Tuesday, August 31, 2010

More inpiration from Vancouver

I had never heard of Bill Reid (1920-1998) before we got ready to go to Vancouver. His name was mentioned a couple of times in the Fodor's book in relation to jewelry, so I figured I'd better make an effort to see what he was all about. At the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, they have a whole area of the museum devoted to Reid's sculpture and jewelry work. He is from the Haida (one of the Canadian First Nations coastal people) Nation, so most of his carving (jewelry and otherwise) reflects this design aesthetic. To the right is a photo I took of one of his famous sculptures, The Raven and the First Men. In the background you might be able to make out some exhibit cases containing Reid's gold, silver, argillite, and wood jewelry. With the assistance of several other artists, Reid created this sculpture out of a block of laminated yellow cedar. Depicted is the creation legend of the Haida people when Raven, a wise and mischievous trickster, has just found the first humans in a clam shell on the beach, and is coaxing them out of it. The sand at the base of the sculpture is from the beach where Raven is said to have made his discovery!

Since I wasn't able to get any of my own good photos of Bill Reid's jewelry, I found the image to the left on the Bill Reid Foundation website to give an idea of how talented he was with metals. He made this wolf pendant in 1976 of 22k gold with abalone shell inlay.

I hope these two posts might inspire you to travel to Vancouver. If so, can you take me with you?! I want to go back soon!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Inspiration in Vancouver

I always find inspiration in unexpected places. Recently we went on a family vacation to Vancouver and we did a side trip, staying on Vancouver Island for a couple of days. We stayed at the Fairburn Farm in Duncan, which is in the Cowichan Valley. This area is sort of the British Columbian version of the Sonoma Valley, for those familiar with California's wine country- lots of great food and wineries, though Cowichan is less developed than Sonoma (and I think most people there want to keep it that way). I could go on and on about how wonderful the food was at the Farm (have you ever seen water buffalo and then had their fresh buffalo mozzarella? yum.), but I'll try to focus on the jewelry arts.

When we were staying at the farm, we decided to learn more about the First Nations people in the area, so we went to the Quw'utsun' Cultural and Conference Center. We had lunch at their restaurant, the Riverwalk Cafe (a few yards from, yep, a river), and since we'd never had anything remotely similar to their cuisine, we got the sampler platter. Think locally available ingredients- salmon, crab, blackberries, raspberry herbal iced tea...see how I'm getting distracted by the delicious food again?

So after we ate lunch, we walked around and looked at many of the totem poles. As it was getting hot and close to my daughter's naptime, we unfortunately couldn't do the official tour of the place. We learned that totem poles are a visual record of the Cowichan (or Quw'utsun' if you can pronounce it) peoples' legends and ancestry. It was interesting to try to identify each animal and read about their particular significance on each totem. The fact that some of the totem animals are combinations of different animals, makes it more challenging to figure out what they are. For example, on the one to the right, the top animal is an eagle combined with another animal that has ears, perhaps a rabbit?

We then went to the gift shop (where it was cooler) and browsed through some of the handcrafted items. The Cowichan people are known for their knitted items, which were lovely, but I was more interested in the jewelry, of course. The photo to the right is what my husband ended up purchasing for me for my birthday. It is a sterling silver cuff, with hand carved details. Can you guess which animal is represented here? If you guessed hummingbird, you are correct. The hummingbird is associated with love, beauty and healing, I was told by the salesperson, whose husband is Cowichan and also makes jewelry in this style with the stylized carving. The artist initials "AT" are scribed on the inside and they stand for Alex Thomas, I learned from the salesperson. I've googled him and come up with no results, so he must be very local and relatively unknown, which made me even happier to be supporting this talented artist.

There is more to tell regarding First Nations art and jewelry that I came across on this trip, but it will have to wait til the next post. In the meantime, f you want check out more Cowichan jewelry, click here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Continuing Education- new jewelry skills!

Last month I took another class at the Revere Academy. The title of the class was Fabrication 2- we had three projects- I only completely finished one! But as our teacher said, the classes are more about the learning process than the finished product. So keep that in mind as you look at the photos!

Our first project was a ring made out of two pieces of wire twisted together- one copper and the other sterling silver. We twisted the wires together by putting their ends in a vice and then slowly twisting the other ends with pliers. You'll notice that my ring looks flattened. This is because I did not make the twist long enough to make a ring that would even fit on my pinky finger, so I decided it would make a better pendant than a ring.

Our second project was this sterling silver ring, which started out as a square wire. We made it round, using a mandril and a hammer, then soldered it. The rest of the time we spent using a jeweler's saw, files, and sandpaper to carve it into different shapes. You may be able to see that the ring is divided into four sections- if you think of the cross-section of the ring, one section is round, one is square, one is oval, and one has a rope texture. I still need to do a little more filing to define the shapes more clearly, then polish it up a bit.

Our third project was a bracelet made of sterling silver links. This project started out as a long piece of wire like the one seen at the top of the photo. We annealed the wire (heating it up with the torch to make it softer or more pliable), then wrapped it tightly around a mandril in a spiral shape, so it ended up looking like a very tight spring. We used a jeweler's saw to saw through one side of the "spring" lengthwise, giving us lots of open jump rings. We then proceded to solder all of these links together. The remaining wire at the top will be used to make a toggle clasp. You might wonder why the bracelet looks so dirty. Any time you heat up a piece of silver, the other metals (which make up about 7.5% of sterling silver) separate from the silver and become more visible. Also, a chemical called flux is applied to sterling silver before it is soldered- whatever does not burn off from the torch ends up sticking to the surface. To get rid of the dirty look, the piece is put in a bath of acid for a few minutes, then washed off. After the bath, all the dirty stuff is gone, but the piece looks dull and will still need to be polished.

After taking this class, every time I look at a piece of sterling silver jewelry, I have a new appreciation for all the work that goes into making it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My first treasury on Etsy!

For those unfamiliar with Etsy, a treasury is a collection of items found on Etsy that go together in some way. Any Etsy member can create a treasury any time they want based on anything from color to theme to "I just like all these things and want you to know about them."

Shoppers can shop by looking at different treasuries- often easier than being overwhelmed by and trying to filter through the bazillion individual items or shops on Etsy. To look through member-created treasuries or to create your own (if you are an Etsy member), click here or go to the Etsy home page, click Buy (gray, at the top), then click Treasury (blue, third choice down). It's a fun way to shop!

Check out this treasury that one of my items (the amazonite and silver bracelet) is in. It was created by Etsy member, NerdJerk, whose motto is "inspiring smiles one geek at a time." Love it! The theme of her treasury is artists who will be selling at the Market SF show this Saturday, July 17.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Another upcoming show!

I checked out a craft market last weekend that took place in the Mission at the Blue Macaw. It's called Market SF and it takes place just about every Saturday afternoon. This isn't your typical craft market because it's held in San Francisco's Mission district, where the words 'commonplace' and 'boring' do not apply. There were some unique handmade items there that you definitely would not find in your local shopping mall. Some of my favorite sellers were:

Meesah- The first thing I noticed about her jewelry was the material- I thought maybe it was made with some sort of colorful wire. Melisa explained that it was actually repurposed fishing line found on beaches that would otherwise be thrown away in a landfill, or worse, if left on the beach, harm wildlife.

Tippy Canoe Designs- This was the first table I stopped at because I saw loads of beautiful fabric fashioned into kid and adult-sized aprons and my favorite- kid-sized tutus (probably not much market for adult-sized ones although they are cute enough for me to consider it!). Sadie will have to have one of those tutus for sure and of course an apron since she loves to help with baking projects.

The Tea Farm Shop- This was another table I stopped at with Sadie in mind. Picture your old adult-sized concert t-shirt refashioned into a toddler-sized dress or romper set. I really don't get into dressing up my little girl as a princess (I am the anti-Toddlers and Tiaras mom), but I could possibly get into dressing her in this look- the pieces are re-used (i.e. green) AND fashion-forward. I plan to send a few of my old t-shirts to Bethany for some repurposing soon so Sadie can have some rocker aesthetic in her wardrobe.

I will be selling my wares at the July 17 Market SF show, so I hope to see some familiar faces there!