January 28, 2016

Turning Point Jewelry

My stash of glass beads my brother made. Always in view on my bench.

Tucked into a corner of my jeweler’s bench is a pile of beads strung on a hemp cord. But, they’re not your run-of-the-mill lampworked beads. These particular beads were made by my brother, David (see my previous post). David died three years ago, and though I’m past my hemp-necklace-wearing days, I keep them on my bench. Yeah, they get in my way sometimes, but it’s important to me that they stay there where I can see them every day.

The original "Turning Point" bracelet with David's beads
It’s that desire to see them/him every day that led me to utilize them in a bracelet I could wear all day, every day, as a way to honor him and keep him with me. Thinking about how life can change in an instant, turning from a set path to an altogether different direction, I designed a bangle with multiple pivot points. These joins allow for movement and flexibility in the bracelet itself, but also serve the purpose of holding David’s beads securely on the segments. The flared ends of each segment lock the beads in place, never to let them (or him) go. I’ve made a number of variations of this style since then (get one for yourself here!) and they’re one of my best selling products. But, the one with David’s beads, that one’s mine.

My mom's necklace with one of David's bead.

I made my mom a similar pendant using one of David’s beads. I like the simplicity of the design. A bead that, to the person out-of-the-know, is simply “pretty.” Suspended on a teardrop-shaped hand-formed and textured sterling silver wire, and topped with an oval bail. It means a lot, yet doesn’t scream out its hidden meaning.

If you’re thinking “Ooh! I’d love something like that!” then stay tuned. Starting soon, I’m going to be offering a custom service for designing your own “Turning Point” jewelry to commemorate a birth, death, big event, adoption, or anything you can think of! I know not everyone has beads they want to memorialize in jewelry form, but I have a wealth of knowledge and experience working with non-traditional materials. What can I do with, say, a scrap of fabric from your grandmother’s quilt, or a piece of cement from the first home you purchased. What about the first baby quilt you ever received? Or the sand from a memorable vacation. The possibilities are endless! Just as it’s important for me to keep a bit of my brother with me, I want to help you keep your memories alive. Make sure to “like” my business page on Facebook, and sign up to follow this blog for the latest news!

January 26, 2016

Celebrating the Pig-head Brooch

Me and David at Fort Pickens, FL in 1994 (one of many RV trips we took with Nana and Paw)
It’s been three years (January 28, 2013) since my younger brother died. It doesn’t get any easier, and I don’t know that it should. I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. I recently lost my job and the stability that came with it, so I’ve had a lot more time on my hands to let my mind wander. He’s never far from my mind, but not having deadline after deadline to keep me distracted, my thoughts turn toward him often.

David was, like too many who are stolen away by accidents, drugs, alcohol, cancer, or any other terrible part of life, taken too young. He was a kind, gentle, unbelievably smart, argumentative, stubborn, and loving man. But, addiction took over, and ultimately beat him. I can’t explain what it’s like having a brother addicted to drugs and alcohol, and I don’t know how to put into words the utter and complete loss you feel when those bastards take the one life he had. It’s like a piece of you is gone. And you know it will never heal, never scab over, never fully close. Yeah, it becomes white noise sometimes, and most days, I’m okay. But, a sound, a smell, a picture, a meal — anything can cause him to jump right back to the front of my mind. And it’s important that that happens.

The pig-head brooch I made for David
At the end of my hallway, I have a shelf on a bookcase (a coffin-shaped bookcase, incidentally) where I keep mementos from my brother and grandfather’s life. Not reminders of the sadness, but objects that remind me of the good. That help me remember the good. A favorite item I have of my brother's is a pig-head brooch I made him many years ago. He wasn’t a jewelry fan per se, but he loved me and what I was doing. He always told me how good I was and how proud of me he was. I made him this brooch out of a plastic pig and fine- and sterling silver. I think he wore it on one of his hats for a while, and he was distraught when he thought he lost it. After he died and my mom and Mark cleaned out his apartment, they found this brooch. In perfect condition, on a bookshelf. His whole life had been chaos for so many years, yet this brooch, this pig-head I had made for him, was taken care of. I’m not up to wearing it (for fear of losing it), but I now keep it (along with a hawk that I see as David keeping an eye on me) in perfect condition. On my bookshelf. 

The pig-head brooch and David-hawk, standing guard on top of my bookcase


UP NEXT: See how I've turned glass beads, handmade by David, into jewelry for my mom and me. You'll like it ... I promise!

October 20, 2015


I dislike this time of year. Don't get me wrong, I love this time of year for the weather, the changing seasons, getting jackets out again, and preparing for the cold that is sure to come up here in Wisconsin. What I don't like is that this time of year is full of such sadness. As I mentioned in my last post, my grandfather and brother passed away in 2013. Today is the two-year anniversary of my Paw's death. Six days from now is the day my brother was born. Plus, it's the start of the big holidays, none of which are as joyous as they once were now that two people who should be there, aren't. But I'm not looking for sympathy. While today is sad in some respects, it's also a day for reflection and celebration.

Paw was the perfect example of what a man — no, a person — should be. Kind, loving, generous, determined, persistent, honest, well-spoken, educated (though, not in the ways of academia), forthright, trustworthy, and appreciative, amongst other things. And, while today is sad because I really wish I could chat with him on Facebook and give him a hug, I'm more happy to just spend some time remembering him and all the good memories I have of him.

One particular memory goes way back, yet still feels like yesterday. For as long as I can remember, Paw would put his arm around you and firmly clap you on the back, and somehow, it was like he cupped his hand and always managed to hit the small of your back. He did this always. It didn't hurt, but it didn't feel good either, and it certainly made you squirm. I think he got a kick out of it. :-) Even now, I feel that loving sting.

I don't remember this picture, but this is one of my favorites of me and Paw. Me, as a little kidlet, picking at his toe. It's perfect, and perfectly captures the pure inquisitiveness of a child. (Also, how is it possible that this was 30 years ago?!)

Shortly after Paw died, Nana sent me this photocopy of a note Paw had written. I have it hanging on the wall in the hallway and I look at it every day. This is my daily reminder (in addition to the photo of me, him, and David that hangs by the door) of Paw. And I love and miss him dearly.

"One of the most important keys to success is having the discipline to do what you know what you should do, even when you don't feel like it."

March 25, 2015

SNAG pin-swap brooch: Polymer, colored pencil,
copper, nickel scatter pin
After a long hiatus from blog updates, I'm going to try and challenge myself to post more regularly. To be honest, it's hard to think about sitting down and writing when I get home from work — where I'm sitting down and writing most of the day. Most days, my head is so fried by the time I get home that I do what I can to turn it off a bit. And, given the choice between sitting in front of the computer for even longer or hopping into the studio, I more often choose the studio. And, come on, none of you would blame me for that!

Given that my last post was back in 2013, I've got a bit of catching up to do. Actually, instead of catching up on what I have done, I'm going to use this as a forum in which to show/talk about/explain what I am doing. And it might not always be pretty. You've been warned! I've struggled for a while with staying in the moment rather than focusing on the past, and I hope this blog will help me keep my eye on the present.

But before I dive into what's currently going on in my work/jewelry world, I want to mention a bit about what I've been fighting against (or for) since 2013. The past couple of years have been a whirlwind of heartbreaking events, including the deaths of both my grandfather and younger brother (who knows, I may write more about them later), and it's been a constant struggle for me to just get through the day, much less create major concept-driven work. Although I've been consistently making and working in the studio, it hasn't been easy. Nor has it been all that satisfying, if I'm being truly honest with myself.  I have not had to deal with death often in my life, and trying to handle two in a single year has proven to be something more difficult than I could ever imagine. I know I need to create to feel sane. To get my hands dirty. To fully focus my attention on something physical. To distract myself. And the tactic of (sometimes) dragging myself to the studio and just working has been a great therapy. Maybe it's like the gym...getting ready and walking out the door is the hardest part, but once you're there, you feel great. My life since 2013 has been a struggle in trying to maintain  some semblance of normalcy, but at the same time realizing how important it is to focus on the present and not dwell on the past or what may or may not happen. Am I succeeding at this? Definitely not. But am I trying? Absolutely. And making jewelry is a big part of that.

SNAG pin-swap brooch: Polymer, colored pencil, copper,
nickel scatter pin
But now, back to the present! One thing I'm working on right now is a series of polymer and copper brooches exclusively for the SNAG pin swap. I'm heading to SNAG in a couple of months (it's in Boston this year) to represent Art Jewelry magazine, as I did last year, but this time I'm bringing pins. At every conference is a pin swap on the first night. Folks make as many pins as they want to trade, and everyone gathers to chat, drink, eat, and trade brooches. This year, I'm not making very many pins, so I am going to be selective in my swaps. So if you want to trade, let me know! These are a few of the pins I've made so far. They're each about 1 1/2 in. tall, give or take a bit. The central portion is gray (or a pastel color) polymer colored with Prismacolor colored pencils. The pencil is sealed, and then I tab-set the polymer in a hand-sawn, filed, sanded, and patinated copper backplate with a nickel scatter pin on the back. Each piece is signed and dated.

I'm really looking forward to SNAG this year...it's become a reunion of sorts for friends I've known for many, many years and friends I've only met (or "met" online). For one crazy week it's like the outside world disappears and all there is to think about is makers, metal, everything non-metal, jewelry, craft, networking, friendship development, deep discussions of the field over drinks, spur-of-the-moment excursions and dinners, laughter, excitement, and more. And this year, I'm bringing pins!

P.S. Thanks to Anne Havel for putting the bug in my ear and spurring me on to get going on the pins. Can't wait to trade with you!

August 25, 2013

New polymer and sterling silver jewelry series: Droplets

Well, it's been on hell of a year, so far. Yes, we're closing in on fall as I write this, but for me, I'm finally feeling like I'm getting back in to the creative swing. A death in the family at the beginning of the year put me in a zombie-like daze for quite a while, but I'm finally getting to the point where I feel like I can create new work, rather than just regurgitating the same things I've done before. What's coming out of me now is work that is more wearable/sellable/affordable/quick to make, yet still related to my larger-scale pieces in material, color, and attention to detail.
These earrings are part my new "Droplet" series. These little babies are a ton of fun to make, and even more fun to wear! The droplets are hand-sculpted and textured polymer with acrylic paint rubbed into the texture. Take a look at the following pictures for a sneak peek into my process.

These are the shavings and swarf left after texturing the polymer bits.

Now they're textured, but still naked.
Now they've been given a coat of acrylic to bring out the texture,
and they're ready for a good sanding and buffing.
This is my little pile of goodies waiting to be made into earrings.

Finished Droplets!