The Best Therapy

Posted by Rebecca Stone on March 31, 2010
Mar 312010

Suffering the heartbreak of a relationship gone wrong? Grab some beads and beading wire and start stringing. Laid off from a longtime career? Great time to learn about precious metal clays. Lose your boat to the bad economy? Start wirewrapping like there’s no tomorrow. This week I discovered the therapeutic value of jewelry making.

My boat, the Ricky Jane, taught me the value of patience, determination and a good first aid kit.

My boat, the Ricky Jane, taught me the value of patience, determination and a good first aid kit.

I admit it: I’m a sentimental romantic, but as I sold my precious wooden trawler this week, I’m proud to say that I kept my wits about me. Since being laid off as managing editor of a boating magazine last year, I’ve been “sort of” (reluctantly) looking for a potential buyer for my beloved boat. It had to be exactly the right person. Well, this week he materialized: a licensed captain, surveyor and all around wooden boat guru. Plus, he’s a friend of a very boatwise friend. As he toured her below decks, it was just all too perfect. At 6-foot, 4, he was able to stand up straight without hitting his head, and as he walked around checking her out, I could see “the look” in his eyes. He was smitten. Believe me, when a big guy like that walks around your boat saying things like: “She’s just so cute!” or “She’s definitely a keeper!” you know he’s a goner. How could I resist? It’s getting to the point that I can no longer afford a slip fee and, physically as well as logistically, I just can’t keep up with the maintenance. The marine environment is harsh and wooden boats require constant attention. I’ve often pictured myself as if I were in a relay race to keep the boat afloat. At this point in my life, I can’t go any farther, so it’s time to pass the baton on to someone else. It was a done deal.

The Ricky Jane is no “yacht.” Basically, a ’60s fishing boat, she was a mess when I bought her 14 years ago: rotted aft planks and forward gunwals, non-working engine. But I was completely under her spell. They say wooden boats can do that to you as soon as you get that first splinter. They get under your skin. She became my home and my constant, daily mission to bring her back from the brink of disintegration. Every morning, I’d pour a cup o’ joe and get in a little boatwork before I went to work. Every evening after work, I’d pour myself a glass of wine and start scraping, sanding, filling or whatever the project du jour called for. She gave me seven years of living on the water, where I could watch the wildlife (both animal and human) go by. People would motor up to her transom in their dinghys  on sunny mornings for coffee and a chat. Those of us on my dock who loved to read formed our own dockside lending library, trading novels back and forth. I even had about 25 people at one time on my 33-foot boat for Christmas dinner one year (much of it cooked on a single-burner hotplate).

When I eventually moved back to land, I resolved to make the boat less a home and more a, well, boat. Work began in ernest on the engine, with my boyfriend spending hours of quality time down in the engine bay, affectionately known as “the hole.” More than anything, though, the boat became a sort of zen getaway for me as well as a floating art studio. With her rocking gently under me, the sound of halyards in the marina slapping in the breeze, I began my first fledgling attempts at jewelry making.

The day after I sold her, I finally burst into tears. I knew I’d done the right thing, but, hey, I’d had her for 14 years. I was heartbroken. But numbly, I sat down with some 22-gauge silver wire and started wrapping. I wrapped briolettes, nuggets, chips, drops — practically everything in sight. OK, not the cats…

combwirewrapfinal

Wirewrapping therapy included sodalight, labradorite and pearls, tourmalinated and rose quartz and lots of Swarovski crystals and sterling silver.

The point is, I wrapped my way through my grief and into a new design (for me, anyway). I think it’s a keeper.

The great thing is, I’m getting wonderful practice creating beautiful designs by putting curves in wire as I work out the kinks in my heart. I guess I have the boat to thank for that. Calm seas, Ricky Jane.

Mar 222010

Spring: The time for flowers (among my favorite subjects for handpainted earthenware jewelry) and fairs. It seems arts and crafts selling venues proliferate in the spring like wildflowers in a burn area after a rain.

Bush Mallow is an early harbinger of Spring. It's a source of inspiration for some of my handpainted pendants (pictures coming soon!).

Bush Mallow is an early harbinger of Spring. It's a source of inspiration for some of my handpainted pendants (pictures coming soon!).

While wildflowers are abundant this year, I’ve heard that there may be fewer shows than usual, due to the poor economy. Nonetheless, in my quest to learn more about the marketing end of the jewelry-making biz, I scanned festival listings for nearby events featuring jewelry designers. I’m curious to see, of course, their creations, but also how they go about displaying them. It’s also a great way of meeting and networking with other artists. Recently, I drove out to Arcadia, CA to attend the Pink Parlour Festival. The annual event, which “completely caters to women of all ages,” offered handcrafted wares of all kinds. Of course, I was there for the jewelry, but that didn’t stop me from a few diversions here and there.

The festival was held  at the Santa Anita Race Track, at one end of the massive pavilion where bets are placed and drinks are served. When I arrived, a race was about to begin, so, as a former horse trainer, I naturally had to stop by the paddock to check out the thoroughbred lineup. I then followed them to the track to watch the race. I’m pleased to say that I still have an eye, and I picked the winner at first glance. It was exhilarating, but I was really there for jewelry, so off I went to the festival.

Another sign of Spring is the appearance of Nightshade.

Another sign of Spring is the appearance of Nightshade.

Have to say, it was a bit of a bummer to get hit with a $12 entry fee after paying $4 for parking and $5 to get through the track gates, but, hey, it was all in the name of research, so I coughed it up. Had to wonder if it might have been a deterrent for some potential customers, though. Cheaper just to grab a beer and watch the races. Also, the show seemed sort of geared toward a younger clientele, especially those with goth tastes. Nothing wrong with that, but  I wondered how that affected sales for the designers who didn’t feature spiders and skulls in their pieces.

I made the rounds and saw some wonderful designs and presentations from designers such as Regina Kalas (RKDesigns.com), whose deliciously delicate pieces were the first thing visitors saw on admittance. Kalas has been designing jewelry since, like, age 7, so the high level of quality seen in her pieces is no surprise. Other wonderful participants at the festival included Megan Goldkamp, Romi B Designs, Miss Ivy, Love Jane Jewelry, Jewels by JaNiNe, Ileana’s Designs, Made by Malcakes, Ilaments Jewelry and Opal Moon Designs. Designer Shannon McMullen, who was minding another artist’s booth, wasn’t actually showing any of her things, but we got to talking about networking and her efforts at organizing bead swaps. I checked out her Etsy site (creatrix.etsy.com) and found that she has some really lovely pieces. Go there.

This type of Phacelia, commonly known as Wild Canterbury Bells, is a favorite among wildflower hunters.

This type of Phacelia, commonly known as Wild Canterbury Bells, is a favorite among wildflower hunters.

As I wandered the show from necklace to bracelet I couldn’t help but notice the fragrance of orange and lavender wafting from the booth of Marin Natural Beauty (http://www.MarinNaturalBeauty.Etsy.com). Kimi Marin’s natural, vegan creams and bath bombs were enticing. But, alas, I had shot my wad of available cash gaining admittance, so I had to wait and place my order for one of her creams from home.

Aside from burning up the miles traveling to events, I struck gold with another tactic for improving my marketing knowhow: I just downloaded Rena Klingenberg’s  Ultimate Guide to Your Profitable Jewelry Booth onto my laptop. Klingenberg (http://www.home-jewelry-business-success-tips.com) always seems ready and willing to help other designers with truckloads of advice and tips, and this publication is no exception. I’m only a quarter of the way through it and already feel that I’ve learned much. If you’re trying to get started like I am, I highly recommend this book, her newsletter and frequent visits to her site. Oh, and don’t forget to stop beading for a moment now and then to step outside and smell the wildflowers.

The Addiction

Posted by Rebecca Stone on March 16, 2010
Mar 162010

Holy cow! I guess I’ve never really thought about stones or rocks in quite this way. I’m not particularly the blinded-by-science type, but I do recall that back in junior college, my favorite science-type class was geology.  In fact, one of my cherished memories from that period was of a group of us students going on a rain-soaked, beer-fueled field trip up the Columbia River Gorge, in search of basalt formations and the like. But, I must say, as fascinating as basalt is, it never made me break out in a sweat the way I do when I’m surrounded by semiprecious and precious stones.

Rocks on the rocks... just one more addiction?

Rocks on the rocks... just one more addiction?

It all began with my layoff as an editor and writer on a boating magazine. Seems like the next day I awoke from a daze in the jewelry section at Michael’s Craft Store, staring at pretty rocks on a string and something called “Findings.” I remember thinking to myself, “Why not?” I bought a book and some basic supplies, excited for the chance to learn something new. Since then my craving for stones that I can transform into jewelry has grown into an addiction that could rival drinking and gambling. Heck, it’s downright insatiable. I can’t recall ever feeling this way about buying shoes or underwear.

I don’t think this is unusual among jewelry designers and rock hounds in general. While drooling over a strand of Moss Agate at Michael’s the other day, I overheard a girl say, “Look, Mom, we’re in your section!” Her mother muttered as she swept by the colored stones and crystals, “Nope, I’m going cold turkey.” It looked like it was all she could do to keep from breaking into a run to outpace her passion run amok.

I empathized. Lately, I’ve been trying to pick routes that steer clear of my growing list of bead shop stops, just so I can space my expenditures into manageable chunks. When I do succumb to a visit, I try to limit my purchases to one project at a time. This is tough to do. New stones beckon me like sea sirens lured sailors to their rocky shores — and their ultimate demise. While my ship is not in danger (I have an old wooden trawler that currently serves as my floating art studio, and last I looked, she was moored safely in her slip), my pocketbook is often perilously close to running aground.

Los Angeles is full of enticements, bead and stone shopping-wise. And I appear to be on course to discover every single shop and show that appears on my radar screen. But, while possible financial catastrophe lurks behind every sparkling, colored strand that dangles like a 24-carat carrot from a shop wall or lies twisted on a show table, so does a wealth of lessons. The more I run my fingers over stones and absorb their beauty, some blatant and some subtle, the more I learn. And I am hungry to learn.

So many shops… and for once I have time. I hope you’ll come along with me on the adventure — and chime in about your own.

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