I learned how to set a cabochon gemstone in a bezel setting during my first metalsmith class years ago. The stone was a warm speckled jasper, oval in shape, and set in a split ring band. I *loved* the way it turned out. Since then, however, I've only set a handful of stones, with an even smaller subset actually making it into the pieces I've sold. For some reason, I just haven't enjoyed the process. At least, that's what I've been telling myself.

The truth is that I've often felt all-thumbs when setting stones. I'd either make the bezel too small or too large, or I'd melt the bezel, crack the stone, or I couldn't seem to get the right leverage when rubbing the bezel over the stone. You name it, it happened to me, often at the same time. So in that sense, I truly didn't enjoy stone setting. But I also knew I wasn't consistent in practicing the technique, either.

In a way, it's been a mild case of torture. Natural gemstones are so beautiful and really enhance jewelry designs. I've been missing the pop of color they lend to pieces. So recently I checked out an online class on bezel stone setting, a class offered in partnership between Rio Grande, my favorite jewelry supply company, and Craftsy, a website offering a growing number of creative classes and supplies.

It was my first experience with Craftsy and I have to say, it was a good one! I received 7 video lessons on setting stones of various shapes and sizes and a number of different tools to use in the process. The instructor, Danielle Miller-Gilliam, was very knowledgeable and an effective communicator. While a lot of the information I received was a much-needed review of what I had previously learned, there were some golden nuggets of information that were priceless to me. There were things I was doing that made stone setting more difficult than it needed to be, and I immediately knew her tips were going to help. I could hardly wait to get started, so I grabbed a couple of amber stones I had sitting on the bench, already having cut their back plates forever ago, and got to work.

I could not believe how much easier it was this time.

I was confident, knowing exactly what I needed to do in the most efficient manner possible. It may have even been fun. :D It was one of those moments where I felt a shift in my head and heart and knew my jewelry making was headed in a new direction.

Amber Clover Necklace 3

Amber Clover Necklace 2

Amber Clover Necklace

I have a number of stones I've been hoarding saving for a time such as this. I have the knowledge and, now, the determination to build them into beautiful jewelry pieces.

The necklace shown here is currently available for purchase in my Etsy shop. Click here for details.

~Christina

Devices
Social media and I have had a confusing relationship ever since we discovered each other. By nature I'm a fairly shy, introverted person, yet I have a deep need to be in community with others. Those characteristics together can present interpersonal challenges. Social media, however, gives me a window into the lives of others without having to be more outgoing, as I've sometimes wished I was. I love catching glimpses of what's going on with my family and friends. I love seeing the creative work of other artists and being inspired by their successes. I love meeting new people (and making great friends) through social media that I otherwise would not have met. I love being inspired to do good, especially in the midst of dark days.

But for me, there is a trade-off to the constant information-feed of social media. First, it's become a habit. Just like I wake up and eat breakfast without thinking about it, I often grab my phone to see the latest news on Facebook or Instagram, without thinking. And if I do that enough times in the day suddenly minutes (hours?) disappear without me being aware. Second, while social media can be incredibly positive, it can also be wildly negative. It's a place where many people don't think about the impact of their words or the images they share. There is open judgement, slander and inappropriate content. I also recognize that everyone simply wants to be heard and validated, sometimes hurting others as they react to their own personal hurts. But is it wise to feed our minds with negativity, day after day, much like a never-ending reel of the evening news? I don't believe so. Third, it tempts me to be discontent. I think this may be the biggest offender. I see the beautiful vacation photos in my timeline and the skilled artwork of fellow artists, happy things that most definitely should be celebrated. But if I'm not careful, my thoughts can easily shift from celebration of their joy to *myself*, wondering when it will be MY time to enjoy that tropical destination or have such incredible talent. And if enough people are "liking" the things I post, that means something, right? It's the ultimate comparison trap rooted in the lie that we can't be content where we are today with everything we already have.

So what does this mean for me?

I'm breaking up with social media.

Sort of.

I'm not quitting it altogether. But it's no longer going to play a significant role in my life as it has in the past. The good news is that the chains have already begun to loosen when it comes to my personal use of it. But for work, not so much.

I confess it's a little scary, as an artist, to think about not highly leveraging this tool. After all, what I do is visual in nature and what better avenue to share my work than a website that others view every day. But for now, if doing so isn't best for me personally, then it's not best for business. As I recently launched the new print collection, I had a beautiful season of productivity when the art poured out. I want to tap into that kind of productivity again, this time though, not feeling the need to stop and post my work along the way. At least, not as often as I was. One of my triggers for spending too much time on the web is posting content. Chad likes to say I start "squirreling" (i.e. going off on tangents) and while I used to take offense to that, I laugh now because it's COMPLETELY true. Being on Instagram sometimes feels like being a kid in a candy store. I am wired to create. I am not wired to gorge myself with social information.

Squirrel

If these thoughts are alien to you and you've always had a healthy perspective on social media then kudos to you! I sincerely admire you. But if you can relate, I hope this inspires you to make positive changes regarding your own use of social media. I've been battling these thoughts for far too long. Enough is enough. Time is too precious to spend another (unaware) second with my face in my phone.

It's time to look up.

It's time to live in the present.

I am worth it.

You are worth it.

Patterns and butterflies. Not necessarily butterflies in a pattern, but the butterflies I've felt in my stomach as I continue making art and know I'm going in the right direction.

Since my last post I've been consistently trading off between watercolor art and more modern, graphic art with saturated color. I'm leaning toward one vs. the other (I think) and am having more thoughts regarding product possibilities. I'm still practicing patience as I wait a little longer, create art and refine ideas...and trust that allowing this process to happen naturally will yield better results.

Yesterday I walked in the back yard to find natural inspiration for artwork and had something very specific in mind. Instead, the unexpected caught my eye (love when that happens!) and shifted my focus entirely. I noticed small, maple leaf seeds in the form of "helicopters", as I call them, dotting the ground underneath our tree. Their unique V-shapes automatically suggested a pattern to me, so I went to work and ended with this:

Seed Helicopters Pattern

Black, white, gray, red-orange and red-purple - my personal, perfect color palette. This pattern says "decorative pillow" to me.

→ Continue Reading

Every artist experiences bountiful seasons of creativity and dry seasons when good ideas seem elusive. Sometimes in the desert, your heart tells you it's time to create but instead, you find an excuse to do anything but make art. I didn't use to believe in this concept called "artist's block", but I've experienced it enough times to know it's a real thing. Fortunately, though, I'm currently in one of the most freeing times in my art journey.

The one thing I've been missing for *so long* is to just

Play

and be okay with whatever ends up on the canvas...or paper...or computer screen. To just let the art pour out and not judge what I've made, or feel like others have to like it, or try to make something that will sell. Those things are certainly important in business, but as I work toward finding my unique style, it's necessary to just experiment and make what I personally love, so my art can become a true reflection of me. → Continue Reading

A few weeks ago I shared with you the charcoal drawing we were given, made by Mom Steward, that we didn't even know existed. Since then, we've received more of her art possessions that are equally as special: an old box of charcoal sticks and a charming wooden box of Talens colored pastels. Again, we had no idea she experimented with art, let alone saved her supplies!

Char-kole box

Talens Pastels

→ Continue Reading

The first day of spring is four days away and this season always makes me want to draw and paint. It's one of the few constants in my creative journey. So, I've been thinking a lot about the direction of my artwork.

Since making the decision to work entirely online, it's given me the freedom to focus on my art again. As I explore digital techniques more and more, I've realized there is still so much to learn about drawing, painting and expressing myself through art. And I believe the only way to arrive is by doing.

In my last post I shared some discoveries about image manipulation using Photoshop. Making those prints has since led to creating art, in a more traditional sense, using Photoshop "brushes".

When I discovered you could create a traditional "oil" painting in Photoshop...or a watercolor painting, acrylic painting, charcoal drawing, etc., it was revelational to me. An entire world of possibilities opened up and I felt like a kid in a candy store.

Pear - Oils → Continue Reading

Recently a special gift was given to Chad and me: a charcoal drawing made by his Mom when she was young. Receiving it was completely unexpected because we didn't know that Mom ever drew anything, especially with charcoal, and we've never seen the drawing until now.

Mom S Charcoal Drawing 2 → Continue Reading

Last week I introduced several new printable wall art designs. Though I didn't know beforehand how the actual art would look, the concept had been on my mind for awhile: taking original, hand drawn sketches and converting them to digital prints.

The tropical theme came naturally since I grew up in Florida and am drawn to the water and sea life (and miss it tremendously). I browsed through my collection of reference photos and first decided on a jellyfish, then a palm tree and sand dollar.

The goal for the sketching phase was not to fuss! I tend to strive for "perfection" and consciously chose to keep it somewhat loose and allow for mistakes with little erasing. It helped knowing I was going to convert them to digital drawings where I could edit out any major flaws.

Here's a look at the original sketches. You can see I've used textured charcoal paper and drew them to the actual 8x10 print size.

jellyfish sketch → Continue Reading

Newbie

It was the Spring of 2012, just a few months after I began selling jewelry. Up to that point, all of my jewelry orders had been from friends and family members. They were (are) so supportive that way.

I was thrilled when I received an order from someone I didn't know, someone who found me on Etsy. She was the very first to order the copper bangle bracelet set, and I wanted it to be perfect.

Copper Bangles → Continue Reading

Clock - Sm
Chad called me from the office today. He doesn't typically call during work hours so I knew it was important.

"Can you please do me a favor and pull some information off my passport?" Those were the words I heard after a brief greeting. → Continue Reading