Friday, April 29, 2011

Valuable Antiques or Just Old Junk

So I'm now leading this schizophrenic existence--one foot in So. Deerfield and one foot in Southbridge.  Sometimes I'm a happy artisan, working on jewelry and doing craft shows, and sometimes I'm a cranky old lady cleaning out the cellar of my childhood home.  I'd like to tell you that after 60 years the house is just filled with valuable treasure but so far it just looks like junk.

I've been to the house 3 times now just to work on the cellar and have gifted the garbage man with 8-9 big black bags of trash.  The recycling company has now received 4 boxes of broken down cardboard boxes, 2 bags of newspapers, 8 bags of plastic, and 4 boxes of glass.  Children of The Depression don't purchase top quality products as they're too expensive, but they save every margarine and cool whip container they get because "you don't know when you'll need one."  Well you might need one or even two, but forty?!!  And all the stuff I've now gotten rid of doesn't include those items too big or unfit for recycling.  For that I'll need a dumpster--the large one.

After 37 years of working in a library, I clean by organizing/cataloging.  I have looked inside every box and jar, sorted all the tools as well as nails and screws, and set aside anything still usable that might be worth a quarter at the tag sale I'll eventually have.

The cellar was my dad's domain mostly.  He had 4 work benches buried under mounds of old tools and jars of things.  It was finding some of these jars 3 years ago that started me on the road to making steampunk jewelry.  As he was not a librarian, he was not very organized.  And it seems that it was just easier to go out and buy an new hammer than it was to try to locate the old one.  I found 2 crates of tools and 3 tool boxes.  He owned 14 hammers, 11 saws and countless replacement blades.  I stopped counting wrenches at 35.  He had 2 power drills and 4 old manual ones and over a 100 drill bits to go with them.  You might wonder if he was perhaps a carpenter.  No, he wasn't.  He was a machinist and an avid do-it-yourselfer.  I guess that's where I get it from.

Though I didn't find any valuable antiques, I did come across some interesting tools that I can't identify.  Pictured here is what looks like some kind of clamp or vise.  I took quick pictures of a few things so I could google them to see if they have any value. While several of my items are selling on Ebay for anywhere from $5 to $15, I haven't found the vise thing or the wooden items below as I don't know what to call them.  If anyone out there does, please let me know.
But the best thing I found was a list of names and addresses for some of my father's relatives in Poland and France.  While these people are probably no longer alive, this information will be very useful when I find the time to resume my genealogy research on my father's family.  And where did I find this little treasure?  Inside a Lufkin Precision Tool catalog at the bottom of one of Dad's tool boxes.  The catalog is from 1955 and is ironically the most valuable item I've found so far selling on Ebay for $23.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New Bracelets at Jansjems

Being away and dealing with family issues has made it difficult to create any new pieces recently.  Enter my youngest daughter, to the rescue.  She came in from out of state for the Easter holiday and brought some of her very popular bracelets.

We only have a couple of her bracelets posted on Etsy.  It seems they sell pretty quickly at craft shows so they don't often make it into the shop.  Personally I love this style of bracelet -- colorful main beads and little dangly charms of smaller, often glass, beads.  They are delicate charm bracelet that don't make any noise.

As our regular craft show season doesn't officially start until June, I'll be putting up a few of our new bracelets.  They're one of a kind and limited.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Yes, I AM an Artist

When I first began making jewelry it was out of necessity as I could never find exactly what I wanted. But as I got more creative and learned new techniques, the designs became more involved and more complex.  I take great pains in designing each piece, changing, rearranging, and sometimes taking a piece apart to change it altogether.  But it never occurred to me that this was art.  I'm a do-it-yourselfer so this was just something I did myself, like wallpapering, tiling the kitchen and bathroom, or making my own clothes.

Then a customer compared my steampunk pendants to the work of a metalsmith whose earrings she was wearing.  She was adamant that I needed to "sign" my work in some way and raise my prices to reflect their real value.  I was a bit put off.  I was making steampunk because it was fun and relaxing. But my daughter and I talked about this all the way home from that show.

As I created new pieces I was suddenly aware of the work involved in my designs.  I look for just the right pieces and lay them out.  I look for balance and just the right color stone or glass to make the piece pop.  The chains and clasps I use have to work with the pendants.  And I don't wire it all together until I've lived with it for a couple of days and I'm sure I still like it.  I won't sell anything unless I'm proud of it.

It's my creation.  It's my art.  So when a customer comes along and wants to buy it but asks me to add dangles or move the gemstone, I have to wonder why they would want to buy something they don't already like.

I lengthen, shorten, or change clasps.  But I won't recreate one of my little works of art.  They should instead visit my shop often and look for new inventory that they like just the way it is.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I'm Back!!! And OMG the places that I've been.

For those of you who haven't noticed, I've been away from this blog for a few weeks.  Not out of neglect but out of necessity.  My mom recently injured her back and after a stay in the hospital and another in rehab, she was sent home but very much in need of care.  So I stayed.

You can't go home again.  My home town has done a complete 180 in the 30 years I've been away.  It was a vibrant town until the 70s when local industries began closing down or moving out.  The population was mostly French Canadian, Irish, Italian and Polish. Taking a break from Mom, I took long walks to the library to check my email and saw many empty shops in the center of town.  Not many people on the street. In line in the Post Office I heard Spanish frequently spoken.  There's a small Arab population some of whom own gas stations and rental businesses.  And the great pizza place near Mom's is owned by a Greek man with a heavy accent.

The world of senior citizens.  Mom is in her 80s as are all her friends. Many are hard of hearing, only one still drives, and you can't move or talk fast in their company.  They get confused easily.  Having worked many years at UMass with a really young population who want things instantly and who were more apt to confuse me than be confused, this was an adjustment.  I wish I had a dime for every time I heard "The golden years aren't so golden."

Health care for the elderly.  In the 2 weeks I lived with Mom I took many phone calls from the hospital and rehab facility checking on Mom but with no answers to my concerns about the meds and their side effects.  While she was in the hospital all they did was keep her medicated and fed.  And when beds were needed, they moved her to rehab. And the hospital had to actually get permission from her insurance to move her to rehab.  Rehab can only keep patients for short stays or insurance people get upset.  People of a certain age take a lot of time and patience that most medical personnel have in short supply. And it takes money that insurance companies don't want to part with.  So we got home care.  Visiting nurses came every other day and were helpful.  The physical therapist came twice and just made matters worse and the occupational therapist never showed at all.

Where do the elderly go?  We were very fortunate that the assisted living facility where Mom's been on a waiting list for months called while she was in rehab and said they had an apartment.  Thus began the paperwork, visits to get doctor forms filled out, have her assessed, etc.  Once she was accepted there was her depression over leaving her home of 60 years, some denial that she needed help, and anger.  Getting her to decide what to take was near impossible so I made decisions and moved a few things each day.  The logistics of moving furniture was made much easier for me when my husband and 4 of his friends came in like ants and got it all done in a couple of hours.  I guess seeing the furniture gone made Mom realize that it was really happening.  When I came back to get her after the furniture was moved, she had accumulated 2 boxes of clothes and things she had to take.

She's in a really wonderful place where "companions" help with many of the little things residents often can't do--tie their shoes, make sure they take their meds, help them into bed, cook 3 home cooked meals a day, and plan dozens of activities each week.  The staff love working there and the residents are friendly.

More paperwork, this time for the feds.  In order to get help paying for Mom's new apartment I contacted Elder Services.  They actually have counselors whose sole job it is to help people wade through the 19 pages of application for Veteran's benefits.  My dad was in the Navy during WWII so Mom qualifies for survivor benefits.  There's a 3 page doctor's form, one that gets filled out by assisted living and the rest is all about Dad.  They want discharge papers, his military serial number, where he entered and departed the service and dates.  Wouldn't you think they would have that information somewhere in Washington?  Don't they realized how difficult it is to locate papers that are 70 years old?  Of course they do.  That's why Elder Services gives you help.  The VA can deny your claim if you make an error or are missing information.

So I'm glad to now be back home and doing a craft show this weekend.  I'll finish the VA paperwork too but I want to take some time to make a couple pieces of jewelry and feel normal again.