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.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lénio, My Great Aunt Hélène Pernot

Today I made a piece named after my Great Aunt Lénio.

From Wikipedia: In France, the Cross of Lorraine was the symbol of Free France during World War II, the liberation of France from Nazi Germany, and Gaullism and includes several variations of a two barred cross.

This necklace is handmade with over 50 feet of sterling silver wire, melted down into kinetic links and oxidized. The circle, a symbol of heroism, acts as a simple focal point.

Here is Lénio's story (written by my dad, her nephew):

Hélène Pernot, known by family and friends by her diminuative name Lénio, was born 17 September 1909 in France to a French father and Dutch mother. She was the youngest of three daughters. Her father was a professor of modern Greek at the Sorbonne and her mother was a home maker.

Lénio was a sickly child, suffering from scarlet fever and later pleurisy. Consequently she was unable to attend normal schools, so she was schooled by her mother and through her voracious reading of any book she could acquire. She was trained as a photographer by a well-known Swiss photographer and opened her own studio. She traveled extensively with her father through eastern and southern Europe filming peasants in folk costumes. She was also an extremely capable electrician, carpenter, iron worker and driver. She was a Red Cross ambulance driver and lacked but a few lessons to obtain her pilot's license. She spoke native French and Dutch and was also capable in English.

In the summer of 1940 Lénio became involved with the French Resistance. She made innumerable trips from the occupied zone to the free zone on her bicycle, carrying messages each way. Her family was never totally aware of her true activities with the Resistance because she felt that imparting that knowledge to her family would put them and possibly her in great danger. The family was subsequently to learn that she had become a key member of the Resistance group operating in the area of the Loire valley. Her group actively worked against the German occupiers by cutting railroad lines, attacking German convoys, recovering downed Allied pilots, lodging them and moving them through networks back to England. She and her family regularly received wounded airmen and took them to visit with cooperating doctors posing as members of their family.

Her work continued for almost 4 years. On May 9, 1944 the German Gestapo surrounded their house and arrested Lénio. The last view her family had of her was in the back of a German car being driven away to prison in the town of Bourges. After a long period her family received a note from Lénio saying "We are leaving with the heart serene." She and several friends were deported to Sarrebrucken, Germany. Approximately two weeks later she and her friends were transported in cattle cars to the Prison Camp of Ravensbruck. They were treated like animals, their heads shaved, their only clothes summer rags, with no possibility of hygiene. At one point she was transferred in a convoy to the Kommandatur of Neu Brandenburg, where they were forced into manual labor, draining swamps, cutting trees, building roads. Their clothes were light summer fabrics in the early winter weather. In January 1945 Lénio was sent back to Ravensbruck in a convoy of prisoners who were sick and no longer able to work. Lénio declined rapidly and finally died from malnutrition, sickness and mal treatment. It was in February 1945.

Lénio's exploits, suffering and heroism have been officially recognized by the French Government. Her two sisters were able to continue on after World War II. Anne, the next oldest, married and had four children and many grand children in France. Nicolette, the oldest, emigrated to the United States and married Gordon Ringgold, an American who studied French from her at Middlebury College in Vermont. Gordon Ringgold is the grandfather of Nicole Ringgold of Winthrop, Washington. Cymone Lénio Van Marter is the daughter of Nicole and Derek Van Marter. The middle name of Lénio was given to her in honor of Hélène Pernot to perpetuate Lénio's name and spirit.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Recycled Business Card Cubes

The sustainable person in me wondered how I could repurpose my old business cards listing my former address (of the house that burned down). The crafty person in me wanted to re-use them in a creative way. The thrifty person in me refused to buy display materials for my jewelry. It turns out, I need photos for an upcoming wholesale craft show that can stand on their own and spruce up my booth. I came up with these recycled business card cubes.

As always, I like to share, so this is how I made them.

Materials Needed:
Old business cards
Scissors or paper cutter
Quick-drying glue
Modge Podge

Recycled Business Card Cubes: Tutorial

1. With your ruler, marker and scissors, measure the business cards and cut them into six perfectly shaped squares (mine were 5.5cm square).

2. Using your quick-drying glue, paste together first two sides. They have to be lined up exactly. I placed tiny drops of glue along the edge, went back and filled in gaps later.

3. Paste on your third side.

4. Then the 4th.

5. Then the 5th. You should have a little cup now.

6. Glue on the last side. Check all seams to be sure they're tight (with glue), but don't overdo it with the glue. You want your edges to be clean.

7. Once your cube is complete, carefully trim any overlapping edges.

8. When the glue is dry, cover the cube (painting 3 sides at a time) with Modge Podge. Let dry.

And there you have your cute cubes.

Cheerio. Back to the studio I go.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lavender Cookies: Recipe

This is a great old-fashioned butter cookie with an herbal kick: lavender.

The key to cooking with lavender is to experiment. Start out with a small amount of flowers, and add more as you go. Note that adding too much lavender to your recipe can be like eating perfume and will make your dish bitter. If you prefer, these cookies are delectable without the herb.


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use Bluebird Grain Farms' flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp dried (non-sprayed) lavender
1 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs


1. In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and lavender.

2. Beat the sugar and softened butter separately in a large bowl with an electric or hand-held mixer. (Tip: If the butter is hard and needs to be defrosted, cut it into small pieces and let sit util malleable.)

3. Once the mixture is creamy and fluffy, add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time.

4. Add the flour and baking powder mixture and fold in with a wooden spoon until the entire mixture is evenly blended.

5. Make a 12-inch roll and wrap it in a sheet of plastic. Keep it refrigerated for about 2 hours or until it becomes firm.

6. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

7. Grease baking sheets lightly.

8. Roll the dough into small balls and place them on your baking sheets. Keep the cookie mixtures about 1 inch apart from each other. Press lightly with a fork.

9. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly golden.

10. Take your cookies out of the oven and place on sheets to cool for a few minutes.

Enjoy (with vanilla ice cream)!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Chain Link Necklace: Tutorial

One of my favorite things to do as a silversmith is create kinetic art - wearable art that moves. Figuring out how to link one piece to another, giving art freedom to dance, creates a fascinating and satisfying challenge. I cheer to myself when I come up with a new idea or when I've made a unique chain without soldering it into one blob. Every chain is entirely different.

After I have created a pendant, somehow I can't bring myself to place it on a pre-fabricated chain unless my customer is requesting a lower price-point. I don't mean that to be judgmental. The art feels incomplete if I don't make the entire wearable piece.

Here is an example of one of my chains - a visual tutorial for metalsmith and insight for customers on my process. Enjoy!

Chain Link Necklace: Tutorial

1. Cut 18 gauge sterling silver wire into 20 1" lengths.

2. Using round-nose pliers, form a loop at the end of each wire, ensuring that the wire joints are connected. They must fit snuggly together.

3. With your torch on a small tip, just barely heat the silver wire until the loops fuse (no solder necessary). I use a metal tip to gently push the metal loops together to ensure the snug connection.

4. Once your loops have cooled, use your flat-nose pliers to bend each one into an arch (see picture below).

5. With your torch, as you "thread" each link, melt the end of the prior link into a ball. Bend each newly threaded link into an arch, making sure it's bent in the same direction as the original link.

6. I like to get creative with the links as they connect with the pendant. Here, I've made a jump ring to thread through the loops of each hand fabricated link. Maybe the picture will help you understand how all of the links are joined.

7. Play with where you place your clasp. My preference is hook clasps, but you may like toggle clasps. For this piece, I placed the hook toward the front of the necklace to break up the chain and add another random focal point. I'm not sure it works.

The pendant is made with sterling silver (3 sheets deep) and natural shell from my beach combing week on Kauai.

9. As always, have fun, and enjoy!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Live In Art: 2014

At this time last year I could not have predicted how 2014 would unfold. I figured it would be a typical year, forever striving to find a balance between family, work, art, garden and exercise. Personal goals included losing a little weight, saving $10K from jewelry sales (part of my 3-year plan to pursue a career as a full-time artist), building a root cellar, processing enough produce from my garden to last all winter, running 20 mile distances by the end of the summer, and a few other high-maintenance tasks.

Well, that didn't happen.

What did happen was a whirlwind - the largest wild fire in Washington state history. The loss of our home and my studio. We were left with a wood shed (filled with wood), hoola hoop, stunted potatoes and carrots. Apparently there was no need for a root cellar.

As a result, our year was filled with intense loving, embracing, community, breathing, walking, crying, searching, and rebuilding. My 3-year plan to save funds unexpectedly fast-forwarded and I was handed an opportunity: an ability to downsize and leap.

Quickly thereafter I received a generous grant from CERF+, purchased new equipment, and opened my jewelry studio in the greenhouse of Local 98856.

My studio - my art - became my rising Phoenix. In the months that followed my business flourished. Each creation offered another opening, a new beginning. Although I struggled to keep up with orders, I encountered nothing but patience, support, and appreciation.

2014 brought us a new understanding of love.

It gave us friendship.



Gifts. Generosity. Community.

Empowering decisions.

Creative collaborations.

A strong mother-daughter bond.

I fell in love with my husband again. And again.

Fresh air, and an ability to breathe.

A warm home.


We found a balance. We lost it, and found it again.




2014 will live within me forever. I admittedly don't wish to relive it, but do want to recognize that our challenges gave birth to blessings.

In sum: thank you.

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