I spent last weekend hanging out in the mountains outside of Asheville. It was really peaceful, and one of the best parts was that there was no cell phone signal. Forced to ignore work and social media, I took in the sights.
Sights included this fantastically creepy abandoned bus. 10/10, would stare at again.
After emerging from the woods and hitting civilization, my phone began to explode with Etsy and Facebook notifications. At first I was confused and alarmed, and then I started googling my business name to see what exactly was going on. Last month I gave a brief email interview to Vanessa Infanzon of the Charlotte Observer, and it was published on Sunday! You can read the online version of the article by clicking here.
The last of the pieces featured in the article, “Heart of the Iron Wood,” packaged up to be shipped out earlier today.
As of writing this, two days after the paper was published, I have sold every item I had featured in the article. I am totally blown away and grateful. Thank you so much for supporting your local artists, Charlotte. You can find more great local artists and designers by reading Vanessa’s “CLT Made” articles in the Style section of the Charlotte Observer or by checking out the CLT Made Pinterest page.
Oh man. You guys, my partner surprised me right before we left town for the holidays with a brand new flexshaft. Which meant that for two weeks, I had to live in a horrible limbo state where I knew I both had an amazing shiny new tool to use and that I was hundreds of miles away from said tool at the same time. It was rough.
This is what my “SOON” face looks like.
But now, I’m comfortably back home. I set up the flexshaft and jumped right into experimenting with it. Strangely, my first project wasn’t on metal or even on stones. It was on shells.
I spent a few days doing some beach combing in Sarasota. I used to have to hope I could find shells with naturally made holes in exactly the right places. While it is pretty awesome when that happens, its pretty hard to find them like that. This time, I brought home a handful of spiny jewel boxes and cockles and made the holes myself. After I finished that, I smoothed out the sides of a shattered shell using a few filing attachments.
The things I did were small and not super impressive, but hugely satisfying. I wish I could explain how insanely triumphant I felt at the end of working on a handful of shells, but I don’t think I can. This tool opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for me as a jeweler, and I can’t wait to keep playing.
Probably once a show or festival, someone says this to me. I usually have a handful of reasons on any one given day for why I don’t teach. When people used to tell me to offer classes, I used to smile nicely and say “Thanks, I’ll think about it.” Now, after having heard it so many times I laugh and respond with, “Absolutely not.” That’s jarring for a lot of people. I understand that. I’ve had at least one person angrily call me selfish and storm out of my booth since I started responding in such a way. I promise, there’s a good reason for why I have such a strong stance.
The main reason I do not teach wire weaving is because there are dozens of fantastic resources out there already (you just need to look for them!). From an ethical standpoint, I do not want to take business from the artists that I learned from, and from a practical standpoint these teachers are so good that it would be silly for me to do something similar. There’s no need for me to reinvent the wheel.
What I am more than happy to do is to direct you guys to the aforementioned resources. Here is a list of a few of my favorites:
Fine Art Wire Weavingby Sarah Thompson- This book lays out weaves, tools, and techniques as well as supplying projects in varying levels of difficulty from beginner to advanced. The pictures are very helpful. I wish I’d had this book when I started weaving.
Go Art Yourself by Nicole Hanna- A Youtube channel with extensive tips for weaving. She also records herself making full projects and gives commentary as she goes.
Copar Aingael Tutorials by Julie Hulick- Some of my favorite tutorials on the internet. Tutorials like these are helpful because you can learn specific skill sets from them and apply them creatively to new pieces.
Lisa Barth Tutorials by Lisa Barth- Tutorials full of helpful, large color photographs. Some of these integrate beading. My favorite tutorial, the Celtic Knot Bail, includes several versions of the bail and suggestions of different situations in which to use it.
I learned the hard way, over a decade of struggling, that spending money on tutorials and books really helps you develop your skill set. Trust me- there’s only so far that free tutorials can take you. Paid tutorials and books are often far more comprehensive with many photos and clearly written instructions that allow you to work at your own pace. If you feel like you’ve hit a plateau and have only ever used free tutorials, give the paid tutorials a try.
A final piece of advice: like most skills, there isn’t a magical shortcut to getting good at wire weaving. At the end of the day, what it takes is actually sitting down and doing the work. I’m pretty fond of telling people that my secret is that after I get frustrated and throw a piece across the room, I pick it back up and keep working. Though I say it to be funny, it really is true. So try your best, learn from your failures, be kind to yourself, and most of all:
This will be my first year vending at Free Spirit, and my third year attending. I can’t wait to see all of you guys! (Anyone else feel like they’re heading off to summer camp?)
Here’s a quick peek at the things I’ve been making to take to FSG.
Keep your eyes peeled on the Etsy page next week: I’ll be doing a shop update and adding about a dozen items when I’m back in town. Until then, the shop will be in vacation mode.
One of the things I really appreciate in the art world is a good photographer. It takes talent to work with light, scenery, and equipment. It takes just as much interpersonal talent to know how to work with models- putting them at ease during the shoot, placing them in the best poses, and giving feedback in ways that makes them both responsive and comfortable. The results can be really breathtaking.
The last time I was in college it was sort of a horrific experience. I was in graduate school and I constantly felt on the brink of imploding. That was three years ago. I’ve avoided any sort of academic pursuit like the plague since. Sure I took some lapidary lessons, but that was off campus and in a weird, smoke filled warehouse. It felt as far from academia as possible.
Lately I’ve been feeling a strange pull to get back to school. There’s this nagging reminder that I used to love learning (its why I tried grad school in the first place). I especially loved my art courses in undergrad, which had nothing to do with my psychology degree and everything to do with giving me a creative outlet in order to stay sane. My friends Ali and Mary started prodding me about six months ago to step out of my comfort zone and try a few courses, and I had some extra money saved for business investments this month. So when I saw that my local community college was offering an introductory metalsmithing and jewelry fabrication class, I took the leap and signed up.
I’ve attended two class sessions so far. My anxiety each day has been through the roof leading up to the class, but the moment I get there I’m totally fine. The classroom is a big, open studio with a ton of jewelers benches, tools, and anvils. I recognize a couple classmates as fellow local vendors, and everyone is there to learn at their own pace. Its exciting and fun and a little intimidating, but I’m okay with that.
I have a few goals for the semester to focus myself so that I’m not just flailing at sheets of copper. The skills I want to learn are:
Sawing and Piercing
Using a File (Properly. I don’t think I do it properly right now.)
Chasing/Shaping Metal (Again, properly. My stuff is a little haphazard at right now.)
Riveting With Open/Closed Rivets
I know better than to think that I’ll master any of these techniques in 8 weeks, but they’re things I’m curious about and want to get a basic grasp on. I started sawing and piercing for the first time tonight, and I’ve decided to keep a running count of how many saw blades I’ve broken for the semester (so far I’m at two).
I’ll post more updates as I learn new skills and make shiny things. Thank you guys so much for your support- without you I wouldn’t have had the money to take this class!
The beginning of the year has been slow. January, February, and most of March have been dedicated to me trying to build back up my stock for shows later in the year and dreaming of the time when the weather is warmer so I can do lapidary things again.
Luckily, I’ve had some really cool custom orders to keep me inspired.
Custom Order Copper And Client Provided Stones, 2017
While I was vending at Piedmont Pagan Pride Day this past weekend it became apparent that I needed to make a quick update post for you guys. Between the lapidary work, custom orders, vendor work and travel, the online shop, finances, and just making new jewelry day to day, Lapdify has become a full time job. For that reason I left my retail job in July and am now entirely self-employed. It’s scary at times, but I feel like it was the best decision for me and for my business.
I’m currently not associated with any local retailers or “brick and mortar shops.” That means that the only way to buy items I have made are to see me in person at shows or fairs, contact me online, or to buy through my Etsy Shop. If this changes in the future, I’ll let you know!
So what does this mean for you, the client? Well:
Contact me directly for custom orders. Any custom order requests taken to stores where I used to have items for sale won’t be sent to me, so shoot me an email or a message on etsy or facebook if you’d like me to make a piece for you!
I will be posting a lot more items on Etsy. I’ll probably be posting things in batches as items get made. I’ll make announcements on facebook as that happens.
If you see an item posted on Facebook or Instagram and it’s not a custom order, you can buy it. Even if I haven’t posted it to Etsy, you can buy jewelry I post to the Facebook page or on Instagram! Etsy charges fees and percentages for each item I post and sell, so I do not put every item in my shop. Instead, we can do an exchange over Paypal or with cash if you are local.
You guys get to save your money. I was having to raise my prices about 50% when working with retailers. Without the middle man, I’m able to charge considerably less.
And that’s about it! In other news, Lapidify attended the Enchanted Chalice Renaissance Festival and PPD this month, and I had fantastic time at both. I’ve also started working on a collaborative project with Gwen from Frog Crossin’ Pottery. We’re making aromatherapy pendants- she makes the clay body of the pieces and I add stones and metal to them. You can see a few of the ones I have available in the shop by clicking here!
Lapidify at the Enchanted Chalice Renaissance Festival in Greenville, SC.
If you’ve been following the Facebook page, then you already know the good news: After two years of saving, I’ve finally been able to get a cabbing machine! I decided to take the plunge and get a 6 inch Cabking rather than less expensive model I had been looking at. It is really, really nice.
Pictured: Me and my friends in awe of the Cabking.
So, what does this mean for Lapidify? Well, a couple things. First, it means that I’ll be back to cutting and polishing my own stones again for the first time in nearly two years. I’ll get to make unique shapes for pieces ahead of time rather than seeking out pre-cut cabochons and tumbled stones. I’ll get to conceive my pieces from start to finish now, and really celebrate each rock individually!
Secondly, it means that I can start taking some commissions to polish people’s stones. I have never cut garnets, sapphires, diamonds, or rubies and I plan on not taking those until I’ve had more practice. However, I can cut jaspers, quartz (rose quartz, amethyst, citrine, aventurine), chalcedony, agates, and calcites all day. So let me know if you’d like me to work on your stones!