Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Photographers in Western Mass.

love jewelry and I can create jewelry from many different types of material.  And while I sew a little, knit a little, and crochet a little, photography is beyond me.  Good photography, that is.  You can probably tell that just by looking at the pictures of my jewelry in my Jansjems Shop that I'm still learning.

As a member of both the Artisans of Western Mass. and the Made in Western Mass. team on Etsy, I've come across a few talented local people who understand light and perspective and take phenomenal photographs.  So I thought I'd introduce you to them:
I've never met Moti Zemelman who lives in Northampton, but I love his work.  The photo above is from his travels in Central America. I love that it's calming yet colorful.   And I also found this one "inspired by the Steampunk esthetic", a genre I've come to appreciate these last few years.

Cate Woolner takes stunning photos in places as diverse as Antactica and Martha's Vineyard.  While I've been to the Vineyard and love how she's captured its beauty, I'm just in awe of the scenery from the frozen continent. 

Susan Elkin is from Greenfield.  Her photographs are of rural and urban landscapes.  For me many of them say "home."

Jenn Burdick lives in Deerfield and I've never met her either.  But I've looked at her photographs on Etsy a few times.  I'm drawn to photos that focus in on simple, rather ordinary things.  So I guess that's why I like this one.

But my favorite local photographer is Patrick Zephyr.  I see him occasionally at local shows and always have to stop and admire his nature photography.  While many of his pictures are digitally altered, they are all mesmerizing.

I think this whirl pool is pretty well known.

But his amphibians are traffic stoppers.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Spark! Artshare -- Community Suppported Art

We’re all familiar with Community Supported Agriculture, a program that’s been around for a number of years.  After purchasing a share in a local farm you receive weekly boxes of seasonal produce.  Well, the same “buy local” spirit is the driving force behind Spark! Artshares.  This is Community Supported Art, a shareholding program involving local artisans. It's become very successful in other parts of the country and you can now participate right here in the Pioneer Valley.

How does it work?  Artists selected from a pool of applicants receive a stipend to create a number of shares for the program.  Shareholders then receive handmade products and fine art from one or 2 of the artisans each month. 

Artshare supports local artists in the creation of new work and creates a community of engaged arts supporters. Shareholders receive multiple works of art from local talented artists and have the opportunity to develop relationships with local artists, discover new artists, and support artists’ careers.

Wondering what kind of art you might receive?  Go to the Spark website and click on the "artists" tab to see who will be participating this year.

Will you love everything that you get?  Just as you don’t always love all the produce you receive in your weekly farm share, you may not enjoy every piece of art you receive.  But you probably know someone who will appreciate as a gift what you might not be able to use yourself.

“The idea behind it is to make people, even those who don’t usually collect art, realize how much creative talent is right there in their own backyard. We hope the program will raise awareness of what is going on in our local creative communities and encourage people to support it.”   Dorrie Milan, Michigan’s ArtServe

Spark! Art Share is sponsored by Artisans of WMASS and Food for Thought Books.

Not Neglecting the Steampunk

I've been waiting for some new steampunk designs from my youngest daughter.  She's the one in Virginia.  She sent a few pictures of her pieces but I haven't gotten the package yet.  I'm not sure if this is a pendant or a brooch but it's really beautiful.

I'm not quite finished with the silver but I've managed to create a few new items while I wait for the clay to dry or fire.  My steampunk often have a little bling on them.  I can't resist a gemstone or 2 for color.

Of course with Valentine's Day coming soon, I had to create at least one appropriate piece of jewelry.

One of my favorites is this larger piece with lots of character.
Watch the Etsy shop for new pieces going up slowly as I find time to photograph them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Inventory for 2012

The clay is all gone :(  It certainly didn't take long.  It's all jewelry now.  And you can tell me what you think.

I have to say that except for a couple of classes with a certified metal clay artist, I've been learning the hard way.  Fortunately I've only had a couple of projects that were a total loss but still...  I've been reading a lot and watching YouTube videos (what did we do before YouTube?).  As a result my new collection includes bezel set stones and some pretty fancy colors.

I started off with a few simple things.  For craft shows I need to have a wide range of styles and prices.  Simple pendants and earrings sell well so make sure to have a  few.  This one has a square cut peridot in the center that can be set right into wet clay and then fired.  Some stones can actually stand the super high temperature of 1650 degrees that silver clay can tolerate.  But peridot can only be fired at 1430 degrees for 30 minutes.

At the high end, I've created 4 pendants with bezel set stones.  These have stones that can't handle heat at all.  You need to create the piece and the bezel separately.  Then attach the 2 pieces together and fire again at1650 degrees for an hour or two.  Once it's all done, you can set the stone in the bezel.  This one below is my favorite.  The stone is aqua chalcedony and I've added a few pearls.

Oxidizing silver is pretty much hit or miss.  I've collected a few formulas used by other artisans and they have helped.  But a lot depends on the clay.  Fresh clay oxidizes better than reconstituted clay.  It also depends on the temperature of the sulfur solution.  I've used straight liver of sulfur and tried adding ammonia.  You can imagine how bad the work room smells.  And I've never had the same results twice.

Something really interesting happened with a pendant I made in the steampunk style. The key and lock were created at different times from different wads of clay.  I attached them and dipped the entire pendant into one of my new formulas hoping for a little color and this was the result.  If I had actually wanted the key to be a completely different color from the lock I could never have figured out how to make it happen.

 Then there's this bracelet.  I really only wanted it to be lightly oxidized to bring out the pattern in the links.  I didn't want any color so I just used a watered down liver of sulfur solution. This blue and gold combination was another surprise!

It takes time and practice to be able to handle silver clay well.  There are classes and there's a whole certification process with a series of projects to help artists get proficient and learn to do things like set stones, make hinges, create lockets and boxes.  It costs a lot of money and takes a bit of time so I'm not sure I'm ready yet.  I was getting a 35% discount from my supplier.  But now that the manufacturer of the clay is making it mandatory to be certified in order to receive that 35% discount, so I may be compelled to get the certification.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Happy New Year ( a little late)

It's finally 2012 and I hope that my year from Hell is finally over.  Splitting my a time between Western Mass. & Southbridge took a toll on my health.  I really couldn't maintain any kind of normalcy here and spent way too much time dealing with social services, paperwork, insurance companies, etc. Am now taking blood pressure meds:(   I got some great help from Elderly Services when a counselor helped me through a 19 page application for VA survivor benefits for Mom.  The application was sent out in early April and I was told I would hear in approximately 90 days.  It's been 9 months, Mom has passed,  & I've gotten 3 letters from them saying they still hadn't made a decision.  I was told that I shouldn't inform them of Mom's death until I get a decision as it would just create confusion and more paperwork.

So far, 2 weeks into 2012, all is well.   Though last year started out pretty decent too.  It didn't take a bad turn until late February.  Well, I have big hopes for this year--and some big plans.

To Recap--
I spent a lot of time with Mom so I did fewer craft shows last year and made less money at the ones I did attend.  Bad economy?  Well I hope that's all it was but we'll see how this years works out.

At the end of the year I was asked to participate in a holiday market in the center of Greenfield--a shop set up just until Christmas.  The Pushkin Gallery turned out to be a great venue as I was asked twice to bring in more stock.  I don't really have time to create new pieces during that time of year but I did the best I could.  Sales there somewhat made up for losses during the rest of the year.  I also have some items at the Daylily here in town and, while not booming, sales are steady.

I did lots of cooking and baking as both Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve was at our house.  We had a houseful at Thanksgiving and my youngest daughter drove up from Virginia.  Christmas was quiet, fewer people, missed Mom, and we ended up at the movies on Christmas day watching the Muppets.

Mom's house is still not on the market and I continue to drive to Southbridge more often than I'd like.  We had the floors refinished, the back porch rebuilt, a new bathtub surround installed, some sheet rock repaired, and work done in the basement.  The people who did that work found some plumbing issues that they said needed to be addressed.  A plumber is scheduled for this coming week.   Still need to get the building inspector in and Hubby and I plan to spend a couple of weekends painting 2 or 3 rooms.  I hope to get it listed by the end of February.

On the Positive Side--
It's now January, I've already applied to 6 shows, and have so far gotten into 3 of them.  Woo Hoo!  It's also the only time of year when I can spend large blocks of quality time creating jewelry. I have some new skills--riveting and soldering.  So I made some new steampunk pieces the first week of January.  And this past week I finally opened up my new shipment of silver clay. Made a few pendants and earrings.  But I'm most proud that I successfully set a triangular cabochon of rainbow silica.  Another woo hoo!!

But the best news is that yesterday I purchased tickets for a flight to Paris.  I said that after I retired I would travel and I will finally start this spring.  My oldest daughter & I have a hotel room in the Latin Quarter close to many of the traditional tourist sights.  But we also have a list of 2nd hand shops where we'll look for couture on the cheap.  We're also planning to go to the largest of the the Paris flea markets--Les Puces--to look for some unique findings that we can use in our steampunk designs.  We go shopping every year to NYC.  Maybe we can add Paris to our yearly itinerary.