A New Year with New Goals and Ideas

Welcome 2013!

Ok.  I’m a bit late in welcoming the New Year, but I have been very busy giving a workshop during the 2nd week of the month and then spending a number of days rearranging my studio for better traffic flow.  So far this year I’m teaching in Canada, at my home studio, and will be teaching at the Santa Fe Beadfest. I always enjoy a trip to Santa Fe, and this year will be especially great as two good friends from my Pennsylvania Society of Goldsmiths days will come for a visit.

Last year was especially wonderful, with every week filled with workshops or teaching or traveling.  It was great, but exhausting.  The  year ended with 3 packed workshops at Beadfest Texas and the filming of my next DVD, “Artisan Bails”, which will be a much less calorie filled Valentine’s present  from your loved ones than a big box of chocolates.  So order soon to avoid the rush of first day orders!  (Shamless promotion here!)

Also, on a sad note, the Beadfest Texas is no more.  I know there will be much gnashing of teeth, but the choice was not mine, and I have already heard from many students who are heart broken.  I am, too, because I loved the drive back home every year.  I will miss all my Texas students–a lot!  Let’s try to keep in touch and no telling what will happen–maybe a Texas reunion someplace.

So I will try to make it up to some of you by posting more often.  Last year’s schedule just prohibited me taking the time to write posts, so my promise to you is to keep you updated on jewelry trends and tips on jewelry making.  Nothing fancy, I’ll continue to write just as I talk, so I will be sitting right alongside of you, helping you though any technique you wish.   But let me know what you want.  If I don’t hear from you then you may just get boring stories of life with 3 cats.

As this issue’s tip, I want to share how I design.  There is a bit of info coming out in the April issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist with my ammonite earring design.  I show a bit in the Artisan Bails DVD, too, but I don’t have time in either place to fully explain it.

It basically works like this:  You draw a design in your sketch book, and use tracing paper to alter the design.   Lay the paper on top of the design, and redraw with the addition of an element, say a small spiral.  Now fold the tracing paper over that drawing and redraw, maybe making the spiral a bit larger.  Keep doing this, changing the design each time, until you are happy with an idea.  Then redraw this in your sketchbook, adding all the details such as stone color, textures, noting different metals, etc.  I have found that when I am really stumped, this helps. What is more important, if I am working with a stone I find the process easier to draw around the stone and just play with ideas.  Yes, I do have days when something just won’t work out…and I do have days when I write in my sketchbook, “These all look horrible.”  Its ok.  We all have days like that, but just don’t give up.  Change stones.  Look at your old idea book.  Look to nature (She’s my greatest inspiration.)

We will discuss this more later in the year. I just want you to get started.  I have so many goals this year, and one is to help you in any way I can.  I’ll share ideas and tips with you as we travel though 2013 together.  I also want to share some of the many questions I receive from my readers and DVD watchers.  If you have special questions, please send them to me at lexi.erickson@mac.com.  I’ll answer them to the best of my ability and quickly. There will be some surprises which I hope you will like too.  I just want to get back in touch.

Hugs,

Lexi

THE New Tucson Stone

Hi Everyone,

As I promised, I will share  what we think will be the hot new stone from Tucson this year.  I have heard that it’s the turquoise shot with bronze, which, while pretty,  I believe, (and I’m not positive about this since we have only talked to two people about it) but we think it is a reconstituted block of turquoise, with bronze shot into it.  I did not see any cut into stones, but did see lots blocks of it ready for cutting. Helen and I discovered this stone at The Clam Shell. (Sorry for the bad photo)  This was the stone which made Helen buy me that first margarita.  This was our first purchase and it had to be pretty spectacular to make Helen lose that bet!   It’s brand new and comes from China. It’s called Red Creek jasper, and the colors are breathtaking. It’s yellow, with green, orange and red, or some just have subtle tones of red and green. There is hematite infused through the pieces in straight lines, which gives the stone a bit of elegant sparkle without being overpowering.     Here I have paired it with my old favorites of a round petrified palm wood and an oblong red jasper from Gary B. Wilson.  It’s a work in progress, so the design may change, but I really do like this combination.  Since people like jewelry with movement, I will either do tube hinges or jump ring to give it some motion.

Look for this stone cut as cabochons at the Denver gem show in mid-September. I think it will greatly appeal to those who love a lot of movement and color in stones.  It’s impossible for your eye to go to just one place in this stone.  It promises to bring new excitement to your designs.  Lovers of Picasso marble and tiffany stone will really like this one.  I don’t know how large the find is, or how much will be out there on the market.  All I know is it is gorgeous, and  there was not a lot of rough in Tucson.  I can give you no specific info about it, except the importers say it’s “not quite a jasper”, whatever that means.

A new cutter for me was Jason Penn, thought I have bought his designs from The ClamShell for several years.  I met Jason in Denver a couple of years ago, and what a nice man.  The ones I bought this year were long marquis cuts, a black onyx and a red jasper (I can’t seem to get away from that stone), and they were sandblasted, with elegant highlighted Oriental-influenced designs of un-sandblasted  area showing through. (There must be a word for this technique though it escapes me at the moment.)  I see some Oriental influence creeping into my my designs, and it must be from my friend, potter Mary Sharp Davis, who we had the privilege of staying with in New Mexico, and who joined us on our adventure.  Also, the day before we left for Tucson, Harold O’Connor brought some of his pieces over that had been on display in Japan.  They are  typical O’Connor’s, exquisite, so delicate and beautifully designed and executed.  A few of these pieces can be seen at Patina Gallery, in Santa Fe, NM.  Helen and I stopped by to view his new additions, and some other fabulous jewelry.  Check them out.  I love the excitement of a new idea, so I was awake most of last night, mind whirring with a new way to go.

I’m still recovering from Tucson.   The experience is both exhilarating and exhausting, but you get to talk to so many knowledgeable people, other jewelers and designers. I got to meet up with my old friend from Pennsylvania Society of Goldsmiths, and sister Lapidary Journal contributor, (and winner of one of their design awards) Maxine Rosenthal. We sat in a vendor’s RV and bought ammonite casts, laughed a lot and drank lot of water.   It will take me a while to process all this.  My stash of rocks on the dining room table needs to be categorized, which leads me to this subject.

How do you categorize your stones?  I have the glass topped Riker cases, and find those work better than the little trays with divisions, since my stones are all different shapes.  Some of my friends separate by shape or color or type of stone.  Now this sounds crazy, but I separate by vendor. That way, if I need another stone from a cutter to match a shape or finish of what I already have, I automatically know who I got it from.  Now to some people that will make no sense.  As an archaeologist, I learned to categorize  pottery shards by maker/Pueblo, so I guess that’s why I do it this way.  Sure, when making a multi-stonepiece I have to get out all my stones and look at them.  Oh darn!  It only inspires me more.

So let me know what you think of our pick for the hot new stone.  As soon as I find out who has it, I will let you know, but I do think  Mark Lasater will have cabs of it at the Holiday Inn show in Denver in Sept.

Off to categorize all my loot. More later…

Cheers,

Lexi

Mokume-Gane Pendant

Plate Techtonics, sterling and mokume-gane

Hi everyone–I thought I would insert a photo. Kathleen Krucoff is just teaching me, a very non-computer person, how to do this.  So I thought I would share a photo that Jim Lawson, from West Chester, PA took of my mokume-gane.    Jim is an excellent photographer, who makes your pieces “sing”.  Please check out his site…it is amazing.  I highly recommend him for jury slides and studio shots.  He does all my photography for Lapidary Journal, and is quite reasonable.  Plus, he’s just a really nice guy!

Mokume-gane is a Japanese swordmaking technique, and this is composed of 27 layers of copper and brass for the bail, and 20 layers of copper and sterling for the bottom section.  In the middle is a roller-milled textured  piece of silver.   The chain is a graduated Viking Chain knit, a labor intensive technique I learned from Sally Snow.  I promise, making this 20 inch chain is enough to drive you to drink!  Plus my hands really hurt when I finished it.  So all together, this piece probably took about 24 hours to finish.

So hope you enjoy the piece, and now that I know how to insert photos, my blogs will be a lot more colorful.

Thanks everyone–

Lexi

Creativity

Hi everyone, I know I haven’t been on for a while.   Sometimes life gets in the way.  I’ve been teaching a lot, and have traveled to Tucson , AZ and Austin, TX these last few weeks, and all this traveling has given me a lot of time to think.

After the Gelattos and Sunset evening with my sister, good friend and student, Kathleen Krucoff, I started thinking of where our creativity comes from.  I came up with several “rules” (or suggestions) to follow if you feel uncreative, or have “hit a wall”.  Sometimes just sitting down and thinking where you are going will help. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed, sometimes you feel totally uninspired.  Either way, look where you are going.

I will write these “rules” as a serial over a couple of weeks.  As always please feel free to comment.

1. You will be given what you want, but you must know exactly what it is you want.

This is nothing new.  It’s the old proverbial “Be careful what you ask for, you may get it.”  Well, you will get what you ask for, that’s why I have learned that you must word your desires carefully.

Do you want to make jewelry for just yourself, your friends, or a gallery?  Do you wish to teach, to own a shop or to have a nationally recognized name in jewelry?  Where are you going with your art, whatever the medium?    The decision is yours.  Only yours.  Think this through.

A friend wants to be a “big name” in jewelry. She only has a dream, no plan.  She submitted a piece for acceptance into a holiday gift catalog.  There will be 600,000 catalogs sent all over the U.S.   The piece was accepted. She is thrilled.  Now what?  What if it gets 400 orders?  What if she only gets two and she has 200 pieces made?   Give your decision a lot of thought.  Can you fill the orders?   How long before they pay?  What percentage will the company take? Don’t set yourself up for surprises.  Plot out a map of where you want to be in six months, in a year.  Make goals, both long term and short term.  Write them down. Review these goals every few months, and if you feel you are off track, it’s not too late to correct.

As a logical part of being an artist, you need a good consignment contract.  Most galleries work on consignment.  I had a really long one, too long, in fact.   Everything was covered, especially  bankruptcy/closure by the gallery.   The Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) has a great contract.  Look at (bear with me here, it’s worth it) http://www.snagmetalsmith.org/.docs/pg/10025   (whew!) for a really organized consignment contract, look at the contracts section and then select either the PDF or Word version of Guide to a Model Consignment Contract.   If y0u scroll down to the end of the document, the actual contract is there, following a detailed description of what everything means.   Edit it to fit your circumstances.   It will help you set your goals and organize your thoughts.

While speaking of goals and dreams, I grew up in a household where Lapidary Journal and National Geographic were the magazines to which we subscribed.  I became an archaeologist and a jewelry designer.  Never doubt the power of the printed word.  But I digress. As a teenager, I laid under the covers at night with a flashlight, reading exciting stories, long past bedtime. My dream was that one day I would be in one of those magazines.   This month, I am the cover artist with one of my designs for Chinese Writing Stone, one of of my favorite stones.

ja-november09

Here’s a shot of the cover.  I also have an article about pliers and the step-by-step on how to make the cover piece.  I was inspired by the Chinese chrysanthemums and fireworks of the Beijing Olympics.  Stop in your local book store and please pickup a copy  If y0u like jewelry arts, it’s full of cool tool tips.  I will be the cover artist for the December issue, also.  It’s a brand new look with a brand new art director.  I was really  thrilled that he liked my red jasper piece enough to choose it for the cover. (Remind me to send him Holiday cookies!) I am  so honored to be writing for Lapidary Journal, now for the last 2 years. It’s part of my dream come true.

So think about the direction your art is going. Visualize where you want it to be.  Think of how specific you word your goals.  Plan, write and organize,  and it will come true.

Sweet, successful dreams.

Lexi

What a Week!

Whew!  This past week has been such a whirlwind of activity.  Though I really enjoy the hustle and bustle of  this time of year, it’s good now to sit back and relax for a few weeks before beginning another big adventure.

First, last week-end was the Castle Rock Artfest, in the neighboring town of Castle Rock, CO.  I had visited this show for many years, and the quality of the work was amazing. There are 175+ excellent artists in the show.   I always found many things that inspired me, and always made at least one large purchase.  This year I decided to apply.  I made it.  I was thrilled.

Saturday was a good day, and I made several large sales. Kathleen and Dan Krucoff came to visit and offer best wishes, and I saw several other friends and former students.  But about 3:30 the sky opened up and it poured, the wind started, and the temperature dropped to about 47 degrees. We all closed up at 5:00.  I came home and filled the bath with the hottest water available, and while my body thawed, I contemplated if I would ever do another show.

Sunday dawned beautifully.  Another day in Paradise.  About 10:30 the entourage of judges walked down my aisle, and stopped and told me they were glad I had participated in the show.  As I was responding what an honor it was to be in the show, one of the judges pulled out a “Best of Fine Crafts” ribbon, presented it to me,  and proceeded to say the nicest things to me.  Everyone applauded.    I WAS IN SHOCK! Then she handed me a check, too.  I was speechless.  I’m not often speechless.   This is the first big show I’ve done in over 10 years. You would have been so proud of me when the radio station interviewed me and I couldn’t remember where I live!  Am I suave and sophisticated or what?  But I cannot  express what a thrill it is to hang a ribbon like that over your work.  My things are very different, totally one of a kind, and all hand done.  My inspirations, as you have read on my website, are my adventures and travels during my years in archaeology. My pieces are not beautifully carved stones with diamonds, gold and platinum. (In fact, at the Philadelphia Buyer’s Market of American Craft, what we call “The Rosen Show”, one lady actually looked at my stuff and said “Yuck!”)  There were many wonderful jewelers at Castle Rock.   Not only this, the glass, wood, and ceramics  artists had fabulous pieces, both in design and craftsmanship.  There were so many outstanding artists, and I congratulate each of them, also.  Their work is inspiring and beautiful.   I am deeply, deeply honored the judges chose my work.  I thank you each from the bottom of my heart. What a feeling!!!  I’m already scoping out shows for next year.

So I guess what I say to you all is “Go For It”!!!  You don’t know what the judges will be looking for.  Work from the heart, do what you love. And most of all, don’t compare your work to anyone else’s.  As Julia Cameron says in “The Artist’s Way”, “Leap and a net will appear”.

The next day, Monday started the Denver Gem and Mineral show. WOW!  Sensory overload. This show takes up 2 hotels lobbies and ballrooms (plus 3 stories of show rooms on each floor),  circus tents in the surrounding parking lots, the enormous Merchandise Mart and Annex, the Denver Western Stock Show Complex, and another hotel out at the airport. I try to do some pre-show appointments because its easier to buy on a one-on-one basis than on the showroom floor. I bought almost exclusively from the 4 cutters I previously mentioned. This year I added Greg King, from Taos , NM to my list of cutters.  I bought from him years ago, and still buy from him when I go to Taos Gem and Mineral. He had gorgeous ocean jasper and dino bone.

After so many years of walking this show, I know just about where everything is, and it takes days to see all of it.  I walked the entire show this year, partly to see if anything was new.  Also, if my students asked where anything was, I could point them in the right direction.  Believe me, when all my friends and students arrive, and we go to the show together, it’s like herding cats. For us, it’s a huge social event…running into friends we haven’t seen for a year, standing the aisles, our arms around each other, sharing what we’ve bought, ohhhing and ahhhing, moving on 3 feet away and seeing another group of friends, sharing,…you get the picture.

Mark and Christa Lasater  (The Clamshell) had the most fantastic chrysacolla I’ve ever seen.  Ka-ching. And gorgous amethyst sage. Ka-ching. Of course Gary B.Wilson had some neat new jaspers.  As I’ve never met a  jasper I didn’t like, I bought several.  (Several????) He has a Cobra Jasper that is orange and yellow…fabulous. More Ka-ching. These two cutters are real artists in stone, they never fail to amaze me.  Their stuff really melts my solder!

There was a lot of shiny stuff from Asia, pre-made jewelry, African beads,  rare trilobites with all these tendrils in matrix, ammonites, mammoth tusks, gold nuggets, emeralds, cool tools, and many things I cannot afford.  Something for everyone. Lots of vendors had some fabulous new dark red beads, that when the light shines on them, they look like red velvet,  Fabulous. Ka-Ching. The fun was hanging with my friends and students, the Lapidary Journal staff and writers, and Colorado Metalsmithing Assoc. friends, both during the show and after.  My friends and I got to bed each night between 2 and 3 AM, and the alarm went off at 6 to start again.  Thank goodness the week is over!

Please consider joining us next year, or if you can do it earlier, try for March, 2010,  for Beadfest in Santa Fe. I’ll be there, just in case I have left one stone unturned!

I’m off to take a nap.

Lexi