Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Harvest time

Harvest started this morning!

Our vineyard management crew arrived early and are busy picking the top part of the vineyard.

As you can see from the photos, the leaves are changing colour and this indicates that they have stopped making sugar and are shutting down. The grapes are therefore as sweet as they will get - and measuring their "brix" level - sugar level - they seem to be great.

The harvest is lighter than previous years but this seems to be the same throughout northern CA this year.

I've just wandered the vineyard and it's always such a happy day. You hear the chat of the vineyard workers - in spanish - but it always sounds happy. I've never been out there when they don't sound cheerful. Some singing, some joking, and plenty of talk that I can't understand! Yet they work so hard. They cut quickly, using a curved knife, put the grapes in small bins then when their bin is full, they put it in half ton bins on the tractor.

In a couple of the photos you'll see my husband next to the tractor, talking to the crew organizer. They are discussing which grapes to harvest. The sugar levels have been measured throughout the vineyard and these determine which grapes get harvested. The levels vary depending on the position, so today they are hoping to harvest 5 tons from the very top and then down the right hand side. The other grapes will continue to ripen and increase their sugar levels until they are harvested next week. As our vineyard is on a slope, the top ones always ripen first - and have the best flavours!

We have now picked 3 tons - one of the photos shows 3 half ton bins on the truck and then another three full bins on the driveway with Chris the vineyard manager driving the tractor with three more empty ones, ready to be filled.

Well- this ends today's viticulture lesson! Hope you like the photos and get a sense of the day!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Finishing some bronze pieces

The bronze seems to be quite popular - I've sold all the pieces I had made so I decided to finish up a few other bronze shapes I had sat in my studio.

The colour of the bronze is very pleasing. I know alot of artists are looking for rainbow patinas and the such, but I actually like the brushed finish, in the soft golden bronze colour. It's just a nice tone and goes well with all skin colours.

The pieces are just simple shapes - not sculptural like my other work, as when I made them, I was just getting used to the product. But as they are simple and made in bronze, and don't take a long time to make - they are very affordable.

I've decided to list them on my smashing darling webstore. I have listed with Smashing Darling for a while now and it was really quiet for ages.....Then I recently looked at my statistics from them for visitors and I was amazed! So I'm now paying some attention to my store there. I think the simplicity of these bronze pieces might work there .... We'll see....

So here are a couple of pieces:

This first one makes me think of elephant trunks! Not quite sure what I'll name it - but I did just go to a safari park this weekend...so I guess it's timely!! It shows some carving in the twisted "trunks".

These two pieces I'm calling "having a ball". I'm not even sure if the phrase "having a ball" is used in the US....??

These are my relic earrings! They have script on both sides - one side in Latin and one side in Greek.....and have gentle cracks on the edges, suggesting they have been dug up from some ancient dig site!

And these are my Asian ladies! I think they look a little like the cone Vietnamese hats....and the hats have an Asian texture on them...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Featured in two other blogs today......

Today I am featured in a couple of other blogs:

Sara Texture's Crafts interviewed me;

and Dawanda linked through to my interview on the DIY City mag.

Always nice to see others interested in what I am doing. Many thanks.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Merry Go Round

Jump on our first merry go round and join a group of artists/crafts-women as they link hands around the world and tell you a little about their lives in art and craft.

Today is the first day of our merry go round. I have joined with 8 other women who are artists or craft-women and once a month - on the last Thursday/Friday, we will all discuss one question in each of our blogs.

Once you've read what I have written, I encourage you to read their blog entries too - it is an interesting group of women and I'm looking forward to learning more about them too. The links are at the end of this posting. Please note - there are significant time differences between us all (I think the most is 15 hours!), so if you don't find the "merry go round" posting on someone's blog, maybe you are just a bit early ....so do check back again later.

This month's question is "What was your journey to your art/craft?"

My journey started out with me working as a research scientist in England and now I'm an artist in California! Quite a convoluted path, I guess!

I think the main turning point came in California in 2003. We were moving from Florida to California - driving across country and I was trying to find something to while away all those hours in the car when I wouldn't be driving. I happened to find some interesting yarn and decided to take knitting up again. I had taught myself to knit when I was child and had enjoyed it then, but hadn't knitted since. Now I had these lovely balls of yarn - totally different to what I had seen or used before.

So for those long long days in the car with my husband and our pet parrot Harold, I knitted..and knitted..and listened to audio books..and tried to learn Spanish (I think Harold learned more than we did!!!) Anyhow, a couple of items I made were, of course, scarves. I then happened to be wearing one of these scarves when I went into a gallery in California and the owner commented on it and asked where I had got it from. I told her I made it and she said she would love to sell them for me. This was totally out of the blue. It had never occurred to me that I would sell anything...I had just been occupying my time. I went home and thought about it for a while.....and said yes and got out my needles!

The same thing happened in another gallery in Sonoma.....and while it seemed very much out of character for me - I was enjoying it. Somewhere in the middle of this excitement, I read an article about "metal clay" and it fascinated me. I decided to buy some and get a DVD on how to use it and give it a try. Off I went, started with a little pair of earrings with some stones set in them and I haven't looked back since. The galleries selling my scarves saw my jewelry and also wanted to sell that.....and I'd gone from scientist to artist!!

I no longer knit to sell - that had set me on my way in this new direction, but I now focus on my silver jewelry. I also no longer sell in galleries, just online and I enjoy that much more. And my jewelry has changed alot since those early days.....as I've taken classes, become certified, learnt traditional metalsmith techniques and fabrication skills....

The two key elements that I loved about my research job were that there was a lot of variety and plenty of challenge. I have found the same in using metal clay. It is a great medium and I like to try new things with it and create a style that is unique.

I particularly love doing three dimensional sculptural pieces and also pieces that move. Bubo the flying owl seen in the 2nd photo is one of my favourites, as he has movement and an element of surprise. When you pull on the chain, his wings go up and flap, like he is trying to fly. This "playfulness" and whimsy is apparent in alot of my work.....but yesterday I just finished a three day "action jewelry" class and now want to re-model Bubo to tweak the mechanism a little bit.....so I learn new things and keep progressing and so my jewelry develops and I don't get bored.

Another of my favourite pieces is my new series of "anyone can...." jewellery. I had been trying to come up with a "figure" to use for a few designs and then "anyone was born. I like this series because it seems to easily fulfill my goal that what I create " makes you smile". Again there is there sense of play and childhood memories......and they are all also very tactile pieces, you find yourself wanting to hold them.

But also, maybe "anyone can"....is fitting for me. Any-one/scientist can become an artist??????Maybe that sense of "give it a try" is what brought about this dramatic change from scientist to artist??? And where will it lead next?

Here are the links to read the other artists' blogs:


And remember - it's always great to get comments!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New class

I'm starting a three day class tomorrow at Revere Jewelry Academy in San Francisco. The instructor is Chris Darway whom I met at the Indiana conference recently. I'm looking forward to it - apart from the sore fingers again from all that sawing and filing......

Won't be posting much as I won't be home....unless I can get some in progress item photos.

But be sure to call in again on Friday when myself and 9 other artists are starting a "merry go round" on our blogs. If you don't know what a merry go round is - you'll have to check back to find out!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ravenswood Marketplace

This Sunday I will be at the Ravenswood Marketplace selling my jewelry. It's a lovely event - their third year this year...so if you are in the area, do come. You get to taste some wine, eat food and look at different artisan's work.

Cathleen at Ravenswood is a great organizer and it just has a great atmosphere. Here is their website

Ravenswood are famous for their "no wimpy wines" or in latin "no flaccidum vinum".

A great way to spend your Sunday afternoon.

September 21, 2008 - 12pm - 4pm
Ravenswood: Marketplace

Over 30 local artisans will be showing and selling their wares. From painting to sculpture, photography to fused glass, lavender to chocolates, fabric art to jewelry, and oh, so much more! Open to the public, the Marketplace is all about what makes our valley wonderful and unique and it's all here in one spot for you. Contact Cathleen Francisco for more information 866.568.3946 or via email cathleen.francisco@ravenswood-wine.com.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Anyone can....train a dog

Dogs.....oh how I've been wanting a dog........A cute dog that will travel with me in my car. I just love to see dogs in cars with their heads out of the window, the wind blowing back their ears....it's just a picture of pure joy! And I've never seen so many dogs in cars and trucks as I have in California. The dogs here must just love the weather and the "wine country living"! You see them yapping in the delight of it all. I've mentioned to some of my friends my desire of having a dog passenger in my car and that maybe I could borrow their dog sometime and take it for a drive.........

All this talk of "borrowing" is because I can't have a dog of my own :-( Yes, we have a great lawn that it could run on....but we do travel quite a bit...and so I've been "told" it just isn't practical....and also, we grow grapes and grapes are poisonous to dogs (but loads of wineries have dogs????). Anyhow - right now, it's not dog time for me - (although one day I will replace my husband with a dog.............)!

So currently, I just enjoy other people's dogs - like KJ, and Scout......and those that I see in cars in trucks!

As I can't have a dog - I thought maybe I could live vicariously through "anyone". So my latest "anyone can...." piece is "anyone can train a dog". But Anyone isn't content with commands like "sit"..he is much more adventurous! This is like agility training!!! Anyone is teaching his little dog to jump through hoops!! Way to go anyone!!!!

It is a lariat style necklace - and features "anyone" holding the loop and then the little dog - with one ear up and one down jumps through the hoop and hangs down below. There is a little hook on the back of the hoop to secure the chain at the length you like.

This was my first attempt at sculpting a dog and it was an interesting process! I first tried making a dog in regular clay...and it took a while to find that the nose was an important feature that distinguished it from some other animal. Once I cracked the nose (so to speak) I tried the dog in the silver clay. I was thinking of adding silver wire legs with hammered feet - but when I tried that - they looked too skinny. So I made some legs from clay and attached them...along with a curled up tail.

But it looked like a pig!!! So I figured it must be the tail...the ears looked good...the nose looked good....so I pulled the tail off. I tried another tail curling up - but it still looked like a pig.....so off it came. Then I tried a stubby tail like lots of dogs have. It looked like a dogs tail alright - but it still looked like a pig.....

So I started working on the back legs....making them more muscley where they join on to the body......but it still looked like a pig!! What was it???

Then I got it - he didn't have any paws!!! I'd done legs but not little paws...so it looked more like trotters and thus a pig!!! It was interesting how one characteristic can change an "animal" so much. The face was a dog, the legs were dogs, the tail was a dog.......but it was still a pig!!

So, I gave him four little paws and Anyone now has a dog!!! And a name for Anyone's dog.......??? How about Doug the Dog....(as in "dug"??!!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Home is where the heart is

Well yes, maybe a little sentimental - but I'm hoping my "home is where the heart is" design has a little twist on things by making it a lariat necklace. The heart hangs through the home and there is a little hook on the back of the home so that you can keep the chain at a particular length.

I think lariats are more an autumn, winter type of jewelry. Don't know what anyone else thinks, but personally I like them over jumpers/sweaters and more summery clothes seem to get in the way of them a bit....

So with autumn and winter approaching fast.......bear lariats in mind as an adornment for your plain sweaters.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Featured in DIY City Blog

Today I was featured in an online magazine - DIY City Mag. It was an interview about me and Birdland Creations, by Sara Millis from Sara's Texture Crafts. Thanks Sara, for including me! Here's a snapshot - and you can read the full interview if you click here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The simplicity of the birds

I just finished a couple of simpler bird pieces. The first one is a little singing bird in a tree. A happy looking bird - singing because he can!

The question often comes up - "why do bird sing?" Because they can? I was just listening to a CD - Andrea Bocelli - and my pet parrot, Harold, has been singing away to it - in a voice like Andrea's! Yes, he likes to add vibrato and he really does sing like Andrea! Why does he do that? Coz he can and it's fun??? Who knows. Even when we went out of the house he carried on - so it wasn't to get our attention..... Funny little Harold. No wonder he's so loved!!

The second necklace is Bird on a wire. Just two simple birds sitting on a wire - such a familiar scene. Do you think they communicate with one another? Or they are just hanging out?

I love it when there are lots of birds on a wire and a new one tries to come and moves the others around! All trying to find their own little space - and they never touch one another either. Always equally spaced....keep that perfect distance....

Maybe I need to study the psychology of birds......

Anyhow - these two piece can be found on my website and I'll soon put them on Etsy and Dawanda.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blog award!

Marian from Florcita nominated me for this blog award today. Thanks! I only started my blog in July - but I'm really enjoying it. Hope you are too.
The idea behind the Brillante weblog Premio 2008 is that who ever receives it, then nominates another 6 blogs - so here is my list:

Easterya Jewellery
Crafts of texture
Babushka Jewellery
The Perorations of Lady Bracknell
Tiny house blog

Hope you'll take the time to browse them!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Anyone can ........fly a kite

So here is my latest "Anyone can...." piece. A necklace entitled "Anyone can....fly a kite"

It shows my new friend, Anyone, holding on tight to his new kite and you can just picture him loving that feeling as it takes to the skies and pulls on his arm - and then just for that split second, it takes you off the ground.

This picture here looks like he is just willing the kite to fly......that feeling when you want to blow and encourage it....try as you will, the wind hasn't quite got below it...

But then, the wind gusts and up the kite goes, and you are excited and you let out more string and then it feels like you can fly too!

What a lovely thing kite flying is. Yet you see very little of it nowadays...or is that just here? Maybe there aren't any empty beaches or parks anymore .....?

Anyhow - I hope you like my new Anyone and he gives you the feeling of up, up and away......

If you haven't met Anyone before - be sure to check out "Anyone can fall in love" and "Anyone can whistle".

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Etsy Treasury

One of my items - Happy Flowers necklace and earrings set - is featured in an Etsy treasury, along with some other lovely metal pieces created by other artists.

I like this treasury collection because it shows how color can be incorporated into metal clay using different techniques such as stones, glass, resin and concrete.

All the artists on this treasury are members of a new Etsy group - Etsy Metal Clay Team. We are working together to promote metal clay on Etsy and further afield and are just setting up a new website www.etsymetalclay.com More will come soon.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Anyone can.......whistle

I love to whistle. I do it quite a lot actually. Can often be heard whistling a tune.....and on many occasions I have been told that I whistle like a man. What exactly does that mean? Is it a compliment? Should I be proud? Should I try to whistle like a woman? Who knows - but it doesn't put me off whistling.

And I have a great whistling pal in my pet parrot Harold. (He looks a bit fluffed up here, as I just woke him up to take his photograph! Sorry Harold!!) He sings too - but he does have a lovely whistle - including a very flattering wolf whistle!

So a couple of days ago I was trying to decide what my next "anyone can...." piece would be - and I had the idea that anyone can whistle. So here is Anyone. Yes, he/she looks like just an ordinary figure - just hanging out from the chain as a necklace. But Anyone has a surprise! Hold Anyone up to your lips and blow - and "Anyone can whistle"!!!

I build the whistle part first. I'd never tried making a whistle before - and it was fiddly to get the sound to hit the correct part to the make the whistle....but when the metal clay was dry, I blew into it and it did make a sound.....so then I added and moulded Anyone onto the front of the whistle! Then I hoped that in the kiln it wouldn't all collapse or shrink in an uneven way and no longer sound. But it worked!

For those musical types out there, Anyone whistles an E (unless you don't blow fully and then it's an E flat!!!!). It's a pretty sound too. A nice clear tone. Maybe this will become the new tuning fork!!!

Hope you like Anyone. I built another Anyone can.... this weekend too whom you'll meet soon.....

I'll list "anyone can whistle" on my site and Dawanda soon.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Green grape harvest II

We've just harvested the green grapes....not many this year - but still nice to do it. But it's hot out there already! Phew! need to cool off now...

That's my husband in the photo in his new "merlove" tee shirt! And it's his hand with the yellow curved knife that you use to cut the bunches off with.

After we picked the few green ones (this year we got many more from our arbor) we then did some sampling of the vineyard checking the brix level of the merlot grapes in different areas. I took rows 8 to 14 above the oak tree and then did the center section too. As you sample, this is meant to be a random thing, so you try and find a representative sample. The grapes are then "mushed" up (very technical term!) and a little of the juice is put in a refractometer and from that you can read the brix - which is the sugar content!

This is useful to guide the decision on when to harvest. It's not only the brix important - other things too - like acid levels etc - but brix is a good indicator.

In previous years, our buyers have only wanted one harvest so some of the grapes were a little over ripe and some were under ripe and some were just perfect. We sell to Havens now and they like to harvest different sections at different times as they ripen at different times. Normally we harvest the top section first ( most of the vineyard is on a slope), then above the oak tree, then generally the rest is pretty much the same as it is on just a gentle slope or no slope at all.

The brix today are: 24.1 for the top section - that means we may be harvesting those next week. The ones I sampled are 22.2 and 22.8 - so probably a couple of weeks yet before they are ready but as we've been having such hot weather lately...who knows.....

Green grape harvest

A morning for some grape harvesting - but green grapes, not merlot!

There are three rogue vines in our vineyard - with white grapes instead of red ones. They were mistakes when the vines were planted. I think two are Gewurztraminer and one is Chardonnay. They are no doubt ripe - as our merlot is just about ripe in some areas. The tricky part is finding them in the hundreds of other vines - and then two of them are in a really awkward position - so it's like risking life and limb just for some grapes! But I do it!! We will probably then juice them and be drinking our grape juice for a while.....

Then, later this morning, we are going to go to the coast for a picnic. My brother in law is with us at the moment and the weather is really too hot to do much outside...but it will be nice at the coast.....

Anyhow - sorry the photo is of our merlot grapes - but I'll take my camera with us now and try and get some of the green grapes....