When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my idea of a tent usually involved a couple of chairs and a blanket. It was rudimentary but quite cozy, and I would often hole up inside with my favorite stuffed animals while waiting for wayward bunnies or similar furry creatures to stop by, lured by treats I would place outside my lair. I guess my plan was to invite them in for tea or something. Later in my childhood, tents became more elaborate affairs, sometimes even requiring tree-climbing skills. They became known more as forts to be defended (usually against marauding neighborhood boys led by my best friend’s annoying little brother). There were also the tents we would sometimes use when my dad would take us camping. These were usually olive-drab, army surplus jobs. Great for sleeping in and keeping mosquitoes at bay, though not particularly attractive.

Camping tents today are brightly colored technical whiz-bangs compared to those of my childhood. But lately, I’ve been involved with another kind of tent. Actually they’re called “canopies.” These are the peaked shelters that dot the landscape of festivals, fairs, farmers markets and flea markets. Commonly white, and, en masse, resembling clouds of whipped cream, canopies are a boon to jewelry designers. They provide shade for the vendor, the jewelry and the customers.

When I decided to try selling some of my work at shows this summer, my boyfriend, Oz, and I spent countless hours looking for and researching the various canopies on the market. We first bought a well-used Quik Shade, which we set up in front of the house for a trial run. As we live on narrowly terraced land, this was no easy feat, and we had to MacGyver our way to even footing. But when we learned about two Caravan canopies available for $50 each at a moving sale, we couldn’t resist. Caravans seem to be among the premier canopies used by artists, and these were barely used, pristine white with side curtains, sandbag holders and stakes, and bags with rollers included in the price.

Like many (so many) of my jewelry-making learning experiences, my journey down the road of canopy wisdom has been full of surprises. On this journey, I see people like Rena Klingenberg as my guides. An old hand at the jewelry design biz, she’s kind of like AAA for the jewelry crowd, always ready and willing to lend a helping hand on the road to jewelry-designer nirvana.

Among my recent revelations via publications such as Klingenberg’s Ultimate Guide to Your Profitable Jewelry Booth, as well as just scouting around at various events: Canopies should be white so the color of the jewelry can be shown to the best advantage without tinting via colored fabric. They must be easy to put up and take down, especially when single-handing. They should have straight legs so they fit in a 10×10 space. Weights of at least 40 pounds must be attached to each corner of a canopy in a way that will keep the thing from flying off in the event of a big gust of wind. Weights we’ve seen run the gamut: bags of sand (you can buy bags made for this by many of the canopy manufacturers, but these can be pricey. We saw some at Walmart the other day for about 10 bucks for four); pvc pipes filled with cement and hanging from chains or ropes; cement blocks; and plastic jugs of water. Side curtains are a good option to have as they help enclose the space and help shield against sun and harsh weather, although some kind of mesh or shadecloth might be preferable on hot days. Vents on top of a tent can help with air circulation inside, while also helping to keep the structure from lofting in a wind. A roller bag to transport your canopy is a big plus.

Anyway, who knew? Not me, that’s for sure.

But now that I have the canopy thing down, I just need to put one up at a show and lure in some customers. And somehow I know it will take more than putting a few carrots and a pile of cabbage outside the entrance to my tent — er — canopy.

Check out some of my latest treats (soon to be posted on my Etsy site (RebeccaStoneDesigns.Etsy.com):

It's hard to believe this is a natural stone, but it is. The incredible hue of apatite is striking when paired with fuschia Swarovski crystals and sterling silver.

It's hard to believe this is a natural stone, but it is. The incredible hue of apatite is striking when paired with fuschia Swarovski crystals and sterling silver.

I love banded the banded amethyst in this three-strand necklace and the way the green Swarovski crystals play off the purple and silver.

I love banded the banded amethyst in this three-strand necklace and the way the green Swarovski crystals play off the purple and silver.

The combination of deep-red garnet, sky-blue sodalite, translucent moonstone, pale rose muscovite and sterling silver produced a rich array of textures and colors in this piece.

The combination of deep-red garnet, sky-blue sodalite, translucent moonstone, pale rose muscovite and sterling silver produced a rich array of textures and colors in this piece.

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…


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.

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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