Is it “Art” or is it “Craft”?

I know I recently posted a very philosophical post on “The Zen of the Process”, and it just might be the mood I’m in right now.  I’m creating a lot and have a lot of time to think while I’m at my bench.   So I hope you will read this, as it’s the best definition I’ve ever heard of “Art” verses “Craft”.

My mentor Harold O’Connor was recently visiting.  As we sat after breakfast discussing what’s going on in the European jewelry scene, we got on the topic of craftsmanship in our jewelry.  Now, if you have even seen Harold’s work, you know it as immaculate craftsmanship and it is pure art.  I respect and admire both the man and his work. In fact, Harold’s work is in the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian, the Victoria and Albert Museum in  London, the State Art and Work School in Pfozheim, Germany, and more of the world’s most more prestigious museums and galleries.  Need I go on? (Just Google him, he’s probably the most famous art jeweler/teacher in the world, and totally makes every piece himself.)  Let’s just say the kid knows his jewelry.  I am so honored to have him as a friend.

So I asked the simple age old  question:

 “Harold, what is the difference between art and craft?”

He picked up one of my very old first pieces and said:

“If you forgive me for saying so, this is craft.”

The piece was simply a large sharped angled piece of Chinese Writing Stone from Gary B. Wilson that I bought years ago.  The silver backplate extends beyond the stone, and has some holes and a cut out space that replicates a shape in the stone.  Design-wise it’s not so great, this I knew, but the craftsmanship is excellent.  The bezel is tight against the angled stone, and each point is a tight angle with no  rounding of the corners of the bezel around the stone.  I was not upset that it was looked upon as “craft”, for I kind of felt that myself.  But I loved the piece for its simplicity.  (OK, for the “Zen” of the piece.)

So I asked Harold, “What’s the difference?”

and Here It Comes: words of the master,  though he said he could not take credit for this, it came from someone else…

“A maker of chairs makes 6 chairs.  They all look alike, the first one and the last one.  Each is identical.  That’s a craftsman.  The artist doesn’t know exactly what  his finished piece will look like.  He may have an idea, but doesn’t know exactly because he may change his mind during the construction. That’s art.”

So I added “The true artist knows when to stop.”  Harold smiled.

I have held these words close to my heart since he said that.  Its the best I’ve ever heard.  And now I know how to design.  Thank you, Harold.

Our First Denver Botanic Garden Show

OH WOW!  I can’t even begin to explain how I feel right now.  First, to have the gorgeous Denver Botanic Gardens as a venue for us was astounding, especially when we are showing alongside of  a fabulous presentation of Henry Moore sculptures.  Second, it was two of those Colorado fall days—not a cloud in the turquoise sky, and snow clad mountains in the distance, while Denver was a balmy 70 degrees.  And then, add  25 spectacular tables filled with glowing and colorful baubles.  OK,  now you have a picture of our First Jewelry Show at the Denver Botanic Gardens.   We were inside Gates Courtyard, with full picture windows and tall glass doors behind us.  It was spectacular.  Just as much fun was looking at the individual diplays of each artist.

Harold O’Connor’s display was elegant and sparse, with trays lined with white Japanese paper, which showed off Harold’s exquisite craftsmanship to a “T”.  His newest collection, “From My Backyard” was composed of artistically cast elegant rings and pendants of twigs, string and unusual pods he found  in his Salida, Colorado yard. Exquisite Spectrolite from Finland accented several of his pieces. It was such an honor to show alongside of one of the True Masters of Metalsmiting in the world.

Kathleen Krucoff had a stunning display of lanterns, which showed off her earrings and pendants.

For my usual art festival display, I dress in my archaeology gear, and have trowels and archaeology tools in my display cabinets. But for this truly upscale show I had a collection of “antique” suitcases, from which spilled my treasures, and I forewent my archaeology khakis.  Since it kind of went along with my adventure and travel themes, I was happy with my display.

For weeks before  the show I had nightmares that here we were all at the Botanic Gardens, all dressed up  and just standing around visiting with each other because no one came in to see our jewelry.  Well, nothing could have been farther from the truth.

We opened at 9 on Saturday morning, and our first customers started arriving at 9:27. By 10:00 we were having a light stream of customers, and by 11, we were constantly busy.  Jennie Milner said that she didn’t expect it to be like a cocktail party.  There was a constant flow of new people.  The wine and music started at 1:00, and there was not a moment to stop after that.  Sales were brisk, and there were lots of questions about our jewelry, the artists, and  Colorado Metalsmithing Association.  We were packed with customers who were actually buying, not just “thinking about it”.  Customers returned to tables several times to make their final choices.  Gallery owners talked to many participants about showing in their galleries, and the jewelry market seems to be returning.  It was a joy to watch everyone.  It was so great to see so many of you COMA members and friends, and I really appreciate each of you for coming out.  And in addition to that, it was great to sell so much jewelry. As artists we felt validated and appreciative that so many of you like our work well enough to purchase and wear it.  We are truly honored.

I have already started plans for next year’s show.  New ideas are flowing, and I want to start drawing in my sketch book right now.  But my precious 4-year old grandson is spending the week with me as his mom and dad return to Austin and pack and move back to Denver.  I am thrilled. They will live nearby, and I don’t have to make that 1100 mile trek down to Texas 4 times a year!  They are just as exited to be returning to Colorado.

So to each of you, I had a vision.  I acted upon it and didn’t let anything stop me.  The Denver Botanic Gardens Show was the result of that dream.  So follow your dream, follow your passions. Were there some nay-sayers? Oh yeah. And one really hurt my feelings.  But I knew in my heart that this would be a hit, and with the talent we have in Colorado, this would be a stunning show.

I want to thank Harold O’Connor for the initial inspiration from something that he said about 3 years ago, and I thank my sister, Kathleen Krucoff, for the poster and postcard designs.  She made us look beautiful before anything ever happened. And to the artists and Board of Colorado Metalsmithing Assoc, thank you in letting me, as a new Board member with a dream of where we could go, have free rein in doing what I visioned.  To each of you, GO FOR IT!   Follow your Passion! And watch this space for updates about our next show.

Passionately Yours,

Lexi

Beadfest Texas! WooHoo

I’ve been teaching a long time.  A quarter of a century (!) seems to have passed in no time.  Some classes have been great, some not so great.  But October in Texas is such a glorious time of year that I knew these classes would be special.  The drive in from Denver is always a grueling drive when  I leave at 4 AM, and drive down Hwy 287, through all those Texas towns.  And to make matters worse, this was Texas-OU week-end, plus the opening of the Texas State Fair,  the week-end for the big Cottonwood Art Festival, and the Intergem show, plus a Rangers game.  So no wonder I spent 30 minutes driving around  in the new Cowboy Stadium parking lot, which was packed with overflow cars.  I could see the Sheraton, I just couldn’t drive to it!  But the days of packing, planning, making copies, ordering tools, supplies, etc  were through, and I was so pleased I remembered everything.  I was feeling quite good, thank you very much.  I met my dear friend Jane from Fairplay, who now lives back home in Pauls Valley, OK. She was my “roadie”.  We had some dinner Friday night and got to bed early, I was prepared for a good day of classes, and Jane planned a day of lounging by the pool.

At 4 AM I sat straight up in bed.  OMG!  I had forgotten the strikers for the torches!  Where would I get strikers at 8:30 in the morning for class?  Oh, man!  How could I be such an idiot! So I gnashed my teeth over that for a while, until I got to Beadfest, and I should have known, my sister Texans would come to my rescue. (The phrase, “Don’t Mess With Texas Women” comes to mind.)  Wild Beads has become my favorite bead store in the world!  They had a booth at the vendor section of  Beadfest,.  They must have seen the panic in my eyes, and they asked the owner, Beverly, bring me three strikers. They let me use their workshop strikers. Thank you so much.  You saved me from tool disgrace!

I knew from the moment people started arriving, it would be a good class.  We were in a tiny room, all 20 of us, ready to learn sawing, filing, and soldering.  The seed beaders had huge rooms.   But we made it work.  (They’ve promised me a larger room next year.) I had the joy of re-acquainting myself with Joanie, one of my favorite students from Big D who took my class in Santa Fe.  We later had dinner at Papadeaux’s (yum) and we will meet again for Santa Fe Beadfest on my birthday in March.  This was a great class, they laughed at my jokes and I got to laugh at Bruce and Kathryn’s “matching luggage”–all their tools, like mine, were packed in the same matching green plastic boxes.  What exquisite taste we have.  The day went fine, and I enjoyed teaching people who don’t make fun of my Texas accent–which got a bit broader as the day progressed.

The students made my signature triangle earrings.  Because I use no electricity when making jewelry,  I introduced them to a tool that has been around for centuries, the old bow drill.

The Egyptians built the pyramids using a drill very much like this, and it’s what we use when I’m teaching in South America.  It’s a bit tricky, and the drill bit broke a few times, but those who got the centrifugal force going really enjoyed it. During the afternoon we  got into “The Joy of Soldering”, and everyone made 3 stacking rings and saw how easy my soldering technique is to learn.

I loved getting the hugs as we parted and want to keep in touch with all of you. I want to say a special hello to Janna from Thrall.  Your smile lights up a room!

I was most impressed with Tony, (pictured) who took the class because his wife was taking another class at the same time, but wanted to learn soldering techniques, so mucho kudos to Tony!  You certainly deserve the Golden Torch Award.  And to Kathryn (pictured with Tony) and Bruce, you were so much fun.  And I can’t forget a big “Thank you” to Tom who gave me some great flush cutters.  They are very appreciated.

After dinner with Joanie, Jane and I went to sleep tired, but happy.

Sunday was another great day.  I snuck away during the lunch break to buy some Gary B. Wilson stones from Gary’s daughter Jesse and future son in law, Spencer. I got some great shapes in petrified turtle shell, which I’ll pair with fossil palm and red jasper, and maybe dino doodoo.   In this class I met more wonderful women, especially Jude and Monette, who we later shared Sunday breakfast with. J, you are my inspiration.  And Glory, no one works that Egyptian drill better than you.  Laura, I love being your friend on Facebook!  Thanks for “Friending” me.  And a special thanks to Patty for  dinner at Gloria’s.  What a cool place!

And mostly, Jane, I can’t thank you enough.  I couldn’t have gotten everything moved without your help.  And thanks for making me stop now and then and laugh.  I love you!

Then it was off to Easter Island, (called Isla de Pascua or in the native tongue, Rapa Nui.)  The Navel of the World is indeed a long, long way away.  Though I was hoping to find some nice beads, I did purchase some unique shell  necklaces, the kind worn by the islanders for the last 400  years. I will hang those with my personal beads, those I can’t part with from the 4 corners of the world.  Rapa Nui is amazing, and the moai are haunting.


The Moai at Anakena

On the way back from Chile, it was announced that the drill had broken through to free the Chilean miners.  God bless those brave men and their families.  My husband is a metallurgical engineer, and I understand their plight so well.

Upon landing, its rush-rush now to get ready for the Denver Botanic Gardens, Jewelry Show.  Twenty eight of us will be showing our jewelry.  Our artists, including the  famed Harold O’Connor, are all very talented and every one is totally different.  Please join us this coming Saturday and Sunday at the Denver Botanic Gardens, from 9-5. You will be amazed at the talent in Colorado.

Thank you everyone in Texas for two of the most wonderful classes I’ve ever had, and I will always remember your eagerness and enthusiasm (and matching “luggage”) and keep these memories in my heart. It was good to be back home in Texas for a few days..  Please keep in touch, as each and every one of you is forever my friend. Email me!

Hugs,

Lexi

The Life of A Jewelry Artist

Hi Everyone–

Here in the Rocky Mountains, the aspen are turning bright gold and some are burgundy.  They are truly magnificent against the turquoise Colorado sky.  But the true mark of autumn is the Denver Gem and Mineral show, which just finished last Sunday.  Though in reality I needed nothing, I cannot help going to see what Mark Lasater at The Clam Shell, Gary B. Wilson, Greg King-Falk Burger (the duo humorously known as “Burger-King”), Michael Hendrix and many more  have in stock.  They had less in stock after my friend, student and sister, Kathleen Krucoff, my students and I left.  And remarkably, we do not fight over stones.  We all have such different taste in our jewelry and colors that there is always plenty for all of us. Well, truthfully, Kathleen and I do tussle a bit over red jasper, Chinese Writing Stone, and petrified palm wood, but if you follow her blog, you know she is a purple lover, so she buys a lot more purples, while I go for the “earth tones”. (I’m such a child of the 70’s).  As I predicted on my Tucson blog, Mark Lasater had some gorgeous Red Creek Jasper.   Funny thing about names, it’s now called Cherry Creek Jasper, Cherry Creek Valley Jasper and just plain old Red Creek jasper.  That’s the name the owner of the mine calls it, so I’m sticking with that until further notice.  But there was a lot of it at the Denver show.

Fall is also the time for the Castle Rock Art Festival.  The gem show starts the Tuesday after the Castle Rock weekend, so I’m pretty exhausted.  The Castle Rock show was pretty good for me this year, though not even comparable to “The Glory Days” of the 1980-90’s art festivals.   But I had a great time and I always love meeting the other artists.  This year I traded some work with my newest friends,  fabulous wildlife watercolorist Stephen Koury from Lakeland, FL  and metal artist Pamella Goff from Brighton, CO.  Pamella makes diverse art from old spoons, and her pieces are totally delightful.  Her spoon flower hangs in my kitchen.  It reminds me of a delightful and spiritual sister.   Stephen does these unbelievably realistic nature paintings, and my painting features a Harris Hawk and my favorite petroglyph, the “Moab Man”. It is being framed now, and I can’t wait to hang it in my entry hall.  Both of these artists are so outgoing and wonderfully talented that it makes it the whole show experience pretty wonderful.  Plus, the Castle Rock Festival is one of the best run I’ve ever participated in.  They take such good care of their artists.  Kathleen and I have decided that it’s easier to do some shows together so we are  looking forward to doing more shows next year.

Photo of me (on the right) with Kathleen (on the left) at the Castle Rock Festival this year.

A few blogs back I expressed my feelings about galleries and shows, and thought something has to be done about the way we get our work out there, and yet allow us to do more than “break even” on an event.  After some thought, I realized that what we need is a group of sincere artists who come together and present their work at a well-known, but non-gallery,  location and perhaps start a tradition.

Well, I’m very lucky to be on the Board of Colorado Metalsmithing Association (CoMA), so I took my idea to the Board, and they were receptive to trying something totally new.  Previously, CoMA has only shown at galleries.  Now we will have 28 artists, famous, notables, and emerging, those who answered our Call for Artists, and we will be showing and selling our work at the beautiful Denver Botanic Gardens on Oct 16 and 17.

What is so amazing about this venue is that it is timed to take place along with the showing of Henry Moore’s monumental sculptures.   It was Henry Moore who commented “The most powerful artworks are the largest and the smallest”.  I was thrilled to find that quote, and we put it on our postcards.

I would like to thank Kathleen Krucoff of Krucoff Studios for the design of both our poster and postcards.  Everyone has commented on how stunning and professional they are, and it makes them proud to be a part of the show.

Jewelry at the Gardens ~ Post Card


28 Artists at the Botanic Gardens ~ The Poster

So what I’m saying, along with please come see us at the show and sale,  is that we, as artists, are creative people. If you are unhappy with shows and galleries, please take this idea and run with it.  It’s nothing new, but it is a first for a great group of metalsmiths in Colorado.

Look for willing locations in your area.  Look for people who will help sponsor a show, and put one together.  Is it a lot of work?  Yes, tremendously so. Maybe a later blog will be a step -by-step of how to do this, but I’ve put together many shows in Texas and PA.  All it takes is a spark, and you can ignite a whole group of people’s creative processes.  Helping others get “out there”, in turn energizes me, and  I feel a lot more creative.  I hope you will come to see us.  I can promise you it will be worth your time to see what these artisans have created and maybe you will find that right item and become a collector!

Show dates / times / location: October 16 ad 17,  from 9 AM -5 PM, Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, Denver Co, 80206.

I’m off to create  something for this “New Tradition”– I look forward to meeting you at this new event, “Jewelry at the Gardens”.  Please mention you read about it in my blog as I would love to know.  Thanks.

Lexi

The Most Amazing Workshop

It’s already Summer Solstice.  It’s amazing how quickly time passes.  I was afraid when I “retired” from my archaeology days, and decided to do jewelry full time, that I would sit around with time on my hands and just stare at my bench pin.  Well, not exactly.  My days are packed with discussions with my friends about techniques, stones, and preparing for art shows.  I don’t have time to do anything else, (and have been so tardy about updating my blog)  and though it gets frantic at times, I’m extremely grateful to be able to pursue my passion.  I think my life is very blessed.

This past week end, I took one of the most amazing workshops I’ve ever taken, in fact, my  first workshop in 3 years.  I took this eagerly awaited workshop because I have long been a fan of master metalsmith, David Huang.  He makes those fabulous  chased and repoussed vessels, with those “out of this world” patinas.  Then they are  lined in gold.  They positively glow from within.  I first saw them several years ago in Metalsmith magazine,  and have longed to see one in person.  His pieces are truly the kind of art that you just stare at with your mouth open and say “How does he do that?” I knew two days of chasing and repousse would tax my dyslexia, not to mention my shoulder, but I really wanted to know how he got those fabulous patinas.

David Huang making patinas

I must be doing something right because  The Denver School of Metal Arts, where I also teach, hosted the first ever  patina workshop that (gasp!) the real David Huang presented. I had met David last year at the Colorado Metalsmith Assoc Salida Conference , which takes place in mid-July each year.  David and I were sitting close together in one of the presentations, and (embarrassingly)  I just had to  gush.  I mean, he’s truly an unbelieveable artist.   He was so gracious, (not to mention, very good looking, too),  much too young to be such a master metalsmith, and one of the nicest guys in the field.  But I digress.

The first few minutes of any workshop are rather awkward, with people not knowing each other, or the instructor.  David put us at ease immediately with his self-deprecating humor, and talking about his work.  He’s very humble and allowed all questions.  As he started to talk about the chemicals I tried to remember chemistry class of….hmmmm, say  “several”  years ago, but he speaks like a real person, not “chemical engineer speak”. Also,  I was expecting a massive Bible of technical recipes as hand-outs, kind of like that patina book that I own, which I either (a) can’t afford or (b) can’t pronounce the ingredients, but no.  We started out with basic ingredients that all of us had already had heard of, and, I was fairly sure, would not accelerate the growth of a 2nd head.  David fired up the torch, applied the patina, and we all stood around and “oohed” and “ahhed”  as the metal turned a juicy turquoisey-greenish blue.  But the master of any technique can make it look simple, right?

Then was our “hands on” time.  I cut my metal, got my little jar of chemicals and was at last “one with the torch”.  I eagerly fired up the torch to  a soft annealing flame,  heated the metal, reached for a paint brush and cautiously applied the chemical and waited.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing  No color. Nada. Zilch.  David looked over my shoulder and said “More heat”.  “More?”  He reached over and cranked up the heat.  I applied more chemical.  There was a tiny bit of green, but only if you looked at it under a 4000X power microscope.  “More stuff”,  I heard, as the master was standing right there.  So I slathered the “stuff ” on, and there it was, just baby steps, but there was a green.  It didn’t look like his, but there it was.  So I stood there adding more “stuff”  and more heat.  Suddenly, there appeared this luscious turquoisey-green. “Oh Wow!”  escaped from my lips, and I gazed upon my first tile as if it were my first newborn child. Around the room my classmates experienced their own color-induced euphorias.

Patina Samples

Soon we were all comparing our sample tiles, and eagerly reaching for another.  David showed us more patinas, we practiced and experimented,  and suddenly someone announced it was lunch time.  No way!   I had about 7 tiles with different patinas….a rich green, an olive green, a forest-y looking green, and a deeply polished leather brown, something that looked like my old saddle for my childhood horse.  That quickly became my favorite patina. Not one “failure”.  By now we were all friends, sharing patinas and how we did this or that,  “oohing and ahhing” over each others test tiles.  All too soon the day was over. I had 13 fabulous tiles.

That night I was exhausted and fell asleep in my chair at 9:30. I was eager to get to back up to the school the next day and buy more metal at The Naja, and some little copper bowls, too.  I wanted to get there early to look at the vessels he brought, and actually get to touch one.   That day David showed us a deep velvety black patina, so much richer and deeper than Liver of Sulfur.  As he encouraged experimenting, he was just as excited and surprised as we were with some unexpected results.  He was very honest if we asked about putting this chemical with that, and he’d say “I never tried that. Go for it.” How refreshing.  David is a very giving teacher.  He shared every secret, every possibility and even talked of chemicals he wished to try in the future.  I also try to teach that way and really appreciate when someone who I consider a true master is so giving.  My philosophy is “Why make students re-invent the wheel?” My last patina was  a real surprise….a rich, elegant pinky-red-salmon, and a pattern that could be an O’Keeffe painting.  On the back of the tile, by happy accident, were colors that looked something like a Rothko painting with rich purples. That I will just put on a mini-easel and just look at.

It had been one of the most wonderful workshops I’d ever attended.  I’d like to thank Darlene Armstrong and Travis Ogden and everyone at The Naja and Denver School of Metal Arts for bringing in an artist of David Huang’s caliber. Though my styles of jewelry will not change,  you will be seeing a lot more color.  “Knock your socks off” color.  Thank you, everyone, and a very special Thank You to David for sharing.

The Vessel

As we packed up, I was able to purchase the vessel which I loved with all my heart.  It fit perfectly as I cupped it in my two hands.  Have you ever wanted something so much that when you got it, the only thing you could do was stand there and grin at it?  Well, that was my  feeling as I chose and packed my beloved new treasure.  I have looked at this piece, dreamed of it, and longed for it for at least 3+ years.  It’s that magnificent turquoisey green that I love, and the gold interior just glows. It smiles back at me.   David graciously let each of us pick out and have some of his tiles, and I’m honored to have my favorite 4.   Those, and my test tiles are all on the dining room table, with my gorgeous vessel.  I just go down and stare at them and grin. Yes, my life is very blessed.

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

Live From Lexi In Tucson

Hi Everyone, Here we are in my last day at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, just generally known as “Tucson” to those of us who make jewelry.  The big question for the last 3 months among jewelry people  is “Are you going to Tucson?”  Everyone knows what that means. You aren’t going for the sunshine, spas or cuisine, though all are excellent.  To borrow, and modify, a current Olympic expression….”Go for the Rocks!”  And we did.

My buddy Helen and I started out in my husband’s big old 3/4 ton pickup, because with Helen, I didn’t know if I would be hauling back rock cutting equipment or  500 pounds of rough.  For me, I might find a T-Rex  fibula that I couldn’t live without.  We drove from Denver to Albuquerque and spent the night with my friend Mary, a fabulous potter, who is such an inspiration to me in so many ways. The next morning we all started out.  Mary was looking for unusual beads from Nepal for her unique spirit necklaces and goddess figures and urns, so she thought Tucson would be good for her.

We survived the boring drive from Hatch, NM to Deming, though Helen, being a Jersey girl, was fascinated with miles and miles of nothing but sage and yucca, without a tree in sight.  She kept her nose pressed against the window, with an occasional “Wow!” or “Cool!” or “Look at those rocks!” escaping from her lips.  After the awe inspiring ride through Texas Canyon, we came into Tucson, and got excited to see Zee Haag’s advertisement out on I-10 as soon as we arrived.  We were finally in TUCSON!!!

We stayed with our good buddy, Terri, in her beautiful Tucson styled home, along with her 2 dogs and cat, the Spawn of Satan.  Well, his name is Yote, but Helen calls him the Spawn of Satan because of his actions.  He just needs therapy. Then we were off to the show.  Our first stop was at AGTA where we got hugs from Todd Reed, who was finishing up his show that afternoon and flying to Philly for the Rosen Show. (How DO you do it, Todd?)  Then we were off to see the rock guys.  OK.  Helen and I had this margarita bet as to who would buy the first stone.   Well, 10 minutes into the show I spent the first money, but it was for my good Chile/Boulder buddy, jeweler Maria Roditis, who at the last minute couldn’t make it down for the show.  So TECHNICALLY,  that didn’t count.  The first money was spent with one of my favorite couples in the business, Mark and Christa Lasater, at The Clam Shell.  Again, I had to pick up 5 gorgeous amethyst sage stones that Kathleen Krucoff had ordered.  Then I had pre-ordered some equally fabulous amethyst sage, so that didn’t count, either. THEN IT HAPPENED!  Helen and I both spotted THE  new stone of the entire Tucson Show, and Helen pulled out her wallet and bought the stone on the spot.  I bought 7 pieces of the petrified sequoia stone, which was the Smokin’ Stone in the Feb issue of Lapidary Journal, (it’s very, very rare) and  I also bought THE stone.  Well, 2 of THE stones.  More on THE stone later.  Then we caught up with the editor of Lapidary Journal, Merle White, and solved the problems of the world, and were off again.  We rocketed through the place, stopping to see some fabulous new pink Oregon Sunstone from the Ponderosa site, and I could have easily dropped big buckage there, but didn’t.  I mean, it was only  30 minutes into the show and I’d already spent a lot of money.  I was already in deep coprolite!

We crossed the street to the GJX Show, and saw rubies, sapphires, diamonds, finished jewelry, ( ho-hum) but we were looking for cabs and rough.  The only thing I wanted was dino doo-doo and dino bone.  I have plenty of everything else, or at least my patient husband thinks so. Lo and behold…suddenly there was Gary B. Wilson’s booth,  my other favorite cutter.  I immediately picked out more things for Kathleen, and Gary had been holding some matt red jasper, the same stone that was on the cover of the Dec issue of Lapidary Journal.  I found a large round beauty called Hidden Valley Jasper.  It’s has gorgeous colors, looking like pinky gold Aurora Borealis lights.  And I finally got an “8 Ball”!  If you are familiar with Gary’s work, you know what that is.  I have waited years for an 8 ball slice. I bought more of my favorites, Chinese Writing Stone, and jaspers. But still no dino doo-doo.  And that was the only thing I came to Tucson for.

The next day was Electric park…and cold…and rain.  We met up with Mary and toured the tents.  Lots of Kwan Yin statues, Budda Heads, Kent’s Tools in the big tent, and I bought a splendid red and yellow African basket from a Denver guy! There were these wonderful things from Madagascar (Hi Noel!  I will be sending you a list, but get us some labradorite and those large tumbled carnelian stones.)  We talked to these cob-web encrusted grizzled old miners, and met Gator, who is Queen Elizabeth’s 16th cousin. (Aren’t we all?)   In other words, lots of characters.  And finally, doo-doo!  Biff Billings had the coolest stuff.  I got dino bone beads and a gastrolith, and very rare bone and doo-doo beads.  (OK, Mom, coprolite beads.)   He’s a retired archaeology professor, so no wonder I like him  We had lots of friends in common. I had a ball looking thru his stuff. I wanted to spend the rest of the day there, but the proverbial sun was setting in the west, and we had evening plans.

The next days flew by as we shopped The Holidome and  “The Strip”, seeing Anasazi pot shards, legally obtained, we were told, and trays of  repros of old religious objects, and tons of boxes of cabs and slabs, most just carelessly thrown in boxes, some that had been stored in people’s basements for decades. We saw lots of dealers buying from each other, and never once had to stand in line to purchase anything.  I don’t know how the dealers thought about this years show, economically wise.

Then it happened. And it brought tears to my eyes.   The thing that got to me was the scarcity of my favorite stones, Chinese Writing Stone, Picasso stone and palm wood.  There is a limited supply of good cutting material of any stone.  There were many cabs from China, cut there because it’s cheap.  So many cabs were crudely cut, or chipped from being thrown in a box. The words of Jeff Wise came to me so many times…”Who will speak for the stones?” To me, these are the gifts of our Earth Mother, who has cradled these treasures within her bosom for years. They deserve to be respected and honored.  They are the history of our home, our planet. To see people scruffing thru boxes of stone cabs, chipping or breaking them, marring their surface as they scratch against other harder stones touched me deeply.  Each stone deserves to be cut to it’s most beautiful shape and polished to bring out it’s natural beauty, and presented for your enjoyment, not tossed in some dirty old cardboard box.  I learned I don’t have to go to Tucson to see the most gorgeous stones.  I already buy from the best cutters out there, men who respect the stones and work hard to bring out each stones unique beauty.  And that’s why I continue to buy from Mark Lasater (The Clamshell) and Gary Wilson.  They are true artists, with the heart and spirit of the artist.  Their life and love is the stone, the backbone of The Earth Mother, our Madre Tierra.   I don’t mean it to sound snobbish or elitist, but the stone deserves this.  And when you make your piece of jewelry, present the stone to best best of your ability.  Make the stone proud of you.

Tomorrow I will reveal THE stone, what several of us have decided, in our unscientific poll, what was the new surprise this year.  And forgive me for my soap box stance. Just give it some thought. As jewelers, we have the power to stop what is happening.

From Tucson,

Lexi