Monday, November 1, 2010

New goodies have arrived!!

A package as intriguing and beautiful as it's contents arrived today! Christmas came a little early for me so it can be right on time for you!! I have never ordered gemstones from overseas but I thought the time was right to start experimenting with some new setting techniques so I dove in. Along with another Etsymetal teammate, I ordered all kinds of goodies! Rubies, prehnites, garnets, rutile quartz, and iolite, just to name a few. The package arrived wrapped in cloth and tied with string, fastened with red sealing wax. It was almost to pretty to open. All the way from Bombay, India...I'm loving my new stash!

Be on the lookout for new ruby earrings: some big and luxurious, others teeny tiny and super wearable, big rings and maybe a few simple one of a kind pendants! I'm also working on new Orbit pieces, perhaps a bracelet??? Stay tuned!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Welcome guest blogger Sue Szabo!!

L. Sue Szabo is an accomplished metalsmith and artist in the Toledo, OH area. She has generously offered to share her technique for creating jewelry using resin. What follows is her tutorial in her own words:

Hi! I'm Sue from and I've been asked by my friend Ann to write a little tutorial on how I work with resins. I use Colores resin from Rio Grande and all resin reacts uniquely so please do not universally apply my techniques without understanding the brand of resin you are using.

I assemble everything I need first because once the resin is mixed you will have limited time before it gets sticky and too hard to pour. You will need a dust free environment in which to work. I cannot stress this enough. It is maddening to find a piece of dirt or a cat hair on the top of your resin that you worked so hard on. Some people use cardboard boxes on their sides to cure resin in, I have a special place designated for resin work in my home. No kitties allowed.
Cover your work area in wax paper. Resin will not stick to wax paper and this will protect your work surface from sticky messes. You will want to have on hand your resins, hardener of choice, stirrers, measuring cups, applicators and tips, tweezers, straight pins, paper towels and isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol is for clean up.

Here are some pictures of my work area and prep.

OK, now we are ready for step two, MIXING THE RESINS

Before you mix your resins, lay out your pieces to be filled on a flat surface that will go in your oven. You should use a toaster oven dedicated to this purpose and not your regular oven. I line the pan with parchment paper in case any of the resin overflows. Do whatever is necessary to keep your resins as level as possible. You can see that I use small baking tins with beans in them to keep level rings and 3D objects. Today we are also doing a 2-­‐sided piece, a pair of earrings. These must be sanded flat before you pour the resin into them or they will leak. Then I adhere them to a piece of double sided tape. (Photos below)

All resin must be mixed. There is a resin component and a hardener. The only thing that varies is the hardener. If you are planning on sanding flat your piece, you MUST use the hardest hardener called Durenamel hardener. If you are not going to sand the piece you will use a thinner hardener or a doming hardener. Today we are using Durenamel because I like the look of flat matte resin. I choose my colors and pour the resin first into the measuring cups. I let it settle to be sure it's been measured properly. The ratio is always 2:1, resin to hardener. I try to make several pieces that will use the same colors so that I do not waste any as it does work better if you mix at least 15 cc of product. You may use resin colors directly from the jar or custom mix them. I am doing both today. You always mix the color using the resin only. Once you are satisfied with the color , then you add the hardener. It is important not to mix a lot of air bubbles into this when you mix your resin and hardener together. Fold them gently, like making meringue. Once you have mixed the 2 parts, you have about 30 minutes of work time. I then transfer this to an applicator bottle--you can attach a needle to this if you need to apply resin to a fine area. Let's look at some photos before we move on.

I pour one color at a time, then mix the next one together and pour that one, etc. This is why it is important to have all the pieces ready to be filled. I use the squeeze bottle applicator technique but do whatever works the best for you. I start by outlining the edge of the space to be filled, then filling in the middle. Resin has a nasty tendency not to want to cling to the walls and if you are going to develop air bubbles, they are often around the edge. If you start by filling the outside first, there is a better chance this will not happen. It is better to underfill than overfill. Colors bleeding into unwanted areas is a much bigger problem to deal with than having to sand it a bit more. Now, before your resins get too hard to work, put everything, applicator and all in a freezer bag in your freezer. You'll find out why soon enough.
Once all your colors are filled it is time to deal with the dreaded air bubble! Everyone seems to have their own little tricks to deal with them but here's what I do----I first gently breathe/huff on the pieces. Gentle breaths, you're not the big bad wolf! This will break many of them. The others I break with the straight pins or tweezer tips. There is still no guarantee that you won't uncover more bubbles you didn't see as you sand the piece but I'll tell you how to deal with that later.

If you use durenamel hardener, you must bake it to cure it. It goes in a 150 F degree oven for
3 -­‐4 hrs. The other hardeners can be either oven cured or air cured. I check the resins about every 5 minutes for the first half hour. You will see air bubbles starting to rise and form during this crucial period. Do not plan on going anywhere at this time. The resin is now getting sticky and popping the bubbles gets a little tricky. Once the resin is too sticky to work, don't pop any more. You will have to deal with them.

Once they have baked and are cured, you must sand them. I use 220 grit paper to start. They should be sanded wet as resin dust will get everywhere and in your lungs. Wear a respirator or mask if you can. I sand up to 600-­‐800 grit depending on how fine you want your finish. Now inspect your work. You will often find tiny air bubbles and pockets that did not fill. This often happens in very finely detailed areas.

If possible, just sand to the bottom of the bubble. Sometimes the bubble is just too deep. It is better to try to fill it. Here is where that extra resin you stored in the freezer comes in. Take out the resins and let them thaw. This will take 20-­‐30 minutes (about). I use a toothpick or a straight pin to take some of it out and fill the bubbles. If you are using resin color straight from the jar, you do not have to do this, you can just mix up a new batch if you like. If you have custom mixed your color, you will need to do this as you will never get an exact match if you try to mix it again. I now re-­‐bake it for 3 hrs at 150 degrees and sand again. If you still have air bubbles that are not filling, you need to "un-­‐roof" them. I use ball burrs to grind the resin out a bit and make the hole more shallow and wide. Refill them and repeat the process.


Thanks so much Sue!!! If you want to see more of Sue's resin pieces, you can view them here. To see all of Sue's work, check out her store on Etsy or her website, where she showcases her many exhibition pieces. Check back soon, Sue will be doing am enamel tutorial for us in the future!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Etsymetal bolg carnival - School days

So, I'm late for this one and it's late here but this is a subject so dear to my heart I feel compelled, even this late in the game, to write. The subject of this month's Etsymetal Blog Carnival is:

"Where did you go to school? Are you still a student? What kind of student were/are you? If you had the opportunity to go back to school, would you? Where and what would you study?"

I have to start right off the bat here and say, unapologetically, that I LOVE school. I love the way a school campus looks and feels, I love the smell of books and supplies, I love the backpacks, the lunch tables, the endless possibilities of all that knowledge. I love learning and I love to be taught. Is it any wonder that I managed to stay in school until I was 32?

I went to 3 different High Schools in 3 different states and moved a lot even before that so the opportunity to put down roots when I hit college was very formative for me. I had no idea where I wanted to attend college, I was lazy and confused so I applied to Baylor University just to get my parents off my back while I devised a plan. To my shock and horror, I was accepted. So, off I went without a clue,...probably the only Catholic at Baylor. To my surprise, it was an incredible experience. It was sheltered enough so the trouble we were getting into wasn't really all that bad and it was big enough to draw a sort of diverse student body. It took about two years of stumbling around the business school, but I finally discovered the printmaking department and never looked back. I graduated in 1991 with a BFA in printmaking.

Since this is about school I skip the next few years.....

Not being able to leave my love of academia that easily I landed in Normal, Illinois for the longest three years of my life. Now, don't get me wrong, I love school, but I hated Illinois State University. Man, that place can suck the joy out of a box of kittens. It was a dismal group of washed up, mirthless, tenured air bags and slobbering sycophants. Sure, I made my prints and loved it but it was crushing the spirit out of me and taking all the fun out of getting dirty. With one semester to go, I desperately begged the metals professor to let me use the studio so I could build up a portfolio of metal work so I could get the hell out of there.

Get the hell out of there I did and in 1996 I arrived at the University of Illionis where I finally got my MFA in metals. It was an awesome three years. My professors and fellow students were all excellent and I learned so much. These were the salad days; I had just met my future husband, we were fat on student loans (ouch) and we had nothing else to do but stay in the studio all night and sleep all day. What's not to like?

I was an excellent student. I loved trying new things, I took criticism pretty well and worked hard. If I could go back there, I'd do it in a minute. I look at the work I made back then and marvel at it's inventiveness and it's construction. It's like someone else made it because, really, someone else did. Being a wife and mother has stripped me of the time and energy to even think the thoughts that led to those pieces. My life now is not one of student but of teacher. I long to be student again and that will come, in time. I'm just waiting for my turn to go back to school again. When my time comes, I won't have the luxury to sleep until noon or live with no responsibilities but I will have the time to think and play and challenge myself and live, if only for a few hours a day, quietly.

So, since I'm so late in posting, won't you join me in checking out these other Etsymetal members to see what their school experience was like???

victoria takahashi - experimetal -
caitlyn davey- discomedusa-
Thomasin Durgin - metalriot -
Danielle Miller -
stacey - wildflowerdesigns -
Konstanze - Nodeform -
Beth Cyr -
Jenny Baughman-
Kathryn Cole -

Monday, August 2, 2010

Food for Thought:
What do you eat? What won't you eat? Do you suggest any interesting pairings? What is your favorite studio snack?

This month the Etsymetal blog carnival theme is food; how we like it, where we like it, what we don't like and what's our favorite. Coming from a house where my Mother was a home-ec teacher (way back when...) and my Father was a professional chef, food was always around and it was always being discussed. My first memories as a child are of gathering at my Grandmother's house for holidays around her HUGE dining room table with our extended family, eating until we couldn't move. Yeah, I know of food.

Honestly, I try pretty much anything once. I wouldn't go in for the "gross out" food just to be bugs or slimyness, but I think some of my favorite childhood foods would probably fall into the "ewwwwwwwww" category. I grew up on a Luxemberger sausage called "mustripen"
which is a combination of pork, cabbage, onions and blood. My dad had us regularly eating snails and sweetbreads as well as my favorite to this day, carpicco de carne, or thinly shaved raw beef.

Whew, that makes me sound like a committed carnivore, which I am not. I love vegetables above all things and they are always the first thing I eat off my plate. I am a voracious salad eater and put all matter of ingredients on a bed of lettuce. It would be very easy for me to be a vegetarian if I didn't have a family to cook for who didn't share my passion for vegetables.

Given this, the two things I will not eat will sound surprising. One is lima beans. We grew up, not poor, but decidedly working class and my Mother stretched a dollar with frozen bags of mixed vegetables. I still shudder when I see them, peering out of the frozen food case at the grocery store. Dry, hard, flavorless, I swallowed them whole like pills. My other "no way" food grew out of childhood trauma as well. Aunt Dorothy, in typical midwestern fashion, lived on a huge piece of land outside Milwaukee, where I grew up. I remember her garden, probably two acres in total, with what seemed like half the acreage devoted to the biggest, hairiest, seediest, stringiest green beans that ever were put forth on this earth. Damn, they were gross. We had bags upon bags of them stored in the freezer and we ate them all winter. The odd thing was this, my parents were excellent cooks, well trained and interested in trying new things. The green beans were an anomaly on my plate and remain a mystery to me even now. I'd like to add here that, although I have tried Marmite, that's another thing I won't be lining up to eat again.

As for interesting pairings, I have millions but my very favorite, and one I haven't had in years, is a bacon and peanut butter sandwich. My Mom used to send me to school with B&PB sandwiches in my lunch box and it used to gross out all the kids at my table. It's no wonder I wasn't much of a success at school. I begged my mother for the peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches my friends brought but, to no avail. Why my mother thought the bacon was better for me than marshmallow fluff is also one of the great mysteries of my childhood.

These days I am trying to avoid the family heart attack so I eat very consciously. I am fortunate to have come from a family who loves to cook and that was passed on to me. I make most of our food from scratch and utilize a large freezer for things like chili and maranara sauce. I even make our yogurt. As far as studio snacks, I'm trying really hard to avoid eating in the studio. My hands are filthy and covered with who knows what when I'm out there so eating in the studio is risky business. I always have hot tea with me, no matter how hot it is in there and, if I really need a little something to snack on, I take dark chocolate chips and broken graham crackers and nibble on them. They are usually long gone by the time my hands are into anything really vile.

I'd like to end with a recipe that comes from my Grandma Lil. This recipe is from the very tattered copy of "Our Favorite Tried Recipes" put together by the "Saint Veronica Ladies" in 1951. If my house were on fire and my husband and kids were safe, this is what I'd grab. It's a window into my past with advertisements for businesses I fondly remember but who are long gone. It has spatters and notes in the margins from a woman who is also long gone. My Mother still knows who all the women are and can tell you all about them. Who had the biggest family, who was known as the best cake baker, jam maker, dollar stretcher.

To read what foods Etsymetal team members are addicted to, check out these blogs:

nina gibson
victoria takahashi
stacey hansen
thomasin durgin
inbar bareket
lauren anabela beaudoin
maria whetman
beth cyr
cynthia delgiudice
caitlyn davey

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Etsymetal Blog Carnival - If you couldn't make jewelry, what would you do instead?

Every month, members of the Etsymetal Team blog on a different topic and this month the topic is "If you couldn't make jewelry, what would you do instead?" At the end of this post you will find a list of links to other bloggers writing on the same topic.

At first, I thought this would be a snap to write. Afterall, I already did this. I had a two year stint with no studio and no tools.
Write a blog post, easy. Then, I got to really thinking about what I would do if I couldn't make jewelry. I love the "what if" questions, they plague me. "What if we never moved here?" "What if we never had kids?" "What if I had taken that spot at RISD?" What if, what if, I could go mad on what if's.

I got to thinking about what I would do if I could do ANYTHING but not jewelry. Let's let the obvious careers of bikini model and Italian film star go by the wayside, it's too easy a wish and I might not like those jobs once I had them?? No really, they might suck. So, what would I do if I could do anything? Dinking with my new iPhone this week makes me wish I had majored in computers in college. I'd write apps that actually work and I'd know what an MMS and SMS were without having to ask my 21 year old sister in law. I would be a textile designer and maybe work for Marimekko. I would design incredible new textiles on my iPhone. Then I would sew, I would make incredible clothes out of the fabric I designed myself, kind of like Lotta Jansdotter. Yes, that's what I'd be. I'd be Lotta Jansdotter and have a fabulous studio and make great clothes out of fabulous fabric I designed myself. Oooohhh, it's making me all swoony just thinking about it.

But, back to reality. I don't know how to design textiles and I probably won't ever learn. I have a modest little life with two young kids to raise and a husband to be married to so I probably won't ever have a fancy NYC studio where I sew and design all day. This is just about as probable as my becoming a bikini model. I could probably do it but it would hurt,...a lot. So, when I can't make jewelry, and there are lots of times I can't work in the studio, I knit.

I started knitting at the end of two really unproductive and dark years. I was pregnant and sick and unhappy and unfulfilled, didn't have a studio and was very lonely. I stumbled across a book in the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble and I taught myself to knit. My mother was a knitting teacher way back when and she helped me over the phone as much as she could. I hung out on forums and joined Ravelry. This was 4 years ago and I can't imagine my life, now, without knitting. To knit is to create something beautiful but someone else is telling you what to do. It's a relaxing refuge from the studio where it's all pressure to create something unique. It's the clicking of the needles, the triumph of mastering a new stitch or finding that a particular pattern isn't as hard as you thought. It's color and texture and pleasure and warmth all bundled into a ziploc bag in my purse. If you make a mistake, no biggie, just rip it back and start over. How often can you do that in metal??

So, the easy answer this month is, I knit. If you decide to join Ravelry, look me up. I'm Hartleystudio over there too. :) What do other metalsmiths do when they are away from the bench? You know we all have busy hands and minds, we gotta do something!! Find out here:

Victoria - experimetal
Tomi - metal riot
Brooke Medlin
Maria - fluxplay
stacey - wildflowerdesigns
Inbar Bareket
Beth Cyr

Thanks for reading all the way through!! Hey, if you want to learn to knit, head on over to Etsy and send me a convo, I'll get ya started!!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Step 3 - carving the details

So, if you've been around for the last few weeks, you'd know that Susan and Jason have chosen the wedding band "Stitches" from my Etsy store. Thanks guys!!! This is the third, and final, tutorial on carving their waxes. The previous tutorials are, part one and part two.

Here is a picture of the gravers I will be using to carve this wax. I want to stress that this is the way I carve a wax. There are as many wax carving techniques as there are wax carvers so if you don't have gravers, don't sweat it. Just use what you have!!

I now have unadorned wax rings in the correct sizes and widths and thicknesses so it's time to carve the details. I start, again, with my dividers and a calculator. I measure the outside diameter, calculate the outside circumference and fiddle with that measurement until I am satisfied with the number and width of the stitches that will fit around each band.
I mark all the way around with my dividers and scribe a line about 2mm in on each side. These sections will turn into the stitches. In these next three photos, I use various gravers to carve out the design. First, I mark out each section with a line. Then, I take a little wax from each corner to round each stitch and scrape away wax from each stitch's edge. I am mostly using a #42 and a #2 graver for this.

All these parts are very fiddly. I use whatever tools give me the right texture. To give the stitches their final texture, I used a file and a scribe. Below is a picture of the final carving.

Once the wax is done, I obsess over it for a day or two. I hunt down air bubbles, remeasure, rub it with 400-600 grit sandpaper and then give it a dunk in the ultrasonic and a quick steam. Sometimes I give the wax a quick flame polish, which is holding the wax very quickly in front of a big bushy flame to just slightly melt it (careful, this can be either really great or really heartbreaking.) There are wax polishers too that work really well. Either way, at some point you have to call them "done" and send them off to be cast. This is, honestly, the hardest part of the whole process. If you have ever had anything cast before you know,...a teeny blemish that doesn't show up much on a wax model can be HUGE once the piece is cast. You want to make sure that all of the scratches and air bubbles are gone once you send it off or you will have tons of cleanup to do.

Thanks for hanging in there for all three weeks!! I hope you learned something and I hope you try carving your own wax!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Creating a wedding band, part 2

Hi! For those of you who didn't see part one of this post, Susan and Jason chose "Stitches" for their wedding bands and I am blogging about the process of carving their bands out of wax, to be cast in 14 karat white gold. This is part two in the process.

The following two pictures are the tools I will use to carve the details into the wax. I use dividers for marking precise guidelines and gravers for carving the detail. The second photo shows some of the files I use, one specifically for wax and the others are cheap-o's I got at Lowe's. They are a pretty coarse cut that removes a controllable amount of wax but don't clog up with the wax debris.

The next step is removing some of the wax that I was to chicken to remove with the and learn. I measure first to get the initial thickness (with my awesome new digital caliper!) which is 3mm. I would like the thickness to be 2.2mm.

My next step is to measure and mark the .08 mm I want to remove, which I do with a rotary file. This is an amazing tool, I use it for carving all my waxes and for removing metal when I need to move quickly. It leaves a nice surface that doesn't need much cleanup.

I was taught to use gravers for the next step. There are lots of ways to carve waxes but this is the way that works best for me. I think graver skills are so important for a bench jeweler or metalsmith to have. While FAR from an expert, my limited skills have helped me out of many jams and have been indispensable when carving pieces from wax. For rounding the outside and creating a comfort fit on the inside, I use, first, a #38 graver and then a #2. The #38 is a skinny flat graver and the #2 has a "V" shape. I use the sharp edge of the #38 to gently scrape wax away, creating a rounded edge, inside and out. I scribe a guide line first with a divider so everything stays nice and even.

When this step is done, I may run over the whole surface with 400 grit sandpaper but not always. I now have a ring blank that is ready for embellishments (sorry for the blurry pic), which I will cover in my last post, next Wednesday! Thanks for reading!!! See you next week!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

My studio mascot

This month's topic for the Etsymetal blog carnival is "Who/What is your studio mascot". "Does he/she/it inspire you? Watch you? Encourage you? Impede your work"

For those of you who aren't familiar with a blog carnival, every month members of the Etsymetal team choose a topic to write about and we all link to each other's blog. Get it? If you like a topic, find it interesting, there are lots of viewpoints and opinions!

I can't think of anyone else I'd rather call my studio mascot than my patient, loving and awesome husband, Ben! Back in 2008 we were having a really shitty summer. We had lots of stress and lots of bad stuff happen and, in the midst of it all, he built me my studio and encouraged (he would say forced at knife point) me to open my shop on Etsy. He had a vision for this crappy shed that, at the time, was full of old junk and mouse poop. I never thought it could turn into anything and now, it's my incredible space. Made just for me.

This picture is my Father in Law, my husband and my son, all working together to build me a studio. Three generations, all working together!!!

Every time I am blue and feeling like Etsy isn't working out for me, he is there to encourage me, or bring me a chocolate bar and a diet coke. Every time I melt some important piece or break a stone, he is there to make me realize it's just jewelry, not brain surgery. Every time I stay out way too late in the studio and come to bed long after he has gone to sleep, he makes me coffee in the morning and hustles the kids into the basement so I can sleep a little later. He is the maker of all things, the fixer of all things, the answer to all questions and the best husband and father I could ever imagine. He's not just my studio mascot, he's my studio hero!! Ben is also a very accomplished woodworker, so he understands my need for tools! Sometimes I think he understands the whole tool thing a little too well. He has made my studio work flawlessly for me. From hooking the pickle pot up to the light switch so I don't forget to unplug it, to installing a switch so my flex shaft and drill press can use the same foot pedal without unplugging it, there is nothing my studio is wanting. He has encouraged every thought, every need, every whim.

So, here's to my incredible studio mascot!!! Thanks Ben!! You're the best!!

Well, with lots of shows going on and lots of busy metalsmiths, it looks like there are only a few bloggers this month. Want to ready about their studio mascots? Check them out here!!:

Nina Gibson
Victoria Takahashi

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Susan and Jason's rings, step by step part 1

Congratulations to Susan and Jason!!! I am so honored to make their rings and I thought it would be interesting to show how their wedding bands are made. To begin with, this is not a lathe's my husband's lathe and I hardly know what I'm doing. Ordinarily, I would carve this step by hand but my husband convinced me that using his lathe would make the process much more efficient and produce a much more precice ring blank.

This process starts with a tube of wax. The tube is placed in the chuck and tightened gently. This was actually a process of trial and error. We had one not tight enough and too long so it broke. Once the tube is tightened in the chuck, the first step is to bore out the inside to the correct ring size. Susan is a 6 1/4, which is .658".
This tool bores out the inside a little at a time. It has a sharp edge that will cut away all excess.
As we get close, we use a dial caliper to measure the inside diameter. I actually ordered a digital caliper after we did this, my old eyes can't read all those small numbers!! :)

This is a photo of the wax ribbons that are cut out of the inside of the tube.
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Susan and Jason's wedding rings, part 2

The next step, once the inside diameter is the size you need, is to carve the wax to the correct outside diameter. For Susan and Jason's rings, they need to be about 2-3mm thick. I haven't ever made a ring this way so I left myself a little extra material to work with later. Susan's ring is cut to about 3mm thick and I took a little bit more off Jason's, just to see what works better. I may have to do one or both of these over again.

This is the tool that cuts the face of the wax. The tube spins and a little bit of wax is removed on each pass across. The tool has to be precisely placed in order to cut cleanly and efficiently. For wax cutting this isn't a a dire issue but it makes the process much easier if the tool is positioned correctly.
The tool moves across the wax tube cutting very slowly, cutting ribbons of wax...
Like this.
And this.
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Susan and Json's wedding rings, part 3

OK, we're almost done making a ring blank. This next step is facing the ring. This will ensure that the edge of the ring is perfectly square with the rest of the ring. This tool removes a tiny bit of wax from the edge.
Next, I measure with a cailper and mark where I want the ring cut off the tube. Susan and Jason's rings will be 6mm wide so I cut them off at 7mm, to give myself some extra material to work with later.
This is the cut off tool in action. My husband said, "this is the fun part were it goes flying across the room and we have to go looking for it!!!" Yes, he was serious. I explained to him why this wouldn't work so we caught it on the end of a pencil.
Here is one ring blank all cut off. There was a little flashing that I'll file off when I start working on these rings at my bench.
And, here they are, as plain, straight ring blanks. Both the right size and thickness. Using the lathe for this step was really interesting. There is so much more I can do with this tool and I'm excited to play with it again. For now, however, the lathe work is over and I will move these waxes to my bench to finish them with more traditional tools. Check back for more of the process this week!!
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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Motivation: Dragging your tired, sorry, sad self out into the studio, we do it.

I think the hardest part of the “dragging your sorry ass” out to the studio, for me, is the sense of futility I feel when things aren't moving in the shop. This, invariably, turns into a list of things I should be doing instead. I actually hear myself thinking “well, this shit ain't selling and you shouldn't be wasting any more time or money with this ridiculous hobby.” Hunh. I read interviews with lots of successful artists and they actually LOOK FORWARD to times on inactivity in their business. They see it as a respite, a rest from the daily grind of filling orders and day to day soul sucking drudgery of a successful studio practice. They look at this time as an opportunity to create new pieces, to investigate new ideas and forms. They actually use this time productively to free up their minds and hands and let their imaginations work. Their glass is, clearly, half full. The reason I suggested the topic for this month's blog carnival is that my glass is half empty lately and I wanted to know how other successful artists handle this “half empty glass”. How DO you drag yourself out there?

I have been successful in the past, I have overcome the “should do” list always running in an endless loop, walked past piles of dirty dishes, baskets of laundry, even, on occasion, a wailing kid. I have left my husband in charge, chores be damned. It's not a lack of ideas that is plaguing me this time, no. I have an over abundance of ideas and forms to investigate. It would be super easy to blame my inability to stay motivated on my husband and kids, yup, I was going to use them as a scapegoat once again but, after I wrote it all out it rang false. The real reason I can't get out there is because, when things aren't selling and business is slow, I think I suck. Yes, I'm a shitty metalsmith with trite ideas and worn out designs. I'm not a good enough craftsman to execute the good ideas and the pieces I can make are boring and nobody likes them. Hello, my name is Ann Hartley and I'm a praise junkie. I need external affirmation that I'm good enough in order to keep making. The double edged sword of all this is when I'm selling well, I'm filling orders of existing pieces and when the store has tumbleweeds I can't get out there to make new pieces. I don't feel satisfaction in just going out and making stuff because I feel like I'm already a drain on my family's resources, both time and money. Nobody is making me feel this way, it's just built in there. Boo hoo, poor me. It's pathetic, isn't it? Even I can't stand to listen to myself! Which is why I don't listen, I do other things. I make excuses about being tired and I go to bed early, I clean like crazy or I shut my brain off and knit. So how do I fix this? How do I work through the self doubt and self loathing? I honestly don't know. Now that I have done a little self examination I know what's going on and that's helpful in changing course. I guess my answer is that when these times hang heavy, I find myself repeating to myself “this, too, shall pass”. I know these feelings aren't permanent, I know things will turn around and I'll be back at the bench in time. I know this isn't the good answer but what I usually do is just wait it out. I'll have a sale before long and I'll be back out there. Maybe something will happen in the meantime to up my spirits and get me out and working. Or maybe not, maybe I'll get an extra hour of sleep and knit myself a new pair of socks.

So, I haven't been very helpful in solving this problem, have I? Luckily, 8 of my much smarter and much more helpful Etsymeal teammates are blogging on exactly the same topic! Check out their blogs, one of them is SURE to have the answer!!!

1. - Nina Gibson
2. - stacey hansen
3. - Danielle Miller-Gilliam
4. - Victoria Takahashi / Experimetal
6. - Brooke Medllin
7. - Beth Cyr
8. - 2Roses

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring is finally here!!

Oh my gosh, spring couldn't have come any sooner. That last 4" of snow about killed me. The kids loved it, sure, but I've had enough coats and snow boots for one year, thankyouverymuch. In celebration of spring, I bought these awesome vintage class cabochons from a seller on Etsy. Orange is my very favorite color so I could hardly resist. I added 3 turquoise "dew drops" beneath the flowers to keep them fresh. I love the way this turned out. I learned a lot making this piece, it was a good exercise in setting an irregular piece. Thin bezel material and lots or measuring insured a very snug fit. The finish on this piece was a good problem solving exercise as well. It couldn't be tumbled because of the fragility of the glass and it couldn't be polished on the buff because of all the nooks and crannies. I finally decided to set the turquoise, tumble for a half hour and then set the glass. I finished off with a bit of rouge and a brushed finish and it was done. I'm super pleased with it! It was a hard one to list, I wanted to keep it, but I have three glass pieces left so I may make one for myself!!

Happy Spring!!!
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