Monday, November 23, 2009

Commissions, mourning, crosses and buckles

It's been a while since I've updated this blog, but it has been a very busy, albeit, sad time.

I received a huge commission of 750 Prismacolor pencil paintings pins to be put into the welcome bag for the participants in the Bike Ride Across Nebraska (B.R.A.N.) riders that will stay in our town next June. The pin features a windmill at sunset. I imagine I will be heartily tired of the scene by the time I am finished, but it is a huge honor to get the commission. I have yet to photograph the pin, so it will be posted later.

I was also commissioned to make a triple metal commemorative belt buckle to be raffled off at the same time. It will be made from bronzclay, with a sterling decorative trim and a Sandhills scene done in copprclay. I will post a photo when it is done.

Both are very time consuming projects.

At the same time, I prepared 60 items to go on consignment to a holiday shop in the mall 65 miles from here. Hopefully sales there will be good.

I teach a workshop on my Prismacolor jewelry to 32 high school students next Tuesday -- my first actual "workshop" of the type.

I have been working on several cross designs, with my newest one matching the silver rope bezel wire with gold accents bracelets, rings and earrings I have been making. I already have a commission for a larger version as a Christmas gift.
I received numerous compliments on the sterling and black onyx necklace and earring set I made and wore to the Thedford Area Community Foundation Banquet this Saturday, which was nice to hear. The design is called "Onyx Elegance."

My photography stash is building again, after losing all my photos earlier this year. I was lucky enough to be able to photograph a nice 5x5 mule deer that was near my caboose early last week and I got several nice sunset photos yesterday while helping my husband (unsuccessfully) hunt a buck to fill his deer tag.

This next month will be filled with hunting, making and purchasing gifts and hopefully, lots and lots of sales.

Hopefully it will be happier than this one, as our town has had its share of deaths in the past few weeks. It is time now for the joy of the holiday season and no more sadness, I hope.
Happy creating!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sales still slow, learning how to work with bronzclay and dealing with children in small spaces

The last two days have been "flu" days at school, and the schools have been closed -- which means that in addition to my 2-year-old son, who enjoys being at the caboose -- I have had my 6-year-old daughter, who does not. The two of them alternated between hitting/poking/jabbing each other and complaining that the other one touched them. Grrrr! Very hard to concentrate and get anything done in that environment. Luckily Dad got off early today and came to get them. Yeah!

I worked on several projects this week -- a two-tone belt buckle made of bronzclay, PMC and sterling silver; two bronzclay pendant and earring sets; and a bronzclay prototype pin for the B.R.A.N. (Bike Ride Across Nebraska) riders that will be coming through town next June. I also made two pin prototypes in my signature colored pencil mini paintings on plastic.

I am working on a wire pendant in sterling and black onyx as well.

The bronzclay gives me fits as it bubbles when fired, and comes out of the kiln with totally unpredictable patinas. I have also found it shrinks more than PMC3, so I have to figure out how big to make a ring so it is the right size after firing. I can't rely on my regular PMC3 ring sizers, apparently, since my size 6-1/2 ring broke the mold, cracked its shank and became a size 3 in the kiln. Arrrggghhh!

I mended the shank and refired it, but it still needed more work and made a return trip to the kiln tonight. I have a leafy pendant and earrings in the kiln as well, and another leafy pendant and earrings drying on my workbench to be fired tomorrow.

The pin prototype needs some tweaking tomorrow and I will let it dry all day then fire it tomorrow night. Bronzeclay takes so long to fire that I just put it in the kiln as I leave the shop at night -- that way it can fire overnight and be just cool enough to remove from the kiln in the morning, plus it helps keep the caboose warm at night!

I miss my syringe clay when working with bronze and copper clay though! I really rely on my syringe for stems, vines, squiggles, pasting, etc...

The stuff is new, so I am pioneering along with the rest of those using the stuff though. I am a self-taught artisan anyway, so why not teach myself on this stuff too!

The buckle is finally finished, after numerous snafoos while soldering. I like the two-tone look and it is very simple, but showy as well.

My needle texture pendant and earrings will be finished up tomorrow.

I mailed out a special order this morning and another earlier in the week. Now, I just need some actual customers to come to the shop and make some purchases. Business is SSSSLLLOOOOWWWW!


Oh well, Christmas is coming -- hopefully people will buy local. I will be having my Grand Opening sometime soon. I will know by the end of next week, I suppose.

Lots of work to do and I had better get back to it. Happy creating!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Work benches, slow sales and new fun with clay

I have spent the last three weeks carefully tending to my back -- despite injuring my neck somehow in my sleep one night - and I am now back up to snuff, as long as I don't overdo things. Good thing, as I go back on ambulance call tomorrow night for a week.

Business has been extremely slow (only one customer in the door in the whole three weeks) so I have been slowly building up inventory in prepration for Christmas.

I ordered some CopprClay and some BronzClay as they are more affordable than PMC (for me and for my customers) and I played with it a bit this week. I made some beads and a belt buckle from the copper version and then made and fired a buckle blank from the bronze version.

The copper came out great! The bronze, however, had some issues. The buckle came out all bubbly and rough. I called my supplier and they told me that even though it was thin, I should have fired it like a thick piece because it is so big. Okay, back to the drawing board on that one. It did come out with beautiful colors though! I love the patina that gets fired onto it, and if you polish it up, it is the color of spun honey -- gold with a hint of autumn.

I can't wait to make some pieces that combine all three types of clay!

After waiting over four months for my neighbor to build a workbench for me (I have been getting by with a sheet over a plastic folding table -- much to rickety to do much with and I can't bolt anything down) -- I decided to design my own. It was going to cost about $100, so the project was on hold.

Today my hubby and his dad surprised me with a workbench! It is shorter, narrower and far less fancy than the one I designed, but since my father-in-law donated all the materials from stuff stored in his barn, the price is more than right!

The formica may be orange, but it is certainly easier to clean a mess up from than that darned sheet!

I can hammer away and not worry about it collapsing either, and I can finally bolt down my vice. Yea!

Now, if the customers will just come!

Better get to work on some more inventory -- Christmas is just around the corner, I need stuff for a storefront in a mall about an hour away and there is a craft show just about a month away.

I also need to work on my prototype for a colored pencil painting pin to commemorate the Bike Ride Across Nebraska stop in Thedford next year. The pin would be given to each of the riders that stays in Thedford when they stay overnight next June.

So much work and so little time! Happy creating!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bad backs, horse sales and falling leaves

This past week has been a blur of pain meds, chiropractor appointments and aches and pains mixed in with a frenzy of creation as I have worked feverishly to get ready for my first "show" at a horse sale where the sellers are also holding an "invitation only" vendor show. I was invited and it was of no cost to me, so hey, what was there to lose?

Okay, first the back. Last Saturday I bent over to get something out of my purse and slipped a disc very badly. I saw a chiropractor before attending the funeral of a friend and the chiropractor would barely touch me for fear of making things worse. I could hardly walk. I saw him again two more times last week and now I can walk, but by the end of the day I am still in a lot of pain. Frustrating!

I knew I was going to the horse sale on Sunday, so I spent the week, bad back and all, trying to make as much inventory as I could. I was nearly out of clay so I made what little I had into small earrings, a small leaf pendant and matching earrings, and a new piece for my "In the Garden" series.

I also finished up the grape leaves I have been working on for weeks (painstakingly painting on layer after layer of clay slip to build them up to be heavy enough to wear). I finished the grape leaves just before closing yesterday, and after much prodding from fellow jewelry artists, I tried a patina. For once it came out great! I loved it! The patina came out an awesome coppery color with irridescent blues, greens and purples all through it - - perfect for fall leaves. I had formed "ivy tendrils" with syringe clay and then carried the design through into the bail and ear wires by making them into "tendril" too. I was really happy with how it came out. I planned to run them through the tumbler for a high shine, but didn't have time. I figured I would do that Monday. Not going to happen. They SOLD! So, now I have to get some new grape leaves at my inlaws' house before they freeze so I can make some more of these. I have lots of new ideas for grape leaf jewelry.

Today I worked on a new woven cross, but it is not finished yet. It has a turquoise stone in it and I am making a chain with turquoise stones scattered through it as well.

This next week I need to make two PMC pendant/earring sets for a customer who wants to give them to her granddaughters. I have already made two pendants for another set of granddaughters who don't have pierced ears. I also have a custom order PMC ring to make and about 12 repairs to do.

My PMC cross "In the Garden At Gethsemane" sold yesterday to a teenager who was brought in by her grandfather and told she could pick out "anything in the store." I was surprised (as was the grandfather) when she picked a large showy cross out of all the items in the shop. It only took her two seconds to choose it too. She honed in on it the instant she walked in, so it must have been meant for her.

I am still working on my woven mother's ring design and I had a new design for a woven cross pop into my head today. I also had a design for a very dressy woven necklace begin to take shape, as well as two new PMC necklace ideas. So many designs, so little time!

OOOh, a new PMC cross design just popped in too! A new addition to my "In the Garden" series that is also a "family" piece. OOOh, I can't wait until the PMC order arrives on Tuesday!

I had better close and try to get some sleep despite the design ideas running around in my brain.

Happy creating!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Great Sales Today, funeral tomorrow

The fact that I had great sales today is tempered by the fact that tomorrow I attend the funeral of a friend. To make matters worse, his wife died two years ago and now their 15-year-old daughter has no parents. My heart just aches for her!
Her Daddy was one of my first friends when I served as a volunteer firefighter in the town where I used to live. He was always supportive and friendly and I was devastated when he had to quit the department for health reasons.

Aside from that sad note, today was good in that I had several really good sales and made some new friends.

I sold a Prismacolor painting pendant yesterday and then today I sold a number of items, including two PMC pieces! I also had the joy of creating a pair of earrings to match a pendant a customer picked out. I think she really enjoyed watching me make her earrings right in front of her.

I almost missed these customers, but some geocachers that showed up to find the geocache that is hidden in the caboose (outside) got to talking with me (I geocache too) and I was late getting out of the shop. Good thing, because I would have missed several good sales and talking with the woman who bought the items.

Now I have to get on the stick and make a bunch of stuff before the horse show I am taking my jewelry to next weekend. I also have a group of women coming in on Thursday. Hopefully I will make some sales there and if not, perhaps they will keep me in mind for Christmas time.

I hope to get my workbench built on Sunday and I plan to pick up a large stone block to put under the woodstove while I am in town tomorrow. It is supposed to freeze next week, so I need to get the woodstove in and get the plumbing insulated and the heat tape installed.

Okay, it is late and I was up very early this morning, so it is time for bed. Happy creating!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

White Rock, Sidewalks and Western Art

My wonderful landlord came by last weekend and dozed off all the sandburs out front of my shop (without even being asked) and then dropped a load of white rock on the sand for a parking area.

Earlier this week he talked with some people doing cement work and asked if they would mind dropping any extra off for a sidewalk in front of the caboose. This week he formed up a sidewalk and a cement truck came by and filled in one third of the sidewalk. Hopefully some more will be coming later to fill the rest in. Hey, the price is right, I can wait a bit for completion!

Today he came by with more white rock for the parking area.
Business was quite slow this week, although I did sell one of my Prismacolor painting pendants. I had an off week as far as creating, as nothing seemed to go quite right.
Now I have several special orders and one repair to do, so I had better get started on those.

I also had a woman come in and see the shop after her pickup broke down. She was carting horses to Kansas to a rodeo. She is having a horse sale the first weekend in October and is having a few vendors (invitation only) during the sale. She invited me! No cost to me whatsoever, other than gas to drive 65 miles one way -- and I do believe I will go! :)

I am trying to find a good mother's ring tutorial because I would like to make my sister a mother's ring. She is a single parent and deserves to have the sort of things most mothers would get from their hubby's (guess big sister will have to step in). Anyhow, I'm having a hard time finding something that will accept two facted stones, yet still be wire wrap, and not be too advanced for my limited wire wrapping skills. I found one and bought the tutorial, but it only gave instructions for adding one stone. I don't know if I am good enough to figure out how to add the second stone.

My REAP (Rural Enterprise Assistance Program) representative was here yesterday to take my photo while working inside the caboose and another of me outside the caboose, to put into a book they send to all the state legislators. He is also recommending me for a national video being made about micro business loans. He said they were looking for color and the caboose is definitely colorful!

All the information has been sent to the Omaha World Herald and hopefully they will come to do a story on me for their statewide section. I also hope to join GROW Nebraska soon and have them build me a website. They are a great cooperative marketing group that operates here in Nebraska.

I have created some new copper pieces and some new Prismacolor pendant pieces, as well as two "knitted" pendants.

I'll have to get a lot more made in the next two weeks if I am going to take my stuff to that horse sale! She said she thought my silver and my stone jewelry would both sell just great. She also thought I should take my belt buckle prototype. She said tiny belt buckles (western) as pendants are all the rage right now too.

It is late and I am tired, so I had better close. Happy creating!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Crosses, Tutorials and Tonsils

This has been a busy week for me. I started a new part time job cleaning my church, I wrote a tutorial and I finished up a few pieces I had started. Yesterday I took my 2-year-old son to have his tonsils and adenoids removed.

I am a high-stress person when it comes to surgery, so it was VERY hard for me to watch them wheel him away without me yesterday morning. It was a short surgery and he did very well, according to the doctor. Doc also told us Aidan had the biggest tonsils and adenoids he had EVER seen. He also cauterized Aidan's uvula (the hangy down thingy) to make it shrink, because it was very long. I had lots of friends praying for him though.

That little stinker worried me to death, then all day yesterday was a real trooper -- eating, drinking, playing, etc... Today he was a bit cranky and by evening he had dark circles under his eyes and had quit eating. Now I am beginning to worry again. I think the after effects of the anaesthesia are wearing off and the pain is setting in. Poor kiddo!

On a brighter note, I finished my PMC cross and it came out great. I call it "In the Garden at Gethsemane.
I wrote a tutorial for my hammered copper bracelet with braided trim and I have sold several, along with a resurrection of two of my older tutorials that suddenly started selling again (no complaints there) on the website.
I am in the process of writing two more -- one for my "Indian Summer" hammered copper set and one for the bezel-topped cabochon like the custom job I did last week. It was made for a man but could be worn by a woman as well.

I continue to work on getting my photo collection built back up after losing ALL of my photos a few weeks ago when my computer crashed. Frustrating! That also means I have to rebuild my business cards and brochures. I am out of notecards in all the venues I sell them in, but can't make new ones until I have new photos. Grrr!

Oh well, time for Aidan's pain meds, so I had better go!

Happy creating!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

More repairs and custom jobs -- one for a man this time!

This week I have gotten all but two repairs out the door and I have three more custom orders. Two I have to find the stones for and the third I finished up today.

This last custom job was a challenge because it was a pendant for a man, so I couldn't do any of the curlicues and geegaws I do on my other pendants.

After much thought, I decided to try making a bezel out of pattern wire and it worked quite well.

I am also working on a PMC cross. I did a two-tone wire wrap one the other day. My wire woven cross sold last week, so I need to make another one.
I am working on some black and white (grayscale) Prismacolor painting pieces for my mother. I am finding it difficult to find a good way to wire wrap the rectangular versions of my work. Hmmm, have to work on that.

Better get to bed -- my daughter has school pictures tomorrow, so I need to get up early and help her shower and get all "pretty."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tutorials, repairs and custom jobs done! Time to create!

I had a busy week of repairs and finalizing my first custom ring, as well as writing a tutorial for my "Cold Forged Hammered Copper Cuff with Braided Trim". It has been posted to Now it is time for me to create again! Fun!
I have been playing with some Prismacolor paintings and working on a good way to wire wrap them. I think I saw a wrap today that might be just the ticket -- I hope, as the perfect wrap for rectangular stones has been eluding me.

My mother wants some Prismacolor pieces in black and white so I have been working on those (they are actually in greyscale). I will post photos when I get them finished.
I had a really good day on Monday, when the traffic was stopped for over 30 minutes at a time while they put the beams on the bridge over the highway and I made some sales. Yesterday I had another sale! Yeah! I still need more to make the loan payment, plus pay for the phone, internet and electricity. Yikes!

Time for supper -- fresh corn from the garden and pork chops on the grill! Yum!

Happy Creating!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lack of supplies spawns creativity with copper wire

Since I was out of PMC and didn't yet have the supplies needed for the repair jobs I had sitting on my workbench (UPS doesn't come until late afternoon around here) I decided to play around with some copper wire and my anvil.

In the end I came away with two bracelets. I ended up selling one the very next day, to a friend of mine who has a hard time finding jewelry to fit her larger frame. She also bought a hammered copper ring and placed an order for two more custom copper pieces. Woo hoo!

The first piece I made was fabricated from 8g bare copper wire which I braided loosely, then hammered and formed around a bracelet mandrel. The second bracelet was a hammered piece of 6g bare copper wire. I then braided 20g copper wire, which I made into a strip a bit shorter than the bracelet itself. I then wire wrapped the braided piece to the bracelet. This is the one I sold to my friend.

I love metal work! I can be so frustrated with work, family, life in general, and I go to my workbench and hammer on some metal for a while and not only do I release a lot of pent up frustration and tension, but I come away with something useful (and sometimes even beautiful).

I finally got my printer to work again too, which relieved a lot of tension on its own -- I use my printer for almost everything I do!

The electrician comes to finish up on Monday -- meaning I will have power to the mercury vapor security light behind the caboose, and I will have motion lights on both decks. The electrical outlet for the heat tape for the plumbing will also be added and he will look at the two outdoor outlets that keep tripping as well as the bathroom light that flickers and buzzes and sometimes goes out altogether. He will also ground my new aluminum staircase to the caboose to make sure no one gets shocked due to inclement weather or electrical problems.

I am working on a custom PMC ring and a custom PMC belt buckle. They are both about half finished. I have three repair jobs that are in varying stages of repair as well.

Jewelry making and jewelry repair both require working a bit, then letting an item dry or sit in the pickle pot, or have a run through the tumbler. So, I generally have 4-5 projects going at once.

I have several projects that need to be treated with Liver of Sulphur as well, which I have yet to try, as I fear the stench. However, these particular projects would benefit so much from the smelly stuff that I will have overcome my fear and Just Do It! One is a maple leaf and the other is the remains of my first attempt at the custom ring, which met a bad demise after the cz melted into the setting and after set with a new CZ, split in the shank and was resistant to repair. I ended up making a pendant/earring set out of the pieces.

Off to bed now after a wonderful evening alone with my hubby -- yes we went on a real date -- dinner and a movie with no kids! Grandma and Grandpa watched our lovely little ones and we had some time to ourselves for a change. What a treat! We love the kids, but for the second time in six years, we were able to go off by ourselves. Fun! Great movie, great food, great company.

Happy Creating!