June 23, 2011

room to think (studio makeover)

plumeria frangipani tropical flower silver necklace
plumeria necklace
I love garage sales (AKA yard sales). I love scoring a great deal on something I need or can use that otherwise I couldn't afford to buy.  A few weekends ago I saw a dining room table that just shouted "work table!" to me. As in, "I would feel like such a professional working at this table!" It's dark wood, one piece (no annoying opening for leaves), and has a bit of successful-CEO-desk vibe to it (at least compared to my other studio tables). It was unbelievably inexpensive, and inspired a whole rearrange of my studio. I have no "before" photos to share, but suffice it to say the room felt a bit crowded before, and now there is a big open space in the center. Which I've already found is great for spreading things out when needed. When my older son walked in and saw the result, he asked what was going to go in the middle of the room! (nothing!!)

Jennifer Kistler handmade jewelry studio makeover photo 1

above: New-to-me table in front of a large window, with stuff for assorted projects on it, this is where I make finished jewelry, write those never-ending to-do lists, and more.

below: My old work table, moved from the window to the opposite side of the room. This is where I create my jewelry pieces from metal clay. Behind it is a half-wall created from painted plywood which separates this room from the adjoining room where my piano and containers of my kids' toys live.

Jennifer Kistler handmade jewelry studio makeover photo 2

Wondering where I fit a studio space in my house? You don't need a huge home, or a separate studio, to give yourself some space to work. Using a guest room is a popular solution, but I did something different. We own a modest 1970s single-story house. Like many 1970s homes, it has a "family room" and a "living room". Not being a Martha Stewart type, I never understood the difference, or why I would need both. So one is our living room with couches, TV, fireplace, etc. and the other is my studio (and also our computer/home office area). The room behind the second work station is supposed to be an adjoining dining room, but it has been used as the play room when the boys were younger, and now it's basically toy storage and my piano lives there too. By the kitchen is an open space I think was called a "breakfast area", but it's much more pleasant than the intended dining room (on one side are French doors to our backyard), so that became our dining room. Of course the dining room switch wasn't necessary for the studio space, but it does explain the room with all the toys! And helps with our home's lack of storage.

Now I'm actually glad to be in my studio area. I love high ceilings, of which our house has none, but apparently horizontal open space can give almost the same effect. There's something, for me, about space in a room. Crowded and cluttered rooms disturb me. Space makes me feel like I can breathe, and think. Like there is room for ideas and possibilities.

June 13, 2011

Glorious Dragonflies

I'm not much of an insect person, in fact bugs are a major thing I dislike about summer. I dread the rest of the weeding I need to do, now that the bugs are really out. However, I love dragonflies. Love their beautiful colors, shimmery wings, and the fact that they eat mosquitoes. I see quite a few in our backyard during the summer, zipping through the air, and resting by our tiny pond. Lat week, as my family and I were walking down our block, we saw the most amazing huge black and light blue dragonfly resting on the sidewalk, of all places. We almost stepped on it! After staring for a bit, we convinced it to move to a safer place (it flew off). I realized I have accumulated quite a few dragonfly favorites on Etsy, and decided my next treasury would feature them. Go check out these pieces by some great artists! And yes, someday there may be a dragonfly design in my jewelry.

dragonfly art photos jewelry accessories by artists on Etsy

June 8, 2011

DIY at-home creative workshop classes

The other day I was looking through a magazine and noticed all the ads for creative workshops and retreats. I found myself wishing I could attend something like that. After all, mixed media work, art journals, and fiber-embellished jewelry sound fun and creative!

But I'm learning to look for ways to solve problems. So, I asked myself, what about it did I want most? Would it be doing creative things with other people, away from home? Learning new techniques? Having time set aside for creative exploration with no other obligations? Were the class offerings things I really wanted to do?

For me, I realized my top priority would be to have time set aside for creative endeavors. (This may sound strange coming from someone who does creative work as a business, but there are so many creative things I like to do!) I also like to learn new things, but right now I want to learn things related to what I am already doing, such as explore more techniques and designs with metal clay. And while I enjoy working around other people, I am used to working alone and it doesn't bother me (plus I'm kind of a homebody, and like having all my supplies at hand).

I decided to design my own creative workshop classes. I use the term "class" loosely. Just a block of time with a plan of what to work on! I made a list of creative things I want to do. Most are things I already know how to do. These are the things I always think I will do "if I have time". We all know how that works! I also listed some new things I want to learn/try. Some ideas are one-time projects, others will be repeated. I will be scheduling some time to do these specific things. That way I can look forward to them, and know they are going to happen. Not be at the mercy of "if I have time"!

This is a simple idea, and not new either, just setting aside time for creative pursuits. But sometimes it takes looking at things from a different angle to make sense to me. I will feel a lot less guilt about it now. I don't need to spend much in gas or materials, I can fit it around my family's schedule, and I don't have to leave the comforts of home.

You might want to try it, too! Make a list of creative things you want to work on, and schedule some time for them. Pick a day/time and put it on your calendar. If you want to learn something new, research it. Find out what materials and tools you will need, and if you can learn about it online. Determine if you should get an instructional DVD or book, or take a local class. (It is totally worth doing that for certain things!) If you have the ability to schedule a whole weekend with no interruptions, you could design your own retreat at home, and maybe invite a few crafting friends to share it with you!

June 3, 2011

summer plans

recycled fine silver woodgrain heart necklace by Jennifer Kistler
It is hard to believe another whole school year is done. I think I would be oblivious to the passage of time if it weren't for quickly-growing kids to remind me! The last few weeks of school were busy with activities, including a good field trip to the Oregon Zoo in Portland, track meet (it was sunny this year, thank you, God!), spring program (snagged a great seat and could actually see and and hear everything for once, and it was very entertaining), and finished up with an end-of-year pool party (which did get rained on, but the kids had fun anyway). And so my blog has been a little neglected.

My boys are now out of school for summer, and we're settling into the routine. Well, I still need to get into a routine that includes more work. This first week of summer break has involved some serious cleaning through a few things (such as the embarrassing volume of toys that had gotten quite messy and disorganized), so the rest of the summer will be more enjoyable.

Another area I am cleaning this week is my corner of the garage, where my metal clay kiln will be set up soon. Along with finishing some other big projects, I hope to get busy this summer making lots of new jewelry pieces! I'm also experimenting with some new photo setups for my jewelry, mainly using a stained piece of wood that is not dark like the leather I was using, plus some natural props like the rock from the beach shown in the photo above.

Otherwise, our plans for summer include the boys having friends over often, going to the splash fountains at Riverfront Park on hot days, testing for Black Belt Second Degree in Taekwondo, visiting my parents near Astoria. And hopefully go to Lincoln City and Silver Falls, if we can overcome the guilt of spending so much money just on gas to drive places! So, what's on your list for summer?

shown above: woodgrain textured heart in bright Fine Silver on natural leather cord, to be listed in my Etsy shop soon.