December 30, 2010

snow (or not)

We were enjoying Christmas time quite nicely, and were about to celebrate my older son's birthday, when an unlucky couple of us fell victim to some miserable virus. Ugh! Since there were things I still wanted to do, even though they would be late, I feel like the holiday got cut short. And now we're going to abruptly transition into the New Year. Oh well, life happens. But now I am back in the studio, puttering around today, taking care of some business and playing on the computer. It has been trying to snow here; yesterday it was coming down beautifully but was just too warm and wet for any snow to stick. I wanted to make another treasury on Etsy, so I was inspired to choose a snow theme. I picked a variety of items I have discovered through the winter season, from the serious to the fun! Check it out!

Have a safe and happy New Year's! I wish everyone a great 2011.

December 25, 2010

the glow of the season

I hope your holiday season is filled with blessings. Ours has been good, but busy, and I still didn't get everything done or made that I planned. And I didn't think I was that ambitious this year! But for me, Christmas isn't going to be done and over just because December 25th has passed. Our tree is fake so we can enjoy it for as long as we want, I still plan to make candied almonds (they get coated with a crusty glaze of brown sugar with cinnamon and vanilla, yum!), and I have a few more gifts to finish up (including a few more jewelry pieces).

I think my favorite thing about Christmas decorations is the lights. They bring such a cheerful sparkle to the darker days and long evenings. I especially love the glow of the Christmas tree late in the evening. When the kids have gone to sleep and everything is quiet and calm, I love to just sit by the tree with no other lights on. It feels peaceful, and something else. It's not that the tree is so important, there's just this feeling I can't quite put into words. Perhaps it's a comfort, a reverence, a deep satisfaction in the true meaning of Christmas. It finds me there, in the glow of the lights in the darkness, maybe like the glow of the special star over the stable that night in Bethlehem. I don't like to turn off the lights, I want to linger there and soak it up. I want the feeling to last more than just a moment, I want to carry it with me always. Soon enough we'll be starting a new year and all the plans and busyness that go with it, but for now, I'm enjoying the glow of Christmas.

December 17, 2010

last-minute Christmas business

my snowflake design with Tourmalinated Quartz
This evening all four of us (my husband, boys, and I) got in the truck, put in a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CD, and went light-seeing. We went to the nearby town of Keizer to drive through a neighborhood that has many houses with bright, cheerful Christmas lights. It's one of my favorite things to do this time of year, and it was a perfect night for it, clear and dry. I planned to come home and make hot chocolate and tea, but everyone was just too tired! (how did that happen?!) But before I head off to get some much-needed sleep, I wanted to cover a little last-minute Christmas business and share a few fun things.

Any purchases made over this weekend (Dec. 17-19 2010) will ship on Monday, which should allow enough time for them to arrive before Christmas (in the USA, at least the lower 48). So now's the time for any last-minute shopping! Of course I can't guarantee, since the postal service is very busy this time of year, and the weather doesn't always cooperate either. Note that no more custom items (like the heart charms) will be finished in time for Christmas delivery, any new orders for those will probably ship the first two weeks of January. But if you're thinking of ordering a custom heart charm for a Valentine's gift, don't wait too long! It will be here before we know it.

I currently have a couple snowflake necklaces in my Etsy shop, the perfect seasonal jewelry that can be worn well past Christmas. Hopefully I will soon be making some earrings with the same design, only a bit smaller size image. Watch for new items (including more horse jewelry pieces) in the coming weeks. Some are completed but awaiting photographs, others are in various stages of creation.

The photo above is one of my snowflake pendants strung with Tourmalinated Quartz. I love the rustic icy look of this stone, and it goes with everything (I've been wearing it almost every day). Sometimes this stone has so many Tourmaline needles it can look very dark. It's also a stone that is often cut and drilled very irregularly/poorly, and has a lot of reject beads in each strand. If I ever run across some strands I really like (somewhat like these), I will make some similar pieces for sale.

Lastly, a quiet evening seems the perfect time to share my Winter Solstice treasury on Etsy. It used to be that treasuries (groups of items from different shops that you like, usually organized by a theme) were limited and when you managed to snag a spot to create one, it still only lasted a few days (I made a horse theme one once). Etsy users can now create as many treasuries as they want, any time they want. I finally took advantage of that. They're so much fun, I will definitely be making more! Grab a mug of coffee (or hot chocolate or tea), and enjoy!

December 16, 2010

thankful for rain

I was born and raised in Oregon. And for most of my life I lived in blissful ignorance of the fact that Oregon does indeed get the occasional tornado. I thought they only happened in Tornado Alley, which is a safe distance away. Then one summer we had a freak storm that brought an ugly sky, torrential rain, and tornado warnings. Earlier I had given a ride home to our neighbor, and it just looked like a cloudy June day. Back at home we had the radio on, and the next thing I know I'm hearing the first tornado warning of my life, and I have a couple of freaked out kids who don't want to look out the window, but can't stop looking out the window. Later we learned that there had been a small tornado, but not near our part of the valley. And so my ignorance was cured on June 4 2009.

We live in Salem, in the middle of the Willamette Valley which runs north-south between the Cascade Range (home to many volcanoes) and the smaller Coast Range, with Portland at one end of the valley, and Eugene at the other. It is home to much agriculture, most notably grass seed, plant nurseries, berries and vegetables, Christmas trees, filberts (sadly, the only nut I don't like) and the lower hills along the valley are home to many vineyards. It also turns out to be Oregon's own little Tornado Alley. Although our tornadoes are few and small, I still find it a bit disturbing!

Late morning, December 14, I was working in my studio, and suddenly it was very dark. Like someone turned the lights out. Eventually the offending cloud dumped heavy rain and moved on. This had happened several previous days also, and I was thinking how tired I was of all the dark gray clouds and rain. I just wished it would snow, or the sun would come out, something. Anything but more gray rain! I don't think even an hour had passed before I heard about a tornado on the other side of the valley, and felt ashamed of my complaining.

As I later saw photos of the tornado damage, I felt so bad for all the people whose houses were damaged or destroyed, and just before Christmas, at that. The tornado is estimated to have been an EF2. It did quite a bit of damage in the small town of Aumsville. Ironically, I read that the plumbing store that was hard-hit was also seriously damaged in a previous tornado years ago. In a state with so few tornados, what are the odds of that? The day after thankfully wasn't terribly rainy. And today is clear so far, a break they desperately need for clean-up and rebuilding. But next time, I will try not to get so sour over gray rain. I may even be thankful, at least thankful that it isn't something worse!

November 23, 2010

pilgrim inspiration

"John Alden and Priscilla" Staffordshire plate

I can't believe how fast fall has gone. I've been enjoying the changing trees, working on projects, and discovering what kinds of things need cleaning after you've been in the same house almost eight years (the longest in my adult life). And now Thanksgiving is upon us. And winter. A few days back, it just suddenly felt like winter, then last night we even had a little snow (early for here).

Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, my mind wanders to my Mayflower ancestors. I think about who they were and what their life was like in the New World. John Alden was hired as the barrel-maker for the Mayflower's voyage to America at about age 21. After the voyage, he was given the choice to stay in America, or return to England. He stayed, and became a prominent member of Plymouth Colony (and later helped found Duxbury). Priscilla Mullins was about 18 when she came with her parents and one brother (two older siblings stayed in England). That first winter was more harsh than they were used to, and many pilgrims died of illness. Priscilla was left the only surviving member of her family in America. A few years, later John and Priscilla were married. Note that "The Courtship of Miles Standish" by Longfellow, while a good read, is more fiction than fact. But I can't help but wonder if John stayed because of the adventure, or if he already had his eye on Priscilla, or both. And I wonder if she was already taken with the young man who took care of their valuable supplies on the ship.

I think about how brave they were. How they crossed a vast ocean to a wild, untamed land that was unknown to most just a few hundred years before. How sad and lonely (and frightening) it must have been for Priscilla to lose her family that first winter. I am so proud of them. I would like to be that brave and tough.

As I celebrate Thanksgiving each year, I feel like I am connecting to my heritage, and it takes on another layer of meaning. In our modern culture, Thanksgiving seems to be about gorging on food and little else, and is otherwise lost between the commercialism of Halloween and Christmas. I just want some cozy, relaxed time to reflect, enjoy my family, and give thanks to God. And yes, as I think about how rough my Mayflower ancestors had it, my list of things to be thankful for gets a little longer!

What special meaning or memories does Thanksgiving hold for you? Or, what immigration stories from your family do you cherish?

If you'd like to learn more about the Mayflower pilgrims or the first Thanksgiving, Caleb Johnson's Mayflower History is a great resource.

October 21, 2010

the beauty of autumn

Okay, it had to happen sometime soon... The inevitable post about fall trees. I just cannot resist trying to capture the beauty of the colors! I love color, it's usually the first thing I notice about something. The amazing, ever-changing range of warm, vibrant colors is such a treat each autumn. One afternoon earlier this week, my older son and I went on a walk around our neighborhood to find a good variety of trees turning. One of my favorites is leaves that range from spring green to deep burgundy all on one tree. I also like the oranges and yellows that are like fire against the blue sky. However, there is one I'll have to save for later, there's a particular tree that just glows when it changes color but it hasn't turned yet.

I am also finishing up more Fall Leaves jewelry, shown are two pendants that will be necklaces in my Etsy shop very soon. Oh, and some of the small silver leaves and tourmaline beads I shared earlier are now earrings!

Another thing I've come to adore about fall is the annual pumpkin patch field trip. Two, actually. My younger son's was Monday, and we couldn't have asked for better weather!  My older son's is tomorrow. While it makes this week short for work time, I cherish the chance to share these experiences with my kids, and am so thankful I work for a boss who lets me. Ah, the benefits of being self-employed!

I hope that wherever you are, you are also enjoying the beauty of the season!

October 4, 2010

fall organizing

Cosmos "Purity"
(a favorite from my yard, grown from seed)
 Did you know the first week of October is Get Organized Week? For once, I am ahead of the game! It makes perfect sense to me, though. We always hear about the traditional spring cleaning, but there's something about fall that makes me want to clean out junk and get everything organized. It could be left over from my school days, as going back to school seems to inspire (or require) organizing. Or maybe it's a sort of harvest and/or preparing to settle into winter instinct. In any case, I've been doing just that the last several weeks. I even finished a few sewing projects that had been waiting around, and now there are no piles, stacks, or bags of supplies for one-time projects sitting around on my work space floor. Let me tell you, that was a hard-won victory!

Sneak peek of my latest metal clay pieces (ready to be fired):

Watch for these to turn into jewelry in the coming weeks! Includes several pair of autumn leaves earrings and a new ocean wave image (which should look really neat once the design is brought out with oxidation).

September 24, 2010

silver leaves & sparkling stones

Soon to become earrings... little silver leaves and gemstone beads. I haven't worked with some of these stones before, and I'm excited just seeing them sparkle on my work table. (And I spent way too long last night reading up on them!)

Front to back: "Petrol" Tourmaline (light to dark olive greens, ambers, and browns), Grossularite Garnet (close in color to Peridot), Andalusite (a neat smoky pink-brown color, with a few color-change beads that can appear mossy green), and Zircon. This Zircon is the natural stuff, not man-made Cubic Zirconia. I'll be taking out the burnt orange zircon beads for my fall leaves jewelry, and the blue ones (which I am totally in love with) will likely be saved for ocean-theme pieces (and will complete a special project for myself), maybe a few will show up with snowflakes this winter.

Well, I'm headed out to enjoy the beautiful sunny fall afternoon (even though that means weeding in the yard)! Have a great weekend!

September 21, 2010

fall is here

Fall, or autumn depending on which you prefer, is definitely here! I have come to love fall over the years, with its moderate temperatures and colorful trees. Nothing draws me outside to wander the neighborhood with my camera like the turning leaves. Summer left as suddenly as it came this year, and the Pacific Northwest has been mostly cloudy and dreary (and unusually muggy) ever since, which really isn't what I have in mind when I say "I love Fall". So I was thrilled that today turned out to be a bright, crisp fall day. That's more like it!

Leaf shapes, especially maples and similar leaves, are one of my favorite nature motifs (along with snowflakes, followed closely by seashells and tropical foliage). I am working on several different styles of fall leaf jewelry for this season. I actually had the designs ready to use last year, I'm excited to finally create with them this year. I took advantage of the weather today and took some photos of newly finished jewelry, one of which is shown here (it will be listed in my Etsy shop). Watch for more to come, some simple, and some more complex, and some paired with gorgeous gemstone beads in fall colors!

September 14, 2010

visit to a volcano

"Nature is the art of God".

I love that quote by Dante Alighieri. The world around us is a masterpiece, from gentle waves on a tropical beach to rugged mountains, from lush forests to colorful deserts. And while I'm not a camper (and prefer that  "icky critters" aren't involved), I love getting out and exploring nature. Nature is my inspiration to create art. My nature photos may not always be fabulous, but I just can't resist sharing them!

I remember when Mt. St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. About six years later, we were studying ecosystems in school and went on a field trip to the blast zone around Spirit Lake. This is where the trees had been blown over like toothpicks and the landscape was still very gray from ash. We walked among the fallen trees, and noticed emerging new life. While that was interesting, it was not a place I wished to return. When I was in college, I took a basic geology class and we had a field trip to Mt. St. Helens. It was then I discovered the wonders of the south side of the mountain.

This summer, I figured our boys (ages 7 and 9), might be ready for such an adventure. They like getting out and exploring nature, too. So in late August, we took a day and went. First, we hiked the trails around Lava Canyon. This is where an old lava flow was uncovered when a small (relatively speaking) mud flow came down the south side of the mountain and wiped out a swath of the forest. A creek rushes wildly over and through the lava, and the view changes with each step. I would love to paint a picture of it, but no single view really captures its essence. When I'm there, I feel surrounded by something that cannot be taken in from a single viewpoint, but rather from the whole experience of it. As you wander down the trail, the scene feels both small and giant, as you are tucked down in the canyon, yet perched on the side of a dangerously powerful mountain.

Second, we stopped by the mud flow above the canyon, where lots of pumice-like stones and other volcanic rocks are left behind and create what looks like a wide, dried-up riverbed. My boys love rocks, so this was a good stop. As I recall, the summit of Mt. St. Helens can be seen from the mud flow, but it was hidden in clouds, so maybe next time we'll have clear skies!

Before leaving the mountain, we walked the lower portion of the Ape Cave. The cave is an old lava tube from an eruption about 2000 years ago. Caves aren't my favorite thing, but I thought the boys would like it, and they did.


September 9, 2010

finishing silver pieces

large Dala Horse pendant
(custom order)

As I recently finished up some silver pieces made from silver metal clay, I thought I'd share a few photos from the process. And you'll get a sneak preview of upcoming sale items, some of which I haven't offered before, like the snowflakes and leaves.

If you're not sure what metal clay is, it is composed of .999 pure (fine) silver particles (recycled/reclaimed) blended with an organic binder. Each piece is made individually, using my hands, basic tools, and custom stamps from my original images (except I can't claim the Dala horse design that has been around much longer than me!).  I will also use molds of my own relief-style sculpted images, similar to some horse head medallion ornaments I have made in the past (only smaller), I just haven't gotten that far yet! (So many ideas, never enough hours!) During firing in a special kiln, the binder burns away and the silver particles fuse (sinter) together to leave a .999 Fine Silver piece. Fired metal clay silver is a little less dense (and therefore lighter weight) than cast silver, but is still a quality silver product especially suitable for creating unique jewelry. It allows me to work in a sculptural way (as opposed to traditional metalsmithing methods), which seems very natural to me.

After firing, many pieces are antiqued (oxidized) for contrast to bring out the design. I use different combinations of polishing techniques depending on what suits the piece, including tumbling, hand-polishing, and burnishing for a high shine. These are the steps I'm sharing with you today!

completed, dry metal clay pieces (ready for firing)
fired, now .999 silver
(wire-brushed surface, the first finishing step)
oxidized, ready for preliminary polishing and tumbling
tumbled and hand polished, ready to use!

September 1, 2010

a brand new blog

Welcome to my new blog! Here I will share my jewelry projects, related news, what inspires me, and a glimpse into my studio and life. If this interests you, be sure to check back as I will be posting again soon. I have also imported a few older posts from my previous blog that I wanted to share here. Thanks for stopping by! - Jennifer

April 30, 2010

tropical inspiration

Nature is the art of God, as Dante Alighieri said. I love that quote. I have a deep desire to create art, things that bring joy and beauty into our lives. Things that reflect the beauty that God created, so we can enjoy a little piece of that anywhere, anytime. Whether it helps us joyfully recall something we've experienced, or allows us to experience something that we otherwise could not, art makes our lives better, and connects us to something beyond dishes, laundry, and homework.

Last week, my parents took us to Maui, Hawaii. It was a wonderful gift that will be cherished for the rest of our lives. I had always wanted to go somewhere like that, but never thought I actually would. The whole week it was hard to believe we were really there! For a week we left behind the daily grind, and enjoyed something completely different.

We saw so much beauty. We have over 2000 photos from it. (LOVE digital photography!) We gazed into a volcano crater filled with blends of rich, earthy colors. We watched untamed waves crash against jagged lava rock. We visited a lush green valley with steep walls. We enjoyed tropical beach views with our own eyes for once. We saw native sealife both in an aquarium and in its natural habitat from the underwater windows of a boat. We attended a church service at a roadside park where the backdrop was the ocean, and sea turtles and whales were the distraction. Our kids, especially, marveled at the birds and other wildlife so different from ours here at home. I couldn't get enough of gorgeous tropical flowers and plants like palms, monstera, hibiscus, and my favorite, the different varieties of plumeria (oh, if my grandmother could have seen me!).

And there was also the experience of it. Seeing sugar cane, pineapples, and coffee plants. Learning a little about Hawaiian culture and history. The different feel of each town. Feet being washed by ocean waves that weren't freezing cold. The tastes (the kalua pig, yum!) and the sights and sounds of an authentic luau. And on evening walks on the beach, we were treated to seeing a sea turtle up to lay eggs. Not once, but twice! I could go on and on, but I will stop here and share just a sample of pictures.

(monstera, Iao Valley)

(eucalyptus, Garden of Eden botanical gardens)

(plumeria, as is the photo at top)

(point on northwest Maui, similar to Dragon's Teeth, but I think this is the point just southwest of it, we discovered a path from Napili Bay to here)

(Napili Bay)

(me and my boys, squinting in the sun and bitter wind, part of Haleakala crater behind us, yes it is even cold on Maui, at about 10,000 feet!)

I definitely have plans for creating jewelry inspired by things I saw. For me, so I can carry a little piece of it with me. I have always loved tropical motifs anyway. And for others, who have also had the pleasure of visiting, or who long for, such a place.

And yes, I visited a few bead stores (and a scrapbooking store) on Maui! If on Maui, I would especially recommend The Maui Bead Shop, a great little store in Kihei with a drool-worthy display case of precious and semi-precious gemstone beads. (I could have gone home with sooo much more from that one!)

January 12, 2010

january sunrise and snow

Hard to believe January is almost halfway gone already. Happy New Year to everyone! While many parts of the U.S. have been hammered with snow, we've just had one little snowfall. My boys made the most of it that day! The next morning I took this photo. As their snowmen slowly melted, they took on interesting forms and I thought it was funny they look like they are pointing at each other and arguing.

Also want to share these photos of a recent sunrise. At first when I walked by the window, and the glow caught the corner of my eye, I thought something must be on fire. I rarely see a spectacular sunrise, so I was pretty excited to get these photos!