Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tangible Tidbits 2011 #48: First Glasses, Now A Cane...What's Next, A Pacemaker?

Hey, folks! My mother used to always say "Into each life, a little rain must fall" while I was growing up. Well, it rained again last night in my life. Instead of attending my 25th high school reunion -- in hindsight, maybe I should have gone after all! -- I messed up my left knee...again. I had a "very bad sprain" 2-3 years ago and had to walk around with a borrowed cane for more than a month. Out of necessity, Mom bought me one of my very own this morning. My older niece wanted her father to buy her one to play around with, and I told her she could use mine after I was finished with it. My younger niece, in her infinite wisdom, said, "You'll probably need it other times." Cute kid, right? :p

It all started when I was sitting on the floor in my computer room/studio, pricing out pieces to deliver to 1978 Maplewood Arts Center this morning for next weekend's BANG VI exhibit. I was reaching for something out of my grasp and leaned forward to get it, rising up on my knees a bit to extend my reach (I was sitting "criss-cross applesauce"...formerly known as Indian-style). Something popped, but that's not terribly unusual. However, when I sat back down, I realized I couldn't bend or straighten my leg, and I couldn't get up off the floor! Serves me right for being too lazy to get up the first time. :p I was in so much pain, I had tears in my eyes! Naturally, I didn't sleep well last night and I did not make it over to 1978 this morning. I emailed the coordinator, and she graciously extended my deadline until Thursday, and she will be there to help me unload the car. My mother also offered to help. I still have a few items to price out and record on the required inventory sheets, since I bailed on finishing that once I got hurt last night. I already have an appointment scheduled with the chiropractor for Tuesday, so I will muddle through until then. I have to work a full day tomorrow, as a supervisor and my partner/colleague are both out. I backed the car out of the driveway earlier to make sure I can manage the clutch on my stick shift. Remind me next time to get an automatic, "just in case." :o

Aside from my personal drama, I applied online for the Nunn Design Innovation Team last night, as I noticed a call for participants on the Beadaholique blog while looking for something else. Swarovski has a similar team, and I know someone from the Bead Society who is on it. Nunn Design makes vintage-looking materials, so I thought that would be a great fit for me. Fingers crossed that they agree! ;) I also submitted my Jeweler's Saw necklace in Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Metal Clay, Metal Beads, Wire & Chain Jewelry-making Contest. I received a letter that I was not selected as a finalist in their Pearls, Organic Beads & Clay contest, which I didn't even remember entering. Still waiting to hear about the Swarovski Crystal ELEMENTS contest. I also apparently did not place in Beadaholique's "Falling Leaves" contest, which I only found out by checking their website. I wasn't even sure it had been evaluated yet. :\

My Thanksgiving was very nice....lots of extended family, food, and Nintendo Pictionary. A fun game, although a lot more complicated than you would think. I hope those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving enjoyed yours, too. :)

I know this is short (for me, anyway), but my knee is throbbing and I have to get up earlier than usual tomorrow to allow myself extra time to get ready for work. Everything takes a Herculean effort right now, and I don't want to be late because I took too long to get dressed or had trouble driving the car. :(

Take care, one and all...and have a great week! ;)

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tangible Tidbits 2011 #47: Working, Workshops, and "One Life To Live"

Hey, everyone! :)

Okay, so let's start with last weekend. On Saturday, I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. pricing pieces for the Third Annual Jewels of New Jersey show on Sunday. Then, I got up at 7:15 a.m. to shower, dress, load up the car, and drive one hour south of me to the show. Business was not as good as last year, and that was also the general consensus of the other vendors I spoke with that day. There was a lot of work to put into it with not such a great return, but I made more money than I would have staying home and sitting on my butt. :p BTW, I have a few pictures from the event that I will post to Facebook when I get the chance. My sister brought my nieces for the last two hours, which was a nice distraction. However, I might have made a few more sales by focusing on the people browsing my table and chatting with them instead of keeping my nieces occupied. :\ Anyway, next is the BANG VI exhibit at 1978 Maplewood Arts Center. I have to decide what I want to bring and fill out the appropriate forms and labels this week. Luckily, I found pictures from last year (and also posted them to Facebook), so I know what items I had there already. :) No word yet on the events in Jersey City and South Orange. Fingers crossed! ;)

We had our December Bead Society (BSNJ) meeting this week, and I attended a workshop yesterday. At the meeting on Thursday night, Dr. Josephine Yeh gave a presentation on Chinese knotting. She's one of our members and a really sweet lady. There's a picture of the two of us in the Facebook album link I posted above. :) Her presentation was really enjoyable -- she's very funny! -- and she will follow up with a workshop in early December. The workshop I attended on Saturday was to learn how to make a Star Gazer Bracelet with internationally-renowned bead artist Laura McCabe. She's 35, but looks 10 years younger! LOL She's really very nice and patient. ;) We were there for six hours, and I think the most anyone accomplished was one flower our of the eight needed for the piece. :o I'd imagine by the time you get through making all eight flowers, you'd be pretty adept at it! Let's hope so! :)

Also, BSNJ's Autumn newsletter came out this week, and it included my Ten Life Lessons... article! I will paste it up and post it in the clips album on Facebook when I get a chance. :)

I was so wiped out from the past couple of weeks that I slept until NOON today! I guess I really needed the rest. After that, I baked cookies for our family Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. That's my assignment every year...bake Crisco cookies! They are basically butter cookies, but made with Crisco instead. The recipe goes back to World War II, when butter was scarce. ;)

Still working a lot this coming week, even with Thanksgiving on Thursday. We have early dismissals on Wednesday and Friday -- we cannot close the day after Thanksgiving, unfortunately. It has something to do with the stock market not being allowed to close for more than three days (meaning no four-day weekends) since 9-11. However, we are open a lot of days the Depository Trust Company (DTC) is closed, so that doesn't really make much sense to me. Anyway, my colleague is out again Monday and Tuesday, so I'll be working more OT this week. :p

I entered into an online discussion about Joe Paterno's firing from Penn State earlier this week. If you're interested, you can find the discussion here on The Maplewood Patch. I was in the minority, and decided to get out before things got nasty. I don't mind sharing opinions with people, but when they start to lecture me on morality I lose interest VERY quickly. :p

Well, I'm off to YouTube to catch Thursday's and Friday's episodes of One Life To Live, another ABC soap opera that's going off the air in a few weeks. I used to watch it in college, but I only really started watching it again when they announced it was being canceled. In actuality, I think it is moving to the internet sometime early next year, but it will be different than it is now, I'm sure. :\

Take care and Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it! :)

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Tangible Tidbits 2011 #46: My 101st Post!

Hello, everyone! I just noticed on Blogger that this is my 101st blog post! How do you like that? ;)

Well, my life is crazy at the moment, especially having worked all weekend getting ready for and attending the Jewels of New Jersey juried show in Monroe Township yesterday. More on that and everything else next week. Unfortunately, I have a bunch of stuff to get done this week, and I am working a lot of overtime at the office because (1) my colleague is out Monday and Tuesday and I am subbing for him, and (2) I have to attend a two-day workshop -- four hours each day -- on Excel 2010 Wednesday and Thursday at work. That will basically take up the entire time I'm usually there, so I will get very little work done and I will probably have to stick around to finish up some stuff. With all that being said, I will fill you in on all of the gory details of my busy life next weekend, and perhaps offer my thoughts on the whole Penn State/Joe Paterno controversy...of which I have many! :p I'm taking the "easy way out" again and posting a Focal Piece Flashback, for your reading pleasure. ;) We will return to our regularly scheduled programming next Sunday. Thanks...and have a great week! :D

From April 2010:

For this month, I thought I'd showcase the first finished piece from my Metalwork & Jewelry class at Montclair State University (MSU). It's a solid sterling silver pendant, created using a cuttlebone cast. I've used a gunmetal pinch bail and 2mm black leather, which I had left over from's Use The Muse contest kit. I also used a silver-tone claw clasp.

Cuttlebone casting is not too difficult, although it did take me two tries to get this right. The first time, only the bottom of the piece came out...the top must've been the victim of an air bubble or something. :\

Cuttlebone is the internal shell of the Cuttlefish, and can be purchased at pet supply stores, since it is used as a supplement and exercise toy for birds. Apparently, it is high in calcium, according to

To make a cuttlebone cast -- which can only be used once, BTW, since it is scorched during the process of pouring the molten metal of choice into the cast -- you take a piece of cuttlebone and cut it in half for smaller pieces. If you are making a larger piece, you can use two separate pieces. There is a smooth side and a rough side. Rub the smooth sides together to make a flat working surface. Be sure both sides of the cast are close to the same size...otherwise, you run the risk of having the metal seep out. This happened to me both leaked out the bottom of my cast, even though I did my best to take precautions. Once you have two similar-sized halves of your cast, carve a "funnel" in the top to make it easier for the metal to travel to your carving. If metal stays in this portion when making your piece, you can saw it off later. When carving your design into the cuttlebone, keep in mind the use of negative space. The metal can flow into any areas that are carved out, so if you want areas without metal, do not carve those out from the surface. If you want a three-dimensional piece, carve the mirror image out of the opposite side of the cast. Also, molten metal can only flow downward, so if your design has any parts that point upward, they won't receive metal. Be sure to keep at least 1/4" or so around the perimeter when creating your design, which will minimize leakage. Don't carve too deep if you're making jewelry because the piece will be thick, chunky and heavy. It's fine for sculptures, though. Also, there is a natural pattern in cuttlebone, which will appear in your piece. See all of the ridges and lines in the pendant? That's all natural texture provided by the cuttlebone.

Once you have your carving all set -- cuttlebone is pretty soft, so you can use any tool to carve it...I used one of my needle files -- tape the two pieces of cuttlebone together with masking tape. Be sure the two sides are lined up as you want them, since you only have one shot per cast. Put the cast in a third arm (a stand with a set of tweezers to hold the item in place), and use a high powered torch to melt your metal. Be sure you have enough metal to fill in your piece! Better to have too much than too little. Fine and sterling silver, brass, bronze, and gold can all be used. Copper can be used if it is mixed with 30% silver. Otherwise, it won't hold the shape of the cast.

Borax flux (sprinkles like salt) is added as you melt the metal. Sunglass goggles are recommended because of the power of the torch needed to liquefy the metal. Once the metal is fully melted, pour it quickly but carefully into the cast, as it will cool and take the shape of the carving pretty quickly. Try not to waste any metal, especially if you're using precious metals like silver or gold!

Once the metal has cooled -- the metal at the top of the cast will change from a lava-looking orange color to dark -- you can cut the tape holding the cast together and reveal your piece. Put the piece into a bowl of cool water using tweezers to cool the piece off, then you can pick it up out of the water. Before you dowse it in water, it's too hot to touch. Put the piece in a pickle solution to clean off any oxidation. Cut off any extraneous pieces with a jeweler's saw, then file and sand the piece to make the edges smooth. If you wish, you can polish it with compounds on a wheel; we have bobbing, tripoli and red rouge at school, so I used those. I drilled a hole in the top of the pendant for the bail, and voilĂ !

If you're interested, I found step-by-step instructions with photos on the web.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tangible Tidbits 2011 #45: Cell Phones, Credit Cards, and Daylight Savings Time!

Hello, everyone...welcome to the other side of Daylight Savings Time! ;) I hope you all remembered to turn your clocks back last night. I only remembered because I had set an alert on my cell phone! :o

Speaking of cell phones, I upgraded mine this week to a Samsung Fascinate. I needed an Android with a 3.5mm headset jack for next weekend. A few weeks ago, I signed up for a free Square Credit Card Reader, but the phone application is not compatible with my Palm Pixi. Luckily, I found a phone that was free -- my regular upgrade isn't really until the spring -- and met most, if not all, of my requirements. I should get it this week, in time to download the application and test it out before the Jewels of New Jersey show next Sunday. Which reminds me...I will probably not post on Sunday next week, as the day will be more than long enough by the time I get back from Monroe Township -- approximately one hour south of me. Anyway, the Square reader and application will allow me to accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover credit card payments with my cell phone and have them automatically deposited to my bank account the next day! There was someone at the show last year who offered to accept credit card payments for vendors, and she charged 5 percent per transaction. Square charges 2.75 percent per swipe for all transactions, so that seems like a pretty good deal to me! Naturally, the idea is not to lose potential sales because someone does not have a check or enough cash on hand. Fingers crossed! :D

Needless to say, I will be getting ready for Sunday's "road trip" almost every night this week! I also received my postcard proofs (my name will be on them this year!) for BANG VI, as well as the press release, 2011 artwork inventory form & labels. Last year, I signed up too late to receive those materials in advance, so I had to write it all up when I dropped off my pieces. Thankfully, I have a little more time this year to pick and choose what to send and properly identify my pieces. :)

I spent a lot of yesterday working on two bracelets for my nieces. They were here mid-week because they still had no power from last weekend's storm. The girls each selected colors for "Snakemaille" metal and rubber ring chain maille bracelets, and laid the rubber rings all out nice and neatly in patterns on my bead board. Of course, I bumped into it once and then knocked over completely in the following two days! :o I decided I'd better just make them and get them out of the way before I forgot the order in the color patterns entirely! :p The bracelets turned out really cute. I've noticed recently that my work is becoming more consistent, which is gratifying for me to see. :) I've started reworking some of my early pieces, which were not as "polished" I am capable of now. ;)

BTW, the latest Focal Piece of the Month is up and I posted a bunch of new pictures to our current Facebook photo album. I still have a few more to edit and post...I will hopefully get all caught up with that this week, since I have to have the pictures in my presentation binder on Sunday to show examples of my work not on display. :)

As I mentioned last week, I showed a friend the binder on Saturday. She is interested in getting some new earrings (and I have TONS of them here!), but she has to try them on and see them in person. We still have to decide if she wants to give me some ideas of what I can bring to her, or if she wants to come here to see all of them. :)

Did I tell you that I figured out how to alleviate the paragraph separating problem I was having with Blogger? I noticed a "Post Options" link below the tags window while posting last weekend, and I checked it out. One choice is "Press 'Enter' for line breaks," so I clicked on it and...problem solved! ;)

Well, I'm off to watch Once Upon A Time, the new show on at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday nights on ABC-TV. I watched the pilot a couple of weeks ago, and then forgot about it last weekend. :o Luckily, I found it on Comcast On Demand, so I caught up yesterday afternoon. I get a kick out of programs that take widely known characters -- and who's more widely known than Snow White, Prince Charming, the Wicked Queen, the Seven Dwarfs, Geppetto, Pinocchio, Red Riding Hood, Granny, Rumplestiltskin, etc.? -- and putting them in non-traditional settings and situations. The series may not be the most original...another network is airing Grimm this season, presumably based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tales...but I do think it's fun to figure out who the different characters are in modern day Storybrooke, Maine. It's not always obvious, which is part of the fun factor. ;) I have no idea if the series has a shelf life given the premise, but I don't think series' in general look for longer than 4-5 years (if that!) anymore. Long gone are the days when a TV series lasted 12, even 15 years (animated series and reality TV shows notwithstanding)!

Take care and have a great week! :D

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