Saturday, December 12, 2009

Perusing Pins....

In both my personal and business arena, I have discovered brooches. I suppose I always associated them with older women, but now that I am 50+, they suddenly seem like a whole new jewelry option for me. My fascination really was sparked by the former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and her book, Read My Pins, in which she talks about her pin collection.

Suddenly, I was going through my old jewelry box (and even my mother's), canvasing antique stores for vintage brooches, and designing pins in my head as I tried to fall asleep at night. Now that I have found the high-quality findings I had been looking for, I have created three fine silver pins - all from leaves I have picked on my walks with the dogs.

I even have several pins that my father gave my mother which I will, now, wear with great pride and lots of memories.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Want to be an Angel?

A cause near and dear to my heart is Soldiers’ Angels In essence, you are adopting a soldier while they are serving and “each Angel who adopts a soldier commits to sending at least one letter a week and at least one care package a month.” I had the pleasure of adopting a young woman in the Navy – what a treat it was to receive her emails and updates of what she was doing to serve our country. The website has many ways you can show your support of these young men and women who are fighting for us overseas if “adopting” does not appeal to you.

In addition, there is a woman here in Charlottesville who works tirelessly to aid our soldiers in combat situations. Her website is

OR you can simply send a veteran an e-card and let them know that they are not forgotten.

So many of our troops will need assistance once they have finished their tour of duty; helps with that process.

I feel guilty because I do not have a loved one serving and I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for those families. I do know several young men who are my sons' contemporaries who are overseas and I am eternally grateful for their service.

These are just a few of the many, many ways we can give back to these soldiers who have sacrificed so much for this country.

“May no soldier go unloved”....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sparkle for the Holidays….

My new weakness is vintage rhinestones. As in a lot of my designs, I love to use antique findings – whether they are beads or clasps or pendants. The craftsmanship is unusually good and, for the most part, they are one-of-a-kind. The rhinestones give a subtle glitz to my jewelry …. just enough to make a sparkling, and affordable, statement.

It has always been my goal to, whenever possible, use a clasp that is a focal point. This is a vintage rhinestone clasp; you can’t even see where it closes.

Here are a pair of earrings that I bought to dismantle and use in several other pieces, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. They are perfect just as they are. I simply put them on sterling silver levers so that they couldn’t be lost.

Here’s another clasp – the coloring coordinated perfectly with these delicate creamy pearls…simply elegant.

I wanted to create distinctive look with this vintage necklace so I paired it with my favorite little egg-shell colored pearls. The antique coloring of the pearls suited the shimmering rhinestones so well. It is my goal to give my customers the most value possible and, in this case, here are three different “looks” – wearing them together or each separately. I am so pleased with how it turned out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Virginia Rose Kane

I have thoroughly enjoyed the people I have “met” or “reconnected with” on this journey I have embarked on as I try to market my jewelry. Creating a LinkedIn page and a Facebook entry and a blog are a few avenues I have tried to follow in an attempt to gain exposure. The icing on the proverbial chocolate cake has been these great connections I have made as a result.

One such person has been Virginia Rose Kane. Her blog,, so inspires me that I wanted to share it. I’d think I’d died and gone to heaven to visit a place like The Smithsonian’s Naturalist Center
featured in her blog. We are kindred spirits, I believe…

Ever since I was little, I have been collecting treasures I found outside – a part of a robin’s egg, a really cool piece of drift wood on Manchester Beach, or a snail’s shell. My collection has grown thanks to the wonderful things my sons have given me over the years. I now have a great collection of birds’ nests and sea shells and feathers which I display in tables in my living room. This love of nature has translated itself into my jewelry – especially my PMC work. Spring can’t come soon enough so that I can gather new leaves to “paint” with the PMC paste or new flowers to mold so that I can string them with great pearls. My goal is to “immortalize” them before they wither away. I have so many plans to incorporate feathers and twigs into my pieces; I’ve already made a pure silver heart that was textured from a piece of bark.

In December, I visited the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History and I just wanted to hide in the Gem and Mineral exhibit after closing time so I could take my time and relish all those magnificent specimens. I am determined to find a way to incorporate such treasures into my creations; that steers me in another direction. I took my kids, when they were little, to a mine outside of Richmond (That’s the trouble with getting older…you forget names like that.) It was such fun as we “pan handled” our day away; we came back with buckets of rocks. I still have them and can just see the potential!

Virginia’s wonderful botanical creations are mind-blowing. Look at the detail – I love the hidden intricacies of it all. I even saw a shell stamp on one of her crocus creations that is part of my personal selection. Stamp collecting is a topic for another time…..

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why buy handmade?

The more I am involved in creating jewelry, the more I am humbled by the artisans I come across every day. I have worked at the Barn Swallow for years and am honored to be a member of the Artisans Center of Virginia, so I have been exposed to the highest quality of craftsmanship possible. I know the struggles of trying to sell one's "art," not just financially but also emotionally, so I made a pledge to buy as much as I can that is "hand made" and I urge you to do the same. The site,, does a great job explaining why you should.

The Etsy Showcase is another very imaginative site with many, many pages dedicated solely to hand-crafted treasures. Several of us who show our work at the Barn Swallow also sell through Etsy. It is there that I read "a connection to the creator is part of the reward of buying handmade. Mass-produced pieces of art don’t have any meaning ." If you are giving your purchase as a gift, what better way to show your thoughtfulness than to give a one-of-a-kind piece of art (that IS what it is...a piece of art.) There is so much value in it for what you spend and you are helping to promote such an important way of life. I have several of my favorite "artists" featured on my "Links" page; take a minute to look at that - you might just find the source for the perfect gift - for yourself or that lucky recipient.

Bronze Clay

Ancient Greeks and Romans and Chinese used bronze for its durability and its beauty. Bronze clay enables me to do the same. As in my silver work, I am compelled by the simplicity and uniqueness of nature. I take great pride in the fact that each one of my pieces is one-of-a-kind; just like the flowers and shells that inspire me.

The snowflake blossom I used was one I picked along the path leading to the Barn Swallow last spring. I found the shell in the sand on Topsail Island in May and the "beach daisy"grew outside our beach house. See my bronze pieces at

I am amazed by the detail the bronze clay allows me to reflect – every vein, each petal, all that makes it true to life. The rich, lustrous, gleaming finish gives my bronze jewelry the elegance and extravagance of gold without the expense. I have worked in silver for so long that I am excited about the new color scheme that bronze leads me to.

I hope you will keep coming back to see what I have created with this new medium.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Marketing Struggles...

As an artisan, I struggle with how to market and sell my work. I don't think I am very good at it and try to read everything I can get my hands on to learn more about cutting edge ideas. Entrepreneur Magazine is a great source of information and inspiring ideas. Several people, whose opinion I value, have suggested that I not only create a Facebook page, but also place some videos about my work on YouTube. I am still working on those, but here is a draft of first video. Tell me what you think.....

Art and Fear

Art & Fear – Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking
by David Bayles and Ted Orland

This book that my friend, Jo, gave me really resonated with me because so much of what motivates me, or gets in the way, is based in fear. It permeates my daily life, but it also is a part of my jewelry making. “Every artist must learn that even the failed pieces are essential.” It is that potential “failure” that scares me so. That and the subsequent waste of time and materials (the silver is SO expensive) that make an anxious ache in my stomach every time I start a piece.

About a quarter of the way into the book, it states that “fear that you are not a real artist causes you to undervalue your work.” I googled the definition of the word “artist” and, as you can imagine, found a lot of variations. The only one I felt applied to me was “a person who creates an aesthetic work.” Art and Fear goes on to say “while you may feel you’re just pretending that you’re an artist, there’s no way to pretend you’re making art. “ That made me smile and that is one of the nice things about the book. It acknowledges the fear and angst, but it also makes me feel better about what I do as though it is somehow validated.

“What is really needed is…….an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way.” I am often asked about my creative process and I can honestly say that, often, a piece comes together purely by accident. I may have an initial idea, but then something goes “wrong” in the process and I am led in a different direction. I had one piece when the oxidizing produced a different color (and much more interesting) than I had intended. I put it down on my work table next to some pearls I was waiting to use while I went to do something else and they were a perfect color match! (If you know me at all, you know that being color coordinated is crucial to me.) It ended up being one of my best and most favorite necklaces.

The fear that no one will like what I make seems to be a common fear for “artists” and I think I have gotten past that. If I like it and it is the best it is going to be, I am satisfied. If it sells, that is a bonus. I’ve hit the lottery if the person who bought it loves it as much as I do.

Thank you, Jo, for this book – you have no idea how much I have gotten out of it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

This I Believe....

This I Believe is a book that I picked up at Christmas time at Barnes and Noble based on the NPR series. It really made me think about what it is I believe and I wrote the following essay as a Christmas gift to my mother. Afterall, she is why I believe what I believe....

At the age of almost 50, I am struck by the fact that all the tenets that guide my life now are those I have learned from my mother. I clearly listened when she spoke in her quiet, gentle, wise way and I was paying attention when she taught by example….here is what I learned:

Your kids come first – no matter what. You can’t truly understand this one until you have children of your own. My mother would do anything, and has done everything, for each of the four of us. We are the good, decent, stable people that we are because of her.

Except that….. I have learned to lie (just now, as my children are in their 20s, have I stopped talking about Santa – he never came up once this Christmas and the “Easter Bunny” hasn’t stopped by in years.) I have cheated with the best of them. I can make arrow heads appear out of thin air and I have thrown a game of Monopoly or Stratego just to make sure one of my kids felt like a winner. I stole on a regular basis when they were little – Christmas trees when we would drive around for hours trying to find the perfect one and then cut it down not knowing which farmer to ask permission from ahead of time. I have stolen many kisses – especially once they’ve gotten too old to want to give me one in public and I have stolen many, many “just one more minute” of snuggling. I would do it all again in a heart beat and gladly go to jail if I had to. If anything, I have protected them too much and not let them skin their knees enough, not let them feel life’s knocks enough, but I can’t change that now. I am essentially a mother bear who will rip the head off anything or anyone that threatens my kids – even now that they are grown.

A work ethic is what defines you. As I think about the people around me who are respected by others, or who I respect, they are the hard workers. They are the ones who, usually behind the scenes, put in the extra hours to make sure everything runs smoothly and gets done. Both my parents had a very strong work ethic. My father put in LONG hours worrying about keeping his own business up and running so he could pay the bills and my mother took care of four of us kids in this huge drafty, bat-infested, pet-filled, cavernous, old house with a million windows to clean and beds of pacasandra to rake and replant. Neither ever complained and taught us to be grateful that we had such a magical place to grow up in. (Even though, every now and then, the threat of “I am going to sell this house if you kids can’t get the grass cut /the leaves raked/ the garage cleaned/your closet bull dozed” was always right there.)

Character is who you are when no one is watching. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get nudged by this in some way. I guess it is like having Jiminy Cricket hanging out on my shoulder all the time. Whether it is holding the door at Barnes and Noble for a stranger or letting someone out in an endless stream of traffic or letting that person with two items go ahead in the grocery line instead of getting stuck behind you and your overflowing cart, it is about just choosing to do the right thing – simply because the right thing needs to be done.

People are more important than things. This is the one that stings most often because it never fails to mean there has been damage done to something special/expensive. When I was little, I dropped an entire platter of my grandmother’s china when my mother TOLD me not to carry it – but I was being my obstinate self. My mother just stood there with tears in her eyes and said nothing. Then, there was the time that my little brother and his friends spilled a blueberry Slurpy (it couldn’t have been a milkshake, Bri, could it?) on her white, wool, wall-to-wall carpet right out in plain sight. We scrubbed and raked and cut it out and finally dragged a piece of furniture into the middle of the room – nothing hid it. I don’t even remember her reaction to this one, so she must have accepted the damage with her usual grace and poise. THEN, one of us spilled a cherry 7-up on another white, wool, one-of-a-kind, Portuguese rug – right in the middle. That was when she actually used the words “people are more important than things, Honey” - we felt just sick about it. There was also the time I spilled a can of Hershey’s syrup on my pink, long- shag, bedroom carpet and tried to hide it, so by the time it was found, it was a glob of petrified chocolate. Dad was NOT very happy with me. I liked Mom’s way better…she never really said anything – her pained expression said it all. I have been tested with this many times over the years and I can say that I have been able, though sometimes with great difficulty, to say to the offender….”it’s alright, (heavy sigh), people are more important than things…”

Pay it forward – Long before the movie made that saying popular, my mother was living it every day. As I have gotten older, I realize even more that there are so many people I can never repay for their kindness and support – the wonderful teachers who saw that spark in my kid that no one else saw, that police officer who was there when we needed him, that soldier who sat with Daniel as he waited to go into court, that bus driver who listened when my kids were upset, that friend and mentor who checked on me and somehow knew when I needed a hug and words of encouragement. I am a Libra so I believe in keeping the ledger equal – someone does something nice, you repay in kind. The problem is that I can’t ever repay those people so, to keep it fair, I have to help someone else. So very often, my mother says that it is because of her mother’ generosity and the wonderful people in my mother’s life that she can help all of us kids now” so my mother lives this credo every single day of her life. She has shown me the real joy of giving and helping someone else – it just plain feels so good to do it and it is necessary in order to keep the scales balanced.

Never underestimate the importance of a “thank-you” note. It seems like such a small thing, but saying “thank you” is far from insignificant. To my mother, there are those who do and those who don’t. In my eyes, it goes along with keeping that balance sheet balanced. If you can’t repay it, at least say “thank you” with all your heart.

Things happen like they are supposed to. Again, as I have gotten older, I believe this more and more. I wouldn’t be sitting here in this house on this Christmas morning with my two sons and my two dogs asleep somewhere in the house if life had happened any differently. I wouldn’t change one thing or trade places with anyone. Things haven’t always turned out as I had wanted them to at the time, but I have been able to see why – sometimes much later – and wouldn’t have wanted the alternative. Mother and I share, quite often, small world stories or marvel at the amazing coincidence of something and I believe, as she has taught me, that you accept what happens as if it is God’s plan and act accordingly….

What I believe has defined who I am and how I live my life. Hopefully, my children have gleaned much of it – if only by osmosis.

It is my mother who laid the foundation for what I believe.