Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Traveler Necklaces

Each necklace in the 15-piece Traveler series has the name of a different city worldwide that inspired the color palette. Adding to the traveler vibe, the trade beads used in the design are hundreds of years old and have crossed the globe several times over, starting in Venice or Bohemia where they were made, carried to Africa by the Portuguese, washed up on the shores of Ilha de Moçambique after shipwrecks, and finally brought here to San Francisco in my luggage.

Where will their next stop be?

(The Helsinki Traveler Necklace and the other Travelers are available at

Monday, November 28, 2011


There is a really difficult mind-space for people that hold themselves to high standards when, while learning a new trade or skill, they realize what the best work looks like (i.e. what they desire to make/do) but are unable to perform at that level yet. Often the gap is because these people are still learners, operating in an area where true mastery requires years and years of experience. For some reason, though, it is hard to accept that apprenticeship equals failure on an intrinsic level, that if we don't make bad work there is no way to learn how to make good work.

I know this. I can even write about this. But it is SO HARD to embody it, to release the pressure I self-impose to knock it out of the park with every project that comes along. I want all of my work to be amazing, not necessarily for the praise of others (although this is definitely nice, however another minefield in and of itself) but because I am used to being at the top of whatever I'm doing. I know I'm capable of doing impeccable work, and it's hard to accept that it's okay if I can't right now, for whatever reason, in whatever capacity.

I think people doing jewelry or metalsmithing at a high level are particularly prone to this issue. Our field is all about perfection, precision, doing it right the first time because often that's the only option lest you go back to square one with a particular piece. Our eyes are meticulous. We see all of the flaws. Making can be maddening. We get so invested in our work, put in so many hours... It becomes especially hard to look at a piece after blood and sweat and tears (literally. really. i cry nearly every week and can't feel the tips of my fingers) when you know certain things should have been done differently and/or better.

I need to remember - I think all of us in the progam could stand to remember - that other people don't see jewelry through the same discriminating eyes as we do. Other people see the beauty, the creativity, the materials. Not that this is license to do shoddy work, but to remember on those pre-critique mornings that someone out there will think this is the best. piece. ever. made.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Good Feeling

In some ways I feel like this song is getting me through the semester. Just when I'm feeling really down, I'll hear this somewhere. In my car at full volume is the best, but Hipline's shimmy pop class is a close second (Hipline is this amazing dance studio in Berkeley that I've been going to with some of the jewelry girls from school. They have glow sticks and a disco ball during the last class on Thursdays, not to mention super dim lighting (the best idea e.v.e.r. for club-style dance classes that happen in a gym space during daylight hours.))

So Flo Rida's song literally helped me turn around a tearful crisis in the making last week. I was so stressed from my production jewelry class (I'm was working on the 5-alike pendants) that I could tell I was going to cry during critique. Not that my pieces had failed or anything, it had just been an extraordinarily long, hard road and I was at my limit. On my way to school the tears started to fall and then the song came on. It was like magic.

I wonder what my song for next semester will be (they seem to only be magic for a few months at a time).

For now, at least, it seems I know my winter break song. My friend Jimmy shared this with me the other day and I am obsessed.

For the record, summer's song was:

Spring semester's song was:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Carla Makes Jewelry in Maputo

I am so proud of my first jewelry student, Carla, who continues to make beautiful designs with wire and semi-precious stones in Maputo. I fondly remember our one-on-one jewelry lessons, starting with the very basics of how to make a wire loop and progressing through pricing and selling one's work.

Here is a gallery of her work. If you're in Moz and are interested in Carla's work, please look her up! She sometimes participates in events like the International School-sponsored holiday fairs, so perhaps you've already seen her jewelry somewhere.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Five Identical Madness

I mentioned in a previous post, I believe, that I am working on a project for my Production Jewelry class where we have to make five identical pieces. We are allowed to vary one or two design details, and we must incorporate a "foreign" object, e.g. a stone, a found object, a commercial clasp, etc. Each one of my pendants will have a different color scheme/assortment of gemstones and a different patina on the silver.

Here is a (poor quality) photo of one of the pieces I am making. I'm really excited about the design, but the process and the deadline have my stomach flipping and my shoulders in knots thanks to record levels of stress. I don't even want to catalog all of the bumps along the road, but suffice to say I'm past-due with the project and have another marathon night (at minimum) ahead of me. I've been working SO HARD for the last two weeks. It's somewhat disheartening to work at 110% effort and realize that it's not quite enough.

Cue the lesson in perfectionism and remembering why I'm really in school (it's not for the grades, but I admit it's hard to let go of that, too).

I think I'll feel better once I get the rest of my stone setting finished. I have two pendants to go, and the road ahead seems never-ending...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Your Responses = My Next Jewelry Project

Hello friends,

For our next project at school we have to interview people and then design a piece of jewelry or a sculpture based on the responses.

The question is: If you could change one thing about your personality, what would it be?

Feel free to answer in the comments. Thanks in advance for your help!

Monday, November 07, 2011

After Earthquakes

We've had a series of moderate earthquakes here in the Bay Area lately. Nothing big, really, especially for people who are from quake territory, but big enough to frighten me for sure. Part of the issue is that most of the recent earthquakes have been centered just a mile or two from school, so the shaking feels especially strong.

It's terrifying during the shaking, but the disorientation and feeling of "seasickness" that I get afterwards is nearly as bad. It's similar to the feeling you get after a day spent boating, when you step back on dry land but still feel as if you're on the waves. I can feel false quakes for days after the real thing, and the fact that there really *are* aftershocks makes it even worse. I often don't know whether my mind and body are playing tricks on me, or if its honest-to-god shaking. Sometimes I have to look around the room at other people's faces to determine if something is happening or not.

This quake-sick feeling is so bizarre, by far the closest I've ever come to wondering if I'm going a little crazy. I decided to try and capture it in a panting for my Chromophobia class, as we're putting on an exposition this week about phobias. The title of the show is "Horror vacui", which means fear of empty space (and is just a very cool-sounding phrase). I wanted the painting to be really busy and visually disorienting to look at.

The end look is definitely different from what I'd originally envisioned, but I am okay with letting the process dictate the result. Here's a bit of the evolution. I think I'm one layer away from being finished, maybe two.

("Seismic", acrylic on canvas, 36x36")

(sorry for the poor image quality. I'm content remembering to take *any* process photos of my art these days.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Silicone Molds, Gemstones and Running

Otherwise known as what's on my mind these days.

For my production jewelry class our assignment right now is to make five identical pieces. The idea is for us to utilize molds, jigs and other clever tools and strategies to make our work more efficient.

Although I like production jewelry and plan to do limited production lines once I'm out of school, it's hard to think in production terms. We are so schooled to make elaborate, conceptual, insanely labor-intensive, one-of-a-kind pieces that it's really a challenge to move away from that mindset and design jewelry that is creative and appealing, yet cost- and time-efficient and can be easily produced in multiples. At least its hard for me. :)

I am making a series of bejeweled silver pendants for the five-alike project. In order to be clever and efficient as the class requires, I'm casting the main component of the pendant. Fantastic, except I don't know how to cast. Rather, I'm learning in record speed how to cast (one week to be precise). This evening I poured my very first silicone RTV mold. Tomorrow I will cut it in two pieces and do a wax injection so that I can, on Monday, actually cast my piece. It seems complicated even though I've been told many times that casting is a simple process. It makes me anxious to have my project depend on a process I'm totally unfamiliar with, but I suppose this is good practice for uncomfortable situations I'm certain to encounter down the line.

I went for a short run this morning, which felt really good. I've not been able to run as frequently now that the semester is in session and I miss it terribly. Over the summer my friend H. and I were running five times a week. Now I'm getting in two runs per week, and it's rare for them to be over five miles. Rico and I are signed up to run another 10k on Saturday and I'm trying to align my expectations with my somewhat diminished physical abilities. I'd like to run the whole race really fast and feel fantastic, but I know I'll just have to go through at a slow and steady pace and be okay with the fact that I may just have to walk a bit.

In other news, I register for Spring 2012 classes on Monday. I'm taking Jewelry 3B (the next class in the series, one in which we do one-week projects all semester), Casting (ha, ha), Lost and Found (creating jewelry and other works that incorporate found objects), and a textiles class called Patterns and Pixels (creating patterns on the computer and then printing onto fabric).

I find registering for classes always gives me a little perk, which is especially welcome at this low-energy point of the semester. At a time when I so desperately need a break, it's funny that thinking about more school would get me excited. I guess this is a good sign, no?