Monday, April 16, 2018

Conversion and chart mania

Like all 50's babies I grew up immersed in the Imperial system of measurement. I believe I was in grade school when we started the slow road to converting to the Metric system.

Well, it sucked big time. The Metric system isn't hard but the ridiculous conversions just about killed me. I'm not naturally mathematical, my brain works best around words and colors but I am gifted in organizing so algebra later became easy. But why didn't we just do it? Toss the stupid rulers and go for complete change, forget the conversions? Oh well...

Then one day we stopped. WTF? Was it too hard? Did we run out of money? I'm sure there are in depth discussions of why and who was at fault but the Metric system just became one of those things the foreign folk did and we didn't worry about it unless we planned to travel.

Fast forward fifty years and I'm still struggling with the Imperial system, inches and quarter inches and eighths and whatnot. Slowly I've been moving myself over to Metrics.  I see the simplicity of millimeters and centimeters and how easy they are to deal with, especially with very small units of measurement.

However, it's still not perfect, if you want to go slightly crazy look up Wire Gauge on Wikipedia and see if that makes any sense to you. Though I've just about got my mainstay wire gauges figured, 22 equals .6mm, 20 equals .8mm and 18 equals 1mm.

Here's my handy B&S Gauge chart...

Not to mention the sanding grits, oh my gawd, save me, this is just one example of a sanding set I use regularly. This is only one of the many. 

Now Pi is my friend, who da thunk it? If you want to make a ring that actually fits you've gotta learn to do the math. Inner diameter plus the thickness of the wire or sheet times Pi and then add on a bit more if it's going to be a thick ring, holy cow.

I am now fluent in millimeters, me and my digital calipers, and have gradually moved over from listing small measurements in the ever confusing inches to the more easily understood millimeter.

So, I apologize if you can't quite understand the measurements I'm using. I still list necklaces in inch length. If you want a measurement in inches just let me know.


Friday, February 16, 2018


How do I even begin to explain the wonders of this charming country? My life revolves around colors and textures, around sound and small and sensation, all of which there are in abundance in this incredible country, from deepest jungle to desert island.
We started in the jungle, stepping down to the tarmac into thick, wet air, skin drinking it up immediately. We were met by a friendly Mestizo man, good humored and knowledgeable about his country. The Eco Lodge is two hours from the airport on a two lane road, which seemed a kind of rough until we experienced more of the local roads. The trip back to the coast the road seemed like a major highway. Tiny towns, huge Mennonite farms off in the distance, everywhere houses made of concrete, palapa roofs here and there, strange trees everywhere. Then, San Ignacio and a six mile trip over roads the politicians hadn't gotten to yet (they'll wait until the next election), rough roads, bounce you around and make you hang on tight, washes of water hiding who knows what type of deep hole? I ended up with big bruises on my shoulder from crashing into the window lock. Then I got smart and moved to a middle seat where I could hang on with both hands.

Deep dark night by the time we got to the resort, but even in the dark we got a sense of the wonderful experience waiting for us, the lovely cottage, each named for the type of wood in the central beam. And it's humid, everything is wet and doesn't dry. There's a fireplace in front of the big bed, which we indulged in each night, flickering light warming and drying the room, flickering on the walls, pure romance.

The plants, sweet goodness, the incredible plants everywhere, climbing and displaying their colors, philodendron doing what it does naturally, climb big trees and kill anything it gets a hold of, slowly squeezing it's host; bromeliads tucked into every tree crotch, and others sending tendrils down to the ground to gather extra nourishment, rooting from the top and going down. My enameling brain kicks in and starts designing vivid pink leaves.

We wake up and toddle outside, gaping like a pair of city slickers, down to the huge outdoor restaurant, to find food at your pleasure at any time, plus the covered bar ready with a luscious pineapple and rum drink. It overlooks the Makal river and the bird feeder brings toucans to munch on the watermelon left there each morning. Later we see another type of toucan perched in a tree and more birds that I've never seen, including a Mot mot with his gorgeous coloring and unusual tail feathers. I am enchanted and thrilled when we see a large iguana climbing a tree and gratified that none of the snakes made an appearance on our entire trip. Note to self, don't do a google search on Belizean snakes before  you go.

Hanging out as the evening drops over the jungle.

Every day is a new adventure. We head out to the San Ignacio market on Saturday morning to have breakfast cooked local style, tortillas patted out by hand and filled with stewed chicken and rice and beans. Then onward to Xunantunich, one of the large Mayan sites and a smaller one, Cahal Pech. Our guides are Mestizo natives, many who speak both Spanish and Maya and have the features from carvings on the temples. We hear an otherworldly sound from the temple....a roaring that has us wondering if dinosaurs are in the trees. It's howler monkeys, small 20 pound fellows with HUGE voices, an incredible experience. Monkeys creep me out, I'm glad to give them a wide berth.

We take a wild ride on a Polaris, through small communities to the Barton Creek Caves where we load onto a decidedly tippy canoe. Wearing helmets and headlamps we head deep into a limestone cave to experience a Maya holy site, water dripping off the walls and ceiling, which gets lower and lower as I feel my heart rate climb, whew. The culture here is steeped in Maya belief, the Ceiba tree is sacred, it's 13 layers of heaven, it's main body inhabited by humans and the 9 layers of the underworld. Here the creeping limestone resembles the roots of the tree. The priests would spend many days in these caves, communing and offering blood sacrifice. These caves resonate with power. I am very glad to see the light on our way out and feel reborn to the earth.
Two hours back to the coast, hop on a water taxi for the 75 minute ride to Ambergris Caye and off the taxi to CHAOS, scores of golf carts, agressive taxi drivers, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, people everywhere packed into dense housing and businesses. We stumble into a great restaurant, sand floors and delicious food, cold beer, what can be better?

Well, it does get much better, one 7 dollar taxi ride down the island and we find that we've scored a cabana right on the end, this is the view from our bedroom window! Plus the bar/restaurant and lovely pool is right next door.

Oh my, can't believe how wonderful this is, the breeze blowing through the cabana. We quickly make reservations for snorkeling the Meso-American reef which is the second longest reef in the world, behind the Australian Great Barrier Reef. We see all the usual suspects plus get to swim with nurse sharks and manta rays, and on one trip get to touch a shark, skin rough like sandpaper. Adding a first for me of an eel and a lion fish and squid and a spiny lobster that would have fed six of us. This is the most challenging snorkeling I've done and I'm grateful for a life jacket to keep my ocean panic on a low level. I'm not a natural swimmer and being bashed about by waves while trying to swim against a current are almost more than I can handle. But I do and feel fine about the whole thing. I've become a critic of boat ladders, loving the big sturdy ones with flat bars for your feet, old feet attached to old shaky bodies do not do well on round bars, hurts dammit, but it's a small thing.

There's a Mayan chocolate shop in town and we indulge, twice. My man finds a coconut and manages to cut it open and we drink coconut water from the source. He's a, you can't try to smuggle a coconut home...don't even ask! I won't show you his crazy pic, complete with ocean hair and I don't care, but imagine him half monkey and half Ernest Hemingway and you can imagine.

An excellent vacation all around, much deserved and enjoyed.  The journey home is the usual grueling day of plane rides, confusing and aggravating trips through customs and finally the blessed climb into our hot tub and our own bed, with a happy barkathon the next day. I'm so lucky to have a companion to explore the world with, next up might be Costa Rica.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Drawing to a close...

Or, what the hell am I gonna do with all these leaves?

The bounty of rain last winter made for lush maple trees but I swear my back yard is knee deep right now.  Of course I exaggerate and wish dearly that this winter is as wet and wonderful as the last.

As 2017 draws to a close I get to reflect on the year past which was mostly wonderful and filled with fun.

My work as joyful, my skills improving each time I fire up the torch or grab my saw. I love it when a long time customer says she's liking the direction I'm headed. I think I'm more confident in being able to actually make the things that float around in my head. I've experienced more success while pushing to my limits.

This happened recently...

I'm not sure how many I'll make but it was fun and I'm keeping this one for me. My son wants one next.

I'm taking time to explore more stone setting and my love affair with turquoise. I finished this Wednesday this week and sold it on Thursday at the gallery, to a long time customer. This one was hard to let go of but to see it on the hand of such a nice lady was especially gratifying.

I've taken the time to learn about good turquoise and through the web have been able to buy superior stones directly from the miner/cutter/cabbers, which about the only way you can be completely certain of the quality of any stone. You pay more but it's certainly worth it. Why spend days setting a stone knowing it's a dyed piece of junk?

My family is healthy and happy doing what they do, living life, building memories, learning that loving is compromise and seeking to understand as well as being understood. I take that to heart also, knowing that the rough times make the easy times so much sweeter. I revel in each moment of looking into my loved ones eyes while we share a meal and holding hands, whether they are large and strong or small and soft.

I've been thinking a lot about cherishing each moment and each person in this minute because the next might not be here. I love the holidays, each light display, each bit of greenery, each present wrapped and sent or placed under my silly little tree. I love the gatherings and the songs, ooooh, Christmas songs, which I find myself singing softly wherever I go. I'm not the least bit religious but who cares, beauty and love is powerful no matter the root.

And while I love the holidays I recognize that it's not completely joyful for everyone, me included. I am grateful for my strong shoulder who is available when the sadness of missing overwhelms me. It's okay to be sad, to miss family and friends who won't be with us these days.

Compassion. Being as gentle as possible with ourselves and those around us, offering help to the weary, a hug to the lost, and finding time to center myself between the green trees and the blue sky. It's all good.

Peace to you and the happiest of bright New Years!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Crocker Holiday Artisan Market

I'm pleased and honored to have been invited to this wonderful Art Show.  Please come and see me!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Leaves for Fall

Last night I climbed under my big fluffy warm duvet I heard the rain start to patter down softly. What a wonderful sound that is, after the hot, dry, smokey, dusty summer. I couldn't help but smile and slept so well with the cool damp air floating through my open window. I wished that our whole state would be soaked in the healing rain. Hopefully that will happen soon.

Life is a riot of work and fun even while my own dear ones are apprehensive about our political situation and seek to find ways to be gentle with ourselves and those we love and the ones we struggle to love and understand.

I'm wrapped in love and immersed in creating things. We just finished the two weekends of the Open Studios Tour and it's full speed ahead to the Crocker Holiday Artisan Market on Thanksgiving weekend. I was thrilled to be invited to this superb venue to showcase my jewelry. We're planning and building my booth and hoping to be ready by then.

I love organic shapes, leaves and flowers from my imaginary garden. I've got a new series building.

These are blue chalcedony set in sterling silver with my leaves, each cut from silver sheet, shaped and polished and refined.

Here's the newest pair, golden rutilated smokey quartz with oak leaves. 

Gingko enameled in a gorgeous fresh green, on fine silver.

One of my imaginary flowers enameled and strung with amethyst beads.

And this pretty pair of silver petals spilling with rhodolite garnet and pink sapphire beads, which have sold already but I'm working on more.

So, now, back to cleaning house for weekend guests.


Tuesday, July 04, 2017


My experience with learning silverwork I call the percentage method. When you first start your percentage of failure is high and gradually, as you do the same thing over and over, your success percentage increases.

I suppose it's true for most anything, that endless repetition that builds the skills deep into our bones and muscles and mind.

I often hear people wanting to know why a particular thing I do seems so effortless. Well, you should have seen the first 1000, wonky bits that often ended up in the silver recycling cup. I expect near perfection in my pieces, even while knowing my skill level is always improving. Many older things are sold at a discount or taken apart for recycling. It's a wonderful thing that most of my metal I can melt and re-use.

So, now I've set myself the goal of becoming a really good stone setter. I love adding techniques to my bag of tricks, those things that will enhance my jewelry designs and stretch my ever seeking mind.

How many is it going to take? 10? 20? 50? It will take just that many, until I'm satisfied and proud to send those pieces out into the world. The first goal is to achieve excellence in a simple setting, no fancy extras, no pretty leaves or balls, just one well set stone, everything smooth, shiny and secure.

My early efforts have been relatively successful, well, except maybe for that amethyst cab ring sitting on my bench, ick.

This business depends quite heavily on the right tools, especially finishing equipment. Setting a stone tends to rough up the metal a good deal and the clean-up can be daunting.

Here's what I've been working on...

I'm quite happy with this one and it's even made the cut to go to the gallery. A lovely piece of Royston turquoise. I'm please with the bail design and managed to get my maker's mark soldered on the back without making a solder mess. At first you just want to get it soldered, then you go for soldering without extra mess to clean up.

Then this:

All good to the very end of setting and that new piece of equipment wasn't doing quite what I thought it was, result, twisted chunk of messy metal, ack!  I did a lot of metal bending and managed to recover the piece to a certain extent, but it's not anything but a giveaway, sigh.  But that's okay, it's fun to give things away and most people wouldn't be able to see the slight lack of straight. I am happy with the bezel, coming close to the super smooth thick bezel of my dreams.

And then there was the ring shank that shattered in soldering, oops, don't press down so hard. I'm continuing to work, loving every minute of the learning and mishaps, it's all part of the process.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Whew, back home after a week in the British Virgin Islands where I had the best week of my life, sun, water, ocean breezes, snorkeling, basking and exploring tiny islands with my man in the most romantic place on earth.