Sunday, August 31, 2008

Full of Treasures

I can't believe it's the end of August. It hardly feels like I've started August. Where do those days disappear? But one stroll around the garden where you see all the ripening pears and apples and grapes and yes, there's no doubt that it is the end of August.

What a bounty of yummy fruit! And that pleasure you get from eating something that you have grown - never mind the extra pleasure when you eat it straight off the tree, warmed by the sun.....

Everyday we are picking a bowl full of tomatoes. They are the sweet 100 ones - yes, it's like a hundred a day! We leave them out in a bowl in the kitchen and they are just a tasty little snack as you walk past! By the next day - they are just about all gone and we go and collect some more! We aren't quite as good at eating up the apples. I guess apples come down the list for me and at the moment they compete with the pears and I think the pears win! But I'll cook with the apples.. make some nice chutney, some pie mix, and last year I made pear and apple marmalade which is my favourite marmalade ever - so I guess I'll do some more of that.

But right now, I'm holding out for the figs.... Ah...a warm fig fresh off the tree. I don't think I ever had fresh figs before moving here and we now have three trees - two green figs and one brown. The biggest green fig tree just has the most tasty figs ever. There is alot of fruit on the trees but they still need another couple of weeks to ripen. I think we might cook with their leaves tonight though - if you wrap fish (I'm going to buy some wild salmon) in the leaves and cook them on the barbecue the leaves not only give off this lovely coconutty smell but impart a delicate flavour to the fish.

(Oh - my husband just brought me in half a Gravenstein apple! Juicy, sweet and crisp! He's been strolling around the vineyard and maybe he knew what I was writing about!!!).

So the garden is just full of treasures! Bountiful treasures everywhere you look. And therefore my "full of treasures" necklace is shown here. It is designed to look like a bag/purse and inside are lots of little garnets - the treasures. Looks like it could be a fruit collecting bag, full of plums or grapes or maybe our dark red pears..........What treasures are you gathering from your garden right now?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Anyone can fall in love

Let me introduce you to "anyone". He/She is my newest friend and will be featured in my new "anyone can....." series of jewelry. I wanted to create a little figure that could be male or female and so I created "anyone". (I'll refer to "anyone" as "him" but only because it gets awkward to keep using both sexes!).
Anyhow, I want anyone to try doing different things - be adventurous and see where it takes him.

For a start this, my first piece, is "anyone can fall in love". It is a lariat necklace. "Anyone" is seen falling through the heart shape of the necklace - and so is falling 'in' love!

He is a simple little figure, pants/trousers and a hat and his arms are out in this piece as he his free-falling! And yes, as he is falling - he hangs upside down! Maybe a little bit reminiscent of my first "anyone" piece- but then "anyone" was a bird and the piece was "anyone can fly". Maybe my new anyone will try flying one of these days.

As I do with lariats, there is a little hook on the back of the heart so you can loop part of the chain on it and it holds the lariat at a specific length. So anyone can hang just where you want him. He's close to the "love" in the photos so that I can get a closer up photo of both pieces but you may wear him further away.

I'll put him up on Dawanda and my website soon.

I have lots of ideas of things anyone can try - but if you have some suggestions, I'd love to hear them. I'll mention them to anyone and see if he thinks it's something he'd enjoy! Obviously falling in love was an easy choice! We all love that feeling - that free fall feeling of falling in love!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bronze medal winner!

Yesterday I had a nice surprise in the mail. A couple of months ago I had entered some of my pieces into a competition and they were returned yesterday with a letter that said I was the bronze medal winner for the metal clay category. Just like being in the Olympics!

The competition was with Fire Mountain Gems, a jewelry supply company in the US. They had quite a few categories in the competition - most of them beading - and more than 1,300 people entered.

The first stage was to send in photographs and descriptions and then they selected some 300 or so pieces for the finalists and we then had to mail our pieces to them for the final judging.

I entered 6 pieces and 5 of them got through to the final. My bronze medal winner was the Three Little Pigs necklace and earrings set. The other pieces that got through to the final were my birdcage earrings, Little Bo Peep and her sheep, I'm a little teapot necklace and teddy bears' picnic. By the time I had to send them off, I had sold the teddy bears' picnic piece, the teapot piece and the birdcage earrings. I tried to recreate them all - but didn't have time to redo the teddy bears!

So the Three Little Pigs is the children's story book. If you aren't familiar with it, the story is about a mummy pig who sends off her three baby pigs and tells them to "take care and do the best you can".

One pig sees a man selling some straw so he buys it from him and builds himself a house from the straw. Unfortunately, the wolf comes alongs and huffs and puffs and blows his house down. (In some versions, the wolf gets the pig - but in other versions the pig runs off to his brother. I prefer the gentler version!)

The second pig sees a man selling sticks so buys them off him and builds his house from sticks. But that nasty wolf huffs and puffs and blows his house down both pigs run off to the other pig.

The last pig sees someone selling bricks so buys them and builds a lovely house of bricks. The wolf comes by and huffs and puffs.....and huffs and puffs....and huffs and puffs...but can't blow down the brick house.

The two pigs with houses of straw and sticks - the earrings - have sad expressions on their faces because they lost their houses, but the smart pig with a brick house has a big smiley face! He won over the wolf.

I did think of making a wolf to hang at the back of the necklace but then thought it might be a bit scary!!!
This is the first competition I've entered so it's most encouraging! I got a small cash prize for the bronze medal and my design may appear in the fire mountain catalog and website.

Feels good! Good old piggies!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Couple more bronzclay pieces

I did another bronzclay firing this week - and hope to do one more today. The firing all went well and I'm using some of the pieces to experiment on with patinas and different finishes. I just made some simple shapes, such a hair clips etc and my firing today is more sculptural pieces.

This piece is a hair barrette with a design like a row of trees. (Looks like a type of crown in this picture!). It came out of the kiln with more colours on it - but they disappeared quite quickly. Which got me thinking about how to form stable patinas. I now have what my husband calls, a chemistry lab set up in the laundry where I'm working on what colours can come from the bronze....

This piece is one that I started at my pre-conference workshop. It is a reversible necklace with
different text on each side. I had been wondering how to string it - so yesterday tried it with some beads - larger ones in a bronze colour and the smaller ones in the highlighted text colour. I left one edge of the necklace "torn" looking with the idea that the whole piece looks aged. It sort of reminds me of something that has been found in an archeological dig.....

The last piece I made as a book mark - a musical bookmark. It has the impression of grapes and vines on it - but the real joy of this piece is it's sound. Bronze has just such a beautiful tone so I added a couple of tiny bell time shapes to this piece - one on with the square (hidden in this photo) and one on the end of the bookmark. When either of these hit against the square, they make a beautiful tone. I could see myself fiddling with these as I read my book...ringing my "bells" as I read! Hopefully not in a library or somewhere quiet!!

The sound of the bronze is just so pretty - it made me want to do more "sound" pieces...... something to mull over for a while and see where it takes me......

Hopefully I'll have some patina pieces to show soon.

Anyone else out there have some experiences with the bronzclay?

Monday, August 25, 2008

The secret garden

My parents came over a couple of months ago and we met them in Vancouver, BC, then went on a little touring trip around Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. While in Seattle, we went over to Bainbridge Island and Whidbey Island. When we were on Whidbey, we called into the Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens. It was the perfect time of the year to see the Rhododendrons. It is a testing garden where they try new varieties of Rhododendrons. So many different colours and types of rhodos. It was all laid out so beautifully too with natural paths through into different sections of the couldn't see the big picture of where you were going, you just explored little by was like coming across lots of new surprises.
There were some funny short earred rabbits there too. Initially, we couldn't tell what they were - they looked so funny with their little ears....

But as I was wandering around, to the hidden little ponds on little mulch or grass paths....finding one new little area after another, it made me think of lots of little "secret gardens"... Do you remember the children's story book? I remember watching it televised on the BBC when I was a little girl. I just loved it so much. And so while I was wandering around, I created this new necklace in my head. It is an old wooden garden gate, with tiny little hinges and a latch...and a little window to make you curious to see what it behind it. You undo the latch and there is a little flower garden.

Your very own secret garden to wear. I love the element of surprise, and also that you can keep it as a secret from others.

The fact that there is movement in the piece is what appeals most - I am really focusing on jewelry that moves right now - so here is my little "secret garden" necklace, in fine silver.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I first came across coneflowers when we moved to New Hampshire. We had lots of them in our garden there and they just seemed so unusual to me with their raised cone center and the petals hanging down below. Their botanical name is Echinacea - which comes from the Greek "echinos", meaning hedgehog! And they are prickly too! I have lots of hedgehog stories - but another day for those...

Anyhow, the first time I tried carving in metal clay, I was doodling and trying to decide what to carve that wasn't too difficult...had a little bit of a cut-out in it that I could patina to stand out...was easily recognisable...
Well I was still making quite a lot of silver flowers at that time and so the profile of a coneflower came to me.

The shape of the piece then just seemed to follow the flower shape and having a textured background where the cutout would show through just seemed to all come together.

I keep seeing lots of flowers lately - not just seeing them, but taking note of them, so I feel I'm up for a resurgence of flower jewelry...but maybe as the summer is ending, I'm too late??? Never too late for flowers. Maybe some new ones will appear soon...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Otters and pond life

We were strolling down the lane yesterday morning to pick up the newspaper and spotted three otters in the creek by the side of us. Two were larger and the small one trailed behind. We figured it was parents and a youngster.

They were so sweet to watch. The creek is really low at the moment and they were heading upstream - but parts are not deep enough for them to swim in - so they'd climb out onto the rocks, then dive back in. Then the young one went to the bank and proceeded to crunch on something he had found - eating it noisily! By the time he had finished, his parents were gone - so he raced onwards, swimming fast and skipping over the rocks.

It was lovely to see them. We have had them a few times in our pond - the last time was last November. Again, there were three of them. We were a little upset with them on that occasion. They tend to come early - for breakfast - and John spotted them so called me out. We crept up to the pond, not wanting to disturb them - but they of course noticed us -and just swam up to us - sticking their heads out of the water to see who it was!

They then proceeded to catch all our large fish in the pond. We thought we had 3 large fish - and sure enough they caught them all. I could have coped with that - but they dragged them onto the bank, took one mouthful and then left them there! They didn't even bother to eat them. It seemed such a waste of our fish whom we like to watch swimming around.

Anyhow - I've never made otter jewelry but just yesterday finished a new fish piece as you can see here! It's designed as a mobile - but also as earrings! So little fish mobile earrings. The fish can twirl in many directions and so they look like they are swimming around your ears.

A friend of mine - Jayne - once told me that if I ever made mobiles, I should be sure to let her know as she loves mobiles. I know that she was meaning large, hang from the ceiling ones - but she is coming around for dinner tomorrow - so I'll show her these and see what she thinks!!

This jewelry with movement is something that I'm really attracted to. Hinges, swings,pivots and stuff like that. I think you may well see alot more of that sort of thing from me soon (especially as I'm just finishing off a hinged piece....).

And I see a few other mobile designs too.....

Anyhow - great to have all this wildlife around us - even if it does remind us how cruel the food chain seems sometimes.....

And no - I'm not having fish for dinner tonight!! (but maybe tomorrow).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wine bottling

Well today our 2006 wine was bottled. Yippee! It would have been nice to say "we bottled our 2006 wine" but this year the winery where it is housed had a mobile bottling line come in - a big truck that has the bottling line inside - and so it is all over and done with in about 10 minutes! We didn't even go and see it as they were busy doing all their bottling in a week!!!

The first year we made our wine, we did everything ourselves - and filling the bottles was like milking a cow (not that I've ever milked a cow!). So I'm glad we had that experience - even if we seem to do less and less hands on each year....

We haven't finalized our wine label for this vintage yet either.... I wrote a first draft and John changed a few words and that's as far as we have got. Guess we need to get on with that now that there are bottles waiting to be labelled. At least we get to do the labelling..with the help of a machine and some friends.
Each year we change the back label - which is where I write my little story for the year - and we also change the colour of the label. So far we have had yellow, turquoise/teal, and orange. We have agreed that for 2006 we are going with green for the label. It took quite a lot of persuading John - but I think he is OK with it. It's a nice fresh green. My favourite colour is lime green so I was pushing for something like that. Let's hope it works out OK.

Then we'll have to go through the ordeal of keep tasting the wine to see how long it has bottle shock!!! Yes, when first put into the bottle, the wine goes into a state of "shock". We like to track the shock passage by drinking our new wine regularly and seeing how it changes day by day! I know - what a tough job to do!!!

And talking of bottle-shock - we are going to see the movie "Bottle Shock" tonight that was filmed in Glen Ellen and Sonoma! All about the wine competition in 1976 when French wines were up again California wines in a blind tasting - and the California wines won! There was alot of excitement during the local filming and lots of locals had small parts etc - so it should be fun to see the final result.

Naturally I have done some grape pieces of jewelry. Not recently though - these are all older pieces.....pins, necklaces.... I used to show my work at some winery events locally and so the grape pieces were quite popular there. I do less events nowadays - but do have one coming up at Ravenswood winery in Sonoma in September. If you are local - come by and see me. The details are on my website

Well, think of us, working hard at tasting our wine and charting it's progress. I'll try not to whine about it!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sending my love

Time for a bit of love! What a way to start the week!

Here are some pieces all about sending love.

The first one is entitled "Special Delivery" and shows a little bird struggling to carry a big red heart. The piece is a brooch. The heart is made from a type of paper clay that dries really hard and tough. I like the brightness of this piece - adding some good colour to the silver. He wants to bring his very special delivery just to you.

The second piece is called "sending my love" and yes, surprise surprise, it shows a bird and a heart!! And the heart is painted red...And it is again a brooch. But yet it is so different from the other one. For one, it isn't three dimensional..but still cute.

And finally a desk buddy I made quite a while ago entitled "just for you". No, it's not a bird and there is no heart! It's a three dimensional something or other - no particular animal - just a character - and he's bring a little flower just for you. He sits on my desk and keeps an eye on me. And now he has a friend in Modesty Max that I made from bronzclay.

So - do these pieces convey their message? Hope you feel like they are sending you some love today! Have a great day!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Stained glass windows

Well, it's my mum's 70th birthday today! Happy birthday mum. Hope you have a fabulous day and good celebrations.

I made her some "stained glass" window earrings as part of her birthday present. She has problems with some earrings ( the sensitive soul that she is :=D ) so these are small and very lightweight - and hopefully she will like them.

About six months ago, I really started getting interested in gothic architecture and not just the designs, but how the great cathedrals were built. It all started with my reading the book
"Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett for one of my bookclub books. As it is a large book - quite off-putting for me to see all those pages - I got the audiobook and listened to it as I travelled into the city and then everytime I went in the car. I absolutely loved this book. It's all about the building of a cathedral in England - but fiction with great characters whom I wanted to spend sometime with everyday. The book talks about the gothic cathedral architecture and how it came about and how cathedrals were constructed and the pillars and the arches and the first stained glass windows and.......oh, so much. It was just such a pleasure to listen to. So much so that I found myself driving somewhere for an appointment, getting there early and listening so intently to the book that I eventually was late for my appointment because I didn't want to switch off the story.

I've always loved the great cathedrals in England - and treasure the times I have sung in them...but Ken Follett's book really piqued my interest the architecture and construction of these buildings. Since finishing the book, I've watched numerous DVD's on gothic cathedrals and other cathedrals, read architecture books, spent time gazing up at the windows in Grace cathedral...and even considered taking a class in stone sculpting......and of course listened to the book sequel "World without end".

And so my jewelry also has gone into the cathedral theme. I've like created three dimensional buildings in silver - but one day I was at Grace cathedral for a choir rehearsal and as I was going to be absent for the next Sunday, I didn't rehearse one piece but wandered around instead, gazing at the arches and windows etc. And so the idea came to try and make the rose window into a necklace. I found a picture of the design and carved that into the silver and then for the "glass" in the window, I used coloured resin. I think I need to make the rose windows into earrings too as the light shining through the resin is really cool to see.....Maybe another day.
Anyhow - today is stained glass window day for my mum's 70th birthday and she knows why!

Have a great one mum and keep shining all those colours on the world.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The silent charm bracelet

While I was at a metal clay conference last month, I was lucky enough to win a charm bracelet with all the charms made by different instructors. It's a great bracelet - but not one I can wear everywhere. You see it's really noisy! All that jingling and jangling makes quite a racket - even when I'm just moving my arm slightly - never mind if it is a longer motion!

So when I'm not wearing my prize - I wear one of my "silent" charm bracelets. A single charm on a solid bangle - like this one with Wattle the chicken on it. Yes, Wattle is a quiet little chicken - no clucking from him!!!

A friend of mine, Jo, is just starting a new e-commerce business called "choirgear" where she will sell all things to do with personal goods for choir and chorus members. She kindly asked to include some of my items too - so the silent charm bracelet will be one I recommend. It's a great resource so if you sing, do check out Jo's website. I sing a lot and am always carefully to not wear jangly stuff but hate having to not wear perfume!! For an evening out, I always want a little spray of my favourite scent, but have to forgo it for the sake of other singers who have allergy problems....

I make the bracelet sometimes with clips - so that you can buy different charms and they are interchangeable so if you aren't feeling like chicken one could have bird instead!!
That way, as your mood changes with the day, you can add whatever charm you feel like.

Right now, I'm not having a particularly good day nothing really wrong - but maybe I need to be wearing my bottle of wine charm!!! Too early to have a drink - but maybe the charm will do something for me!!

But maybe the correct choice would be a teapot charm - a nice cup of tea - that would sort me out!!! Yuck! Hate tea!! (see my previous post about tea).

Anyhow - for those "silent" moments - consider the silent single charm bracelet!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The missing piece

I've just finished making 12 "missing piece" bracelets. Each bracelet has a silver jigsaw puzzle shaped charm attached - with a texture on one side and plain on the other.

With each bracelet I enclose a small card that says:

You are an important piece in my life's puzzle.
You may never know precisely where you fit in,
but know that without you, there would be a significant hole.

I have sold a few of these bracelets before. The wonderful customer this time, Kristy from Australia, was just delightful and a real pleasure to work with. We had some great conversations online, going back and forth about what she wanted etc, and the collaboration was so easy --- one of the reasons why I love selling online! She wants the bracelets to give to family and friends and her bridesmaids for her forthcoming wedding. One of my previous customers for a group of these bracelets was from New Zealand and she also wanted them as gifts for bridesmaids. Her whole theme for her wedding was puzzles and she and her husband had found some wonderful puzzle rings.

I think giving a missing piece bracelet for a bridesmaid's gift is such a lovely idea. Each one is different and is a personal momento to keep.

I want to try and make a bracelet out of a run of jigsaw puzzle pieces where they interlock but still move a little bit. I'm working on the logistics of it all....not sure if it will be too tricky...but maybe a whole jigsaw puzzle will appear one day....

Anyhow- wishing Kristy a wonderful wedding and happy life. Glad you've found that important piece in your life! Anyone else have some ideas for unusual bridesmaids gifts? Let's hear about them.......

Friday, August 8, 2008

Featured artisan - Rena from LilyCobWeb

I'm happy to feature another artist today so you can hear about her work and what got her into her creations. Her name is Rena Roohipour and her store is called LilyCobWeb. She has stores on Etsy and Dawanda.

I asked Rena to share with us something about her work....and this is what she said:

I’m fairly new to selling online, but not new at all to crafts and crochet. I first learned to crochet at the age of eight or nine. I was taught by a neighbour of ours who did beautiful Irish crochet, and I used to marvel at her skill and patience.

I stopped doing any handcrafts for years, with occasional forays into making christening shawls for family members. I came back to crochet about three or four years ago, in a very roundabout way……

I'd been an art teacher but decided I'd give that up for family reasons - ie I have four children! I’d started painting, loved it, but realised that my lifestyle was too busy to allow the time I needed. Then three years ago, I went to Boston to visit my eldest daughter who was studying music there. As I was walking down Newbury Street, I visited the Boston Society for Arts and Crafts Shop where they had a jewellery exhibition. And that was the first place I saw bead and wire crochet jewellery! I couldn’t believe you could crochet wire! I went straight to Windsor Button, on the other side of Boston Common, bought myself some 28-gauge wire and some beads and I was off! I made so much bead and wire jewellery and had no trouble selling it. I’ve since gone back to yarn and thread, but I still use beads and wire a lot to make my creations. I don’t exclude any material, and I experiment a lot! Crocheting leather is my latest favourite thing!

The beaded cuff in the photo is one I made for a commission. Beaded cuffs have now become quite a trademark with me. I love making them as they combine yarn, beads, wire, ribbon and magnetic clasps-all the things I love! Creating them is quite a challenge, as they have a lot of stages in the making.

Crafting is more precarious than teaching, but a much more fulfilling occupation. I struggle to get as much time as possible to develop my ideas, and get really frustrated sometimes when ‘life’ gets in the way. My time management could definitely be better!

Creating in the medium of crochet is very satisfying for me. Crochet always amazed me with its possiblities. It’s very sculptural and I love that. In a strange way, it links me to my childhood and my home. Rudolf Steiner, the educationalist, says crochet has a link to breathing because of its rhythmic qualities. It relaxes me and energises me at the same time! I love the design process, experimentation with new yarns and old ones, and playing with colour.

At the moment, I’m obsessed with leaves and flowers and ways to crochet them. I want to do a series of leaf pendants connected with Celtic tree lore.I like to feel a link to nature, and I think that finds its way into my work.

Selling online is a whole new challenge. It involves having a bit of business sense and taking good photographs, neither of which I’ve perfected yet. But I’m getting there!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Under the greenwood tree

As I drive to the city - (I generally go down to San Francisco twice a week, but this week it's been 6 days in a row) I really enjoy listening to audio books. I download them on my ipod and play them through my car stereo. The last couple I listened too have been really long and I've soooooo enjoyed them - I'll write about them next week - but I'm waiting for a particular day...... but I do like to listen to things that I'd probably never bother to something either really long works well, or a classic that I never read when I should have....

I asked my dad last week what he thought I should download next and he suggested "Under the greenwood tree" by Thomas Hardy. I don't think I've ever read Hardy - so I downloaded it and started it this week. My dad said his stories tend to have sad endings......
I started listening on Friday....and finished it today. My first reaction is that it was much too short. The last couple of books I'd listened to were 40 hours and 45 hours yet Hardy's was a mere 5 hours!!! It was all over so fast!!! That was somewhat of a disappointment! There I was, only just getting into it - and it was over!!! But that wasn't Hardy's fault - it was just what I'd got used to!

Anyhow, it was quite a sweet story - passed the time nicely on the drive down and back - but the ending wasn't quite as sad as I'd hoped :-( Yes, a bit of deception between the protagonists... but following my dad's comment, I was expecting something worse..... with the vicar maybe - but it was all turmoil kept inside for the characters!!! I'm glad I listened to it - I liked it - but I think in future I need to choose longer books for my journeys!

Anyhow - the actual 'tree' part of the tale doesn't come into the story until the very last chapter ..... so I thought I'd share a few of my trees with you....The one above is called "Great oaks from little acorns come".

This one to the right is another from my nursery rhyme collection - "Oranges and Lemons". The oranges and lemons are added to the tree using coloured resin. And the earrings below are "Cherry Trees" where the cherries are small corundum lab grown cabochons. I think the tale of Dick Dewy and Fancy Day could have ended under any of these trees!! What do you think? Have you read any other Hardy books and care to suggest one to me? Dad - want to comment? Any good book recommendations always gratefully received - especially if they are long..

I know I value trees much more now that I live in a warm place - ie not England!!! The shade of a tree is such a welcome place...Our little wooded area at our home is always cool - a perfect respite from the heat...and also a place for birdhouses and the birds.... So get out there and love those trees!