Thursday, October 30, 2008

More Studio Views or Are We There Yet?

Studio view #79 or close to that number, right? This is my big ol' bench. I got this work horse shortly after graduation from an industrial supply company in Rhode Island (this is what we had in our studio classroom and I wanted the same thing for my home studio). Solid, steel legs, hardwood top. There is a custom pull out drawer to catch filings, scraps, and broken saw blades. Two bench pins: one for sawing, the other for sanding and filing. Some steel stakes, boxes of metal parts, my soldering station...everything nicely condensed into a small space.

The picture above is my packaging, sewing, felting, labeling, design, wrapping station (otherwise known as the "clean" work station) tucked into a nook in the spare bedroom. In a perfect world/studio, this would be part of the main studio.

Lastly, I added another project to my on-going list of duties. Soon, I will be contributing to the Etsy Maine Team blog. To me writing provides endless enjoyment, exercise for the brain (because goodness knows my BODY doesn't get near enough), and blogging will be an excellent way to meet and network with Maine's bounty of craftspeople and artist.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday Studio Views

Ah, ~sniffle~ this cold is still clinging! No studio today...just lots of photo work and a couple more listing in my shop. I listed this pendant this past weekend. I'm asking too little for it...really. I just found a price list when it was at a gallery on the coast of Maine. Wow. I want people to be able to afford my jewelry (I KNOW this is still pricey...but have you checked out the price of gold lately?) , but I don't want to jeopardize my work ethic either.

Two more studio views. The top one is a basic bench shot...disc cutter, hammer, little porcelain dish of baubles (mostly pearls), some files in the background (yes, I cleaned and organized BEFORE I took these pictures). The bottom picture is my rolling mill. My steel baby. I bought this right after graduation (14 years ago!) for a chunk of change. A Durston, 120mm dual side rolling mill made in England. It weighs as much a dead moose. Seriously. AND, worth its weight in gold.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In a Treasury!

My Etsy Maine Team mate Kim from Claypatties included one of my pendants in her treasury titled "mood". So fitting for the season we are in. Dark afternoons, barren trees, All Hallow's Eve, crumbling vines, dying gardens...ah, October is good.

Studio View, Day 2

I'm laying low daughter has so graciously shared her cold virus with me...isn't that sweet? No studio work today, ~cough, sniffle, hack~.

Above is another shot from my modest studio. A pic of a drawer with engravers, scrapers, burnishers, and steel square, a drawing plate, a ring vise, and other yummy steel things housed in boxes.

If I can get my old, sick body is gear tomorrow, I'll be listing this ring and a couple other pieces in my Etsy shop. The 'bigger than big' ring is hollow, saucer shaped nickel silver with a spessartite (orange garnet).

OK, off to cozy up to some hot tea!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

One down, Forty-nine To Go

Or something like that. I had the weekend mostly obligation free to devote much needed time in studio. I have a Holiday show just weeks away and need INVENTORY! I got this ONE piece finished, but, luckily, many others well on their way. The heart motif was never planned for this pendant, but when life presents lemons, ya make lemonade....~whispering~ one heart covers up a nasty little melt down I had with the torch..oops! A true romantic piece, I think, something that doesn't come easy for designing, that is.

A loyal follower of my blog asked to see more studio pics. After drying the tears of laughter from my sister and mother's eyes, I decided to oblige. Yes, I KNOW ladies, I work in the freaking cold basement with barren concrete floors and walls and I can hardly call it a "real" studio, but it beats saying "Hey babe, I'm going down into the cellar/basement/laundry room/storage area/sump pump corner..." So, I'll post a picture of my ~ahem~ workspace everyday this week.

My husband and I are in agreement that this working area needs to change. Eventually (and I SO wish I could say "before the snow flies"..ha!) I should have a proper studio with daylight and heat and white walls and a real floor and a play space for Annabelle. For now, this space will do just fine, thank you!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Views from the Bench

Two blogs in one day!! Woohoo, I'm a rock star! Or just a girl who has had too much coffee. Above is my trusty steel block with an assortment of WIPs (works in progress) scattered about. Please notice the big, ol label pendant sawed into 2 pieces sans the buttons. The earrings will be complete and listed tomorrow in my Etsy shop. The pillowy piece on the right harkens back to my collection, Armor. I'm not sure where this one will go, but it should be a fun ride!
Night all!

Fame and Fall

During our morning outside, I remembered to bring my camera (boy, have I missed BUNCHES of Kodak moments when the camera is on the desk, not in my pocket). These are some colors around our home. ~ah~ Don't cha just love this season?

Other news, my Etsy Maine Team mate Kim ( made a treasury this morning (I think we all made a treasury this morning from reading the forum posts). She included my amulet pendant that I blogged about a few days ago. Thanks, Kim!! Check out the list at

AND, I got another treasury. This one was all about crafty folks who create soft sculptures. Check it out This is one of my picks from Squishy Fish ( How fun!

Off to the studio for an hour while she naps! Cheers!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Naps, Coffee, and Cold fingers

A quick blogland 'hello' this evening as I have emerged from my dank, cold dungeon...oops, I meant to type my well-lit, cozy studio (in my mind it is this hands and feet will tell a different story), to make myself a mug of hot chocolate. Working during the daylight hours has become a challenge. I have reluctantly shifted to night working. As much as I hate to work at night, I found two bonuses to this new arrangement. I get to take a nap during the day to fire up for the graveyard shift and I can drink COFFEE in the afternoon! Hooray for me! If I could only get my frigid extremities to agree. Oh, the pic above are my little bobble head animals on the windowsill by the kitchen sink. A random happy shot.
Above is an Alexander Calder piece. I believe it was a gift to either his wife or a daughter. A group of mini mobiles with cigar box storage. I dig Calder's lust and energy for balancing whimsy and function. In my opinion, he was one of the greatest 20th century sculptors. I would give my left arm (gladly if my fingers don't start thawing soon) to hang out with him in his studio/workshop, making functional objects that mask as sculptures.

Off to work I go. In parting here's 5 things I can't live without:
1. Wool socks, preferably Smart Wool.
2. My scribe/ burnisher from Germany.
3. Coffee in the morning (how I DID live without it when I was pregnant is a mystery).
4. A hair dryer and hair gel...I'm not vain. I have fine, straight hair.
5. My Canon A530

Monday, October 20, 2008


Many years ago, I had another collection of work. I put a huge amount of time, effort, and emotion into this line. I recently, for PR purposes, gave it the name Armor (which completely works for me both literally and figuratively). These pieces, some shown below, are constructed with nickel silver and 18k gold. For those who are unfamiliar with nickel silver, its primary function is base metal for costume jewelry. I think it is a splendid fine jewelry metal. Granted, many people are allergic to this metal. BUT, why should it be outlawed (not really outlawed, just scoffed at) as a fine jewelry component? Many people are allergic to peanut butter, but ya' still see it on the market shelves, right?

OK, I was saying...this was a collection that I was happy to call mine, from start to finish. It is all hand constructed. I have several pieces packed away. I'm wondering if I should list these items in my Etsy shop OR set up another shop featuring these higher end, one-of-a-kind pieces. Any thoughts? I'm worried that the two collections listed together in the same shop will look disjointed.

The necklace above is also part of that collection. I made a group of pendants/necklaces that I refer as the Amulet collection. Since making these amulet pendants, I have noticed many design houses and jewelers creating "amulet" pieces of their own (in No way am I claiming the birth right to this design....PA-LEASE!). I am considering doing an off-shoot of my Vintage collection to incorporate the buttons and the amulets. I think it would be a great merge.

A BIG thanks to Vintage Junque Revival ( for including a great picture of my work in her blog from yesterday's Etsy Maine Team meeting in Rockland. Thank you all for your enthusiasm, words of wisdom, and new friendships. I look forward to many more gatherings!
Lastly, 5 things on I'm craving today (not pregnant, just hungry!):
1. Lindt truffles (dark chocolate)
2. Sushi (except for those big, squishy salmon roe pieces, yuck).
3. Iced tea
4. Soft pretzels with spicy mustard
5. Fried chicken
How about you?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thinking Ahead

New listing in my Etsy shop! Sterling charm bangle with green tourmaline, vintage shell button, and faceted black pearls. Yummy! I really had to hold myself back when making this. I wanted to fill the whole bangle with all sorts of stones, baubles, and, of course, buttons. But, I went with the magic number 3 for this one (I have this thing about 3's and it's multiples...three perennials, 3 vases, 3 planters, 3 cheeses, 3 candles, and so on). There are 2 more bangles on my bench waiting for me to set their stones (a pink tourmaline in one and an orange opal in the other) and rivet their buttons. I might try to making a bangle 'with all the fixins' soon...just to get it out of my system.

I've been thinking a bunch about the holiday season peeking above the horizon. Sort of the old eggs in the basket deal. Do I continue to make work for my Esty shop, OR do I make work for my Etsy shop and a trunk show, or do I make work for Etsy and a craft fair? I wish I could only live in the moment, but my pragmatic Capricorn self will not have any of THAT gibberish. So, I look forward, hoping to choose the right path. And, if you don't mind, please send metalsmithing elves my way to help with all the bench work.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy Friday

A very happy Friday indeed. This little girl of ours is once again surrendering to the nap. Thank goodness! She also visited Mama's studio today and had a blast painting with big girl paints and very big paper. Mama got some work finished. AND, one of my pendants made the Etsy home page!!! Woo hoo!

My Etsy Maine Team mate, Jen, from Whimsidoodle ( selected my long, simple 3 button pendant as part of her treasury (unsure what this treasury thing is? Go to and click treasury). In an email correspondence, she mentioned this, I checked it out, did a happy dance in the kitchen, and emailed everyone. BUT, it gets better...I logged in later in the day, and there's my pendant...home page of Etsy!!!!! No one has bought the pendant (grr), but it was viewed 299 times. Very exciting stuff !

My darling daughter, as I mentioned above, worked with me in my studio today. She was so well behaved and focused on her painting. I love kids' art. I taught k-5 art in Maine and was a teacher's assistant in college for youth art. I'm all for celebrating youth art. Below are some of our girl's drawings and paintings. These frames are from a large chain that begins with "W". I'm not proud that I shop there occasionally, but these frames are only $4.00!!! Deal.

Here's the pendant, fixed and finished. I found a vintage shell button that had off-center holes...perfect for this piece! I omitted the gold rivets as the sterling rivets worked with the brown button. I'm happy with the necklace. I'm listing this tonight on Etsy.

To end my happy day, my husband did the grocery shopping and I had a nice crisp walk with my sister. Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

One Step Forward, Two Back

These last two days have been challenging. The little princess of the house decided that napping is wasteful and she would much rather play, or eat, or generally work on her early evening meltdown. So, mama's time in studio has been close to nil. ~sigh~ This week's 'to do' list remains intact...and has grown longer with NEXT week's projects.

However, I just finished this necklace 20 minutes ago, now that dinner is done, she's in bed, and all is quiet. I should be jumping for joy, right? If I had only waited until tomorrow: awake, freshly showered, and a mug of hot coffee for fuel. This lovely necklace's center piece button is unquestionably OFF center! I thought it looked centered (did I mention that I DID NOT have my glasses on? duh), marked the spots, and drilled. I even made 18k gold rivets! In the morning, I'll have to drill out the rivets, and fix this somehow. geez...

This bracelet above was a commission from this past summer. I thought this design would be a nice addition to the Vintage collection, so I have 3 ready to list next week on Etsy. I could try to work on them tonight, but with the above disaster (ok, not quite a 'disaster') looming over me like a dark cloud, I think that they can wait.

Now that I have finished boo-hooing my mistakes and time issues, here's 5 things I'm thankful for:
1. My family, awake or napping
2. My glasses on my face, not in the other room on the table
3. A warm home on a cold, rainy night
4. My friends
5. Memories

Sweet Dreams!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tools of the Day

This morning was a treat! My girls and I walked 4.82 miles! I suppose that isn't a record-breaking amount of walking or exercise, but, for this chick who is sadly out of shape, was a good dose of oxygen and fitness. PLUS, we all took turns pushing a stroller with a 30+ lb toddler in the seat...that adds something, right? Tonight, we all feel (I have not confirmed with them, but I think from all the griping I heard during the walk I can summarize accurately) SORE....big, cranky toes, stiff ankles, popping hips, tender arse, tight shoulders (from pushing the stroller, of course). Without these helpful tools on our pedicured feet, we would all be hurting far worse (New Balance, if you are wondering...the great state of Maine is home to the New Balance factory tent sale every summer).
Above, this is a quirky diptych of my three partners in action (Al, Laura, and Mom)! I was asked nicely NOT to include pics of their ample behinds in my blog. I trimmed a couple of shots and their wish is granted! It's sort of like the fun house mirror at the summer carnival.

Second tool of the day is an under used oval bezel mandrel...I'm guessing at the proper name as I don't have a supply book or metalsmithing manual within reach. I bought this and its cousin, the round bezel mandrel, many ages ago. When a goldsmith/jeweler/metalsmith has fat cash in pockets, one orders tools. Back in the day, I bought tools with the idea "Maybe someday I'll need this". For a long time, I would pull this set out to oil it and then tuck it back away into the "maybe" drawer. Today, I REALLY needed this. I was not making bezels, but oval links for a necklace. A simple rap with a hammer and the misaligned roundish link effortlessly transformed into a lovely, symmetrical oval! What a time saver! My days are peppered with useful tools. Sneaks, steel mandrel sets, this computer, a rake, my camera, a well-sharpened chef's knife, files, a jeweler's saw and sawblades, a solder pick, copper tongs....I can't imagine how I would get through my day without these little inventions. What tools do you rely on daily?

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Website is Done!

About 5 minutes ago, we (my dearest friend, Tony and I) finally finished my website, Quench Metalworks. It has been a LONG process as neither of us are web designers. However, I'm thrilled with the end product. Woo hoo for us! To celebrate, we sip white wine and will watch Larry King Live. We really should go out on the town, but, alas, this is the country and a Subway shop is "the" spot on a Monday night (or Tuesday or get the idea).

Yesterday, I became a memeber of the Etsy Maine Team! I am anxious to start networking with everyone involved (70+ members). I really need a mentor, for both online and offline business, so I plan to nab a willing soul, asap. I have limited business savvy and will cherish all the help that comes my way. When at Etsy, please check out our page for links to all member's shops. Truly amazing items!

I spent some quiet time in the studio today doing lots of soldering. I should have new items listed on Etsy in a few days. Look for several 'jangle bangles' or 'dangle bangles' or 'charming bangles'...can you tell that I can't decide on a name...also, a brooch, a very lovely pendant with a handmade chain (this is reason for all the soldering), and a ring or two.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Photography, Snails, and Paypal

There is no big secret that I take my own pictures of my jewelry. In the past, I employed a professional photog for a super high-end look. In the past, I had way more income to burn on such luxuries. Now a days, my little digital Canon A530 has been working overtime for me. Our deck and table with umbrella serves as my studio. White tissue paper helps to diffuse sunlight. Overcast days are the best light source for jewelry photography....I actually jump for joy when I wake to gray days now! As the days get colder, I wonder how I'm going to manage this winter when the temperature stay steady at 20 degrees and there is snow everywhere. Maybe the reflective quality of the snow will help more than hinder.

During a photo shoot a few days ago, I met this little fellow above. He (or she or it?) came off a conch shell that was acting as garden decor. I considered using the conch as a prop and placed it on the table. This little dark fleck caught my eye...a snail! I know, snails are a gardeners nightmare right behind their cousin, the slug, and furry little mammals (squirrels, woodchucks, moles, kids :). Kudos for this little guy surviving and hiding out in the big conch shell. I let him slime around the table a bit and put him back in his cavern.

One last tidbit. I asked fellow Etsy-ers to critiques my shop. Every responder said that I must accept Paypal in order to reach all potential customers. So I signed up with Paypal and it's a go, well...I think it's a go. I need to call their customer service today to confirm that I can accept payments now. I get a wee bit jumpy nervous when electronic payments are concerned. Why? I have no idea. I suppose I'm old-fashioned in some respects.

Have a lovely Sunday!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Deconstructing the Constructed

After denying myself the pleasure of bench working for several years (due to endless priorities), I plowed into the studio without a plan when my muse whispered to me "Start, NOW!". To make what could be a very long story somewhat short, I cherish the needlecraft arts and the many women in my family who practice or practiced these traditions. Seldom do I sew or embroider...I'm a metalsmith...dirty hands, calloused fingertips and palms, short nails..not the hands of a seamstress. What I can do, is celebrate needlecrafts through jewelry.

So with that renewed spirit and inspiration, I made this pendant. No plan, just a large sheet of metal. Using those buttons from my family's collection, fabric textured sterling sheet, and a dainty, doily-like edge, I thought that this was the coolest pendant EVER. For a little splash, I riveted the buttons on with pink gold. Then, I tried it on...then tried it on my sister...then a friend. Unfortunately, the darn thing looks clumsy around the neck. It kind of reminds me of one of the fancy liquor decanter plaques. NOT the look I was going for. I want my jewelry to enhance the female neck, not make her look like a jug of bourbon.

So, off to the bench we go. I will be deconstructing this piece into several smaller pieces and one large oval, empty center brooch. Once all is said and done, this pendant's vim will live through several other pieces. I'll post some pics when I am finish with the revamping!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chain gang

Chain making today. There certainly was no 'gang' involved, unless me, my 2 canine comrades, and a replay of the debate on NPR passes for a gang. While time consuming and repetitious, the process of chain making is my mind yoga. I completely relax, clear my thoughts, and focus on the moment.....OM.
Here's a question for ya. Why does a color ink cartridge with 5 colors and in total more ink than black cartridges cost $7.00 less than a black cartridge? Just a random question, but one that I pondered today as I shelled out far too much money for ink at Staples.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Fine Fall Day

Today was a non-bench day. I stayed away from my studio and focused on other projects that needed attention. These were not difficult tasks; some were messy, some were new territory, some were time consuming. Tasks that don't quite gel with the rhythm of my day.

Outside in the chilly morning air, I employed my sister's well-defined ear, long neck, lovely hand, and patience (thanks, Al!) to model all of my finished pieces so I could get some nice 'action' pics for Etsy. During the photo session, we laughed so hard that we forgot about our cold toes and numb fingers. One of those 'you had to be there', dorky sister moments.

With a few of those pictures and some previously shot, I listed my first items on Etsy!! Woo-hoo!!! What I had imagined to be a daunting process was actually fun and quite easy. I brooded over listing for weeks, read and reread the policies, went to the forums...finally I took the plunge. What the heck was I so worried about? With a toddler running around, a dog barking at phantom ducks (the barking starts at's a mystery, really), and dinner on the stove, I managed to get 2 listings done. More tonight when the family is tucked in and the house is quiet.

I also made a perfect apple crisp (perfect according to hubby, what a guy!) with apples picked by husband and daughter this past weekend. We have a LOAD of apples and I can see that the baking will continue right through this week and into Saturday. Tomorrow? Rustic apple tart.... mmm.

While prepping the apples for their trip into the oven, the 5 pointed, star-shape seed chambers caught my eye. What a surprising and mystical shape to discover inside these fruits. Negative space always interests me...a jeweler sees a mold for wax or metal. If time had allowed, I would have melted some wax and poured the hot liquid into these little chambers. Of course I am thinking ultimately how these hollow, nature-made star shape would look in sterling silver, or, better yet, 18k gold, hanging from a delicate, hand-wrought chain.

Away from the bench today, yes. Away from creativity, never!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Living and working, podunk style

Today, among other things, was my deadline to list items in my Etsy shop ( The first EVER items in my Etsy shop to be exact. In order to do this correctly, I had a hefty list to complete this to the bank, get ribbon, felt, and tissue for packaging, open a credit account in order to proceed with Paypal (still not completely convinced that Paypal is good for businesses), buy ink for the printer, and lunch with a friend visiting from Arizona (well, lunch didn't have anything to do with my Etsy shop, but it was on the list).

I woke early with the dogs, had my coffee, and prepared for my day. Then the phone buzzes. My day has a snag! My husband went to work with the carseat in his vehicle. Stranded we are! We are a good distance from anything related to my list so walking will not do. So, I pushed back my deadline to October 8th and reworked my day and week. Note to self: buy another carseat, asap.

24 hour vacation

Providence is lovely, especially in the fall. Ornamental grasses with their full furry flowers, leaves scattered on the sidewalks, brilliantly painted Greek Revival homes (much like my friend's where we stayed) adorned with pumpkins, mums, and kale. Ahhh...

24 hours later, I'm back home. Refreshed? No, as the trip is 4 hours, one way. Refueled? Yes. Old friends, good conversation, and great food (I had ALL my favorites...starting THE diet today). However, the highlight of my 24 hour vacation? A phone call home. My 2 yo daughter told me with bubbling enthusiasm about her day with Daddy. I caught all the important words in her babbling run-on sentence: apples, wagon, horsies, neigh-neigh, yee-haa! Piecing them together, I concluded that they went apple picking at an orchard and got a horse drawn wagon ride to boot! To finish our conversation, she told me that she missed me and, in her adorable pronunciation, wuv you, mama. ~sigh~

Before I left for my mini vacation, I introduced my girl to watercolors. She loved the process of wetting her brush and swirling in the paint, wetting the brush again, swirling in the paint again, wetting her get the idea. Even though very little painting was done, she was still mastering a skill, a tool, that will aid her in the painting to come. She delighted to discover the water changed colors as she swirled and wetted her brush. Of course, I changed the water several times in order to avoid that unavoidable murky gray concoction.

When I sit down at my bench today, rather than cranking out finished pieces one after another, I will choose a technique and work to master and explore that technique. Today will be less about production and more about discovery. What will you discover today?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Let the blogging begin

So, here I am starting a blog...something I thought that I would never do (never have the time, patience, or enough to say). So why blog, Jen? Since I am starting my business, I have discovered (duh) that the web is an extraordinary tool to connect with customers and folks interested in my work, jewelry to be specific.

This is a short entry today as I am heading to Rhode Island to visit with some jeweler friends from RISD. Monday, October 6th is the start of my experience. I'll be posting new work each day through the month of October. Wish me well!

Eventually I'll add a link to this page and a fancy slide show of my work listed on Etsy. And link to some friends' sties and much to do so little time.
Have a lovely weekend and enjoy all that autumn offers! More about Quench Metalworks and me on Monday.