I’ve been home from Oregon less than a week and I’m feeling, well, less than motivated to do anything.  I did plant some veggies in my balcony garden yesterday, but that’s about it.

salad_greens
These are salad greens.  I also planted a Celebrity tomato plant, a zucchini, and a Japanese eggplant.  I have not had great luck in the past with growing vegetables of any kind, but I think I’ll at least have some salad greens to harvest at some point.

I also have an Aerogarden and last week I planted some cherry tomatoes:

aerogarden_cherrytomatoes

Yesterday I was excited to see that they had sprouted.  I had some luck with growing herbs in the Aerogarden, but at the time I wasn’t cooking enough and a lot of them got wasted.  I’m hoping to get more use out of the cherry tomatoes.

On the knitting front, I’ve smack dab in the middle of knitting Coachella, which was featured in last summer’s Knitty.

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I’ve loved this design since I first saw it, but only recently got around to knitting it.  It doesn’t look particularly bra friendly, which is a must for me, but I’m willing to take a chance on it.  Also, it looks like it would be flattering on a variety of figures, as long as the wearer was comfy with showing a little skin, no matter what her size.

I’ve gotten to the “optional bust shaping,” which I’m including.  I’m a little confused though, because it says to do the shaping two times for a D cup.  It seems like that would create a weird double-darting, however, instead of one long dart on each side, which is how you normally see darts in clothing.  I’m thinking I might tear out the short rows I’ve already done and modify the pattern to do just one dart on each side, only longer.  I’m certain I am not making any sense here, but I know what I’m trying to say.

At any rate, this has been a fun pattern to work on, and I look forward to the finished garment.

Some Quick Links for your browsing pleasure:

Alkemie Jewelry
When I first looked at this jewelry I said “meh.”  But as I explored their work further I kind of started liking it, Octopus cuffs notwithstanding (go to the link and hit “next” about three times to see what I’m talking about).

Found Magazine
A friend of mine just sent me this link and it has some funny stuff on it.  Reminds me a little bit of Post Secret, but much less intense.

Recycle a Tank Top to Make a Toddler’s Onesie
Don’t know why I love stuff like this, but I do.  Reminds me once again that I need to learn to sew.

Summer ’08 Knitty Patterns
I want to knit Gigi and Tank Girl.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on a project I designed using Sweater Wizard:

front

I have a bad habit of buying “someday” yarn.  That’s yarn that I have no project for but it’s so irresistible to me I have to have it.  Such was the case with this Misti Baby Alpaca Chunky yarn I bought at Stitches from the Heart.  This yarn is so soft I can hardly stand it!  I bought four skeins of natural, two skeins of sage, and two skeins of yellow, thinking surely I could come up with some project for it.

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I’m really happy with the way it turned out.  My challenge was coming up with a color combo that would work with the amount of yarn I had in each color.  I still have about a quarter of a skein of the natural left, but otherwise it’s all pretty much used up.

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There are really no bells or whistles in this design.  It’s just a basic cardigan with raglan sleeves, 2×2 ribbed edging, and seed stitched button bands.

buttoned
If I could design it over again, I would make the sleeves longer and put more buttons on it.  Even though I show it buttoned here, there’s too much space between each one to keep it closed properly, so they are kind of just decorative.

On to the next project!

This is one of those posts where I don’t have enough content to write about any one thing, so I’m going to include a whole lot of little stuff for your reading pleasure:

Bada Bing
Today is supposed to be warm in Santa Monica, and while searching through my drawers for warmer weather clothes, I found one of my old projects–the Bada Bing tube top.

Really, I Do Knit!
Contrary to the recent jewelry-heavy content of this blog, I have been knitting, and in fact have been rather obsessed with it of late.  Over the last week or so, I designed and knit a cute little cardigan for myself using baby alpaca.  It’s not 100% finished yet, but here is a preview:

blocking

So far my only real criticism of it is that it is a bit on the small side, especially in the shoulders.  I only had about 850 yards of yarn and rather than be sensible and buy more of it, I designed the sweater so it used about 800 yards.  Anyway, I’ll blog about it more when I’m completely done with it.

DIY Hermes Kelly Bag
Who said Hermes never gave you anything?

I’m not one of those girls who dreams of having a Kelly bag, or really, any high priced fashion accessory.  Hell, I don’t think I even knew what one was until I was 35.  Still, I dig the concept of styling my own:

Kelly Bag Pattern

This truly is the closest I’ll ever come to owning one, and I’m cool with that.  If I ever actually make one, I will definitely blog it.  In fact, I have a fab idea for this pattern, so stay tuned.

Cable Needle Holder Tutorial
From Jen at PieKnits, here is a nifty little holder for your cable needle:

Cable Needle Ring

I especially like this holder because not only is it a knit accessory, it is also jewelry.

Knit Designer “Interview”
Jen at PieKnits recently held a contest in celebration of the three year anniversary of her blog.  As part of the contest, readers answered questions then asked Jen a question.  Here are some of her answers.  It’s not an interview per se, but still an interesting glimpse into the life of a great knit designer

Loves Me, Loves Me Not Ring
You didn’t think I’d be able to do an entire blog post with no jewelry in it, did you (I’m not counting the Cable Needle Ring)?  Of course not.  That’s why I present to you this ring:

Loves Me Not Ring

I didn’t make it, but I thought it was clever and deserved a mention.

Last week I went to my first book signing.  I was in the middle of reading Certain Girls, the new novel by Jennifer Weiner, and consequently visited her website, which announced she was coming to the Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica.  It was fun!  I find Jennifer Weiner inspiring, which is the main reason I wanted to go.  She kind of makes me feel like “if she can do it, I can do it.”  Much like my former dream of being on Oprah, I fantasize about going on my own book tour.  Listening to her talk about her process and experiences with publishing, the movie business, etc. was really interesting for me, especially during this time when I am seriously attempting my own novel.  I will blog about that eventually, but for now I’m keeping mostly quiet about it.  It also explains why I haven’t been around much lately.

kindle_certain_girls

Most people get books signed when they go to book signings, hence the name.  In this case (and in most cases from here on out) I had purchased the book on my Kindle.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kindle and don’t miss print at all (turning pages is for losers, dude).  But for a book signing, it’s not so convenient.  I jokingly told Mick I should have her sign the back of my Kindle and he said, “why not?”

jen_weiner

I have to admit I felt a little silly asking her to do it and found myself saying “I really did buy your book, it’s just on here!”  When I gave it to her she said, “It’s so light!” but I could tell she was not convinced it was the wave of the future (as Mick says, print is dead).  Still, she signed it and I walked away happy to have gone to the signing, and happy to have her signature.

kindle_signed

Even though I love reading, there aren’t many authors I’d actually go to a book signing for.  This was fun though, so maybe I’ll keep my eye out for appearances of my other favorite authors.  Afterall, I don’t want Jennifer’s autograph to get lonely.

My friend Erin and some colleagues created a video for Moveon.org’s contest “Obama in 30 Seconds.

direct link:  http://obamain30seconds.org/vote/?v=view-1703-K3sAHz

Unfortunately, Move On’s got it set up so that if you go to the link for an individual video you can’t rate it (because they don’t want people to send the link to all their friends and ask them to vote for them) but I’m posting this link because of the positive message, the creativity of the video, and ’cause my friend made it.  If you go to the main website for “Obama in 30 Seconds” you can rate videos in random order.

I know I’m always talking about the talented artists on Etsy, but I recently found one that I feel is truly exceptional.  Danielle Miller opened her shop in December 2007 and her work is some of the best I’ve seen on Etsy.  I love it when I find an artist whose work inspires me to take my own to the next level.  I am pleased to say she agreed to answer my questions and post some photos of her work on my blog.  Enjoy!

Where do you sell or display your work?
I am represented by about 50 galleries/retail stores.  I also do one or two retail craft shows a year. I used to do more shows but since I had my children, I have had to cut back. Traveling and logistics is very difficult with toddlers! As a result, recently set up a shop on Etsy.

How long have you been making jewelry?
I made my first piece of jewelry in high school art class…22 years ago. But I HATED it! I despised the tedious work of sawing and filing. My teacher wouldn’t let us solder, so I missed out on all the fun! While at a summer art program, I had the opportunity to make a welded steel sculpture. That is where my passion for metal began. I began making (and loving) jewelry/silversmithing a few years later while in college. Then, I started my business 13 years ago and went to work full-time for myself 10 years ago.

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How did you learn to make metal jewelry?
I learned many jewelry making techniques in college. First, I attended Moore College of Art & Design…I took an intro to jewelry class as a freshman and I fell in love, despite the fact that I hated it a few years previous. A year later, I transferred to Tyler School of Art, Temple University  to enroll in their well-known jewelry program.  After college I worked for a master goldsmith…That’s where I learned how to work with gold and platinum.

What is your favorite metal to work with?
I guess my favorite metal would be sterling silver. I like the white-white color (opposed to the yellow-white of white gold), it’s malleable nature, that it can take a black patina and can take a fair amount of heat. Since it is relatively inexpensive (when compared to gold or platinum) my design possibilities can be more experimental. I also like 18k gold. The color of 18k is so rich. I often combine sterling and 18k in my jewelry designs.

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What are some of your other favorite materials?
I wouldn’t call it a favorite, but I use a lot of pearls and colored stones. I would love to come up with a unique, non-traditional material to incorporate into my designs to add color and texture… but I always go back to stones for color.

What is your favorite tool/equipment to use in your work?
There are several tools in my studio that I constantly use and love. But, I think my Smith “Little Torch” is my favorite. I was introduced to this torch while working for the goldsmith. At the time, I was using a Presto-lite torch (acetylene mixed with air). After using the Little Torch at work, I immediately bought one for my own studio and it changed my life! It sounds strange and dramatic, but it’s true! It allowed me to do things that my old torch wouldn’t…My work evolved using it. To continue with the dramatics…I also love, and would be LOST without, my Foredom flex shaft and my tubing jig.

studio

Is your studio at home or do you rent/own separate studio space?
My studio is a building in my backyard. I love that it is so close to home but not IN my home…especially because I now have 2 young children. It is about 550 sq/feet and VERY messy…I’m a bit of a slob!

What is your dream piece of equipment?
This is a tough question because I’m a tool junkie. There are lots of tools I want…but I would say the DREAM piece of equipment would actually be a CAD program. I’ve been intrigued with Matrix 3D Jewelry Design Software by Gemvision. I think it would be great to have for custom engagement rings and more traditional jewelry designs.

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What is your least favorite technique?
I didn’t like tedious sawing when I was introduced to jewelry in high school and I STILL don’t like it! I consider myself a fairly patient person, but when it comes to piercing and sawing…I loose all patience! I break so many sawblades! I am in awe of those who have beautiful pierced designs.

What technique do you find most challenging?
Challenging but gratifying: Complex, hand fabricated clasps and mechanisms. I have to change gears and slow down when it is time to make precision mechanisms. I love doing it, it just takes a certain frame of mind for me.
Challenging and frustrating: Carving wax. I am very much an additive not a subtractive artist. If I practiced more or took a workshop, I’m sure I’d get the hang of it. I just don’t do it often and as a result, am not very good at it.

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Is there a technique you don’t know yet that you’d like to learn?
I’d love to take an intensive workshop on advanced stone setting. I would like to be more efficient at channel setting and would like to learn how to pave and bead set.

How does the design process work for you? For example, do you sketch your ideas first, or do they just come to you as you work?
I use simple geometric forms as the building blocks for most of my designs, which are inspired by architecture, machines, toys and nature. When I get a new idea I try to get a quick sketch down on paper. Many of my designs are modular…so as I make the parts I start to move things around before things are completely assembled. As a result, sometimes the design evolves or completely changes, many times it grows into a whole collection of jewelry (eg: bracelets, earrings and necklaces). Since I do so much wholesale, I try to make complete, cohesive collections and add 10-30 new designs per year.

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Do you have any resource recommendations (books, websites, etc) for people who want to learn to make metal jewelry?
My husband is also a metal artist (he teaches jewelry and metals) and we are constantly buying jewelry books. We have a fairly extensive library of how-to books and picture books. Tim McCreight’s “The Complete Metalsmith” is a must have for any beginner! It has a little bit of everything in it and it is easy to read/use. I always have my old paperback copy by my bench for quick referencing. Any of Lark Books’ 500 series are great for eye candy and inspiration. For specific techniques and inspiration, my new favorite book is “The Penland Book of Jewelry: Master Classes in Jewelry Techniques.”

Here is an example of Danielle’s husband, Ben Gilliam’s work:

ibex
Ibex Vase

You can view more of Danielle’s work here:

Danielle’s Trunkt Page
DanielleMiller.com
DanielleMiller.net

I’ve been accumulating a few of miscellaneous web links lately and it’s time to post them.

Lost Wax Casting Process
From Beth Cyr Jewelry, this is a great tutorial about the lost wax casting process, which is something I’d really like to learn.

Amazon Kindle
Mick and I each bought one of these a couple of months ago.  We LOVE them.  Instead of watching TV every night we’re reading and we’re much smarter now.  Mick wrote two blog posts about it:  Embracing the Kindle and Sharing Two Kindles if you’re interested.

Works in Progress
These photos are from Kathryn Reichert who sells beautiful jewelry on Etsy.  In this pictorial, she shows how she makes bezels for pendants.

Shapely Prose
Kate Harding’s Fat Acceptance blog.  I don’t agree with everything she says, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t make a lot of great points and body acceptance is an important issue for men and women alike.  Of particular interest is the BMI Project.

Craft Boom
Lisa Lam of U-Handbag’s blog about starting and running a crafty business.  U-Handbag always makes me wish I could sew (well, sew better).

In other news, I got another treasury today and it features some really great Etsy jewelry artists:

great_jewelry

A note about treasuries.  They expire within two or three days, so links I post will quickly become outdated.

Julia Catherine is fellow seller on Etsy who makes lovely handmade metal and gemstone jewelry.  She was one of the first metal artists to answer my call for interviews and since I loved her work, I sent her my list of questions.  Here are her answers!

Where do you sell or display your work?
I sell my jewelry on Etsy at http://juliacatherine.etsy.com and at our jewelry store in Hamburg, NJ, called North Church Jewelry.

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How long have you been making jewelry?
I have been making jewelry since I was a child. At a young age I would make jewelry from anything I could find, as I grew older my mother purchased supplies like headpins, ear wires and beads for me to create jewelry. It was always so exciting to find out we were getting in supplies for making jewelry! I sold these simple creations in her store.

How did you learn to make metal jewelry?
I learned to make metal jewelry while apprenticing for a master jeweler (my mother) at the young age of 14. I made my first fabricated metal piece when I was 16 years old. This was the age my mother thought it was ‘ok’ for me to handle a torch-with supervision of course! The ring I created is a classic twisted/snake design ring that I still wear. Its very meaningful to me! Other sources of knowledge have been the books my mother learned jewelry making from.

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What is your favorite metal or material to work with?
I think my favorite material to work with would be sterling silver, its very malleable and seems to ‘work’ with me. It’s like an old friend, I have worked with it so much and for so long I can almost predict what it will do next. I also love working with karat gold (10kt-14kt) metals although sterling is my favorite because the price lends it to be available to experimentation.

What are some of your other favorite materials?
I would have to say my most favorite materials other than metals are pearls! They are available in so many different colors and shapes and sizes now. Others include vintage beads, faceted glass and czech glass beads. I love making things with faceted stones when my time allots for fabricating settings.

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Is your studio at home or do you rent/own separate studio space?
My studio is in the back of our jewelry store, my mother and I have two jewelers benches right next to each other. We usually sit there and BS a lot, it’s how I come up with some of my best ideas!

What is your favorite tool/equipment to use in your work?
My favorite tool would be my hammer! I love my ball peen hammer. My next favorite I think would fall under the ‘equipment’ category, that would be the torch.

What is your dream piece of equipment?
I’m a minimalist, I’m currently wanting a new ball peen hammer with a larger round area and maybe some new pliers.

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What is your least favorite technique?
I would have to say saw cutting things like nameplates always starts out my least favorite but when I see the end result I’m always pleased with it.

What technique do you find most challenging?
I would say fabricating settings like wire basket settings and bezel settings are the most challenging. They are very time consuming and need to be created very meticulously and measured very carefully. Not much room for error, especially with bezel settings.

Is there a technique you don’t know yet that you’d like to learn?
A technique I have been wanting to learn is metal etching . It looks so gorgeous every time I see a design etched out with the different relief. I’m working on learning though!

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How does the design process work for you? For example, do you sketch your ideas first, or do they just come to you as you work?
My design process is different for almost everything I create. Most often I have a design in my mind and scribble down the details so I wont forget or to figure out what materials I will need. A lot of times I will just sit at my bench with materials in front of me and ideas come to mind. I create a ‘recipe’ for the design so I can recreate it. Some more complex designs that include gemstones I usual do a sketch to prevent any mishaps or wasted materials.

Do you have any resource recommendations (books, websites, etc) for people who want to learn to make metal jewelry?
Your biggest asset to learning to create metal jewelry would be to take the time to apprentice for a master jeweler. If you are truly dedicated to learning this is something you will try to do. One of my favorite books is ‘Jewelry Making’ I think its by Murray Bovin. Its always nearby. It maybe out of print though, its an oldie!

I know it sounds weird but jewelry making is almost something that defines me. Its not a hobby or a job, its both but in itself its so much more for me.

You can view more of Julia Catherine’s work at her Etsy store and her blog.

I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to start including some interviews on my blog since I am very interested in the creative process of other artists.  To begin, I decided to “interview” myself.

Where do you sell or display your work?
Online at hollywest.etsy.com.

How long have you been making jewelry?
I have been making jewelry off and on for about twenty years.  However, I didn’t get serious about it until 2001, when I took my first handmade jewelry class at UCLA Extension.  From the course description, I wasn’t sure what it entailed, and boy was I surprised to learn our first project was making sterling silver wire from scratch.

How did you learn to make metal jewelry?
I guess I kind of answered that question above, but I’ll elaborate here.  From the beginning, I learned to make everything from scratch, down to adding alloys to pure gold and silver (although this is something my jewelry teacher does for me–I don’t think he trusts me with that much heat).  From that first class in 2001 I’ve continued taking classes with the same instructor, however now I rent space in his private studio.  He’s there to offer support and instruction when needed but generally I work on my own.

Now that I know the basic techniques of metalsmithing, I’ll often save time by buying wire, sheet, jump rings, et cetera instead of making them myself.  However, knowing how to do it is invaluable in my design work because I can construct things to my exact specifications when needed.

What is your favorite metal to work with?
I absolutely love working with 18k yellow gold.  When I first started making jewelry gold was at about $340 an ounce and now it’s over $900 so I use it sparingly.

Most of my work is in silver these days, which is another metal I love to work with.

What are some of your other favorite materials?
I love gemstones, especially beads.  Some of my favorites are rhodolite garnet, swiss blue topaz, and lemon quartz.  I also love andalusite and all colors of tourmaline.  As for diamonds, I don’t work with them very often, but I do love the look of rough cut and “champagne” diamonds.

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Is your studio at home or do you rent/own separate studio space?
I have an almost fully equipped studio at home, but as I said above I also rent studio space once a week.

Since I live in a condominium I am limited in a couple of ways with regard to my studio space.  First, I am still using a small butane torch because frankly, I don’t trust myself with anything stronger at home.  Second, I don’t have a rolling mill because there is nothing I can bolt it to.  This is one of the reasons I still rent studio space.  There I have all the equipment I need and I don’t have to worry about maintaining it myself.  I generally do larger, more advanced projects there and save the small stuff for home.

What is your favorite tool/equipment to use in your work?
I love my flexshaft!  It does so many things, I couldn’t make jewelry without it.

What is your dream piece of equipment?
For some reason I am having trouble answering this.  I suppose the answer would be casting equipment, but I will never do that.  Too dangerous!

What is your favorite technique?
I really like setting stones in bezels.  And who doesn’t like the stress-relieving activity of hammering metal?

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What is your least favorite technique?
There are two:  drawing wire and sawing intricate shapes or thick pieces of metal.  I am also not a big fan of making tubing or tube settings, and I rarely do it.

What technique do you find most challenging?
I still have a lot of trouble with prong settings, even though I love to make them.

Is there a technique you don’t know yet that you’d like to learn?
I’d love to learn pave.  I’d also love to learn wax carving and casting (I’ve dabbled in wax carving but for some reason didn’t take to it.  I’d like to give it a second chance).

How does the design process work for you? For example, do you sketch your ideas first, or do they just come to you as you work?
I will sometimes sketch designs before I make them, but not very often.  I mostly do that if I have an idea that I don’t want to forget so I do a rough sketch.  Many of my ideas come to me in the moments between wake and sleep.  I think my mind is freer and more open for creativity then.  A lot of my ideas come from the metal itself and the techniques I use to manipulate it.  Sometimes I’m not sure what I want to do so I just start cutting or hammering or bending and the design creates itself.

Do you have any resource recommendations (books, websites, etc) for people who want to learn to make metal jewelry?
I think Jewelry Two Books in One:  Projects to Practice and Inspire by Madeline Coles is a good entry level jewelry making book.

I have a number of interviews lined up to post in the coming weeks/months.  Should be good reading!

If you are interested in being interviewed and fall into any of these categories, please email me.  I’m also interested in interviewing design, PR, and marketing professionals.

And speaking of artist interviews, here’s a great one with Chris Parry.  He’s a jewelry maker that really inspires.

For a long time now I’ve wanted to feature some interviews on this blog, specifically, interviews of knit designers.  Why?  Because I want to be a knit designer and I want tips!  So out of my selfishness, I hope to do some good for the knitting community in general.

Of course, I am interested in other things as well.  Being a jewelry designer and metalsmith, I of course would like to learn about the creative process of other artists.  And since I am a self-taught painter, I’d love to learn about the creative process of other painters, especially those who are more successful (which pretty much counts most people) than I or who have formal training.

So I am sending out a casting call:

KNITTERS
I am specifically interested in interviewing pattern designers who have had at least one pattern published somewhere either online or in print and/or who sell their original pattern designs.

METALSMITHS
By “metalsmith” I mean someone who makes hand fabricated jewelry (or other things). This isn’t metalsmithing per se, but I’d also be interested in interviewing PMC artists and those who carve their designs in wax for casting.

PAINTERS
I am a pet portrait artist who mainly uses acrylics and canvas. But I am interested in interviewing other types of painters/illustrators. 

My blog is all about the creative process (specifically mine) and now I’d like to include other artists. I don’t have a huge audience–about 200 page views a day (not necessarily unique)–but every bit of promotion helps I think.

If you are interested in being featured, please convo me on Etsy, comment on this post, or email me. I can’t guarantee I’ll feature you or that it will be done in a timely manner, but regardless I will do my best.