"Line" is in quotes because that may be a stretch: there are only two pieces in this new jewelry "line". ;)  However, they are most definitely inspired by Fall.  These are my submissions for a local artist show being held in September, with a Fall theme.  Since that's my favorite season of the year, it didn't take long for me to design some new originals.

The first is an oxidized, or blackened, copper pendant necklace with a hand-sawed silver maple leaf.

ImageImageThe second is a pair of "Falling Leaves" earrings, made from oxidized copper, silver, and brass.  Each earring has a single brass leaf as a focal point.  Sawing and filing each teeny tiny leaf required a lot of patience, so at first I wasn't sure if I would make them again.  But I love the outcome so much, how could I not.

Image

Both of these designs are currently available in my shop on a made-when-ordered basis.

I'm ready for Fall now.

I'm fond of the saying "go big or go home".  While I'm not always brave enough to "go big", sometimes I find it necessary to take a risk and do something that's scary to me.  Personal and professional growth often happens when I'm willing to take that risk.

From the beginning I've believed there is an audience for my work in the city of Atlanta (vs. the suburbs only), but haven't felt ready to show it there.  If you asked me why, I would have given you a big list of reasons why the time wasn't right.  And many of them were valid.  But, recently I felt a gentle nudge to make a stronger effort in letting my work be seen.  And as I've learned in the past, it's always best to act on that prompting, even though I don't know the outcome.  So, I applied for my first art show in Atlanta.

It is a juried show, meaning a panel of artist jurors looked at the applications and determined who would be accepted; applying didn't mean automatic acceptance.  After sending my application I second-guessed everything: did I submit the right jewelry pieces?  Were the photos good enough?  Would my work stand out from the other jewelry artists who applied?

Well, I'm glad to announce the jurors saw something special in my work, because I've been accepted as an exhibiting artist. :)  I can't tell you how happy (and surprised) I was to receive the news.  Showing my work in Atlanta has been a little dream in the corner of my mind.  It's amazing to know it will finally happen.

The show is the Piedmont Park Summer Arts & Crafts Festival held August 17-18, where I'll be in the good company of other fellow artists.  Details can be found here:  http://www.piedmontparkartsfestival.com/

Grateful.

Silver Monarch Butterfly Pendant by Christina Steward

Every now and then I have artist "brain-block", when it seems no matter how hard I try, a design idea worth implementing just won't come to mind.  That typically happens when I purposefully sit down to sketch ideas on paper.  But sometimes when I least expect it, ideas and inspiration flood my mind (and heart), for example this past Sunday night when I was simply watching TV with Chad.  In moments of feeling stuck, I need to remind myself of when the opposite is true.  Those moments can and will happen.  And very often, one idea feeds another.

I hadn't picked up polymer clay in awhile, but the lure of the color and formation possibilities keeps it nearby.  I dusted off a book on polymer clay techniques and was off and running again.

Here are my latest earrings in polymer clay.  I used pigment powders to create the icy shades of blue.  Before I used pigment powders for the first time, I didn't think I'd like their final appearance.  I was wrong.

Icy Blue "Shimmer" Earrings in Polymer Clay and Silver

For this flower pendant, I relied more on color-mixing the clay instead of surface treatment.  I also love the sculptural quality of clay, allowing me to give dimension to the petals and wrap them around the main oval shape.

Purple Flower Pendant in Polymer Clay and SilverFor my latest metal work, I formed a cuff bracelet from copper and sterling silver.  I'd really like to invest in a guillotine shear to make cutting large, thick pieces of metal more efficient, because I'd like to make more cuffs!

"River" cuff in copper and sterling silverAnd a here is small, sterling silver cross pendant made from hammered, flame-formed dots:

Sterling Silver Dotted Cross Pendant

I'm in the groove...at least for now. ;)

When I receive an email that an order has been placed in my online shop, it's always a pleasant surprise.  While I've been in business long enough to know that orders will come in as long as I continue to do my part, I never expect it to happen the moment it does.  It puts a smile on my face every time.

As I processed an order recently, I had a revelation: I'm beginning to lose track, in my head anyway, of who has placed an order from me, and from where.  Especially after first opening my shop, I could look at a sold item and quickly identify the customer's name and where it was sent.  That's still true of those early sales, but not the latest ones.  Now when orders are placed, sometimes I see a customer name and am not positive whether he/she is a new or returning customer.  Sometimes I have to look it up!

It is just a little reminder that slowly but surely, my small business is growing.  

And I'm so thankful.

Oxidized Copper & Sterling Silver "River" Earrings

Oxidized Copper & Sterling Silver "River" Earrings

I'm not adverse to working on the weekends; the creative thoughts in my head rarely turn off.  But, I typically force myself to stay out of the studio, so I can accomplish things around the house that I neglected during the week.  This weekend, however, was a lost cause.  I've been tossing a design idea around for a few days and it couldn't wait until Monday.

Learning to etch silver has been a process of trial and error, and mostly error on my part.  It combines skills of drawing by hand, drawing on the computer, transferring images to metal, and etching with the right solution, in the right way, for the right amount of time.  Many times I've been especially frustrated with the transfer part, typically heating the metal too much and causing the image to "melt" away from the metal.  Or my favorite, melting a beautifully etched piece of silver with my torch, forgetting the metal is thinner in the parts that have been etched.

But it's starting to click.

Etching allows for such intricate designs in metal, it's amazing.  I recently revisited the monarch butterfly pendant and loved the result so much, this sea turtle pendant was right on its heels.

I love it.

The past two weeks have been somewhat different from the norm: last week C and I spent a week in FL on vacation, and this week, well, I must have had too much fun because I contracted a virus that left me with a 24-hour fever, among other things.  C joked that I'm a "bubble girl" because I rarely get sick now that I work on my own.  Put me in a large crowd of people in enclosed spaces (think planes, hotel, Disney!) and I don't stand a chance. ;)  Thankfully, I'm on the mend.

There is always mental clarity that comes the moment I realize I'm recovering from an illness.  I literally woke up with a smile this morning, extremely grateful that my fever broke during the night and anticipating how I'd spend the day.  My mind raced between making new jewelry designs, restocking current ones, drawing, painting, and (wait for it) catching up on household chores I've been too sick to do.  (The house actually won this morning, but the day isn't over.)  I remembered things I want to accomplish but have set on the back burner.  My mind was renewed.

Lately I've also felt a sense of momentum regarding my jewelry design aesthetic, as new ideas have been freely flowing and more and more, I feel confident sharing a finished piece with the world.  It's amazing to see the progression of my work in the nearly 2 years I've been making jewelry.

And there is still so much to uncover.

Below are two of my latest earring designs in copper.  The first pair I thought was truly fabulous when I finished it, full of texture and dimension.  That thought was confirmed when the original sold fairly quickly.  Now, they are available on a made-when-ordered basis, or when I can restock them!

Hammered Copper Stacked Circle Earrings

Hammered Copper Stacked Circle Earrings

These earrings are another version of the silver "River" earrings, this time with dark, oxidized copper and shiny silver accents.  They are oh-so-contemporary.

Oxidized Copper & Silver "River" Earrings

Oxidized Copper Earrings with Silver Accents - "River" Earrings

I've really like the finish on both sets of these earrings (patina with high shine), and it's something I'm going to experiment with more.

Now I'm off to finish the second half of the day.  I'm still moving a little slow, but hopefully can do something more than just wash dishes and gather the trash. ;)

There is a neighborhood Schnauzer named "Miley" who is salt & pepper in color, just like Hannah was.  In the past, there was no mistaking her for Hannah; the differences were significant enough that we could clearly tell them apart.

The first time I saw Miley shortly after Hannah's passing, though...oh the tears.  Big, ugly tears.  Suddenly, she looked exactly like Hannah and it was more than my heart could handle.  A few weeks later, I saw Miley again from my car, and this time, it made me smile.  It was all I could do to stop myself from opening the car door and giving her a big squeeze.  Today, almost 3 months since losing Hannah, Miley came to greet me while I ran in front of her house.  I stopped to love on her, and how precious it was.  She looked up at me with such a familiar face, those same eyes, floppy ears and bearded muzzle, and proceeded to roll onto her back in submission the same way Hannah did.  Silly thing.

I'm doing so much better today than I was in February.

But it's a process.

Selling art and handcrafted jewelry online is not quite like selling it in person.  While I do my best to take photos of my work so customers know just what they're getting, it's impossible to convey 100% of the details by that alone.  You can get close, but there is no replacement for seeing an object with your own eyes and holding it in your hands.

A new customer shared these words with me after ordering the oxidized silver "River" earrings online (italics mine):

"I love the earrings I purchased from you last week ... I guess it goes without saying that I love the design since I ordered them but what I wasn't really expecting was the beautiful quality of the earrings ... they feel like butter. They are perfect." ~Kathryn

Oxidized Silver "River" Earrings

What that statement Kathryn gave words to something I believe but not articulated: good jewelry should not only look good, but it should feel good, too.  After sawing sheet metal, work is required to smooth the jagged edges and remove imperfections from the surface.  I often use a rotary tumbler to burnish the metal even further.  And after all the other processes that go into making a piece of jewelry, in the end, the wearer should feel like she's received something lovingly handcrafted, of good materials and quality, and worthy of her investment.

That is my hope each time I package an order and place it in the mail: that the recipient finds the jewelry even more beautiful, visually and to the touch, than imagined.  If that happens, then I have been successful.

I don't hear back from every happy customer, so when I do, it truly makes my day.  Thank you so much, Kathryn. :)

Christina

Yesterday's acts of violence at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon sent me reeling.  I watched video footage in horror as fellow runners and their supporters, with no warning, were physically assaulted by two bomb blasts.  This attack happened on people that I love, in a city that I love.

Running is not just something one does to stay physically fit, though that's a big part of it.  There's also a spiritual aspect to it: running pushes the limits of the human body, making you realize with each accomplishment there is something larger than yourself at work.  I believe this is why many runners choose to run a race on behalf of a loved one who has suffered an illness or injury.  The months spent training for a race are meant to be celebrated when finally, exhausted but triumphant, you cross the finish line, maybe even seeing familiar faces in the crowd cheering just for you.

I can't comprehend why anyone would want to devastate such a beautiful picture.

From the time I've spent in Boston, one thing is for certain: those who live there, love it.  Since yesterday I've heard many Bostonians say they never expected this type of violence to happen in their city.  I wouldn't either.  My heart is hurting for those who lost a loved one, the injured and those caring for them, and for each person who is now worn and tattered from what they saw and felt in those moments.

You are being lifted up in prayer.

State Capitol Building 2011

Many times my jewelry designs begin as an idea in my head that I sketch onto paper.  It can be as simple as this:

Image

Sketching helps me iron out as many details as possible before I begin actual work on the piece.  It's quality control up front.

Once I'm satisfied with a general sketch, I'll recreate it on the computer to nail down actual shapes and sizes, much like this:

Sometimes the design changes from the pencil sketch.  But having a design on the computer allows me to recreate it easily, over and over again.

Finally, I take the polished (no pun intended) digital design and transfer it directly onto metal.  It's possible at that point I might change minor details, but typically I stay true to the overall design.

Here is the finished result of this particular sketch: a pair of mixed metal, silver and copper chevron earrings.

Silver & Copper Chevron Earrings

Copper & Silver Chevron Dangle Earrings

I love these.