Thursday, July 30, 2009

When Will it End?

I'm really sick of this bad economy and living hand-to-mouth. I'm feeling frustrated. Come on, people! There are still plenty of folks out there that have money and they need to let go of some of it. I know, I know... the unemployment rate is over the moon and those that still have jobs are scared that they'll lose them. But, the talking heads are saying this week is that we've hit the bottom of the recession. Housing sales are up. The "Cash for Clunkers" program is generating a lot of income for car dealerships. (Not to mention helping get those gas-guzzling, smoke spewing wrecks off the road.) The stock market is up, and bailed-out banks are making a profit.

Maybe I'm feeling this way because of several unexpected expenses I've incurred lately. It seems like the money train is stalled on the tracks and the expense train has passed me. Now, my car is requiring some expensive repairs that can't wait, and, even though it's ten years old, it's not a clunker because it gets 24 miles per gallon. (And, I couldn't afford to buy a brand new car, anyway.) I never over-used my credit card until now. I always paid off the balance within a couple of months, but there's just no other way to pay for these things, and I now understand how you can get in over your head. I'm just grateful that I only have ONE credit card, unlike many people.

Sometimes I wonder if I should get a job working for someone else (if I could find one) but, dammit, this IS my job! I'm an artist. An independent business woman. I hate it when artists are told they don't have a "real job", and the term "starving artist". It's demeaning. I spent a good portion of my life making a comfortable living at this, not to mention that I paid money to learn how to do it. It annoys the heck out of me that the arts are given such a low priority on both public and private budgets. Even our local independent radio station is doing an emergency fund-raising this week because the state cut $21,000 from their budget. This all reminds me of Reagan's "trickle down effect", but not in a positive way. I'll be slashing my personal budget even more after getting the car fixed.

I'm a big believer in the Law of Attraction, positive thinking, and all that crap, so I really should quit whining and maybe use the time I would usually spend making jewelry in meditation instead. I'd really like to have some forward motion on the old money train. OK. I'm done venting now. Ohmmmmmmmm.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Thoroughly Delightful Trip

The house at the end of the road.

I just returned from a wonderful trip to visit my friend, Patty, who lives in a cute little Hansel and Gretel cottage at the top of a mountain near Maggie Valley, NC. It's two rooms, bermed into the hill behind, and connected by a breezeway. We've known each other for eons and our history allows us to thoroughly indulge ourselves in being good friends. We share a lot of the same experiences and interests and we never run out of things to talk about. Also, as we've discussed many times, at this stage of life there's no B.S. We can say anything to each other. You know you have a good friend when you can cry as well as laugh with each other and it's all OK. I'm so grateful for her!

Patty works as a volunteer for the National Park Service in the Cataloochee Valley portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On Thursday evening we took a picnic supper up there to watch the elk. There used to be elk roaming all over the eastern US but it's belived that the last one was killed in the 1700s. The reintroduction of elk into the park started in 2001 with the release of 25 animals from the Land Between the Lakes region on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. In 2003 another 27 were relocated from Alberta, Canada, and today the herd numbers over 100. Cataloochee was chosen for it's remoteness from civilization (many, many miles across winding dirt roads - I'm glad I peed before we left!), for the forested area to give cover and for the lush grazing provided by the valley itself.

Cataloochee Valley
We got there just before dusk and saw the first big bull grazing in the Park Ranger's yard. In the photo below it looks like he's enclosed inside a fence, but these beautiful creatures are wild and can go wherever they want. They're all monitored by radio collars in case they go too far, as was the case of number 81, who made it almost down to Asheville before being captured and brought back.

Big boy! Check out the antlers - and they're not through growing yet.
We drove on into the valley and found several cows with calves grazing and resting in the tall grass. One of Patty's compadres said that there had been another calf born just a few hours earlier and told us where to find the Mom and baby. It was interesting to find out that the biologists put the radio collars on them just as soon as they know they've arrived. Apparently, they chase Mama away and put the collar on just as quickly as they can to cause minimum stress to both animals. This one had already been collared.

Cows and calves - sorry it's dark.
We went on down to the end of the valley and found Mom all the way across from us near the trees. It took a long time for her to reveal where the baby was hidden in the tall grass, and we only got to see it take a few steps and nurse for a short while before it lay back down and disappeared. They were too far away to get a good picture, but we set up our table and chairs and ate a little dinner before the bugs chased us back into the car to finish eating. Just a little ways from us were some photographers with long lenses who let us get a much better look at them than our binoculars did. On the way out of the park we came across four more bulls, but it was way too dark to get a photo. They were right beside the road -- spectacular!
On Friday we scooted on down to Franklin, NC to a HUGE Gem, Mineral and Jewelry show. Below is a photo of part of the wholesale show, where I buy lots of my supplies to make jewelry. It goes on and on and on. Poor Patty gets overwhelmed, but I know what kinds of things I'm looking for and what I'm not at all inerested in and can quickly pass by. They have everything a jeweler could ever want here, from tools to finished jewelry and all the pieces and parts in between.

There's also tent after tent outside of vendors selling mostly rough stone. Some huge specimens that I find beautiful and fascinating, but don't know what in the world to do with them. Nor can I afford them.
Be on the lookout for new jewelry in my Etsy Store. I have new things to work with now and lots of inspiration!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Good-For-Nuthin' Cat

I walked past the sliding door a few minutes ago and there was a squirrel sitting on the door mat looking into the house. Cinder, the cat, was sleeping in the chair on the porch, not five feet away. Can you see in the photo above how close the squirrel is? Just beyond the railing. Gotta give Cinder some credit, though. In his younger days that squirrel would have been lunch. He's 16 now, and too used to the high life of bagged crunchies and canned salmon.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chamber of Commerce Weather

Photo of Grandfather Mountain by Marty Hulsebos of High Country Images.

This summer has been one of the most pleasant I can remember in the nearly 20 years I've lived here. We've had a few hot, muggy days that create haze across the mountains (the reason they're called the BLUE Ridge Mountains), but we've had an awful lot of days that feel more like fall. Today is shaping up to be one of them. I got up this morning and there was a distinct crispness to the air, and it might not get to 70 degrees, accoring to Ray's Weather Center. I don't have air conditioning in my house and there haven't been any nights yet where it's too hot to sleep because I can't get the house cooled off. In fact, most nights I've had to close the windows! I don't know what's causing this - it doesn't make sense that it could be global warming, because it's too cool, but I'm really liking it. It makes me feel spunky!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Good to Know

I didn't know that this was such a big deal, but apparently they can keep your wishes from coming true! Be nice to them.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Incredibly Gorgeous Garden

This is what I've been waiting for! From now until about the middle of August there will be color abound in my garden. Everything has started to bloom, but it's not quite at peak yet. Depends on how much rain we get, but I'm thinking maybe a week from now it will be worthy of a photo shoot for a gardening magazine.
The box in the center has basil, beans and strawberries planted in it, plus a few zinnias and daisies. The beans have lots of flowers, so the beans can't be too far beind. Now that I'm getting a few tomatoes from the front yard the basil is getting picked almost daily.
The winters here can be pretty harsh. Dark, dreary, cold and snowy. When those first crocuses and daffodils start to bloom I can see everything else peeking out of the ground. I wait. I pull weeds and maybe divide a few things. And wait. Now it's here and I can't stay in the house. I'm out on the porch most of the day trying to read or work, but mostly enjoying the flowers, the hummingbirds, the butterflies, and the birds at the feeders. Come over and have a glass of wine and enjoy it with me!

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Couple More

Here's a couple more I made using seed beads to hang the fine silver and dichroic glass pendants from. These are crocheted #11 beads. (Thanks, Debbie, for showing me how to do this!)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Made Some Jewelry! (Finally)

TA DA !!!!
Yup. You heard that right, folks! I actually got into my studio and finished something! I like to make a few pieces that combine my love of metal clay, dichroic glass and seed beads. These are toggle clasp pendants (the focal pendant IS the clasp), so they fasten in the front. I sell lots of these to women who either have long fingernails or arthritis, or just can't seem to work the ones that close in the back. Here's a couple more I made a few months back:

The one below is made of tiny lavendar pearls.
It feels good to have actually produced something that I feel passionate about, rather than just putzing around trying to keep myself busy and sane. Next Monday is the last of the 6 weeks of PMC classes at ASU and the next session doesn't start until the end of September so I'll have some time and an empty kiln to create some things other than class demo projects.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Items on Etsy

I recently listed these six pieces on my Etsy site. I finished them quite a while ago, but never listed them. Almost all of my pieces are one of a kind, so I assign a number to each one and enter it into a database to keep up with where they are... A piece could be in Hands Gallery, Main Street Gallery, Artist's Alley, or Carlton Gallery. (See links to the right) I try to rotate things out of the galleries that haven't sold for a few months. Or, it could be on Etsy. There are only a few that are in a gallery and also listed on Etsy - that gets really confusing, and, although unlikely, what if it sold at the gallery and I didn't know it and someone wanted it off Etsy? Its a lot of work, and I wonder if it's worth it. How do you keep up with your inventory?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer Camp

I've decided that I'm adopting the attitude of my friend, Leslie, who compares her life during this time of year to being at summer camp. If you've been reading this blog, then you know that there hasn't been much jewelry making going on, so I've had to find other ways to engage my creativity and my time. I've been taking nature walks, watching movies, reading and doing arts and crafts other than working with silver clay. (That's really WORK, not a true camp activity!) I haven't made any lanyards, or popsicle-stick houses, or jersey loop pot holders, either.
But, I did finally finish painting my table. It used to be ugly dark stained wood - the top is made of plywood. After priming it, I painted the whole thing with the light blue color, then put the cartoon characters on it. That's how I spent my Independence Day weekend. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to put any designs on the legs - I think I'll just sit with it as it is for awhile. Whaddaya think? Do I have another career here?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Name That Squash

I can't figure out what kind of squash I have here. When I bought the plant, the woman at the Farmer's Market told me it was a yellow crookneck. They start out yellow - see the small ones on the left - but then they turn green like this one. They never get dark green like a zucchini and eventually they turn sort of a light tan. I let one get pretty large, then picked it and cooked it. It didn't have any seeds in it and had absolutely no flavor. My Grandparents were farmers and Grandma once told me that if you plant any kind of vine plant (squash, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins) near each other you won't be able to save the seeds for next year, because they cross-pollinate. So, maybe that's what the woman at the Farmer's Market did and this is a watercumber or a cucumelon. I'm really disappointed because I love me a mess of yellow squash cooked in butter with a Vidalia onion!

On the other hand, I'm finally getting some ripe tomatoes. I was getting impatient because they've been sitting on the vine for about 3 weeks with no sign of ripening.

When I remembered what Grandma said about the squash, I also remembered that she said you won't pick a ripe tomato before the 4th of July. I guess she was right! Why am I channeling my grandmother? Probably because I've been spending so much time outside instead of in my studio. Still no jewelry making going on.