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 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

Thank you, everyone, for the wonderful welcome.  I’ve had a great time reading your responses.  I’m still learning how to do this, not being a  computer oriented person, but again, Kathleen has been wonderful. If you ever get to meet her in person, your life will be greatly enriched.  Those of you wanting to learn to solder, I  hope we will be able to help you.  If you live in or visit the Southwest US, I’ll be teaching soldering at the Lapidary Journal’s Jewelry Artist Beadfest in Santa Fe in March.  Please come join us.

We’re getting ready for the Denver Gem and Mineral show right now.  It’s the 2nd largest gem show in the US, right after Tucson.  In some ways, it’s better.  The Tucson show is HUGE.  It has megatons of rough stone, if you are interested in cutting your stones yourself, and lots of the Big 4, (diamonds, rubys, emeralds, and sapphires).  But the Denver show has more cabochons, and the top cab cutters in the world are here.  My favorites are Gary B. Wilson, Mark Lasater from The Clam Shell, Joe Jelks from Horizon Mineral and Michael Hendricks from Minarex.  If you follow my work in Lapidary Journal’s Jewelry Artist magazine, almost all my stones come from these 4 cutters because their quality is the best and their designs are easy to work with.  They have fabulous stones,  some hard to find things, and the unusual…like a sliced cue ball that makes a cool necklace, or reflectors from an old inventory of 1930’s tricycles. (giggle)

As you look for stones,  you may find a beautiful specimen, and you may be swept off your feet with the colors and patterns in the piece.  You may not think about the actual shape of the stone.  Later, in your studio, when you get ready to design with it, you find  it’s difficult and bulky to design around.  These guys cut stones with us, the artists, in mind.

When you go to pick out a stone, think about these things:

1.  If you only buy stones you fall madly in love with, you will never sell those stones.  (And how would I know this?)  If you can, purchase 2 of them, one for you and one to sell.  This works for beads, too.

2.  Don’t forget to buy small stones, even though they may not knock your socks off, you need small accent stones, especially if you are working at 3 AM and realize you suddenly need a 4mm black onyx to finish the piece.  Have a small supply on hand, always.

3.  Make sure the stone is flat on the bottom if you are doing a cabochon set.  Stones with a curved bottom will never set right..

4.  If you are a beginning stone setter, stick with rounds and ovals.  Squares will take more practice.  Those with very sharp points, though beautiful, will be difficult, and you may break off the point.  Save those for when you are more advanced at bezelling.

5.  Don’t shy away from large stones.  They make stunning focal pieces, usually worn up high on a simple neck wire or omega chain.  Watch what is being worn by the women news announcers on TV. They only have a small area in which to show jewelry, and its usually a gorgeous necklace that just shows under a collar.

6.  You may have your own organizational techniques, but I put my stones in Riker boxes, the glass topped flat boxes, and group them according to the cutter.  That way, if I need another Chinese Writing Stone, like I recently did, you have them grouped with all those from the same cutter, so you can call him and ask for more.  The quality and the finish will be consistent with others you have.

I hope these ideas have helped you with stone selections, and hope you get to go to some fabulous gem shows and find treasures.  If I learn how to post photos I’ll send pics of the Denver Show.  Kelly Bly is flying out from PA.  She’s one of my students from PA, and still flies out to have fun and deplete her checking account. Several writers from Lapidary Journal are coming.  We will all meet and share our goodies,  have a cold adult beverage, “ooooh and ahhhh” over each other’s finds, and then rush off to buy more.   So this is an open invitation to you all to come visit the Denver show.  There are 8 different locations in north Denver, and shuttles between venues.

And if we’re standing at The Clamshell, fighting over the same stone, tell me who you are.  I’ll be happy to let you add it to your collection.

Lexi