Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Fused dichroic glass decal pendants: Hope and Faith inspirational jewelry

A few months ago, I introduced glass decals to a couple of my senior classes. I cut up large strips of solid-colored dichroic glass and brought in a variety of decals for them to choose: hearts, butterflies, dragons, palm trees, dogs and cats, beach scenes, suns and moons, and inspirational sayings. Many of my students are animal-lovers like me, so I figured we'd go through the dog and cat decals pretty quickly.

To my surprise, only one person included a cat and only one used a dog. And almost the rest used either hearts, beach scenes, smiling suns... and inspirational sayings. In fact, I had several people who made pendants that included a sun and something like "Hope" or "Live, Love, Laugh" underneath it.

It was an interesting "social experiment" and made me think about why the seniors were so drawn to these images. I suppose that when you can no longer travel as easily, a beach scene is a reminder of a vacation. And I suppose when your health is failing -- as is the case, unfortunately, with many of my students -- it's comforting to admire a smiling sun or remind yourself to simply have hope. Or maybe I'm going too deep with this and my students just thought the decals looked cool.

After my lessons, I had some leftover decals, so I took a cue from my seniors and made my own Hope, Faith and Sun pendants:

That pink and gold dichroic glass is beautiful, but when I purchased it, I hadn't realized that it's textured. That made applying the decals a bit challenging because they work best when they're fired onto a smooth surface. To compensate, I did a very slow firing, using 15-minute increments. It was tedious, but it worked because you can clearly see the decals.

I sold a few of these pieces at my next show and noted how many people were drawn to the sayings or the sun. I guess having an inspirational reminder is something that everyone can use. It's nice to have a little pick-me-up, especially when it's included in a beautiful piece of glass. So thank you to my students for giving ME an idea!

Check out the rest of my handmade glass and wire wrapped jewelry at Naomi's Designs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Copper wire wrapped glass cabochon bracelet with crystals

First things first: Naomi's Designs is now on Tumblr. Now, I cannot figure out how Tumblr is all that different from Instagram, but I figure it can't hurt to expand my social media platform on sites where I can display photos and links to my jewelry and website. So Tumblr, it is! If you're on there, feel free to follow me.

Meantime, I'm continuing to teach, fill orders and create! I recently landed jobs at three more senior centers, which I'm excited about. I don't want to name them until I actually start work there, which will be toward the end of April. But this is going to be a very busy spring with me teaching pretty much full-time.

When I do have some spare time and am not firing students' pieces, I'm working on my own art and jewelry. Ridgewood Market is in a few weeks and I've been coming up with new inventory. Since the same people tend to frequent that venue, I really need to mix things up and have new items in stock.

Lately, I've been having fun making glass pieces with my glass frit and molds. I'm getting much better at it and have broken fewer molds along the way. Hurray! I was getting a bit tired of making only pendants, though, so I turned the round cabochon shape into a bracelet:

I really love that speckled red, black, pink and white glass. I did not create that; the color, called Strawberry Fields, came that way. All I did was pour it into the mold and fire it. With many frit pieces, I set up the design, but this particular kind needed no color embellishments.

Once the cabochon fired and set, I treated it like a stone, adding the copper wire wrap and crystals. I then created a copper wire spiral design that frames the red glass. Oddly, it was the chain that posed the biggest challenge for me. I've made adjustable chains for thousands of bracelets, but I hadn't taken into account how slippery the glass would be. So I needed to get the proportions just right so you can hook it under your wrist without the glass slipping. I usually make the hook end shorter and link end longer, but I reversed that -- and the clasp was much easier to support and close. I should probably try this design again with a bangle band.

As of now, I think I have some really great inventory for Ridgewood. I've done very well at the last three fairs I've been in and I want to make a lot of sales at this one, too. I'm also adding all of these new pieces to my website. I have 120 items up on this date and keep adding more, so check in often. I can add up to 1500!

I just received a teardrop-shaped mold, which is going to be fun to play with. Keep an eye out for some teardrop jewelry.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Medieval-Inspired Copper Filigree Necklace

I've been called upon to do all sorts of custom orders, but about a year ago, I received one of my more interesting requests. A woman who recreates Medieval costumes planned to dress as Maria Portinari for a convention and asked me to make a version of the necklace. The painting by Hans Memling dates back to the 1400s and features a 14-year-old Maria on her wedding day. She was a member of Italian nobility and though little is known of her, she actually appears in another painting by Hugo van der Goes, where she's wearing the same ensemble and jewelry. This is Memling's work:

I often work off of jewelry photos, but copying an object that's on a painting was much more difficult. I wasn't 100 percent sure what materials were used or how each piece was connected. Even zoomed in to the painting, it was hard to get a perfect view. One of my friends, who is a mechanical engineer, took a look for fun -- and was also stumped by some of the workings of this necklace. He couldn't figure out if it was one piece where everything had been soldered together or if the black beads were a separate necklace. Again, that's the problem with copying a painting. You're not getting an exact picture (pardon the pun) like you would with a photo. You're getting an interpretation.

However, one of the great things about living in NYC is that I have access to some of the world's best museums -- and, as it turns out, this particular painting is part of the Metropolitan Museum Of Art's permanent collection. I visited the museum so I could see the painting in person and get a better read on this elusive necklace... and while the wing featuring the painting was open, the actual alcove where the painting hangs was closed for construction. I could see Maria from a distance, but could not get close to her. Damn.

Instead, I wandered around the beautiful Medieval exhibit so I could see what kinds of jewelry were worn in her day. I took notes on the styles, materials used, etc. Technically I was working. Yes, I did enjoy myself!

I still wasn't sure I had the skills to pull off this necklace, though, and was honest with the customer. I didn't want her to get a piece that didn't match her expectations. I love a challenge, but am also realistic about my skills. It's one thing to goof around and practice on my own, but I'm not going to make a sub-par product for someone who is paying.

Well, about a year went by and I again heard from my customer. She decided to go with a more simple design for her costume and was still interested in having me create one of my wire wrapped filigree pieces. This I could do! So I made her a longer version of my filigree anklet. It's definitely not a replica of Maria's elaborate necklace, but it does have that Medieval "flavor."

In the end, I didn't successfully make a true Medieval necklace, but I enjoyed being part of this project. It's not every day I get to design jewelry for a historically-inspired outfit! Now I hope that the next time I visit the Met, I'll get to see Maria up close and personal. Maybe I'll even wear some filigree in her honor.

Check out the rest of my handmade glass and wire wrapped jewelry at Naomi's Designs.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Adventures In Selling Handmade Jewelry: My First Exhibition

Before getting my glass mosaic into the Rockaway Artists Association's Studio 7 Gallery, my work was included in Independent Artworld's "Limitless" exhibition.

Independent Artworld is run by Lilly, an FB friend and former acquaintance from the 92nd Street Y, where I took jewelry classes. She puts together "pop-up galleries" around the NYC/NJ area. She invited me to participate in her October pop-up, "Limitless."

I once displayed a couple of my wire pieces in our local restaurant, but hanging glass jewelry in a shadow took some work. With the wire pieces, I could stick pins through the loops and hang the pieces that way, but obviously this wasn't an option with glass. Lilly and I spent several hours fussing with the layout until we managed to get a nice, clean look. She came up with the idea to pin the jewelry from the back, hang the chain, and then let the pieces drape. It worked!

The event was held in Jersey City, which I'd only been to a couple of times. It's actually an interesting neighborhood, with many Indian restaurants -- my favorite! It's also an up-and-coming area for galleries and artists. Still, I was a bit surprised when I learned that the pop-up "gallery" was actually being put together in the lobby of a take-out Chinese restaurant. Art and egg rolls!

Lilly had a decorating plan, though, and constructed a really beautiful space featuring about a dozen artists. The other pieces were stunning and I was in great company. As you can see from these photos, it really looked like a permanent gallery. If I hadn't told you, you'd have know idea that a take-out counter was only a few feet away!

To kick off the month-long exhibition, there was a reception for the artists, which included some live music. Lilly suggested I wear all black, so my colorful pieces would really stand out. It felt really good to see my jewelry professionally displayed along with some great art. I even sold one of my triangle necklaces!

Since we were in Jersey City, Jon and I took advantage of the neighborhood and enjoyed a delicious Indian dinner at one of the nearby restaurants. I unfortunately don't recall the name of the place, but there are dozens of great restaurants in the area. We'd love to return when it's warmer and explore more of JC.

Every artist has to start somewhere and I'm grateful to Lilly for giving me this opportunity. I admire her for supporting artists and for actually doing something to give them a showcase or their work. She proved that you can make any place beautiful if you add some art -- even a take-out joint.

Check out more of my handmade fused glass and wire wrapped jewelry at Naomi's Designs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hand-etched glass Vegan Festival pendants

In February, my friend Christopher hosted another Long Island Vegan Extravaganza (LIVE) in Huntington, NY. It was another super successful event for him and for me.

About 600 people came to the first one in February, but this time, the event got a mention in Newsday, Long Island's largest daily newspaper. 1500 folks showed up at this thing, making it so crowded that you literally couldn't walk down the aisles. I got up to get some food during my shift and had to shove my way through throngs of participants. It was annoying, but I'm so proud of Christopher!

He's always been great at organizing (his Great Gatsby-themed wedding was a work of art), but it turns out, he has a true talent for event planning. LIVE is not only hosting these vegan festivals, but is also doing other activities, like trips to Broome Animal Sanctuary. I've known Christopher for about eight years now, so I love seeing him find his calling -- both as a vegan and organizer.

As for me, "nepotism" once again got me a vendor's table, but I did well! I didn't make quite as much as I had in the first festival, but I made my second-highest payout. Not bad! I donated 50 percent of my proceeds back to LIVE; Chris then gave the money to Broome Animal Sanctuary, Lewis Oliver Farm Sanctuary and Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION).

My friend Nancy helped me at my table and of course, we met some interesting folks -- including one woman who has 24 cats. 24! Basically, she created her own cat sanctuary and has most live in a separate home that's on her property. Still, as a cat lover, I can't imagine having two dozen. Imagine the fuss when they all want food!

There was also the lady who very bluntly asked me, "So, what the hell does jewelry have to do with veganism, anyway?" I explained that it doesn't, really, but that I do try to work small-scale and use every part of the glass so I'm not wasting materials. I then joked about nepotism since I'm friends with the host. She ended up buying a pendant from me.

I do always like to have theme-appropriate jewelry for these events, so I hand-etched these vegan-themed pendants:

The idea of my pendants was to capture the important aspects of veganism, aside from diet: love for animals, nature and the Earth. My favorite is the one I did of the tree that also looks like the veins of a heart.

I used a different sort of etching technique to create these glass pieces. Instead of painting on the design with the etching cream, I first drew a design with a permanent marker. I then covered the entire piece with cream, let it sit for a few minutes, and then washed it off. The marker acted as a temporary resist, so the cream didn't cut through the coating -- and the design was left behind, sort of like the negative of a photo.

What's nice about this technique is that I can create finer lines and more intricate designs. The cream is gloppy, so even if I use a thin brush, it's still difficult to draw smaller details. A fine-point marker allows me to do things like fill in vein-like lines in a tree.

Given the success of this event, Christopher and his crew are definitely planning future extravaganzas... but he's definitely going to need a bigger venue. He really does have the gift.

As for me, I'm looking forward to the next LIVE and am constantly updating my inventory. Check out the rest of my handmade glass and wire wrapped jewelry at Naomi's Designs.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Fused Dichroic Glass Statement Necklace And Earrings: Making a glass jewelry set

Since I didn't keep up with this blog for a few months, I'm still catching you up on what's happened in my jewelry-making life. Well, last fall, my glass jewelry was accepted into Vermont Artisan Designs Gallery in Brattleboro, VT.

Brattleboro is a cute, artsy town that's known for its eclectic stores and galleries. On the first Friday of each month, there's a festival and gallery walk, where stores open late and attendees can enjoy free concerts, food samples, etc. We were fortunate to be there for First Friday in August when we visited my sister-in-law and her wife.

After scarfing down a delicious shake and fries at Brattleburger, we attended a classical music concert that was held in the atrium of a nearby mall. The musicians played antique instruments, including a flute from the 1700s. This was particularly interesting for me since I'm a flautist.

We then took in a different "concert" of sorts and joined the town's "Ukulele Flash Mob," which was held in the little park in the center of town. This was exactly what you'd imagine: about 200 people -- all with ukuleles -- played songs together or sang, as we did. It was really bizarre, but amazing, and I'll admit, I shed a tear when the group performed "Over The Rainbow" by Hawaiian artist, Iz.

We finally went on the gallery walk and stopped in Vermont Artisan Designs. The store is full of gorgeous pieces made by local artists, including glass sculptures, pottery and paintings. They also sell jewelry and I purchased a pair of dangling sun and moon earrings. Jon then said to me, "You should sell your stuff here."

Remember, this was the summertime, so I was in shorts and a T-shirt, with my messy hair pulled back. I also had a couple of stains on my shirt from Brattleburger. In other words, I wasn't exactly dressed to impress. Still, I figured I was IN the store, I might as well ask about selling my items. So I showed a few pictures of my work to the manager and she was impressed. She said that they do accept pieces from New Yorkers and suggested I send in some items to the owner. I'm all about taking chances and cold calling. And while I don't recommend "selling" yourself when you look like a mess, I do recommend that you speak up and go after a goal.

Long story short: I did, and he accepted me into the gallery! I made a few more items for the store, but wanted to have one eye-catching statement piece. That ended up being this "fingers" necklace with matching earrings:

This took me a few weeks to complete because I had to cut each strip and then make the chain. It's heavy! But I know some women who love substantial jewelry, and this is for that person.

No that the weather is getting warmer and the days longer, I'd love to return to Brattleboro and actually see my work in the store. Oh, and to see my sisters-in-law, of course.

You can find many more of my pieces on my website, Naomi's Designs.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Teaching Adventures At Maple Grove Cemetery: Making Layered Fused Glass Pendants

Maple Grove remains one of my favorite places to teach -- and I got to do so again last Sunday. For this class, I had my students make layered fused glass pendant, which are a bit more complicated than the other projects I've done there.

Saturday had been the cemetery's annual tea party, so we got to enjoy the leftovers! I had way too many handmade brownies and scones. MG's secretary, Helen, even brought her handmade clotted cream. I haven't had that outside of England and it was fantastic.

I got a nice-sized group of nine people. That's about as much as the room can fit, so we took up almost the entire table. These ladies were very enthusiastic and ready to go. As soon as we started, there was a great energy in the room.

We then got to work and I showed them how to layer pendants. First, I did a step-by-step tutorial with them, explaining how each layer needs to be balanced so it'll fire evenly. We then saw how many layers we could do, making it up to seven.

I attempted to fire a batch of piece's in the microwave there. but they all collapsed and sat in a heap in the kiln. I think maybe the plate in the microwave spun too quickly? I'm not sure. But this is exactly why I fire pieces increments; so I can check on them as they progress. Happily, the ladies were very understanding and simply chuckled when I explained what had happened, and that I'd be better off firing them at home. "Maybe we can fuse them all together and make one giant piece," one joked.

My students caught on to layering quickly and most made multiple pieces during our afternoon session. A few even made earrings from the scrap. Along the way, we had a lot of laughs. One young woman shared that she worked at the cemetery. Another student noted that this woman was the youngest in the room, while the rest of us were old (For the record, I'm 44. NOT old!). She then added, "But at least we're more alive than the people you normally deal with." I guess you had to be there, but her delivery made it really funny. You kind of have to have a gallows sense of humor while being at a cemetery, especially if you're there for a crafts workshop.

I was too busy to take pictures, but here are a few from Helen. I'm almost finished firing their pieces and they turned out beautifully, so the class was a success all around! Check out my site Naomi's Designs for more handmade glass and wire wrapped jewelry.