Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Abstract and geometric fused dichroic glass earrings

Many people ask me where I actually get my dichroic glass. I shop for it in a few online stores. My favorite is simply called ArtGlassSupplies and they have everything from dichroic sheet glass to fusible shapes and decals. I also like Stallings Glass Supplies, Delphi Glass ... and even Amazon. In other words, finding glass to purchase is pretty easy if you know where to look.

I'm a bit of an addict when it comes to acquiring new glass and LOVE sample and scrap sets. This way, I get many colors and patterns at once and don't have to choose! I recently purchased ArtGlassSupplies' "Etched Glass Mystery Box" and am really pleased with it. It contains five 1.5 by 1.5 sheets of patterned glass from their etched dichroic collection -- and the pieces are stunning.

Of course, I had to create something immediately, so I spent the next couple of weeks using these patterns in earrings and jewelry sets:

I've made many pairs of square earrings, but have been playing around with other shapes, like those triangles. I cut those by scoring across the end (the right angle) on the base glass, which always comes in square sheets. These long, thin strips are more difficult to cut in the base glass, but I really like how they look. Plus, the earrings are lighter and more comfortable to wear. The trick is to press firmly when scoring the glass, so you get a deep cut -- which makes it easier to snip the thinner piece. I've also been adjusting the tension on the glass cutter so I can get cleaner lines. For me, a looser tension works better on thicker glass, so I can properly grip it. I suggest experimenting with thin and thicker glass, so you can see which grip feels most comfortable to you.

The challenge with the triangles was fitting the dichroic strips onto the base. I found that the easiest way to do this was to cut regular strips of dichro and then use my snipper tool to clip the ends so they fit. I'm getting better at working the snipper, as well, and can now cut straight or angled lines with it. I used to make a mess and had jagged edges when I used it, but I'm much more comfortable with operating it.

I recently did a couple of craft fairs (more on that in a future post) and the new earrings got a lot of attention. It's hard to ignore the colors in the gorgeous glass! I just ordered another sample pack and can't wait to see what they send me. I'm looking forward to making many more new pieces.

Check out the rest of my handmade jewelry at Naomi's Designs, MayaGirl Creations and Instagram.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Selling handmade jewelry: Tales from the Long Island Vegan Fest

I don't know if the eclipse had any influence, but this was a really good jewelry week for me! It began on a low note with jury duty (Yuck), but then quickly picked up and just kept going. I've once again been accepted to the local art fair, I have a couple more people interested in me teaching classes at their venues, and I sold a piece to a new (for my business) country: Finland. The week was then capped off with my friend Christopher's amazing Vegan Fest.

When Christopher and his husband, Scott, proposed I sell my jewelry at the event, I was skeptical. I wasn't sure that jewelry fit in with holistic doctors, nutritionists and vegan caterers. However, Scott reasoned that they wanted to include a shopping experience at the fair and that my pieces would appeal to an "earthy" vegan crowd. I agreed because I'd planned to attend, anyway, and figured I could make some animal pendants for charity. Chris decided that money would go toward Broome Animal Sanctuary, up in Middleburgh, NY. I designed 18 of these pendants and at least felt that I had a purpose for being there.

Turns out that the guys' instincts were spot-on. I raised $300 for the sanctuary -- and completely trounced my previous sales record from an event. "Earthy" vegans really did like my work!

I usually have a little down-time at fairs, where I can walk around, eat and do some shopping, but at this fair, I barely had time to use the ladies' room. It was great, though. I met some interesting, kind people and enjoyed introducing them to fused glass, as well as the sanctuary. Since this was mainly a Long Island crowd, not too many of the attendees had heard of BAS, which is in central NY, but I explained what the farm is like and how passionate Christopher feels toward this place. Some had visited local sanctuaries, but were now eager to see this one. There was even a case where one of Scott's co-workers did not purchase an animal pendant, but insisted on giving me a generous donation for the sanctuary. I offered to give her a bonus piece of jewelry, but she refused. THAT's what most of the attendees were like: open, warm and giving.

I'd expected my animal pendants to be the main draw and surprisingly, they weren't. People liked them and purchased several, but also bought my regular work. As I'd expected, I got many questions about the materials I use and how I actually create the pieces. Several were intrigued to hear about my microwave kiln. Perhaps we'll hear about some more glass artists in the near future!

I did get to take a very brief lunch break and picked up a combo plate from the vendor across the way. They served homemade black bean burgers with spicy barbecue sauce, potato salad made with cashews, mustard and vinegar -- and the most chewy and delicious brownies I've ever eaten. I never did ask what was in them, but they were rich and fudgy. I'm still dreaming about them.

One company called Pride Enjoy sold vegan rainbow cookies. Rainbow cookies!!! Those are my favorites, but I refrained from buying any because I didn't want to go overboard in sampling treats. The guys bought two containers, so maybe they'll save me one ... if they don't eat them all first.

Jon came for about an hour, but I was so busy working, I didn't even get to talk to him. He had a jack fruit and pineapple curry and was still raving about it hours later. He even said that if all vegan food is like that, he could deal with being vegetarian.

There weren't just food vendors, though. Several organizations gave out literature containing information on veganism and vegan foods; one booth had vegan cookbooks; a couple of tables represented local sanctuaries and farms; a mother and daughter team sold cruelty-free makeup and one company sold hydroponic garden supplies. There were also eight lectures, a masseuse on hand and outdoor yoga classes.

I can't begin to express how proud I am of Christopher. He's a great guy and a close friend, so I'm biased, but he really did a fantastic job in putting this event together. He sought out quality vendors. He promoted the fair like crazy on social media so he'd get ample traffic. And he put together a fair that encompassed an entire vegan experience for attendees, incorporating food, fun and wellness. I've been to dozens of events at this point, and this was one of the most well thought-out and organized. He managed to get over 600 attendees! Just look at the happy crowd. There I am (to the right in blue), selling my heart out:

I'm trying to figure out what I did *right* at this event, so I can do it again at the next fair. I think that some of the reasons I did well here were because A) I had a table right by the entrance, so people saw me as soon as they came in. B) I didn't have much competition since my booth was different than anything else there. C) I've gotten better at schmoozing and selling. That last one is important because it's a skill I'm still working on. I did channel my friend Lani a few times during the fair and managed to close the sale. She'd be proud.

The festival was so successful that Christopher has decided to turn this into a bi-annual affair. I'll definitely be back for the next one. After all, I still need to taste those rainbow cookies!

Check out my jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Handmade fused dichroic glass farm animal pendants for Vegan Fest!

It's less than a week until the Long Island Vegan Fest -- and I'm getting excited! I'm so proud of the work my friend Christopher Jaie has done putting this event together. He's going to have nationally-known speakers, nutritionists, vegan cooks and holistic doctors on hand. He has about 30 booths ready to go at this point and has organized a quality festival for vegans and those interested in learning about veganism.

As for me, I'm mainly selling there due to nepotism, LOL. It helps to be close friends with the organizer, even though I haven't really made an impact in the vegan world. Still, I'm determined to use my jewelry for good, especially when it comes to this event. In addition to planning this fair, Christopher is raising money for the Broome Animal Sanctuary in Middleburgh, NY. He's visited the sanctuary several times and knows the owners Greg and Tony well, and also volunteers with several farms and animal shelters on Long Island. Rescuing and caring for animals is Christopher's passion, so his being vegan isn't just about him eating -- or not eating -- particular foods. He really walks the walk.

I've created a line of fused dichroic glass animal pendants, for which all of the proceeds will benefit Broome Animal Sanctuary. I'd made a series of African and wild animal pieces, but Chris, as well as Rhea from Woodstock Reveries, had both suggested that I do something with farm animals. So I found these adorable decals featuring pigs, cows, ducks, horses, etc. and turned them into these pendants:

So far, that psychedelic pig is the favorite! I love the pig, but I also really like the colorful chickens. I didn't decorate all of the pieces with crystals, but tried to adorn the pendants to fit each animal's personality. The pig already had so much color with that tie-dyed background that it didn't need a wire wrap, but chickens and roosters are "frilly" with their combs and feathers; that's why I added the wire wrap to their piece.

Christopher has described this fair as being a labor of love and it's the same for me with these pendants. It's taken a lot of work to make so many in time for this event, but I hope they do well in the auction -- and raise a lot of money for the farm. I'd love to visit there one day and actually meet the animals. Chris has promised to take me.

Meantime, I'm looking forward to learning more about veganism at this festival and to making some new friends. As I've said before, my jewelry is taking me on some interesting paths!

Check it out at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Selling handmade jewelry: Naomi's Designs is now at Woodstock Reveries!

As you may have guessed from this post's title, I have some exciting news! Naomi's Designs is now being sold at Woodstock Reveries in Woodstock, NY.

I was approached by the store in February, but we finally sealed the deal last week. They're now selling several of my fused glass necklaces and a pair of dichroic earrings.

Though I haven't yet visited the store in person, I really like and respect the owner, Rhea. She's a vegan and animal activist, and donates a portion of her proceeds to various animal shelters. Aside from making sure that the shop's items are beautiful, she also curates items that don't use animal products. That said, she especially liked my animal pendants, including that tie dyed elephant piece. I'm pleased about this because I designed that in honor of my soon-to-be-10-year-old niece, who's crazy about elephants.

My New Year's resolution for 2017 was to get my work into at least two stores and I'm up to three (four, if you count the fact that Chakra Shop has two locations). I remember how discouraged I felt when I checked into the boutiques near me and no one expressed any interest. So I went smaller and more specialized, and have found some success. I really don't think I'm the best jewelry designer out there -- I've seen some incredible work at fairs and online -- but I am persistent. So if you're looking to sell to a store or any other type of venue, that's my best advice. Keep at it, both in terms of improving your product and gathering a list of contact.

I'm proud to be a part of such a great store, but my work isn't done. I'm never finished! I plan to continue and see where else I can sell my jewelry, and what I can do to make my product even better. So far, I love what I'm doing and have met some wonderful people along the way. I'm not looking for fame, but if I can stay on this path, I'll be very happy.

Check out the rest of my jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Silver wire wrapped jewelry set with fused dichroic glass necklace, earrings and bracelet

This weekend, Jon and I visited family in Brattleboro, Vermont. It's a small, artsy town filled with galleries and funky shops. We happened to be there for the monthly "First Friday" celebration, so we took in a ukulele flash mob (so much fun!), a chamber music concert, and then went on the gallery walk.

While on the walk, we stopped by an artisan gallery that's filled with handmade crafts made by local -- and out-of-town -- artists. Most of the work is stunning; there are clay vases, blown glass sculptures, paintings ... and jewelry. I was surprised to see how reasonably priced the jewelry was and ended up purchasing a pair of earrings. Jon then said to me, "You know, you should see if you can get your stuff into this store."

At first, I said, "No" because I was dressed very casually in shorts and a T-shirt, and figured that they only accept Vermont-based artists. But then I was like, "What the hell? I'm IN the gallery and the worst that can happen is I'm told, 'No, thanks.' It won't kill me to ask."

So I did and got an enthusiastic response from the clerk. She was impressed with my glass pieces and handed me an application, explaining that their submissions are juried. I'm fine with that. I just want the opportunity to try.

One of the pieces I plan to submit via photo is this abstract glass jewelry set. I actually made this to include in my application for the upcoming local art festival, but now it will serve a second purpose. Hopefully, it will yield positive results for both the store and fair:

I've made several other jewelry sets, but this one is more complex. This is seven layers of fused dichroic glass, both etched and clear. I carefully planned out how to place each layer, so I could get that particular abstract design.

The earrings and bracelet were harder to design than the pendant because they're smaller. I had to alter the pattern a bit so I could fit the layers into a tinier space. I also used fewer layers -- five for each instead of seven -- because I didn't want the earrings to be too heavy. Still, the designs work as one whole concept, even if the individual pieces aren't completely matchy-matchy.

Since so much is going on in the design, I went with a simple silver wire wrapped chain and band. I added in a couple of spirals to complement the pattern, but didn't want to go overboard with the crystals or geometric shapes.

A lot of people call my glass pendants "stones," which is incorrect. I have to explain that they're not actually stones, but glass cabochons, which I cut, shaped and fused. However, I really do think this pendant resembles a stone -- perhaps an opal?

This year has been all about stretching myself as an artist and businesswoman. My efforts have been paying off, but I still have a lot of work to do. It would be wonderful if I could get my jewelry into this gallery. I'd be in great company.

Check out the rest of my jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Making animal-themed dichroic glass jewelry for Vegan Fest!

Bushwick Vendors Market may have not gone as well as I'd hoped, but we're on to a new month -- and my friend Christopher has given me a unique opportunity to sell my jewelry.

On August 26, he's hosting the Long Island Vegan Food and Information Extravaganza. So far, he's lined up an incredible lineup of speakers and vendors, including doctors, nutritionists and self-made businesspeople... and he's asked me to have a booth at his event.

I wondered why he'd want a jewelry vendor at a vegan fest, but he explained that he wants his attendees to have a full experience, where they can get information, try new foods ... and shop. I was planning to go just to support him, so I was definitely on board.

Still, I don't just want to show up with my jewelry; I want to have a purpose for being there. So I'm making a line of animal-inspired glass pieces. All of the proceeds will benefit an as-yet-to-be-named charity of Christopher's choice:

I'm also making a point to learn EXACTLY what goes into every bit of my jewelry making and how I can make my pieces as eco-friendly as possible. I realized I didn't really know how the glass decals are made and did some research. The high quality ones are made of crushed glass, or enamel. They're "silk screened" onto the transfer material, though these days, the screen is almost always made of a polyester blend instead of actual silk.

I want to know as much as possible so I can answer any questions my customers might have. As Christopher told me, "Vegans tend to be a very inquisitive bunch." I do work small scale by keeping my studio in my apartment and by mostly using my hands instead of machines to do the work. I do use a microwave and will be honest about that. Ultimately, jewelry is a luxury and not a necessity. so one can debate whether we really need it. But I hope my work can raise some money for whatever organization Christopher chooses.

Check out the rest of my jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tales from the craft fair: selling at Bushwick Vendors Market

This year, I've done more vending at craft fairs than I have in all of my other years of making jewelry combined. Though I've mainly sold at Ridgewood Market's monthly event, I've been experimenting with different venues. This weekend, I sold at the Bushwick Vendors Market, which was an interesting experience, to say the least.

Bushwick, Brooklyn is about a mile up from Ridgewood, which is right on the Queens/BK border. Both neighborhoods have reputations for being funky and artsy, and are the perfect places for hosting craft fairs. I figured that the BVM would be a similar type of event to Ridgewood, where local artists showcase and sell their work. I was wrong.

The event was advertised as a night market which would feature music, art and crafts. I figured it would be a fair that included some live bands. Instead, it was an immersive music/art/jam session... that just happened to have a few vendors present. Though the host was Brooklyn VENDORS Market, the vendors seemed to be an afterthought.

I really liked the space where the event was held: The Silent Barn. It's an open hall, which has an area for bands or parties, and there's a bar and backyard garden. Since it was such a beautiful night, I set up my table outside -- and was surrounded by fun and colorful graffiti art.

At first, I thought I'd be the only vendor present, but eventually four other sellers arrived. One couple sold postcards, another T-shirts, and a couple of women sold home goods. Like I said, though, these booths were an afterthought. Instead, most of the participants came to paint, drink and hang out.

This particular crowd was very, VERY young; I'm guessing that most of the people there were in their early 20s -- just old enough to drink. I'm 43 and Jon is 45... and while I consider myself to be "young at heart," this crowd made me feel ancient, lol! Jon was very amused when the bartender carded him. I explained that he was probably told to card everyone... and just wasn't expecting a geezer to show up. I thought I was on top of pop culture trends, but I didn't recognize any of the music played and the fashions weren't any I'd seen before. Apparently, I'm quite out of the loop...

There was a group of actual kids who arrived, probably around age 11-12 or so. Maybe they were with a summer camp? I'm not sure. They came early and engaged in the free painting that was offered. They did notice my table, though, and crowded around to admire my jewelry. "Do we have to pay for these?" asked a boy. I explained that yes, they're for sale and a girl sighed loudly. "They're all so pretty. I wish they were free!" Sorry, kids! I'm happy they liked my work. They had a great time painting and I enjoyed watching them express themselves through their art.

As the night went on, more young adults arrived. Many stopped by to check out my work, but the problem with selling to a younger crowd is that many just don't have cash. I can certainly understand this. Chances are, they're paying off college loans or have just started renting a place, or are at a new job. At this point, I accepted that I wouldn't be making any sales, but still wanted to see what the evening had in store.

To my surprise, I actually made a few sales. One was to another jewelry vendor, who'd arrived late. She's a fellow cat lover and purchased one of my cat rings. She was very sweet and gave me a hug after buying her jewelry. Of course, we showed each other photos of our kitties.

Around 10 p.m., the event host announced that it was time for some entertainment. I expected to hear some live music, but instead, everyone engaged in an open mic session. The host encouraged people to express themselves through poetry, music, rap, etc. A few people took the mic and recited poems or sang songs. Meanwhile, others continued to paint and the space filled up with the art. The host explained that they'd succeeded in making the space a diverse and integrated one, welcoming people from all backgrounds and race. Indeed, it was a diverse crowd, which is one of the things I love about New York City.

I have to say that everyone was extremely polite and encouraging to those who went up to speak or sing. Some shared some very personal stories, but the crowd applauded loudly and cheered them on. I really enjoyed seeing the next generation engage in art, literature and music.

In the end, I took a loss since my sales didn't make up for the registration fee. This obviously wasn't the vending event I'd expected and I didn't quite fit in. Still, I'm glad I attended the festival and am happy that my money went toward a great cause. I'm all for promoting the arts, especially to younger folk -- and I love that there's a free space where 20somethings can share their work.

Check out the rest of my handmade jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Creating multilayered fused glass dichroic pendants with patterned and clear glass

I've written several posts about my attempts to make multilayered dichroic glass pieces. Many of these attempts have failed because the glass broke or didn't fuse correctly, but I'm finally getting the hang of it! I'm now creating pendants that have four, five, six... and even seven layers of glass.

Lately, I've been experimenting with clear dichroic glass. I haven't worked much with this material, but the clear glass is great for fusing onto colored base glass or for creating layers. It has patterns and textures just like the dichroic glass on black, but is transparent. Therefore, when you fuse patterned clear glass on top of patterned opaque glass, you get a combo of those designs.

The trick to layering glass is to make sure each layer is even. I always start with a piece of base glass -- generally clear, black or white -- and then top it with opaque dichroics on black. However, I make sure that all of the dichros are the same thickness. This way, the next layer of glass will lay flat across. If you add a piece of say, Wissmach textured glass, which is lumpier than most other dichros, it'll be harder to get an even fuse. I like to use a dab of Krazy Glue to keep my pieces in place. The glue keeps the glass still for working purposes, but eventually burns off in the kiln.

Next, I add a few small clear pieces, choosing ones that have interesting tints and patterns. I then top it with a piece of clear base ... and then this is where the fun begins: I add a couple more layers of clear glass, again mixing up tints and patterns.

So far, seven is my record; that large blue piece that's at the top of this post is my seven-layer one. I didn't like how it turned out when I first took it from the kiln, but fell in love with it after it cooled and hardened. It reminds me of an ocean scene and I really like the color combinations.

I've found that if you pile the pieces on too high, the colors will become muddled and the glass will lose its shape. Basically, it's a bit like building a pyramid; I use more glass on the bottom and then use fewer -- and smaller -- pieces as I build up.

To heat such thick pieces, you need the larger microwave kiln. I do an initial firing for 9 minutes, then do 1 1/2-minute intervals. There's no way that these items would hold up in the small kiln; they'd probably break after about a minute of heating. Low and slow is the way to go!

I'm glad I'm paying more attention to the clear dichros because I'm going to be having my students work with colored base glass -- and I plan to show them how to fuse them with clears. I think they're really going to enjoy this lesson. I'm certainly enjoying my glass experiments.

Check out the rest of my handmade jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Adventures in teaching:making handmade etched dichroic glass pendants

My latest class at Maple Grove Cemetery was my most exciting yet! I had my students design glass pendants using Armour Etch Cream.

I was a bit nervous about actually hosting this class because the etching cream is extremely potent. After all, it's made to dissolve the outer coating on dichroic glass. You can get injured if it comes in contact with your skin or you breathe it in, so I had my students "suit up" with protective gloves, surgical masks and goggles.

This time, the class was so full, we occupied every seat in the conference room. Several attendees came from neighboring towns, which was really nice. Maple Grove is quickly gaining a reputation for its arts and cultural programs.

I did a demo and showed the students how to apply the etching cream. Because this stuff acts immediately, I like to lay down a very light layer to map out my design. After that, I gently dab a couple of coats onto the lines. The trick is to apply a thick coat of cream, but to not goop it onto the glass. I use thin brushes so I can keep the lines as fine as possible.

One woman hadn't realized exactly WHAT we'd be doing and was nervous about using the cream. Still, she gave it a shot. She was reluctant to add too much and her designs came out too light, but she had a great sense of humor about it and joked that hers were the "ugly pieces." I disagree! She need practice, but well, that's what the class is for -- and her pieces really weren't bad.

A couple of other students caught on right away and came up with amazing designs. I'm so proud of them!

Unfortunately, I screwed up in a big way. One of the most important things to keep in mind when fusing glass is that you need to give it time to anneal and harden. If you bake, you know that the cake needs to cool before you add icing or else the icing will melt over the top. Cooling glass too quickly leads to it breaking.

I'd warned the students ahead of time that I might have to fire some pieces at home, but I still got a lot of, "Is my piece done? Is it cool?" I really should've stood my ground and said, "No. It takes about a half hour." However, I wanted to please everyone and rushed the process. I stuck a few pieces under cold water to speed up the cooling ... and they all snapped in half. I'm so angry with myself.

Meantime, I'd put the hot lid down on a towel... and it burned a hole right through the cloth. Have you ever smelled burnt terrycloth? YUCK! A clump of black goop was left behind. It was so disgusting.

Fortunately, the students were understanding. The "Ugly Piece" woman burst into giggles. The others simply shrugged and glued their pieces back together. They were really nice about it.

The hosts, Helen and Carl, also forgave me for ruining their towel. "It's from the dollar store," Helen noted. Whew! I totally blame myself for these mistakes. As a teacher, it's up to me to stay in control and concentrate, and to keep everyone safe. I can't get flustered, even when the session is hectic. I'm still learning myself.

Happily, everyone had a great time. Several people told me how much fun they'd had and asked when I'll be having my next class. Since etching went so well, I'd like to try it again with stencils. This way, my students can create more complex designs.

Most people chuckle when I tell them I teach at a cemetery, but I'm so grateful to Helen and Carl for giving me this opportunity. I'm so proud to be a part of Maple Grove's programs.

Check out the rest of my work at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Inspiration for making handmade glass jewelry: visiting the Chihuly exhibit at New York Botanical Garden

When it comes to making glass pieces, I'm still fairly new to the discipline. After all, I've only been doing this for about a year-and-a-half. I'm skilled, but hardly an expert. I'm always looking for inspiration from artists who really are experts -- and none has been more inspirational to me than Dale Chihuly.

Yesterday, my husband and I spent the day at the New York Botanical Garden , which is currently featuring a few dozen Chihuly glass sculptures. His medium is blown glass and if you're not familiar with his work, take a look at these gorgeous creations:

He's been working professionally with glass since the 1960s and his art has been displayed in parks and gardens throughout the world. We're fortunate to have him in NYC through October -- so if you're in town, definitely go to the exhibit.

Much of his work is inspired by nature, especially the sea. This is evident in many of his whimsical pieces, which resemble shells, seaweed or coral. What's really amazing about his sculptures is how well they blend into the real plant life. In some cases, it was difficult to tell which was real and which was glass.

The exhibit itself is present throughout most of the garden -- which is enormous. Jon and I covered over six miles walking around it! That said, it feels almost like you're on a scavenger hunt as you wander from section to section, searching for Chihulys. We could usually spot them by the huge crowds that gather around the pieces.

It was difficult choosing a favorite, but I think I'll have to go with those first three that are pictured in this post. I especially like that blue sculpture, which is appropriately named "Sapphire Star." It's simpler than his other pieces, but I love the vibrant colors.

When you get up close to these sculptures, you can see the details he puts into his work. For instance, his iceberg piece has actual cracks in the ice. Meanwhile, his glass "leaves" have the various shades of green that you'd see in a real plant. I know a tiny bit about glass blowing because they teach it at Brooklyn Glass, but I didn't realize you can add so much detail.

Jon would like to take a glass blowing class; meantime, I plan to show my photos to my students so they can see just what can be done with glass. His work has inspired me to be a bit more experimental and I hope it encourages them to be bold when coming up with their designs.

I'm no Chihuly, but you can still check out my jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Teaching handmade jewelry: my new teaching job!

Last week, I began an exciting new job: teaching fused glass at the Atria Senior Residence right near me. The Engage Life Director has titled it "Naomi's Jewels." Snazzy, right?

I've been playing flute there for two years and have done a couple of jewelry sales for the seniors, but the Atria was looking for some "different" programs to be included in the lineup. Glass jewelry fit that description! My class is being held once a month, which is perfect for my freelancing lifestyle. It's being held often enough that I can count on a paycheck, but is still rare enough to be special. Since I now teach at three places, I can rotate and devote time to each venue.

What's nice is that I already know most of the staff and residents so I'm not the "new girl." My close friend Judith is assisting me, so we're getting to do something together outside of music. My first class also happened to be held on the first day of the newest Engage Life staffer, so she helped out, as well. She's young and enthusiastic, and has an art background, so she was perfect.

The class is being held in Cafe Atria, which is a small kitchen area with tables and chairs, a toaster and microwave. It's adjacent to the front hallway, so it's open and bright, and people are constantly walking by. I like this set-up because it's much more comfortable than being crammed into a back room.

10 seniors showed up for my class, including two men! I rarely get male students, so I was delighted to see them there. One planned to make a pendant for his daughter, while the other just wanted to try something new.

I kicked off with my easiest project: making mosaic pendants. This is great first lesson because it lets my students play with the different types of dichroic glass. I cut about a hundred small pieces for them, giving them access to glass in many colors, textures and patterns.

The biggest challenge that comes from working with this group is that several have memory problems. I had to be extra-careful to keep them safe. I filed and blunted the ends of every single glass piece and constantly reminded them to not go near the hot kiln. I also assured them that if they needed help, they shouldn't be shy about asking. Some were able to assemble their pieces without assistance, but many did need help. They told us where to place the glass so they did have a hand in constructing their pendants. The idea behind these programs is to not only do something fun, but to keep their minds active. I'm so proud of the designs they came up with.

All of these students are in their 80s and 90s, but none have ever worked with glass. They were so enthusiastic and enjoyed learning something new -- even at their advanced ages. As one said, "It's never too late to try something different." I love that attitude!

Since I live so close, I fired the pieces at home and returned with them a few days later. The best part was watching the seniors open the envelopes with their jewelry. They were so pleased! Here are a few, showing off their work:

I returned to the Atria on Tuesday to do an impromptu Fourth Of July program with Judith. We played patriotic songs on flute -- and kazoo! -- and wandered all over the building. Many of my students were wearing their pendants and stopped me to say how much they loved my class. As cheesy as it is to say this, that meant so much more to me than the money (though I appreciate that, too!).

I've come up with a long list of projects and am so looking forward to this month's lesson. I never expected my music to take me in such an unusual direction, but I'm glad it did.

Check out my jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.