Monday, November 28, 2011

Still Learning

While I have taken a couple of classes in the art of making silver clay jewelry, my steampunk designs are truly "trial and error" works of art.  I started creating from vintage found objects as a challenge and the designs have evolved as I learned new things about working with metals.

The components in my steampunk jewelry are held together by wire or epoxy as I don't solder.  My youngest daughter, however, has taken a steampunk course.  Yes, they do exist in some places. And she learned to make rivets.  So over the Thanksgiving holiday I got a quick course in rivet making.

Though it requires a little practice to make nice, round rivets, it's not very difficult.  The hardest thing was finding wire thick enough yet soft enough to hammer into flat heads.  The wire Hubby uses for wrapping his bonsai plants turned out to be perfect.  I think it's aluminum.  Basically, you drill holes where you want the pieces attached.  Find a wire of that thickness. Then create a head on one end by holding a piece of wire sticking up about 3-4mm in a stationary vise and hammer straight down with a ball peen hammer.  Insert the wire through the holes of the connection, cut it to about 2-3mm above the metal and create another head on the other end.  The new steampunk piece above is my first attempt at rivets.  I still have to work on making them nice and smooth and round without so much sanding.  But I'm loving this new technique--well, new to me.

Someone suggested that I create a tutorial as that always makes a great blog post.  But in searching google there are several out there already, like this one.

Also, if you can afford it, there are tools  that drill the holes and place manufactured rivets neatly for you.  Maybe someday.  But right now I'm enjoying the whole manual process.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sorry I haven't posted recently but I've just been possessed with getting through all the old papers and pictures I collected from my parents' house.  Some of it is important information about warrantees and blueprints.  Most is 60 years of memories.

Because for all the boxes and papers there's no place sit in my family room, and because there's something attached to all this paper that I seem to be allergic to (dust mites, mold?), I really needed to finish asap.

Well, it's done.  I've created picture albums for both my daughters and one for my brother that chronicle the lives of John and Stasia Libera.

Among the mass of old photos I found this gem so appropriate for Thanksgiving and the feast we celebrate it with.  That's Dad on leave in a staged photo that made the front page of the local paper.  No, he didn't really slaughter that poor bird.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sale at Jansjems Online

It's the end of our craft shows for the year and time to start building a new inventory for 2012.  In order to thank my loyal customers for another successful year and to encourage potential new customers to visit us on Etsy, Jansjems is having a sale on all the gemstone necklaces, bracelets, & earrings.

The sale begins today, Nov. 15 and will continue until Dec. 31 (or until inventory runs out.)

At 40% off, these pieces are priced to sell.  If you're shopping for something handmade and unique for yourself or for someone else but are hampered by a limited budget, now's the time to buy.

Locally you can still find Jansjems designs at two locations--silver jewelry at The Daylily in South Deerfield, MA and steampunk at the Pushkin Gallery Holiday Market in Greenfield, MA.  We'll also be active through the holiday season creating new designs for a release in 2012. 

Thank you again for your continuing support local artists in New England.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Jewelry and Holidays

This Saturday I'll be setting up shop for the last time this year at Handmade with Love.  It's in Easthampton at Eastworks.  Aviva and Karen organized a show there in February and it was a huge success.  So I have great hopes for this one as well.

Juried market of 20 artisans displaying only handmade items. Free swag bags to the first 50 people!

When I get to this time of each year it's sad knowing I won't be doing any shows again until the spring.  On the other hand I am excited and itching to create all the new designs I've sketched out.

One of my goals for this year was to try to get my jewelry into some local gift shops.  Well Jansjems jewelry can now be found at the Daylily in the center of South Deerfield.  Bridget has a few pieces of my fine silver and we're testing the market.  But with Christmas coming, I'm hoping they'll all sell.

I was also approached by Darcy Rosner.  She'll be managing the gift shop at the Pushkin Gallery in Greenfield until the end of December.  She does some incredible bead weaving as Sweet Bananaberry and also creates silver clay jewelry.  She wants us to get together for a "clay date" someday:)  That would be nice.  Maybe we'll inspire each other.

Anyway, the Pushkin Gallery will be having its grand opening on Nov. 10.  It's an incredible space with some wonderful installations.  It will be open daily so if you're in the area stop in and take a look around.  And Jansjems steampunk and fine silver will be available in Darcy's gift shop along with the work of several very talented local artisans.

So business-wise, things are moving right along.

Personally, I'm preparing for the holidays. Halloween got snowed out so I hope the weather is better for Thanksgiving.  I always have Thanksgiving at my house.  It will be a smaller and sadder party this year with Mom gone.  But it's always nice to have a houseful of family.

So I hope to see some friends at Eastworks this weekend.  And I hope you'll all go to Greenfield and take a peak at the Pushkin.

Monday, October 31, 2011

You Can Survive without Electricity. But Not for Long

I have to start by saying that I've been fortunate not to have ever been in a situation where we have lost power for more than a couple of hours.  Even my daughters will tell you that when it infrequently happened, it was a treat--reading stories by candlelight.

So this weekend's storm and subsequent power outage was a shock and not a small inconvenience.  The forecast was for up to 6" of snow.  We got 15!!  One of our 40 year old silver maples still had leaves on it so it shed branches this year--big ones--lots of them.  Tho one landed on Martha's fence, none of them did any permanent damage.

Our communication with the outside world was our friends who stopped by with news of towns in the area being 100% without power and the prediction that it would take 5 days to get everyone back up.  So we would have to live without electricity for awhile.  And don't I have a cell phone for just this kind of situation?
Well, that wasn't working either.

Our gas fireplace needs power for the blower to work but without a blower it still gives off radiant heat. Sunday and Monday were bright and sunny so the sunroom got pretty cozy for most of the day.
But the fridge was starting to get warm so we packed up all the perishables into coolers and buried them in the snow on the back deck.  There was no shortage of snow.

I went out on Sunday to shovel off the trees (doesn't that sound weird?).  Our kousa was laying FLAT.  I thought it was a goner.  By midday, though, it looked like Spring had returned.  But I came in completely soaked power for the blow dryer.  In the back of a cabinet I found some curlers from about 25 years ago and had to resort to them.  Remember curlers?

Last night we drove to my daughter's house for supper (she has a generator and her stove was working) where we dined by candlelight (appropriate as she works at Yankee Candle).  The mile between our homes looked like a war zone.  Trees and power lines down and still in the middle of the road.  That was a little scary.

This afternoon as I was wondering how long hubby and I could go without a hot shower, the power finally came on.  Was it only 2 days?  It seemed like a week.

For more pictures of road conditions see my friend, Poetesswug's blog--

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Memories♫ Light the Corners of My Mind ♫.....

I stopped by the old homestead this past weekend on my way to the Roseland Cottage Craft Show which is just up the road.  A couple from near Worcester who own a second hand shop have been cleaning it out--basically taking what's left to resell and getting rid of the trash.  The house is empty now with only a small pile of boxes left that they haven't picked up yet.

Being there is not so emotional anymore.  It's less my old home and more just a piece of property.  It looks smaller somehow with all the stuff gone.  But you can now really see what a solid, well built house it is.

Before the estate sale and clean out I spent weeks going through drawers and boxes and managed to collect 6 large cartons of papers and pictures that now clutter my family room.  And that has become my latest project.  While the house no longer brings up any strong emotions, going through the pictures certainly does.

I thought I'd selectively pull out pictures and create albums for my brother and my daughters.  Many of the pictures have multiple copies and I certainly can make copies of the ones that don't.  I remember most of the events depicted in the pictures from the 1950s on.  The ones that tug at my heart are those taken before and shortly after my parents were married.  They look so different, carefree.  There's one with Mom and a puppy.  I always thought she hated animals--at least she never wanted us to have one.

Dad played lots of sports.  He played basketball for the Polish Eagles and played baseball with the Polish Tigers (Polish culture was alive & well in Southbridge then).  While there are lots of pictures from my parents' wedding I was surprised to find one from my maternal grandparents' wedding.  There were very few pictures of them at all.

I found one picture from Poland of my paternal great grandparents.  I wouldn't have known who they were but for the note on the back.  How I wish someone had labelled all the rest of the old pictures.  I'm sure they're mostly relatives, some from Poland others from France. But I now have no way of knowing.

But prize for the best find goes to the one picture I found of my father playing the violin.  He once told me that he took lessons as a child.   His fingers were too short for many of the chords so he gave it up.  It's my favorite.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Roseland Cottage Fine Arts and Crafts Festival

Well, I didn't get accepted to this one again this year.  So I took a ride to Woodstock, CT., to find out just what kind of jewelry did get accepted.  Last year I applied with pictures of my steampunk jewelry.  While it seems to be what gets me into shows like West Hartford, Historical New England probably didn't find that classy enough. So this year I sent pictures of my nicest fine silver pieces.  And it appears that too was a mistake.  

Taking a tour around the festival I found that though the jewelry category wasn't more than a quarter of the vendors, there were many, many with silver jewelers.  Silver clay pieces and those made by metal smiths tend to have similarities.  There were jewelers with shiny sterling silver, some with oxidized silver, a couple with some interesting designs, and a few that set stones.  On the other hand, I think there were only about 3 bead jewelers and they were all different from one another--riveted, soldered, and crocheted but no strands of plain strung beads at all.

So my dilemma now is what should I apply with next year.  Steampunk is the only genre with no competition. But I'm not sure this show is ready for what might be considered "gritty and industrial" just yet.  I've thought about a high end steampunk with gemstones and no rust.  Play up the whole recycling thing.  Or should I go back to my roots and try gemstone cluster pieces.  I guess I'll be working on this for awhile.

The show, however, is still quite successful.  Traffic was great on Saturday morning despite the $5 admission fee.  And people were buying.  The wind was an issue and I heard that a couple of tents blew away.  There were also a few empty spaces where it appeared people didn't show up.  But this is a show I hope to get into again one of these years.

I did see two members of the Artisans of Western Mass. selling there.  Fortunate enough to get is was Little Birch Farm and Armeith Naturals.  They both have great products.  I hope that had a great weekend.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Virginia Vacation Pt.2

A craft show, a garlic festival, and apple picking.  Just like home.

But in Virginia, they do it bigger.  The craft show was the Crozet Arts and Crafts Fall Festival.  This is a higher end craft show with a lot of regional artisans.  I had applied to this show a couple of years ago but didn't get accepted.  Now I know why.  This show is established with about 135 booths set up in 3 barn-like buildings and a very large tent on the grounds of Claudius Park.   The pottery we saw was unique, like Tom Clarkson's, and the colors unusual--reds, for instance.  Jewelry, even what might be considered strung beads, had a different twist, some unique findings, or dichroic glass made to look like flowing water.

 I stopped to see Mark Van de Bogart, a metalsmith I had met when doing a show in Rhode Island.  It was nice to see him again and knowing he'd be there,  I brought some gemstones for him to set.  His designs are truly "out of the box."  I can't wait to see the pendant he creates for me.

Unlike some local shows here in Wmass, Crozet isn't hurting for vendors or traffic.

On Sunday we decided to get some apples at a place called Carter Mountain.  This has one of the area's largest apple orchards and is a very popular destination.  Thinking it might be like Atkins, we drove to what is located high up on land adjacent to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.  Traffic was so heavy it took us 40 minutes to crawl to the top. And this was NOT Atkins. They not only have the largest orchards I've ever seen but vineyards that go on forever.  Easily hundreds of cars were parked in the fields near the apple barns.

I guess in Viginia they too have to sometimes state the obvious--

We debated about whether or not to go to what we thought was a garlic festival.  It was farther away and cost $25 to get in.  But I'm glad we went as it was actually a WINE and garlic festival and $25 bought you a glass that you took with you from booth to booth for tasting.  Like the festival in Orange, MA, this one takes place in a  large field, among some old grapevines that aren't producing right now.  From the field where we parked (not as steep as those in Orange) we were herded through the old vineyard.
Lots of craft booths, local food, bottled sauces, and jellies are mixed in with a few booths selling a variety of garlic and several booths belonging to local wineries, a farm that produces hard cider, and a couple of booths selling mead.  To give you some sense of the size of this festival, among the maze of rows running through fields and wooded areas, there were 4 stages for music all playing at the same time.

I found some nice Riesling and a pumpkin spiced mead that was wonderful.  But as I wasn't checking any luggage, I couldn't take them home on the plane.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Virginia Vacation Pt. 1

This year has been a bit stressful.  Lots of distractions from what I'd really like to be doing--designing jewelry.  So I took my youngest daughter up on her offer to visit her in Virginia.  I closed both Etsy shops, packed a small bag, and flew (on really small planes) to Virginia.  

Central Virginia looks a lot like Western Mass. which is probably why I kept running into people who had moved there from various parts of New England.  Same scenery, similar lifestyle, but warmer climate (usually).

                                                       Christmas 2010
My daughter had a lot of things planned. On Friday we drove out to Richmond to do some shopping and participate in an art walk. Unique shops line about a mile of Cary St. (known as Carytown) where you can find high end boutiques, consignment shops, handmade chocolates, and arts and crafts.  I really enjoyed out pit stop at Sweet Frog.  I'd really love to see one of these frozen yogurt shops here is Wmass.  They carry unusual flavors of frozen yogurt and the  caramel with pecans on top was my favorite!

And we discovered one of the best bead stores I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot of them). Bangles and Beads has been around for about 20 years and it's definitely what every bead shop aspires to be.  Chuck full of strands of every kind of bead imaginable, it also has a full line of common and unusual findings.  If I lived in Richmond, I'd never have to shop online again.

We stopped for supper at Kuba Kuba.  This Cuban restaurant has won a number of awards over the years for being one of the best restaurants in Richmond.  I expected a high end, expensive place only to find that it's just a small (about a dozen tables) popular neighborhood restaurant.  And it's packed even before 5pm.  

After a couple of Cuban sandwiches we headed off to the first Friday Art Walk.  This too wasn't what I had expected.  Art was not only displayed in galleries but also in a second hand shop, a couple of empty stores, and on the street.  We saw strange paper mache art, deer legs (yup, real ones) stacked in a small tower, great political satire, and a little raunchy comedy.

 Shawn Huckins is responsible for these text message masterpieces.

I don't text message so I needed the gallery explanation to know what these said.  Can you figure them out?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Getting Braver with New Designs in Silver Clay

September has been a pretty good month for Jansjems.  Considering that sales were down in the shows we did earlier in the year, it was a pleasant surprise to see that people are not only buying, they are buying my more important pieces.

I've talked about how much I enjoy working with Art Clay Silver.  But silver can be pricey so for the past 2 years we've been creating moderately priced pendants and earrings.  Recently I took the plunge and made a few larger pendants and strung them on strands of gemstones.  These are the reason I started working with silver clay in the first place.  Given the economy that could've been a really bad idea.  I am happy to report, however, that in the last 2 shows I sold 3 of these larger pieces and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the trend continues.

I've been reading a lot and watching online videos of techniques.  Learning on your own can be expensive if you make too many mistakes.  And I've had a few.  But I feel so good when something works.  So what's so special about silver clay?

The possibilities are endless.  Here are just a few designs that inspire me to keep working on my technique. I did manage to take a couple of classes with Lis-el Crowley.  She teaches out of her gallery in Windsor, Ct. and makes pieces like this one below.

In one of the books that I have there are instructions on how to create Gordon Uyeha's very organic "Forest Spirit" hollow form.  I'm not quire ready for this one yet.  Maybe someday.

And I have admired for years the work of Liz Hall who combines silver clay
with polymer clay for incredible pieces that look like this.

I have a long way to go and lot to learn.  But the journey is so much fun.

Monday, September 19, 2011

StART on the Street

One of the pieces of information an artisan needs when deciding to which arts and crafts shows he/she will apply is traffic.  The estimated number of people who attended in the past tells us if the show is established, well advertised, and popular.  Unfortunately that information is not always available. Occasionally I find a website for a show that actually has pictures of people in the aisles and shopping (and not just their volunteers manning the donations table).  When I can't get numbers, these pictures sometimes prompt me to give the show a try.

StART on the Street just had it's eighth show yesterday.  They have no problem advertising that they get over 200 vendors and attract over 20,000 people.  That's what I want to hear.  When I can't get that information, this is what I want to see.

This show takes place on Park Avenue in Worcester.  It begins at 11am and somewhere between 12 & 1pm this mass of people arrives making getting from one booth to the next a bit of a challenge.  At times we had so many people in the booth I could've used a third person.

The variety of arts and crafts runs from the truly funky and kitchy to high end and polished.  You can buy a skarf made from recycled t-shirts or fine art.  But StART isn't just a craft show.

  Throughout the day they have a variety of musicians performing, dancers, performance art,  mimes, and even a poetry reading stage this year.  There's a section dedicated to keeping children entertained.

And I can't leave out the Chinese dragon who made an appearance.

This is a fun show.   It's loud, it's crowded, it's full of the unusual and the unexpected.  You should try to get there next year.

For artisans who want more detailed information, go to my review section.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Old Deerfield Fall Craft Show

We're heading out to Worcester tomorrow for the annual StArt on the Street that takes over a portion of Park Avenue.  It's big, it's loud, and it draws around 20,000 people.  We decided to go back to Worcester after taking a break last year to sell at the Old Deerfield Fall Craft Show.  But I visited this year's show with a friend just to see if the people who told me last year they weren't going to return, really didn't return.  And they didn't.

While even the fall show, the biggest and best attended of the 4 they sponsor, didn't have all the spaces filled, I was happy to see some new artisans at the show.  Tina's Baskets is not your traditional basket.  She came with basketry art.  Even her actual baskets were unique yet usable.

Liz Blanchflower came with her handcrafted sterling silver designs and unique French knot cord necklaces.

Lou Rudinski, woodturner, came all the way from Maryland to set up a tent with beautiful wooden bowls.

I had a laugh looking at the Art of Conni Togel.  It's all about sheep and they are wonderful!  This one is called "Big Horn Sheep".

I hope these new vendors did well so that they'll return.  Having attended this craft show as a patron for years, I always like to see new artisans.

Gotta run and pack up the car for Worcester.