Where does inspiration come from?

As an artist, my ideas come from a lot of different places. Inspiration comes from the natural world and the things I see and hear. Sometimes my work is inspired by materials coming together on my bench. They also are handed to me in a neat package, in the form of a challenge.

Copper “shield” pendant with sterling silver rivets.

Copper “shield” pendant with sterling silver rivets.

My little piece of my world is rife with textures, colors and shapes. I can step out my home and see dappled light, deep green leaves, acorns and the weathered wood rails of the deck. During walks, I search for pick up objects that interest me, like dried pods and shiny stones.

Sometimes I hear a word that drives deep internet research (you might see a collection on knot theory from me at some time in the future).

And every day, I sketch shapes and patterns, designing pieces in my mind and on paper.

I won't share a photo of my bench, but trust me when I say it's a bit disorganized and messy. Unfinished projects sometimes live there for months. I might get inspired to complete an unfinished project there. Case in point, this copper and sterling silver "shield" pendant. It was on the corner of my desk for MONTHS. Every so often, I'd pick it up and look at it and place it down again. Recently, I picked it up and found the inspiration to finish it.

Challenge pieces, clockwise from top left: “Blue” (for “Blue” show), copper side of “Diatoms” (for Botanical show), bottle cap necklace, (for “Recycled”), and “Sting Rays” (for “Animal Kingdom” show).

Challenge pieces, clockwise from top left: “Blue” (for “Blue” show), copper side of “Diatoms” (for Botanical show), bottle cap necklace, (for “Recycled”), and “Sting Rays” (for “Animal Kingdom” show).

A couple of the rivets needed to be redone, and more added. I soldered on a bail on the back, then made a raw silk necklace for hanging. (It's available for sale -- $85 and it's yours!)

Alternatively, I might look at a stone or a bead rolling around on my bench and the muse will whisper in my ear what I need to make.

Themed challenges are a great way to think differently and build your skills. Yorktown Arts Foundation's On The Hill Gallery has a member show every year with a singular theme. Some of the past themes have been "Recycled," "Blue," "Animal Kingdom," and "Botanical." Here are some photos of pieces I made for these shows.

The theme of the next member show, which opens in May 2020, is "Water." It's time to find my inspiration....take a walk on the beach, stare at my bench and get out my notebook and pen.

Joining Yorktown Arts Foundation

On The Hill Gallery is located in historic Yorktown on Main Street.

On The Hill Gallery is located in historic Yorktown on Main Street.

I have been a member of Yorktown Arts Foundation (YAF) and a participating artist at On The Hill Gallery for more than six years. I don't remember the actual date. I've been so deeply involved in the organization that it feels as if it was always home.

On The Hill Gallery is YAF's retail arm, and run completely by volunteers. YAF promotes arts in and around York County, and sells the work of its juried artists in the Gallery, which is located in historic Yorktown. After I first joined, I started out selling my work and volunteering to staff the gallery once a month to get a better break on my commission. Then I got a call from the then-Chair of the Gallery Committee, asking me to join them. She was very persuasive so I said, "Yes."

We organized shows. We discussed how to get more volunteers to staff the Gallery (pretty much all the time). We shared stories and laughed a lot. People dropped off; others were recruited to join. I volunteered to be "acting" chair, and last year took the job officially.

It's a lot of work to keep the Gallery and Foundation going; sometimes it's a little messy. Everyone does their part as well as they can and most of the time it comes together in the end.

When I said "Yes" those years ago, I could not have imagined what I would get in return. I was welcomed into a community of artists. I felt the satisfaction of contributing to something greater than myself. I have made friends with wonderful people, who have helped me be a better person and artist.

I am grateful for everyone who I work with to keep everything going. I also invite other artists to join YAF and become part of our community. Now I'm off to a meeting...

Custom Work: Sterling Silver Chalice

With growing frequency, I have been asked to create custom jewelry pieces. Custom work requires a delicate balance. I want to create a piece that satisfies the client, and at the same time, satisfies my artistic aesthetic.

Top left is the sketch I sent. Below that is the pendant in progress. The photo at the right is the completed piece.

Top left is the sketch I sent. Below that is the pendant in progress. The photo at the right is the completed piece.

The client has seen my work, and trusts my skill and vision. If they didn’t, they wouldn't hire me. But their vision and mine (and my skill set) might not always line up exactly. For me, communication is key. I provide updates of work in progress (including photos) and try to manage their expectations.

Fortunately, my latest commission was a true equal partnership. It was a simple piece with clean lines -- my aesthetic -- and exactly what he wanted.

The commission came from an old friend I hadn't seen in person for over 30 years. Facebook brought us together a recently and he has seen photos I've shared on Facebook of my jewelry. He asked me to make a sterling silver pendant depicting a flaming chalice, the symbol the Unitarian Universalist Church, on a long simple sterling silver chain.

I looked online for a source image and sketched out a design, the chalice with the negative spaces pierced out. I photographed the design and sent it back and he approved. It needed to be completed, for a birthday present, by the end of the summer. I worked on it on and off since the commission, sent an in-progress photo (which he loved) and completed it at the end of July.

R., thanks again for the order. I hope the recipient is happily wearing her new pendant, and appreciates that it was made just for her.

If you are interested in a custom piece, please contact me.

Come See Me in Person!

In the next few weeks, you will have TWO opportunities to meet me and see my work in person. I'm participating in The Hermitage Museum's Handmade Festival (in Norfolk, Virginia) on Saturday, Sept. 14, and the Yorktown Arts Foundation's Art Stroll on Sunday, Sept. 29.

During events, I learn a lot in a short amount of time. What sells? What doesn't? Who is buying my work? As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm a fan of Project Runway. One of the questions that the judges and mentors always ask is, "Who is your customer? Who is your girl?"

Based on who has purchased my work, my customer is pretty much just like me!

Good information, because I know myself pretty well. But it also shows that I have some work to do to if I want to expand my audience of potential customers.

So come see me this month. Look at my jewelry and tell me what you like (and don't like). Don't worry about offending me; as an artist, a thick skin is necessary. If you don't make it to these events, I’d love your feedback in the comments.

See you under the tent!

The Hermitage Handmade Festival happens on Saturday, Sept. 14.

The Hermitage Handmade Festival happens on Saturday, Sept. 14.

Cleaning copper

I use copper in most of my work, often in conjunction with sterling silver (The "kupra" in the company name means "copper" in Esperanto). In time, copper will tarnish and darken as it reacts with compounds in the air.

It's inevitable. The copper will darken, even if it has a protective layer or patina applied. You may like this, or not. I've found that Sunshine Polishing Cloths do a good job of removing the tarnish and shining up the copper. I provide a free sample cloth with every direct sale of $50 or more.

There are other ways to clean your copper jewelry. Nunn Design, which produces jewelry components, tried and tested several methods using household items. I've used a few of these myself.

  1. Lemon Juice and Salt

  2. Vinegar and Salt

  3. Baking Soda and Salt

  4. White Vinegar and Salt - boiled. This was declared the winner

  5. Ketchup and Water

Read about the testing on Nunn Design's blog.

Here's another technique I tried that produces a satin finish. Soak the piece in vinegar for several minutes, then clean with an old toothbrush and toothpaste.

One last thing. If you have purchased my jewelry and live in the Hampton Roads area, I will clean and polish the items for free. If you are out of the area, please contact me and I'll recommend the best way to clean your jewelry.

Lemons can clean your copper jewelry.

Lemons can clean your copper jewelry.