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A little rusty

First of all, I want to apologize to my new blog subscribers if I filled up your inbox this week.  I recently designed a new website with blog and jewelry in one, but I didn’t want to lose all my old blog entries and so I was so excited to find a plugin to import the old entries into the new blog.  While still patting myself on the back my dear sweet friend Kerry sent me a text to let me know that she had recently subscribed to my new blog and just got nearly 700 emails notifying her of “new” AnneMade Jewelry blog posts.  I wanted to crawl in a hole right there, totally mortified.  I’m very thankful if you’re still with me as I am gearing back up to be a jewelry designer again after living in Sweden.

Back to my regularly scheduled post…

9After filling Christmas orders at the end of 2013 I started to focus on our upcoming move to Sweden, so other than a few little projects here and there I haven’t picked up my jewelry pliers for almost two years. It’s not that I didn’t think about jewelry, but living in Europe brought the opportunity to more easily see some things on my bucket list so it was fun to focus on something else for a change. If you’re a small business owner or a designer of any sort you may be able to relate to the illness I have of never being able to turn off that part of my brain. I would admire the shape of olive leaves, arches, and ironwork, all while mentally recreating them in wire. It’s a sickness.

Many people ask why I haven’t created jewelry in Sweden like I did back in the States. At first I was just enjoying the break, perhaps a little burned out from the pace of Christmas and then the move itself. Then I slowly started noticing shops around Gothenburg that might be a good fit for the look of my jewelry. When we went home for a visit I was excited to start creating jewelry again so I brought back tools and beads and my restocked wire organizer. I created some pieces for a Swedish friend, but each time I got my tools and supplies out on the dining room table I knew I had to put everything away before dinner. I didn’t have a dedicated space to work in our apartment, and I am the sort of person who thrives in a messy studio.

This is my old studio before it was packed away in storage for our time in Sweden…


In Sweden, having to clean up and put everything away was really discouraging to my creative process, just like the knowledge that I’d be moving back to the States before long kept me from pursuing client relationships.  Plus I loved my expat life with the PTA walking group and tennis lessons and fika and international Bible study and traveling around Europe, so I decided to enjoy it while it lasted. And sure enough, the time has come to head back to a new-to-us home in a different part of Virginia, the moving details are falling into place, and I am chomping at the bit to meet my new studio space.

The time off has given me a chance to process and think about what I want from my business, where I want it to go. Starting a new chapter gives me a chance to make some changes, and I’m excited about unpausing and moving forward. I even dragged out my tools and wire to check the feasibility of some new designs I sketched, and I realized that my wirework skills are a little rusty. My hands wouldn’t do the thing my brain was telling them, at least not the first time. Practice, practice!

wire doodling

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Since Fall

Hi again!  It has been a while since I updated this so thanks for your patience.  It’s not because all my free time is spent on Pinterest, I promise.

Starting in September I rented studio space downtown close to where my kids go to preschool.  It was glorious being able to drop them off and then walk to work, making jewelry for hours on end without the distraction of the computer or housework (ahem) until my alarm told me to go back and pick the kids up.  I showed you a little of my Sedona line, and after that I did a grouping with Swarovski-set components (like this focal) as part of my Facets collection.

I am still working with colored stone briolettes for my Facets collection as well, and I hated to see this pair of cluster earrings go…
Purple, pink, and orange!
Also I can’t get enough of those big honkin’ Chinese crystals, so I did some long necklaces and wire rings featuring those for the holiday season.
But after Christmas change was in the air.  The pedestrian mall was torn up for an infrastructure upgrade and facelift, and it has been interesting to watch all the work going on just outside my studio.
Cutting down “my” tree, piece by piece


Along my commute
I decided not to renew my lease downtown after my spring collection was delivered to the shop, but instead move my tools back home again (for now).

Goodbye, studio

It actually isn’t because of the construction. This is the time of year when I get to focus on other things!  For example, my jewelry friend Judy and I recently played with CopprClay, a copper version of PMC that will likely be paired with turquoise in my Sedona collection in the fall.

I love the torched patina on the left one
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The most wonderful time…

This morning was cool and crisp, sunny with a few puffy clouds.  Gorgeous!  Perfect fall weather.  It was my kids’ first day at preschool, and I am renting a space nearby for a studio so I don’t have to drive home between drop-off and pick-up.  !!!

My building

As other parents were taking pictures and hiding tears I made a quick exit and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  I walked by the coffee shops to say hi to other preschool moms.  (There will be plenty of time for good coffee; I was already wired.)  I walked to Simply Charming Boutique to check on my Sedona collection and show them some new graduated turquoise strands I bought.  (They are my middle-man, so they know the customers and I don’t.  I like getting a read on things when I can.)  I love being downtown!  Finally I unloaded a box of stuff at my studio, only to realize I forgot to pack my pliers which is like forgetting my hands.  I had been a little disappointed at the thought of being cooped up inside on a day like this anyway, so I drove home and enameled beads with my torch.

Blurry, but you can see some of the colors

For the enamel nerds: I’m testing colors from my sample pack from Rio of Milton Bridge transparents, and I really like that Ruby transparent bead toward the center.  And over to the right there’s Autumn Brown.  And several of the others have Autumn Brown layered over something bright (Turquoise, Nile Green from Thompson, etc.)  Some of the deeper green-blues have Mallard Green in them, another MB I like.

We didn’t have much cool weather over the summer (my bench is in the garage) so it was nice to have a chance to experiment with color layering and bead-gripping techniques.  Torch-fired enameling is tricky for me because I don’t want the bead to rotate on the mandrel, but I do want to get it off easily when I’m finished.  And now I can work on that because it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

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State of the Studio

I don’t clean my studio, not really.  Sometimes I’ll put things away to decrease the number of geologic layers, but I know where everything is.  I know even this picture makes some people ill, but sometimes when I see something from an unrelated project laying next to the pieces I’m working with, it gives me an idea I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  And when I put stuff away it is out of mind, or I just plain lose it.  Like the wooden letters I bought to decorate my daughter’s bedroom wall and “put away” in my studio.  I remember them every once in a while and go looking until I get sidetracked.  Today I finally found them and the receipt in the bag is dated 4/19/09.  At least she hasn’t left for college yet.
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Bead Table Wednesday

It happened again!  I have a project going (okay, 19 projects going) and remembered to take a picture on a Wednesday.  Embellished discs…

I resisted the urge to clean up the periphery because I want  you to see the chaos in which I thrive.  If I have everything put away my work space seems cold and uninspiring.  When I have things around I often get ideas that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, simply by seeing components unintentionally sitting together on my bench.  So if you can’t tell, my current project is those four wooden discs which I spray-painted black.  Then I coated the top with adhesive sealant, punched circles from an old book of poetry, and sealed the top. 

Now the decision…  I want to put doming resin on top of that, but I also want to have riveted holes.  Do I put the resin on the disc, then drill through once it is cured?  Or do I drill & rivet the holes first and then pour the resin around those?  Something tells me this will still be sitting on my bench in February, waiting for me to experiment.

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Bead Table Wednesday

I’m not very good at telling you guys what’s new in my studio, but it happens to be Wednesday and I have seen other jewelry artists participate in this, so I thought it would be fun to post about what’s on my bead table today.

Trying to stockpile pieces for fall, I’m working in series rather than my usual, “make what I feel like making today.”  The current series is (begrudgingly) utilizing my stash of Koy Glass lampwork beads.  Some of the donuts have rather large holes, and usually this doesn’t bother me because I stick a bead cap over it or a bead in the hole and it looks more polished.  But donuts are worn with the hole showing, so I chose to line them with silver or copper tubing, which I get in the plumbing department at Lowes.

This is one of several “bead tables” in my studio, so maybe another Wednesday I will show you the organized chaos of my real bead table.  Here are the copper-lined big-hole-beads I did today.

And with all the tap-tap-tapping I woke up my studio partner, who was napping across the hall.  So I put her to work stringing beads.  Here is her bead table.
What’s on your table?
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Lampwork station

When we lived in Delaware I had my lampwork torch set up in the basement of an 1860s row home, with the hood venting through a removable pane in the nearby window.  It was dark so I could see the glass color as it melted, and it was cool even in the summertime (which is important when you’re working near a torch).  And then we moved to Virginia.  Now our house is a suburban colonial.  Melting glass in a carpeted bedroom (my studio) is not an option.  The basement is finished except for a below-grade (no window) storage room, so I couldn’t just recreate my former setup. We now have a garage (thankfully) but there is no place to vent a hood except for large openings like doors, and if you are venting bad air out a large opening, the fumes are going to come right back in.  So for 3 1/2 years I pondered but did nothing.  Then a series of events happened to get the ball rolling…

Mom & Olivia watching the glassblower

1.  On New Year’s Eve we went to the local First Night celebration, and included in the entertainment was a demonstration in the studio of a new glassblower.  I was so excited to have a real live glassworker right in town here.  A few days later I talked to him on the phone to inquire about renting studio space since it is close to Olivia’s preschool. 

2.  The next week I met lampworker Hope Gibson when we were in St. Croix.  The most important thing I brought home with me is her motto, “Relatively Close.”  Her beads may not be perfect, but they’re gorgeous and she doesn’t sweat the small stuff.  I have pockets of perfectionism here and there, to the point of not being able to try certain things if I don’t think I can do them perfectly.  Lampwork falls into that category, and I need to constantly remind myself that I am not going for awards; I just maybe need some blue beads.  (Hope’s other motto is “Be bold, eat chocolate, wear art” and I have taken that to heart as well.)

Helping Mommy buy downspouts

The local glassblower never called me back about studio space, and that turned out to be exactly what I needed.  I still had all my equipment (torch, hoses, kiln, oxycon) from our old house, so I finally decided to have a contractor install a window in the garage with sashes the size of a box fan.  Then I got a great idea for glass rod storage from Kerry Bogert using vinyl downspouts.

And right after that I found out I was pregnant and spent the next few months (first trimester) exhausted and napping whenever I could.  I had lost my steam, and all I had really needed was some new bead release. (Bead release is the stuff that keeps the glass from permanently adhering to the metal rod around which you are winding the glass.)  But…

3.  Two weeks ago I drove through the Finger Lakes region on my way to my in-laws’ house.  I stopped in at Artizanns in Naples, NY and found this awesome bracelet with wonky, earth-toned beads.   Wonky=irregularly shaped, and in this case it was fabulous!  Very organic, where lampwork is often bright, cheerful, and perfect.  It made me want to make beads — earthy, sloppy ones.  So I ordered some new glass colors (first time trying Creation is Messy) and fresh bead release.  I still need to test out the hose connections and pressure, then do an incense test on the ventilation. 

So… I’m closer to making some lampwork than I was six months ago, but I’m still not there yet.  Not to mention that school is out so Olivia is home every morning and I am trying to work ahead making jewelry to sell in the fall when our baby is due.  Glass rods don’t go bad, just the bead release.  So if I don’t get to do everything on my studio to-do list this year, so be it.  I’m in the season of Having Small Children and that’s what’s important right now.  I’m down with OPB (other people’s beads).

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Steve and I spent Christmas with his family in upstate New York. All 7 of the kids and their peripheral people were there, so we had a full house and a lot of fun. Good travels, good company, good food, and a white Christmas! Before we left I was in Frantic Mode trying to get gifts wrapped, orders in the mail, and all the last-minute things I have to do before leaving on a trip so it took me a few days to unwind and feel relaxed.

Now that we’re back home and Christmas is over, I want to address a few back-burner things like my horribly messy house and studio and projects that are unfinished (or even unstarted — Have I mentioned that my sewing machine is in a box from the move?) I love getting letters telling about how my friends are doing and how their kids are growing, as long as it doesn’t sound too perfect. But December is a crazy month for AnneMade and I never send Christmas cards any more. So this year I’m hoping to send New Years cards so I can actually devote time to it.

Other things I have put off are getting my lampworking studio set up (thanks for the inspiration, Kerry!) and working with PMC before my certification course. So if I don’t write that much for a while, forgive me for doing what I actually ought to be doing. Happy 2008 to you all!

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The view from my studio

Our neighbor Mike loves to work on his yard. If he’s home, he’s outside. His grass is plush and green (even now, in December), he edges the sidewalk grass regularly, and he has all kinds of immaculate landscaping. He’s the guy that makes the rest of us look bad, but I love that it improves the view from my studio.
I think one of his pet peeves (other than living across the street from Not Yard People) is having leaves disrupt the absolute perfection that is his lawn and driveway. We joke that Mike waits in his garage until a leaf falls, then uses his backpack blower to send the leaf into the street. The obsession has risen to a new level as he is blowing the leaves off his lawn and driveway in the middle of 35mph wind gusts. Oh look! Sure enough, here come leaves that he just blew into his neighbor’s yard.

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First of all, I lost my fiddler-ring and I don’t want to talk about it. I had been wearing it on my little finger because it was tight on my ring finger, and sometime on Thursday it slipped off unnoticed.

On Thursday I visited Arabella, a women’s clothing boutique that just re-opened in Winchester. They are now stocked with fall clothing and jewelry, so go take a look if you’re in Creekside. I was making jewelry up until I left for my appointment, so I don’t even have pictures to show you what they have. I did update my necklaces and bracelets pages with some newbies, though.Friday night I met a couple friends at Gourmet on the Go, which is the local meal assembly place. The idea is to put together freezable meals while hanging out with your friends, and it was fun. I’ve been to My Girlfriend’s Kitchen before and it’s the same thing. I’m really looking forward to trying the Raspberry Chipotle Pork Tenderloin. Saturday Steve and I tackled the studio swap, and it is lovely to be writing to you from this bright room across the hall from Steve’s office (read: no more yelling when the phone rings). Look at all the space! In the middle of the room! You have no idea. On the left is what used to be our wardrobe (historic home in Delaware=no closets) which I retrofitted with shelves for storage. Next to it is my metals bench (the torch is in the garage) and in front of the windows is my beading station. The black chair is sitting in front of my desk over to the right, where I can update my website and answer email for hours at a time without the need of a jacket (as I did in the basement). I’m going to use the basement room for non-jewelry crafts, like sewing slipcovers for the rattan furniture and making Christmas reindeer cards from Riley’s hair. Just kidding about the cards. Reminds me of that circulating email about Martha Stewart’s calendar (French braid lawn, install plumbing in gingerbread house).We had friends over for dinner last night, and are taking it easy today. The main event (other than lunch at Outback) was a tremendous thunderstorm that caused this tree damage. I guess we’ll be borrowing Dad’s chain saw and having lots of fire-pit parties. My little yellow maple is now bald (in JULY!), but fortunately the wind took away all the leaves. Notice Riley standing in Command Post 2.