Friday, January 17, 2014



Another year, another long list of things I'd like to achieve or change.  My New Year's resolutions always seem to weigh so more than a piece of paper should. 

I've been thinking a lot about about change, and particularly about the relationship between the process and the outcome.  As points of reference I've been re-reading Anne Lamott's fantastic book, "Bird by Bird:  Some Instructions on Writing and Life"--which I heartily recommend to anyone who is either writing or living--and I've been looking at a lot of pictures of what often amounts to an egg with eyes, or Daruma. 

Although contemporary depictions of this Japanese spiritual icon are often Hello Kitty-esque, the Daruma stories are anything but cute.  The basic plot:  Daruma sat down to meditate his way to enlightenment.  Some colorful variations:  to keep himself from nodding off Daruma tore off his own eyelids and threw them down on the ground where they sprout into the first tea plants; Daruma meditated for so long that his arms and legs atrophied, which is why he often looks like an egg swaddled in a robe; Daruma meditated for so long that his arms and legs atrophy fell off completely--but in some stories an itinerant painting restorer who paints him new limbs.  

So Daruma has become an inspiration and a yardstick for anyone who sets out to achieve a goal.  In Japan people who are starting something new like a course of study will often acquire a Daruma figure, which comes with blank, staring eyes.  You paint in the pupil of one eye when you start your efforts and paint in the other when they are complete.  

Like all of my sculptural molds, this rendition of Daruma plays on the implied idea of limitless reproduction, evoking boundless reserves of resolve.  Nestled one inside another like Russian dolls, the alternating positive and negative figures are also meant to remind me that there can be many unseen layers of resolution involved in any achievement, and that some of these, although essential to the whole, can feel at the time like a move in the wrong direction.   

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year 2014

For my card this year I used Mum, a carved mold based on one used to make formal Japanese confectionery.  It is, of course, a wish for a bloomin' great year to come, but it's also a reminder to myself that when it comes to making flowers, shadow is as much a part of the recipe as sunlight.  That's exactly the kind of thing I have to tell myself when it's high noon on a Seattle winter day and I can't see my hand in front of my face without turning on all of the lights.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Iris Mold

Just a slight shift of light can make an image on a carved mold appear shallow, deep, or even three-dimensional.  Here, both images are of the same iris mold carved in scrap plywood, but they were taken in different lighting conditions.  

Molds constantly remind me that perception is largely a matter of perspective! 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Class Album: Wood Jewelry at Pratt

Jewelry That Grows on Trees 
Pratt Fine Arts Center, October 27-28

My fall wood jewelry class at Pratt has become an annual tradition that I look forward to even more than sweater weather and almost as much as the return of brussels sprouts.  I always count on the weekend's students for an injection of ideas and energy, and this batch certainly didn't disappoint!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Class Album: Multnomah Arts Center II

Jewelry That Grows on Trees
Multnomah Arts Center, October 6-7 2012

I had another great weekend teaching at Portland's Multnomah Arts Center.  As usual, it was as much an educational experience for me as for my students; I gave them my same old wood jewelry spiel and they cranked out another gallery full of work like nothing I've seen before.  Also, I learned that there is such a thing as Competitive Frisbee Dancing.  Who knew?  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Vitrine: Opal Blues

Opal Blues

Part of my grandfather's job involved traveling the world in search of new fruits that might be profitably imported into the US. As a kid I thought that was the height of glamour, and even now it's a job opportunity I'd jump at.

As his only granddaughter, I enjoyed those trips vicariously by way of the thoughtful souvenirs he brought back. In Australia he visited the central desert and--if I have the story right--stayed in a home or hotel tucked into a man made cavern that was once an opal mine. He sent me a pair of simple gold studs set with tiny blue-green opals that roiled with flashes of pink, green, and orange. They were incredibly beautiful--minute but mesmerizing (qualities, come to think of it, that I now strive for in my own work).

Unfortunately, the stones were triplets, a kind of sandwich made from a wafer of colorful opal stacked between a solid stone backing and a protective rock crystal lens. I wore them almost incessantly and because I didn't know not to wear them in the bath, I eventually wore them out. Over time the glue holding a triplet together begins to fail, especially if you keep getting it wet; first it fogs over like a cataract, then the sandwich falls apart.

But thanks to those earrings, I've always been a sucker for opals in the same color family. Over the years I've bought more than a few cheap but cheerful triplets and doublets such as this one, which I finally "set" in a vitrine. To keep the stone from rattling around I filled in the gaps with tiny blue glass balls. I'll always wish I still had my grandfather's earrings, but having a pendant that reminds me of his adventurousness and generosity is the next best thing.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Class Album: Multnomah Arts Center

Jewelry That Grows on Trees
Multnomah Arts Center, Portland, OR
March 17-18, 2012

The only thing I enjoy more that just teaching my wood jewelry workshop is taking my show on the road. It's always so energizing to face the challenges of a new space and unfamiliar tools and to work with a totally new group of people. I therefore jumped at the opportunity to take train down to Portland for a weekend of wood jewelry at the Multnomah Arts Center.

Housed in a converted elementary school, MAC is a community resource that pulses with activity. During my weekend there, I noticed events as diverse as filmmaking, trick frisbee, youth cello, pre-school ballet, and a stage production of "Little House on the Prairie."

The jewelry studio is well equipped and scrupulously organized--a huge help for a visiting teacher and students grappling with a new material. Check out these images to see what they were able to accomplish in just two short days.

If you're reading this in or around Portland, please keep your eyes open for the MAC schedule; I hope to be teaching again later this year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Centrum Explorations Class

Centrum Explorations
March 4-9, 2012

For 39 years Centrum's Explorations program has been offering Washington state middle schoolers the opportunity to spend a week in a frenzy of creative activity. Each day students take four of eight possible classes; the 2012 offerings were marimba, hip-hop dancing, taiko drumming, songwriting, creative writing, drawing, theatre, and wood jewelry. Students live, eat, and study on the campus of Fort Worden, an historic army base on the Olympic Peninsula (seen "Officer And a Gentleman"?), burning off whatever energy they have left after class by combing the beach or clambering around the hillside fortifications.

I had planned for the setting to play a big role in my class, as a source of both inspiration and raw materials, but we didn't get off to an auspicious start. On the first morning I hustled my 2-hour "core" group out the door for a hike that I fulled expected to turn them into raving naturalists and avid found-object jewelers. We'd been outside about ten minutes when the temperature fell and the skies opened. I called a retreat and we returned to the classroom totally soaked, clutching a few waterlogged twigs in our frozen fingers.

Inspired by Fort Worden in a different way, we soldiered on. Each student picked a piece of wood that he or she found especially appealing and drew its portrait, paying particular attention to attractive lines, knots, bits of lichen, etc.

On day two, it snowed. But luckily our wet twigs from the day before had dried out somewhat, so we got to work learning the about jewelers' saws, filing and sanding, drilling, gluing, and joining pieces with wire elements or string.

The students also learned to work with commercially available wood such as sheets and dowels, using it alone or in conjunction with their found-wood elements. It was very exciting for me to watch the students take the same information and run in different directions; for example, some patient types went in for making lengths of chain out of tiny jump rings, while others tackled ambitious sculptural designs.

And as usual, the woodburning tool proved popular--so popular, alas, that it pooped out before the end of the class.

Towards the end of the week, the activity ratcheted up as we all rushed to finish work for a final showcase attended by all the other students, as well as many parents had teachers who came up especially for the evening. We arranged the table to give visitors some insight into the whole process, with everything from raw wood and first-day drawings to works-in-progress and finished pieces on custom made stands.

Budget willing, Centrum takes place in the spring of each year. Although wood jewelry won't necessarily always been part of the roster, the lineup of classes is guaranteed to be enticing. If you know of any middle schoolers who would jump at the chance to attend art camp, check out the Explorations information on Centrum's website.

Friday, February 24, 2012



Ah, the satisfaction of finishing a piece! Especially when it's been in progress as long as this one has. I started this over a year ago, sporadically whipping out a rib or tibia now and then whenever I had a free afternoon.

It's about 28" long, carved from the spalted boxwood I salvaged out of a neighbor's yard (same as I used for last year's Messenger). The assorted anatomical-ish bones are joined by tiny sterling links and anchored at each end by skull and pelvis. It could be a necklace or a sculptural piece, but as usual I find it most satisfying as a thing to play with.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: MORE Jewelry that Grows on Trees

More Jewelry That Grows on Trees
February 4-5, 2012, Pratt Fine Arts Center

After all these years, I've accumulated more ideas about wood than one syllabus can accommodate. In this follow-up to my regular Jewelry That Grows on Trees workshop, I had the chance to introduce students to my own recent experiments with new surface finishes, constructed stone settings, and inlaid, laminated, and bent veneers. Check out this impressive range of samples and finished pieces...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vitrine: How-to Video

This video demonstrates how to open, fill, and close one of my vitrine pendants. Note that the music is loud, catchy, and potentially giggle-inducing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Vitrine: Beach Glass

Last year while visiting the historic waterfront town of Port Townsend, WA, I heard rumors of a stretch of shore so famed for excellent beachcombing that it had come to be known as "Glass Beach". I set out from downtown in search of a spot to match my optimistic mental vision: pale sands strewn with Japanese glass fishing floats, studded with cobalt chunks of patent medicine bottles.

Hours later I had found anemones, kelp, detached crab claws, and even a gumshoe chiton, but no glass. Tired and discouraged, I flopped down on a stretch of sand and looked out at the grey waters of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca.

When I finally turned my attention back to the beach, I saw that I was surrounded by tiny pieces of glass. In 15 minutes of pecking and hunting I garnered a small pile of pebbles--amber, green, clear, and, rarest of all, cobalt (perhaps Port Townsend was never big on patent medicines?).
Other than their color, these tiny bits barely hint at their former forms, being so much closer to sand itself than to anything that ever held liquids or sliced unsuspecting feet.