Monthly Archives: September 2010

So Over Oldschool

When I went and did my goldsmith training at the American Jeweler’s Institute in Portland, Oregon, I didn’t really know how it was all going to work.  On day-one I was thrilled to be handed a torch and taught to solder a nickel ring.  I was so relieved that it wasn’t seminars and lectures and demonstrations.  Playing with fire on day-one….epic coolness.

As the course progressed I discovered that a great deal of time is spent polishing jewelry as you make it.  With each subsequent step I polished.  Solder, pickle, polish.  Solder, pickle, polish.  (We’ll get to pickling later.)  We did this because you can actually GET to the spots that need polishing when you do it as you go.  Then there are projects that are just tedious to polish.  Wire-work, one of my favorites, is really kind of a pain to polish.  Pieces with a lot of stone settings can be tough to polish.  It can be done, but it’s time-consuming.  I try and get into the Zen of it, knowing my friend Kuya, who is a Buddhist monk, would find a way to see the value in every part of the process.  It doesn’t work; I find it boring and resent having to do it.

I think maybe I have PTPD — Post-Traumatic Polishing Disorder.  When in training, we began working on nickel rather than silver.  It’s cheaper and actually more difficult to work with.  It’s hard, tough, has a higher melting point than silver and it scratches easily.  Boy does it scratch easily.  The flip side of that is that the scratches do not polish out easily.  At the end of every module we had to have Paul approve our project before we could move on to the next project.  On the piercing project I made a tree pendant out of nickel sheet.  The point of the project was to practice cutting and piercing (piercing is cutting a design inside another design with your saw).  I was happy with my little tree, it soldered together the way it was supposed to, and all that remained was to polish it.  I filed, then sanded, then ran over it with the silicone polishing wheels.  I polished it with the felt wheel and buffing compound and finally buffed it to a high shine with rouge.  And then Paul rejected it.  He said he could see scratches.  I couldn’t see scratches, but he was the expert and he could see them.  So I did it again.  Rejected.  And again.  Rejected.  For 4 AND A HALF DAYS I polished that pendant.  People who started after me were two projects ahead of me.  When he finally approved it I went into the bathroom and cried.  I cried because I could finally move on.  I also cried because part of me had wanted to scream at him three days earlier that there WERE NO FREAKING SCRATCHES on that pendant.  I looked.  I really did.  My bench-mate Nikki looked.  She couldn’t see them.  Waldemar, the semi-retired pathologist looked at it…he couldn’t see them…and he was a trained observer dammit.  Nobody could see them but Paul.  I still don’t know if he was jerking my chain or not, but I live in dread of polishing to this day.

In the six years since earning my goldsmithing certificate, I have seen tumblers advertised in tool catalogues.  They look like the rock tumblers we had when we were kids.  I kept going back to them because apparently you could fill one of these tumblers with stainless-steel shot and put your jewelry into it and tumble to a high-polish.  I had asked Paul about them when I was at school and he just looked at me, shook his head in derision, and said “Why would you need one of those?  Just polish things by hand.”  That should have been my first clue.  This was the man who made me polish the same pendant for four-and-a-half days.  I spotted some of these tumblers through the window of our local bead and lapidary shop, Beadazzled, and thought I’d try one.

I took it home, read the instructions, gathered up a massive handful of my tarnished silver jewelry, loaded it up with the shot, some water, and a drop of soap and fired that puppy up.  I was a good girl.  I was patient.  I waited the full two hours they recommended before even peeking.  Well, okay, I waited the hour and 57 minutes I could handle before peeking.  I popped the lid off the tumbling chamber, dumped the whole thing into my ultrasound strainer over the sink, and could have just sat down on the floor and cried.  Every single piece of my jewelry was coated with a gunmetal-grey, sticky, dull coating.  And I do mean coated….this gunk was in every crevice and notch on every single piece.  After all, these tumblers are meant to get into everywhere.  At this point my husband hid.  I can’t really blame him…the language in the kitchen was really not meant for the ears of anyone other than a seasoned sailor.

After I pouted for an hour or so, I did what I always do when confronted with a problem that I don’t know how to solve.  I did some research online.  I found a bunch of different reasons for this phenomena, but they all pretty-much recommended more soap and several runs, cleaning the water in-between.  So I loaded it up again with more soap and dealt with the foam explosion every half hour for the next  four hours.  The good news is that the tumbler freaking ROCKS!!  You put icky, scratched, tarnished things into it, and they come out all shiny and sparkly.  It also means my production time is cut literally in half.  Best $130 bucks I’ve spent in a long, long time.  So there Paul.

Oh…and after this afternoon of frustration and cussing, I found the yellow instruction paper for the tumbler on the floor under the table.  I had read it when I started, but didn’t see the small print at the top ABOVE the word “Instructions”.  It said “NOTE: run the polisher with just the shot for one half-hour before using with jewelry, to remove any possible barrel residue”.  AAAARRRGGGGHHHHH………..


I hab a code.  Sure enough, just as things were rolling along nicely, I was infected.  Happens every year once school starts, but it’s earlier this year than normal.  I lived in denial as long as I could, chanting the anti-cold mantra “it’s just allergies” to myself,  but the cockroach-like tickle in the back of my throat was a sure-fire indicator that the virus-incubating warehouses we call public schools had added me to their quota.

I’m not going down without a fight though.  I am fully loaded with Cold FX, ibuprofen, and some generic decongestant I found lurking in the back of the medicine cabinet.  Of course there were no dosage instructions and lord only knows how long it’s been there, but I took one for the team and risked it.

Wow….lookit the pretty colours……*+**zzzzzzZZZZzz++*+*+*……I’m awake…I’m awake…..and if I ramble a little I’m blaming the little red pills….whatever they were.

So, in spite of being awake until 5 a.m. because I was unable to breathe through sinuses that felt as if someone had dumped an entire swimming pool into them, I’m actually feeling inspired.  I had lots of time to think about the projects I want to do, after all.

When we set up our house to facilitate more art-time, we decided to put my jeweler’s bench in the living-room.  Yes…the living-room.  There were a number of reasons for this.  The best reason was that it’s the only piece of custom-built furniture I own and it is gorgeous.  My friend, Mike Ford, is a professional cabinet-maker and he built the bench to my specifications.  I knew when he took on the project  that my bench would function well for me, but I quite frankly had no idea that it would be so beautiful.

The second reason we decided to put it in the living-room was that I couldn’t escape it there.  I was always looking at it.  I figured it would begin to talk to me after a while, and it did.  It whispered “come play…you know you wanna”.  It was right.  I wanted to play.

I had set my latest jewelry project to soak before I went to bed last night and only had to do a final polish on it when I got up this morning.  Yes, it was morning….barely.  I bought a bunch of unusual stones several years back from a really nice guy who had a little rock-shop in Coeur d’Alene.  I went back a couple of months later to get more, and the store had closed permanently.  It was such a disappointment…he had told us it might happen as the new owner of the plaza was planning on raising the rent 300%.  He had malachite marbles, Idaho opals, beautiful agate cabochons, and this lovely rhodochrosite with lime-green banding in it.  I couldn’t  just set this stone in a plain setting; it had to be pretty. I think it looks happy there.

Available for sale Oct. 6 at the Cresteramics Storefront, 1022 Canyon St.

So you see, if you put your project somewhere you can’t escape it, it might talk to you.  Give you a little nudge.  Whisper in your ear “Come play”.  Give it a try.  You know you wanna.

Mess Up Your Space

For years I lived in envy of people who had studios.  Dedicated spaces where they could make a mess creating whatever they were good at or interested in.  All their tools in one place…all their supplies at their fingertips.  No more dragging out boxes of stuff and digging through them, always keeping an eye out for sneaky spiders,  searching for that one last thing they needed for a project.  No longer being  forced to put everything away half-way through a project because dinner needed to be served on the table.

Don’t get me wrong.  Dedicated space is not necessary to the process of creation.  For years I built and painted and sewed and melted stuff wherever I could: in my parent’s basement, in my bedroom, in the garage, on every table available in the dining room of the care facility where I worked graveyards for years.   It was possible, but often the thought of setting-up and then cleaning-up was enough to stop me dead in my tracks.  After all, I wanted to create…not mess around with the mechanics not related directly to  +*+**+CREATION+*+*+***  (ta-da!!!) Okay…so I’m a princess.  Sue me.

You’d think with a 1400 sq. foot house, dedicated space wouldn’t be a problem.  Wrongo.  See previous post re: messes.  Amazingly, once we had divested ourselves of the junk, we had space….glorious space.  I had a studio…in the house…with heat…and light…and shelving…with my supplies ready and waiting…***SWOON***.   And I never. created. anything. in. there.

I’d walk past it and admire it.  I’d show & tell my artsy friends about it.    I’d tidy and organize my supplies.  I’d buy new supplies.  I painted a cool picture of a tree…at my MUSIC studio.  I gradually came to realize that this was because I didn’t want to mess up my nifty art studio.  More than that, truth be told, I didn’t want to create something that wasn’t great.  Something that was poorly executed…that was….*gasp*…UGLY.  I didn’t want to, in short, mess up.


People who know me might say I have a few minor control issues.  If you put your ear up to your monitor right now you’ll hear them laughing maniacally and you will practically see the eye-rolling that’s now going on at the reading of the previous sentence.  I know and accept this about myself.  I’m also working really hard to get past it.  It’s time.  It’s holding me back.

So along with committing to this blog, I have also committed to finding a way to do something creative every day.  Being self-employed and working evenings means I have my days free until 3.  It’s too easy to get into a rut of  “this is my time off” and not accomplish anything.  So, every day, something creative is going to happen.  It may be several things, it may just be one cool project, it might have to be a 15-minute quickie. (Not that kind of quickie…quit snickering.)  Whatever it is, I’m going to share,  ugly or not, in the hopes that it will inspire you to go ahead…whether in a dedicated space or in the middle of your living-room floor.  Whatever it takes or wherever it can happen, do something creative…mess up your space.

Coming soon....

Hello world!

My room was always messy.  It drove my mom nuts.  It was mostly the books…books everywhere.  I suppose that was the first indicator that I had an inquisitive mind.  I discovered very young that I could learn things from books.  I could learn to knit, to quilt, to crochet.  As I got older I found books on painting, brochures teaching macrame, magazines all about cake decorating.  And then there were the cookbooks…the glorious cookbooks.  The messes grew.  They were no longer confined to piles of books everywhere.  They became boxes of fabric, baskets of yarn, tubs of paints.  The messes followed me into my first house and filled every corner and nook.  Then I got married.

His messes mated with my messes and flowed into his son’s messes.  The messes went forth and multiplied until our home (and garage) was one jumbled mass of mess.  At that point the top of my head blew off.

I couldn’t take it anymore.  I knew that buried in all that mess was my lost sense of creativity.  I just knew that if I excavated deeply enough I would be reunited with my muse.  And so began the great de-messing of 2010.  As we mercilessly divested ourselves of things we’d forgotten we possessed, we unearthed the treasure-trove of paints, brushes, papers, metalwork tools, yarns, and yes, books. In doing this, we recovered space.  Space to dedicate to art, to creation, to new messes.

The first step in ensuring that I do not let the fear of making a mess keep me from creating something each and every day is the creation of this blog.  I am committing to posting daily Monday through Friday as a way to keep the creative process moving  forward.  My friend Brandy, who is this amazing artist, inspired me to start painting again and now has inspired me to commit to this.  Thanks Brandy. Check out her blog at  You won’t regret the visit.