Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Friday UFOs

So what's all this?

It's bits and pieces of things I've started during the past year and not finished. UFOs: Unfinished objects. I'm working on these and others, most of them one-of-a-kinds or new designs, and will have some of them ready for December First Friday at Warwick Glass Studio. Eep! That's just a couple of days away! (Click the link for a map to the studio.)

This is my last show of the year, and it's a group event, so expect lots of great art to enjoy if you decide to come out and visit me.

I'll have Squiggles and chains and a mix of my regular work in addition to the one-offs ~ and everything will be at the old prices from before silver skyrocketed above $25 an ounce. (I just checked and it's $28.70 right now. If you're interested, check Kitco for the live silver spot price.) Unfortunately, my prices will be going up to better reflect the market the next time I order silver, which will be soon.

Good news: You can now shop for Tin Cup Designs jewelry at Annie Kaill's in Juneau and Flypaper in Anchorage. And soon I'll be adding Gold Rush Fine Jewelry in Fairbanks to the list. More to come in the new year.

Finally, I got the nicest compliment yesterday (from my first Canadian customer, too). It made me so happy, I hope you'll forgive me a little tootling on my own horn. Here is is: 

Thank you for the most beautiful piece! The Alaskan Autumn Leaf Pendant Necklace is so nice! I knew I would love it when I saw the picture but I had no idea how beautiful it would be around my neck against a solid, textured sweater... the earrings are the perfect match. I am happy with everything! I know my mom will love the paperclip necklace and the earrings I have for her for Christmas! ~ Gail Adams

I loved that necklace, too, and am so happy it went to live with someone who will love it just as much. There will never be another one just like it, just as no two leaves are ever alike. But if you like real leaves imprinted forever into metal and would like for me to make something for you, all you have to do is get in touch. I love working with the leaves: Always a surprise, and the surprise is always good.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finding my way...

A terrible sadness entered my life this summer. On July 2, I lost my beloved husband, my sweetest friend and most enthusiastic cheerleader to kidney cancer. If you know me, you know that Glenn was my rock. While I am a bit high-strung and easily frustrated, he was steady, patient and kind. He was my problem solver and my untangler-of-knots. He kept me laughing through the worst of times. I miss him more than words can say.

I have worked very little since mid-April, when he first began having symptoms. We had to re-home all of our critters and flew to Ft. Lewis for surgery on June 3. I was blessed to be by his side almost constantly throughout his month-long hospitalization, and I held him as his spirit left this earth. Since then, I have walked a very dark path. But the sun breaks through sometimes, and I am trying to find my way back to life and joy ~ and work.

I created a raven feather necklace for the October First Friday Raven Show, held this year at the Alaska Bird Observatory. The necklace is still available for purchase there.

I will be doing two holiday bazaars this year: the Holly Days Bazaar at Ft. Wainwright October 15 and 16, and the University Women's Bazaar at the UAF Wood Center on November 7. (At present, I'm confirmed only for Sunday the 7th, but it is possible that a space will open for me on Saturday.)  These shows are my main opportunity to visit with you. Please stop by and say hello. It means a great deal to me. I am not sure how much jewelry I will have ready for the shows, but I will have knot rings and will be tying bead and pearl rings as always. I only sell these rings at shows. I'm always happy to take orders, too.

I am also working on jewelry for the Alaska House Art Gallery in Fairbanks and Fireweed Gallery in Homer. I'll try to post as soon as I've sent the items, as both galleries are very low on stock. Soon you'll also be able to find my work at many other galleries and stores around the state. I'll announce new locations as they become available.

Thank you to all who have sent love and kind wishes. If you would like to know more about Glenn, you can find his obituary here, and there are more photos here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

From leaf to metal...

Many of you have asked me how this:

turns into this:

Last summer, a friend commissioned me to make a candle lantern as a wedding gift. I had never worked on anything that large, and so I decided to document the process in pictures. Basically, it's the same process I use for making the Forest Floor jewelry.

I pick the leaves as I walk on our property during the summer and fall. They're pressed and dried between sheets of blotting paper and stored in large frames built for me by a friend. When I want to print the leaves onto metal, first I arrange them on a sheet of copper or sterling silver:

Once I have them arranged to my liking, I run the metal and leaves through a rolling mill.

The intense pressure of the rollers captures even the most delicate veins in great detail. The leaves are destroyed in the process, so every piece is completely one of a kind.

After washing the leaves and sap off the metal, I decide on the general shape for the piece. This usually involves using my jeweler's saw to create detail along the edges, and in the case of the lantern, piercing holes for the light to shine through.

Next, I file the rough edges.

Here are the six panels for the candle lantern laid out in order:

and after the liver of sulfur patina had been applied:

For the lantern, I "stitched" the panels together with sterling silver wire. This technique resulted in a flexible but sturdy construction and a rustic look.

And finally, lights out:

Such a fun project; I learned a lot while making it. And I hope you've enjoyed seeing how leaves give their shape (and spirit) to metal.

Monday, March 29, 2010

1st Friday at Alaska Heritage House

Spring ~ or break-up, anyway ~ is coming fast to Fairbanks. My studio is fragrant with the scent of green leaves and grasses, as I've been working on new embossed cuffs, pendants and earrings. The oils from the leaves, crushed as they pass through the rolling mill, evoke memories of warm sunshine, wildflowers and leafy branches against a blue sky.

I hope you'll join me this week for 1st Friday at the Alaska Heritage House in Fairbanks. Not only will I have new jewelry to show for the first time, but this is a great opportunity to explore one of Fairbanks' most historic houses. Stop by anytime between 5 and 8 p.m. Friday, April 2. If you need directions, click here for a map.

These are two of the new pieces I'll have at the show. The first, the Uchiwa Pendant, is part of the Forest Floor series. Uchiwa is a non-folding Japanese fan, very similar in shape to this pendant. The copper shows the ribs of baneberry leaves and is accented by sterling silver and malachite.

The second photo shows a chased copper lily brooch accented with sterling silver balls. Click on the photo to enlarge it so you can see the detail. The brooch was first cut freehand from a thin copper sheet and then worked on a sandbag into three-dimensional shape with dapping tools and hammers. It features a tie-tac type pin back rather than a traditional brooch finding; this way it can be worn on the lapel of a winter coat as well as on a sweater or blouse.

These pieces are not in the Artfire shop. After the 1st Friday show, these or similar ones will be, so if you're not in Fairbanks, don't worry. (And feel free to get in touch to let me know you're interested now so I can plan to make them for you.)

Also for 1st Friday, please do stop by The Alaska House art gallery at 1003 Cushman Street. They've got a huge selection of my work in a beautiful display up front. With more than 60 pieces, there's a lot to see.

Next time I take a break from the bench, later today or tomorrow, I'll post the photos illustrating how real leaves are embossed into metal for the Forest Floor jewelry.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Show more than tell...

A small confession: I've been trying to write this blog entry for days. I finally realized I'm over-thinking what I need to say. In fact, perhaps it would be better to show you than tell you. So here are a few pictures of jewelry available in my Artfire studio now.

This copper pendant reproduces in minute detail every vein and crack in a leaf I picked up after it had already been on the ground for awhile this past fall. I love the autumn color of the copper, and the rolled edge of the pendant evokes the way leaves curl up and dry out after they've fallen from the trees. With the handwrought sterling silver chain, the necklace is approximately 20 inches long.

These Starburst Earrings are slightly domed sterling silver and copper disks with hammered decorative lines. This is the larger size, with the upper disk approximately 3/4" in diameter. I also make them smaller, with the top disk approximately 1/2" in diameter. And just for fun, there's a swingy version with the copper disk on top in both sizes. You'll find the pair in the picture in the shop now; please get in touch if you're interested in any of the other versions or in a pendant.

This Forest Floor cuff, in oxidized sterling silver, includes raspberry, high bush cranberry, willow, chokecherrry, Siberian pea and other leaves, all gathered on our 10 acres this past summer. The leaves overlap each other, and the edges are sawn a little ragged to mimic the nibbling of insects and squirrels. A bit of decorative hammering adds texture and interest. Of course, it's one of a kind, as the leaves are destroyed during the process of imprinting the metal.

When you look out the window as you're flying into Fairbanks, you notice scribbles and curlicues carved into the land by the Tanana River. That's the inspiration for this simple Alaska Riverbend pendant made of hammered copper on a satin or suede cord with sterling silver lobster claw clasp.

Next up on the blog, more show and tell: A photo essay on how real leaves are transformed into jewelry for the Forest Floor series.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Artfire Shop is Open!

Head on over here and take a look... It's just a start, and I'll be adding bunches of new items over the next several days. But I promised an opening by the end of January, and shhhh... It's February 10th.

To celebrate, I'm offering blog readers a 10% discount on any purchase made before February 20; just be sure to mention this blog. And for Valentine's Day ~ or for anytime you want to tell someone you love her ~ I'm also offering free shipping on this one-of-a-kind frosted sterling silver cuff. (I'll deliver to the Fairbanks/North Pole area.)

If your gal is the playful sort, she'll love the sprinkling of hearts, and the satiny finish adds softness and a certain glow.

From Tin Cup Designs Handwrought Jewelry

I chose to use Artfire for the shop because it offers lots of flexibility to customers for payment. You don't have to have an Artfire account to make a purchase, and eventually I'll offer items for sale directly on this blog.

If you're an Etsy user (or an Artfire user), I'd love to hear what you think about either. And of course if you choose to buy from my shop, I want to hear about your experience: Was it easy to use? Confusing? What would have made the experience better for you?

Tomorrow, I'll be putting up a bunch of Squiggle earrings for those of you who need your Squiggle fix. ;) Right now, there are a couple of one-of-a-kind pieces. I'm particularly fond of these hammered sterling and copper Shield Dangle earrings with lemon chrysoprase beads. They move!

And I hope they'll move right on out of the shop.

So, Happy Valentine's Day! We're more than halfway through the doldrums of the JanFebs now. The Sun is coming back, and it's busy busy. Lots of good stuff coming up. Thanks for sticking with me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy New Year! ~ and oops...

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. ~ Bill Vaughn

Here's hoping 2010 is already shining brightly for you. We've all entered a fresh new decade brimming with possibilities and opportunities, and I, for one, am really excited about that.

Edit: All fixed now. Yay! There is a bit of an oops, just a little stumble, to get through right now... My business email account was deleted by my web hosting service. They're in the process of restoring it, but just in case, please send emails to with a copy to That way, I'll get it no matter what. And if you've had a message bounce recently, please re-send.

It's funny how calm I am about all of this. I think it's because it is a new year, and I'm just not going to start out on a footing of anger or frustration. I made a promise to myself to open my heart and mind to new ideas, new people, new inspiration and new opportunities, and I mean to keep that promise, because I know all those things are out there, ready for me to find them.

Winter Solstice Dawn, 2009 ~ From Tin Cup Designs Handwrought Jewelry

2009 did end on a note of sadness, as The Artworks in Fairbanks closed its doors after 35 years in business. Judy bought several pairs of earrings for the gallery before I'd even decided Tin Cup Designs would be a real business, and the entire crew has always been there for me, enthusiastic about my work and concerned about me as a person and as an artist. But, as they kept telling me, all things have a natural beginning and ending, and it was time.

There's lots of good news in the works for Tin Cup Designs, but I can only tell you a couple of tidbits for now.

First, the Alaska House Art Gallery in downtown Fairbanks will begin representing me in March when they reopen after the winter hiatus. I'm really looking forward to this new relationship: Yolande has some great plans for rearranging the space, placing more emphasis on Alaskan jewelry, beefing up the gallery's web presence and lots of other stuff, and I'm so happy to be a part of that.

And the other really great news is that I'll be showing my work for First Friday in April at the Alaska Heritage House bed and breakfast on Cowles Street in Fairbanks. My husband and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary and 15th anniversary of arriving in Alaska with a weekend stay there in December. I can't get over the tangible sense of history and the lovely period furnishings and restoration work ~ not to mention the light-hearted hospitality shown us by the owners and innkeeper. April 2 is just a month or so away from Mother's Day, so please keep the date in mind.

Georgia Lee Boudoir at Alaska Heritage House
From Tin Cup Designs Handwrought Jewelry

Kristin outside the Alaska Heritage House, wishing for just one more night...
From Tin Cup Designs Handwrought Jewelry

Finally, the long-anticipated, taking-forever-and-a-day Tin Cup Designs shop will be open on line by the end of the month. No ifs, ands or buts this time. Of course, there'll be a huge announcement and celebration here on the blog, and everyone who signed up for my new email list will receive a special notice. If you didn't make it to one of the holiday shows to put your name on the list, just email me now (at both addresses) and I'll take care of it.

I hadn't planned to write this entry this morning, but the lost email account forced me to do it, and now I'm glad it did. Sometimes when you've been silent for a bit too long, it's hard to find your voice again. This is just a bit of a croak, but it's a beginning, and I'm all for that!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Come to the show!

Just a quick note: Hope you'll come see me at the UAF Women's Bazaar this weekend and/or at the Holiday Marketplace next weekend. (See sidebar for details.) I'll be downstairs in Wood Center today; upstairs tomorrow. [Edit: I will not have a table on Sunday after all.] While you're saying hello, please sign up for my new email list and get a chance to win one of three $50 gift certificates. The winners will be drawn at random and will be notified by email on November 16.

I won't be sending tons of emails. I mostly want a way to send important announcements (for example, when I get my etsy and ArtFire shops up and running — which really, really is going to happen soon. Really.).

Whatever you do, have fun today! I'm headed out to do one of my favorite things: Meet y'all.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Seasons change...

From this...

and this...

to petunias in the snow, overnight...

For a short time it seemed we'd zipped right through Autumn into Winter, with early frosts in August and then snow that seemed to want to stick in mid-September. Thankfully, it has warmed up a bit, so now we have time to batten down for the cold that's coming.

The turning of the seasons always brings a little sadness, and this year the passing of Summer was especially poignant as it saw the closing of New Horizons Gallery in downtown Fairbanks. A 30-year community fixture, New Horizons nurtured many a young and developing artist, including myself, always with kindness and great appreciation for the work. I miss my frequent visits to the gallery terribly.

Although New Horizons is gone, don't forget that you can still find my jewelry in Fairbanks at The Artworks on College Road and at The Magic Carpet in Chena Pump Plaza. I'll also be sending out a fresh batch of stuff to Fireweed Gallery in Homer within the next two weeks, and if you're in Anchorage, stop by Portfolio and ask to see my things.

New seasons also bring new opportunities, and this year I decided it's finally time to venture into one of Fairbanks' biggest holiday arts venues, the Holiday Marketplace at the Carlson Center. This is a huge 3-day show (November 13-15), and I'm really excited about it. I'll also be at the University Women's Bazaar on Saturday, November 7. At the moment, these are the only two holiday shows I plan to do, so if there's a gift you'd like for someone special and you can't make it to those or to the stores and galleries, please be sure to get in touch.

After a few more outdoor chores, I'll be "chained to my bench," working away — and quite happily, too. When it's too cold to play outside for very long, it's the perfect temperature to stay indoors and play with fire and metals.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Under the Midnight Sun

Have you seen your first moose yet?

(Of course, I'm asking our visitors. If you live in Alaska, you've probably seen more moose than you can count. But if you're like me, you still get excited every single time.)

Here's a little bull that hangs around along Chena Hot Springs Road near my home:

He's become quite the star: Cars are always stopped and cameras snapping away while he munches water plants and snorts. He can't be that irritated, though, because I always see him in pretty much the same spot. (Please, visitors, never walk up to a moose. Even a little one. They'll stomp you flat.)

If you're here for your first visit, are you thrilled by the nearly nonstop daylight — or is it driving you crazy? It's a little of both for me: I love forgetting what time it is and discovering that I'm out tending my flowers at 11 p.m. But I'm also hyperaware of how fleeting our summers are, and I want to wring every last bit of good out of these precious long days.

Thus, I must admit my blogging has been on the back burner as I spend as much time as possible outside (and some at my bench).

As proof that I do spend a bit of time working, I offer this photo of a batch of silver squiggles being carded, headed with a bunch of other stuff to the Magic Carpet at Denali, Portfolio in Anchorage and Fireweed Gallery in Homer. (Please stop in if you're in the vicinity and say I sent you.)

Want to see a few more of the things that feed my soul?

Here I am on the banks of the Chena River. (Betcha didn't know I'm a giant.)

All my life I've picked up interesting stones and toted them home, so you can imagine what a joy spots like this are. Luckily, my husband has a less acquisitive perspective on rocks, so I haven't cleared the banks or covered our property. Yet.

Here's a lovely spot in a stand of birches at Creamer's Field in Fairbanks.

I love walking the trails there, mostly for the trees. Well, the trees and the birds. Most folks go for the migratory birds — it is a refuge, after all, and loads of sandhill cranes, Canada geese, trumpeter swans and ducks of every persuasion stop there to rest and eat on the way to their nesting grounds. If you're there at the right time, you can see workers from the Alaska Bird Observatory catching songbirds in mist nets and banding them, too. And if you're interested in learning about the flora and fauna, catch one of the guided nature walks.

I've been spending a lot of time planting flowers — my ususal petunias, mimulus, nasturtiums, snapdragons, gloriosa daisies, geraniums. Anything with lots of color. My soul craves the bright colors after the pastels of the winter.

Those flowers aren't ready for primetime photography yet, but here's a beloved chokecherry in bloom:

Look at those leaves! Isn't that a yummy green? Especially compared to the still-brown grass. This tree was a gift from an old friend no longer with us. Last year it bloomed for the first time; I hope we have more cherries for the birds than the three little ones that emerged last year.

Today I wandered around picking leaves from the willows, roses, cranberries, dogwoods and lots of other plants to press for my Forest Floor jewelry. That's work, isn't it? (Like most of my work, it's certainly fun.)

It has been more than a month since my last blog entry (gasp), and I have so much more to share... updates on the Stone Soup Challenge, new adventures with embossing and resin, profiles of the shops and galleries that represent me. If I don't come back and write again soon, I'll never catch up. So I guess my next entry will be written outside on my laptop.

Until then, here's one last bit of inspiration. Looks to me like a caribou marked this birch with his hoofprint. What do you see?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stone Soup Challenge update

As promised, I want to share with you the lovely items I've bought from other artists as part of the Stone Soup Challenge.

First of all, I found this sweet little mouse ACEO by Melody Lea Lamb:

The mouse was the perfect gift for a dear friend from college. It's a long story that involves me rescuing a couple of mice from becoming a snake snack at a pet store while little kids looked on and then giving them — truthfully, dumping them on — my best friend, sneakily, while she was out of her room. Ummm... They multiplied. And I keep sending her reminders all these years later. I still wish I could have seen her face when she walked in and saw the cage sitting on her bed, but I'm really glad I wasn't there.

My friend was delighted by the ACEO and reports that Melody Lea made her feel special by enclosing several extras with it. I know that she has been a dream to communicate with, and I'm enchanted by the way she captures the essence of the little animals and birds she paints. Please take a few minutes to visit her store. Bet you'll find something you like.

Next, I fell in love with these lampwork beads by Art by Lisi

This is her "Tropico" colorway, and the breezy island colors beckoned to me while we still had tons of snow on the ground and freezing temps. I have a special plan for these beads and will show you later.

Lisi's beads are like candy: I want more and more. I'm sure I'll be a regular customer. She makes most of them to order, but it's well worth the short wait, and you know you're getting special attention, so please browse her shop. I know you'll find your own "gotta have" colors there.

On the "buy local" front, I first met Abby and Bo Coffell of Entwined Designs at a holiday show last year. Bo makes lampwork beads, and Abby turns them into gorgeous jewelry — and has begun experimenting with metalsmithing, as well. Abby is becoming a good friend, and I'm looking forward to purchasing beads from them.

And finally, I did a bit of bartering at Saturday's show. I've admired Vladimir Zhikartsev's work for years. I first became aware of him through the World Ice Art Championships held in Fairbanks every March: He's one of the top carvers with many awards under his belt, including the 2009 team 1st Place and People's Choice award in the abstract multiblock category for this piece

Besides being a world-class sculptor, Vladimir is also an accomplished painter, and I've been lusting after his work for quite some time. So when he offered to barter, I jumped at the chance to trade jewelry for prints. I chose two gorgeous framed pieces — this Birch Tree and another piece called Shallow Water. And in return, I'm flattered to say my jewelry will be headed to Russia as gifts for his family and friends.

Next I'm planning to purchase more beads from Deborah Gregory of Sweetwater Designs. She's offering a "buy one, get one" sale in her Etsy shop until May 1, so hurry over and snap up some of her gorgeousness before it's all gone.

Whew. Now I'm headed into Fairbanks to deliver some jewelry to New Horizons and the Artworks. [Edit: Didn't make it to Artworks; hope to get there Friday.] I plan to mail a package to Portfolio in Anchorage on Thursday, and I will have photos of new work up soon. It's easier now that we have all this glorious daylight!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Red Alert: EAFB bazaar is closed to general public!

After inviting the world to visit my booth at the Spring Break-Up Bazaar on Eielson Air Force Base tomorrow, I've just now been informed that the military powers that be have changed their minds and closed the bazaar to the general public. Only DoD personnel and families will be allowed inside the gate.

So, if you're not DoD, please don't make the drive. 

And I apologize most profusely for the confusion. Unfortunately, the bazaar organizers have done a poor job of informing vendors about changes, and I would not have known this had I not contacted them about something entirely different. Needless to say, finding out on the day before the bazaar when I've been advertising it since February is a huge problem.

If you were planning to go, especially to visit my booth, I hope you will visit one of the galleries and shops that have my jewelry — or get in touch with me. If you're in the area, I'll be happy to arrange a private showing; if not, I'm also happy to send photos of my jewelry.

I'm very disappointed about this, but there will be other opportunities. The Girdwood Forest Fair is the weekend of July 4th, and I'm looking for other events between now and then.

Hope to see and/or hear from lots of you soon.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The missing link

You know, I know that I'm an exceedingly lucky person. I love what I do, and I love where I do it. Even after living in Alaska for 14 1/2 years, I am still facinated by its utter difference from Georgia, where I grew up, and I know there are few other places in the world where I might encounter lynx or bears or moose on my own property. The Aurora Borealis still stops me in my tracks — freezing or not — and the Midnight Sun still gives me a huge energy boost.

Of all the "jobs" I've had — from newspaper reporting to state government work to selling office furniture to providing respite care for elders — making jewelry is what I choose to do for the rest of my life. I can't imagine ever growing tired of it or disliking it or wanting to give it up.

Still, I sometimes feel there's something missing.

And this year, I've finally realized what that missing link is. It's you!

I spend almost all my time alone, which does suit me. I like quiet — or I like cranking up the Talking Heads or B52s on the stereo. (Egads, I just dated myself. Most of you will have no clue who those bands are.)

You've heard the phrase "spark of creativity." Well, it's hard to create a spark in a vacuum.

At the new year, I decided I wanted to break out of my shell a little bit and work on developing new relationships. And like magic, as soon as I made the decision, opportunities began coming my way. (The blog has helped a lot.)

I'm thrilled to have made new connections with people who've bought my jewelry, with people who've admired my jewelry, with other artists and artisans. I've got a great email correspondence going with a couple of you, I've spoken with several of you on the telephone, and I've met more than a handful of you for coffee and conversation. One of you generously offered to help me make a banner for the blog (which is progressing beautifully), and someone else is considering photographing my jewelry on live models.

And to a person, you have inspired me. You've given me new ideas and suggestions, you've asked me for a special piece for a special occasion, you've shared your reactions to my work and even pushed me to try something different. Every time I meet one of you — whether in person or by email or on the phone — I come away with renewed energy, eager to get to the bench and make something new.

Thank you!

This Saturday (the 25th) I hope I'll meet lots more of you at the Spring Break-Up Bazaar on Eielson Air Force Base. If you're in Fairbanks, it might seem like a long way to drive, but hey: It's gorgeous out there, and all of us artists are finally stirring from the winter doldrums, brimming with enthusiasm and creative spark. Please stop by my booth and say hello!

If you're nowhere near Eielson, how about Homer or Denali or Anchorage? I recently sent a small shipment to Fireweed Gallery; I'm working on the first order of the season for the Magic Carpet at Denali (opening in mid-May); and I'll be sending a package off to Portfolio in Anchorage next week (after a bit of a hiatus, so this is particularly exciting).

If you're nowhere near Alaska, I've got some ideas percolating in my head that should come to fruition after the bazaar, and I'll be taking photos and writing about them here. You can always get in touch if you see something you like. Please do! Because I've just realized how much I need you all.

Here's a hint of one of the new things: A couple of weeks ago I picked up a book on metal embossing techniques, and I was so enchanted with it that I started looking on-line for some embossing tools. I almost decided not to fiddle with it because the new tools seemed expensive, but how's this for serendipity: I found a set of antique Japanese (I think) embossing tools in a lovely case on eBay and got them for a song. Here they are:

After this week, I hope I'll have time to play with them. My ideas about how to incorporate embossing into my jewelry are a bit hazy at the moment, but the seeds are there, and I can't wait to see what blossoms.

Happy Spring!

(P.S. Wow... It's been a month since I posted, and I have a lot more to share. So next time, look for an update on my purchases for the Stone Soup Challenge, plus a couple of new designs.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Earth Hour, Made in Alaska, and playing tag

Did you participate in Earth Hour last night? We did: I turned off all the lights, unplugged the computers and TV, and listened to the silence and my husband playing his acoustic guitar. It's always pretty quiet here, and there's not a lot of artificial light outside the house, either, but it was so nice just to sit and enjoy the time together. Wonder why we do so little of that?

Before we get to the game, I must report that I finally applied for (and was accepted into) the Made in Alaska program. I'm not sure why it took me a decade to do this, as the process is completely painless and the cost is minimal. But this means I can now display the Made in Alaska logo on my jewelry cards and other materials. For folks who already live in Alaska, this may not matter. But for our many visitors from elsewhere, it's a reliable assurance from the Alaska Department of Economic Development that they're not buying "Alaskan" tchotches actually made in China.

Plus, the logo is kinda cute: a polar bear mom and cub..

Now for the game: I've been tagged by wonderful painter and photographer Joanne Giesbrecht, so now you get to learn stuff about me you probably don't really want to know. Or maybe you do? In any case, here goes:

What are you wearing now?
Jeans, a Georgia Bulldogs long-sleeve T (tho I'm not a fan, husband is), organic cotton socks and sheepskin slippers.

How often do you blog?
I try once a week. But fail.

Who was the last person you hugged?
My husband. I think it was by lamplight during Earth Hour last night.

Which item from your closet are you wearing most lately?
Still wearing my heavy Scottish wool cardigan most nights.

What's for dinner?
I don't want to think about that.

What's the last thing you bought?
Three larimar cabochons — and probably paid too much, but oh! so pretty.

What are you listening to right now?
Blessed silence. And my finches beeping and chattering.

What is your favorite weather and why?
A crisp autumn day. I still get that "new beginnings" feeling from all those years starting school in the fall. And the leaves smell so good.

What time do you usually get up?
Between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. (Yes, weird. I go to bed at about 4 a.m.)

What is your most challenging goal right now?
Finding all the papers to do my taxes — and actually doing them. And then cleaning up my studio.

Say something about the person who tagged you.
Joanne pays exquisite attention to detail, not only in her wonderful paintings, but also in her photographs. She loves and is inspired by the natural world as much as I do/am.

If you could have a house — totally paid for, fully furnished — anywhere in the world, where would you want it to be?
Sewanee, Tennessee, my heart's home.

Favorite vacation spot?
Any vacation anywhere would be nice. Haven't had a true vacation in many years.

What movies can you watch over and over again?
O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Amelie, Ronin, Dead Man, Baghdad Cafe, Howl's Moving Castle

What is your favorite tea?
Earl Grey or a good green chai

Who are you tagging?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Birches and serendipity

When I'm working at my bench, a giant birch tree is my constant companion. All I have to do is look out the window, and there it stands, a gorgeous guardian spirit.

Most of our property is covered in black spruce, so the bright white bark of this birchtree stands out. When I'm daydreaming or trying to figure something out, my eyes rest there.

Here's my companion birch in early summertime.

Decked with a rainbow in the golden light of a late summer rainstorm.

And here is a close-up of her bark.

No wonder, then, that one of my favorite jewelry patterns is called "Birches." Inspired by my faithful birch tree, it's also a lot of fun to make, as I enjoy hammering the bark pattern.

Here I've added a tiny, pale citrine to the pendant. It reminds me of birch syrup, which I keep promising myself I will learn to make. These earrings and pendant are polished to a high shine; unfortunately, the shiny part shows up as grey in my photos. But I can promise that you will stand out as brightly as my birchtree when you're wearing them.

Serendipity is one of my favorite words, and it's a concept I embrace wholeheartedly: That so often when we're looking for something, we accidentally find something else that's even better. So I should not have been surprised to find an email waiting for me after my last blog post asking if anyone would be interested in bartering a bit of web design for jewelry.

But here's the fun part: The person who emailed me is substitute teaching in Fairbanks. She had picked up a copy of an Ikea catalog at the school (on her first day working there), and my business card fell out. She liked the design, was surprised that I'm in the Fairbanks area, and so she looked me up on the Internet. Ta daaa: There I was, asking for help with something she loves to do.

So we've talked, and it sounds like we've got a deal. Don't you just love it when the Universe gives you exactly what you need? And makes you laugh and shake your head at the same time?


Monday, March 16, 2009

How do you know you're buying my jewelry?

Does that seem like a silly question?

Well, it just occurred to me that I haven't shown you my logo, so you wouldn't know what to look for when you visit one of the galleries or shops that support me. Of course, you could just ask, and they'll take you right to my things. But in case you're shy, here's a photo of my Ruffles chain and the matching earrings — on the Tin Cup Designs card.

I hope soon I'll either figure out how to incorporate the logo into the blog layout or that I can barter with a graphic artist to set up a layout for me. I'm also hoping to sell a bit on-line, and my "store" will need to show my "brand," too. (Hint: If you're a graphic artist and you like my jewelry, get in touch and let's see if we can work out a barter arrangement.)

At the moment, I have an experimental "booth" set up at Bonanzle. I've only posted four items: two chains and two pairs of earrings. I'd like to hear your reaction to the site: Is it easy to use? Is it appealing? Would you actually buy something from there? 

One feature I do like is that customers can chat with me while browsing if I'm on the site or leave comments I'll see immediately if I'm not. The idea of having a conversation with you is appealing.

I'm also planning on setting up shop on Etsy and Artfire. I'll let you know when I do, as I'll want feedback then, too. I feel a little like Goldilocks: I need to try them on to see which site is "just right" for me and for you.

I do want to emphasize that I have no intention of allowing my on-line sales to overshadow my galleries and shops. They will continue to be my primary outlet, and in these tough times, I want to do everything I can to promote and support them. Please help keep the arts community alive and vibrant by visiting the galleries where you live.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Longing for summer in Alaska...

It's March. We've still got two or three feet of snow on the ground, depending where you step. It is warmer: Yesterday it was about 27 degrees F. We're gaining nearly seven minutes of daylight every day, and our days are already nearly 12 hours long.

But I'm impatient. Yes, I could be out there on my snowshoes, enjoying the clean sharp air and looking for animal tracks and birds. I do love the way snow makes various things — say, a stack of summer tires or a clump of small spruce trees — look like cupcakes with icing or sugared donuts.

But dang it, I'm ready for some color! I want leaves and flowers and butterflies!

When I'm feeling like this, the best thing I can do is pull out the dried leaves my friend and I collected over the past couple of years and make a Forest Floor cuff. Like this one:

When I'm working on one of the Forest Floor pieces, I'm not just shaping metal. I'm enjoying summertime in Alaska.

Did you know that scent is considered the strongest trigger for memory? The scent of the leaves, stored in layers of blotting paper, is fresh and earthy — and when crushed in the rolling mill, the leaves' sap and oils perfume the studio. Instantly, I'm back in the woods, kneeling on thick moss, watching the sun shine through the canopy of birch leaves, picking berries.

Here are just a few of the plants I use in my jewelry. All of them live on our 10 acres in Two Rivers.

This is Alaskan Dogwood. (Being from the South, where dogwood is a tree, I laughed when I first saw this tiny earth-hugging bush. But it makes a gorgeous carpet of green in summer and crimson in fall.)

This is High-Bush Cranberry, good for jelly.

And poisonous Red Baneberry.

Here is Fireweed, the barometer of our summertime. As the blooms progress up the stalk and finally burst into puffy white seed fluff, we know summer is going and it's time to batten down for winter again.

And here are our lovely Alaskan Wild Roses. They seem to bloom all at once, and only for a few days. They're everywhere; the air is sweet with them. And after the roses come the brilliant red and orange rosehips.

You'll find these and many others in the Forest Floor pieces.

Just as in nature, no two cuffs or pendants or pairs of earrings will ever be the same because the leaves are crushed and destroyed in the embossing process.

After the metal is embossed, I saw the edges a bit and file them. I like to make the pattern irregular, like the bug-bitten edges of some plants and trees.

The leaves always shift a bit while going through the mill, so I'm never sure what I'll see until it's done. There's always a "flaw," where the metal slipped too much and the pattern didn't take or where the leaves cracked or moved too far apart. This actually delights me.

These are opportunities to play, serendipity instead of mistake. In the cuff you see here, a slight diagonal space along the bottom edge didn't take the leaf pattern at all. Wonderful! It gave me an opportunitiy to hand engrave cross-hatching there. The straight lines contrast nicely with the irregularities of the natural forms, don't you think?

Now you know that each Forest Floor piece carries with it the reality of nature in Alaska, the memory of specific summer days and specific places, and a little bit of serendipity. What a wonderful mix!