Sometimes my thoughts are all over the place.  Sometimes that's good, especially when creative ideas are flowing.  Sometimes that's bad, especially when I have much to do and can't organize the tangled clutter in my head.  But today, it's good!  So in no certain order, here's a snapshot of latest work, thoughts about now and later, and things that just make me happy. :)

After a good night's rest, I started my day with an early morning run.  With temps in the upper 50s/low 60s, we're getting back to perfect running weather!  During a run, I rarely time myself since I don't wear a watch.  But today I had a revelation: the old iPod I've been carrying around for years has a stopwatch on it.  So just for fun, I timed myself for the first mile, pushing myself as I ran a little faster than normal.  Afterward, I was shocked to see I had shaved more than a minute off my usual mile (at least as clocked during races).  Of course I couldn't sustain that speed during my entire run, but it was proof that I'm capable of running faster.  And it felt good.

Over the past week I've been working with polymer clay and incorporating it into my jewelry.  It's one of the most versatile mediums I've ever seen, taking on any color and form your mind can imagine.  I didn't know how I'd like working with such a sculptural material, but the visualization required for drawing lends itself to working with clay.  It's not as mysterious as I once thought.  And it's really cool.

I believe my metal jewelry is really beginning to reflect me as an artist.  With each piece created I grow more confident that I've "said" what I'd like to say, focusing more on expression instead of technique.  With my latest pendant, I finally achieved the charcoal, brushed finish I've been striving for, love the geometric pattern and am really happy with the flat cable chain, which I've just started using.

I had a good design session recently, sketching out more ideas for pieces in silver.  Keep an eye on my shop for those to come soon.

My friend Leah recently sent me this photo of her modeling the silver rain cloud pendant she won during my anniversary giveaway.  It makes me so happy to see others enjoying my work!  She is also an artist and photographer (see her work here), and it cracked me up that she can even take amazing one-arm portraits.

I am already looking ahead toward the holidays, making sure I have all that I need on-hand.  I'm planning to take part in another artist show in November, jury decision pending.  If accepted, it will be the largest show I've participated in to date.  That makes me nervous and excited at the same time.  I need to stock up on pretty jewelry pieces!

So, I'm off to start creating.  When I get to spend a few hours straight in the studio, I'm a happy camper.

Enjoy your week!

Christina

Thank you to everyone who participated in my 2-year anniversary giveaway.  There were 56 total entries, and honestly, I wanted each and every one of you to win!

Last year I printed out all of the names on paper and literally drew them from a bowl.  This year, to keep it simple, I compiled the entries into a numbered spreadsheet and used random.org to generate a number that fell between 1 and 56.

Here are the results:

The number 3 was randomly generated.  And here is the #3 entry in my spreadsheet:

Congratulations, Leah!  I'll be sending you a handcrafted silver rain cloud pendant in the mail this week.

Again, thanks for participating.  I love being able to give back to those who support and encourage me in my work.  As much as I enjoy the creative process, it would not be the same without you. :)

Christina

When I ran my first half marathon, I was so exhausted afterward, from the days in training plus the race itself, that I decided not to run another one "anytime soon", if ever.  A sprained ankle and almost three years later, a friend asked me to run another half.  I was skeptical.  But when I heard about this particular race, Area 13.1 in Roswell, GA, including the evening hours, the alien head finisher's medal and technical t-shirt, I was sold.  FYI - I'm not a believer in aliens, but it sounded too cute!  I figured if I was going to train for another race, it may as well be that one.

When the day arrived, my friend, Susan, and I headed to meet our friend, Jenny, at the race site.  Jenny is the store manager for the The North Face in Atlanta and was tending to the North Face booth as one of the race sponsors.  (Jenny is also the one who convinced me to run the half. :))  It was a treat that Michael Wardian, an ultra-marathoner and winner of the Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon 6 times over, was also at the booth spending time meeting fellow runners.  I had the opportunity to chat with him for a few minutes, very curious about how he's been able to accomplish all that he has.  When asked how often he runs between races, I expected him to say every other day, at most.  Silly me.  He runs daily.  DAILY.  And multiple times each day, including during work hours.  Did I mention he also bikes to and from work?  Knowing the discipline it takes to train for a single half marathon at my turtle speed, I was awestruck.  It was a pleasure to meet him and gave me a boost of inspiration before the race began.

Jenny, Christina, Michael Wardian and Susan at Area 13.1 Roswell

Christina and Michael Wardian at Area 13.1 Roswell

As race time drew near, Susan and I headed over to the start line for what was sure to be an interesting run.  One of the most fascinating things about races is that you never know who, or what, you're going to see.  Use your imagination when I say one of the first people I noticed was a guy dressed as a USA Olympic swimmer, swim cap and all.  It makes me laugh just thinking about it.  Another runner was wearing a makeshift hat made from aluminum foil, an alien helmet perhaps.  About halfway through the race, I found the helmet left perched on an orange street cone that marked our boundaries.  Maybe it was just too warm under all that metal.

Other race highlights were alien head balloons that moved and lit up the night with an "alien" lurking around the corner to scare unsuspecting runners, a guy on a megaphone announcing the End of the World 5K scheduled for 12/21/2012: "If this will be your last race, make it a good one!", professional jugglers, a little girl dancing to "Call Me, Maybe" blasting from her dad's cell phone she waved proudly in the air, a rain shower to cool us off, unexpectedly bumping into yet another friend, and incredible scenery, especially from magnificent homes that sat right on the banks of the Chattahoochee river.  For a casual runner like me, taking in the sights is a perfect distraction while putting in all those miles.

After I finally crossed the finish line, except for some first-time muscle cramping, I felt ten times better after this half than I did three years ago.  Maybe it's because I have more running experience behind me.  Ironically, my finish time was to-the-minute of my previous half.  I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but I do know I'm finally motivated to try and improve my speed.  We'll see how that goes. ;)

Here is the finisher's medal for the race, attached to a ribbon that states: "I escaped the invasion".  Love this.

Overall it was a very fun experience.  I'm grateful for friends who convinced me to run it and spent hours training with me.

I'm already wondering when and where my next half marathon will occur.  One thing is certain: I won't wait another three years.

I spent the latter part of last week catching up after being away from home visiting friends and family in FL.  As always, the time with them was very special.  Getting back into the groove afterward, not so much!  I managed to place a much-needed supplies order, catch up on (some) of my emails, finish a new jewelry design, and get back to serious running, so progress was made.  Today I'm feeling much better about where things stand.

While in FL I learned about the migration behavior of monarch butterflies, and even watched one transform from its cocoon state into a magnificent, winged creature.  I have a new appreciation for this amazing butterfly!  Naturally, I was inspired to incorporate it into a jewelry design.  I rifled through some photos I had previously taken of a monarch butterfly and began to sketch it on paper.  Then I scanned the drawing onto my computer, did some editing, transferred it to metal and began the etching process.

The etching turned out beautifully, every line and dot perfectly imprinted into the silver metal.  I firmly believe now that, if it can be drawn, it can be etched into metal with amazing clarity.  Now, when I went to solder the rings for the bail onto the butterfly, things heated up a bit and I lost some of the etched pattern on the left side of the butterfly.  I think my heart skipped a beat when that happened.  However, I was happy that all was not lost, and the unexpected change gives a rustic look to the butterfly.  Look for this pendant in its non-rustic form, later. ;)

Etched Silver Monarch Butterfly Pendant

Here a few of my other latest designs in silver, first a flower pendant with a 4mm ruby gemstone:

Silver Ruby Flower Pendant Necklace

Second, a silver rain cloud pendant and necklace: (update 11/13/2013 - this has become one of my most popular designs!)

Silver Rain Cloud Pendant Necklace

And finally, long, silver cable chain earrings with hammered discs:

Handmade Silver Cable Earrings with Hammered Discs

I'm having so much fun with this.

In other news, my art anniversary is coming up soon.  Very soon.  And that means there will be another GIVEAWAY.  Stay tuned for details.

Have a great week...and enjoy the Olympics!

Christina

Back in 2007, Dave Ramsey, who is known for his expert advice on managing money and staying out of debt, made a guest appearance at North Point Community Church to speak on his "Momentum Theorem".

It looked like this:

Focused intensity over time, multiplied by God, equals unstoppable momentum.  At the time, I was in the middle of a challenging year of both working and taking classes with the Art Institute, and these unexpected words were like refreshing rain for my soul.  Momentum isn't something that just happens; it's created.  My efforts in response to God's calling to pursue a more creative life, sometimes difficult and casting doubt, were validated.

To dissect the equation a little further:

Focused Intensity - the relentless, unceasing kind of work toward your goals, where you keep distractions to a minimum.

Over Time - momentum doesn't happen overnight (though I often wish it would).

Multiplied by God - He is essential to the equation.  Proverbs 16:9 says "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps."  Proverbs 21:5 says "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty."

Momentum - when you see things start to happen as a direct result of the focused intensity you've applied over time, all the while trusting in God for the outcome.

That Sunday we were given a small, wooden "coin" with the formula stamped on it to serve as a reminder.  I kept it attached to my computer monitor at work for the next 4 years, until it was finally time to leave my role there.  Over time.

What I love about this formula is that it applies to many areas of life: you can build momentum in getting and staying out of debt; saving for a new car, college tuition or retirement; becoming a better mother, father or friend; learning a new language; making a career change; building a successful marriage; becoming physically fit.  The list goes on.

In what life area are you building momentum?

Today on my morning run I had a revelation of the signage kind: there are more mileage markers on the trail than I previously thought.  I was accustomed to seeing the large, clearly visible signs that appear every half mile.  Since I don't wear a watch that tells me how far I've run, I depend on the markers to calculate my distance.  And I've often thought "I wish there were more signs, maybe every quarter mile, so I can get a more precise distance if I choose not to run in half mile increments".

Well today, I noticed there are more frequent signs, at every tenth of a mile to be exact.  Unlike their larger companions, they are nondescript, narrower in width and quite easy to miss.  They blend into the surroundings; you almost have to look for them in order to see them.  But, they have been there the entire time, lots of them, and I just didn't realize it.

So it is with God: He is everywhere.  He is in the big things that we can't help but notice, such as the sun beaming down on a clear morning over the water, when we get the new job we've been hoping for, when an illness is healed, or at the birth of a child.  Even when we get stuck in the daily, mundane routines of our lives and don't notice God at all, or start to question whether God is there, He is.  He's at each step, even if we don't see Him, even when we can't sense His presence.

'"Am I only a God nearby," declares the Lord, "and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?" declares the Lord. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the Lord.' Jeremiah 23:23-24

On the trail there was a cool breeze from I assume "Debby" out in the Gulf.  I was so thankful for it, making my run in the heat much more pleasant.  And my spirit was renewed by the reminder that came through ordinary trail signs: my God is with me, always.

New to the shop this week is a summery, silver pendant with a large, natural turquoise gemstone as the focal point.  There was a time when I was obsessed with the color of turquoise; I wore it non-stop for a summer or two.  This pendant brings back memories!  I tried something different by introducing hammered links into the length of the chain.  It required a lot of measuring, cutting and forming, but I like the overall effect.  And, the hammered links are fused instead of soldered.

Up to now, all of my work that has required the joining of metal has been soldered.  When soldering 2 pieces of metal together, a third piece of metal (i.e. solder) is introduced, which is melted into the seam between the metals being joined.  In a way it's like super glue, holding the pieces of metal tightly together.

An alternative is to fuse the metals together, which requires no solder.  The 2 metals are heated *riiiight* up to their melting point, allowing the metals to flow into one another, without actually melting everything.  I have not been brave enough to try this technique until a few days ago, when I realized how freely Argentium silver will fuse.

Argentium silver is an alloy of traditional sterling silver.  It is still considered sterling because it contains the same silver content, but has less copper and contains germanium instead.  This makes it a brighter silver than regular sterling, and less resistant to firescale (the thorn in the jeweler's side) and tarnishing.  It has taken me some time to get used to working with Argentium silver.  It has a lower melting point than regular sterling and is much more brittle when heated.  I learned this the hard way. ;)

However, because of these same properties, Argentium can be fused much more easily than sterling.  When I did this for the first time, I could not believe my eyes!  I assumed I would a) have no visual indication of when the metals fuse and b) melt everything into a liquid puddle.  I was wrong on both counts.  As when soldering, you can visually see the metals join together.  However, the instant this happens, the flame has to be removed.  There is no time to hesitate.

Here is another example of metal that has been fused together.  You may remember my "Rockstar" earrings I introduced a few months ago.  The original pair has been sold, so I recreated them in Argentium silver instead of regular sterling and fused the silver granules to the back plate instead of using solder.

I'm happy to have learned how to do this and for that "ah ha" moment that occurs when learning something new.  It's a technique I'll use from now on, when appropriate that is.  Because there is significant risk involved, I'll use my best judgement to help avoid Puddle City.

Hello blog readers!

Wow, what a week I had last week.  It started with a relaxing, long weekend getaway to Key Largo, FL, and ended with a flurry of jewelry orders, just in time for Mother's Day.  [Note to self: next time you plan a vacation, be sure it's not right before a holiday. ;)]  When I left for FL, I knew I had one custom order to fill as soon as I arrived back home.  But while I traveled, one grew to several.  I was thrilled, but also tried not to panic!

The most awesome thing was having husbands place orders for their wives for Mother's Day.  Ladies, don't hear me wrong: I love when you connect with a piece enough to select it yourselves.  But it melts my heart when a man honors his wife by giving her a gift that he believes will be meaningful to her.

Here's a peek at 2 of the orders that went out the door:

Sterling silver ruby and sapphire earrings, accentuated with cupped flowers

A 0.5" version of the copper & silver ladybug pendant (vs. the standard 1" size)

Today I feel extremely satisfied; the gifts were received in time, and just knowing how the husbands reacted to their pieces reminded me of one of the main reasons why I enjoy doing this: to make others feel loved.

Now to share a few snapshots from Key Largo!  Having never been there before, it was seriously heaven on earth for this FL girl: gorgeous sunsets, beautiful water, terrific seafood, "island" time, and quality time with friends.  I could not ask for more.

The sky was a clear, beautiful blue the morning I left.

Sunset view from one of the local restaurants.

A still, quiet morning: the view during breakfast.

Our slice of paradise for the few days spent on the island.

One of the main things I could not wait to see: crystal clear turquoise water.  I can never get used to the sight.

I would go back again in a heartbeat, and hope to have the opportunity again some day.

Thanks for reading.  If you have your own story to share about Mother's Day, being on a tropical island, or otherwise, leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear it!

Christina

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the Atlanta Dogwood Festival in a judge's assistant role again (you can read my recap from last year here).  This year I requested to work with a 3-D judge again, to be sure I'd get to see all the jewelry work on display; the committee was gracious to honor my request!  My experience this year was a bit different from last: I viewed the work through the lens of someone who has learned a lot over the past year.  Last year at the festival, the thought of working with metal entered my mind for the very first time; this year, I understood, and had practiced, many of the processes that went into creating the beautiful work in front of me.  I could relate to the jewelry artists in a new way that was not possible last year.  I have a much stronger appreciation for the artist who makes a living from his or her craft, and know firsthand how much love and plain, hard work goes into each piece...whether it be metal jewelry, clay, glass, or a leather handbag.

I am so grateful to have had this bird's eye view of the festival these past 2 years.  It fills my inspiration cup to the brim and allows me to connect with artists I would not have the opportunity to meet otherwise.  One of the artists selling at the market this year, who I hadn't met before or since last year, recognized me when I entered the booth.  Is that special or what?!  Thank you to those who recruited me for the festival again this year; it's truly a rewarding experience.

In the days since, I've finished a new pendant: I've received so many compliments on the silver ladybug pendant over recent months, that I was inspired to offer one in copper and silver.  I adore the mixed metal appearance.  What's pretty darn exciting is that the very same day it debuted, I sold the first one.  I need to head back to the studio to create a small batch to have on-hand; I have a feeling this ladybug will be just as special as the first.

In other news, when making purchases from my shop, you can now check-out directly via Etsy instead of being rerouted through PayPal (of course, if you prefer to use PayPal you still can).  It's a new feature I'm thankful to have that hopefully improves the buying experience for you.

This week I also hope to start a painting for my husband.  He has a large wall space in his office that is begging for art, and I've agreed to create a little (or big) something to adorn it.  It will be fun to make something just for him: he's not an art person so I will probably *never* have this opportunity again. ;)

Thank you so much for reading my blog and supporting my work.  I appreciate you more than you'll ever know.

Christina

The past couple of weeks held a flurry of activity getting ready for the art and jewelry show. When the day arrived I was blessed with yet another gorgeous day of sunshine and cool temps.  This show built on the last, as I learned more from a logistics standpoint and how I can improve on the display of my work.  I've also learned there is always an element of surprise and this time, it was bugs: teeny, tiny critters so small you could almost miss them, except that their bright, neon orange color gave them away. I learned REAL fast that it was a bad idea to squish them, especially on a white surface (ew). But, my husband saved the day when he found a much better way to "eliminate" them, using gift wrap tape: just stick and remove. No mess, no cleanup. Genius.

As expected, I really enjoyed talking with those who visited my tent, and seeing and hearing their reactions to my work. One of my favorite moments occurred when a new artist friend of mine noticed a little sign I had constructed to let others know my artwork had been chosen for Parenthood last year.  Before she could get her words out she was grinning from ear to ear, almost in laughter.  Parenthood is one of her favorite shows and she was thrilled to hear my art was on set.  Her obvious, genuine excitement just made me smile.

Here is a snapshot of the jewelry table.  Not bad for a first run?  There was a lot of white there.  I like it on the table, but next time will consider something for behind it if I'm going to have the white tent wall attached as shown here.

With that behind me, I have been busy making a few changes to my Etsy shop.  I've added a couple of new jewelry pieces, including a modern, silver ring with pierced bamboo design.

Also available is a single copper bangle bracelet vs. an entire set.

And, I've put a few items on sale, including the black onyx necklace and silver hoop earrings with spinner rings.  Just look for the word "SALE" at the front of each listing.

Lastly, I'm introducing a new section in my shop called "Imperfect Beauties".  Sometimes I finish a jewelry piece (including polishing) and notice that something is a little off...just enough that I don't want to rework it, but also feel like I can't sell it for the regular price, and believe someone else would still enjoy it.  The item has to be functional, and of course beautiful, by my standards.  This section will be sparse, but I think it's a fun, new way to share my work that otherwise would sit on the bench until the end of time.  The first item to be included here is one of the silver and copper stacking rings with silver granule.  The granule is just a hair off-center, but otherwise, it's gorgeous.  You may think the price is, too. ;)

That's it from an art-related front.  I'll end with a few photos snapped around the yard recently.  Some of the blooms are almost finished, so I'm glad I caught them before it was too late.

Enjoy your week. :)

Christina