Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Food, NM Style

Strangely I think this will be delicious. My hands just startedd grabbing at spices.

Butternut squash with sea salt, brown sugar, New Mexico red chile powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. And I think I'll glaze it with tangerine juice as it roasts.

Xmas eve dinner we will have posole and tortillas at my mom's, and I am making flan/pudim de leite.

Holiday food for a Burquena for sure.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Click here to read about the major shift that has happened for me over the last 4 months regarding how I work as a jeweler, metalsmith and artist.

It's an exciting time for me, a relief really, because being stuck (creatively or otherwise) is tedious and no fun.

Hope you all are having a good end of year. My best friend is coming to visit and we are going to do luminarias. New Mexico traditions die hard. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Alexandra Amaro Online Shop Has Launched!

My online shop has finally launched!!!!! I am so excited to share this with you, it's been a tremendous amount of work (and of course there is still work to be done) but we are live and it feels so very good.

Paypal is the only checkout option right now, direct cc processing will be up and running next week. 

Check it out at

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pojagi-Inspired Textiles

Our first assignment in the Printing, Dyeing, Painting textiles class I'm taking at school was to make a pojagi-inspired piece (pojagi is a type of Korean textile used as a wrapping cloth, traditionally made in patchwork style out of silk organza).

The panels I made were created through a multi-step process: silk degumming with clamp resist, light indigo bath, tied resist with tiny rubber bands, dyeing in a deep rust color, tied resist, discharge of color using theox. The final result was incredible, especially when the discharge solution took the warm rust color to a teal hue and then a light green. Some of the panels remind me of aerial maps.

To finish the project, I stitched the seams using a flat-felled technique so that they lay flat and the piece is essentially reversible. I am so glad I learned to sew over the summer. It makes textile work so much more gratifying because I can make exciting final pieces instead of just having many beautifully dyed and printed raw pieces of cloth. These particular pieces became scarves and were gifted to some lovely ladies in my life.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Body of Work

I have to apply for a big fellowship, as required by our department at school. There is a huge amount of work that goes into these proposals, and even if I'm not chosen it's still been useful to get work finished, photographed, edited and titled.

Here is the body of work I'm submitting. I'm really pleased with how it's all coming together.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Seven Years and Still Going

I just read through the October entries of my blog archives from 2005 to present. Some of the posts I remember writing, and the moments described therewith are clear as day. Chimoio. Pria and Parceiro. Hugh Marlboro. Others I don't recall at all, and it's as if I were snooping through someone else's diary and life.

A lot has happened in the past seven years. I am glad I kept a written record of it, even if incomplete or edited for public consumption. Similarly I am happy I started writing paper journals when I went for my student exchange to Brazil in 1997/98. I wrote diligently every single day that year, a perfect record of events and feelings and adventures. I kept writing afterwards, filling volume after volume of blank-page books well after I'd graduated college. I have them all, stored in my desk shelves, waiting for the day when I have time to digitize the years and years of words.

I like to read my old journals, to look at how my handwriting has changed (or not, as it is the case), to remember the specific pens I used, how I had mastered the art of writing in a straight line while on a bus through the back roads of northeastern Brazil. I also enjoy reading my blog archives, but there is something about tangible paper and ink that makes the digital journal seem lacking.

Regardless, I feel satisfied in realizing that I've blogged over 1,200 entries. Something about that persistence makes me want to keep writing despite the decrease in frequency since moving to California and starting school.

So I will.

Monday, September 24, 2012

On Fire

The first four pieces I've made as part of my senior project. Featured materials include: Anasazi pot shards collected in New Mexico as a child, clip-on earrings from my grandmother's cousin, enameled and heat patina copper welded pod forms, etched and pierced copper, Brazilian capim dourado golden straw, antique Mozambique Island trade beads. These were not made to be a collection (they were just quick projects), but I am really happy that they seem to fit together quite nicely.

I am having one of those periods where things just come together. Thank God. It's nice timing, too, seeing as I've just started my final year of school.

After three long years of very, very, very hard work something big has shifted and I've found my voice and style as an artist. I don't now quite how to explain what happened, but things are feeling very different. Fluid. Easy. Fun, even.

Over the last three years I have been very concerned with the final product of my art-making. I wanted it to be beautiful, desirable, marketable, praise-worthy. Our instructors and other wise people kept saying that in order to make good art one needs to make bad art, but the prospect of making "bad art" seemed too scary to let happen.

I am a planner at heart, and my default way of working until this recent shift in spirit was to come up with a design, make a to-scale drawing or model, then execute that design. Making jewelry in this manner I got "good" results but always felt strangely insecure about my work. It was too commercial, too predictable, too this or too that. My internal hackles went up during critique, and it felt like a blow to the gut anytime someone gave their thoughts about what was unsuccessful about a particular piece. I felt a deep need for outer reassurance that my work was valid.

It was also a stressful way to work, for often in metalsmithing there are unforeseen technical problems that come up during the process, and I felt desperate when my super planned-out designs didn't work the way I needed them to. It made me feel very anxious when I had to deviate from the plan, like somehow I'd failed by not anticipating every little issue beforehand. I found that I often hated my pieces once they were finished, no matter how much praise I received from others. It was a very strange feeling to simultaneously love and hate the process of making jewelry so much.

I realized sometime last semester that something big had to give. I was on the fast track to burning out. I saw my colleagues working in a much looser way, playing around with materials and enjoying the experimental nature of seeing what works and what doesn't. I really wanted to be like that, too, but of course this is one of those things that you can't just wish for and have materialize.

I was aware for most of the semester that I was in the midst of a major growth period, and it was really uncomfortable. Painful, even. I cried an awful lot and had a major-ish breakdown right before my junior review mid-semester. I just wanted to be on the other side of that hump, making authentic and personally meaningful work and finding joy in the process. Yet there I was, stuck in the rut of feeling like I had no good ideas, being under pressure to make work, freaking out about deadlines, and having a hard time just letting go.

At a certain point, the way I'd been working became too much to bear. I was making myself sick from stress and was tired. Tired of crying, tired of feeling like my work was crappy, tired of trying and trying and not making progress.

So I gave up. I decided that my last round of projects would be unplanned, uncontrolled, and unpredictable. I started playing with raw materials and putting them together without knowing what the final product would look like. I allowed myself to experiment, to let go, to be more free with my process and accepting of the results, whatever they might be.

And wouldn't you know I made my very best work to date. Pieces that I was proud to show, that people's criticism or praise didn't really affect how I felt. *I* loved my work and felt it was authentic, fresh and unique. FINALLY.

After a quick step back into control freak/designer mode over the summer while working on the sapphire engagement ring (and making myself physically ill from stress all over again) I realized that this new way of working is something I want to embrace as a permanent part of my life as an artist. I am content to let go and let God (I like that phrase, even though I'm not particularly religious).

My task for the next two semesters is to create a body of work and then show it at an individual, week-long gallery exposition in May 2013. I approached our first assignment with the same loose, experimental philosophy I'd discovered in the Spring and found it to work really well. I am just playing with different arrangements of raw materials, using objects I've collected over the years and carried with me across the globe and back. These are objects that tell the story of who I am and the places and people that have touched me. By arranging them in new ways, creating groupings of materials, I have finally found a way to weave narrative and content into my work. I am able to talk about New Mexico, Italy, Brazil, Mozambique and everything in between and after, the way these cultures and places have shaped who I am.

It feels so good to finally have found my voice.

(Although part of me is super wary and anticipating the day when, a few months from now, I look back and laugh at that time in the beginning of senior project when I thought I had shit totally figured out.)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Sketches for Custom Carved Sapphire Engagement Ring

I've been trying to develop my rendering skills. It's a really hard process but with every sketch I get a little better, and it becomes a little easier.

Making of: Custom Carved Engagement Ring with Sapphire

I recently completed a commission for an engagement ring. It was a very intense project, as the client (a friend of mine) was really detail-oriented and we had a tight turnaround. He wanted a carved band with lots of organic detail, a center sapphire, and imagery inspired by Indonesia. I tried to create a motif that would reference an orchid flower as well as a lotus, common images in the woodcarvings and batik prints I looked at for reference.

I designed and made the bulk of this ring while on the road in New Mexico, visiting my dad and his wife and working out of my friend Lauren's amazing studio space. You should definitely check out Meltdown Studios if you are a metalsmith in Albuquerque needing some space to work out of. Lauren has created something pretty special, and I'm super grateful to her for all the support.

I first carved the bulk of the ring design in wax, then had a mold of it made in silicone (in case the casting failed for some reason). Then Lauren helped me cast the design in sterling silver, and I bought the center sapphire and the accent diamonds in what I thought would be nice sizes. Then I carved all the 14k gold accents, they are involved in all of the stone settings. I soldered everything together, then got a bunch of help from my professor Curtis when it came time to set the stone. We decided it looked best set upside-down (with the point of the stone facing up) and happily my client agreed.

I delivered the ring, he liked it, he proposed to his girlfriend in Paris, she said yes, very happy endings all around.

From design through to finished state, this is how it went down. Now I just need a photo from their wedding. :)

I have video of the client (my friend) receiving the ring and looking at it for the very first time. He asked me to film the moment. We were in an alleyway in San Francisco and Rico was waiting in the car on a conference call. It's pretty priceless, I'll try to share it at some point.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


It's been a while, and I've missed you.

I miss the golden days of blogging from Maputo. I realize how special it was to feel like writing most of the time, and to be connected to a larger community through that writing.

Being in Mozambique called my inner narrator to action, but the best part was doing it in a public forum. Sharing my impressions with others made me really stop and THINK about what I was feeling and what my motivations were. Most times my desire was to be a good multilateral cultural ambassador  and take a neutral view that invited the opportunity for further consideration. (See there, I haven't forgotten my development proposal-writing talents!)

But other times I just needed to vent. Blogging got me through Chimoio. It made me feel less lonely in 2006 after Rico went to Brazil and I stayed in Maputo. Writing made me feel less desperate about the fact that I had no friends in town and was afraid to go to the bank by myself. Blogging helped me understand why I hated my job and what I wanted to do about it.

Writing here has brought me great joy too, of course. I've made many, many friends and contacts (my maid of honor at my wedding was a blog friend originally!) and it's been fantastic to come here and share over the years, respond to your emails about potential moves to Mozambique, follow your blogs, meet you in person for a beer or a coffee.

It is comforting to know that some of you are still reading, even if just occasionally (which is totally fine, because it's more often than I blog these days.) I have a narrator in my head here in California, too, but it's the type of stuff that sounds very adolescent and dramatic when put in writing so it mostly goes in the sketchbook. It's all very art school, you know?

Speaking of which, I am finally in my senior year and have only two semesters remaining until I graduate. My senior show reception will be May 1st and I will receive another bachelor's degree two weeks thereafter. I feel equal parts self-congratulatory and in need of therapy.

Becoming a jeweler has been a transformative and unbelievably positive experience, but it's also broken me down a bit. I am often insecure and struggle to place appropriate value on my work, even though I am *the best* at giving people pep talks and encouraging them to be confident and stand proud behind their talents. I am moody, hangry, tired, and I cry all the freaking time. And I make myself sick with stress, literally dry-heaving over the possibility that my engagement ring client won't like my work or that my sketches for a custom design are misleading because I'm not that good at drawing.

But despite the crisis periods, I feel happy and challenged. I have made good friends, I have learned serious new skills, and I keep coming back to jewelry (although I have undeniable love for fabric design, too) so I figure something must be right. Rico and my mom are awesome. The rest of our family is right up there, too. As are our neighbors, my dancing girls at Hipline, my school friends, my blog friends, my AFS friends, our cats... I could go on, and on, and on. :)

Miss y'all. I hope good things are in store para todos.