Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Trip to the La Brea Tar Pits and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

I haven’t blogged in a sinful number of weeks and yet each day I have hundreds of visits still.  You have no idea how that warms my heart.  Thank you all!!!

So at the end of September I flew town to Los Angeles to visit with my son before school started (he’s a student at UCLA) and to pick up my car after he used it to move into the dorms.

A quick shot from campus...

While down there I hit up the La Brea Tar Pits (yes, I’m a geek and love stuff like this… and no, it’s not actually tar… they’re asphalt pits, but that doesn’t sound as cool).

I enjoyed my visit.

Saw this on the outside, but once inside and talking with some of the employees, I learned I wasn’t looking at mammoth bones or recreations but mastodons. 

I also learned that it was saber-tooth cats, not saber-tooth tigers.  They’re not related to tigers in the least.

Here’s a shot of the workers (mostly volunteers, I understand) who are doing the tedious work of looking at bits and pieces under microscopes so they can be cataloged and what not.

This is one of the tar pits they may dig in at a future date.

And this is one of the tar pits they are digging in currently.  The little flags indicate places where they found certain skeletal remains (I didn’t get a photo of the key code).  It's pain-staking and dirty work.

BTW, there were no dinosaurs found in the tar pits since Los Angeles was under water during the time of the dinosaurs (65 million years ago) so there were no tar pits then.

After that I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (or LACMA) which is several distinctly different buildings located on 20 acres of property.

The first one was Korean artwork, but no photos were allowed.

And speaking of photos, I offer my apologies, but since I was flying in and then walking 5 or 6 miles from Disneyland to somewhere in Orange County, I wanted to travel as light as possible so did not take my good camera.  All photos were taken on my cell phone.

Anyway, I then went into the exhibition entitled: Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s.  It was weird and cool....  Watched some snippets of strange and compellingly interesting German expressionist films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Fritz Lang's "M".  Some of the photographs in the exhibit were beyond awesome.  According to this PDF on the exhibition, "Horror also has its roots in Expressionist films, which frequently featured monsters and villains with supernatural powers."  That makes sense.  And I got to see a life-size replica of Maria from Metropolis.

There was the Pavilion for Japanese Art.  They were having a kimono exhibition which was cool because it was all spread out along the walkway of the beautifully designed building.


Totally inspiration for some jewelry designs!

Although I missed the Samurai armor collection by a few weeks, I did get to see this cool piece.

I'm going to again apologize for the low quality of these photos but I feel I must show you none-the-less.  This is cloisonne enamel.  While not my design style, I can appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship. This is an incense burner is by Yasuyuki Namikawa.

This, however, totally my style.  The artist is Kawade ShibatarĊ (Japan, 1856-1921).

Then I went into the Netsuke room (Netsuke of the Meiji Period 1868-1912).  I spent about an hour looking at these awesome miniature works of art.  Taken from the LACMA website: "The traditional Japanese garment, the kimono, has no pockets. Small personal items to be carried were either tucked into the kimono’s large sleeves, slipped under the sash (obi), or placed in small multi-compartment cases (inro) or other hanging containers (sagemono) that were suspended from the obi with cords. Netsuke—pronounced nets-keh—are toggles and were worn to counterbalance these containers. The cord of the inro, purse, or tobacco pouch was threaded under the obi and attached to the netsuke through holes or openings (himotoshi) in the netsuke. The netsuke held the entire ensemble in place by resting atop the obi and preventing the cord from slipping down."

Here were some of my favorites that weren't blurry beyond all reason...  And remember, these things are small.  Usually no more than an inch or two high.

The first one is a tiger carved by Matsushita Otomitsu.

Next is a man coming to life out of a wall hanging scroll.  Love the concept.

I took this photo for my lampworking friends.  It's a lovely eggplant colored glass gourd made from Satsuma glass.

Here's one (had to show both sides) by Masatsugu Kaigyokusai of the symbols of the Chinese zodiac.

And the final one to show you is by the same artist.  It is an oyster shelled carved as the view of Itsukushima shrine. 

In the main building was the type of art I am more familiar with, but I found all of it exciting and inspiring.  Here are some paintings you may recognize.  How many artists can you name?

The final thing I saw the Metropolis II which is a huge kinetic display of toy cars, trucks, trains, etc going in all different directions on a structure created by Legos, Lincoln logs, train tracks, etc.


In regards to jewelry making, I’ve been working on a lot of new things and trying out some experiments and I want to share everything with you.  Come back soon… I will. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Teryl Rothery's Cedar Cove Earrings, Protecting the Finches, Not Stealing Ideas


I was very honored to have a pair of my earrings chosen by the stylist of
Debbie Macomber's "Cedar Cove" to be worn by the lovely Teryl Rothery (playing the character Grace Sherman) on the Hallmark channel (episode 5 in season 2, "Starting Over", which aired on August 16, 2014). 

Click on the photo to see more images of these very large copper and turquoise boho-style earrings and/or to purchase a pair for yourself.   I offer them in a smaller size too.


So… September. Kids go back to school and birds misjudge windows.

I noticed a blog post of mine from last September when I talked about a finch that flew into one of our windows and needed a bit of rest before flying off.

A week or so ago it happened again. I was lucky enough to get the finch before the cats did, but he was in no condition to fly.

After about 20 minutes, I walked him down to the orchard, sat on the ground, and opened my hand for him to fly away. I was a bit nervous when he just closed his eyes and stayed in my open hand for another 20 minutes, but then I made him wake up and gave him a little shove and he ended up flying away.

I mentioned this incident on Facebook and a friend commented on my thread about these Audobon-approved window decals you can purchase that help prevent birds from flying into your windows. 

Here’s what the ad says, “Each decal has a special coating that reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but birds see it as a brilliant glow much like a stoplight. To the human eye, the decals appear as frosted or etched glass. “

So I bought some, told a friend, and she ordered some too. The day after I got my stickers, a finch flew into Mom’s window but unfortunately he broke his neck. I ordered her some stickers that day. 

Click here to get the same ones I bought from Amazon.

The instructions say to change the stickers every nine months.


You know what’s worse than discovering someone out there is selling jewelry almost identical to yours? Finding out they’ve been doing it longer than you.

Just goes to show that more than one person can come up with the same idea.

Sometimes people think in the same ways.  It just happens.

There’s a thing called “multiple discovery” that (according to Wiki): “is the hypothesis that most scientific discoveries and inventions are made independently and more or less simultaneously by multiple scientists and inventors”

I would think all forms of art would work in the same way.

BTW, I’m not talking about stealing or copying ideas. I’m talking about two people who just happen to create remarkably similar designs.  I'm assuming it's more likely with less complex designs.

I think it can happen randomly (just happen) and I think it can happen subconsciously (you get an idea seemingly from nowhere but in truth it could be inspired by something you saw months or years ago that you’ve forgotten about).

Don’t wig out. It’s been happening since the beginning of people.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Challenge Piece in Steel and Resin, I'm Learing to Weld, Etsy Starts the Journey to Calculated Shipping Costs

I had a lot of fun with this week’s SRAJD jewelry design challenge. The theme for the month is Fairy Tales and this week was Little Red Riding Hood.

I decided to make the menacing forest out of steel and then added a spot of resin to represent Red herself.

If you’d like to see all the challenge designs for this week, click here


Welding class is coming along. I welded for the first time this week. It was scary because I don't do well with things that pop or explode, and I had to contend with not only my own torch loudly backfiring and showering me with sparks but all the people who were near me (especially directly behind me) whose torches were popping and sparking. I smelled more than my fair share of burnt hair.

I don’t think acetylene/oxygen welding is for me but I know it’s good experience.

I did have to get past the two things I’ve hammered into my muscle memory when soldering because it’s the opposite when welding.

In soldering, the metal has to be flush as solder does not fill the gap. But in welding, the rod DOES fill the gap… and then some.

In soldering, you must pull your torch back prior to melting the metal. In welding, you must keep the torch there until the metal becomes a molten puddle. For steel anyway… haven’t welded copper yet.

So our first exercise was to just work on making the molten puddle then moving it across the steel. Second exercise was adding welding rod to the puddle as we moved. After that, I got to experiment with joins. Tried butt join first (end to end). Then I did a corner join. Then I figured I’d better try some edge joins since the first thing I’ll be welding is my pyramid. 

Just before the five hour mark my nerves were getting frayed so I called it a day. Here’s my lovely experimenting. 

Etsy is attempting to get us to calculated shipping.  Click here to read the story.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Welding Class Assignment 1 and Experiments in Tumbling Metal Clay

Welding 101 (actually, that's not the name of the class)

Some of you already know, I’m taking a class at the local college this fall (my first day in school in 37 years). The class is called “Creative Design in Metal” but most of the students are calling it a welding class.

Our first assignment was to make something out of two square feet of 18 gauge steel sheet (and nothing else) that is based on a pyramid shape theme.

After six days of thinking and coming up with nothing I wanted to try in steel for the first time...

...  I settled on a very literal design idea. We had to build our ideas in cardboard first and here’s mine (it doesn’t look that bad in person; the flash really makes the Scotch tape stand out). 

So I'm in class today and the lady next to me pulls out three exquisitely designed cardboard cat sculptures. I suddenly felt very left brained.

The machinery in the class is very cool. Enviably cool. Can you imagine a disk cutter the size of a pizza? Or French shears that can go through 18 gauge metal like butter?

Anyway, after calling my son for a little refresher on how to apply the pythagorean theorem to find the height of one of my triangles, I was on my way and cut the pieces I needed to get started. 

Next week we start welding (and I have to quit slipping and calling it soldering).


Today’s experiment was putting fresh from the kiln pieces into a tumbler and tumbling like a usually do except with the addition of two pinches of citric acid. Hey, you never know. How do you think things are discovered?

Here are the pieces that are not polished or sanded or buffed or anything, just straight from the kiln (except for the piece that looks like a jumpring… that has been gone over with a radial disk). These are a mix of bronze and copper. 

The ones with circles are the ones I put into the tumbler today for experiment #1.

This is what they looked like after two hours of tumbling.

This is what they looked like after five hours of tumbling.

My conclusions thus far? If something (particularly copper) has a smooth finish, it gets nicely shined up in the tumbler. The other things get shinier than they were, but even the subtlest of textures are still visible (which is probably a good thing). 

Normally, those subtle textures (produced by my Teflon sheets during creation) disappear when I sand, but since I didn’t sand, they’re still there and merely getting shined up.

So I decided to take one of the little bronze disks out at the five-hour mark (that’s why it’s not in the photo) and polish it before continuing the tumbling… just to see the effect of tumbling on a sanded piece (we'll see that tomorrow). 

Here are the pieces after 13 hours of tumbling.

I don’t think the citric acid made much of a difference compared to my earlier tumbling efforts.

Also, I'm not sure anything after 1-2 hours of tumbling makes a significant difference.

Citric acid has a pH of 2 (pretty acidic), but I don't think there was any reaction between it and my barrel.  Also, the inside of my barrel doesn't feel tacky or sticky at all. 

As you can see, even after 13 hours of tumbling the very subtle texture of my teflon sheet is still visible on the unsanded little  bronze disk.

Today I'll clean my shot and run some more things through the tumbler.

Monday, September 1, 2014

EtsyMetal Blog Carnival: Organization

The theme for the current EtsyMetal Blog Carnival is "ORGANIZATION".  So I'm going to show you a wee bit of how I organize some of the things in my workshop.

After watching Hellen Buttigieg’s show a few times (Hellen is a personal organizer with a tv show called “Neat”), I began to understand that not everyone can organize the same way.

For years I never understood how I could get these great organizing systems (filing cabinets, storage boxes, shelved closets, etc) and still end up with piles and heaps of things everywhere.

Then one day Hellen was analyzing one her customers and assessed her as a “piler”. One who needs everything in plain site and within easy reach… and the normal way that comes in to being is by making piles.

Piles of papers to be filed, to be sorted, to be dealt with. Piles of books to read, piles of supplies to put away, piles of pieces to be polished, etc.

And so I’ve adopted for my workshop the same system Hellen used in that episode so that the woman no longer had “piles” as her filing system. Everything is organized but it’s all out in the open and within easy reach.

I think this is also explains why I prefer open-concept loft living rather than compartmentalized housing. I want everything around me, visible and available.

The first thing I ordered after this revelation was the kind of paper organizer you see in school office's.  Here's mine.  The overflowing cubby is business receipts (yes, I spend too much).  I love storing my sandpaper in here.  It's at my fingertips within seconds.  I also store my photography backgrounds here.

So to answer some of the questions for the blog carnival:

1) How do you organize your tools…

I have lots of different places for my tools, but they’re all group into logical places (as far as I’m concerned)

Some of my smaller items are in pencil holders and other jar-type containers. They’re grouped by things like: brushes, tweezers, hammers, etc. 

I made a spur of the moment purchase at Joann’s once when I saw this carousel on sale. It’s been one of my best workroom purchases. It spins (of course) and has three drawers at the bottom. One of those drawers is marked with an “x” and is dedicated for silver scrap. So when I’m working on a project and have a bit of silver for the recycling drawer, I just slide it open and dump. SOOOOO much easier than when I had to open a twist top box that was inside another box that was stored in a drawer. See, with that much work, I just won’t do what I’m supposed to do when I’m supposed to do it. With everything out in the open and within easy reach, things get put into their proper places immediately (which means “to do” piles don’t build up). 

My most recent acquisition was a couple of magnetic strips. I love these! It’s so great to have my tools right there, not in a pile, not in a bowl or box. Just right there… and so easy for me to put them away when I’m done too. I love my magnetic strips!!! 

I have a hanging shoe storage thing that houses cables, goggles, rags, and other things that I need in plain sight.

I’ve got other tools (not shown) in various places about the workroom that makes sense to me. The only thing I’m still lacking is a decent stand for my flexshaft.

2) How do you organize your shop…

My shop is one work table in the center and then tons of storage items against every square inch of wall space.
I use a large dining room table that I put a piece of plywood on top of. When I do hot work, I add steel sheet over that.

Over the years I’ve discovered the joy of skinny drawers. I was putting things away one day into a drawered cabinet and realized that some drawers were so tall that unless I piled things one on top of another in a totally inconvenient way, I was wasting a lot of drawer space, which meant in turn a lot of room space.

My first “skinny drawer” purchase was two tall plastic cabinets.

My most recent skinny drawer purchase is these awesome half-size wooden cabinets on wheels that just happen to fit right under my work table. As you can see, they hold the same trays I’ve been working with for years… those ½ inch jewelry display trays… with and without compartments.  These are so convenient for keeping my ongoing projects in order.  Also, I don't skip things when it's time to tumble, patina, or solder.

I love my label-maker, btw.

3) How do you organize your finished work…

Because most of my work includes metal, I keep all finished work in airtight plastic bags and then in drawers based on what it is (earrings, bracelets, etc).

I do seem to keep a few pieces on necklace busts distributed about the room, but most of my finished work is sealed and drawered.

4) How do you inventory it?

I use a database (in Access). I created a file about 12 years ago and add a tweak here and there every so often, but otherwise it’s still the same file. I create a new section for each year. I can run reports on anything I want and filter the info in a bazillion different ways. I’d be lost without my Access file. 

So it may not be pretty, but that's my workroom.  Not going to end up in House Beautiful, but very functional and practical for me.  A place for everything and everything in its place.

Check out the other EtsyMetal Blog Challenge Entries:

Debbie Ritchie: