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For my handcrafted pretties: City Pretties!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Update on the rescued pit bulls in Oakland

I received a very kind email, with this picture, from Donna Reynolds (third from the right), the Executive Director of Bad Rap, of six of the ten dogs they rescued from the Vick compound. Unless I'm mistaken, that's Hector in the center stretching out to kiss the dog next to him. I don't know how Leslie Nuccio, his foster "mother" is going to let go of him when it's time for him to be adopted. They are so clearly attached to each other.

Donna tells me they're very happy to be able to talk about the dogs after all this time and thrilled with the outcome of the case.

Find more photos and stories about the dogs on Bad Rap's Blog.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The victims who are not the vanquished

This is not a piece about jewelry.

As you may have surmised by the presence of H.R.H. Zelda on my blog here, I love dogs. Zelda gets top billing between my two canine cuddlers, although Boris, her "brother," who doesn't really mind playing second fiddle to the Princess, is the sweetest little male Chihuahua this side of the Pecos (and the more obedient of the two).(Above: Boris as a child.)

As a person who will not raise a hand to a dog even when it's being really bad (it's never necessary - you know that if you've half a brain - it mostly shows what an imbecile you are), I was one of many aghast at the discovery of Michael Vick's dog fighting operation, Bad Newz Kennels. I'll not go into a tirade about what major league (or even college-level) sports does to athletes (I'm not fully convinced that competition causes aggression - it may be the other way around). But something had to have happened (or perhaps didn't happen) to someone who would treat other sentient beings in such a manner.

I can't abide cruelty to those who can't defend themselves. That includes children, the elderly, the disabled and animals. So I was ecstatic when Vick was caught, convicted and sentenced (he's serving his prison sentence near here in Leavenworth Penitentiary).

Then today, while watching CNN, I caught a segment about Bad Rap (www.badrap.org) in Oakland, CA and a site called Dogtime (www.dogtime.com). I was happy to hear that 49 of the 50 dogs confiscated from Vick's dogfighting compound in rural Virginia were rescued by different organizations around the country. The one poor dog that was euthanized had been so scarred, so overbred and so alienated from human kindness that she could not be rescued.

Bad Rap (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit bulls - it's a stretch to create the acronym, but I'm glad they're there) has taken, evaluated and fostered 10 of these dogs. They've rehabilitated them all, and some needed more than others, but they found that these scarred, neglected and abused Pit Bulls are mostly just lovable and good dogs wanting to be happy house pets. Check out Hector:

Some of the dogs are still frightened of humans. Some are terribly torn and have been repaired (on the outside - the inside may still need work). But instead of being killed for being A) considered hopeless, and B) pit bulls, they're living in loving and supportive homes and have proven to be great companions. All thanks to people who believe that dogs are dogs, and are not born evil just by nature of their breed.

I know about the Pit Bull stigma and I just don't buy it. Some dogs are born bad (like some people), and some are taught to be bad (uh, like some people), but most dogs (like people!) want to be good, happy, loving and loved. Pit Bulls are no different. They used to be the common house dog in the early part of the last century. Everyone had one; they were family pets, considered no more dangerous than your average lovable black Lab of today.

If you're considering a pet adoption, consider a Pit Bull (as long as they're not illegal in your area). You may be skittish because of the way they've been portrayed, and that's a shame. But there are also many other kinds of dogs out there who'd love to live in your home and be a part of your family. I recommend Petfinder.com, Dogtime.com, and a visit to your local animal shelter. It's an excellent idea to find out what size, energy level, fur factor and age of dog you're best suited to, and Dogtime has an entire questionnaire to narrow that down for you.

Consider the Chihuahua: also a stigmatized breed, but no more vicious or "bitey" than any other dog who hasn't been properly socialized and cared for. They're considered "yappy." I can assure you, they bark no more than any other dog, because, well, that's what they are. They're dogs. They are protective of their humans, acting as the alarm system in the house. They are protectors, predators, scavengers, playful and curious, and very house-trainable, as all domestic dogs are. Pit Bulls are no different, regardless what the prejudice against them is. It's the human behind the dog 99.9% of the time that deserves the congratulations or the blame for a dog's behavior.

My 77-year-old mother and I found her Chihuahua, Daisy, through a rescue group (LL Dog Rescue) here in Kansas City that we located through Petfinder. Mom and Daisy have been together now for 7 years and couldn't be a better match.

So please give to the animal rescue organization of your choice, whether it be your local shelter, SPCA (click that link and you'll find a short video about how the SPCA is working to bring soldiers' dogs home from Iraq), Dogtime, Bad Rap, Out of the Pits (another Pit Bull rescue organization), your local Humane Society (click here to see a HS report about the 12 dogs rescued from Vick's compound that were not Pit Bulls), or other dog rescue site. If you don't want to donate money, then give your old towels, dog food, blankets, dog toys, bleach or anything else a shelter might use for cleaning, feeding or otherwise caring for unwanted animals. It's tax deductible, you know.

It never ceases to amaze me that people can be as cruel as they are to dogs. All they want is to be loved, and they deserve it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Deluxe polymer clay jewelry at Stonehouse Studio

Betsy Baker surprised me! I was perusing my favorite handmade goods site, Etsy (which, if you haven't yet, you should visit and buy from) one day, and came upon these fantastic pieces of art in her shop, Stonehouse Studio. Thinking they were glass or perhaps ceramic, I noted their uniqueness, then realized I was looking at jewelry made from polymer clay.

You may not be familiar with polymer clay - it's made with a base of PVC (you know, what today's plumbing is made from - polyvinyl chloride) and is pliable as clay. Some popular brands available in your local crafts store are Sculpey and Fimo. When it's baked at a low temperature (I've used a toaster oven) it cures and hardens and lasts a very, very long time. My husband, who is a sculptor, used to use it for making maquettes and prototypical components. I've bought it for children in my life, who love its permanence over the nature of such ephemeral substances as Play-Doh.

So, I admit, it never really occurred to me that it could be formed into fine jewelry the likes of which Ms. Baker creates. To wit, her Bold Contemporary Ring ($50 on Etsy) pictured above and here. In colors of leopard skin, she has created an abstract burnished stone set in this beautiful brushed sterling bezel with an adjustable band to fit any size finger.Then there are her fabulous pendants! The colors and patterns are from the mind of someone who thinks hard about these things, and the architectural forms she gives the whole pieces are reminiscent of Eames-era furniture and lamps - that organic, a-straight-line-is-never-really-straight style, as in her Little Sunflower Neckwire ($75 on Etsy):And Blossoms on Blue Pendant on Chain ($40 on Etsy):There is a decidedly impressionistic flavor to the images she transfers to the clay stones, and easily my favorites are the Jupiter's Moons Pendant ($85 on Etsy):And the Sunset Trees Neckwire ($105 on Etsy):
I could go on and on about her beautiful work, but I urge you browse and buy it at her Etsy shop yourself (you can also see other designs on her web site, Stonehouse Studio). While you're at it, peruse her Trunkt portfolio. Trunkt.org is an online curated showcase for artists. Ms. Baker describes it in her blog thus:
Trunkt.org is a very selective site and the jury parameters are strict. Even after being accepted, each and every photo uploaded has to be approved before it's published. Since it is not an e-commerce site, design and artistic merit are what counts.
Read her fascinating blog here, where she explains some of her techniques and muses about her art, and where you will also find her very interesting and informative artist's statement.

All photos belong to the artist and are published here with her kind permission.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

For love of art glass and jewelry

(Montego Bay Necklace: 32 chunky SRA beads made of Italian glass in black, ocher, turquoise, plum and silvered ivory, sterling spacers, clasp, bead caps, slider, and wire; dalmation jasper; black seed beads. Length: 22" plus 2.5" pendant. $240. Buy it!)

Self-Representing Artist (SRA) Chris Dalrymple currently resides in Memphis, Tennessee, where she has raised a (now grown) daughter, worked hard at a corporate job, and yet still found time to combine her passion for art glass, jewelry and her creative itch to a beautiful end that she calls Elemental Mojo.

Dictionary.com defines the word 'elemental' thus:
of, pertaining to, or of the nature of the four elements, earth, water, air, and fire, or of any one of them.
Consider 'mojo':
an object, as an amulet or charm, that is believed to carry a magic spell.
(Concord Caramel Necklace: 19 SRA beads made of American glass in streaky caramel and royal plum with sprinkles of raku. Components: sterling wire, rings, spacers, beads; Swarovski crystals. Length: 21.5". $145. Buy it!)With an uncanny eye for color, form and light, she creates exquisite lampwork glass beads and forms them into fabulous unique jewelry.

(If you're not familiar with the term "lampwork" or would like to know whence it comes, click here for the Wikipedia explanation.)

Chris's first infatuation with glass was impressed upon her early. From her Etsy profile:
I fell in love with art glass when I was just a kid. My father was in the military, which is how I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to watch Venetian glassblowers at work. I was fascinated with the vibrant colors and the whole process of melting and shaping glass. Since then I’ve wanted to collect art glass. A few years ago I decided to start collecting perfume bottles. While searching for them online, I discovered artist-made lampwork beads and fell instantly in love with them.
As well as making fantastic glass herself, she has amassed an impressive collection of others' work, which she has also incorporated into her gorgeous jewelry.

So, just in time for Valentine's Day, an exquisite, painstakingly designed, meticulously hand-worked necklace of hearts. I have seen this necklace in person (or is that 'in necklace'?) and as wonderful as the photos are, holding it in your hands is an entirely different experience; wearing it would be a joy. (Modigliani Hearts Necklace: 5 SRA heart beads made of Italian glass in plum, avocado, black, deep red, and ivory with accents of silvered ivory and raku. Components: sterling rings, wire, chain, spacers and clasp; leather cord. Length: adjustable from 14.25" to 18". $166. Buy it!)
Visit Chris Dalrymple's shop on Etsy and indulge your love of art glass and jewelry.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Grande Dame of gem shows

The International Gem and Jewelry Show will be coming to a convention center near you (it won't be in KC till May, sniff!). This is the best place to find beads and gems (oh, yeah, and jewelry) ever.

If you have a tax ID number and can buy wholesale, you're even more in luck.

Check out the schedule here to find out when it'll be near you and print off a coupon for $1 off the $7 admission price: International Gem and Jewelry Show.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Great jewelry reference sites

I know that the internet is a vast wasteland in many ways, and an inestimable resource as well. For those of you who, like me, find jewelry of every sort fascinating and have questions about what certain terminology means or, for instance, just what a "cameo habille" is, find out by looking under 'C' in the All About Jewels Glossary:
A cameo habille (meaning 'dressed cameo' in French) is a 'jewel within a jewel,' a cameo in which the subject carved in the cameo (usually a woman) is wearing a miniature piece of jewelry (like a tiny diamond necklace with a stone embedded in the cameo)."
Check out "Guilloche" and "Gutta percha" if you're interested in enamel and Victorian jewelry. This Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry is so nice to have access to.

Another fabulous reference site for vintage jewelry collectors, sellers or buyers is Illusion Jewels' Researching Costume Jewelry marks page here. I've used the site innumerable times in my quest for the identification of vintage pieces I've bought and sold. Must sees are the Vintage Jewelry Patents and Vintage Jewelry Ads pages!

A more abbreviated but still informative page: Vintage Jewelry Research.

And if you're interested in American Indian jewelry, there are short but informative references at Hazelwoods' site.

And for those of you who love silver, this will come in very, very handy. The Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks is the last word on finding out what a little castle stamped on Grandma's sterling spoon means, or if your Mexican silver brooch was made before 1940 or 1980.

Justin Duance: sculpture for your body

Yew pebble shaped earrings with silver inlay. 28mm X 12mm X 10mm. E33Y £47 (about $91 USD. Buy 'em!)

Living in Newlyn, Penzance, Cornwall, United Kingdom, Justin Duance finds the inspiration for his exquisite jewelry art in the natural mingling of earth and sea in his seaside fishing town.

Once visited by the epiphany that

"jewellry was just a miniature form of sculpture, with the potential to contain deeper me
anings because the pieces are so intimate to the wearer,"

he went on to develop a style which, to me, is reminiscent of surf-burnished pebbles, bubbles in the ocean and the bands of color on the horizon at sunset. You'll also find in his work the textures of driftwood and the patterns that retreating waves leave in the sand.

Kingwood pebble shaped earrings with 1mm silver dots of inlay. They measure 30mm X 20mm X 10mm E3K E34K £51 (about $99 USD. Buy 'em!)

I love the form of this pendant, the wood grain reminds me of the beautiful layers in the flesh of salmon, (Leaf shaped silver pendant with a large section of Yew inlaid. 13mm wide 50mm long 1.8mm deep. P4L £70 (about $136 USD. Buy it!) about which Justin explains,

"Yew is the one that changes the most when you wear it. It darkens and sometimes goes a deeper red but it is still obvious that it is wood.

Thus the previous quoted 'intimacy' of jewelry to its wearer: Justin's jewelry takes on a natural patina dictated by one's personal body chemistry.
Justin can adjust the length of the chain or bracelet, or if you prefer a different wood such as Indian rosewood or a beautifully grained oak, you can simply request it by filling out the proper form on his site. Shipping on all his exquisite pieces is free (which is always a very good thing) worldwide, and he welcomes custom orders!

Beautifully designed and rendered bracelets, rings, cuff links, earstuds, earrings, and pendants are all available at Justin's site

All photos courtesy of the artist.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Divine Designs

Eni Oken is a native of Brazil, but lives in Los Angeles. Her jewelry designs are so intricate, so delicate and so amazingly detailed that I bookmarked her site the first time I came across it a few years ago. I still go back and look at her new designs, which I find consistently astonishing. Here is just one example of her mind boggling work! "Goldfilled citrine and jasper necklace," pictured above, whose title doesn't sound anywhere near as regal as it is. Read about and see more of this beautiful necklace here.

Her custom work is also astonishing, as in this fantastic aquamarine heart she designed for a special customer:More of this necklace and Eni's thoughts on making it can be found here. She journals and even features many tutorials on how to make jewelry like hers. I find that very generous.

I'm not a wire-wrapper, but I can appreciate the kind of work that goes into each of her pieces, and considering the amount of work, her prices are very reasonable.

See hundreds more gorgeous pieces of her work at her site, enioken.com.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Your opinions needed

Do you ever wish there were somewhere you could go to find what lots of people are saying about a product, venue, movie, web site? There are several consumer review sites for each of those, but I've just found one for all of them and more. It's called Viewpoints. With thousands of consumer reviews on tons of different things, it's a really handy resource, and you can add your two cents too. You'll have to register, but it's free and you can opt out of any email annoyances. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Give a little bit

and help someone get a LOT. Kiva allows people with a load or a modicum of success to donate funds (starting at a mere $5) to entrepreneurs in developing countries to start their own small businesses. It's legit, it's a great cause, it's completely researchable on the site, and it will give you a little extra skip in your step knowing you're helping someone help themselves just because you can.

You can even pay with PayPal.

Monday, January 7, 2008

For your listening pleasure

Brian Unger is a humorist, once one of my least favorite of the "correspondents" on The Daily Show. He apparently does humorous bits for NPR nowadays and I heard this one on my way to my mother's house today. It's about Hillary Clinton and how she can turn the negative to the positive in the campaign - giggleworthy.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

My present favorite creation

I love these earrings. I made them with blue luster faceted rondelle Czech glass beads, oxidized copper and brass findings and purple aurora borealis faceted Czech glass beads.

The colors just make me happy.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Where to start?

They tell me to start a blog. How many times have I told others to do it and I'm only now just taking my own sage advice?

So, I'm a blog virgin.

This is where I hope to regurgitate much of what I learn in the world of handcrafted jewelry, post things I think are cool and things I think are worthy of attention. It's also where I hope to discover my uncanny ability to evolve, both as a business person and artist/crafter. I wonder if it'll work.