Art on the Rocks: After Action Report 2015

I fly to Marquette MI every year for Art on the Rocks. So I've gotten pretty good at getting all of my stuff to arrive there with a minimum of 'fold, spindle or mutilate.'

Step One: Jewelry rack and tub-o-extras, which covers tablecloths, empty cashbox, necklace racks, and most all things that aren't jewelry.

These are put in a standard 'frame' box and a regular cuboid box respectively. Since they are already 'hardsided' objects, I need to worry a lot less about damage in transit.

The jewelry itself comes with me on the plane. A giant bag of mixed metal seems like the kind of thing that would be stopped at security, but as it turns out they pass it on through without comment 2/3rds of the time. I feel safe.

And I'm sorry about this, but I have only a couple pictures from Art on the Rocks itself.

Why? As it turns out, the sun is a mass of incandescent gas, and standing out in it in the middle of the aisle to take a picture of my tent was not so much an option. The daytime temperatures where ranging from 85-90 degrees with clear skies, and I'm a big 'ol heat wuss.

Between that and actually being pretty busy (A large majority of what I sold this year was necklaces! Very unusual. Typically I move more earrings than anything else.) I only managed two 'sold item' shots. 

This very cute short silver dangle earring.

And this subtly curved-to-fit 4-in-1 V necklace.

And also, there were a lot of dogs.

Art on the Rocks 2015 is Coming

Consider this your one-week warning: Art on the Rocks is Coming!

This two-day outdoor show right on the shore of Lake Superior is a perennial favorite for me- and since I had to miss it at the last minute last year, I am particularly looking forward to this year. Not only because it's been a while, but also because I've had a whole year extra to make new goodies you guys haven't seen!

This year's theme is clearly sterling silver bracelets- I've been on a bit of a kick lately! Also be sure to check out my new purse offerings, and my recent 'lariat' experiments.

What's a lariat experiment you ask? Well, something like this.

See you Michiganders (and Michigeese) in a week!

Lightbox Build

I make jewelry, but usually when I apply to be shown in galleries and shops, it's not the jewelry that's being judged. It's the photographs of my jewelry, which is another thing entirely.

These images of my work are more than just my first impression– they're often my only impression. So taking my jewelry-making seriously means getting serious about my photos.

A lightbox is sort of like the object photography cheat-code. To take good photos, you need to have a solid understanding of light. A lightbox gives me reliable basic lighting without having to understand much of anything. Which is good, because the 'lighting for photography' rabbit hole goes all the way down.

Lightbox Supply list:

- A cardboard box. I got mine for free from a booze store.

- Tracing paper

- Clear packing tape

- Ruler

- Boxcutter

- Pen

- Foam Sheet. You'll find these things in the kid's craft sections of a store like Michaels. Serves the same role as a long sheet of paper, but you can use a lint-roller on it to clean it up and it won't be ruined by a drop of water.

- Two worklamps, clamplights, or other direct positionable lightsource.  Make sure they have full spectrum or 'daylight' bulbs in them, or you'll spend forever in post correcting your colors.

With your high quality artisanal ruler, measure the center of one side of the box, and cut it out. I'm leaving 1.5 inches of edge, because I know this thing is going to get knocked around, and I want it to be reasonably durable. For the same reason, I'm leaving the flaps of the box folded in, and I'm cutting through those at the same time.

You don't need to be very precise about this. The hole doesn't need to be perfectly square, and doesn't need to have neat corners. 

Do all the sides. You can see here how the flaps work.

Take sheets of the tracing paper, and tape them over the sides of the box to cover the holes you just cut. If the holes are way bigger than the paper, do what I did: Tape the sheets of paper together carefully so that the edges of the tracing paper touch but don't overlap. An overlap will cast a shadow, and a gap will cause a 'beam' of light on the inside of the box.

Go a little hog-wild with the tape. Not only is it holding the tracing paper in place, it's reinforcing it, and reinforcing the cardboard as well. Mine is basically mummified.

Slide your foam-paper in like so. Make sure your sheet is long enough to have a height that fits your needs (in my case, slightly taller than my existing necklace display) and still have a protruding 'tongue'. Cut to fit for width- a tight fit means the paper will hold in place on its own, which means less fussing with positioning it during your shooting time.

My extremely fancy setup. Center your object on your backdrop, and put your two lights (you remembered to get full-spectrum bulbs, right?) pretty close on either side. Play with the angles to best light your specific object. Because I had a big window behind, I didn't feel the need for light coming from above as well, but it's an option.

Sounds like a lot of work? Not sure it's worth the effort? Here's a little before and after for you:

My previous best effort. Pretty darn good for an non-professional... but clearly non-professional.

Same necklace, this time with a lightbox. I'm not sure, but I think this might be mistaken for professional.

On the left, the best I could do relying on natural light. It looks okay at a tiny size, but breaks down pretty quickly close up: lint, weird slightly yellow light, too shiny in places, and imperfect focus. On the right, the lightbox shot: Better focus, more interesting and not too harsh light, and the yellow tinge went away. The only downside is there's no context- no way to tell scale, and no color.

Clearly, the solution is scotch. And this shot really shows off a technique that I couldn't possibly have used without a lightbox: the endless, seamless background.

If you think this necklace is pretty, there are more pictures.

Peacock Scalemaille Purse Build

I wouldn't go so far as to call this a tutorial, because I'm not going to give you a step by step of how to assemble this piece. There's a lot of material to cover as is! However, if you've made scalemail before and know the common byzantine and japanese chainmail weaves, this design walkthrough will show you how to put it together to make a peacock styled evening bag.

First up, you'll need supplies. In this case, I made my own smaller bright aluminum links, and purchased the larger green aluminum ones. Both sets of links should be 18 gauge. The smaller ones should have an interior diameter close to 4.5mm, the larger links need an ID of close to 6mm. (.5 mm or less variation is okay.) You'll need 1500 or so of each of green links and bright links, about half that if you don't plan on making the strap. (The strap is technically optional- you could attach a pre-made strap instead to save yourself some time.) You can technically make all the links, but unless you're way more awesome than I am, you'll need to buy the scales. You'll need four colors of scales: purple, blue, brown, and green. I get them in bags of 100, so you'll need 3 bags of green and one of each other color.  Lastly, you'll need one sewing purse frame: the kind with holes pre-drilled in them. And of course the usual maille-making flatmouth pliers.

Gettin' Started: Begin putting the design together starting with the middle of the 'eye' of the peacock feather- which means four violet scales.

The first diamond. This diamond is the basic shape that scalemaille is built from, like the four links through one link of four-in-one.

Here is the finished basic shape of the 'eye'. All the other scales will be added around the edges. 

Blue added- following the contour of the purple, just a single layer.

Brown is next. This should be a double layer on top and bottom, because a single row will look jagged- the way scales fall, the bottom edge is fine with one layer.

And the view from the back. A bunch of little diamonds.

Add a whole bunch of green. The width and shape of the top of the sheet is determined by the shape of purse frame you are working with, in this case the V shape makes it easy. You'll need two identical sheets.

And attach it to the purse frame using the colored aluminum links. (IMO, it looks better if you connect the last of the edging with a double link of green, and lay one flat over the hole in the scale for good measure.) Start by linking in the middle of the frame and then on the edges- it'll be more even and easier to fill in rather than to go from one end to the other, and easier to keep it a mirror image. On the edges where the frame stops but the fabric of the purse continues, you should add one more column of scales. Make sure to leave the last hole on each side of the purse frame free to attach the first scale of this new column to- otherwise it'll flop around too much.

The beginning of the bottom of the purse. This needs to hold its own shape a bit, so japanese weave is the best choice. Three rows is wide enough, and tapers to a point quickly on the ends, which makes it easier to attach to the body of the purse.

Purse strap. This is a pretty straightforward byzantine weave, just alternate pairs of green and bright aluminum. But buckle up: it takes a while to do one that's long enough- 40 inches is standard for a cross-body strap.

Put it all together. For the bottom panel, use the smaller links to attach large links on the edge of the panel to that last row of large links in the scale pattern.  On the sides, put one more column of scales between the two sheets to stitch them together. The strap attaches easily to the big ring on this frame.

All done! And it's big enough for a smart phone, which is crucial in this day and age.

This one's sold, but you can find more purses and scalemaille pieces in my etsy store!

Photoshop Painting Catchup #8

There was a nice complete prompt on this one:

Entropoly (Also known as Polly) is an Unseelie Fae bard. She's 4' 6" with dark red butterfly wings, a black corset, red pants, and a large red jacket over it. Her ears are pointed and pierced, her eyes are black without pupils, iris, or whites, and she is a fan of outlandish make up. She'll often glamour herself to have a gaping, toothy maw to scare others and other things like that. She plays a violin (she has numerous, from simple ones, to blue ones, to ones made of living wood and spider silk strings). Her hair is a blue and black mohawk that hangs over her eyes and is tied in a ponytail on the back.

I love everything about this. A classical musician punk fairy? Oh yeah.

Nothing too new in the figure painting here, although I did play with brush settings a bit, making the stroke edges much less clean and obvious. The pose is the most interesting part of the figure. I chose a very difficult pose because: I wanted to showcase the wings, and I really, really didn't want to try to draw a foreshortened violin.

The new thing is the background. I wanted something that was reminiscent of casting a spell, without being too obvious. This tutorial produced excellent results. I'll definitely be looking for an excuse to play with this more. 

Photoshop Painting Catchup #7

The seed for this post was actually a direct request- someone saw my work, and was hoping that if they asked nicely, I might do something for them.

So, of course, I did. (I'm a sucker for good manners on the internet.) This character's name is Settaja, and he has a fairly serious case of orc-related PTSD.

As you can see, something important has happened between the last painting and this. I did two things differently.

First, I allowed myself to have lines this time, but I did them in a very specific way. Using the darkest and lightest colors from the immediate area, I outlined the bright and shadowed sides of forms I wanted to pop out. For the arms, this means a pale pink is on the most brightly lit side, and a dark brown is on the shaded side. I like this technique a lot, and I suspect you will see it again.

Second, I've actually figured out what 'contrast' means in practice. I think somehow trying to make him obviously mentally unbalanced made it easier to have a major range from light to dark.

Other aspects of this painting I want to make note of:

Composition. Again, because of the unbalanced and dangerous nature of the character, I stepped outside of my comfort zone to take a low viewing angle. This also allowed me to have an easy background, and I am pretty much ecstatic that my experimental tree technique turned out so well.

Scars: There are scars all over his forearms from self-harm. Scars are hard– these are too subtle, but they don't look fake or drawn-on, which is a victory.

Border: Technically, this picture didn't need a border. But somehow it looks a lot better with one. I'm going to have to ruminate a while on why that is. 

Harvard Square Holiday Fair- After Action Report

photo (8) So glad to have gotten into this show! Competition is always fierce for jewelers, and the organizers of this show makes a particular effort to keep the vendors balanced- there were a few jewelers, but we made up far less than 1/4 of the booths and we all had very different stuff.

Though I was only approved to vend for one weekend, I had an absolutely wonderful experience. Not only was it economically a very solid show (and apparently the first weekend is usually the weakest!) it was the downright friendliest show I've ever participated in. I got tons of help, advice, and complimentary comments about my wares from the other vendors, the venue was pleasant, and the organizers were happy to chat with me.

Really, this last weekend felt a bit like my first days at college. Because while I did well and had a grand time, it rapidly became clear that I was pretty out of my depth. Most of vendors in this show have been doing this for years, and most of them had intimidatingly put together and permanent-looking booth displays. I'm afraid I came off as somewhat amateur by comparison.

I'm taking it as a kick in the ass to stop feeling apologetic about my booth display and up my game.

So I'm in the market for wall partitions. I'm thinking PVC pipe and the walls of my EZ-up tent, (freestanding pre-made walls are expensive!) but I'll keep you posted with my experiments!

Up Next: SLAM at the Burren, Saturday the 14th and 21st!


Art on the Rocks: after action report

I'm pretty much a grown-up. But occasionally, when things are going poorly, I have a coping technique which may be colloquially referred to as 'pitching a fit'. Which I employed last Sunday as I was setting up my booth for day two of Art on the Rocks, which is, FYI, an outdoor show. But because I *am* a grown-up I limited my whining and stomping to a single ten second period, and warned those around me beforehand.

Some statistics to give context:

Maximum Temp on Saturday: 55.4°. Rain in the early morning, clouds until 5:30pm, (at which point the weather become cool but idyllic) with show closing at 6pm.

Maximum Temp on Sunday: 53.6°. Rain in the morning, continuing throughout the day. Also breezy. Did I mention the show takes place on the harbor?

Such is the risk of outdoor shows. And we have had superb luck on the weather the last three years. But if I didn't want to be there, you can imagine the crowds didn't linger. And it's not like I lost money on the show this year. I totally paid for my booth fee and plane ticket. But that was about it.

In case you skipped it this year for the aforementioned reasons, rest assured: I'll be back next year in my usual spot next to the purple maple tree. But if you just can't wait that long, there's always something up on my etsy page.



Summer Shows- Starting This Saturday!

jewelry-prep I know it doesn't seem like summer yet, but I'm getting started a bit early this year with Somerville Open Studios.

An Open Studio event starts with a map, like this one. The dots on the map are artist studios (often just an apartment with a lot of art and an artist at work inside) which are open to the public for the duration of the show. Find a part of the the map you'd like to explore, and spend an afternoon walking between studios. It's a rare opportunity to see artwork in progress, instead of just finished works.

Since a lot of local artists don't maintain a dedicated studio space several restaurants and other venues are allowing artists to set up for the day in their show spaces. I'll be doing this at The Burren in their large back room which is #15 on the map. I and some other people will be there from 12 noon - 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. Stop in, have a drink, and buy some pretty things if the spirit (or the spirits) move you.



The Spring Collection

Okay, so I didn't catch the flu this winter. But I'm clearly not quite right. I'm using color. Bright pastel hues. I mean, look at this:


It's delicate. Downright feminine. I mean really. It's so...


Spring. I don't even *like* spring.

So by accident, I have a spring collection. If you're into that sort of thing, all of the necklaces (there are several more weirdly colorful examples that I did not share with you here) are up and the bracelets and earrings will follow later tonight.


Oriole Purse

Commission work for a lady that likes to wear yellow.

This is the largest rubber purse I've made to date- I was cautious of making them larger because of worries over floppyness (or 'flaccidity', if you prefer that word. Most people don't.) but luckily those concerns turned out to be overblown. With a double-wide side panel, the purse holds its shape just fine.

This was an interesting project for me, partially because I was working from a detailed drawing/schematic drawn by the person that commissioned the piece.  So no, the 'fade' from one color to another wasn't my idea- but I have to say it worked out pretty well.

Chainmail Purse 3: Scales

Oh thank god it's finally done. You don't even know.

So the purse itself is clearly time intensive, yeah? What's extra time intensive is getting the thing 3/4 finished and then realizing you're doing it wrong. But your sense of artistic pride won't let you take 'eh, it's functional. Just not as pretty as it could be' for an answer. Oh no, you have to go back, take everything apart, and reassemble it.

At least going to all that trouble was demonstrably worth it. It does look better, and as a bonus I used less materials so it's as light as possible now.

Also, it's quite functional. Here, have a side by side of all the stuff that fits in it.

Cell phone, wallet, lipstick, multitool, and juggling balls. Everything a girl needs. (As usual, more pictures over at Etsy.)

I would love to make more purses like this, but I'm still shopping for a snap/frame vendor I like. This hasp came from China, and it... well, it's okay. I'd like something with a little more character, bigger 'threading' holes, and a little more heft. Anyone have any suggestions?



Green Spike Necklace: The Making Of

I considered calling this a tutorial, but that's really too strong a word. I'm not going to lay out a map of where I've been for you to follow; today I'm more interested in getting out the photo album to tell you about my trip. Yesterday I had a great experience for any maker. Y'see, I had a plan. That plan, like most, did not survive contact with the enemy. So I modified my plan. Which didn't work all on it's own, but it did give me a different idea. So I tried that, and it turned out brilliantly. This is how it went down:

A few weeks ago I found a new local semi-precious stone and findings supplier. I like to buy local and in-person when I can, it makes for a more satisfying hunting-and-gathering style shopping experience.

On my inaugural trip, I picked up this string of what appears to be dyed abalone shell.

These are perfect for making a 'spike' necklace structure, like this one in smokey quartz. So I threaded the spikes, and assembled them in the same way I had done previously.

Very nice... as far as it goes. Quite literally. Due to the shape of the human neck and our insistence on wearing clothing, making a necklace with spikes that go all the way around is not very practical. So I'm left with extending the basic weave for more than half of the necklace. Which not only looks boring, it also verges onto appearing lazy.

See what I mean? No one is willing to pay 'handmade' rate for that. So I went looking through my gradually accumulated bead collection to see if I could find a decent color match. I thought perhaps I could add some interest to the boring part of the necklace with a bead that wouldn't tangle in a collar.

These were not a bad match at all. Also dyed shell, with strong striations.

This interruption structure works reasonably well for adding interest and maintaining practicality, but there is a problem. The color match isn't exact, so the transition between spikes and beads is less smooth than I would like. However...  the way the beads interspersed with the pattern of the chain gave me an idea.

It worked! Though the bead 'separators' are a bit longer than the simple connection links that were there before, there is still just enough room for the lower spike to dangle freely.

And the final. Excellent.

UPDATE: This necklace sold within ten minutes of its very first show debut. A success all around.


Jewelry Summer Shows Prep, 2012

It's that time again- when I look at my inventory, look at the date, and say 'oh crap.'

I'm signed up (actually, technically I was invited. That's right. I'm kind of a big deal.) for Art on the Rocks again this year. It's at the end of July. And I do not have nearly enough earrings. Or things in silver. Or bracelets.


So today was 'get all the silver earrings polished' day at my house. Followed by putting all the silver earrings on display cards, and then in a bag with a few pieces of tarnish-away paper.

Tomorrow will be 'order all the things' day. While waiting for more silver-things supplies to arrive, I plan on finishing the last of a triptych of chainmail purses. Pictures to follow when it's, y'know, done.

Chainmail Purse 2: All maille, all the time

Alright, nuts and bolts: The strap is 36 inches long, and the body of the purse is just a smidge over 5 inches by 4 inches.

One of the most patience-intensive pieces I've ever made, chainmail or otherwise. I didn't realize until now that there were stages of chainmail: Anticipation, stubbornness, beer, reduced expectations, and lastly petting it creepily and saying 'precioussssss.'

Two design decisions were made on the fly- first, that the piece was going to be a rectangle rather than a square. I thought a square would be more aesthetically pleasing, but then realized that a purse that's not even big enough to hold a cell phone kind of fails at being a purse. (As you can see, the final comfortably holds a smartphone, with enough room left over for other essentials, although probably not a full wallet.)

Also, I thought the holes in the hatch were big enough to simply run the aluminum links through. Turns out, mmm, nope. Luckily, I had nickle wire (conveniently a great colormatch with the hatch) and that *did* fit. Which was good. Because I'd just finished investing a week in making the body of the purse, and if at that point I had discovered that I couldn't attach it to the hatch... well... Murder. Lots of murder.

More pictures (and details such as price) over at my store.

Chainmail Purse 1, version 2

I've been on a bit of a purse-making kick lately. I'd originally only meant to slightly enlarge my first chainmail purse, but it turned out so well that I just sort of kept going. I've now got... four? Six if you count the 'in progress' and 'waiting for further supplies to arrive' purses knocking around my crafting table. But first, let me show you how that initial re-design came out.

The purse is now big enough to hold a wallet and smart phone side-by-side, and is in fact doing so in these pictures. It still has the same features as the original purse, (flap that likes to be either all the way open or all the way closed but not in-between, and stretchy because it's half neoprene) but this version is large enough that I'm likely to actually use it.

If you want to see more pictures, or are just curious about such specifics as exact size and price, check out the etsy listing.

Chainmail Jewelry How-to #1

I made a video. Of me. Technically I made a video of how I make links for chainmail, but it includes both my stupid face and my awkward attempts to be engaging and informative, so one could call it a video of me. [You can tell how good I am at this self-promotion thing, right? Let me try that again...]

Hey guys! If you've ever wondered how I make all my own links for my chainmail jewelry (yes, I do make every one of those little suckers by hand) I've just posted an Inksplot Studios tutorial video! It's part one of a series of three videos, (parts two and three are on their way) and if you follow along you can create your very own chunky chainmail bracelet!

[Hmmm. Better. It may be suffering from an infestation of exclamation points, but at least it's not self-deprecating. Self-promotion is hard. And I think it's particularly hard for makers/artisans, who inherently focus on the flaws in their creations in order to improve. If you have an artist in your life, you may have noticed that we are, as a group, kind of needy. That's because we're incredibly self-critical. If we weren't, we wouldn't have gotten to be as good as we are at whatever we do. Changing that mindset in order to publicize the neat stuff that you make is.... shit, is there a more forceful word than 'hard'?]


InDesign Practice: Flyer redo

I've been doing some reading on basic graphic design principles lately, so I thought a re-vamp might be a good excuse to practice a them a bit in InDesign. Here is my spectacularly unsuccessful flyer from two years ago.

In order to make the redo, I needed to make two short lists based on the original poster: one of the necessary elements, and one of what's wrong with the original poster.

Requirements: Header/Teaser, three informational statements, tear-off contact info, and what is hopefully a good graphic.

Fixes: Too low contrast. Everything has approximately the same visual emphasis, which defeats the whole 'eyecatching' requirement. In an effort to show as many drawings as possible, I've pretty much eliminated true white space, which doesn't help with the contrast issue. Also, alignment? What alignment?

Much better. Still, there are a few things I think I could improve if I wanted to spend more time on it. The graphic is not my best work, I'd prefer to replace it with something a little more recent. And I'm not sure how to resolve the header. The zapfino font 'd' makes horizontally centering the header problematic. Also I'm pretty sure the alignment between the header and the three statements should be consistent, but that leaves the header looking like I meant it to be properly centered and didn't succeed. Foo.

The original flyer is old, but the special is current! Valentine's day is approaching rapidly, and now would be a good time to begin to panic... that is if someone weren't to hypothetically offer you a totally affordable and unique gift option. Just sayin'.