Wednesday, December 2, 2015

JAC November Challenge - Fall Leaves

The monthly challenge at the Jewelry Artisans Community for November was "Fall Leaves" and our source of inspiration was this chromolithograph titled "Fall Leaves" by Olive Whitney.

I knew that given the wonderful colors of Autumn, we'd have some fabulous entries, but as always, this group of artists never fails to amaze with their creativity and talent.

Our first submission was from Gayle of 2FabFristers who treated us to these lovely fall leaves earrings featuring dangling leaf charms and beads in fall colors.

Next up was Carina of Violetmoon's Corner with this fantastic fall leaves bib necklace.  Carina hand stitched many of the individual leaves into place.

Cat of Cat's Wire gave us these beautiful leaf earrings that are bead loomed from different tones of red, amber and orange.  Cat added crystals, not only because she likes dangles, but also because they added the look of serrated leaves

My entry is a pendant that consists of a pair of wire woven copper leaves onto which a mosaic of beads in fall colors of cranberry fresh water pearls, copper colored fresh water pearls, golden glass beads, multi-colored jasper and green beads have been attached through additional wire weaving.

The fantastic submissions for this month's challenge remind me of why Autumn is my favorite season - who can resist these wonderful, vibrant colors?  Not me, that's for sure!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

November 2015 Blog Carnival - Time Management and Motivation

The topic of the Jewelry Artisans Community (JAC) for the month of November is Time Management and Motivation.

Well, I happen to be very much on topic this month as the posts were due on November 24 and here it is November 29 and I am just getting started.  What got in my way this month?  Preparing for a major vacation did it; we left for Thailand on November 25 and there were a million things to do and no time left over for blogging.

Now that I've been in Thailand for 24 hours and am getting settled into our accommodations, a small block of time presented itself this afternoon because it is currently too hot to be outside.

The problem with time is that there is never enough of it.  In June of 2014, I retired and looking back I honestly don't know how I had time to have a job.  Now that I'm no longer working, the time has been filled with activities that I look forward to doing, but time is still in short supply.  What I've found helps me most in meeting deadlines such as this blog post is to keep a calendar and try to prioritize based on when something needs to be finished.   This usually keeps me focused and on task except when something like preparing for a big event such as a vacation comes up.

Motivation is one of those things that I find harder to manage than time because it can't be managed.  One is either motivated or they are not.  I'm a great avoider when not motivated.  I will do the most detested of household chores such as cleaning the oven or removing disgusting gunk from the sink drain in order to avoid a project if I'm not motivated.  Other avoidance strategies include doing every single thing on a list of chores except the one I should be doing, spending time on the internet doing important things like reading forums and playing games, deciding to organize the junk drawer, calling a long lost friend, planning a week's worth of meals...I'm sure you get the picture!

I always felt bad about this until I realized that if motivation is lacking, it just is.  Of course, there are times we can't avoid tasks such as important projects for work or filing our taxes, but most of the time it's ok to set projects aside until that creative spark returns.  While it used to make me sad to have a free day to work in my studio, only to find myself unable to find the motivation to even pick up a single bead, it no longer bothers me (much).   Instead of worrying about it, I will do something else like tidy up my studio, read a book, work in the flower beds, take a walk or go out to lunch with a girlfriend.  When motivation returns it brings with it a renewed enthusiasm and desire to get back to the beads and wire along with many new ideas.  Creating jewelry is then a joy, rather than a dreaded chore.   If you find yourself lacking motivation, don't fight it.  It will come back and will be better than ever when it returns.

The best of all worlds is when time and motivation cooperate with each other and there is plenty of both.  I find myself turning out one design after another, experimenting with new techniques and materials and coming up with so many ideas I want to try that I can't write them all down fast enough.  Which brings me full circle with this post - being at that level of creative activity, while extremely satisfying, can be exhausting and often results in all other aspects of life being neglected.  Having those down periods of no time and no motivation allows us to re-charge and a chance to spend time with our families, pets, friends, to take care of our homes and nourish our bodies.  To have this balance in our lives is what makes us well balanced individuals who are fulfilled in all aspects of living.

To see what other participants in this month's blog carnival have to say on the topic of time management and motivation, please click on the links below:

Cat's Wire
Violetmoon's Corner
The Crafty Chimp

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Jewelry Artisans Community October Blog Carnival - Favorite Materials

If it seems like it's been a while since the Jewelry Artisans Community carnival, you are right.  We took August off as a summer break intending to return the next month and then completely forgot about September!  And now, here it is, time for October already with our chosen topic - Favorite Materials.

It wasn't hard for me to choose which materials are my favorites.  While I like to experiment with different things such as making paper beads, dabbling in fabric and pounding metal, my true loves are working with wire and painting little miniatures using acrylic paint.

Wire is awesome stuff.  It can be bent, spiraled, looped, wrapped, woven and twisted.  Wire is available in gold, sterling silver, copper, brass, bronze and craft wire comes in every color of the rainbow.  Wire can also be left bright and shiny or given an antique patina using chemicals such as liver of sulfur.  I love how it's possible to take a length of wire and using nothing but my hands and my tools create a fabulous piece of jewelry.

Like these twisted copper earrings for example:

Or, this crescent moon pendant:

How about a braided copper cuff:

Herring weave is a particularly fun wire technique:

This wire woven pendant is based on Peruvian thread weaving and is one of my favorites:

Free form wire wrapping has a mind of it's own:

I mentioned earlier that painting miniatures is my other passion, so I would have to say that acrylic paint is the other material that I primarily enjoy using.  By taking a piece of rock, bone or wood to use as my canvas I have created little paintings that are not much larger than an American quarter.

Like these:

The minis need to be sealed in order to protect the paintings and to provide a glossy finish.  It is a very tedious process of applying the sealer, waiting for it to dry, sanding it and repeating the process on both sides of the pendants several times until a perfectly smooth glossy finish is achieved.   It's also a process that can take weeks to finish mostly because of the drying time.  

I started looking for an alternative that would result in the same beautiful glossy finish but that would be much faster and still hold up to wear.  During this period of research, I came across examples of resin jewelry and thought that this could be the answer.  There is definitely a learning curve to using resin and after much experimenting and practicing, I decided this was the direction I wanted to pursue.

Here are some of my recent creations using resin:

I am in love with resin!  It's not just the ease of use, the quick drying times or the glossy finish that resin achieves .  Resin gives the little paintings a depth they've never had before; they almost seem to have come alive.  My work has been elevated to a new level of craftmanship and the resin has taken me in all sorts of new directions including experimenting with encasing leaves, flowers, pebbles and sea shells in resin.

My jewelry making journey has been one of constantly exploring new techniques and materials but I always come back to wire and paint and now resin has been added to the list.  I don't see that changing anytime soon; working with these materials is when my creative urges feel the most fulfilled and satisfied.

To see what other members of the Jewelry Artisans Community have to say about their favorite materials, please click on the links below:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

JAC August/September Challenge - Shoulder Dusters

The theme of the Jewelry Artisans Community August/September challenge was "Shoulder Dusters".  In the jewelry world, shoulder dusters are long, dangly ornate earrings that brush the shoulders.  Sometimes, they hang below the shoulders.  Shoulder dusters are often worn by women in stunning gowns at glamorous evening events.

From Carina of Violetmoon we had two entries.  First, this fabulous pair made of chain and fresh water pearl dangles. 

Next, Carina gave us these lovely wire wrapped pale green dusters made of glass beads.

Cat from Cat's Wire caged faceted garnet colored beads using a netting technique and added a ruby colored tear drop dangle for her elegant earrings.

For my entry, I made wire woven copper leaves in three sizes and connected them smallest to largest.  The design was inspired by this birch leaf earrings tutorial from Wire Jewelry.

I'd be proud to wear any of these shoulder dusters to a fancy event - just looking at them makes me feel like getting all dressed up for a party!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Spider Web Fun

Halloween is almost upon us and I thought it would be fun to do something with spider webs.  Using a wire weaving technique and brightly colored craft wire, I created these fun and whimsical spider web hoops earrings.  They are not your grandmother's cobwebs!


Not only were they fun to make, they are fun to wear.  I chose a lime green pair and a red pair for myself and I might go for a pair in every color!  If you want to stand out from the crowd and are looking for unique Halloween earrings, all of these brightly colored cobwebs are now available in my etsy shop at Jewelry Art by Dawn.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Jewelry Artisans Community July Challenge - Fiber and Mixed Media

Each month, a themed challenge is held at the Jewelry Artisans Community and all members are invited to participate.  The theme of the July challenge was "Fiber and Mixed Media".  Fiber and mixed media uses materials such as hemp, ribbon, cord, fabric, yarn, felt, shibori ribbon as well as recycled components, paper, found items, leather, glass, metal and the list goes on and on. Combine two or more materials and you've created mixed media jewelry.  For the purposes of the challenge, the main focus was using fibers in our designs.

The entries were so creative and absolutely gorgeous.

Cat of Cat's Wire was the first to submit a challenge piece and she gave us this stunning bracelet.  Cat used a satin ribbon instead of thread and although she put the ribbon on the loom to get the right tension while sewing, it is not bead loomed. The thread that goes through the tile beads also goes through the ribbon, not over and under it as in bead looming.  The bracelet is closed with a snap button.

But, Cat wasn't done just yet.  Next we were treated to this versatile piece that can be worn as a bracelet or an anklet by simply adjusting the kumihimo cord.  Love the fringe, Cat!

Next up, we had this adorable beaded embroidery cat from Caroline of The Crafty Chimp which was turned into a wall hanging.  Wouldn't it be sweet to have hanging on a wall where one spends a lot of time in order to be able to look at it often?

And, then Caroline set the bar even higher with this wonderful beaded mixed media box.  Love the cameo combined with the tie dye look!

Violetmoon's talented Carina  created these lovely works from some fabric she had leftover from an upholstery project.  She combined the blue fabric with sparkly beads and wire for her necklace and bracelet set.  Fabulous!

My entries for the challenge included this woven cotton cord charm bracelet.  Besides the charms, I also used buttons as embellishments:

And, I also cut up an old shirt to make this braided cuff that has been adorned with one seriously big bead.

This was another fun challenge and, as always, I never ceased to be amazed at the creativity of the members of the Jewelry Artisans Community  Great job, everyone!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

JAC June Challenge - Landscape at Collioure

The June challenge at the Jewelry Artisans Community was to create a design based on the painting "Landscape at Collioure" by Henry Matisse.  Because the painting didn't "speak" to many of us, it turned out to be a rather challenging challenge, but as always, the talented members of the JAC community came through.

This is the painting:

Carina of Violetmoon made a bracelet a few years ago with beads that reminded her of the painting, but she no longer had any of the beads left.  Her solution was to update the bracelet with these beautiful wire wrapped details.  So lovely!

Caroline of The Crafty Chimp submitted this fabulous design.  She said that all of the little brush strokes in the painting made her think of the colors of the beads in this Daydreamer bracelet.  Wonderfully done!

For my entries, I used these fantastic hand formed beads that I believe are made of clay.  The colors and textures immediately made me think of the primitive nature of the painting.  The whimsy double strand connector also reminded me of the painting.

Using the same beads, I also made this simpler one strand bracelet.  Love these beads and wish I could find more.

All of the entries definitely show the influence of the painting.  I always look forward to seeing what the talent at JAC will come up with for these monthly challenges and they never disappoint!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June Blog Carnival - Using Social Media

It's time again for the Jewelry Artisans Community monthly blog carnival.  This month we're discussing using social media.

I don't use social media socially so when I hear the term, my thoughts turn to how to use social media to promote my fledgling jewelry business.  And, when I hear the word "promote" I can't help but cringe.  It brings to mind images of aggressive sales people who refuse to take "no" for an answer.  Spamming my friends isn't tops on my list of things to do.   Neither is spamming strangers.

Yet, we're told over and over that in order to be successful at selling online we have to use social media to promote our businesses.   Some people are naturals at self promotion; I'm not a member of that club. 

When I started selling online in 2010, I had a "build it and they will come" mentality.  I thought I could list my items, people would find them and buy my jewelry.  Sadly, that has not been the case.  The internet is huge and there are millions of people selling online.  In order to be successful, one has to get their name out there and make potential customers aware of their business.

One way to do this is through social media.   There are so many social media outlets available.  Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Wanelo, Instagram, Tmblr and Google+ are just a few that come to mind.  It's overwhelming to even decide where to start!   Deciding which ones to use is a job all of it's own.

Over the last couple of years, I have made half hearted attempts at social media.  I opened a Twitter account, began pinning at Pinterest, joined Wanelo and started a Facebook business page.  Last year, I began blogging on a blogger account (this one actually!).  Now and then I'd post something, but more often than not, after a little flurry of activity, I'd forget about my social media accounts and go back to what I love - creating and designing.

Not surprisingly, this approach didn't work.  In order for social media to be successful, one has to constantly post fresh content, follow others, engage their fans/followers and maintain an active presence.  I failed miserably at all of those things.

Just recently, discouraged by my lack of online sales success, I've decided to really and truly commit to using social media to get my shop noticed which will hopefully lead to sales eventually.   My first step was to re-examine my social media accounts and decide what I thought would work best for me.

Of all the things I've tried, there are three of them that I actually understand and enjoy to some extent and where I will concentrate my energies:  Pinterest, Facebook and my blog.  

Pinterest is wildly popular with people, so I plan to continue pinning my own work, but to also create additional boards that have nothing to do with my jewelry.  It is my hope that these other boards will reach people that the jewelry ones would not.  I will also make an effort to follow other pinners in an effort to increase the number who are following me.  Because this post is about using social media, here is a link to my Jewelry Art by Dawn Pinterest page

After almost a year of no activity, I started posting to my Jewelry Art by Dawn Facebook page a few weeks ago.  I'm trying to mix jewelry postings with other things that might interest others, such as photos of the twin fawns that were born in my yard a week ago.  I'd like it to be more than just one big page of advertisements of my jewelry listings and I hope the people who follow my page will like that approach.

To my surprise, I have found that I love blogging.  Many people have trouble coming up with topic ideas to write about, but that hasn't been a problem for me.  What I do need to do  is post to my blog on a more regular basis.  Again, it's all about fresh and new content.

It's too soon in this experiment to see results, but I hope that by consistently keeping these three accounts active and up to date, traffic will start to pick up in my etsy shop resulting in an increase in sales. I have seen quite a jump in traffic to my Facebook page in the last week and hope that is an indication that I'm on the right track.

Believe me, none of this comes easy for me.  In a way, this plan feels like a cold, calculated move to entice people into my shop so they'll buy things.  I suppose in one sense it is, because it's definitely a business strategy and I am trying to run a business.  But, I hope that when people look at my pins, check out my Facebook page or read my blog, they'll also feel like there's a personal touch and that I care about more than selling them something. 

All of this is a huge step for one who is too shy to hand out her business cards when someone compliments the jewelry she is wearing because she doesn't want to be pushy.  I swear it's hopeless, but I will try  - maybe it will become easier and feel more natural over time.  One can only hope.

To read what the other Jewelry Artisans Community June Blog Carnival participants have to say about social media, please click on the links below:


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Day Four - Feelin' Frisky

Yesterday the fawns were four days old.  They must have felt like celebrating because they were full of themselves.  They've definitely got those legs under control now!

My apologies for the black bars - those are part of our deck railing and for the fawns being cut off in some of these photos, they are hard to keep up with when they get going!

No matter how many times I experience fawn season, I will never grow tired of watching the little ones and their antics.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Fawn Season Has Arrived

Living in the mountains means sharing space with wildlife.  After all, they were here first.  I can't even begin to describe what a privilege it is to see deer meander through our yard on a daily basis, to spot a bear now and then and on very rare occasions to glimpse a mountain lion.

And, of course, there are the smaller creatures such as rabbits, skunks, racoons and squirrels who entertain us with their antics.  The squirrels are especially fun to watch.

But, nothing beats fawn season.  There is a doe who spends much of her time hanging around our house.  I've pretty much given up on my flower beds because she not only eats the flowers, but likes to lay in the moist soil.  It probably feels nice and cool on hot summer days.  When the apples are ripe, she leaves a few for us if we're lucky.  We noticed a few weeks ago that she was getting pretty big in the belly and suspected she was pregnant.

Think there might be something in there?

She's not telling.

The last couple of weeks, she's been exhibiting nesting behavior such as digging a hole under the motor home and spending hours under there.  Or, sometimes she spends her afternoons under the tractor.  Looking for a den, maybe?

Last night, right before dark, I looked out the kitchen window and there she was with a fawn that wasn't more than a few hours old.  It was too dark to take photos, but this morning, they were still here.

How sweet is this little guy?  Look at all those spots!


I didn't think it could get much better, but this afternoon while working in my studio I glanced out the window and saw mama with not one, but TWO little ones!

 I am officially on cuteness overload!

She must have had the other one hidden this morning.  Does will hide their twins in separate locations to improve their odds of survival.  A predator might find one, but probably won't find both.  These little ones are especially vulnerable for the next few days while they gain strength and get their legs under control. 

Please keep fingers crossed and think good thoughts or say a little prayer that they get through this next week.  If they can do that, they'll be well on their way towards growing up and having their own babies in a couple of years.

To be able to observe their first few days and weeks of life, I am happy to give up my flower beds!