Friday, July 27, 2012

The Gem Show

Every July for the past several years I've trekked off to the southwestern corner of North Carolina to attend one of the biggest gem and mineral shows on the east coast. It's held near of Franklin, North Carolina, which is an area that mines emeralds, rubies and sapphires, as well as many other gemstones. Franklin is about four hours from me, but I have a friend who lives only an hour from there, so I also use the time to visit with her.

The show consists of two areas: the indoor show, which is open only to buyers that have a re-sale license. These sellers have the strings of beads, the cut stones, and all the pieces and parts, tools and display equipment that a jeweler would need. The other area is the outdoor show, which is open to the public and these are the folks that sell lots of "rocks". The raw stones that are just dug from the Earth.  I buy mainly from the indoor show, but we arrived before it opened, so we wandered around the outdoor booths.

Giant Amethyst
Giant Topaz
A huge quartz crystal (as long as my arm) that has clusters of pink and green tourmaline on it.

A table of clear quartz crystals with a rose quartz mixed in.

Close up of quartz crystals. So pretty.

I don't know what these are, but they look like little alien eggs.

This ball is about a foot across. Again, I don't know what the stone is, but it has a very cool mosaic pattern.

Table after table of raw stones waiting to be cut and polished.

Soooo.... what did I buy? Not much this time. I'm trying to stick to a budget and I wasn't feeling up to shopping because my rib was hurting again. But here's what I did get:

Some bluish-black pearls.

I was told that these are brown and green onyx, which I've never heard of. (of which I've never heard...) Who knows if the people even know themselves what they're selling? All I know is that I was attracted to these big Wilma Flintstone beads.

Two sizes of hematite. Not the magnetic kind, though, because they're annoying to work with.

A big pile of beautiful dichroic glass from Renaissance Glass.
And some interesting silver beads and rings.

It was fun, but I was disappointed in myself. It's bad when your body gives out before your shopping urges do, but I probably saved myself a lot of money. There will be another smaller one in Asheville in October, and it's closer to home. Meanwhile, I have some new things to inspire new designs. I can't wait to play!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In the Garden Today

I took a short stroll around the garden on this late July afternoon, right before the rain.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


My hydrangea is in full bloom.
How did it get to be Saturday again already? The older I get the more I'm amazed at how fast time goes by. The weather is truly summer-like and everything is blooming and gorgeous. I know some people are sweltering and dry, but we seem to have had just the right amount of rain. I've only had to hand water a couple of times,  but now that all the potted flowers are root bound I'll have to water today if it doesn't rain.

My ribs/back are feeling much better. I'm still sore and get a twinge if I move in a certain direction, but the horrendous muscle spasms have stopped. Thank the gods. And good Chiropractors!

 Above is a photo of the experiment that Debbie and I did. (Click here to read that post.) We mixed enamels with wet silver clay and applied it as an accent, according to the instructions I got from Barbara Becker Simon at the conference last month. We made some blue and some green and I put it on a scrap of silver clay.

Well, you can see that it turned out terrible. Both colors turned muddy (and the word "muddy" is a nice word. It actually looks like something out of the cat litter box.) and you can't even tell the blue from the green. Oh well. More silver for the scrap pile.

I made a few pieces recently. Above is one that I made using a pattern that I made with scratch foam. Scratch foam is a thin foam sheet - a little thinner than a tray that meat is packaged on in the grocery store. You score the foam with a pen or a scribe, then roll your clay out onto the design. I'm really happy with how this turned out. 

Above is a ring that I made out of a thick slab of clay. It has cubic zirconias on both sides. 

Next week I'll be going to the big gem and mineral show in Franklin, NC. I have a list of things that I need, but it's always fun to find things that are not on the list, just inspirational. I'll come home with even more ideas! I'll let you know what I find.

And, I had one charm left over from the conference and I hung it from a hand forged sterling chain.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Holey Moley!

Late last week I started having muscle spasms in the middle of my back and they kept getting worse and worse. A trip to the Chiropractor revealed that I have a slipped rib. I'd never heard of it, have you? (Google it, but ignore all the results that have to do with knitting, because that's not it.) Believe me, it's the most painful thing I can ever remember having. Basically, one rib slips underneath the one below it and I have no idea how I did it. The adjustment to put it back in place almost sent me through the roof and now I'm on an ice regiment - 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off - and it's impossible to get anything done. Just as I sit down and get started on something it's time to get the ice pack out again.

Photo courtesy of White Tiger Natural Health Care

And I had company over the weekend. Sort of. She slept at my house, but mostly was up at Grandfather Mountain for the Highland Games. I'm glad I didn't have to cook or entertain her because I'm just not up to it.

Ellen in her tartan plaid.

Before I injured myself I had actually made a few things. I was in the middle of patina-ing and polishing and I hope to finish them before too much longer. These are the pieces that I fired along with the experimental enamel piece mentioned in the previous post, which turned out terrible by the way. I'll try to remember to get a picture when I photo the finished jewelry pieces. I have to feel better and be able to move around without pain first. Back to the ice pack now...

Friday, July 6, 2012

Play Time

I'm sitting on my back porch this evening enjoying a cold beverage, watching the squirrel acrobatics in the bird feeders and thinking about what a fun time I had at Debbie Keen's house the other day. She is mainly a lampworker, but uses some metal clay in her work and we get together every once in a while to try new things or to help each other with projects. 

We set up on the bar in the kitchen of her gorgeous log cabin home because that's where the light is the best. 

One reason it's fun to work at Debbie's because she has different shape cutters and texture mats than I do and I can count on making something that's different than my normal.

 Debbie had orders for a few more of these pearl necklaces, so we worked on them for a little while.

 We looked through the information I brought back from the conference to find the details of Barbara Becker Simon's demonstration of mixing enamels directly with silver clay. No luck. So we decided to just go for it and see what happens. (That's why Debbie's wearing the respirator - you do not want to breathe in the enamels. They're powdered glass, after all.) We mixed some blue and  some green and then we each made a piece and used the colored clays as accents. Who knows how they'll end up? All I remembered from the demo is that you mix the enamel and clay approximately 50-50 and that only the cool colors will work. I thought the handout would be on the disk that came in our conference goody bag, but it wasn't.  This is one of the joys of having a "Play Date" with Debbie. No information? "Aw, hell, let's just go for it and see what happens." we've had some interesting results from these experiments. I'll post pictures after mine is fired - I have a few more ideas from the conference that I'm working on and want to fire at the same time. 

Before the day was done we were in Debbie's glass studio making tiny glass dots for me to embed in metal clay. She's made these for me before, but again, we couldn't remember how she did it. She cut tiny pieces of stringer and when we tried to melt them with a torch, they were so light that they blew away with the torch flame. So, I just brought them home and I'll melt them all at once in my kiln one of these days.

Above are some of Debbie's finished beads, and below one of her colorful bracelets. She's a very talented artist!

We had a fun day and decided to get together again in a few weeks, this time at my house. In the meantime I'll be thinking of projects we can work on and experiments to try.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Double Joy

A few years ago I saw one of these Luna Moths and posted about how beautiful they are and their metaphysical meaning. This morning, when I went to retrieve the bird feeders that have to stay in the shed over night, I saw this one beside the door. 

I returned with the camera and then noticed a second one on the ground, and this one is showing off it's second set of "eyes". I think, after some internet inquires, that the one above is a female and the one below a male. You can tell by their antennae.

I rarely see them and to see two at once really moved me. I believe that they embody the souls of loved ones and it made me think of my Mom and Dad. A joyful day for sure.