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Saturday, January 31, 2009

I would like to introduce everyone to a great resource for crafters and artists of all things handmade. It's called Etsy and rhymes with the girls' name Betsy. Etsy is an online marketplace where you can buy and sell items that are handmade, as well as vintage goods and crafting supplies.

Creating an Etsy shop is very easy, and free. And as you start to list items you will find it is also very inexpensive (20 cents to post an item for up to 4 months). You can connect it easilly to your existing Paypal account or create one of those very easy if you don't have one yet, and when people purchase your hand crafted items, the money goes right into your bank account.

They have all sorts of creative ways to advertise your goods, connect and communicate with other artists and give or recieve feedback. Their blog is very informative, you can find a link to it at the bottom of my page in my Blog List.

As you can see, to the right of this blog they even have a widget called the Etsy Mini to put on your blog or website which can connect people directly to your shop.

I fel every artist i know could benefit from the worldwide coverage. Since opening a shop at Etsy my jewelry has been seen by people all over the world. Oh, yeah, did i mention they have a great little globe that spins and zooms in to show you where people who love your stuff reside. It's pretty cool.

Check it out at

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fossil Hunting

Several months ago my friend Kierra and i went out fossil hunting. This was on land of a friend, Norm, out on Bacculite Mesa near Pueblo, Colorado. It was a cold day and actually started to snow on our way out the long seven miles of dirt road. But it was amazing, out away from the city the horizon stretched out, so much prairie and mesa.

Little swarms of birds flew alongside the car bobbing up and down reminding us of flying fish following a sailing ship. As we approached our friends driveway a herd of horses came galloping out of the snowy canyon to our left and ran alongside the car. They were beautiful and magestic. We stopped by their large water troughs, large galvanized tanks, and broke the ice with axes as Norm had requested we do.

We parked the car and donned our hats, gloves,coats and backpacks and headed out into the little canyons which are invisible until you are right up on them. They aren't too deep ranging up to, oh, i'd say about fourteen foot high clay cliffs. it's these clay cliffs which crumble here and there over time due to the freezing and thawing of moisture. Then the rains wash through the canyon and sweep away the dirt leaving interesting fossils on the canyon floor.

It was a fun day, but very cold and we had gotten a late start so we didn't get to do a very extensive hike in the canyon we chose. We did find a few small fossils and some interesting rocks. Kierra found an interesting cluster of clear crystal like formations. My big find of the day was a portion of a nautilus.

At the point we decided to turn around and head back to the car, we ate some cornbread i had made for the day. We left a little cornbread for the birds before leaving.

Later that week, the bean grinder at the coffeehouse went down and we had to replace the grinding teeth. I brought the worn ones home to use in art somehow and set them on my desk. It didn't take long to recognize the simillar sense of curve and line that the grinding teeth and the nautilus fossil had in common. I began to think about the repetition of form in nature, what was it about these things which worked so well in nature and that we as humans so many millions of years later use in our mechanistic attempts at taking care of business. I do not feel we are removed from nature, on the contrary i believe we are another expression of nature . . . and so are our ideas and creations.

I'm still not sure what i'm going to do with either the nautilus fossil or the coffee bean grinder gears. I would love to integrate the two, somehow spotlighting the things they have in common. I'd also love to somehow allude to the passage of deep time and the wonder i have for the repetitive use of recurring forms in nature.

Perhaps i can work them into some wall pieces i'm designing for the Industrial Revolution themed show i have with Randy Wix and Justin Reddick at the Sangre de Cristo Art & Conference Center in 2010.

Time will tell.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mobile Metals Program

Last year I assisted Michael Boyd with the Mobile Metals Program, which takes our love of metalsmithing into the public and charter schools arts classes.

It was a great trip out of town and teaching these kids a new skill was very satisfying. To see there eyes light up as they have an aha moment when the solder flows at just the right heat and the two ends of their silver ring come together and become one was something i'll never forget.

It's important to show these kids that beyond the realm of school subjects there are so many other opportunities for careers and artistic expression. Metal working can be a place where the mechanically minded kids find a love of crafting and creating something with the materials they are familiar with in other applications. The artsy kids find a common ground with the gearheads and vicaversa when they both arrive at a place of creation. The act of creating something in the mind and then acquiring the skills to manifest those ideas in the physical world is a powerfully attractive thing to a wide swath of humanity.

You can see the cogs in motion as they talk about their ideas for other projects, many of which are currently beyond their skill level. But, to me, it's this inspiration and desire to learn and figure it out, to create, which is satisfying.

To see kids excited about something healthy and constructive these days is more than refreshing. It renews my faith in the creative and cooperative future of humanity.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cold Days Give Time To Reflect

I'm taking a snow day.

The last few days have been pretty cold around here. Even what start out as gray days usually end up with the old Colorado sun coming out. The sun streaming into the living room appears golden and warm, but as i look out at the thermostat on the little greenhouse i can see that is only appearances.

Days like this make me welcome the sun, and as i sit on the couch in a sunny spot i put my face into the sunbeams and let the warmth soak in, melting away thoughts of much else. I revel in this for awhile, and memories of springs gone past return. I remember the day my friend Ann and i let our butterflies go. They had hatched from their cocoons in a large pickle jar in the house. It was great to see them flitter and flutter about and head straight for the large yellow flowers.

Some days are good for reflection, and this is one of them. I find that i can place myself in those magical moments of yesteryear fairly well. The smells of the evergreens, the sound of birds and snowmelt running and dripping down rocks and the nuthatches and sapsuckers tap-tap-tapping away, the feel of the new spring sun on my skin and the still cool breeze in my hair, the sights of new colors emerging from the whites and grays of winter and my friend smiling and laughing in her own reverie.

I look forward to these times, but in the meantime, i have the color palette of my stones to gaze out. The many greens i am so attracted to as well as the other colors reminding me of various associative things in nature.

Today it's the birds which come to mind.The red of the finch' s breast, the flash of surprising yellows and oranges from the tanagers and goldfinches, the bluejay weaving deep green boughs of pine. The crazy stitch of the humingbird with its blurred and buzzing rubies and emeralds pulling it all together with its zipping curiosity of everything.

It may be a cold gray and snowy day outside, but inside the promise of spring is already blossoming in my heart.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Polishing The Stone

Stone polishing is a process which takes sometime. Stones vary in hardness and so the time it takes to polish them varies as well. Some take a shine quite easy and others . . . well, they become a labor of love.

The process of polishing a stone starts with raw stone material (called "rough") and then cutting an approximately sized piece, remembering to leave room for polishing which is the slow removal layers of stone. After this one can take the stone to a lapidary arbor which is a wheel or a seriese of wheels of varying grit from coarse stone wheels to soft padded wheels covered with belts embedded with fixed polishing grit all the way down to fluffy buffing wheels which are designed to hold loose polishing compound.

Beyond this i do a lot of polishing by hand at my bench using my hand tool (much like a dremmel tool) and various grits of diamond paste. This takes time.

I have found that this process has similarities to the maturation of an individual throughout life, slowly refining and removing the smaller and smaller deficiencies to arrive at a polished state.

I have also found that polishing a stone by hand through the lenses of my magnifying eyepieces takes a lot of concentration. Mindfulness over a period of time gives one the attention to detail needed to get a nice evenly polished surface.

And so, polishing the stone becomes a meditation. Just sit . . . and polish the stone. Don't worry about the bills or the kids, just be here now . . .just sit . . . and polish the stone.

. . . and don't forget to breathe.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chop wood, carry water.

Today is a cold day here in Southern Colorado. The morning brought with it a fog which turned out to be a freezing mist, or micro-snow of some form. Any work done in the studio would require me to start a fire.

When i got into the studio this morning i realized that all of my water was frozen and so i was going to have to carry water from the house out here to the studio if i was going to be polishing any stones. I will then warm this water on the small 1950's U.S. Army stove . . . once i get that fire going.

I'm a little low on firewood this year as the inspiration to install the little stove in the studio came late in Autumn and i had not prepared a supply of wood. I have been going through the supply of wood from my little greenhouse, (mostly used for warming the gathering of friends during the winter celebrations) fairly quickly. I enjoy the task of making kindling and starting the fire, it is a somewhat mundane ritual rich with memory for me.

Today this all reminds me of an old Zen saying, "Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water." Chopping the wood and carrying the water, tasks that are not always fun, especially when the fingers are cold and stiff. These things at first seem like mundane tasks, work that is not as fun or satisfying as the making of art. But these things are just as important, and are in fact, part of making jewelry, not something separate.

I could easily fall into a loathing about the parts of my life which seem like "work" and be dreaming of being somewhere else warmer and doing something else more satisfying or fun.
But the truth is, that when i do these other things it is all part of the whole of my life. I try to be mindful that what i am doing now is every bit as important as any other part of my life's work.
Without letting my mind wander too far, I need to be grateful for all the circumstances that put me where I am that moment with that hatchet in my cold hand and that water in the bucket on its way to the studio.

When i look at some pieces of jewelry, I can remember the day i made some of them. I can not only see the stones and the story of my acquisition of them, the silver and the process of metal working, but also the chopping of wood and the carrying of water.

When I am open to the awareness of the mundane tasks in my life and how they are connected to my artwork and my intentions, those tasks become lighter. When I am able to be in the moment, I no longer feel compelled to watch the clock or dwell in feelings of resentment for the work at hand.

Wood is chopped.

Water is carried.

Life happens.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In Search of Material

My father instilled in me a love of hiking in the great outdoors. We did some family camping of course, but what i recall most when thinking back are the times we put on backpacks and hiked for days out into the back country. Living in Washington State allowed us to explore amazingly secluded and magical natural places. These places resonated with the same amazing beauty and mythic quality and power as the world of The Lord Of The Rings which my father would read to us in the evenings before bed.

We would set up camp and explore the area, then, at nightfall we would observe the stars and talk about the heavens. Sometimes, when permitted, we would have a small fire. In the morning we would break camp, following my families leave no trace policy and hike further on and in to our next campsite.

When exploring the various campsites i would often find treasures. Sometimes it was a gnarly fallen tree limb which became my new walkingstick. Other times it was an amazing display of micro plant life, tiny fairy castle fungi or mossflowers. But mostly, my eyes would sieze upon remarkable stones.

My eye has always been drawn to white stones and green stones, but i would find stones of all beautiful colors. A favorite place to find beauty in stone was always a lakeshore or more likely, a creek bed. These stones, wet with glacial melt, would shine and show their colors wonderfully upon their glossy surfaces. I would pocket favorites to take back home to show mom.

Unfortunately when i pulled the now dry stones and pebbles from my pockets full of feathers, acorns and moss, they wouldn't shine with the lustre they had when wet. I would have to wet them to show her the beauty i had seen in the wild places.

When i learned basic lapidary skills i suddenly realized that i was learning how to make stones shine permanently as they would if wet. It has been very satisfying to now be able to do something with the beautiful stones i find, polish them and frame them in silver, creating treasures to be worn and displayed for ages to come.

I still enjoy hiking and now when i find those stones, i also know what i'm going to do with them. This has allowed me to turn my love for hiking into material collecting expeditions, combining doing what i love with making a living which has been a desire of mine for years, and now a manifesting intention.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Lifelong Love of Beachcombing

Some of my most magical childhood memories are of beachcombing with my family on the North West coast of Washington State. My brother and i would play all sorts of games, hiding from each other, making or discovering huge driftwood forts where the sand had drifted and created caves smelling of the sea.

Flotsam and jetsum abounded on the coast and we revelled in most of the treasures we found. There were of course the seashells; sand dollars, mussels, limpets, oyster, clam and crab. Some beaches were covered in wonderfully polished stones and pebbles.

Occaisionally we would find beautiful glass balls used as floats for the nets of Japanese fishermen. Red, blue, clear, yellow, green they came in all colors and sizes often ranging from tennis ball sized to basketball sized. These were greatly prized and sought after for years and years of beachcombing. I have not lived on the coast for some time now and wonder if the Japanese fishermen still use these hand blown glass floats or if they, like most of the world have moved on to cheap plastic floats. I hope not.

Another favorite find was sea glass which was glass from broken bottles that had been rounded and worn by the rhythmic motion of the waves and the beach sand. This gives the glass a frosted look. The colors are wonderful, there are lots of brown pieces from beer bottles of course, but the light blue and green are also fairly prominent. Other colors are more rare, such as yellow, red or that dark lapis blue.

My brother recently sent me some of this sea glass from his beachcombing and hiking. As a lifelong hiker and photographer he often travels the beach and rain coast forest between First Beach and Third Beach as well as digging Ruby Beach and hitting Ocean Shores with his family where the love of beachcombing has been passed down to his children. I am working on designs for these pieces of sea glass in rings, earrings, pendants and necklaces.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Poppy & Citron Blossom Ring

When in Taos, New Mexico there are a few things i always do. I get anice Porter at Eskes Brew Pub, eat breakfast at the Dragonfly Cafe, treat myself to a book at Moby Dicks and i always visit the same wonderful fabric store, Common Threads.

This time while at Common Threads, i found some wonderful raku fired buttons made by a local potter and artist, Kerrie Lynn-Cohn. She uses her own glazes, and in this case they are Poppy and Citron. I fell in love with these small pieces immediately and came up with some ideas of how to use them as jewelry right there in the fabric store!

After crafting the ring shank and the stamen cluster, I connected them through the existing button holes of the stacked buttons. I have a few more of these buttons and plan on making a slightly smaller version soon.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Artist Statement

As a native of the Olympic Penninsula of Washington State i grew up in a heavily forested area which verged on raincoast. In my childhood i would always bring back stones (and sticks and feathers and found baubles)whenever i went hiking or our into the woods around our house. I never really knew what to do with them though, i would keep them around as beautiful momentos of the places i'd been and the things i'd seen. They were often testaments to the mystery and miracle of nature. Years later i still bring home stones, but now i know what to do with some of them so that they can become keepsakes and reminders of the wonders of this planet and the workings of the universe.

As an adult I reached a point where i needed to get the arts back in my life, not in an academic way, but in a hands on physically creative way. I was still a poet and a writer, and an occaisional painter, but i needed something more. My friend Michael Boyd suggested i come and learn a few things from him and help him out in his shop. I was a quick study and loved the creative possibilities. My precise craftwork in other areas of life (remodelling, carpentry, jack-of-all-trades maintenance man) crossed over easily and in no time i was helping Mike in the fabrication of his jewelry.  

After working with Michael Boyd for several years where I learned metalworking and lapidary techniques i have been lucky enough to venture out on my own and have begun creating my own creations arising fom my own inspirations.  

I love nature and my work often reflects it's inspiration in form, emotion and essence. Often when working on a new series, instead of sketching, my poetry and mythology and studies of world religions and language combine and lead me to create lists of words instead. Often compound words made from the roots of other words in many languages which give a feeling or a sense of meaning behind the ideas and images i am fabricating when looking at stones and material. I may end up with two to three sketches, but for the most part, my sketches are surrounded by words and word-bits, the pages covered in odd biological and sacred hybrids.