Monday, October 26, 2009

Just Having Fun...

Even though we were sick, I really enjoyed all the quality time with my family these past couple of weeks. Aidan is now old enough that he is a serious competitor in Skip Bo so we have spent a lot of time on my bed playing cards. Eva is such a cuddlier and I've been savoring every minute of having her wrapped up in my arms. We've read stories, played with her babies and colored in her coloring books. And at night, once the kids are asleep, Tim and I have been chit-chatting more often. We are so lucky to have such aligned views and goofy senses of humor. I don't know how come I am so blessed... I just know that I am.

I am a little anxious because I missed so much school and work while the kids and I were sick though. Oddly in juxtaposition, I am swirling with excitement over the groovy things happening with my Etsy shops. Business has been going great and I have gotten a lot of great feedback from my customers. I posted dozens of wonderful new treasures over the weekend and I have a giant box of goodies on its way from this amazing estate sale. I feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve waiting for the package to arrive. hee hee.

Tomorrow I have to buckle down and get caught up with some of my client work, finish my mid-term project and start on a new clay sculpture. Oops, let me re-phrase that... I GET to buckle down and get caught up with some of my client work, finish my mid-term project and start on a new clay sculpture. It is a privilege to have my clients and go to art is so important that I don't let being behind make my situation become stressful. I am committed to enjoy myself even if it feels a bit overwhelming. I'm thinking of tying a string around my finger because the hardest part in all of this activity is REMEMBERING to be happy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Hard Day at the Office

I'm still battling this nasty cold that has ripped through our house. I have no voice and I'm still super tired so when my mom came over to visit today, I was not the best company. Then the mail came and a large box filled with an assortment of vintage hats. We started modeling for one another, then we added jewelry and the next thing we knew we had configured an assortment of Vintage Accessory Kits. It was such fun pairing these unusual bonnets and caps with gorgeous brooches, earrings and necklaces. Then mom suggested I get dressed (yes, I was still in my PJ's) so we could snap a few photos of me with the hats and jewelry to post in my Etsy Shop.

I ran a brush through my hair, put on some lipstick and we had a fabulous photo shoot in the guest bathroom. The natural light was perfect and our pale shower curtain was a fantastic back drop. It must have been a sight to see my mom twisted around this bulky DSLR, smashed in the corner of the bathroom to get the right angle, while I sat on the edge of the tub posing in the most conspicuous ways so that the camera could capture the interesting accessories I had on. I laughed out loud as my mom started saying "yes...that's it...hold it...yes...turn...yes..." right out of an Austin Powers movie.

When I transferred the photos to my computer and got a look at them for the first time I was shocked. Holy cow - I felt like was it possible for me to look so darn cute... the saleswomen in me says "it was the accessories," the artist in me says "it was that incredible natural light" but the daughter in me knows that it was because I was hanging out with my mom.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Upcycling on Etsy

The word Upcycling was coined by William McDonaugh and Michael Braugart in their book on ecologically intelligent design, Cradle to Cradle in which they define upcycling as the practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value. In the world of Etsy, this term has been intermingled with other “green-centric” terms like “adapted re-use,” “reclaimed,” and “eco-friendly” causing the word to grow into a broader more colorful definition. "Upcycled" items are not limited to the many "trash to treasure" products for sale on Etsy like Urbanwoodswalker's recycled newspaper bowl.

The expression or "tag" upcycled is also used to describe pre-owned items that have been given a second life through a metamorphosis into a new product with a new value. Recycling and invention have converged into a kind of crafters schizophrenia where function, beauty and eco-conscientiousness have come together. Hand-me-downs of yesterday are dressed up and sold as responsibly repurposed. Old items carefully stored for generations are rediscovered as wonderfully vintage.

offers all kinds on opportunities to participate in this movement as both a consumer and a crafter. There are hundreds, nay thousands, of shops dedicated to the genre of upcycled goods. Here are just a few…
Joy's Jewels - transforms antique typewriter keys into beautiful one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces

Buffalo Nerd Project - "science geek by day, sewing chick by night" - turns men’s suit jackets into fabulous purses.

and Rouge Empire who takes silk ties and reinvents them into five pocket wallets.

For those of you who would like to join in on this movement by refurbishing the old into something new either for your own use, unique gifts or for resale, Etsy has many vendors to supply you with everything you will need. In fact, there is an entire department dedicated to vintage where you can find all sorts of items to convert, reinvent or embellish with. Take these adorable vintage Grasshopper Keds from Adalaide's Homesewn for example...

...they are cute but could use a little cosmetic surgery to make them fabulous. Replace the laces with this gorgeous Vintage French Red Velvet Ribbon from Finiribbon.

Use craft glue to tuck the ends of the ribbon neatly and instead of a big floppy bow, pick up these darling vintage earrings and brooch from Merrelle Accents and attach one to each shoe.

Pin the Brooch to your purse and viola... a darling new look and one-of-a-kind design made by you!

Many people think they are not creative enough to upcycle vintage items into something new, or they get overwhelmed with the very thought and decide it is more trouble than it is worth. In an effort to dispel those beliefs, I have included a list of 20 ways to upcycle vintage jewelry in 10 minutes or less. Coincidentally, this list ties into the many wonderful jewelry pieces I have on sale in my Etsy shop

1. embellish a pillow

2. decorate a purse

3. spice up a curtain tie back

4. attach to a hair clip or head band

5. make unique napkin rings

6. dress up a candle holder

7. use an orphan earring as a gift topper instead of a bow

8. transform a pair of shoes with vintage earrings

9. arrange pieces with other trinkets to create a shadow box for display

10. adhere to the top of old jelly jars to create darling spice jars or desktop storage

11 embellish
a book or photo album

12. connect to a zipper to make a fancy pull

13. glue to paperclips or push pins

14. attach to your phone or keys as a decorative charm

15. convert into a Christmas ornament

16. refurbish an old cabinet with vintage jewelry drawer pull

17. liven up an old hat

18. string on ribbons and use as wine glass charm so no one looses their beverage

19. decorate a mirror

20. upcycle into new jewelry pieces!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Creative Sanity

Some people jog, some people write in their journal, I create, to stay sane.

The kids are both sick with strep throat and I feel like I am fighting off some mean, ugly germs too, so there has been very little activity under my roof. I've been camped out in my bed with my two feverish children giving back rubs, singing lullabys and finishing projects in the moments in between. I "upcycled" 4 vintage purses into completely new fashion statements. During the 4 very long nights one or both of them have been ill, I found solace in hand stitching trims and embellishing with vintage jewelry pieces to breath new life into these antique handbags.

I listed all 4 on Etsy this evening - we'll see how they are received. It is something I have been wanting to do for months but I couldn't steal the time. I have 3 more bags to play with but I am really hoping my little ones and I will be up and around before I get a chance to start on them. I'd like to save them for the next virus that rips through the Isaac's house! A little something to look forward to :o)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Jewelry Making 101

Welcome to the world of metal smithing. Above are photos of a cone and a two part hollow form (sphere bead) made from copper. These were last week's homework assignments. It is quite a different process to the pre-fabricated ready-made jewelry making world we live in today. The industrial age has relieved jewelry designers of many of the time consuming and labored steps required for the simplest of tasks. Today, we can buy inexpensive closed jump rings and bezel cups but there was a time when jewelers did everything by hand. To be a great jewelry designer, it is important we learn these age old skills so there is a laundry list of techniques we have to include in our midterm projects for my metal arts class. Things like hollow forms, textured metal and wire, rivets, soldering, cabochons in bezel settings and of course, a concept paper explaining your piece at length.

We first created a "mochette" which is a sample of our design made out of paper and other supplemental supplies. This allows us to work out construction issues before we cut into the expensive materials plus helps us estimate how much metal we'll need to order to make our project.

I came up with this necklace which has three flowers of varying sizes and designs. The center flower bezel would be set on a metal swivel attached with a rivet onto a lip soldered to a hollow form. A little twist (no pun intended) on a locket. I thought I'd use 3 different sized wires to create the "chain" and have them swirl and loop with soldered leaves like miandering vines. The entire piece is to be made of sterling which I ordered from H. Schmidt & Son (208 Precious Metals) on ebay. Their prices are incredible and they totally worked with me to get the right amounts and gauges for the projects.

Once I received my materials, I cut out my flower shapes and wire to create the flowers.

I tinkered with the cabochons and flowers arrangements before I decided where I wanted everything.

Next I hammered the flowers and wire to create some texture. Did you know that the word "Smith" is derived from the verb "to smite" which means to strike with a tool? This hammering causes the metal to get hard (work hardening) so I had to anneal the silver (heat the metal to a super high temperature) so I could bend the petals to create dimension. The annealing caused some discoloration which I will remove later in the process after I've added patina.

Next, I had to bend bezel around the stones and solder the ends together, then to a flat piece of silver to create a bezel cup. I have not burnished the setting closed (that is why it looks unfinished) because I still need to patina and solder the settings to the flowers and to the necklace.

For the center flower, I created a wall for the locket and soldering the top on. I still need to set the rivet and cut the locket hole before I can do the bezel for this stone.

Next I'll do some patina, filing/ cleaning up, plus finish hammering /forming the necklace from wire and solder on leaves. Then I'll solder the flowers together and on to the necklace. The final steps will include burnishing the bezel and bending the closure. I simulated the finished look a little for the photos below. I hope it all comes together as planned but we shall see.

I had ordered these really amazing stones to go into it but I didn't realize they were coming from China so they may not arrive in time. No wonder they were so inexpensive, right? It is probably better that I save those beautifies for when I am more experienced anyway.

The wire petals above were soldered together (this is not as easy as it seems and took many times at the torch). I wanted to set the stone with wrapped wire but this technique is also more advanced than I expected so I may not go that route- we'll see.

This is my mess - I love the contrast of all the tools and the itty, biddy stones. You should see my finger tips. No ink stains or matted glue in this craft, but lots of little cuts...ouch. More to come as I progress... Happy Friday!

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's the Little Things

So last week we got a little bad news...I started noticing the return of my pain as I weaned off my post surgery pain medication. We met with my surgeon last Wednesday and he said I have a classic "a-typical presentation" of Trigeminal Neuralgia so I'm back with my neurologist in a few weeks to discuss my options. The last resort is another, more invasive surgery but I'm not going there. I'm coping with the pain one day at a time; sometimes one hour at a time by soaking up the joy in the little things. This morning as I enjoyed my coffee, I began to consider how all the little things added up to a really big life filled with blessings. This is just 20 "little things" that took place over the last week that made me feel good:
  1. I checked my VM and had 6 messages of people asking me how my Dr. appt went
  2. My teacher said my wax sculpture looks fantastic.
  3. I bought these beautiful stones on ebay for my midterm project for a fraction of the cost at other places

  4. When I came out this morning the kitchen was clean!
  5. My friend Emily offered to drive the kids to school if it rains.
  6. Aidan won his soccer game!
  7. I ordered new business cards
  8. I started a HUGE new project for a client!
  9. Patti ate lunch with us on Saturday.
  10. I spoke with Jen more than once this week
  11. I got a call from a woman I just met inviting me to get together for a meal sometime.
  12. We went to Starbucks yesterday AM for coffee and to play Uno with the kids and Lindsey and we saw Bob A.
  13. Cameron wrote a comment on my last blog entry that made me feel so good!
  14. Laura told me I inspire her.
  15. I found an old deck of Skip Bo cards and I wasn't missing a single card (out of 144)
  16. I got to hug Nancy J whom I have been missing.
  17. my family and Michele W's family went to see "cloudy with a chance of Meatballs"
  18. I listed a zillion new items on my Etsy shop - Its so exciting!
  19. I saw a bunch of people I love on Saturday morning and got to tell them so (and they said they loved me back)
  20. I fit into a pair of jeans that used to be tight.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Life is a Trip...

I've been a bad, bad blogger. My only excuse is that I've been live, live, living. After my surgery in August I had some complications which landed me back in the hospital for 5 days with an L P and the possibility of a second operation. Thank you God for my amazing family, friends and doctors who carried me through a terrifying ordeal with kindness, humor and love.

Just 2 days after I busted out of the hospital I had my 1st day of school at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Talk about diving back in. Wow- did starting a new semester in sculpture feel surreal. I really felt intimidated those first few weeks considering my only exposure to 3D art involved play dough, but I soon found my voice and my first piece made in clay turned out to be something I feel proud of. We are now working in wax which will become a bronze ststue when it is all said and done. i am loving this project and received lots of kuddos from my teacher today. That is the most amazing feeling!

I'm also taking a Metal Arts/Jewelry Design class which is basically the fundamentals of black smiting...super duper cool! This class is so amazing and I have an aptitude for it which makes me extra enthusiastic. We learned how to solder, patina, make jump rings and other findings in the first few weeks and now we are creating hollow forms. In 2 weeks I'll turn in my midterm project made out of sterling silver. I did a mochette of my design which I had to present to the class last Wednesday. Some thought it was too ambitious but I heard lots of great feedback about the overall concept. We'll see how it comes together... The cabachones I ordered arrived today and they are not anything like their photos...Disappointed! So I've been skowering Etsy looking for something amazing.

Work has been really busy - really good - but really busy.. I' working with 2 talented artists helping them with their Etsy shops and the merchandizing of their artwork. Stephanie of Fabulous Vixen Designs ( and Patti- Zipartist ( Both of this women are stricken with incredible talent and I am honored to be a part of their creative journey.

What has really kept me busy, busy, busy is the photo archiving and scrapbooking part of my business. I'm working on several heritage albums for one client and I just started a new project with another. That and my Etsy shops ( & take up 3 days week of my time. I am so grateful to have aseveral different facets of my business - I get to be creative with my scrapbooking services and the Etsy shops allow me go on treasure hunts so I can provide amazing vintage items at terrific prices. All of this has put my own designs on the back burnert but that is OK because my abilities are evolving while I am learning all the new techniques at school.

Speaking of learning, I have had the opportunity to teach art to a home school student this Fall. What a wonderful treat! She comes to my house once a week and we discuss different mediums, tools and techniques and then she keeps an art journal for her homework. Next week we are going the San Jose MOMA to identify the things we are learning in various kinds of art. I hope that I will have future opportunities to do this kind of work and am adding this course to my list of services. I'm hoping to link up with one of the home school progrms in the area.

The kids are doing great! Aidan just pulled off his 4th 100% in a row (plus all 4 bonus words) on his spelling test. I'm so proud of him because spelling was never my strong suit. As a reward, he is getting a goldfish which he wants to name Gary Monda.

Eva turned 4 last month and I am not sure who had more fun celebrating, Eva, me or grandma. We went to afternoon tea with Aunt Mary who came for a 2 week visit to help while I was back in the hospital. It may have been the highlight of my year. What a joy to be able to do girlie things with 3 generations of family.

what else?

I guess that is all for now... i will be editing this entry and adding pictures tomorrow as I am writing on the train on my way home from school and have limits to what I can do from my cell phone keyboard. I just wanted to reconnect and share all the artistic joy in my world these days.