Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Out on the Line

Hanging laundry on the line has been described in so many ways—a meditation, a connection, and way to save energy, a money saver, a time-tested necessity, and a tradition. But sometimes, sometimes, it's more than that, and I don't mean in a good way. Ladies and gentlemen (but probably really only ladies), I bring you the dark side of the laundry line.

like jeans-as-bird-toilet...

...and just dried laundry, left out for a bit longer, only to be soaked by those afternoon storms that pop up so often these days.

The good thing is the sun is out again before the rain has even stopped, and the drying begins again.

See more hanging laundry, from around the world and all walks of life, over at Wash Wednesday.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What To Do

We're only a few days into summer vacation, and I have found myself scouring my favorite blogs and sites, looking for crafts to do with my girls a few times already. Turns out, there is a ridiculous amount of brilliant ideas and resources out there—tutorials, recipes, suggestions, and even more lists of things to do. Jackpot!

I've compiled a list of my favorites for you and me :

Paint a fresco (FuoriBorgo)

Make your own bug catcher (Shivaya Naturals)

Craft up some clay suns (Twig and Toadstool)

Make some Custom Drawn kid stationary (Just Something I Made)

Have your kids make their own ink Blob t-shirts (Vintage Chica)

Make mobiles from found drift wood and beads (Wise Craft)

Try some corn syrup painting (The Crafty Crow)

Make a moss terrarium (Poppytalk)

Learn block printing: tutorials Part I & Part II ( from me!)

fold up some Origami paper wallets (Future Craft Collective)

Squeeze some fresh orange juice and make sun eggs (GardenMama)

And more lists to pour over!

The Long Thread's round up of 50 Summer Crafts for Kids (check out the Stone Dolls from MayaMade)

list of great games to play with kids over at Mommy Coddle

List of outdoor summer activities at 5 Orange potatoes

list of Artful Books for Children from Quince and Quire

and this list of resources for nature-based summer learning, from The Snail's Trail

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Labor of Love: Custom Jewelry

There's something about making custom pieces that both humbles and terrifies me. I mean, what could be more flattering than someone asking you to make their vision come to fruition? They must have liked the style of my jewelry designs, right? And I can only assume that they must have confidence in my metalsmithing techniques—my ability to fabricate what they are dreaming of, right?

So why, then, do I have this whispering voice of doubt in the back of my head that says, "Oh my, somebody has entrusted me with making their vision come to fruition?" Why am I not able to breathe easy until I get word that the piece was received and is absolutely adored?

I don't know why. I guess I worry that the finished piece won't live up to their expectations, and how my reputation as a jeweler is on the line. But I'm going to let you in on a secret: even through all that, I love doing custom work. I love the departure from my usual designs, I love working with the client, making design decisions, and turning ideas into realities. I love knowing that the recipient is going to wear a piece that has personal meaning, one that was made deliberately, with care, with the sentiment behind the piece in mind.

This spring, I had the opportunity to fabricate a few ideas into wearable pieces.

Emily, from Mousy Brown's House, asked me to make the necklace she had been dreaming up. She had a long list of elements she wanted to include, and was creative enough to be able to translate all her wishes into a design. It had to reflect her personality, and remind her of the good things in life. She had a clear vision of what she wanted polished, and which parts she wanted roughed up. And it had to have a little silver mouse. The photo above is the set of charms that hung from the silver ring, making the focal point of the pendant. That mouse? I didn't get a good picture of it but you can view a few good shots of it over at her blog, where she wrote about it.

The length was another unique element of the design. She wanted it to be long, so she could "wear it with pride above her clothes, or tuck in and enjoy secretly." Well, long she got, and I think she is on to something here. That length makes quite a statement.

I also had the pleasure of creating an anniversary piece for a couple. The husband came to me with a request for a piece that would symbolize the fact that he and his wife had now been together for more than half their lives. He, too, had a clear vision—a simple "clock" with 55% of it in polished silver, the rest oxidized black. The contrast of this uncomplicated design is striking, and represents much meaning for this husband and wife.

When it comes to custom work, I've learned to focus on these things: listening, asking, and reading between the lines. I include the client in as much, or as little, of the design process as they want, and I stay in touch and provide updates. Given all of this, you'd think I'd be a little more confident about how the pieces will be received. Well I'm not, but I'm starting to realize that all that fussing is exactly what makes custom pieces such a unique experience—a labor of love.

Friday, June 18, 2010

This Moment

Hoppin' on board the Soule Mama train this week to share this moment.

{this moment} - "A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Progress and Growth

Just like that, nearly a week has gone by since I have last posted. It seems like the days slip through my hands, weeks are cranked out steadily, and my girls grow faster each year.

Since this blog has become somewhat of a journal, tracking our progress and growth, I though I'd catalog a few of our most recent examples:

Progress: on a little surprise for soon-to-be-born babe

Growth: remember "Woolly Bear?" He emerged as this beautiful moth

Progress: on a bench, needed for the dining room table

Growth: chicks losing the fluff, getting feathers on their heads

Progress: the last-day-of-school countdown

Growth: last year's sandals

Where have you been making progress? How have you been measuring growth?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Collaboration for Little Miss Eight

She loved this ring I sold. It's was a big silver dome with green beads sticking out of the top of it. I would have given it to her, but it was so big for her hand I knew she wouldn't really be able to wear it. Clearly, she was going to need her own version of that ring for her eighth birthday. It would be proportioned for her hand and bear little pink crystal beads.

Of course, a ring like that would need to have a matching necklace. That necklace would have to incorporate all of her favorite things, like a horse, a cat, and Yoda, and those same pink beads.

The set of mama-made jewels was going to need a daddy-made birthday box, naturally.

It would be made in the USA with love,

and it would have a special place for the ring and for the necklace. The two compartments would form the number 8.

Little Miss Eight would use it to store her new bling, as well as the $8 she got from her grandparents. (She's that much closer to saving up for the horse she plans to buy someday. I hope she doesn't hock these jewels for one.)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Confessions of a (Former) Consumerholic

Hi. My name is Amy, and I am a consumerholic.

Or, I was.

A handful of years back, I suddenly found myself with babies and a newly purchased home. If ever there was a time to purchase things, I thought this was it.

I bought items that the babies might like, and things I might use for the babies. I shopped for a mind-boggling roster of tot gear, and had a hard time resisting those adorable tiny clothes. Then there was a home to fill. I paid hard-earned money for things like outdoorsy-scented candles, newfangled cleaning products, and the latest in clocks.

Well, it wasn't long before my house reached maximum capacity. By then, the majority of baby gear had proved superfluous, and the tot stuff was collecting dust in the corner. The candles lost their scent, the cleaning gadgets were useless, and the clock broke long before I expected it would.

Standing in my living room one day, planning my route across the toy-strewn rug, I had a vision. I saw my home in all its de-cluttered glory. I saw my girls playing with quality handmade toys that wouldn't soon be recalled. I imagined a cozy nest decorated with items made by fellow artists, each piece holding its own story. I fantasized about all-natural cleaning products, and cooked up clever ways to re purpose lackluster items.

Without realizing it, I was formulating a new family plan. It would be based on quality, simplification, and time spent together.

The simplifying scheme started with charity donations—truckloads of clothing, unwanted toys, and household items went out the door. I read voraciously about simple living, conscious consumption, creative parenting, and commercialism. I re prioritized how we spent our time, and shifted from days full of running errands to staying home and interacting in more meaningful ways. I bought large quantities of basic grocery store ingredients and learned all the amazing ways they can be used in a household. I came to realize that my spending habits are a reflection of the kind of world I want to live in.

During this time, I hatched the idea to sell my works in metal, as a way to bring quality handmade pieces to the market. I thought, maybe if somebody bought my pieces they’d be less likely to buy cheap costume jewelry made in factories on the other side of the world.

This new way of living is very much a work in progress. I have spent the past six years steering my family towards a life of simple abundance—of shedding the excess—but we often veer off course. The toy box has been replenished with cheap imported junk (this is our biggest challenge, as most of the girls' toys are gifts from others, for which we are grateful), and Mount Stuffed Animal remains the last frontier. I have to admit we adults in the household have some indulgences of our own, but we try to keep it in check. I have gotten more organized, and we have learned to patiently wait until we’ve saved enough money before making purchases—this alone has been the most effective way to keep the amount of things acquired to a minimum. We have also found a better balance between family time and the number of activities we participate in. Generally speaking, our down shift has been a success, but we are presented with challenges daily.

As long as I can navigate my way across the living room without too many obstacles, I know we're doing OK.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Colorful Necklaces & Some News

Sometimes, when I look at my body of work, I am painfully aware of the lack of color. This perplexes me, because my world revolves around color. My home is painted and decorated in a rainbow of shades, my shoes span the spectrum, and I gravitate towards pretty much anything that is a beautiful hue. My current color of choice is this one:

Somewhere between the time I started making jewelry and now, my pieces have taken on a very, uh, metallic feel. I know that's a bit obvious, but I am feeling the need for a departure (if only temporary) from my usual industrial-meets-organic"colored" jewelry. All those grays and browns of winter and early spring have gotten the best of me, so I'm introducing a little color into my line just in time for summer.

I'm on the hunt, prowling the web for gorgeous stones to frame in silver and oh, is it fun. Wouldn't this make an amazing piece?

In other news, the summer edition of the online magazine Rhythm of the Home was just published. This one is bursting with interesting articles, cool crafts, and all things summer. I contributed a tutorial—check it out here.

(Colorful necklaces now listed in the shop)