Thursday, December 24, 2009

Why Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year

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I am of the Christian faith, for those of you who follow other faiths, I hope this post can relate to you too.

Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year. I love the hope and anticipation many have about everything they have done to prepare for Christmas Day.

  • The anticipation of seeing peoples' faces as they open the gift you so carefully chose for them.
  • The excitement and joy children have knowing that Santa is FINALLY coming tonight.
  • The eagerness of joining family and friends for a meal to celebrate the true meaning of the holiday.

It's such a great day for me. The "calm before the storm" so to speak. Perhaps the best part is knowing and hoping that the happiness everyone feels tomorrow will make the world a wonderful and peaceful place.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to keep sterling silver jewelry free of tarnish

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In the process of designing, constructing and selling sterling silver jewelry to customers, I am often asked how to keep the jewelry clean and free of tarnish. Here are a few of my recommendations along with customer mistakes (and how to fix them!).

1. The first thing you need to know is that "tarnish happens" when it comes to jewelry. Even gold jewelry, after many years, will eventually tarnish. Tarnish is caused by the reaction of the copper, in the sterling silver, to humidity and elements. Even perfumes, lotions, hair care products and sweat will accelerate tarnish on jewelry.

The remedy: Try to make sure all your "body products" (hairspray, lotions, etc.) are dry before putting on your jewelry. After you are done wearing your jewelry, wipe it clean and dry with a soft cloth (I prefer plush cotton or flannel) before storing it.

2. Leave jewelry sitting out, exposed to the air most of the time, tarnish becomes inevitable.

The remedy: Store jewelry in a place that is cool, dark and not exposed to air. Other jewelers advocate placing jewelry in a ziploc bag for storage. You must make sure your jewelry is absolutely dry and the bag is free of air when doing this. Otherwise, you create a "rainforest" in the bag and it will tarnish in a matter of days! If you want to do this, I would recommend wrapping the piece in a soft cloth first, then place in a ziploc bag. Squeeze all the air out of the bag before closing. For those that like having their jewelry in a box where you can easily see it, place a piece of chalk in the box. The chalk will absorb the moisture. Be sure to replace the chalk monthly.

3. My jewelry is tarnished. What is the best way to clean it?

The remedy: Always opt first for a polishing cloth to remove tarnish from your jewelry. I sell and recommend the Sunshine polishing cloths, but have also had good luck with Haggerty's silversmith polish sprayed on a soft cloth. (Do not spray this product directly on the piece.) Sometimes I will use the tarnish removing dip to clean a piece, but ONLY if the piece is metal only (no stones) and if there is no "patina" on the piece. (Patina is the intentional oxidation of the piece to highlight details.) These dips mush be used with care as they are removing the outer layer of metal on a piece (like the cloths) and can act very quickly!

4. I use a tarnish removing dip cleaner for my silver and now it tarnishes so much faster. Why is it doing this?

The remedy: While the liquid dips that remove tarnish will do so, they leave a sulfur residue that makes the jewelry react with the air and tarnish more quickly than before. If you are going to use the silver dip, the jewelry must be rinsed for a minimum of 15 minutes under running water to remove all the sulfur residue.

5. Someone told me to use toothpaste and/or baking soda to clean my jewelry. Is this okay?

The remedy: Using either of these is only okay only IF the sterling silver has a matte finish. If the jewelry has a shiny, mirror polish to it, these abrasives will remove the tarnish but will also scratch that shiny finish. Should this happen, they only way to remedy the situation is to have a professional properly polish the piece again, assuming the damage isn't too great.

6. What about ultrasonic jewelry cleaning?

The remedy: This is only an option for pure metal jewelry (no stones) or jewelry with stones hard enough to withstand ultrasonic cleaning. Stones such as coral, turquoise, tanzanite, and others are not ultrasonic cleanable. When in doubt, please consult the designer of the piece or a jewelry repair expert.

Learn more about caring for art and jewelry on the KMS Designs jewelry care and art resources page.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

No, I don't sleep much

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I get asked a lot how I manage to get everything done. The answer is, "I don't sleep much."

I have three small children. They pretty much run "wide open" during the day. The only way I can get any amount of uninterrupted work done is to work while they're sleeping. This might be during a early afternoon nap, but I would say 50 percent of the time, I only get about 45 minutes of time. I usually prioritize phone calls and emails then since most people aren't in the office at 10 PM. So, I'm usually up before 5:30 AM and up until about 11 PM "taking care of business." (I suppose the first thing I will do when they eventually move out is to sleep for a weekend or something.)

Oh yeah, my house is also a mess and my husband works at the grocery store, so he does all my shopping. That leaves me more time to make jewelry.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Buying jewelry for a gift

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With the holidays upon us, I know people are considering buying jewelry for a gift. I am happy to say that a lot of my jewelry gets bought for gifts. I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences with the blog readers to help them make the best decisions for purchasing jewelry for someone else.

1. Get to know as much about your recipient as possible (discreetly if you can).
  • Does the wearer have any allergies? The one I see most often is to "nickel silver" (which isn't really silver at all).
  • What does your gift recipient normally wear? If she normally only wears earrings, now is not the time to get her a bracelet.
  • Can you find out appropriate sizes of her current jewelry collection? Is there a particular chain length she likes? Find a ruler and measure the length of her pieces in her jewelry box.
  • Does she actually have pierced ears? I've seen people get wire/post earrings for women that they're not even sure have pierced ears!
2. Earrings and necklaces are generally better choices than rings and bracelets if you don't much about your recipient.
  • Earrings and necklaces are generally closer to a "one size fits all" types of pieces. Bracelets and rings require knowing more about the recipient's exact size.
3. What color (if applicable) would the recipient like?
  • People make the mistake of "Well, she always wears blue, so I'm going to get her something red." Wrong! She wears blue because she LIKES blue. It's always a good choice to get someone more of what they like.
4. Is my recipient going to care for her jewelry completely or would something easier to care for be in order?
  • Does your jewelry gift recipient have the time and knowledge on how to care for their jewelry?
  • Can she keep the piece clean and maintained properly? Sterling silver pieces in humid climates (Florida especially!) will tarnish very quickly if not cared for and stored properly.
  • Are you considering an "everyday wear" type piece or is this something that is considered a "special occasion" piece?
5. Always ask the person or store you are buying from what their return and exchange policy is.
  • Can the recipient return or exchange the piece if she doesn't like it? I typically offer a 14 day return policy and a 30 day exchange policy on my pieces.
  • Can you get a gift receipt? I am happy to offer a gift receipt. This is important in cases such as Christmas where the purchaser may be buying the piece several weeks in advance of the holiday.
  • If you have questions or concerns about the returns or exchange policy, always ask! I am always happy to work with customers if they let me know up front what the concerns are. For example, if some is buying a Valentine's Day gift in mid January, I am happy to extend the return period until after February 14 to let the recipient have time to decide if she likes the piece.
6. Ask what the warranty is on the jewelry considered for purchase.
  • Ask for instructions on how to care for the piece. I cannot stress how important this is! Unfortunately, I have had to repair several pieces I have made for customers because they weren't careful with wearing and cleaning the piece. If you aren't sure about your piece, have a professional give advice on how to clean and care for your jewelry.
  • Ask for directions on how to return the piece to the artist/store for repair if necessary. Any good store should have the ability to repair your jewelry or recommend you to a reliable person for repair.
I hope this helps everyone this month. I will be posting more information over the next couple of weeks on how to purchase individual styles of pieces and such. Happy shopping!

Friday, November 27, 2009

For all those waiting for new pictures

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Thank you to those who have been quite patiently waiting for new pictures! A jewelry artist I am, photographer I am not! I have realized this week that the lack of usable pictures of the new jewelry has not been from anything on my part. It seems as though my camera is tinting everything blue. After several emails and phone calls to technical support, it looks as though my camera will have to go in for service.

I realize those of you from outside the Gainesville area are thinking about your holiday purchases and are looking forward to pictures. I sincerely apologize and will do my best to put up the best pictures for all to see as I have tried to color-correct the images as best and as realistically as possible. Those in the Gainesville area are invited to visit my local galleries to see the jewelry before purchasing.

Thank you again for your patience and know that I am actively working on the problem.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New jewelry display pictures

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I have jewelry in a local art gallery, the Artisans' Guild Gallery of Gainesville, Florida. The gallery has been in existence since 1965 and is cooperative gallery comprised of approximately 50 local artists. I took in some of my jewelry the other day and was happy with how the display turned out.

I have the jewelry organized by "color," only meaning that the clear resin and sterling silver and resin pieces are intermixed. The picture is a little distant and reflections and such, but the jewelry is actually displayed on brown rice. The texture behind the pieces is an interesting contrast. I like it and so have others who have seen it so far.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where did that day off go?

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I kept telling myself last week that if I just got through the Downtown Art Festival, that I could relax for a couple of days and go from there. What was I thinking??? I had completely forgotten that I had a new website to post and get pictures of all the jewelry.

Making the jewelry really isn't bad once I got all the experimenting done. It took about 2 months of playing around with different materials, pigments, mixtures, etc., to find out what worked and what didn't. Today's challenge was actually photographing the jewelry!

I was trying to recreate the display I had at the show this past weekend for my photography. Easier said than done! I'm not a photographer by any stretch and certainly found it difficult to capture the jewelry on camera as it looks in person. Once again, Karma came to help. Normally I don't mind the company, but in this case, she thought it would be more fun to play with the pendants rather than letting me photograph them. As I scolded her, she advised me of her displeasure. I suppose we will have to make up later. :)

The true unfortunate part in all this is that I found out my camera needs to be repaired as it is picturing everything with a blue tint. I suppose I could correct most of it with Photoshop, but I really prefer to minimally correct items with a computer. I feel like it's cheating or something. So that means that pieces will take a little longer to get on the site.

As for the site itself, it's mostly up, but there is a big glitch in that it won't load correctly in Firefox. I've got a request in to technical support, so I hope to have it resolved in a day or two. Until then, no day off. Hopefully this weekend....maybe......

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More jewelry making with Karma the cat

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I was sanding some of the resin pieces the other day and needed just some "mental down time" in front of the television while I was doing it. (On a technical note, I have to sand the resin pieces "under water" as the resin fragments will melt back into the pieces and become burs if I don't.) My house was still quiet except for me and the hubby and I was catching up on some news. My cat Karma came to help with the sanding. Too bad she doesn't have thumbs!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Pouring resin

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Just a few pictures to share with you as I pour resin into some of the sterling silver pieces.

You will have to use some imagination here too (hubby isn't the best photographer). :)

First, I have already formed and constructed the sterling silver pieces. That is a entire job onto itself.

Left: I'm mixing the resin. This pour happens to start with "crystal clear". It's a small amount and the measuring must be exact for it to cure properly.

Left: I'm adding the color pigments. I want just a "touch of pink" for this pour.

Left: I must stir again thoroughly to make sure the color gets mixed evenly.

Left: These are pieces that have been "set up" and are ready to receive the resin.

Left: I'm using a small syringe to place the resin EXACTLY where it needs to be.

The pieces need approximately 36 hours to cure. After that, they are all sanded by hand on both sides to get a nice neat and even appearance.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What happens when pumpkins can't hold their liquor

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Just a warning this Halloween about letting your pumpkin have a few friends over and getting a little rowdy....

*Polite disclaimer: This is not my house! It was a picture someone sent to my sister and I thought it was too cute not to share. :) *

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pouring some resin into the formed mold

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It's hard for me to take pictures while I'm working on my jewelry. I try to set up my tripod and get some shots, but they tend to turn out just a bit blurry. Yesterday, I asked my husband to take a picture of me getting to ready to pour the resin into the mold I made in the previous posts.

Now, the disclaimer: My husband generally tries to stay as far away from all this as possible. He will help me set up and take down at shows, but doesn't necessarily want to get involved with anything else. Imagine his surprise when he came to the studio to see me like this!

Left: I'm getting ready to pour the resin. I have to wear a respirator, eye goggles, gloves, and something to keep my hair back. The individual components are not that bad in terms of smell and such, but when mixed, the fumes are very caustic. What you don't see is the "wind tunnel" I have also created using a fan to blow air straight past where I'm working an out the window behind me. Once I pour the resin, I can't re-enter the area for about two hours.

My husband's comment was "Are you dealing with nuclear stuff or something??? How dangerous is this stuff??" All of the sudden he thought he was going to have to run for cover or something like that.

For the next part, you will have to imagine me mixing and pouring. Since hubby didn't have a respirator, he couldn't stay to take pictures of that part.

Left: The finished pieces as they are coming out of the mold. See how they look like the original clay pieces I molded?

Now, the kicker in all this, I don't like the pieces. :( They aren't cleaning up evenly. (I still have to sand and polish past this point to get them nice and shiny.) It also looks like a strange shape when hanging from the ear.

Oh well, back to the drawing board..... Don't worry, I do have some other shapes I like and will have them at the show.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The next step in the resin jewelry making process

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My last post showed how I made the pieces that I want the finished jewelry to look like. In this post, I will show how I make the mold.

Left: I'm pouring out equal amounts of silicone. It's a relatively safe substance. I just need to wear gloves and protect the surface I'm working on. This is the same stuff that the entertainment industry uses to make costumes, masks, prostheses, and the like. I have to get the measurement exact, otherwise it won't cure correctly.

Left: I'm pouring one of the resin measurements into the other. I'm stirring as I'm mixing and will stir for another couple of minutes to make sure it's thoroughly mixed.

Left: Remember those clay pieces from the last post? They are adhered to the lid of a recycled yogurt container (where the bottom has been cut off). I'm pouring the silicone mixture on top of the clay pieces.

Left: I mix enough silicone to complete cover the pieces. Once I've got my models covered, I need to wait two hours for the silicone to set up.

Next post: The finished mold

Friday, October 16, 2009

Creating the new resin jewelry

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There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes with making this new line of jewelry (or most anything I suppose for that matter). I want to share some pictures over the next few blog posts on how this jewelry happens.

To make this particular line of resin jewelry, I start with the end in mind. I will take modeling clay and make it into the shape I want my final pieces to look like.

Left: Modeling clay -- rather stiff, doesn't dry out quickly

Left: I'm making a "bullet" shape here. These pieces are done by hand. I've used wax too.

Left: A dish full of bullets. Next step is to bake in the oven for a few.

Next post: Using the clay pieces to make the mold.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Winner of the necklace from the Thornebrook Art Show

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I am happy to announce that Vicki Griffith is the winner of the resin and purple recycled glass pendant from the Thornebrook Art Festival. Similar pieces will be available in just a few short weeks at the Downtown Festival and Art Show, November 14 and 15, in downtown Gainesville, Florida.

I thought it would be fun here to show how exactly the winner was chosen. Meet one of my cats, "Karma". I joke she has never heard the expression, "Curiosity killed the cat," but that actually works to my advantage in this case. I let her choose the winner since, it allows for any impartiality and it gives her a couple of minutes of entertainment and enrichment. Above left: I have called Karma to come investigate something. Remember the curiosity propensity??

Left: She considers her options. "Hmmm....a pile of paper, I must investigate, " she tells herself.

Left: "I must think about this for a moment. This is a tough decision."

Left: Alas, she picks a winner!

Karma sometimes joins me in the studio depending on what I'm working on. She won't be at the art shows, as much as she would like (she is quite friendly and unafraid of people), but she might be back on the blog from time to time.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Thornebrook Art Festival wrap up

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I had a great time at the Thornebrook Art Festival in Gainesville this past weekend. I got a chance to catch up with customers and friends and enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people. I shared a preview of my new work with resin and recycled glass, (which was given away in a drawing --- watch for the next blog post to see the winner) and had some of my remaining sterling silver and 14k gold work on sale. For those of you who expressed sadness that I wouldn't be making the semi-precious stone jewelry again, don't despair! You never know when it might show up again. :)

I've included a few pictures from the Thornebrook Art Festival show.

In the meantime, I am working on my new line of resin jewelry in the studio. I will be posting pictures on this blog. I welcome comments and encourage everyone to ask questions. I am happy to share my processes. I am also redesigning the KMS Designs website to correspond with the new jewelry line. I hope everyone finds it a bit more user friendly.

The new resin and acrylic jewelry will be shown for the first time at the Downtown Festival and Art Show, downtown Gainesville, November 14 and 15, 2009. If you would like a reminder of the event, please register for my mailing list (link found at the right side of this page).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thornebrook Festival this weekend

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I will be at the Thornebrook Fine Art Festival in Thornebrook Village this coming weekend. All my work will be on sale to make room for my new line of jewelry. I will be in the green zone, booth 15 (the same spot I have always been in). For anyone who is interested in my jewelry, but can't make it this weekend, I will be happy to offer you sale prices and take your order over the phone. Email ( or call (352-335-4859) with your request and I will do my best to accommodate your needs.

Monday, March 23, 2009

So where have I been?

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Friends, family and fans...alas I am here! For my customers, I have been busy with the birth of my latest son in January. It has not allowed me much time for production of new pieces. I will be at the Santa Fe Community College Spring Arts Festival this weekend in downtown Gainesville, Florida. Please come and support the arts and enjoy a beautiful weekend. (Oh yeah, I will also have some of my work on sale!!)

See you there!
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