Wednesday, March 25, 2015

She Weaves A Tangled Web

I started this week in the studio with a plan to design a new "line" of jewelry. I sketched out a pair of earrings, filed down the backside of several rocks, and soldered bezels. During the few minutes the silver sat in the pickle, I became mesmerized with my growing plate of metal scraps, scooping little heaps into my palm and letting them sprinkle back onto the plate. I wondered, "If I were to make a $500 necklace using these scraps, what would it look like?" I've never done that.

Oh man.

I had to find out.

I nixed this week's plan to tackle my new challenge.

Patience and a hundred mistakes and swear words later, this is what I made. It's intricate, and I realize it's not cheap, but it was well worth the challenge.

She Weaves A Tangled Web

Handmade links. I don't really like the heavier silver chain, but I'll keep going to see what happens.

It needs to be kinetic, and it can't tangle. I have some leftover squares from Unfolding. What can I do with those?

That big chain needs to come out. It doesn't look right. Snip. Gone.

I am intrigued by moving jewelry. I like gemstones, but prefer a natural, rustic appearance. Hammered metal, organic circles, kinetic links.

It's 5:00pm and I have to quit for the day. I don't want to leave. I've cut 1" length sterling silver wire to work into the chain when I return tomorrow morning.

This necklace needs a tiny splash of color, but subtle.

I'll prep the wire.

Maybe I'll weave the wire through this 1" length of chain and add itty bitty prehnite gemstones.

Ok, now where will this go?

Throw this piece in the pickle. I'll oxidize the sterling silver so that it looks dramatic against the skin and the prehnite stands out.

I've hit $500 in materials and time.

Her name?

She Weaves A Tangled Web

Now I'll return to this week's plan!

Friday, March 20, 2015

River Rock Mandala Mosaic: Tutorial

After our home was destroyed, our community pulled together to help get us back on our feet. One of the countless kind gestures was the gift of rocks. People who know me understand that rocks feed my soul. They connect me to the earth. Knowing that friends around the world were collecting rocks for me in my time of stress and need gave me an unexplainable strength to put one foot in front of the other as we trudged forward with our lives.

Mostly due to size, I wasn't able to incorporate all of the rocks given to me in my jewelry designs. Yet I wasn't ready to pass them forward. Each rock came to me with a story, and each story important in my healing process. I decided to install another mosaic in our home, this time in the kitchen as a backsplash above our oven.

Family and friends, thank you for sharing your nature walks with me.

River Rock Mandala Mosaic: Tutorial

Materials Needed:
Morter (I prefer pre-mixed). It's thin-set, or tile adhesive.
Grout (any color is fine, and I personally like sanded grout)
Rubber gloves
Spatula (plastic or metal is fine)
Grout sealer & small paint brush
A radio with loud music


1. Collect enough rocks to fill the area you plan to cover. You'll be surprised - these mosaics take more rocks than you might think.

2. On the wall, sketch out the shape of the mosaic. You can use painter's tape to create straight edges. I generally draw a shape free-hand and trust that it will work. I always have extra interior wall paint handy just in case.

3. Using your spatula and pre-mixed tile adhesive, place a small lump of adhesive on the back side of each rock. One by one, stick the rocks to the wall inside your sketch. This part takes time. It's like creating a puzzle, trying to make the rocks look like they fit together. If your installation is small enough, you might try laying the rocks flat (pre-designing, so to speak) and then transfer them directly to the wall.

4. Once you've filled in all the spaces, allow the adhesive to dry overnight.

5. Mix the grout according to the instructions on the box. Wear rubber gloves because otherwise the tips of your fingers will be rubbed raw. Massage the grout into the mosaic, in between the rocks. Let dry for about an hour. The surface of the grout will crust.

6. With your rag and a bucket of warm water, begin wiping down the grout. Your rag should not be soaking - wring it out before setting it against the mosaic. You'll make a dozen or more trips from the sink to the mosaic, refreshing your water, wiping, refreshing, wiping. Continue to do this until your water is no longer very cloudy. Also note, you'll want to pour the dirty water outside, NOT down your drain.

7. The following day, use a dry rag to wipe any leftover residue off the rocks.

8. When you're done, wait about a week before painting on the grout sealer. Also, if your mosaic will be exposed to water (i.e. a back splash), you should line the edges with caulk.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Here and The Now


After a morning of frustration in my studio (some days are like that) burning a hole in a sheet of silver, I decided to head outside to play my favorite game of solitaire. It's called The Here and The Now. It goes kind of like this.

Grab paper (an old bank statement will do), a pen, camera. Take off your watch. Turn off your phone. Better yet, leave that behind.

Instructions: find a spot outside that draws you. Stand in that one spot. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. What do you smell? What do you see? Close your eyes. What do you hear? Take your time. Turn your feet 45 degrees and repeat until you've completed a full circle.

I played this game over and over, taking mental notes until I finished. Then I jot down all my thoughts on my scrap piece of paper.

Inhale. Smell sweet cottonwood. The buds must be popping open.
Listen. Chirping. Twitting, tweeting. Socializing between branches.
Close eyes. Rumbling river. Yipping coyotes. Mid-day? Interesting.
Discovering treasures.
How many other people have stood in this exact spot before? Ever?
How did this animal die?

Where have these rocks been? How long have they tumbled?

What left that there?

A gentle breeze.
Far-away jet. Turn my toes.
What did it look like here when the river used to be over there?

This place is not perfect. There are gnats.
Finding hearts amidst the millions.

Uncovering tracks.

Unearthing secrets buried long ago with seasoned homesteads.

Honoring history.

Time stands still yet the river sweeps forward.

I love this feeling so much it feels like I'm having an affair. I'm guilty in the here and the now.

This exercise is not about giving up in my studio or succumbing to failure. It's about taking a step backward, breathing, gaining perspective, and diving back in later.

I wonder what might come of this in my studio tomorrow?

Overcome by thirst, I realize I haven't had any water. How much time has lapsed?

And then, just like that, it's time to go.

Forward to today.

Back in my studio, I picked up the piece I ruined yesterday and wondered how I might salvage the metal. I stood there, staring at it, turning it over in my fingers, and over. And over. And then it came to me.

Thursday, March 5, 2015



I obsessively fold a pile of laundry. My daughter run's in, jumps on the bed and the neatly folded pile falls to the floor in a heap. Unfolding.

In my hand I hold a tiny, colorful origami animal. I turn it round and round in my palm, curious how it was made. Curious. I want to solve the riddle. I begin to unfold it to reveal its secret.

An envelope arrives in the mail. It's a statement from the Department of Revenue. I hesitate, place it face down on my desk. It nags at me, scolds me, until I pick it up, rip open a corner, and pull my finger along the edge. I pull out a piece of paper and, reluctantly, unfold it.

Last summer I was ripped open. I was vulnerable, raw, exhausted, exposed, unedited. With the arrival of winter, I took each flap of a box and, one by one, closed it around me.

Snow melts to spring as the sun slowly warms the soil. The first sprouts unfold as they reach toward the light, brave, bold, taking a risk.

I peek out through a little hole in the box, feeling hopeful. I think I'll open one flap.

A gift? For me? The tiny present is wrapped with yellow and white polka dot paper. The wrapping alone brings me joy. I might even put it on my shelf as-is without opening it. It's so pretty. Yet I wonder what's inside. Give it a little shake. Sniff. It gives me no hints. I can't resist, so I begin to unfold the wrapping.

Ok, maybe I'll open a second flap.

In the process of unfolding, does that mean I am unraveling? Am I spinning out of control? Am I opening myself to risks and putting myself, again, in a vulnerable position?

No. That's not how I see it. Instead, I am brave, breathing deeply, strong, ready, open to possibilities. Maybe I'm even a little sassy.

I'll open a third flap, and then a fourth. I might even step outside.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Goldfinch Spreads her Wings

My daughter, age 12, and I created another collaborative piece. She wrote the story and I made the necklace in response. I love working with her like this.

The Goldfinch Spreads her Wings
by Cymone Lenio Van Marter

The Goldfinch huddled beneath damp leaves as she waited for the rain to cease. It had a rainy spring, and had grown tired of the wetness. She shivered and longed for the days when it was warm and she could flit about in the sky.

The rain eventually tamed to a drizzle and the Goldfinch spread her golden wings, thinking this was the best she’d get for a while. She fluttered her wings and flew toward the highest tree in the forest, her home. She dove down to the crown and landed lightly in her nest. There, her one egg awaited her. She chipped at it lovingly and settled on top of it.

Just then, her egg began to vibrate. The Goldfinch hopped off and watched in wonder as little claws emerged. Egg shell bits flew everywhere, causing the Goldfinch to flap her wings and hover a little way out of the nest.

Peep! The chick broke out and wriggled about lamely in its nest. It was wet and covered with bits of eggshell, but when it dried and was cleaned it would be a fluffy.

Just then came the sound of terrifying cries of a bald eagle. The Goldfinch chirped in alarm when the dark shadow fell upon her.

“Food!” The eagle cried and in one swift movement snatched the chick out of the nest, carrying it far with just a few magnificent flaps of its mighty wings.

“No!” Without thinking Goldfinch took off after it, ignoring the fact that the eagle could eat her, too. She darted through the air, the wind at her back making her glide swiftly. She soon caught up to the eagle, and, not knowing what else to do, landed on it’s back. She plucked out some of her own feathers and tied them together to make a harness. She then threw the harness over the eagles head, wrapping it around its neck like a rope, pulling this way and that, forcing the eagle to turn as she directed.

The Goldfinch steared the eagle towards the clever raven’s nest. A swarm of angry ravens darted from their branches, charging toward the confused eagle. The Goldfinch took her chance. She slipped off the eagles back and snatched her chick out of his huge claws while he was distracted by the charging ravens.
The Goldfinch flew back to her nest. She dropped her baby within, singing with pride. She spread her wings, catching the last light of the sun.

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