Thursday, December 16, 2010


We've had several consecutive days of extremely cold weather and a day of amazingly high winds that churned up the Gulf to the point that this is what I found along the beach this morning, on the first sunny and relatively warm day we've had in a week:  Literally millions of conchs -- almost all live -- during low tide.  I've never seen anything like it!

They are so active that their little feet are paddling like mad, and I could hear, over the roar of the surf, their shells clicking as they bumped into one another.

I crouched and scooped up several conch shells that were face down in the sand to check for inhabitants and literally, without exception, every one was alive and kicking.

Let's hope that high tide brings them safely back into the Gulf without numerous casualties.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Tale of the Cat's Paw Shell

It's taken me nearly a year to compose myself sufficiently to tell my brief tale, but it's one that begs to be told if you have ever loved and lost a pet.

The beach is a place I go to walk alone, to think, to contemplate, to generate ideas. and to seek peace.  The morning after we lost our beloved cat Taj, who had blessed our lives with joy and companionship for nearly 16 years, I again sought the solace of the beach so I could be alone, think about her as I had during the many long months we nursed her through her illness, and experience my grief in the place I find most comforting.

As I was walking along the shore, my vision blurred by tears, a solitary seashell caught my eye.  Fittingly, it was a cat's paw shell.  Unlike the others, it sat alone in the sand separated from all the others, and it blazed with an intensity I couldn't ignore ... an almost fiery orange glow that was impossible to miss.  I veered from my path to inspect it more closely, and as I touched it, I could hear Taj speak as clearly and surely as if she were human and still at my feet:

"Please don't be sad.  I left this shell for you so you would know that I've reached heaven safely.  Thank you for always being my friend and for taking such good care of me when I was sick.  I'm well again, and I'm very happy.  Please be happy too.  You will always have my love and gratitude, and I know you'll always love and remember me."

I knelt in the sand, clutching the shell to my chest, and rocked and cried until I could cry no longer.  Then I put the shell safely in my pocket and carried it home.

The shell no longer glows, but the memory of that moment on the beach will stay with me always.

April, 1994 - January, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

Etsy MetalClay Charm Bracelet Auction Goes Live on eBay!

As promised, here's a link to the 2010 Etsy MetalClay Charm Bracelet auction on eBay.  Again, all proceeds from the sale of this bracelet will be donated to Autism Speaks.  The auction description will provide much more info about the bracelet and about the important work being accomplished by Autism Speaks.  The auction runs ten days and you've got nine in which to imagine all the ways you'll wear this stunning one-of-a-kind bracelet!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Etsy Metal Clay Team Charm Bracelet to Benefit Autism Speaks!

The Etsy Metal Clay Team will be auctioning off this fantastic handcrafted sterling silver charm bracelet loaded with pure fine silver, bronze and copper charms individually handcrafted and donated by members of the Etsy Metal Clay Team. All proceeds -- that's 100% of the proceeds from the auction -- will benefit Autism Speaks. The charms are loaded with detail and some include colored resins, enamels, gemstone beads, etc. A unique and beautiful collector's item. I will post again when the auction goes live. Please help us help Autism Speaks!

(My contribution is the silver square mixed media/steampunk/resin piece with a crazy lace larimar drop at approximately 7 o'clock.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Anatomy of an Enamel on Silver Color Test Strip

Having taken a cloisonne enameling class not too long ago, I was eager to get started on my first project.  So I took the plunge and ordered some fine silver cloisonne wire and a whole spectrum of yummy colors of Japanese leaded enamels.

In order to know exactly how these colors would turn out over fine silver, I made a color test strip.  Not wanting to waste a good piece of fine silver on a mere test, I decided to design a slightly more interesting piece that could be worn as a pendant.  Accordingly, I first crafted a textured rectangle of fine silver with a hanging hole.

Before going any further with my description, I'd like to say a few words about safety precautions with enamels in general but with leaded enamels in particular.  Every step I took during the creation of this color test strip was made while wearing an N95 3M particulate mask to avoid inhaling the enamel dust.  I also mixed, washed and applied these enamels outdoors on my deck.  When I was finished working, I packed up all my supplies and thoroughly washed down the table on which I was working (there's nothing quite like wetting enamel to keep the particles from becoming airborne), washed my hands, stripped off my clothes and threw them into the washing machine, and took a shower.  I didn't want to allow a single grain of enamel to cling to me anywhere.  Always work sensibly with enamels.  Even non-lead-bearing enamels are harmful if inhaled. 

Once I had the pendant fired, burnished and tumbled, I brushed the front of the pendant with enamel adhesive and then used a sifter to uniformly apply a layer of clear flux (enamel) over the entire piece.  When it was dry, I fired the pendant at 1500 degrees Fahrenheit for exactly two minutes in a pre-heated kiln and then quickly removed it to cool.  Then I did exactly the same thing to the reverse side of the piece to counter-enamel it.  The clear flux acts as a barrier between the fine silver and the colored enamel to enable the colors to remain true.  Sometimes enamel colors, when applied directly to fine silver, have a tendency to change.  This is especially true with pinks and reds which will sometimes turn orange when applied to fine silver.

I then applied my cloisonne wire to the pendant, adhering it by dipping it first into enamel adhesive.  I took care to ensure that I cut the edges of the wire at precise right angles so all parts of the edges would come in contact with the adjoining pieces; you don't want to leave any gaps which might allow the enamel to flow out of its cell or worse, show when you're grinding down your finished piece and suddenly a gap appears.  Once dry, I fired the pendant again.  Because the flux re-melts during firing, the cloisonne wire actually sinks into the flux and is permanently captured as the piece cools off.  Here's how the pendant looked after the cloisonne wire was fired in place:


You can see that the ends of the cloisonne wire extend over the edges of the pendant; this is done deliberately to avoid cutting the ends too short.   It's safe to trim this excess wire after the first few coats of enamel have been applied and fired.

Before proceeding, I drew a rough diagram showing the placement of my wire and wrote the code numbers of the enamel colors I planned to use into the cells so I could keep track of which colors I wanted to place where and also have the ability to remember which colors I used on the test strip for future reference.

Since I had already washed the enamels and placed them into coded jars, I was ready to roll.  I spooned out small amounts of the colors I had selected and placed them in numerical sequence into a plastic paint tray, adding a few drops of distilled water to each color to prepare them for wet-packing into the cells.

Then the fun began as I carefully filled the cells with their assigned colors.  It's not necessary to put down the entire first layer; so I applied just the first few and fired them in place.  Again, 1500 degrees F for two minutes.  I used a tripod because now, with the reverse side of the pendant counter-enameled, the piece needed to be suspended so that the back wouldn't melt against the firing surface (a square of mica placed on my kiln furniture to protect it from the melting enamel).  All subsequent firings after the counter-enameling were done on a tripod.

The applied but unfired enamel almost has the appearance of powdered sugar when it's dry enough to fire.

I continued to apply the enamel to each cell and fired the pendant.  I also again counter-enameled the back, this time adding a solid color to the entire reverse side and fired again.

Here, you can see the first full layer of color after firing.  It's necessary to continue applying and firing layers of enamel until they reach or slightly exceed the height of the cloisonne wire -- any excess can be ground down later, but ultimately the piece should feel smooth and level to the touch once the piece is finished.

Repeated firings were done as more and more layers of color were built up on the piece. 

Here's another photo showing how I achieved shading of colors in some of the cells -- I applied enamel selectively.  These areas turned darker when they were fired.

After firing the final layer of enamel had been fired, I finished the test strip by burnishing the surface under running water with an alundum stone and polishing it with successively finer grits 120, 200, 400 and 800) of diamond pad grinding sticks.  I carefully removed any remaining glass powder residue with a glass brush and finally fired the pendant one more time to fire-polish it and return it to a nice shiny gloss finish.

I strung the pendant on a silver chain and now wear this piece whenever I'm working with my Japanese enamels as a reminder of how each color looks once fired.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New work at Left Bank Gallery ...

I have several new jewelry pieces at the Left Bank Gallery, 8 Cove Road, Orleans, Massachusetts (on beautiful Cape Cod, of course).

Stop by and see them when you can!  The Left Bank is my favorite gallery for unique and beautifully crafted artist and artisan work.  I find it impossible to resist buying something wonderful every time I visit.

Just a preview of some of my work there:

My Washed Ashore necklace

Twilight Tribute - Fine silver and 22K gold keum-boo

Tango Earrings


Thursday, July 8, 2010

An amazing estate sale find!

One Sunday morning we were reading the paper and enjoying our first cup of coffee when we scanned the local estate sales and found a listing for the entire contents of the former home of a miniature collector.  I don't think I've ever gotten dressed so quickly or dashed off so fast in my life!

I was lucky enough to find this handcrafted 1/12th scale pastry shop at the sale.  The sign over the door was instantly recognizable to me -- it was handpainted by the late George Schlosser, an extraordinarily talented miniaturist whose paintings and painted signs fetch high prices at auctions and on the secondary market.  There's a second, much smaller sign inside the shop also painted by George which reads "Fresh Bread Daily".  :)

 Although I emptied the contents of the house as soon as I got home and replaced everything inside with items from my own collection -- from beautiful little cakes, cookies and breads and a table set for high tea to a tiny handcrafted cappuccino maker and a baker's rack made by former IGMA Fellow Al Masch -- I have plans to completely renovate the interior with wood flooring and fresh wallpaper and 'plant' my own miniature geraniums in the windowbox.  Hmmm.  Or maybe hydrangeas.

What a serendipitous and thrilling find!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What's been on my workbench ...

With my first show of the season less than a week away, these are the projects I've been working on.  Above, photos of the charms I made for the 2010 Etsy MetalClay Team charm swap.  I created frames of fine silver with individually-applied hand-cut rectangles, then drilled holes at either end and fired.  Once the charms had been fired, oxidized and polished, I glued tiny squares of textured colored paper within the frames and randomly placed tiny watch gears inside each frame.  Over these I applied resin which cures under a UV lamp. I attached jump rings at both ends and dangled tiny round chrysocolla beads from the bottoms.  Here's a photo of the finished charms, two of which will become part of bracelets that will be donated to charities:

This was a really enjoyable project for me, especially since each charm is unique and slightly different.  And the charms I received in turn were incredibly beautiful and made for a delightful and unique charm bracelet that I love to wear!  Go, Etsy MetalClay Team!  It's a pleasure to work with such an amazingly gifted group of women, and I salute them!

Next, I began creating some fresh pieces for the upcoming show season:

There's no question that the charms I made for the swap influenced strongly my next project.  I so enjoyed working with resin and so love the steampunk look that I had to create a focal utilizing the same features.  I then suspended a Caribbean blue faceted chalcedony drop from the focal piece and fashioned a necklace of borosilicate beads, textured sterling silver chain, a sterling lobster claw clasp, and hand-hammered and forged links to craft a necklace worthy of the focal.

One thing seems to lead to another for me, so coordinating earrings were the next logical step.  I turned the same links into drop earrings by dangling tiny semi-precious gemstone beads (in this case, chrysocolla), adding hand-forged sterling spirals and hammered sterling earwires to create my new Tango earrings -- a somewhat fun and whimsical departure for me.


Finally, I returned to the heart of my work, Washed Ashore II:  A new version of my borosilicate focal-based pendant with a sea theme, featuring my own original molded fine silver seashells and hand-fabricated links and tube beads:


After my show next weekend, I'll post an update!

Monday, May 3, 2010

A new obsession with bead embroidery ...

It began with buying a cabochon that I thought was really pretty, thinking I'd decide later how to place it in an appropriate setting.  Then I bought a book about bead embroidery, fell madly in love, and now I'm working on my first piece ... which is going to be way more complicated that anyone's first try at anything ought to be.

But ... now I can't resist planning ahead.  So here are some of the wonderful little cabochon treasures ... everything from Bird's Eye Rhyolite to Ocean Jasper to Morgan Poppy Jasper to Sonora Sunrise Cuprite ... that I've lined up for projects number two through 90, give or take ... it's going to be a wonderful, relaxing summer on Cape Cod, inventing complicated projects to embroider with beads. 

A little diversification never hurt anyone ... did it?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spoiler Alert! My Etsy Metal Clay Team Swap Charms ...

Okay, so maybe this isn't a total spoiler ... more of a sneak preview, really.  Here are my charms in progress.  I'll throw out a little hint:  Although you'd never guess it by looking at them in this state, each of the finished charms is slightly different.

There are 24 charms in all; 22 are for my participating Etsy MetalClay Team members and the other two will become part of a charm bracelet to be donated to charities.  These charms are already in the hands of the very lovely Jane Font, who has volunteered to collate and distribute the charms this time around.

Entirely too much fun!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Things I miss about home

At this point in the season down here in Florida, when most of the snowbirds have flown north again but we still linger for a while, my thoughts turn to all the things I love and miss the most about our home on Cape Cod.

The wooden stairway and its maze of landings through the pines leading down to the lake ... the 93 steps to reach the water are exhilating on the way down, as you can see the water sparkling between the trees ... but the climb back up is a real workout!

The unexpected and very surprising wildlife that shows up in our back yard from time to time (I took this picture through the window of my studio one morning ...)

The outside shower and the hosta growing so wild in the damp shade that it threatens to block the entrance.

And the blue wave hydrangeas that bloom during the summer months that need constant trimming so they don't block the view of the lake from my studio ...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Anatomy of a Cloisonne Piece

This series of photos shows my first cloisonne piece in various stages of construction.

The first is of the domed fine silver disc after its second firing.  The first firing was to apply clear enamel to the disc.  Once the cloisonne wire has been adhered to the disc using Klyr-Fire, the second firing re-melts the clear coat and fuses the wire to the disc.  The excess wire which overhangs the disc may safely be clipped off after two or more enamel applications, once you're certain they've been fused completely in place.

In the next photo, the first layer of colored enamels has been wet-packed into the cloisonne cells and dried, giving it the appearance of sugar crystals.  For the sun, I began with an opaque yellow color.  After fusing, I added shreds of gold foil with several subsequent layers and firings of a transparent orangey color.  I apologize for the quality of this photo ... it was taken during class with my cell phone.  :(

After several additional layers of enamel application, subsequent firings, polishing 'til my arms were ready to fall off and a final fire-polish ... the finished piece.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More Cat Art!

As my collection of Barb Plevan's handpainted miniature cat plates grows, I've framed a second set.

I found a pretty distressed wooden frame in muted peaches and sage greens and removed the easel back.  I solved the problem of the glass having been glued into the frame by mounting some pretty embossed gold scrapbooking paper behind the glass to form an attractive textured background.  Then I glued the plates directly onto the glass.  The effect, to me, is very pleasing. The plates now pop and the display has extra depth.

I love Barb's work ... so whimsical, colorful, and filled with feline adoration!  Barb's paintings are available for purchase in her Etsy shop:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time flies ...

... whether you're having fun or not!  :D

Just realized it's been nearly a month since I last blogged.  So much has happened -- we moved into a new home, began renovating in earnest, and added a beautiful new member to our family!  This is Ivy, a seal point Ragdoll kitten.  This photo was taken last week when Ivy was 11 weeks old.  I can already see the difference in the length of her hair (especially her tail!) and she's growing like a weed.  She and Bailey, our 16-year-old Maine Coon, are working toward peaceful coexistence.  She wants to play and he's a grumpy old man ... but it gets better every day!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Now THAT'S a starfish! :D

I found this puppy on my morning beach walk and just had to snap a picture of it with my iPhone.  This particular variety of starfish is known to disconnect an arm or two (they grow back) when threatened.  Unfortunately this poor guy never got a chance to lose any appendages in time.  I placed my fingers in the photo to demonstrate scale.  This was one B-I-G guy!Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mercato Fine Art Festival

I'm very pleased to say I've successfully juried into a brand new show sponsored by the Naples Art Association.  Their shows are consistently the best-quality art festivals held in Naples and draw thousands upon thousands of visitors:

Mercato Fine Arts Festival
March 6 and 7, 2010
U.S. 41 and Vanderbilt Beach Rd., North Naples

The official press release for the show:

The Naples Art Association at The von Liebig Art Center is pleased to announce the inaugural Mercato Fine Arts Festival at the Mercato lifestyle center, located at the intersection of Vanderbilt Beach Road and U.S. 41 in North Naples.  The juried festival will showcase works in all media by 125 artists from across the country.

Anchored by businesses including Whole Foods Market and The Capital Grille, Mercato offers a trend setting, ultra convenient mixed-use lifestyle that combines luxury condo living, high-end retailers, restaurants and a premium movie theater all on one prime site, just minutes from the beach. Festival guests will enjoy not only fine art but fine shopping and dining as well.
Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Entertainment will be provided, and refreshments will be available. A $3 donation benefits the art education and related programs at the art center.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another 15 minutes of fame ...

PMC Connection is featuring my Sunrise necklace in an ad in the current issue of Glass Art Magazine and will be reprinting it in a full-page version in the March/April 2010 issue as well!  It's an honor to have one of my jewelry pieces recognized this way!

Sunrise, a one-of-a-kind piece, is currently on exhibit on Cape Cod at The Left Bank Gallery, 8 Cove Road, Orleans, Mass.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In the arms of the angels ...

April 7, 1994 - January 14, 2010

Our precious baby girl Taj earned her angel wings this afternoon after fighting a long and valiant battle with kidney failure and, more recently, cancer. 

To Taj, who somehow knew her days were numbered and was so determined to leave us with happy memories that she made the last 14 months of her life with us pure joy despite her illness:  Thank you, sweet girl, for allowing us to be your people.  We adore you, you were our heart, and we will miss you more than words can say.  We'll be together again.

Monday, January 4, 2010

First piece of the new year ...

Here's the latest piece from my Geranium series.  Each of the geranium pendants I create is made from a real, unique geranium leaf that I have coated in multiple layers of fine silver paste.  When the pendant is finished and all the embellishments added, the geranium leaf is incinerated in the kiln, leaving only the silver behind.

This one has a bezel made of extruded silver that I twisted into a rope and embellished with fine silver casting grain.  At the center is one of my own fused dichroic glass cabochons.  The geranium leaf has been fused onto a floral-textured background with a rollover bail.

I've suspended the pendant from a gorgeous thick, heavy 18-inch Italian sterling silver chain with lobster claw clasp.  The chain and pendant have been hand-oxidized and then polished to bring out all the wonderful textural detail in this OOAK piece.

Happy New Year, everyone!