Moth to a Flame
June 20 2016
Bryophyllum daigremontianum aka Mother-of-thousands. These succulents lost the ability to produce seeds; therefore, they reproduce by growing little plantlets around the edges of the leaves which gives them that ruffled look. The babies drop and take root (anywhere) making them one of the most prolific and also the most hated plants by avid gardeners. Isn't nature cool?!?
April 24 2016
I looked at this ruby cabochon for a long time trying to figure out how to showcase it. It’s a 14x11mm, Bordeaux color, opaque stone. My initial thought was to create a rose themed pendant with hammered petals, but the literal interpretation struck me as being dated, and I couldn’t really think of a modernized version. I usually find flower themes a bit difficult to “update”, and it doesn’t help that I’ve always associated rubies with antique jewelry. Now you might be asking “why did you buy it?”. Well, I really liked the color of this stone, and something about its opaqueness with inclusions and natural blemishes made it “artisan”, not like the grandmother’s passed down treasures. After days of staring at it, I’ve decided that the best way to showcase it was in a simple bezel setting, an understated statement piece with a pop of color, making it an effortless adornment to any outfit or occasion.
Here are some facts about rubies.
- It is a part of the mineral corundum family but has the trace mineral chromium which gives it the red color. All other varieties of corundum without chromium are called sapphire.
- On the Mohs scale, it is given the score of 9, harder than all other gemstones except diamonds.
- The name comes from the Latin word “ruber” which means red.
- It is a July birthstone and gift for 15th and 40th wedding anniversary
- Many positive attributes are associated with ruby. They are believed to give mental clarity and strengthen the heart, they represent passion and love, and historically have been associated with royalty and vitality.
The Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden
April 11 2016
Ever since I became obsessed with anti-aging (that would be last year), I’ve been doing the things that they tell you to do to look and feel “young”. Aside from all the creams and health foods, it appears that every research points to exercise being the number one component in staying young and healthy. Since I don’t go to the gym, I’ve been looking for ways to work out without getting bored. So yesterday, I decided to visit the Los Angeles County Arboretum to fulfill the exercise criteria and also to meet the inspirational need.
It was a lovely sunny day, and here are some highlights from the trip.
Upon arriving, we were greeted by the peacocks. There were a lot of them on the ground, and they weren't shy about approaching you. They were beautiful, but the squawking was loud and disturbing.
I didn't know that peacocks could fly and perch high up in a tree.
Of course, the flora:
Queen Anne Cottage:
It was a beautiful grand acreage: lush and green, and many places to sit and admire the view and also to wander around. After three hours of walking and admiring, I was sufficiently tired and felt that I got my beauty regiment quota for the day. :)
FYI- It is best to come early to get parking, but if the first parking lot is full, there is a second lot right next to it.
What Does Valentine's Day Mean To Me?
February 14 2016
Tools of the Trade
February 11 2016
**This post was originally published in 2011 in my other blog, but since that blog is no longer being updated, I decided to repost it here with new pictures.
Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be exercising self-control over purchasing …..hammers. In fact I’m chomping at the bits because I would like to purchase some hammers. Yes, hammers. Jeweler’s hammers that is. But still hammers.
You might be thinking what is she talking about, and I understand because until about two months ago, my relationship with hammers was very limited. I’d use them to strike a nail to hang a calendar or when making jewelry, straighten out a warped metal piece and maybe to texture a little.
So what’s with this obsession with hammers?
I’ve always been fascinated with metals in fluid form imitating flowing fabric or curling leaves or petals. The fact that something so rigid could be transformed to look soft and sensual and have movement appealed to me immensely. For past 7 years, I’ve been busy learning the basics of metalsmithing waiting for a chance to learn to create those forms that I admired so much. Then about 2 months ago I got that chance. Master metalsmith Betty Helen Longhi was teaching a workshop locally and I jumped at the opportunity. She is the expert on metal folding techniques and her work is amazing. It was in this workshop I learned about all the possibilities these simple tools possessed. How these instruments are used to manipulate raw material into exquisite forms to be admired and coveted. I was hooked. I AM hooked.
Four hundred dollars later, I realized I needed at least four hundred more dollars worth of hammers to feel adequately prepared. Yes, I do realize the need would be insatiable, so for now these “jewels” have to do.
When I first wrote this post, I think I had 5. Obviously, I have acquired more since.
When they are not in use, they are protected by baby booties.
Hammer forged pieces:
Above: Silver Petal
A Quick History of Art Nouveau Jewelry
February 05 2016
It was another gorgeous day in So Cal, and I was running errands in beautiful Seal Beach. Since I had finished early and it was such a nice day, I decided to visit my favorite antique store, Joanne’s Antiques, located on the quaint Main Street. The reason this is my favorite is that she has a great selection of antique and estate jewelry. Other antique stores might have a lot of “old” jewelry, but nothing noteworthy of the styles of different eras. Here, you can appreciate the period pieces because, well, there they are. I’m most interested in Art Nouveau pieces, and it’s always a treat to look at them up close, even through the glass cases.
Here are some pictures:
I often forget about paintings and such. Some beautiful images came out of that time.
Art Nouveau* movement was from 1890–1914, and in jewelry, from 1895–1910.
*Art Nouveau is a style and not an era or period. Same with Art Deco, but I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve frequently called them periods.
The introduction of Japonisme (with its philosophy of simplicity in composition and lines, and nature-inspired colors and themes, rather than the exact duplication) to Europe was the single most important influence on Art Nouveau jewelry. (Becker 12)
Before the advent of the Nouveau movement, jewelry in the 19th century didn’t require innovation or creativity, except to highlight the value of gemstones and precious metals. It borrowed heavily from the past, e.g., excavated relics and religious images, and it continued the tradition of being a status symbol. (Becker 8)
With the introduction of Japanese art and the adoption of its philosophy, the new style known as Art Nouveau focused on the artistry, designs and the techniques over the perfect imitations and duplications afforded by the Industrial Revolution. (Becker 13) In addition to the style focused on nature, the artists created works to reflect the newly emerging era of emancipation and changing roles (Becker 18), “as well as passion, vitality, the youthful vigor of the new ideas” (Becker 14).
It also introduced the idea of art being accessible to all people and not just for the elite.
The dominant themes and motifs of Art Nouveau jewelry were nature and its association with femininity and fertility, and the flowing “whiplash” lines. Art Nouveau incorporated the use of semi-precious gemstones and inexpensive materials for artistic value, rather than their monetary value (Snowman 137).
One name that’s synonymous with the Art Nouveau movement is Rene Lalique, known as the “the genius of Art Nouveau jewelry and arguably the greatest artist-jeweler ever known” (Snowman 126). After looking at his work, I think you’ll have to agree. He is a god.
Butterfly Woman (pic)
Carved Horn Hair Comb (pic)
Poppy Maiden Pendant (pic)
Becker, Vivienne. Art Nouveau Jewelry. New York;Thames & Hudson, 1998
Becker, Vivienne. "Lalique". The Master Jewelers. Ed. A. Kenneth Snowman. London; Thames & Hudson, Ltd, 1990. 125-140
Visual Steps to Creating a Sterling Silver Pendant
January 25 2016
Bean Sprouts Mother and Child Necklace
September 25 2015
When I was a college counselor, occasionally my students would bring their children with them to appointments. As I talked to the parents, the kids would become preoccupied with toys I had in my office. Most of them were very well behaved, and even the ones who were more, shall we say, "rambunctious" are a lot of fun. One particular powerhouse of energy disguised as a 2 year old comes to mind. It’s hard to forget how she dodged her mother and held onto my leg when it’s time for her to leave. Too, too cute. In a world where we are constantly reminded of how careless we treat the young, I am heartened by how loving my students were with their children. You could see it in those little faces. They knew they mattered. They knew they were loved.
This Bean Sprouts and Child Necklace is a tribute to that unconditional gentleness and kindness that make little sprouts grow up to be healthy happy big sprouts. :)
Why does my silver jewelry tarnish and how do I clean it?
September 08 2015
Since people have often asked me this question, I thought I’d do a quick to-the-point post about the topic. Given that there are many well written, in-depth articles regarding silver tarnish and how to clean it, I’m not going to get into great details. I’ll only hit the highlights and what works for me.
All silver tarnishes, whether it’s fine silver, aka “pure” silver (99.9% silver), or sterling silver (92.5% silver + 7.5% alloy, e.g., copper, germanium, zinc). Some may turn black (oxidize or tarnish) more slowly than others, but they will turn. What is tarnish? Simply put, it is a chemical reaction between a metal and non-metal compound.
Most common culprits are:
So how do you clean tarnished silver jewelry? That depends. For a simple silver piece (e.g., my Silver Petal Necklace) where the entire surface is meant to be “silvery,” I usually massage it (using fingers or cloth) with a dab of plain toothpaste and rinse. I’ve been cleaning silver this way since, well, forever. I also use this method with pearls and gemstones set in silver. I am extra gentle around the pearls and make sure that the pearls have minimal contact with the toothpaste and water. When cleaning silver chains, I usually just massage it with toothpaste, but you can use a soft toothbrush to brush the links and get into the tiny spaces.
Below are before and after using this method to clean the pendant. I didn't clean the chain and left it black.
Sometimes, a designer will intentionally oxidize a piece of jewelry (e.g. my Infinity Petal necklace). This is done to highlight details, give it character or just to make it look aged. In this case, I use a polishing cloth to maintain the shine and keep the black areas black. These cloths are usually two-ply with one side that’s been chemically treated to gently remove tarnish and the other side for polishing to maintain the luster. They are inexpensive and when used regularly, they will stave off the dull grey that can appear on oxidized or “antiqued” jewelry. You can, of course, use the cloth on non-oxidized pieces too. I really like the cloth and love the shine it leaves. When the jewelry is not in use, I usually store it in a Ziploc bag or in a box. This does not prevent tarnish from happening but it will slow down the process.
So there you have it. You don’t have to be dismayed by the natural oxidation process called tarnishing. There are simple ways to get rid of it and keep your silver jewelry beautiful.
For more unconventional silver-cleaning methods, check out this Readers Digestpost: http://www.rd.com/slideshows/how-to-clean-silver/#slideshow
What I Did On My Summer Vacation
July 09 2015
Occasionally, I like to take myself outside the routine to rattle my brain a bit. I find that change of scenery and/or routine can give me a new perspective on things and unblock creativity. So on my sister’s invitation, I decided to visit her in NYC. Last time I was there, it was in winter and, OMG, that was cold.
Here we go. I had an early 6 AM flight.
I arrived around 7 p.m. We took a taxi to her place in the upper-east side. After depositing my baggage, we walked to a local café serving South African cuisine—not a cuisine I’m familiar with, but I like trying new food. It was delicious. Spices paired in an unfamiliar and mellow combination made for a perfect dinner after a long flight.
Next day, off we went to the NYC Botanical Garden. It was humid that day and the air in the subway platform was so thick with heat and stuffiness, it was like a hot oven being used for bain-marie with people crammed inside. Thank goodness for the trains with their cold AC.
At the garden, we walked around the huge acreage, admiring the various foliage and flora, all the while trying to capture those elusive and adorable creatures known as chipmunks. I’d never seen one, and let me just say, they are super cute—and fast. So here is a pic of one I was fortunate enough to capture.
See the little chipmunk?
I've never seen white poppies. They were so beautiful and ethereal looking.
I love places that look like where fairies might reside.
After the garden, next on the list was the Whitney Museum. I have to say nothing really stood out for me at this museum. The only thing I remember were the tacos we ate across the street.
The following day, we were off to Neue Galerie to see the Klimt exhibit. The exhibit was exquisite; however, you couldn’t take pictures, so all I can show you is a pic of what we had for lunch at the museum’s café. It was delicious but heavy like any good Bavarian food should be. Their dessert selection looked fabulous, but after cleaning the plate, I practiced self-restraint and passed on the sweets.
Next on the list: the Brooklyn Bridge. Yeahhh, there were a lot of people going across and coming back.
I took this panoramic photo. Not a great photo but it shows the length of the bridge.
On the Fourth of July, we went to see Kristen Chenoweth in “On the Twentieth Century.” On the way to the show, we stopped at the Plaza food court and I had my first taste of Lady M’s Mille Crepes. Sweet foam in every bite! Then it was onto Broadway to see the show. I'm a huge fan of Kristen Chenoweth, and yes, she is tiny, but wow, is she fabulous. The show was funny and great. I managed to get a quick shot of the curtain, which was so worth getting yelled at by the usher for taking! Apparently, there are no pictures allowed in the theatre before the show or during intermission. Oh well.
Mmm... so creamy.
Time Square, on the way to the theatre.
The next day, we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art to see the John Singer Sargent exhibit. I’m a big admirer of his work, and I adore Madame X.
They also had “China: Through the Looking Glass,” a fashion exhibit showcasing Chinese inspired creations from the world famous couturiers. That was a fascinating and stylish exhibit.
We walked around the museum and found this little gem of display.
Whew. It was a jam-packed trip, and to think that it almost didn’t happen: Three days before the trip, while on the phone with my sister, I found out that I didn’t have a flight reservation. Apparently, when I was making flight arrangements, I didn’t confirm it. Oops. So, “calmly”, I went online to see if there were any tickets available, and voila! I found another set of round-trip tickets at the same price, at almost the same flight times. What are the odds of that happening? I think it was meant be, yes?
Now I’m home and letting all that I’ve seen and experienced stew in my mind, eagerly anticipating what’s next on my creative journey
June 29 2015
Recently, a customer bought a Venus necklace for her cousin and wanted me to tell her how I created it, so she could include the story with her gift. After using the same process to create my new line (the Infinity series), I thought I’d share some of my trade secrets here.
Basically, there are two ways my designs come together. If I have a definite idea in mind (e.g., my Silver Petal and Poppy necklaces), I hand forge the pieces using hammers and other tools. However, if I want to create a piece with a more organic shape, I use something called the drip-wax technique.
As the name implies, hot wax is dripped onto cold water to form shapes. But since the process is difficult to control, it can take over 25 attempts before anything with a viable shape forms. As soon as I see something I can work with, the wax is removed from the water. Then, using warmed metal tools, I clean it of any excess debris.
Once I have a desired form, it’s then cast in metal and the resulting piece is cleaned once again before using it to create a mold. From that mold, I can make additional wax copies. Even though the copies are from the same mold, they are not perfect. Therefore, each wax piece has to be inspected and touched up as needed before it is cast.
And thus the process of casting and cleaning is repeated. This is the nature of handcrafted jewelry. No two pieces are exactly alike. However, individually, they will be as beautiful as I can make them.
You can find out more about the process in my previous post (with a lot more pictures), The Process.
June 25 2015
"Suddenly I realize that if I stepped out of my body I would break into blossom"
~ James Wright, from " A Blessing"
Pictured is Infinity Petal Necklace
June 06 2015
May 07 2015
A Day in Paradise
April 20 2015
On one gorgeous Saturday, my friend and I decided to take a drive up to Santa Barbara. It was first conceived as an aimless road trip just to get out of the city, but fearing the lack of a destination might not make for a satisfying excursion, we decided to treat ourselves and aim for the Four Seasons’ Bella Vista and its high tea to mark the day. After about 2 hours of unusually good L.A. traffic, we arrived at the famed hotel set against an idyllic beach…on an exceptionally beautiful day.
We were early to the restaurant, but they seated us anyway. It was a beautiful space, airy and bright with a gorgeous view of the ocean.
We think there was a celebrity seated across from our table, but since neither of us recognized her, we just conjectured a lot. Whoever she was, she was lovely with her Alice in Wonderland style dress and looks.
Our first course was what I call the fancy sandwiches: Beautiful and delicious.
Then came what we were waiting for: sugar, fat and carbs transformed into elegant tasty morsels.
Two hours of non-stop gorging and about a gallon of tea later, feeling pretty happy and content with our adventure, we slowly rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, took one last stroll along the beach on the way back to our car, then fighting a food coma, drove back to our La La Land reality.
April 16 2015
April 15 2015
April 06 2015
I love hats. And this lovely Helen Kaminski raffia hat has been my favorite sunblock for a decade.
April 02 2015
Of all the places I've been, I remember Norway with the most gorgeous sky and picturesque sceneries.
April 01 2015
Not Everything Ends in Success
March 26 2015
Not all attempts at making jewelry end in success. Many designs are discarded from the get-go. Some are halted in the middle (when it becomes apparent that they are no longer workable designs). Some require a modification to make them a better design. And some are completed, but the maker (that would be me) makes a mistake during the fabrication, resulting in a piece that is no longer suitable for sale. And that is how I came to own a beautiful moonstone necklace in my personal jewelry collection.
The idea for the piece was to simply to showcase the stone: a beautiful 11mm rainbow moonstone with an exceptional clarity and beautiful blue flash, or adularescence. It would be encased in an 18k yellow gold bezel on a sterling silver base. Much time was spent trying to fold the gold bezel to set the stone, but the thickness and hardness of the metal made it very difficult.
Finally, it was done and it was time to remove the tool marks, and that’s where my mistake cost me hours of work. In a rush to complete the project and share it with the world, I took a shortcut and tried to remove the scratches with sandpaper. Normally, this is a standard practice for removing marks on metal—if the metal is nowhere near a gemstone. If the metal is near a stone, you should use different tools because the sandpaper will S C R A T C H the stone. And that’s what I did. All those hours down the drain, because I thought I could be careful and expedite the process.
Lesson learned: Slow down. Don’t take short-cuts when you know any mistakes can be costly. Can the piece be repaired? Yes, the stone needs to be removed and re-polished, but I’ve decided to leave it, as is. Why? The next time I can’t wait to finish a design and show it to the world, the moonstone pendant will be there as a reminder to take a deep breath, steady my hands, and give the design the time and attention it deserves.
March 18 2015
In making jewelry, I use either the lost wax technique or hammer forging. Here is an abbreviated look at how a pendant comes to life using the wax casting process, which can take anywhere from a week to two or more weeks.
1. A wax mold is made from original design. It is individually retouched to obtain desired shape.
2. Using the lost wax technique, it is then cast in silver. With this process, the wax shape is encased in a sort of plaster, then molten silver is poured in, displacing the wax.
3. Right after casting.
4. Right after the acid bath (aka pickle) to remove the black patina. The cast piece is never smooth. It has bubbles and rough spots that need to be removed.
5. Some of the tools I use to remove all the rough spots to make it smooth.
6. The pendant is smoothed and a jump ring is soldered on. But more cleaning and polishing are needed to make it finer.
7. It is then given an oxidization treatment and is polished to high shine.
8. Add chain and it’s ready to go.
Nachtshmetterlinge (night butterflies) aka moth
March 05 2015
Did you know that there are at least 150,000 different species of moth? Contrary to their reputation as night creatures, many moths are day fliers. Did you know that many moths don’t eat as adults? Moth known as the Luna Moth or Indian Moon moth does not even have a mouth. It lives on food stored in its body from the caterpillar stage. Life span for the Luna moth is about a week. Other moths can live up to 2 or 3 weeks. Did you also know that the finest quality silk is produced by Saturniidae and Bombycidae species of moth? Yes, that silkworm is a moth caterpillar. Pretty cool, eh?
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