Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting! When last we met, I was on my way out of La Grange, heading out on State Highway 77, which under normal circumstances is a straight shot pretty much all the way to Corpus Christi. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will also know that nothing in my life ever seems to end up being a straight shot. It's usually more along the lines of off the wall and into a corner pocket. This trip was no exception. As I headed south on 77, I came across a lot of traffic. I found this unusual for two reasons: one, it's La Grange, and I seriously doubt those folks have a rush hour to speak of, and two, there was no traffic coming in the opposite direction. I looked further up the road, and would you believe it, there was a rock slide and a jack-knifed 18-wheeler blocking traffic in both directions. I decided that this was a sign for me to find another way.
Somehow I made it to Interstate 10 and drove along, pondering what to do, since my GPS was staging a mutiny and had about a fifteen minute lag time. (Yeah, thanks, Google.) I decided to just head south and see what happened. I mean, I was destined to hit the gulf eventually, right?! Or Mexico? Anyway, south I headed out into the great wilderness of south central Texas. I have to say, it was a lot prettier out there than I anticipated. I drove through some teeny tiny towns, then further and further out into the boonies until.... dun dun DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN! I spotted a sign that said "SHINER 39 MILES". For all you beer fans out there, this is a GOOD THING. I decided to make my way to Shiner, Texas and get my bearings, and possibly check out the brewery of my all-time favorite adult beverage.
I have to say, 39 miles is a lot further out in the country than it is in Dallas. My inner monologue started wondering if I'd ever get there, and even the Billy Joel channel on satellite radio was starting to wear on my nerves. Just as I was starting to give up hope, there it was like a beacon in the night: the little old town of Shiner, Texas. Be it known, gentle readers, that my mutinous GPS was of little to no help in finding my way around town. You would think it would be easy to find a brewery in a small area, but you would be wrong, especially if you are directionally challenged like I tend to be. I eventually made my way to the Spoetzl Brewery and gratefully parked my dusty vehicle to behold the entrance in all its glory:
Ah, yes! The Spoetzl Brewery! Home to Shiner Bock and other tasty brews. I meandered on inside, not really knowing what else to do. As luck would have it, there was a brewery tour starting in a few minutes, so I just hung out and waited for it start. In the mean time, I tried some Shiner Strawberry Blonde, which was super tasty. Below are some pictures from the tour of all the modern equipment from the brewery and bottling operation. Enjoy!
Fun facts about the Spoetzl Brewery and Shiner beer:
1) The brewery has been family owned and operated since 1909, although it changed hands from the Spoetzl family to the Alvarado family. Mr. Alvarado still adheres to the family traditions that have been around since the turn of the twentieth century.
2) The employees at the brewery get very good health benefits. The tour guide said she only had to pay $60 a month for her's and her family's, and that Mr. Alvarado paid for the rest.
3) The employees work twelve hour shifts, some in the morning and some at night. The brewery is closed Saturday and Sunday so they can spend time with their families. AS IT SHOULD BE!!!
4) Once a month, the employees get two cases of beer for free.
5) The facility was expanded in 2016, which is what those steel wort kettles you see in the last two pictures are from.
6) They're going to start putting Shiner Bock in 24 oz cans soon. Wild!
7) I was the first person to get the first run of Shiner Strawberry Blonde. They had just tapped the first keg that morning. I call that WINNING!
8) Pretty much everything is automated at the brewery, but they retrained the employees to program the big robots so they'd still have jobs.
9) Shiner beer is available in the lower 48 states, Alaska, and some parts of Mexico. They don't have Shiner in Hawaii yet, but they're working on it.
10) Until Mr. Alvarado took over the brewery in the late 1990s, Shiner beer was only available within a seventy mile radius of Shiner, Texas. Three cheers for expansion!
After the brewery tour, I did a little souvenir shopping, had another small glass of Strawberry Blonde, then gave my two remaining beer tokens back to the lady behind the counter, because I had to drive. For those of you who are concerned, yes, I went and took a short nap, then had some carbs and some water. Gotta drink responsibly, people.
In the next installment, I finally make it to Corpus Christi, then on to Port Aransas to fulfill my mission to find out how those good folks are progressing since Hurricane Harvey. Stay tuned!
Greetings, everyone! I have finally made it back to the House of Karlsson after eleven days (one of them unintentional) on the road. Since it was such an adventuresome journey, I will be doing this blog in two parts. This first part deals with the primary reason for my trip: Round Top Winterfest.
First of all, I'd like to say that I regret not taking more pictures. The quality of art at this show was absolutely phenomenal, and if you decided not to visit because the weather was bad, then you really missed out. I feel privileged to be included in such a group of talented artists. Words alone cannot do justice to two of the artists especially. One was Julie Howard, the artist behind J. Howard Organic Pastels. Y'ALL. THIS WOMAN IS A ROCK STAR. She does things with the old-school vegetable-based pigment pastels that I didn't even realize were possible. Her work is the most outstanding depiction of water and how it behaves in light that I have ever seen. I'll put a link at the bottom of this so you can do yourself a favor and go check it out. Another extremely talented artist who I was sharing gallery space with was Sally Maxwell. She is a pioneer in scratchboard illustration, and her work is so realistic that the large portrait of a grizzly bear that was facing my booth kept triggering my fight-or-flight response. She was kind enough to explain to her patrons what scratchboard illustration is and how it works, and how she was the first to add color to the medium. I will also put a link at the bottom of this blog for your perusal and enlightenment. I honestly can't believe I had the great good fortune to share space with these two fantastically talented and hardworking artists.
I rolled in to Round Top to do setup. There were three barn-type buildings out in the rolling hills of east central Texas. Round Top is a cute little town. You'd never know it was there unless you were going there on purpose. There is a coffee shop there with excellent coffee and breakfast, and there are a surprising amount of art galleries and antique stores. I was told that there is a ginormous antique show every year that attracts people from all over the country. Last year, this art show coincided with it, but this year they scheduled it a week after the fact. The weather was promising to be mucky and cold, so I personally did not hold out much hope for attendance. Below are some pictures of the facility and my booth setup.
The show itself was moderately attended. I found it interesting how a lot of the visitors knew a lot of the artists. I hope someday have a following of my own like that, but that's going to take a while, since I've only been doing art shows for less than a year. The overall vibe of the show was good, and I made three sales. The first to go was the bamboo mountain beauty, and that sold before the show even started!!! The other was a big, beautiful piece of Hubei turquoise that someone on Etsy had her eye on, but an artist's husband snatched it up as a Valentine's Day gift before she could get back to it. The third one was a unique little piece that sadly I only have one picture of, and it isn't a very good picture. I also got to meet a lot of great people and get ideas for shows where my work might do well. I'd say it was a productive weekend, all in all.
I stayed in La Grange, which wasn't too bad. I will tell you that traveling those old country roads at night in the fog is a bit of a white-knuckle experience. I used to have to do that all the time back in Tennessee (and I could tell you some hair-raising tales, but that's for another day), but it's been twenty years since I've had to do that, and the mind forgets. I did manage to find the highly touted Hruska's on Highway 71, but wouldn't you know it! They were completely out of kolaches! I did find some of my absolute favorite candy, though, so that was some consolation. I guess the mystery of "who does it better: Czech Stop or Hruska's" will have to remain unsolved.
The hotel I stayed at wasn't very fancy, but what it lacked in fanciness, it more than made up for in ... well.... I don't know if there is really an English word for it. That feeling you get when you go to a place and everyone is comfortable and safe and welcome. I don't know if cozy is the appropriate word, but I'll let you figure it out for yourself. The hotel was home to quite a few families being housed there by FEMA. They had lost both houses and jobs, and had been moved from the coast up to La Grange. The hotel manager was kind enough to let them cook in the little kitchen where the breakfast was made. Let me tell you, I do not know WHO was in charge of cooking for all those FEMA families, but I would have paid that person good money for a plate of the carne asada he was fixing. It smelled amazing and put my Whataburger takeout to shame. I also had some fun chats with the night desk clerk, Miss Brenda. She told me about the 150 year old cabin she lived in out in the far reaches of Round Top, and how the neighborhood raccoon would try to break in to the house to steal food on a daily basis. She had to rig the door so she wouldn't find it in her kitchen when she got home. She also didn't have heat, so she was staying with her daughter until things got warmed up and her car got the brakes fixed.
I also caught other glimpses of daily life in rural Texas. For instance, at the gas pump, there was this:
"Howdy, neighbors!" I don't think it gets much more Texan than that, and I don't think you'll find those on gas pumps in DFW. I also went to the HEB in La Grange (COME ON DALLAS, WE NEED THESE IN OUR LIVES!!!) and saw this in the checkout line:
When a lot of your neighbors are of the feathery, scaly, or fuzzy variety, it behooves you to get to know them on your own terms before you discover them under your front porch. I personally think the people in my neighborhood could use these guides, considering how much they freak out about the neighborhood critters, and how few of them can properly identify common species.
On the way out of La Grange I found Big State Coffee Roasters. I guess I should say I found them by smell, because there is no way on earth a person could find them by themselves unless they knew the hidden-in-plain-sight location. It was a quirky little coffee shop with the BEST maple walnut scones I have ever tasted in my whole life. It was a mystery to me why this place was not packed at 8:45am on a Monday morning, but there we are.
After I left Big State Coffee Roasters, I headed out on Highway 77, which was a straight shot to Corpus Christi, my next destination. Unfortunately, Highway 77 was blocked by both a rockslide and a jackknifed 18-wheeler, and I had to find another route. You'll just have to tune in next time to see where I ended up before I eventually got to where I was going!
For further exploration:
Julie Howard: https://www.organicpastels.com/
Sally Maxwell: www.sallymaxwell.com/
Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting my blog! In today's installment, I'm making my final preparations for two separate shows. First and foremost, I would like to invite you to join me at Winterfest 2018 in Round Top, Texas. This event takes place February 9-11. The big gala preview is February 9 from 5pm-8pm. Tickets are $25 per person, and there will be appetizers and a bar with local wine and beer and all that good stuff. Attendees will get first crack at the available artwork, including my jewelry! There will also be live music, so if you want a unique pre-Valentine's Day date, or just want to treat yourself and be fancy, come on out to The Compound!
After Winterfest, I will be heading to San Antonio for TMEA, otherwise known as the Texas Music Educators' Association convention at the Henry B. Gonzalez convention center from February 15-17. This yearly event is the culmination of a lot of work from the state's high school music students in the form of All-State Band, plus it's a great opportunity for music educators to take continuing education seminars,, network with fellow professionals, and drink margaritas. I will be assisting Dr. Angela Schindler at the Infiniti Reeds booth (#952), and she has graciously agreed to let me show some of my jewelry. Should be a hoot!
In other news, I have resumed classes at the Craft Guild of Dallas to further hone my metalsmithing skills. In addition to working in fabrication with Marilyn O'Hara, I have also begun taking a metal clay class with Charlotte Edwards. As you may recall, I took a metal clay workshop with Vickie Hallmark back in September, and I really enjoyed it, and wanted to explore this unique new material further. I'm only two classes in, but I've learned a lot so far, and a few things will even cross over into fabrication.
One of the fun things I'm learning about is mold making. Like regular polymer clay, metal clay can be molded into pretty much whatever shape you want. Because I was (and I guess still am) a woodwind repair technician for many years, I decided it would be hilarious to try and mold tiny woodwind screws and see if I can make screws out of silver to add to pieces. Here are the results of my mold-making. I'll have to wait and see how they do after all my show activities.
Speaking of show activities, since the Round Top show is indoors, I have access to electricity, so I decided to get some lights and upgrade my display a little bit. It was quite a lengthy process to decide how to go about this, but IKEA is a wonderful source, even if it is hellacious to shop there. Even Kaycee Katt approved!
Another thing I got into, via the Pinterest vortex of no return, is Viking knit. Viking knit is a tedious yet soothing process of looping wire. It looks like a complete mess while you're doing it, but once you finish, it's really quite impressive. You have to use a draw plate to finish your project. I made my own draw plate out of a worn-out nylon cutting board, using my titanium coated end mills I normally use for replacing tone holes in bass clarinets to make the holes. My first attempt at Viking knit yielded a compact and springy bracelet out of color coated Artistic Wire (the bass layer is copper). My second attempt was far more ambitious, and I regret not doing it in silver, but there we are. At some point I will make some end caps for that bad boy out of metal clay, but that is a project for a later time. The process hurts my hands, so I don't think I'll be doing this sort of thing very often. Enjoy the pictures!
So there you have it! All the news that's fit to print, at least for now. I'll let you know how the next two shows play out. Hope to see you in Round Top and/or San Antonio!
Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting my blog! My original intent was to have a showing of all my latest creations, but the flowers for my photo shoot wilted early, my new camera attachment turned out to be a piece of junk, and quite frankly all this cold weather has gotten me wanting to hibernate. To tide you over, I've decided to present a little educational piece about the many faces of my favorite gemstone: turquoise!
When I started out, almost all of my turquoise originated in China, but since then I've amassed a pretty impressive collection of American turquoise as well. I have high grade, low grade, and pretty much everything in between. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the kinds of turquoise there are, but I hope it will help you be better able to appreciate the wondrous variety of this particular type of stone.
Check this out! All this turquoise comes from the same province in China: Hubei. Hubei is in the eastern central portion of the country, and it is famous for high quality turquoise. The stones pictured here are mid- to high grade. One thing worth mentioning: the stone on the top row at the far right and the stone on the bottom row second from the left actually come from the Wabi Sabi mine. (I forgot to do a separate pic.)
Here is my lone piece of Cloud Mountain turquoise. This mine produces very high grade stuff, but unfortunately this is considered a low- to mid- grade piece due to the quartz inclusions. That really isn't a huge deal from an aesthetic standpoint, but collectors prefer it to be all that one color of blue with black matrix. At any rate, this is a good way to recognize Cloud Mountain turquoise.
This is my best piece of turquoise from the Treasure Mountain mine in Hubei, China. I do have other pieces, but the color variations are so similar to the Wabi Sabi mine that I get them a little mixed up. I had them separated out in my storage case, but then I knocked my case over and spilled everything all over the floor, and well, you know how that goes. Treasure Mountain turquoise tends to be more on the green side, and is quite lovely. (For what it's worth, this piece is actually very large.)
These pieces are examples of Bamboo Mountain turquoise. The Bamboo Mountain mine produces super high grade turquoise that is very sought after by collectors in China. Therefore, it very rarely makes its way to the United States, and when it does, it's like a feeding frenzy trying to get any. I'm lucky to have procured these, plus the one I just put into an oboe key pendant that I listed in my shop recently. The defining characteristic of Bamboo Mountain turquoise is a black matrix with wide variations in color to make it look very much like a stained glass window. This is my favorite of the Chinese turquoise. It's also very expensive.
These pieces are from the Red River mine in Hubei, China. To be honest, I know very little about this mine, other than it produces very hard turquoise (which is a good thing). The defining characteristic of almost all the Red River is that the color and the matrix look like water cutting through sand. It's quite striking. I've recently seen some really dark varieties from this mine that are gorgeous, but I'm never fast enough on the bidding to get any! The two pieces on the left are natural and unbacked. The three on the right are stabilized and backed. (I'll have to do another blog about what all these terms mean. I'm still learning as well.)
These unusual pieces are called Gobi Desert Lavender (or Lavendar, depending on the gem dealer). They are very rare and sought after by Chinese collectors, so, once again, we don't see a whole lot of this in the States. This turquoise comes from along the Chinese-Mongolian border. The defining characteristic of Gobi Desert Lavender turquoise is the subtle, pale blue color and the occasional random light green flecks. I personally don't have any of the ones with green flecks in my collection because I don't like the green flecks. They remind me of canned peas, and I am fundamentally opposed to canned peas. The four pieces on the left are natural, but backed for stability. The piece on the right has been stabilized. One thing I have noticed about the stabilization process is that it darkens whatever stone that has been processed. I try not to buy too many treated stones, but sometimes it's unavoidable, and some of the treated stones are just as pretty (not to mention less expensive!).
These pieces are from Tibet. Yes, that central piece is enormous. I don't know enough about Tibetan turquoise to speak about the mines, or characteristics, but as you can see there is some variation. These pieces are all old stock, mined and cut about twenty years ago. The dealer had them kicking around in a drawer and had forgotten about them (which I find is a common theme among stone cutters). The stones with little or no matrix were cut in Tibet.
And now for the American half of my collection! All these stones come from the Kingman mine in Kingman, Arizona. The Kingman mine is interesting to me because they don't waste a scrap of turquoise. The green piece is called Mojave Green turquoise, and is actually an amalgam of turquoise bits left over from the cutting process that is mixed in with copper or bronze and then dyed green. It's still turquoise, but it's a man-made product. The purple piece is the purple version, called Mojave Purple. The one in between those two is just a mix of the regular piece that hasn't been dyed. The round piece below that is actually a mixture of stabilized Kingman turquoise and spiny oyster shell. The clearer stones range from the low grade one with the big inclusion of matrix to the highest grade ones on the far right that go for $120+ retail. The tear drop shaped one in the middle has been stabilized and backed.
This is from the Royston mining district in Nevada. This particular variety of Royston is called Royston ribbon, because the veins of turquoise run like ribbon through the matrix and it's really nifty. Royston turquoise also comes "just plain" and the two tiny tear drop shapes on the bottom show you the color variations.
King's Manassa Mine. I honestly don't know a whole lot about this at the moment, other than the fact that it was mined out and summarily closed, so all that is out of the ground is all there is. This one is more for the collectors. It is backed with Devcon for stability.
This is mid-grade turquoise from the Compass mine in Arizona (I think; I'm having a hard time locating the mine right now). Note the variety of matrix and colors. Pretty nifty!
Think this is from the Sleeping Beauty mine? Think again! This mine is actually over the hill from the Sleeping Beauty mine, but still produces that same clear blue that collectors go nuts for. It's also less expensive than the stuff from Sleeping Beauty. Castle Dome mine, Arizona.
All these are also from Arizona, from mines I'm still learning about. The turquoise on the left is from the Hachita mine. The turquoise in the middle is from Whitewater. The turquoise on the right is Nacozari. All of these are high grade turquoise.
And that, friends and neighbors, is the extent of my collection! This is not by any means an extensive collection of either turquoise or information. I am still learning about the whys and wherefores of these mines, so if you have any information you want to add, or have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments!
Hi, everybody! Thanks for stopping by to read my first blog of the new year! I hope you all survived the holidays intact, and are well on your way to breaking those resolutions. You know, it's amazing how time will just get away from you if you're not careful. Here it is already the 8th of January, and I already met one of my goals. That's right! I now have my online store up and running on this website! My plan is to have some exclusive pieces outside of Etsy, just to keep things interesting. We'll see how that goes. I'm proud of how it turned out, so if you feel up to it, go click on the "SHOP" link in the tool bar up there and have a look around. I'll be adding more to it as time goes by.
Another goal I'm creeping up on already (and, I have to admit, it's going to be lifelong), is to learn how to add texture and depth and other visual interest in my work. Well! Say no more! Feast your eyes on this!
I've signed up for two back-to-back workshops in April, and I'm super excited! The first picture is a workshop about keum-boo. Keum-boo is an ancient Korean technique for adding a thin layer of gold to existing metal without sending it to a plating company. You fuse it using heat and other stuff that I'm going to find out about. The second picture is about contour-forming. I have absolutely no idea what all that involves, but I intend to find out. I'm looking forward to learning new techniques to incorporate into my work!
In the meantime, let's talk about February! In February, I will be exhibiting at the Round Top Winterfest, February 9 (preview party, $25/ticket) from 5pm to 8pm, February 10 from 10am to 6pm, and February 11 from 11am to 3pm. Tickets to the festival are $10/person and kids under 12 get in free.
In other news, I've sold all but one of my oboe jewelry pieces! Zounds! I've been working hard on making some more. I chose some really bold pieces of turquoise for the new batch. Take a look and see! I'm also getting a huge stash of American and Chinese turquoise in the mail soon. You know, because I don't have enough.
So that's the story, morning glory! In my next installment, I might show you the rest of the turquoise cabochons I got, plus my trip to the Dallas International Gem Show! (Or I may forget about it entirely and do something else. One never knows, does one.)
Happy New Year's Eve, y'all! Welcome to the last blog of 2017. Since it's going to be a long one, I highly recommend grabbing your blanket (because it is COLD today!!!), fetching a snack and/or warm beverage, and hunkering down on the couch to have a read. This is the story of the inspiration behind a piece I just completed. I call it the Rivers of Texas necklace.
To me, there’s something special about the rivers of Texas, especially central and southern Texas, deep in the Hill Country. It’s not just the fact that Texas rivers hold some unique species of fish and other critters (case in point: the Guadalupe bass is found nowhere else in the world except here in Texas. How cool is that?! Also, HELLO, ALLIGATOR GAR!!! The coolest freshwater fish EVER!). It’s not just the fact that they run through some of the most picturesque countryside on earth. It’s not JUST either of those things. It is that the rivers of Texas are life, not to be taken for granted.
I was born in eastern Tennessee. In Tennessee, you can walk out your front door, your back door, or even your side door and trip on a river, creek, branch, rill, stream, fork, or spring. You look at a map of eastern Tennessee, and there are hundreds of nameless issuances of water. Growing up, I could go dig a hole pretty much anywhere and eventually hit water. Those rivers were just something that was always there. Everywhere. You didn’t bother to give directions by naming the rivers you’d pass, because there were just too damn many of them to bother with. You didn’t have to worry about being lost in the woods, because chances are you’d find water, and with it, food. You might even hear banjos, but that is a story for another time.
When I moved to Texas many, many years ago, I was struck by two major differences from my former home. One: the sky was wide open. There was no place to hide from God, man, or any weather phenomena. I confess it took me a good three or four months before I could walk outside without feeling panicked. Two: there was no water. Anywhere. Just huge expanses of prairie in all directions, as far as the eye could see from the top floor of my designated music practice building at the University of North Texas. What water there was had a name. Every glorified ditch, every weed-choked slow-moving tributary, every sludgy, stagnant bog had not only a name but a big highway marker designating what that body of water was to be called. It was as if whoever was mapping the area was so excited to see water, any water at all, that he gave it a name to show it was important. Necessary. Needed.
That first summer I lived in Denton was one of the hottest on record. The ground cracked deep, and as I would ride my bike from campus to our cockroach-infested apartment, I could feel the trees slowly giving up the will to survive. It did not rain for three solid months, and when it finally did, the raindrops sizzled on the blazing concrete, vaporizing almost as soon as they hit the ground. The rain was even hot to the touch, like bath water. I distinctly remember a young mother bringing her new baby outside to see rain for the first time. This was absolutely mind-blowing to me. That child had lived his whole life without feeling the rain on his face. Back where I was born, we would consider a week without rain a dry spell. Back where I was born, there was never a cloudless sky.
I started to pay closer attention to water after that summer. I sought out the hidden ponds on TWU campus with their giant alligator snapping turtle I nicknamed “Grandpa”, and the catfish you could feed hotdog buns to if you managed to summon it from the depths. Mr. Karlsson and I spent many an evening up there with a flashlight observing the fish and amphibians and reptiles and other creatures that had come to call that rare patch of water home. Though we were within driving distance to several reservoirs, the unabashed artificial nature of them made them strange to me. They were windy places, empty of life and lined with rotting fish. At the time, it did not occur to me that Texas was in the midst of a severe drought. All my twenty-four year-old self knew was that I was living in some sort of scorched no-man’s land. Those lone ponds were a sanctuary to many.
It wasn’t until a few years later that Mr. Karlsson had the means to travel outside of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. My first real encounter with rivers in Texas was in Concan, along the Frio River. It was so long ago that I don’t recall the exact date, but I remember it was cold and unusually rainy. After my husband and I had settled in to our cabin for our well-deserved vacation, we decided to go exploring. ‘Surely,’ I thought, ‘in all these hills, surely there must be a river.’ (Y’all don’t judge. This was before GPS or internet on cell phones, and we didn’t have cell phones anyway, so it didn’t matter.) We meandered through the scrub, looking at the live oak and mesquite, trying to imagine why anyone on earth would want to live way out in the middle of nowhere, when there it was. Even in the gloom, the river seemed to glow a crystal blue-green. It was mesmerizing. I had never seen a color quite like it before. When we got closer, we determined it was the slate or the shale or some such stone in the river bed reflecting the light through the shimmering clear water. It was so unlike any river I had ever seen, being so clear and blue and cold, that I did not know what to make of it, other than it was some kind of magic.
Over the ensuing years, I have had the great good fortune to travel most of the length and breadth of Texas. I have been lucky enough in the past six months to be able to see many of the rivers of the Hill Country and enjoy the state parks along the way. The one thing I have noticed above all others is this: unlike the rivers of Tennessee, those dark and murky, wide and deep nameless wells of mystery that hide countless monsters both real and imagined, the rivers of central and south Texas are bright and hard, clear as crystal. Unlike the people of Texas, the rivers of Texas do not open their arms to welcome strangers and share their secrets. Like the rugged landscape surrounding them, they make you work for it. The rivers of Texas command that to know them is to study them closely, to learn each rock, each fish, each leaf, and to respect and appreciate that shining, subtle, sparkling water, for it could be gone tomorrow. In Texas, every river has a name, for every river gives life.
When I was working on this one particular piece of silver, in order to practice the ancient metalsmithing technique known as granulation, it was not going according to plan. Due to the nature of the sterling and the solder I heaped on there to get everything to stay put, and due to my inexperience, the texture was beginning to look rough and worn, almost like the pebbles in a river bed. Rather than abandon the project, or try to realign the dozens of teeny tiny silver and copper balls, I pressed forward, finishing out the knobbly border to the bezel setting destined to be filled with Tibetan turquoise a delicate shade of robin’s egg blue.
When set, the color and texture of the piece so reminded me of that gloomy afternoon I first spied the Frio River that I decided to match it with aqua terra jasper beads I had on hand. The pattern of stone shot through with gemmy greenish quartz reminded me of the way the Llano and the Pedernales wend their way through sand bars and shoals, reflecting jade and emerald in the bright sunshine. The dyed blue agate I added reminded me of the blue of Texas’ eternal summer skies, relentlessly beautiful. I chose to make a Y-style chain to represent the confluence of springs that form the rivers of the HIll Country, the way all rivers, in one way or another, join together to find their way to the sea.
So that's it! That is the inspiration behind that little necklace I just finished in my ongoing quest to add texture and depth to my work. (If you want to learn more about that, read my previous blog "Making an Omelette.") Now, if y'all will excuse me, I'm going to go put another pair of socks on so I don't freeze my toes off and stuff my face with those no-yeast cinnamon rolls I made this morning. Happy new year, thanks for stopping by, and to those who made it through to the end, I salute you!
For more information...
Want to learn more about all the wildlife roaming around Texas, or all the fun things you can do at Texas state parks? Check out the Texas Parks & Wildlife website: https://tpwd.texas.gov/
Feeling adventurous and want to catch an alligator gar for yourself? I highly recommend giving Bubba a try: http://www.garfish-texas.com
Really just want quick cinnamon rolls? Try these super tasty ones that don't need yeast! https://sugarspunrun.com/easy-cinnamon-rolls-no-yeast-required/
Greetings, everyone, and thanks for stopping by to read my latest blog! When last we met, I was talking about my plans for adding texture and shape and improving my general silversmithing techniques. You know what they say about making an omelette, right? That you've got to break a few eggs to make one. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I broke the whole chicken this week, but was able to salvage at least part of it. Don't worry, though, I also learned a few things, and made another proof-of-concept piece that was more successful.
I was looking over my old blog posts and realized I never even once mentioned the men's chain maille bracelet I was working on. Oh, it was going to be glorious! I was going to make a clasp with a small turquoise setting, and fuse argentium links to make a chainmaille bracelet, and all this other stuff, and it was going to be fabulous. That was my plan, anyway. This was back in February. This chainmaille piece was a proof-of-concept piece, because I had never made chainmaille before, and I had never made that style of clasp before, and all that other good stuff. I figured it would be a learning experience. The pictures below will prove that yes, indeed it was!
As you can see from the previous slideshow, that proof-of-concept piece was very educational, indeed!
Another proof-of-concept piece that accidentally turned out well is the sterling silver version of that argentium piece I mucked up earlier. I must say, sterling and fine silver are more cooperative, but soldering is tedious. Someday I will get the hand of it. Anyway, below is the process and the result. Enjoy!
I like this one so much, I'm going to do a single strand variation with a slightly smaller cabochon. I'm also working on a smaller version with granulation instead of swirls. I'm sure hilarity will ensue. Or damage. Probably both! I'm looking forward to experimenting more with shape and texture in the coming months. If you're interested in purchasing this bracelet, the cost is $150 plus applicable shipping and tax. I haven't listed it on Etsy yet, so you might want to drop me a line to call dibs on it. Ooooooh! Speaking of which....
After a year and one month of trying, I FINALLY got my first Etsy sale! I'm not going to tell you what sold, in case the lucky recipient is reading this, but somewhere out there is an oboist who will be receiving a nice surprise under the Christmas tree very soon! Just remember, if you want something from my Etsy store delivered in time for Christmas, be sure to order by Sunday, December 17. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that it will make it. That's all the news that's fit to print! Be sure to tune in next time!
Greetings, everyone, and thanks for stopping by to check out my blog. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, what with the holidays and applying for shows and all. Naturally, there's been a lot of crashing and burning being done.
For instance, while my latest show was well run, and the weather was fairly decent for this time of year, and there was a good crowd, and the coordinators and other artists were lovely, I did not sell a single, solitary piece. Not a one. I came to the conclusion that it just wasn't my market and I should aim for more high-end shows. This is all well and good, but when one aims for high-end shows, there is a LOT more competition. Art jewelry is a competitive medium and there are a ton of people who are more experienced and more talented and have more skill than me. So, as a result, I've been rejected from most of the shows I've applied to this time around. I reviewed my rejected applications and could find no rhyme or reason for why they might not appeal to the judges, so I decided I need to up my game and learn some new skills, add texture, and take my work to the next level to make it really stand out.
As you may have noticed from previous blogs, I work with argentium from time to time. Argentium is an alloy of silver similar to sterling, but it has germanium added to the mix. This addition not only helps keep the silver from tarnishing for a longer period of time than either sterling or fine silver, but it also gives the silver the wonderful capability of easily fusing. This way, you don't have to use solder, which takes a few steps away from the process, and you can do some neat things with it. The problem is that argentium is tricky to work with. If you handle it right after fusing, the metal can actually shatter! (I saw this for myself at the Vickie Hallmark workshop I attended back in September.) You also have to get the heat just right or the argentium won't fuse. Since I was confident from my workshop, I decided I'd tackle a more ambitious project than simple stone settings and do some layers to create more texture and visual interest. The slide show below shows the unfortunate results.
Alas, my poor piece! Doomed by my own ignorance! I declared it abandoned and went to drown my sorrows in hot chocolate. After mulling it over, I didn't want to waste the back plate, which had some visual interest, even if it wasn't close to being perfect, so I decided to mess around and see what I could do with it before I consigned it to the scrap pile. Here is the result:
I sawed around the scrollwork on the back of the base plate, then threw it in my new tumbler (that's going to have to be a story for another day, because I destroyed a tumbler, too). Then I added black onyx and dyed magnesite beads to complete the bracelet. Finally, to make the scrollwork stand out, I took a teeny tiny paintbrush and painted in some patina solution to darken the empty spaces. I think I may go back in tomorrow to darken them more, but you get the general idea. So, I managed to save some of the proof-of-concept piece, but I think if I'm going to do any more elaborate argentium projects, I'm going to have to do it under adult supervision. I am very glad that the Craft Guild of Dallas is moving to their new facility in January so I can start up classes again! I have a lot more I want to share, but it's getting late, and Mr. Karlsson and the kitties are demanding my attention, so it will just have to wait for another day along with everything else. Tune in next time!
Good evening, everyone! I know it's been awhile. Things were... interesting... through October. I'd prefer not to burden anyone with personal stuff, so instead, I will now share a cookie recipe that is currently baking in the oven! I took a recipe from THE ONE, THE ONLY INA GARTEN (insert glorious fanfare here) and added a few things, and now I present mocha shortbread cookies:
3 sticks butter, room temperature (don't be a doofus like me and try to melt it in the oven)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla (the good kind, LOL)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp espresso powder (you can also use instant coffee granules, but espresso powder is tastier)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups all purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (I preheat my oven to 375 because it runs about 25 degrees cool)
2. Grease 9 x 13 cookie sheet or pan (I used a cookie sheet because I have one)
3. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
4. Add the good vanilla, salt, and espresso powder. Mix on low until combined.
5. Add cocoa powder. Mix on low until combined. If you mix on high, you will have cocoa powder all over the kitchen. Ask me how I know that.
6. Gradually add flour until combined. Also do this on low, or you will end up looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost and have an additional mess to clean up. Again, ask me how I know.
7. Put the batter in the pan and flatten it out. Use your hands, a rolling pin, a wine bottle, whatever you have, and spread it out in the pan.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
9. Now comes the fun part. You know, the part where I forget to tell you to put the chocolate chips in, so I spread an unspecified amount over the top to coat it while it's still warm and the chocolate melts and I end up spilling a good amount of it on the stove top because I am just a messy baker and this is precisely why you read the whole recipe and prep your ingredients BEFORE you start baking.
10. Cool completely in the pan.
11. These cookies are tender, not crunchy like the ones that come in the store, so you can cut them in the pan after they've cooled off.
Now it's anybody's guess if this will actually work, so don't blame me for any failures. I make jewelry for a living, not cookies.
IN OTHER NEWS...
I had a fantastic time at The SHOW! of Dripping Springs! I do have pictures, so I will put it in another blog when I get a chance. It was a well-attended, well-advertised event, and show coordinator Mara Cardwell was a marvelous hostess with the mostest! One of my pieces was even featured on the commercial for a few seconds: www.facebook.com/musicishome/videos/1548512038541176/?hc_ref=ARS_DwM7KNfh8tZnvek0lCvZo5q-TkyTy95Ng0SnpP51drU7WEcwXpGYSbDd2N_yhPc&pnref=story
It's definitely a worthwhile show to both show and shop at, and I intend to apply next year. Fingers crossed that I jury in again!
Speaking of shows, my next show is coming up this week!
It is Friday, November 10 from 3pm to 8pm and Saturday, November 11 from 9:30am to 5pm. Click on the link for more information: winnsboroonlineguide.com/WFAM_fineartmarket.htm
I also attended to workshops for wire weaving with Kaska Firor. That will have to wait for another blog, as there was a lot of material and I learned some cool stuff. She will be at Beadfest Texas in Arlington in March 2018, so if you want to learn from her, sign up for a class at the convention! More on that later, too.
Finally, I'm in the process of lining up art shows for the spring. I've already heard from one and I am pleased to announce that I juried into McKinney Arts In Bloom in April 2018! Unfortunately, due to things beyond my control, I didn't apply in time to do any Christmas markets this year, but I might do an open house or something after Thanksgiving. I'm also open to do some custom work for Christmas, but if you want that done, you should contact me before November 15 so I have plenty of time to get everything done for you.
At any rate, that is all the news that's fit to print. Now, if you will excuse me, there are cookies to eat.
Greetings, all! A bunch of stuff has happened since we last met, and I will fill you in (at least, the short version), but first, here's a reminder that The SHOW in Dripping Springs, Texas is THIS WEEKEND!!!! Are YOU in the Austin area or the San Antonio area, or will you be this weekend? Come out to the The SHOW! You'll see fabulous artwork (including mine!), hear great live music, and eat tasty food! Best part? It's INDOORS, so no roasting in the sun or getting washed away in the rain! Admission is FREE! www.the SHOWspotlight.com
My previous show, Septemberfest 2017 at the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, Texas, was a hoot! Midland-Odessa is now the furthest west I have ever driven. There is a lot of dust out there, which I had been warned of, but the extent of which could not be grasped without actually experiencing it. Below are some pictures from the show!
My next road trip was down to Bulverde, Texas to take a class on metal clay and argentium fusing from the illustrious Vickie Hallmark! The class was held at Stouffer Studios, which is a super cool studio in the tiny downtown area of Bulverde. In our class, on the first day we learned the basics of metal clay (like what it is, how fast it dries, and that sort of thing). Then we learned how to shape and texture the clay to make base plates, flowers, leaves, and birds! It was so cool! We dried out our clay creations in a dehydrator, then put them in the kiln overnight to fuse all the bits. The next day, we fused our argentium wire and our metal clay pieces to base plates and all kinds of things.
For those of you who may not know, metal clay is basically ground up silver dust mixed with cellulose to form a moldable material that acts like clay. It gets all over your hands if you're not careful. (Ask me how I know THAT.) When the clay dries, then you put it in a kiln to burn off the cellulose and fuse all the silver dust. The result is a solid silver object that you can solder or fuse to whatever else you're working on.
This is such a cool medium, and I definitely want to work with it more in the future! Thanks to Vickie for teaching the class, and thanks to Gail Stouffer for hosting! Below are some pictures of the work I did. I'm especially proud of the cockatiel pendant I made!
After class, I went exploring in the Texas Hill Country. I have to say, driving 281 down towards San Antonio is WAY less stressful than taking I-35 down, although you do miss out on Czech Stop and Bucc-ee's. I think the old-fashioned drive-in in Lampasas on the way down and the diner in Hico with amazing pie more than made up for it. Enjoy the pictures!
That's all the news that's fit to print. Stay tuned for more of my adventures in jewelry making and traveling across Texas!