Simple Pleasures

Tourmaline Rock on a Rope

Yesterday was a great day.

Hui.2 decided to take an early nap and Hui.1 woke up late.  So we started our day around 10:30am, had breakfast, then ventured into the studio where we watched Teddy Ruxpin, cuddled, and I actually got to sit at my workbench.  Hui.2 was still fast asleep (I kept checking on him because I was paranoid) and after flipping through my stone book, I decided I needed to make myself a Rock on a Rope with a ruby for some extra vitality.  I wanted to add some morganite to it for some Divine Love, but how could I make them work together?  My favorite design didn’t fit my needs at the moment.  I wanted a single, solitary stone, but I also wanted to reap the rewards of both stones.  Hmm.

Morganite and Aquamarine

It’s still a Rock on a Rope, even though I added a single morganite bead to the end of the extender chain!  Ding ding ding!  And of course, I felt the need to make it in rose gold.  Perfect!  I haven’t made anything for myself lately, so this was a nice treat.  I also added a solitary, faceted rose quartz to hang out with the morganite.  Divine Love, romantic love, and vitality is a powerful concoction.  This strand of rubies is very special and I’ve only taken 2 beads so far, with very specific intentions.  The first one I made as a tester bracelet with some Chinese Knots and chain.  Again, a very simple design with the knots framing the stone (like most things, I need to make more and take photos).  I wore it for a day before feeling the urge to give it to my sister.  My intuition was saying the ruby did its job, and it was time to pass it on to her.

As soon as Hui.1 went down for a nap, Hui.2 woke up from his 3-4 hour nap.  So we nursed in the studio, nicely curled up in my La-Z-Boy recliner (best investment I ever made for this new baby), streaming more Dawson’s Creek on Netflix (in my defense, I’m waiting for last season’s Grey’s Anatomy and Once Upon a Time to be on Netflix so I can catch up).  It was perfect to have some much needed quality time with both boys individually, as well as having some time to truly spend in the studio.  It’s simple pleasures like these that wards off postpartum depression and gives me hope that life with two kids two years apart won’t always be so chaotic.

My new Rock on a Rope


Cultivating Patience

3-Strand Byzantine Rose Necklace and Bracelet

As an engineer and Maille Smith, you’d think I’d have enough patience to last a lifetime.  I thought so too, but then I started on this necklace.  It’s a triple strand necklace of byzantine rose in 20g sterling silver and yellow gold filled.  20g rings are tiny.  Seriously tiny.  Then multiply that by 3 plus a bracelet.  Oy.

I came up with a system to work on this without losing my mind (mind you, I was in the last stretch of pregnancy so my mind was already extremely far gone).

Step 1:

Close silver rings and make gold roses.

Step 2:

Attach 3 pairs of silver rings to gold roses.

Step 3:

Weave chain and b-r-e-a-t-h-e and note how easy it was to construct once I got to this step.

The best way to weave it was to break it up by my moods.  When I needed my brain to calm down after fretting about the baby not coming, how tired I was, how itchy I was, I would work on Step 1 and make a giant pile of closed rings and roses and then walk away.  Coming back, I would work on Step 2 until I finished up the pile of roses.  Then I would either walk away again (come on, I have a toddler running around), or continue on to Step 3 and finish that bit of chain.  Lastly, I would attach it to the main group of chains and step back to admire my handiwork.  Breaking up such a daunting task was the best idea I’ve come up with yet.  If apply this method to other aspects of my life, I think I’ve found a great way to avoid procrastination.

Nothing Left to Prove

Chainmaille Goodness

Discussions with Allison are always interesting and thought provoking.  Our initial discussions can get overwhelming, but everyone needs that one person who tells you how it is and occasionally gives you a shove in the right direction.  She does a lot more than just that for me, but you know what I mean.  She pointed out the other day that most of my jewelry designs are bold, statement pieces that are sometimes over-the-top.  The gauge I work the chainmaille in is not feminine and some people have commented I’m taking men’s jewelry and trying to make it feminine.  The more I mulled over this, the more I realized how much my subconscious has snuck its way into my jewelry.

As the youngest of 3 kids, I’ve felt I’ve had to make an extra effort to be taken seriously.  I’ve also spent nearly a decade working in a male-dominated field, on top of being overshadowed by both my father and my sister who work in the same field.  But now with the kids, I’ve been making the mental transition of being out in the field to the backend of the office.  It’s taken some getting used to because I miss the field work and watching the construction work, but being able to stay home with my kids is just as rewarding.

There is some evidence that I’m transitioning out of that “I need to prove myself” mentality, most prominently in the Chinese Knot Collection’s station necklaces and earrings.  It’s just hard to de-program after so many years of fighting against the tide.  I do feel less of a need to be taken seriously and definitely less need to prove myself.  The next step in the journey is remembering that bigger isn’t always better and there is merit in simpler, understated designs.  We’ll see where this next chapter of life takes me and how that translates into jewelry.  Acknowledging where I’ve been and where I hope to go is the first conscious step.

The Station Necklace

Moss Agate Lariat ~ Example of a Station Necklace

It was exciting when I found Cynthia Sliwa’s new blog.  I’ve been following her for years, but that fell to the wayside after getting married and having babies.  I noticed she had stopped posting on her usual website so a few months ago I decided to Google her and discovered she had her own website and blog now.  Score!

This post about station necklaces really stood out to me.  My favorite lariat from the Chinese Knot Collection definitely falls under the station necklace category and in the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to make shorter necklaces in that style.  I remember attempting to design similar style necklaces back in the day (2003-4?), but because my technical skills weren’t up to par, it never turned out just right.  I haven’t touched the idea until I came up with the lariat design during the later part of 2013.  I finally had the resources to do it right and I did.  Lariats were also something I’ve always wanted to make, but never got right until now.  As I mentioned in my post about jewelry equations, it’s just a matter of finding the perfect materials and length of chain.

The Chinese Knot Collection has really changed my perspective on design and how to seriously mix-and-match pieces within a collection.  As much as I prefer being eccentric, sometimes a little bit of order amongst the chaos is a great change in pace.  I really did “ascend” as an artist after I released that collection and even to this day, a several months later, I’m still in awe of it all.  Of course, I have to give credit to Allison for all her poking and prodding, or else it would have stayed in my subconscious a lot longer than it did.  Sometimes you need that push to get the momentum going and I’m thankful for the big shove she provided.

Last month, during my “hey, I have time to play with new designs” period (unfortunately short-lived), I started poking at designing a shorter version of the lariat.  At first, I started with a larger focal knot, accompanied by alternating stones and smaller knots, but that didn’t look right.  After tearing that version apart and starting from scratch, I finally figured out the perfect equation for both a necklace and a bracelet.  Once I finish the big chainmaille project I’m working on, these new additions will be my first priority.  One of the prototype necklaces went to the Laguna Gallery during my big jewelry drop-off day and just sold the other day.  Definitely more incentive to get that big chainmaille project finished so I can work on making a pretty pile of jewelry… assuming baby gives me another few days before his arrival.  He’s been pretty stubborn about coming out, but since I hit 40 weeks tomorrow, it really is any day now.

Station Necklace in action

Jewelry Equations


Watermelon Tourmaline Chinese Knot Lariat in 14kt Rose Gold Filled

I’m an engineer by default, so when my brain recognizes a pattern, I translate that into the perfect jewelry equation so production takes up less time and brain power (when you’re a mom, saving brain power is awesome).  For instance, I figured out the perfect equation for making lariats.  No matter what, you use the same amount of beads and/or chainmaille bits, no ifs, ands, or buts.  Same with the chains in between because most of my lariats are basically long station necklaces.  I also just figured out the perfect equation for a new Grace Bead bracelet design for the standard wrist size of 7.5″ (my wrists are above average size, so it was a challenge).  All this uniformity makes me very happy.  Sometimes it’s nice to create order out of chaos.  Too much chaos isn’t good for anyone.

The Production Process

The Chinese Knot Collection

I’ve already written about my process of design and how to cultivate creative through poking and classical music. So let’s talk about what it takes for a piece of jewelry to make it to production.

Several hours of debate and poking. Part of that poking includes this list of questions:

Is it strong enough by itself to be a statement piece?
What category does it fall under?
Does it meet the requirements of said category?
Can it be “broken” down into several coordinating pieces (i.e. Collection)?

Classic maille is the foundation of my jewelry design and sometimes you need something simple yet makes a strong statement. What’s a bakery without the staple chocolate chip cookie? What kind of engineer didn’t study calculus? Everyone has to start somewhere in order to lay out the foundation. So for me that’s where it all begins.

The next step is analyzing and being able to see a weave that can be broken down into either smaller “bits” or somehow manipulated into being adorned by beads. This particular skill has taken me years to refine and there are days when it’s still a challenge. But it’s all part of the journey, if you really want to get all philosophical about it. Sometimes it’s finding the perfect maille bit for certain beads. Other times it’s about showcasing the maille encrusted with beads.

From the photo above, you can see the versatility of the Chinese Knot Collection between it’s chainmaille foundation and how well it lends itself with the stones.  I really outdid myself with that collection and I have to figure out how to top it.  Now that’s going to be a challenge.