Thursday 31 July 2014

The July 2014 Gem Expo... More Pictures

I stole these pictures from The Gem Expo Facebook page and from Ruth's page. That doi-oi-oingy blue thing around my neck was supposed to be for my keys which I kept misplacing, but it was so stretchy I thought the keys would end up around my knees. It was sure a lot of fun to play with... probably why it was finally taken away from me.

Ruth's stunning wire-wrapped amethyst and pearl necklace. A quickie little wire-wrapping tutorial at the Gem Expo last summer on a slow Friday afternoon is how Ruth and I first met. Now I can't do the shows without her. The second necklace is mine and is made with particularly nice labradorite rounds and pewter beads with a carved soapstone focal.

An out-of-focus wire-wrapped chunky carnelian necklace by Ruth. This got a lot of attention and admiration throughout the show.

As a follow-up note to the suncatchers I posted a few weeks ago, I just found out that one finally sold in the last couple of days, whoo hoo! While I was in Toronto I bought more crystals to make rainbow chakra-style suncatchers. They're sitting staring at me now on my table. Meanwhile, I'm watching Suits at night and pounding away on a wire-wrapped pale pink seed bead and skull necklace commission that needs to be ready for Saturday's market. This morning I'm pricing pure copper and mixed copper/brass bangles from Katanga Province in the Congo that I acquired from Nharo! at the Gem Expo. They'll be ready to go into my showcase at the OOAK Antique Mall later today and also be available at the Saturday market. Great price, too: $15 each. I'm already getting rave reviews on how pretty they are and how comfortable they are to wear.

Thanks for looking -- and hope to see you at the November Gem Expo!

Wednesday 30 July 2014

July 2014 Gem Expo... The Good, The Great & The Incredibly Bad & Ugly...

First of all, is down yet again, so I -- and you -- will have to make do with some unedited photos.

I had a fabulous time once more this past weekend at The Gem Expo, July 2014 edition. Many, many thanks to Salim and Zulekha of Blue Sapphire Beads for all their work -- and the work of their great kids who helped out by taking tickets and, most wonderfully, brought around pastries and drinks throughout the day to the vendors. That in particular was so very much appreciated.

On the road Thursday at 9:00 a.m., truck packed to the gunnels, and facing a 3-hour drive, but the sun is shining and I have a whole four days of what I know is hard work to look forward to, but also the mystery of which old friends I'll be seeing again plus a whole raft of new people to meet.

Because the setup time had been pushed to 8 pm at the hotel and with lots of time to kill, Ruth met me mid-Thursday afternoon at the wholesaler's where we hung out for a while. I've found another secret parking spot, so safe from being ticketed and/or towed we ambled over to the St. Lawrence Market where we had an early dinner and Ruth bought a bag of dark chocolate-covered ginger. I have to say that over the next three days those were the most amazing energy-blasting-without-being-sickeningly-sweet brain boosters I have ever eaten. I don't know the name of the bulk store (or what was in those chocolates) but it and they are located in the northwest corner of the lower level of the south market. (When in doubt, look on a map -- so, uh, no, your GPS won't work here :-p. It's Domino Foods.) I will be stocking up on those chocolate ginger things before every show from now on. Then we wandered over to the little parkette behind the Flatiron Building and sat on a bench watching the dogs, the birds and the people for an hour or so in the early evening sun. It was lovely.

On our way over to the Hyatt, I checked in at the Strathcona and found I had been upgraded from my Eco (b)room (closet) to my old king room on the 4th floor. After all these gem shows I've taken part in in Toronto, so having to stay in a hotel, I have to say that those ads are right when they babble on about "coming home to blah-blah-blah". I know where everything is in or out of the hotel, I don't have to wonder which way to turn coming or going: the Strath is now an equally familiar but far, far more fun version of my own home and locale.

Living a quiet(er) life in a small town as I do currently, but for many years a denizen of many large cities across Canada and in Europe, I really appreciate the opportunities presented by big cities and the people one can potentially hang with... even if they're only hanging on a wall, and even if for only a few hours or days. It's the potential...

Gawd I love that picture. Okay, back to reality...

...and, we're in. Time to settle down, find our booth and get to work.

That carpet is driving me insane.

All set up and ready for customers.

Even though this time I had a corner booth around a pillar rather than against a wall, I replicated the March setup where instead of butting two tables together which is the normal way to do things (I rarely do things the normal way), only the corners touched and I was able to set up the grids with all the strings so people could walk right in and get face to face with the beads. I reeeeeally like this setup.

The show started out well. Friday was incredibly busy for everyone. Way too busy to take pictures, unfortunately. My neighbour was Paul, owner of Nharo!, Fair Trade African arts, beads, stones, weavings -- he's got beautiful mud cloth -- and other cool stuff. All the sticky-up horns you see in some of my pictures are from African animal skulls. Paul knows every craftsperson personally who makes the store's goods, and the store is up on the Danforth. We've known each other for years, back when I first started making jewellery. Regular readers will know that food is a huge theme, for me anyway, at away shows. Paul and his crew and Ruth and I all shared Pringles, fresh local blueberries and chocolate-covered ginger: who woulda thunk they'd go so well together!? At 10:00 a.m. no less.

Many customers bring the piece they're working on to a show to find the perfect bead to finish it off. This is a soft-sculpted, free-form embroidered cuff and my customer found the perfect turquoise nugget to fill the sterling frame. I wish I'd taken pictures from different angles to show just how 3D this was. It was absolutely lovely -- and she told me it was her first effort at this type of free-form work.

After the show closed at 8, Ruth and I headed to the Strath Pub where we scarfed down a ginormous platter of nachos. I believe they are intended to be shared by six people...???

Gone in, oh, mmm... 20 minutes?

Saturday was another busy day with lots and lots of people in attendance, but for some reason it wasn't great for sales for a lot of us. Friday had been surprisingly good -- well-attended with better than average sales for a Friday -- and that seemed to be the experience of many of the vendors I talked to. It's not like we're being nosy per se asking other people how they did, but sometimes there's a small comfort in knowing that a given day ended up being a down day for other people, too, and it wasn't due to something I (or someone) did or didn't do. It just was.

One thing I am often called upon to do at least once during a show is string someone's purchase into a necklace or a bracelet while they wait.

Note to those of you contemplating your first show: bring your tools and a little kit of stringing wire, clasps and jump rings and a bead mat. This is a great service to be able to offer a customer: making up their new beads for them for pickup later in the day, the next day, to be dropped off later on the way out of town and/or mailed. In this case, Ruth offered to meet my customer Iris during the week if we (really, because Ruth helped with the stringing while I dealt with PITA Man -- more about him below) were unable to finish the work. There's almost always downtime during these shows.

In this case, Iris wanted me to make her a bracelet out of the pink quartz hearts she'd just bought from me. Because I was dealing with PITA Man, Ruth took Iris over to another vendor to buy some filler beads and discuss the design. Iris picked out a clasp from my private stash and said she'd be back later in the afternoon on Sunday to pick it up.

Another note to newbies: always, always, always get a contact phone or email address when you take a stringing order at a show, even if it's a case where they say they'll be back in half an hour type of thing. I can't begin to tell you the number of people who leave, even after paying in full, completely forgetting to pick up their item. It happened that just after Iris left we found a bag of beads left on the table right where we'd all been standing talking. Ruth was fairly sure they were Iris's. I was able to email Iris to ask if they were hers -- it turned out they were -- and she knew they were safe.

Ruth's and my deal is I swap all dinners and drinks, her choice of beads and admission to all three days of the show for her tireless and invaluable help over the four days of setup, show and packing up, plus I get to sample her mom's wonderful (and healthy) lunches of homemade soups, chicken and vegetables that she makes for us. Saturday night, released from the show relatively early at 6:00 p.m., we were too tired to decide on any of the restaurants along Restaurant Row which front the Hyatt, and we landed back at the Strath Pub.

These were really, really good potatoes!

Sunday morning the Gem Expo sleeps in:

By 10:00 the covers have come off, the lights are on... and right out of the gate I sold my bone bird and Afghan turquoise necklace to a lady who told me that, while she had a room full of beads at home, this particular show she wasn't here to buy more beads; she was here to buy herself a finished necklace. Out of the whole show, she picked mine.

What I found interesting was that over the previous two days I pretty much sold out of all my bone and shell bird beads just because of this necklace being on display. Good thing to note for next time!

Sunday was so busy I didn't even get around to take pictures of more of the vendors. You can see pictures of all the vendors on The Gem Expo Facebook page.

Late Sunday afternoon, Iris came back to pick up her two bracelets. Because we only used a few off of the string of peridot heishi between the pink quartz hearts, she'd asked if it would be possible to make a double-wrap bracelet of the remaining heishi. No problem. Note her black chakra/mala bracelet -- I saw this stacked wrap style with a single type of bead, as well as the single bracelet style, on so many people, and made many sales to people looking for one special focal bead to put on yet more bracelets that they were making. From what I saw, I was one of the few people selling individual beads at the show.

Stay tuned for pictures of new jewellery made with all the goodies I bought at the Gem Expo (coin silver, lapis lazuli, amber, agate, malachite and jade) -- and... my big, big excitement will be to see the shipment of Roman glass beads now winging their way from Afghanistan.

-------------------------------- Now for the tirade.

Yes... The Incredibly Ugly part of doing shows: the customer from hell, aka PITA Man.

A lot of discussion goes on both online and in real life about how to deal with difficult customers. None of the advice I have ever received could help me here, this being the show I had to deal with the winner of the World's Worst Customer Award.

PITA (or Pain-In-The-A--) Man was in his 40s or 50s, came to the show with his family (who all seemed very nice and friendly -- and more and more apologetic as the days wore on) on both Saturday, and alas for me, on Sunday, and his way of looking at merchandise was to literally rip $50-$75 turquoise beads off my display boards so that pins were flying everywhere. Displeased at what he was looking at, he would contemptuously fling those items down on top of bead strings on my table, then pick up $200 and $400 strings of turquoise beads and Hebron glass and throw them down with contempt, letting them knock on other beads and metal display units. He'd swish through the strings of turquoise beads that were lying on the table, and then stomp off leaving a mess behind. He behaved like a three-year-old on a single-minded rampage through a dollar store. Then he'd go around the corner to my second table, do the same thing, and stomp off again after expressing his contempt for both my beads and their prices.

After I'd put everything back, 20 minutes later there he'd be again, pulling things back off the boards, demanding discounts. I'd plug in a number on my calculator, he'd grab the calculator from my hand and plug in a number that was a quarter or even as low as a tenth of my number. He pretended he didn't understand the word "No." Repeatedly. "No! No! No!"

One time -- and, I mean, this guy was at the show ALL DAY and kept coming back -- I was standing on the aisle side helping a customer, he came past me and deliberately poked me in the bum, gesturing with a contemptuous flick of his wrist that he was back and to come and serve him! Technically, that's assault. But no one around to complain to, right?

He was a thief, as well -- and I found out later, he pulled this particular trick on other vendors as well. After I thought we'd reached an agreement he would haul out cash, and, taking his beads, he'd throw down on the table LESS than what we had agreed upon, $15 or $20 less -- and then, adding insult to injury, as he was stomping off he would GRAB MORE ITEMS off my table as his "gift" and disappear into the crowd. I had five, six, eight people still to serve, my booth was located in the far corner away from the ballroom entrance and Security, and the one other (male) vendor who was near enough and who could've helped me was busy.

The final time he pulled this, just before closing time, my vendor pal across the aisle from me happened to see what he did, and told me later she was shocked and couldn't believe her eyes: PITA Man took the tray of beads, stomped over to his long-suffering wife who was sitting by the wall, opened her purse that was on her lap and dumped all these beautiful and fragile turquoise beads into it, and stomped off, leaving her to follow in his wake.

I have had ignorant and rude people tell me over and over for years at markets and shows that my beads and my jewellery prices are too high. Hey. Fine. Get thee to Wal-Mart. I've also been informed many times with utter contempt that they can buy exactly the same stuff at Wal-Mart and Dollarama and who do I think I am? I don't know how that's possible since I am not a Wal-Mart and Dollarama supplier, but great. Fine. Go crawl back under your rock. But this. This was beyond the pale. And it went on for two days with this guy.

If PITA Man or his ilk ever show up again, I'll be prepared. This is not about some cultural differences around haggling and bargaining that I can learn about. I refuse to sell to him ever again and I will call Security immediately. For all our sakes, I hope PITA Man never goes to another bead show again and spares all the other vendors. He truly had it in for female vendors. The guys all told him to go away if he didn't like their prices, and he did.

That was truly the worst experience I have ever had with a customer. I'm used to bargaining. I'm used to bargaining in different languages (and where I don't even speak the language) and cultures and countries. I always give a courtesy discount to frequent customers and to one-time customers who buy multiple items. But this? This was beyond anything I could ever imagine.

------------------------------------ End tirade.

So endeth the July 2014 Gem Expo, truly the best of times and the worst of times. Just read this morning that nonsense with Ira Glass, the twit... I mean, tweeter dismissing Shakespeare. Good grief. But hence my occasional classical turns of phrase.

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Afghan Turquoise Necklace... & My Desktop Is Dead -- Again...

This is not good! Geez, just what I need when I'm a day and a half away from leaving for the Gem Expo. I am not used to this laptop -- in fact I haven't touched it since I got the desktop fixed back in March, I guess it was. Early April? Man, time has flown.

Anyway, I've been busy restringing and pricing beads and, of course, this is when I get all my brilliant ideas for jewellery. This is also when I find all the beads I knew I had, but had no idea where they'd got to. I did take a break to make another small batch of peach freezer jam -- in fact I have to go put it in the jars now -- and strung this necklace:  hand-cut Afghan turquoise, carved yellow jade lantern beads and bone birds.

Necklace, $75, plus shipping and handling, or... Oopsies... this item SOLD at the Gem Expo. I will be getting more of these bone birds in soon. 

Better yet, come and try it on at The Gem Expo, being held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on King Street, Toronto, this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 25th, 26th and 27th. Hope to see you there! Sign up for their newsletter and get $2 off the admission fee, plus read about silent auctions and classes on the website.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday 20 July 2014

Low-Sugar No-Cook Peach Freezer Jam Heaven...

Does anyone remember peach fuzz? You know, that fuzzy stuff that peaches used to be covered in? Where did that go? And what's with peaches hard as a rock, dry and woody, picked green that never ripen but rot brown within a day or two? I actually broke down in the dead of this past winter because it was so freakin' cold and long and bought sliced frozen peaches because I absolutely had to have jam... they were GREEN and woody and tasteless -- and still rock hard even after I thawed them.

Hello... just like strawberries, peaches do not and will not continue ripening after they've been picked.

I have to admit I'm something of a purist when it comes to jam. I don't like weird combinations of flavours first thing in the morning and I sure don't like added chemicals, and I can't stand things so sweet my tongue burns. As a freezer jam maker of almost 10 years who picks out each berry and examines it carefully, trust me, you do not want to know WHY your commercial jams have a weird chemical smell and taste and have that glow-in-the-dark, peculiarly otherworldly colour. No fruit on earth is that colour -- so, yeah: otherworldly. Jam processors don't have time to carve away rotten spots, check for bugs and remove all the green leaves and unripe bits: every little thing goes into the hopper.

I wrote last year about making strawberry jam. This weekend, I'm making early peach jam. I keep forgetting the name/breed of these peaches that come from Niagara -- they're not Red Havens. They're only available for a few weeks just past the middle of July-ish but so worth it to track down. They actually smell peachy and are juicy and soft, not hard as a rock and hairless -- the skins are still fuzzy. A little bit -- and they actually taste like peaches used to taste. What a novel concept.

Now this is where I'm sure I'm gonna get slammed (but please don't bother): you do not need to use a ton of sugar to make jam. Because it's so tart, in four cups of cooked rhubarb, for example, I might, just maybe, put four level soup spoons of sugar max, but pretty much all other fruit almost always it's only one and a half to two spoons, and yes, I use white death. Tolja up above I'm a purist. Or maybe old-fashioned that way. Honey is for other things... baclava, per esempio -- or drizzled on fried chicken. Now, that is heaven. Hah -- there's something I haven't had for over 40 years. But not jam. And forget chemicals. I even spent a whole summer once experimenting with stevia. I never could get past the incredibly bitter chemical aftertaste no matter how little I used.

So. Sugar. You do NOT need to use ALL THAT SUGAR. I mean, cooked jam recipes calling for SEVEN cups of sugar to four cups of fruit? Oh, please. It's the pectin that preserves the fruit, not sugar.

You want to know what the secret is? Lemon juice. Upwards of a quarter cup. Taste the jam before you put it in the jars. It should taste just a titch too lemony -- but trust me, it will fade completely into the background after you thaw out the jam and it so wonderfully enhances the flavour of the fruit. Gives it tang. Yummers.

Pectin. Over the years, I've tried several brands particularly formulated for low-sugar no-cook jam, and they all work just fine. I've also played around with exactly how much pectin to put in depending on how juicy the fruit becomes when crushed. After a while, you get used to how "pulled together" and shlumpy the fruit needs to be for optimum texture after freezing and thawing. The trick is not to use too much, or you'll get that cheap pie-filling gluggy texture, but just enough. If the fruit is really juicy (rhubarb, seedless Coronation grapes, blueberries), I'll add add a little bit more very gradually from a second package. Overall, though, it's very forgiving. I'll do a taste test, and even stir in a bit more lemon juice after I've finished adding the pectin. It's fine. Even if the pectin brand says it's fine to eat right away, I still prefer to freeze the jam at least overnight, pull a jar out of the freezer, let it thaw in the fridge for another day and it'll be perfect. Just fruit is all you'll taste.

My handy dandy potato masher. It's the best for smashing up fruit. Works much faster and is less messy than chopping little tiny fruit into tiny little bits. Releases lots more juice, too. I like my jam lumpy. When I was first making sour cherry jam, I used a blender, but that made the texture too smooth and creepy. Then I remembered my potato masher, and it worked perfectly.

Some of my freezer stash: rhubarb in the 500 ml jar, strawberry and peach jam in the 250 ml jars (and some soup at the bottom). I'll get seven or eight 250 ml jars out of two pint baskets of strawberries, and 6 to 8 jars of peach jam out of a six quart basket, or about 10-12 peaches. Depends on their size and how much I have to cut away.

Thanks for looking!

Friday 18 July 2014

Kyanite Necklace & Earrings in Progress... The Gem Expo... & Roman Glass Beads Arriving in August!!!

Here's my dilemma. I have this beautiful and (for me) fairly expensive string of kyanite beads. My inclination, after looking at these beads for months was to KISS -- Keep It Super Simple -- so I strung them with one Bali silver bead in the centre. I like using larger clasps, if for the simple -- ah hah -- and logical reason that people, aka my customers, have told me they really, really like them. They're far easier to do up, not to mention they look cool.

But... in this case I used a pewter clasp which really helps to bring the cost down (and I think keeps the look "up" far better than a boring sterling clasp, at least the ones that are locally available to me at the moment). A sterling silver clasp of this size would whomp up the end price of the necklace considerably. Do I go ahead and offer the necklace with a sterling clasp for a high price, but offer the possibility of a pewter clasp at a lower price? Is this more futility in my battle to be all things to all people and will this possibly confuse them as to the "worth" of my offerings, i.e., does a judicious use of inexpensive but good-looking findings really cheapen the value of the beads they accompany or just make the item more attractively priced? Gaaaaaaaaah...

Well, so much for today's existential crisis. Meanwhile, pictures...

Earrings in a state of contemplation: do I go short, long...? The existentiality of this is one most of you will identify with because I only bought the one string of beads in this diameter and blew through all but four making the necklace. I shoulda/woulda/coulda taken the time to dig out my other smaller beads to put around the back. This is why it takes me so long to use my beads because theoretically -- and practically -- I have just one kick at the design can.

Ewww... I have to say I don't like how the colour turned out when I imported this picture into Blogger. The colour in the necklace photos is more or less accurate.

Let's try it again:

Onto another topic: my Gem Expo display table. Yes, in just seven days from this writing, Ruth and I will be open for business in the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency on King Street in Toronto! Since I primarily sell beads, but the necklaces and earrings I make with my beads have been selling well, I have to come up with interesting jewellery displays that take up very little table space, yet are up front and visible without detracting from the beads.

I bought this towel rack for two bucks at the Goodwill the other day and I'm quite pleased with it.

As always, I will be bringing lots of turquoise, lapis and other interesting semi-precious and powder glass beads in short strings and by the each, coin silver beads and connectors also by the each, as well as lots of pewter pendants and fetish beads. I take Visa and MasterCard, but unfortunately not debit. See you there!

PS: More and more of these items -- both strings of antique and collector beads as well as my necklaces and earrings -- are flying into and equally quickly out of Showcase 800 at the One of a Kind Antique Mall in Woodstock. As a heads-up, I have a shipment of drool-worthy Roman glass beads coming directly from Afghanistan. The beads will arrive some time in August -- alas, too late for the July Gem Expo. I'll post pictures and prices here as soon as I get them.

Thanks for looking!

Monday 14 July 2014

Crystal Suncatchers Now at the Antique Mall...

Yesterday Nancy and I added more items to our booth and noted what has sold in just two or three days: small handmade birdhouses, old medicine bottles -- still some of each of those left; beautifully made doll clothes still in their original packaging and quite a few $2 grab bags of tiny toys.

I dug out a 3-armed silver-coloured towel rack to use to display my new copper and crystal suncatchers to hang in a sunny window or in the garden. Note that these are made with jewellery-quality crystals and are wire-wrapped (not strung with fishing line). Polish the copper with a tiny squirt of ketchup.

I tested them out in the sun yesterday and they definitely produce lots and lots of rainbows.

This length, with a leather cord, $15 plus shipping and handling. You can get them from showcase 800 on your right as you enter the first floor of the One of a Kind Antique Mall. I will also have lots of suncatchers to choose from at the Woodstock Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. They'd make a great hostess gift if you're going to a party or barbeque this summer or to a friend's cottage.

Thanks for looking!

Saturday 12 July 2014

2 New Necklaces...

I finished these off at my table at the Woodstock Farmer's Market this morning.

Like wearing a mountain: raw lapis lazuli focal, hand-cut barrel turquoise, sponge coral barrels and handmade Ethiopian brass and copper beads ($90):

An elegant selection of  faceted etched agate and horn Dzi-style beads interspersed with blips of milky green aventurine nuggets and chips, bone pipe, pewter and zinc beads and clasp ($59):

As of this writing, both necklaces are for sale. If you'd like a similar style, or you'd like these shorter or longer or even swap out/add some different colours, email me your ideas and requests.

I also have lots of the Chinese barrel turquoise beads, priced by the full and partial string or by the each, as well as a few of the lapis lazuli chunks at $7 each. Email me for prices and photographs. These are all hand-cut with each bead unique.

As always, shipping and handling are extra and depend on your location and need for speed. I take both PayPal, as well as Square (I can now send you a Square invoice via email: you process the payment and we're done).

Thanks for looking!

Friday 11 July 2014


I was busy all afternoon, but these copper wire and crystal suncatchers are about all that got even semi-finished. At the market tomorrow I'll add 1mm brown leather strings to tie them to a rearview mirror or a window latch. Being mostly Chinese crystal with some Swarovskis, they'll be pretty bouncy with the rainbows.

Thanks for looking!

Thursday 10 July 2014

Rules for "Furniture Arranging", Decluttering -- Yeah, ME! -- & Some New Copper Chain Components...

I put "furniture arranging" in quotes because people who know me know that I belong to the "it lives where it drops" school of interior design. This applies to the room, the table or shelf of stuff, the clothes, the jewellery, everything in my life: for me, it's all one undifferentiated messpile. Constantly reading decluttering websites 'til the cows come home just doesn't do it for me.

However. Now that I am a one-third proprietor of a booth at the One of a Kind Antique Mall where the goal is to make OUR hundreds of tiny items leap out from the mind-numbing millions of items in the whole 80,000 square foot mall, thereby capturing the eye, mind and heart of their future owners in the three seconds or so allotted to us as they walk by our booth, I'm being forced to learn valuable lessons, if not about interior design or our taste in acquiring gotta-have-this items, then at the very least about how to turn mind-numbing clutter and junk into semi-organised collections -- not chaos -- that will result in constant sales and turnover. (And that is one brain-numbing long sentence. At least, I think it was a sentence. Sorry about that.)

Prior to this, as Lynn and Nancy Mac valiantly attempted to organise thousands of beads, as well as my market table, for me over the past two or three years, I wondered how on earth people did it: make a pile of junky and/or disparate things look clear and ordered. At what point does sick-making clutter of anything veer off the hoarding track onto an "Oh, wow! Look at that!" collection of reeeally cool stuff track?

Here are my short and sweet rules for the store/booth, where the rule is more is way merrier:

1. Gather together like items by picking a theme: colour, era, purpose...
2. Pick the focal piece for that particular vignette
3. Group like vignettes into a larger, overarching theme
4. Can't tell if it's working or not? Photograph your vignette, then step back and photograph the area it occupies: what's not working will leap out at you (this works for anything)

At home, where the rule is less and less is more:
1. Ruthlessly cull or regift (consignment or friends, thrift store, dump) then cull the cull: if you're weak-willed/lazy (I'm both), ask your friends to take everything away immediately for you. Boxes of stuff sitting in a corner are still STUFF IN YOUR HOUSE.
2. Enforce the rule: if something comes in, something goes out (furniture, junque, clothes...)

To the "at home" advice, I finally found out where the recycling depot hides here: I'm talking boxes and boxes of papers to get rid of that would fry any shredder's circuits: outdated and often unread magazines, old computer printouts, university papers that after 20 years I. will. never. look. at. again. Then there are the boxes and boxes of art books hiding out of sight, out of mind under my bed, about 20 of those at last count -- that's boxes, not books.

I think I'm finally starting to get the idea: despite adding a largish side table/magazine table and a box more of stuff to the booth yesterday, after we were finished moving stuff around Nancy Mac said in gobsmacked wonder, "Look at all the room we have!"

June 30

July 6

July 9

It may well be my imagination, but the booth really does feel roomier in the July 9th picture. Even though we've added more items and increased the space the island in the middle occupies, turning the display table 90 degrees really helped with that. The wrought iron screen gives us a see-through wall halfway along the length of that display table and things can pile up and against it on both sides. Overall, there's still plenty of room in behind for people to walk. The new deep green table against the blue seems to calm that whole wall down and rests the eye: there's not that bouncing between the teal blue wall and green as there was with the lighter wooden cart that can be seen in the July 6th picture. The lighter-coloured and lower cart being in the left corner also guides the eye down from the right corner to the left, yet you can still take everything in. 

Yes, there is an estate sale happening this weekend with our name on it!

Meanwhile, after roaming Pinterest and scouring it for ideas, I finally settled down to watch Hannibal on Netflix and bend copper wire. Tonight: hammering. 

These are the tools I use to make these items. I buy all my copper wire by the pound from The Ring Lord. I think this is 16 gauge. I use memory wire cutters on the heavier gauge wire, because it cuts it more easily, and gives a good squared off cut rather than the angled and picky/burred cut that the regular flush cutters give, the ends of which must be filed. For what I'm doing here, a single loop and little to no wrapping, I don't want an angled cut anyway. I want that blunt cut end to butt right into the wire it's looped around to.

I used the barrel of the orange highlighter pen to make the larger loop of the figure-8 pieces at the top (about 15mm diameter), and then the largest part of the round nose to make the smaller loop.

Next step will be a marathon of hammering and then, after a good swish in ketchup to make everything shiny, assembling them into bracelets, earrings and necklaces. One of these days I'll have to play with liver of sulphur to patina my chains, but so far people here seem to prefer the look of shiny copper.

Thanks for looking!

Saturday 5 July 2014

Tuesday 1 July 2014

What Defines Good Design? Plus, since we're on the topic of art, some pictures from my past...

Yeah, like, sez who? Well, it ain't you deciding, and it sure ain't me. It may be as amorphous as air and exist only in the eye of the beholder, but good design is still as real as... real. 

I've been a subscriber of Robert Genn's newsletter and a fan of his thinking for years. He recently died, and his daughter Sara, an artist in her own right, is continuing the newsletter, writing her own columns and rerunning her dad's old columns which were -- are -- ruminations on all manner of topics applicable to any creative endeavour. Just sub out "paints", "painter" and "painting" for whatever you do and the materials you use. I highly recommend you subscribe.

A little detour: Maybe some of you don't know but I was/still am, if on hiatus, a figurative artist who seven or eight years ago moved into using PMC silver clay, largely for its sculptural possibilities, but also because I like to work insanely tiny (also I move a lot and full size sculptures and ceramics are a complete pain in the patootie to haul around). But then PMC got expensive, the economy tanked and nobody was buying the expensive stuff. At the same time, I got more and more into buying and selling beads, if for no other reason than I really like rocks. Waaaaay back in my own mists of time, I used to get paid to climb mountains and look at rocks, so I come by that interest naturally. Then I'd go back to Vancouver on my days off and go to the drawing studio (Basic Inquiry, which I see is still going strong. I also took a look at their Facebook page, some reeeeeally incredible work is shown there.). 

Some drawings from the Basic Inquiry years:

Jerry, Vancouver, 1989 (Founder of the Basic Inquiry studio, Vancouver, BC)

Peter Reede, Nelson, BC, 1992 (Peter was/is one of the better-known models at Basic Inquiry) 

Peter Reede, Vancouver, 1991 (Famous for his "moving poses")

Peter, Nelson, BC, 1992 (Another "moving pose")

Peter Winding His Watch, Nelson, BC, 1992 (I changed my position while drawing him this time)

"Len on the Rocks", Vancouver, 1991 (I'd just come back from my own Great European Tour and seen Leonardo's "Madonna of the Rocks")

Monica, Vancouver 1988 (A Vancouver dance & performance artist. She could hold the most incredible poses for the longest time)

Josie, Vancouver, 1991 (Elfen & impossible to capture.
It was as if I couldn't draw her features; I could only draw the air she displaced.)

Okay, back from the mists, Genn's column today on design resonated enormously with me and I LOVELOVELOVE this quote: "True artists," said William Shipley, "are people who find bad design physically nauseating." YESSSSS!!!! 

I concur with Robert's definition of design and it applies to anything one creates, including jewellery. Long story short, Robert Genn's definition of what design is:

Continuum: Continuity is seen from one element to another. 
Harmony: Shapes echo and complement one another. 
Functionality: How does it work? Form follows function.
Implication: Elements are suggestive or metaphoric.
Concentricity: Elements circulate, extend and focus.
Control: The viewer's eye does what you want it to.
Strength: Forms are solid, committed, authoritative.
Personality: Your design motifs can be yours alone.

To this I would add "Wit": Not wit meaning funny ha-ha, but wit meaning intelligence and engagement -- that ineffable next step that makes the drawing, the painting, the jewellery piece, the architecture become "mine", as in I gotta have it. I gotta live there. It's ME. 

What would you add to this list?

Even more asides because it's the holiday (so it's raining, of course) and I have time. This weather makes me think of travel and Rome is always on my mind. But, in my real world, four days in Toronto is fast approaching, and that will have to do. In no particular order, some of my favourite drawings -- plus the only oil painting I ever did... whereupon I discovered I'm allergic to oil paint fumes, fumes of any description for that matter: a room full of 20-odd students using acrylics? Gag me. But so far so good on drawing materials:

Pat, sitting, from the back, Toronto 1998

Shawn, seated, Toronto, 1998

"L'Olfatto", pencil copy after Passante, Rome, 1997

Natasha, Rome, 1998 - SOLD

Monsieur Poisson (aka Mimmo Pesce), drawing instructor; Natasha, my favourite model; Me, Artist in ROME!!!; Sigfrido Oliva, painter; Solo Show, Via dell' Orso, Rome, 1998 (FYI, the gallery was located just a few doors down from the building Julia Roberts' character rented in Eat, Pray, Love)

After-the-show party. One of the happiest nights of my life. Yep, dinner even included a strolling Gypsy violinist. Rome, 1998

Holding up the wall at a group show four of us held in the apartment I shared, Rome, 1996. I was quite drunk, having just been dumped by the then love of my life whose name escapes me. 

Half-way through painting Somalian Refugee Baby in my painting teacher's studio, Toronto, 1999 (I took two years of painting in Vancouver where we were left to our own devices to reinvent the wheel and I learned sweet zip. I also failed art school. Phhht. Ten years later I paid this guy Michael to teach me classical painting techniques. We got through one technique (grisaille plus yellow, then red, then blue glaze) before he left town, something about teaching scuba diving in Bermuda... somewhere white sand beachy. Sigh...)

Closeup of Somalian Refugee Baby, Toronto, 1999

McMichael Fall Art Show, Kleinburg, Ontario, 1999 (See how the face of that baby in its mother's arms has gotten larger and larger -- and AGED!??! I've always had more than a little problem with keeping control over whatever I'm drawing)

Photo of Omar, Baby Tiger, Camping Sette Colli, Rome, 1995 (The campground was a zoo, with both human and animal/bird inhabitants pretty much freely wandering, and the owner had a licence to temporarily care for abandoned or injured wild animals which would then be returned to the Rome Zoo. This little guy had been rejected by its mother and Tony and his family were hand-raising it. He'd already been returned to the zoo, but Omar missed Tony and wouldn't eat, so he came back for another week or two. This was Omar's last day at the campground, as he was getting too big and didn't know his own strength. He was such a clown, and oh, my, did he stink.)

Baby Tiger, Plexi Etching, Toronto, 2001

Baby Tiger, Mylar Etching, Toronto, 2001

Model back view, seated, Montreal, 1993 (She was a postie by day) - SOLD

Portrait of a young man, Montreal, 1993 (Esoterica: when this guy came around to look at our drawings, he said to me: "I feel like you must have been walking around in my brain, that you know what I was thinking, because I recognise the expression on my face." I think this is one of the nicest compliments I've ever received.)

Ken, 1994, Montreal (This was the first time I felt like I captured the light in someone's eyes, and that's what all my drawing is about, really: capturing the light, the spark, that animates us)
As always, anatomy eludes me...

All images copyright me, Barbara MacDougall, 1988-2014. Please do NOT use, copy, redistribute or reprint without my express written permission. Thank you. 

Thanks for looking!