Monday, June 30, 2014

Fraudulent Booker

Someone used my business credit card to try and purchase $1,400 worth of tickets on a travel site called

When the bank called to notify me of the fraudulent activity, I heard Hehe.

Either way, someone's plans for a real good time were spoiled because the charge was blocked.

Now I'm having the fun experience of getting a new account, reconfiguring all of my auto-pays, and catching attempts at additional fraudulent activity (even though my card has already been canceled).

On top of training an assistant, watching World Cup, helping organize Point to Point, working on a bunch of custom orders (yay!), working out, and generally hustling a hard hustle.

The life of an entrepreneur...the good, the bad, and the hectic!


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Que Pasa, Calabaza?

It's been a whirlwind month since we arrived back from Portugal. Lots of community organizing, work at the gallery, custom orders, and moments of observation and relaxation. Here is a visual record of how I've been spending my days:

Living and working in Point Richmond, there are always opportunities for a moment. Cool cars, old houses, and a neighborhood full of friendly characters. I try to walk between our house, the studio, and the gallery as much as possible. It's about 15 minutes between any of them, the ideal distance for a meander, a pause, a reset on my perspective.

This is a house where a hoarder lived for many years. It used to be full of giant nutcrackers in the windows. At a certain point it was condemned by the city. Now it's been sold, cleaned out, and is undergoing a renovation following what seemed to be a continuous, 3-week garage sale.

Speaking of chaos (albeit the beautiful, tangled, physical kind), I am so obsessed with Martin Rickert's ceramic sculptures. We have three of them in the gallery right now and I feel like they mirror my brain state much of the time. Lots of connections, a lot going on, trying to figure out how everything links together.

Martin also does stone carving. He apprenticed in Germany in the traditional guild system and is a serious craftsman. He lives and works here in Point Richmond, and is someone we're enjoying getting to know.

I've been working on a custom headdress for a client that she will wear on her 30th birthday at a beach party in Jamaica. The inspiration is a runway piece done for Givenchy. We will put a unique twist on the design by using my client's grandmother's clip-on earrings as the focal sparkly points in the headdress. I'm super excited to see this come together.

I'm also working on a big cocktail ring that has an oval blue topaz flanked by round green tourmalines. I'm creating custom basket settings for the stones, which has been an exercise in precision and geometry. Hopefully this piece will be done this weekend.

Amid all this custom work, there's been some priceless (in)action from Gato Preto Pria:

Excitingly, people from CCA alumni and career development got in touch and did a field trip to the gallery. I'm super pleased that I got on their radar, because not only am I an alum, there is the work of three other CCA graduates in the gallery right now, plus two more CCA guest artists lined up to do shows over the summer. It's a CCA party! Plus Martin!

 It's been fun to feel the gallery come into its own. The word is getting out, and increasingly it feels "real". Nothing like a sign out front to remind me that yes, this is happening. :)

The gallery participated once again in Point to Point, the pop-up community event I've been helping organize and facilitate. I offered an interactive metals stamping booth (which was a major hit) plus a little world cup and samba action (not so much of a hit, but ya gotta try, right?).

Not only did we stamp up a storm, I managed to re-home my grandfather's sparkly red accordion that has been sitting at the bottom of my coat closet for about 10 years.

 I'd left the accordion on the gallery stoop, hoping to find someone interested in playing it that could become its new owner. Lo and behold, that happened. A gentleman picked it up, rocked out, and accepted the gifted instrument. It was a magical moment.

The new accordion owner jumped into some jam sessions that were happening around the downtown area for Point to Point. It was a treat to watch!

And of course there was the solstice. A beautiful, calm, light-washed evening. It's been a good month. :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Solstice Feast with Friends

Last week Rico and I were invited to a Midsummer's celebration at the house of new friends of ours here in Point Richmond. Lars is a labyrinth maker (what a cool profession, right?) and community organizer who I've been working closely with on Point to Point Richmond. Lars has Swedish heritage, and together with his fiancee Lissette, prepared an amazing solstice meal for us, complete with traditional foods (seed bread, smoked trout, pickles, salmon), seasonal decorations, and floral crowns. It was a great night, and it's exciting to have friends our age here in town!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Portugal's Jewelry Traditions

The first day we were in Lisbon, it struck me: there were ourivesarias (goldsmithing shops) all over the place. Sometimes three or four to a block, all offering a mix of filigree, high-end watches, and cash-for-gold. I thought we must be in the jeweler's district, but then realized no, in fact, there are simply jewelers EVERYWHERE. And it's not just Lisbon. We observed the same thing in Porto, Coimbra, Viana do Castelo, even tacky old Portimão had a ton of jewelers.

Here is one of my favorite ourivesaria windows, discovered along one of the hilly streets of Porto. Notice the old jeweler's bench, the drawers full of assorted stamps and punches. There is even an old saw frame and what looks to be a twist drill, plus a stumpy little bench block.

Inside the shop, they used many of the metalsmithing tools as display props. I especially liked seeing these two-part plaster molds with old ring designs and floral patterns (although I don't really like how the beaded strands are all willy-nilly on top of them).

We drove about an hour north from Porto to a town called Viana do Castelo, apparently the main place for filigree in Portugal. There is even a specific filigree shape called "coração de Viana" (Viana heart) that Sharon Stone recently wore and now is in hot demand, even though it's been around as a design for, oh, several hundred years.

The traditional context in which all that gold filigree is worn has to do with ceremonies, be it a wedding, saint's processional, a feast day, or mourning. The ladies pile on the jewelry, and everything is full of symbolism. You can tell where someone is from, if they are single, their social position, etc. just from the costuming and jewels.

We'd heard there was a goldsmithing museum in Viana do Castelo, but upon arriving couldn't find it and instead wandered into the Museu do Traje or Museum of Costume. Turns out it was the right decision. The goldsmithing museum was robbed a few years ago and lost nearly their entire archives of filigree and religious jewels. What was left is now housed in the walk-in safe room in the basement of the Museu do Traje, probably the best small museum I've ever visited. The displays are incredibly well done, and if you are at all into textiles, embroidery, lace, fashion, folklore, processions, filigree jewelry, and/or metalsmithing...definitely visit!

The museum had a gorgeous display of gold (no photos allowed), as well as a video showing an artisan making filigree (totally made me want to try), and these great process boards illustrating the main tools and techniques in metalsmithing.

I was impressed by how little has changed in the tools I use in my day-to-day work in the studio, compared to the vintage/antique tools I got a chance to see in Portugal. I was also inspired by how well the museum showed processes, for example the evolution of making a gold bead (below).

Back in Lisbon, Rico and I wandered around visiting different jewelry ateliers, galleries, and shops.

We checked out the Galeria Tereza Seabra, a really cool space with legitimate art jewelry and two benches where a lesson was taking place. They also have an exhibit of cabinets of curiosity, but sadly it was closed for a month for vacation (ah, Europe).

One of the more memorable spots we visited was the Atelier Plum, a jewelry showroom I heard about thanks to a shopping guidebook in our hotel. Finding this space was a trip, as there is absolutely no signage and you have to adventure through some random places. To start, you walk all the way to the back of a shop called Hospital da Boneca (Doll's Hospital) which is a narrow room full of old dolls and doll parts. Nothing anywhere about jewelry or Atelier Plum to be seen. You go out what looks to be a service door, then up four flights of stairs, and finally press an unmarked buzzer and hope for the best.

A friendly lady opened the door, seemed a bit surprised to have unannounced tourist visitors, then showed us the horizontal drawers where all the jewelry was displayed. Honestly, I was hoping for some more exciting work (it was lots of simple bezel rings, some beaded necklaces, and randomly a drawer with ivory inlay...bad.bad.) I've become a total display snob now that I have the gallery, and I thought the jewelry was inaccessible and poorly shown in the drawers.

Anyhow, what was fascinating about Atelier Plum was seeing a 6-person jewelry workspace in action. I love noticing the details of how people organize their tools, whether their benches are a holy cluttered mess or nice and tidy, where the major equipment is set up, etc. The number one thing I was struck by was the ubiquitous presence of cigarettes in the workshop. The Portuguese are a country of chimneys, that's for sure, but it made my eyes goggle out of my head to see ashtrays next to the oxygen tank and cigarettes dangling from people's lips while they worked at their benches. I guess they aren't paranoid about explosions! :/

My favorite-favorite part of that visit, however, was the wall decorations. Classroom notes, sketchbook pages, and formulas were pasted and scrawled all over the place. It was genius! Below is a sample, with formulas for making tubing, alloys for different colors of gold, and the best quote ever: "In jewelry, 1 millimeter is 1 kilometer." Oh, how true.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day: a Cowboy and a Brazilian

Happy father's day to my cowboy westerner dad (who cleans up pretty well for a city party!) and, even though father's day in Brazil isn't 'till August, cheers to my father-in-law too.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Portugal Street Art

Along with worn surfaces and old doors, street art is my favorite thing to photograph while traveling. You can understand a bit more about the people and issues of a particular place based on these images. Here are some of the street art standouts from Portugal, with major props to the Fado-themed murals lining the alleyways and hidden staircases of Lisbon's Mouraria neighborhood:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Portugal Familia Style

Here are some photos my mother-in-law sent me from Portugal. I love them all. The people and the photos!