Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Natural Rock Drilled Plugs Mosaic

Generally when I hollow out or drill holes in river rocks I will use the plugs for earrings or throw them in my gravel garden path. But this particular handful of stones was so colorful that the plugs were, in themselves, tiny gemstones. I pondered what I might do with them. A mosaic? Did I have enough of them? For a pendant - yes.

So, I made the frame with sterling silver. I then soldered tubes onto the frame so that I could string a chain through the pendant. I thought the piece would have enough of its own presence without adding one of my handmade chains.

Then, I used EZ600 to glue each plug into the frame, and waited until the glue was dry.

Once the glue was dry I mixed and added the grout, just like a mosaic. In a couple of days I'll brush the tiny mosaic with tile sealer.

Et voila. C'est tout.

What do you think?

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.

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