’m convinced. I set this up 6 months ago and I’m finally putting words on the page. I’m not sure where this will lead, but more and more I am discovering things I’d like to share. Read it often if you like, ignore what you want, comment if you feel inspired… I love to write, but have never thought of myself as a writer. After many years, I am able to call myself an artist, but truthfully, that’s not the whole picture. I think of myself more as a creative-problem-solver sort of person. I believe art-making is not just about the finished product; it's about the journey and the whole creative process. As a part of that, I'm into teaching and learning, the power of positive thinking, and LOTS of other stuff…

What to expect:

“About art” seems pretty straightforward. I hope to share some thoughts, techniques and inspirations about how I make my jewelry and introduce you to the work of others (known and unknown). I hope this can be a resource for students and anyone else who might be interested. The plan is to offer all sorts of interesting tidbits to get our collective creative juices flowing. Over time, we'll explore inspiration, design, resources, ideas, and much more.

As for the “other stuff…” I didn't want to have to stick with only talking about art (I don’t think I know enough to keep that going very long =). I want to have some fun, spread some joy, and go wherever the journey leads…. So I guess it could be anything– we’ll just have to see what materializes.