Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Azaleas in bloom

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I love blooming azaleas. They're in full swing in my front yard right now and I wanted to share some pictures. I put fertilizer on them twice year and prune them back, but that's it. I have actually decided that I do less harm to plants in general if I just leave them alone.

Now if I could only capture this color pink in some resin!

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's prom season!

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Yes, I'm a little too old to go the prom, but I came across a neat article from the Denver post the other day Prom Fashion: The long and short of Spring Formals. Neat article, mostly because I love that when you're young, you can wear whatever you want without judgment! (Case in point, the prom dress example shown here which is mentioned in the article.)

When I'm talking to people about my jewelry, I hear ladies talk about how they find some of my contemporary jewelry a little "too much" for them to wear. My advice? Go with colors you are comfortable with. If you're used to wearing blue, why not go with blue in a different setting? I'm from the school that believes less is more, especially when it comes to fashion and jewelry. Most of the fashion experts will tell you not to load up on every trend for a season. Pick a few that you like and feel comfortable with. You will wear them better because you are comfortable with them.

Contemporary art jewelry can be worm the same way! Pick a piece your two that you like (size, shape, color, etc.) and start with one piece (earrings, a pendant, one bracelet). Wear it a few times, then go from there on what to add next to your collection.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Starting a new tradition

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I get lots of nice comments from people that I meet at art shows, jewelry making classes, and such saying they feel like I'm "one of the family." I think these are some the nicest things anyone could say to me. I always try to treat people with respect and kindness and I'm glad to know that it shows. This got me thinking, why not make them a part of my family too? I thought that I would share, from time to time, some of my family's favorite recipes. My mother was a home economics teacher, so cooking and learning how to cook has been a part of my life ever since I can remember.

This recipe comes from a friend of mine in college. I thought this would be great to share since the Easter and Passover holidays just beg for brunches. This breakfast dish is wonderful to feed a crowd and since you make it the night before, it's the perfect "force me to be organized" breakfast dish.

Breakfast Casserole

1 1/2 boxes of Pepperidge Farm croutons or 8 slices of bread, cubed
3 cups of milk
4 eggs
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1 can cream of mushroom or cream of broccoli soup
2 to 3 cups of cheddar cheese (more or less to your liking)
1 pound of ground sausage
Package of ritz or saltine crackers
2 tablespoons of butter, melted

Spread bread/croutons in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan. Mix 2 1/2 cups of the milk, eggs, and mustard. Pour over the croutons. Brown the sausage. Sprinkle the meat over the crouton mixture. Top with the cheese. Refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, mix the remaining 1/2 cup of milk with the soup. Pour over the casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Crush a sleeve of crackers. Mix the crackers with the melted butter. Pour over the casserole for the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Photographing Jewelry

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It is a beautiful day in Florida. Lots of bright sun and clear skies. This is the perfect day for me to take jewelry pictures outside. I love the natural light for taking pictures. It captures the colors the best and I only have to crop the pictures once I take them (versus using a photoeditor to adjust brightness, contrast and such).

I find a nice place to set up outside to get a good photograph. I always try to take pictures as close to 12 noon as possible in order to minimize shadows. My setup is a Fuji FinePix S7000 camera attached to a Benbo mini-trekker tripod. My backgrounds vary, depending on what I'm photographing. Today, I used a piece of ceramic tile.

So apparently, no jewelry work would be complete without help from my cat Karma. I hadn't seen her for hours and wouldn't you know it, here she comes to help.

So the ironic part in all this? I didn't like how they looked on the white tile. It was too much contrast between the tile and the jewelry. I dug out a piece of stained plywood I had and took pictures of the same jewelry on it instead.

Today's pictures were of my new acrylic and sterling silver jewelry line on the KMS Designs website. The pictures from today can also be seen on the KMS Designs Flickr page.

Monday, March 22, 2010

How to keep your jewelry out of the repair shop

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No one ever buys a piece of jewelry with the intent of destroying it, but sometimes, that's exactly what happens. Unfortunately, I have had to repair jewelry pieces due to neglect or because ladies thought they were actually doing the right thing.

So I realize I don't fix broken-down cars, but a broken or ruined piece of jewelry is kind of like the same feeling (at least to me). You were wanting to wear it only to feel disappointment that not only are you not going to be able to put on that piece of handmade jewelry, but it's going to have to be repaired as well.

This is just a short list of what I usually see and what you can do to avoid mishaps.

1. Stones are ruined after cleaning. I have seen this mostly from people either putting their items into "dip" cleaners or using them in an ultrasonic cleaner machine. Soft and/or porous stones such as pearls, coral, and malachite should be treated with extra care. When in doubt, ALWAYS ask the person you bought your piece of jewelry from.

I only recommend the following cleaning methods:
  • A solution of mild soap (such as liquid Ivory) and warm water. Soak the piece for 10 to 15 minutes, rinse. Wipe dry with a soft cloth. This is good for getting grease and fingerprints off a piece.
  • Sunshine polishing cloths. These are what I use on my own jewelry. You can very carefully use the cloth to go over pieces while avoiding the stones. I love these things so much I sell them when I do shows.
  • Haggerty's silversmith polish sprayed onto a soft cloth. Use these like the Sunshine polishing cloths above. You can usually find this silver cleaning product at some of the large, mass retailers. Don't spray the polish directly onto the piece since it may get into recessions that you won't be able to get it out of.
2. Holes or "pitting" of the metal. I usually see this after someone wears the jewelry while exposing the jewelry to bleach. Most everyone thinks to take their jewelry off before using household cleaners, but some women forget about wearing their jewelry in pools and spas. Chlorine is used to keep those things sanitary. It's that same chlorine in the bleach that pits the metal. Unfortunately, there is no fix for this.

3. Severe oxidation or tarnishing of a jewelry. This happens when someone doesn't store the piece properly. Mostly, I see this when women take their jewelry off and think "I'll put it away later" only to forget, then find it in a couple of months looking almost black. In a high humidity environment (like Florida) tarnish can happen very quickly! Jewelry can turn dark enough to where the polishing and cleaning methods above don't even work. I do have an industrial grade silver sterling tarnish cleaner that I use in my studio for such cases. It does a better job of removing tarnish than other methods, but isn't completely able to get tarnish out of deep recessions or up next to stones. Read my article here on how to keep your sterling silver jewelry free of tarnish.

These are the biggest ones I see. Are there other problems you have questions about? Let me know below! I'll do my best to get you an answer.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring is here (at least in Florida anyway)

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I got to spend several hours in my studio yesterday. It was absolutely wonderful feeling humid-free, sunny weather drift through the room. I rely on a lot of natural ventilation and love those few months when I'm not sweating or shivering.

Some of what I did yesterday involved repairing some jewelry, but I also got to finish another class example for the "Learn How to Rivet Metal" class I'm teaching at Gifts of Avalon in April. (Short plug for this store -- if you're into beads, jewelry, glass, do-it-yourself, they are the place to go in Gainesville. Their staff is attentive and they've always got so much to choose from. I love teaching classes there. By the way, they have classes taught by other people as well.)

These two pictures are an example of what class attendees can expect to make in the class I'm teaching April 12. Believe it or not, you need NO metalsmithing experience to take this class. You will be able to have a pendant like this by the end of the two hour class. I always give class notes for people to take home and I'm available by email for follow up questions.

It's always a good time. I've got a few regular students and it's a small enough class size that I can give everyone the attention they need. If you're interested in taking the class, please contact Gifts of Avalon directly. They handle all the registrations and material fees. If you're interested in being notified of future classes, please sign up for my email list (link at the right side of this blog). I'll be happy to keep you posted on what I'm doing next.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A change in the way I do business

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I love making jewelry. It's a great outlet for me. I also love visiting with my collectors. It's how I get to know what everyone likes and doesn't like. It also gives me valuable feedback on what and where to go next with my art. That leads me to a few announcements:

I am moving towards selling more directly from my studio. What does this mean to my typical customer? If you're local, there are a couple of things:

I am going to be selling my jewelry at more home shows and events directly to customers. I really enjoy the relaxed setting of getting to know people. I will not be doing the Santa Fe Community College Spring Arts Festival in Gainesville next month. I will instead, be booking events at homes and businesses. Anyone interested in hosting an event can email me at kmsdesigns@hotmail.com. By selling my jewelry this way, I can offer discounts and incentives to party hosters and attendees. It's a better situation for me because I don't have to be away from my family for extended hours and be concerned with finding childcare.

I will also be reducing the number of Gainesville, Florida area galleries that I show my work in. Effective March 16, my work will no longer be at the Artisans' Guild Gallery. For those of you not familiar with how the gallery operates, the artist members staff and maintain all the business aspects of the gallery. With three small children at home, I cannot honor my 10 to 15 hour monthly commitment to the organization and must resign at this time.

I am excited that I will be able to teach classes monthly at Gifts of Avalon. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to interact with jewelry and crafting enthusiasts on a personal level. My next class is March 29. Details are on the Gifts of Avalon classes page.

For those of you who are not local to Gainesville, not much should change for you. You will continue to receive top quality jewelry in a timely fashion upon purchase. I have more jewelry to photograph and post, so be looking for new work over the next couple of weeks.

Thank you to everyone for understanding this change. I'm looking forward to offering you more of what you're looking for.

Both pairs of earrings shown are available for $65. Go to the KMS Designs resin and sterling silver earring page to purchase securely through Paypal.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

My orange tree post cold weather

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It's spring here and we've been enjoying oranges off the tree for about a week or so. Since it was a rough winter on the tree (I blogged about this in January), I thought I would let everyone know the tree survived, albeit barely.

The oranges were able to finish ripening, but the tree looks rough. About half the leaves fell off and if you look at the picture above closely, the branches that extend up (from about 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock) are completely bare. These are the ones that were shoved into the top of the tent and apparently got too cold anyway.

I'm grateful he pulled through and hoping a springtime recovery is coming soon.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Jewelry making classes

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For those of you local to Gainesville, Florida who have ever wanted to learn how to make your own jewelry, you're in luck! I'm back to a monthly teaching schedule at Gifts of Avalon. I work with another local jewelry artist to teach basic metal working techniques. I generally teach jewelry making methods that don't require a torch. You would be surprised what you can do with just a few tools.

My next class is Monday, March 29 from 6 to 8 PM. The class is "How to Make Stamped and Embellished earrings." Attendees will learn how to make earrings (like those shown here) with a few simple tools. No experience is necessary and everyone will have a new pair of earrings in two hours or less! If you're interested in taking the class, please contact Gifts of Avalon. The classes are filled on a first come, first served basis.

If you would like to notified of future classes by email, please sign up for the KMS Designs email list and check the option to join the "class and teaching schedules" list.

Photo credit: Sterling silver french wire stamped earrings with moss agate briollettes
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