Tag Archives: Jewelry Biz

I’ve been a busy Metalsmith…

Since the layoff from the magazine in August, I have been having way too much fun in my studio creating new curriculum pieces for 2017’s upcoming classes in Tucson, for an 8-week introduction to jewelry course at a local adult school, and hopefully, for the August BeadFest in Philadelphia. I am truly lucky because so many people have called and emailed me with an eye on getting a hold of the new, free me to teach, lecture, create video content or write for their respective publications and sites that I am as busy now as I was whilst employed full time. Not. Too. Shabby. If you are interested, you can find my current workshop descriptions here, and my class rosters and signup information here. If you plan to go to Tucson, look me up and I hope to see you there!
PS: Check my Instagram feed for works in progress shots and to see what I am up to these days. I usually post there a few days per week.

On a side note, I have also been busily creating print content in the form of some short technical features, tool reviews and tips, and how-to articles for a large jewelry industry magazine. It’s fun writing that kind of content, and what I enjoyed most/did best in the old job, so I feel extraordinarily lucky these days for the continuity. Thanks universe, you never let me down.

Now that my plate is a little less full of all that time-consuming transitional employment and other real life stuff, I plan to be here more. Keep an eye open for news about upcoming classes, online workshops, heads-ups about magazine articles and projects I have on deck. I will be adding a few pages to this blog for up-to-date ways we can stay in touch, so check here often, because I promise this year will be a fun one. Surely we will need fun in 2017.

And to all of you who have contacted me, thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement. You really have no idea how much it means to me!


On the Radio!

Quick hit here… Just finished a Metalsmith Benchtalk chat with Jay Whaley on Blog Talk Radio. If you missed it, click this link and listen to the recording. I had loads of fun! Nite!

I’m watching you…

This is a test. I have decided to experiment with Google Analytics, just to see what kind of traffic my blog generates in relation to: projects I have participated in creating, classes I am teaching, books I have written and other things…

So, if you’d like to play, and perhaps earn me a bonus at work, check out these links:

My Metalsmith Essentials Basic Fabrication DVD can be found here:

My Metalsmith Essentials Riveting and Cold Connections DVD can be found here:


My Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide Book:


Thanks for playing…

Staying on course

I have been insanely busy over the past few months navigating through an office move, several extracurricular projects, a very full workload, a new and wonderfully fulfilling relationship, and some home improvement thrown in for entertainment. But I haven’t been so busy that I have failed to notice a disturbing level of negativity, blaming and stubbornness all around me — particularly in the arenas of business and work.

It is incredible how many times in the past few weeks I have hit a wall someone has built around themselves because they have focused all of their energy outward to prevent whatever it is they are trying to prevent from happening. It’s hard not to get sucked into it — especially when it seems that the force of the circling negativity threatens to pull everything down and in.

Believe me, I am not perfect — I often wake in the night fearing we are all going to hell in a hand basket. I am super-efficient and prone to dismissing what isn’t working well by just letting a bridge completely burn because it seems like too much effort to stop it.

I made a pact with myself earlier this year to accept and embrace that the only thing that is really in my power is the ability to manage myself in space and time. I can’t fix other people. I can’t make someone else fix themselves. I can’t change another persons way of being or replace what they are missing in their own heart, mind or soul — that is their own life’s work.

So, how do I fight it? How can I help somebody who needs help? How do I do battle with the negativity monster without losing myself in the war?

Every day, I thank whatever is out there for giving me this life. I pet my cats and tell my loved ones they matter to me. I thank myself for getting my lazy butt into the gym and doing some cardio, and for topping it off with a healthy meal. And, I am thankful and extremely grateful I have skills and the talent to provide me with a means to support myself in the current economic climate. I am grateful that I am mentally and physically able to work very hard and even do extra work to stay afloat in the churning storm. And, I fervently hope and believe in my heart that calm will come again.

Yes, I am grateful for this life, because I have seen what it might have been if circumstances were different when I was born. I try not to blame, even though the temptation is great. Instead of blaming, I repeat my mantra: ” All I can do is manage myself in space and time.” And then, I act on that mantra and manage to find a way in myself to turn negativity around and find something to be thankful for in whatever vexing thing is in front of me. When someone close to me gets sucked into negativity, I try to steer myself clear of their spinning, and then point out a direction they might navigate toward — to change negative thoughts they are locked into. I accept those things I have no power to change, and instead work toward keeping myself and my ideals intact in the face of it.

Try to find the good. Focus on that good and keep going. Help others to see the good. And be grateful for it.

Conferences, connections and a different world

A gentle nudge is usually all it takes to get me rolling. Other times it takes a concerted kick in my posterior to force me to figure out where to go next. Especially when I feel lost.

The incredible Michael Zobel shares his work with an enthusiastic CoMA audience after his presentation.

I just got back from the 2011 Colorado Metalsmithing Association Conference in Salida, Co. It was totally incredible, and the lineup was just fantastic. I saw and held gorgeous works by Michael Zobel, Michael Good, and many other amazing metals artists. I am inspired to work — if I can ever get back to my bench. But, this year was different for me. Not only because I am different. Everything else is different too, and I am lost in a land of confusion. I went to the conference with a different set of objectives. Many of the same personalities and characters were there, and I caught up with them and made my usual contacts and connections, but because the world of print publishing is changing dramatically, this year I was there for a different reason. My assignment was to capture footage for a new digital product, so I interviewed 6 metals masters, tool designers and lapidary artists in typical “man on the street” TV journalist style. It was surreal to say the least.

I am new to this world of the digital video camera. At this moment, I have appeared in three 2-hour technique DVDs, but I still feel uneasy about talking on camera, because unlike teaching a class, there is no connection to anything real. There is no interaction or exchange.

Blacksmith Hoss Haley demonstrated how to raise a pear in steel

It is disconcerting. I love print. I love books. I love learning the old way — from information passed with hands — you know, master to apprentice and demonstration and practice. I am uneasy about having the knowledge and tradition of my craft held in an elusive and mysterious format like a digital file that lives in cyberspace. It feels nebulous and unreal, not solid — like the tools, metal and stone I can hold in my hands as I work, or observe my mentor using as I am shown something.

Lately, I am reminded of my art history class, where the Italian Renaissance clicked away, slide after slide after slide, in a scattershot of images with no sense of scale, form or context.  I try to imagine what the world will be like when all information is digital. Will life be reduced to an endless vicarious peep show as we watch other people “do” things in cyberspace without ever touching a tool or piece of metal ourselves? Will we consume information as a substitute for doing? How can we analyze the information of a visual art form, when we cannot observe it in 3D reality? And, what will we really experience if everything is a nugget of information to be observed on a computer monitor or slid sideways on a touch screen?

I often wonder about these things. Is digital information real? Is digital documentation, record keeping and history real — if it can be constantly edited, accessed, tweaked and altered? Or are we really all just bits of matter floating through time and space where the only real is at this very moment and no more?

The real price of a high metals market

Yesterday, I decided to scrap some metal. Spot prices have been rising every day and the timing was good for my personal economics. My sister and I traveled in to Jewelers Row and I decided my instincts would guide me on where to go. Once I had chosen, I looked around the dusty, small shop. It had been a busy day and there were piles of old silver holloware and gold everywhere. A bench jeweler was retipping some prongs, and the owner of the shop — Joseph — greeted me and my sister as we came in. I could see by his clear blue eyes and open face that he was an honest man. This was the place.

We went about the business of weighing and calculating, and my sister and I had already done the hard work of sorting clean scrap from sweeps, we had graded all of the gold parts and unwanted pieces in advance, and pre-weighed everything to get a rough idea of our total. Joseph noted and calculated, and told us how unusual it was to have knowledgeable customers in the shop and that he appreciated what we had done for him after such a busy day. My sister told him I was a jeweler, and then we began to talk shop. I admired some of the older pieces in the case, including a set of beautiful chased and repoussed holloware and old hand hammered silver serve ware. I said a high metals market was a good-bad thing, because all of this beautiful work would be lost. How sad it was to see the work of my metalsmith brothers destined for the crucible. How horrible it was to know that the history and hard work of my craft would be melted down and converted to a number on some investors spreadsheet somewhere, and that unknown goldsmith’s training, vision and labor meant nothing more than a pile of money in this greedy world.

Joseph stopped his calculations. He asked me if I wanted to see something spectacular and told the bench jeweler to lock the door. He went into the back, and brought out a huge, solid fine silver vessel. The surface was intricately chased and completely covered with intertwined floral decoration, borders and figures. I believe it was southeast asian, probably Thai, judging by the clothing on the figures. The entire vessel had been raised and chased by hand. It was very heavy and old, and there were still remnants of black pitch on the inside. I turned it over and over in my hands and felt the connection with its maker. Joseph told me he had a buyer for it — from a museum. I thanked him and told him how happy I was for that as we smiled at each other.

We finished our transaction and totaled out, chatting again about tools and we joked a little about the nice dinner my sister and I would have that night. I shook Joseph’s hand and thanked him for sharing that work with me, and for saving it from an undeserved fate in the flame. As our eyes met, I knew I had found a kindred soul, and that I would be in Joseph’s shop again.

As I type this, there is a transferred, black floral impression from pitch and polish on the heel of my right hand. It is a reminder of the work I touched yesterday and the connection I made with the history of my craft. No matter how high the price of our raw materials go, investment greed and the frenzy of hoarding metal can never take that from us. We make for the joy of making, not for the lust of taking.

Today’s tip: I keep several labeled covered plastic containers in my bench pan. As I generate scrap, I drop it in the proper container so I can take advantage of a good spot price and be ready to take my scrap in quickly.

There’s always room for vise

Traveling to teach is not without drama.

Recently, my best pal and I met in her town and road-tripped to another state
(that’s a BIG state, not a little one) to tag team teach at Bead Fest Santa Fe. Now, you have to understand: teaching metals classes isn’t easy. You have to move tool steel, kits, torches and tanks for a dozen or more students per class. And, you want to bring extra stuff for your students to try and possibly buy. And, you have to rely on a sequence of events falling into place in a particular timeframe so everybody’s needs are met.

Don’t get me wrong — teaching is very rewarding. It’s just the logistics that aren’t. And, something always goes wrong. No matter how well you planned. It’s just a part of the thrill.

Like the vise. It’s heavy. You can’t fly with it, but you need it. Do you buy one when you get there and pray somebody in the class buys it? Do you ship yours? Do you borrow one and pray a student does not destroy it? Or, do you order one with your tool shipment and hope it gets to the hotel in time? And then, how do you get the thing 5 blocks over to the Convention Center, along with the 300 pounds of kits and tools for your classes? Oh, and stubbing that vise with your big toe in the middle of the night in the hotel room is really fun too.

Here I am teaching my Getting Started in Metals class, and totally delighted with my students and their progress.

We love teaching at away games. Really. But, when I said vise, I meant vice. Like cold adult beverages and good old fattening food with friends. And sweets after dinner every night. Because, when you meet up with fellow teachers you haven’t seen for a while, survive 4 days of teaching and assistant teaching in a strange town — without the shop equipment you are used to having nearby to teach well, vice is what you really need to get through it all. That, a sense of humor, and a sense of adventure will help you remember why teaching is fun. But, you’ll still need to leave room in the shipping box for the vise to go home once you wake up from the vice part of the trip the next morning.

Today’s tip: I saved my son’s toddler socks to cover my hammer heads when I travel. The little socks are the perfect size to protect the textured faces of my student hammers, and they remind me of my little guy when I am far from home.