Saturday, October 31, 2015

What's on My Bench??

Today's episode comes from JET member Donna Arena of DonnasArtisanDesigns. Donna designed the new banner the blog is sporting today in honor of the JET's birthday, but more about that later. Let's see what Donna has to teach us today!

Hello everyone!

I'd like to start by wishing the JETs a happy birthday! Also sending best wishes to our trusty captain Emo and of course to all of our devoted leaders. Wow... the team as been around quite awhile - founded on October 31, 2007. I wanted to make a special banner to celebrate the team we love so much. On to the What's on My Bench portion of this episode!

Anyone who knows me knows I'm partial to Opals due to the brilliant flash of color. It's almost magical to me, and I'm sure many of you as well. Although the purple, pink, and blue opals don't give that flash they are still a beautiful color and look fabulous in any jewelry piece. 

My fellow JETs like opals very much too. For example, Elizabeth of Foret has this Pink Peruvian Opal Pendant Necklace. I know I can always count on Denise of LoveStoneArts to have beautiful opals such as this set of Ethiopian Opal Post Earrings.

 I chose today to work on pink and purple Peruvian Opal which are found only in the mountains of Peru. From some sources I've read, the mining for these opals is done only in one location so these are considered rare. For the pink (and I'd guess the purple too) the deeper the color the higher the grade of stone.

Here is a collage showing a few of the steps involved in the lapidary process of creating a Pink Peruvian Opal cabochon. During this process, my work is spread across 4 dedicated spaces: my desk, my bench, my lapidary arbor, and my saw and dop station. Within this collage you can see some pictures from the lapidary process. They aren't in order; however, you can still see the evolution taking place.

On the top right of the collage is a picture of the stone with three little lines drawn on it. I call those lines my stepping stones - they are very crucial to the stone's overall appearance. First start with a flat cutting; then shape around the initial cutting to establish the domed appearance for the stone. I learned to start with a 60 degree cut first then a 40 degree cut. It is much easier and faster to turn out a cabochon without flat spots on the top! You may have wondered what the cabochon with the criss-cross lines is all about. All I will say is that is a lapidary secret trick!  The cabs you see above are traditional calibrated sizes which are much easier, especially when you are a beginner! 

This collage is actually the "after lapidary" and is my favorite part. It is the creating of the actual jewelry piece! Of course my husband knows me quite well and when I find myself partial to a design or stone he'll hear me say, "this one's mine"!

Thank you Donna for that glimpse into your creative process. Remember, if you want to learn more about Donna, check out her beautiful shop, DonnasArtisanDesigns.

Stay tuned for another episode of What's on My Bench?? next week. 

See you then,

Val Swanson

Friday, October 30, 2015

Day of The Dead

Inspired by La Catrina and Dia de los Muertos

Contributed By Denise of LoveStoneArts. Denise is a member of the Jetteam.

People who especially love Day of the Dead would not want you to lump it in with Halloween.  It is its own revered holiday and not considered spooky, rather a joyous celebration on November 1st and 2nd dedicated to honoring the memory of departed souls.

The observance of Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos goes back at least 3000 years to pre-Columbian Aztec culture in Mexico.  The Aztecs believed that our earthly life was but a dream and that death marked the beginning of a rich afterlife.  After the arrival of Spaniards and Catholicism in the new world, the celebration was moved to coincide with All Saints Day.  The symbols of Dia de los Muertos are hearts, skulls, monarch butterflies, marigold blooms, masks representing the deceased and altars decorated with special offerings and mementos of these loved ones.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a number of writers and artists saw that the native culture and traditions of Mexico were falling out of favor.  European customs and attire were considered superior to that of the villagers.  A very famous etching of La Calavera Catrina by José Guadalupe Posada circa 1910-1914, satirizes the pretensions of Mexicans wearing elaborate Victorian clothing and aspiring to adopt European aristocratic traditions. The image shown at lower right quickly became associated with Dia de los Muertos.  The central mural, Alameda Park by Diego Rivera in 1947, shows La Catrina, Frida Kahlo and the village dignitaries in their European finery.  Some contemporary images include my pottery figurine of La Catrina clothed in monarch butterflies. 

I’ve been making a new series of necklaces and hair ornaments inspired by this holiday.  I start with a color scheme in mind then select sizes and textures of beads to make everything cheerful, whimsical and festive.  I take up all of the available workspace as I lay out plenty of options. To me, these are the fiesta colors of Mexico~

These interpretations are less literal.  My hair comb features a color scheme that is very Southwest.  The little altar necklace I created in ivory, red, pink and green is influenced by orthodox religious icons.  See the tiny crowns?  What a fusion!

I have a special appreciation of this custom and it is my pleasure to share it with you.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Happy Halloween from the JETTEAM

Halloween which occurs on October 31st is a colorful and festive holiday. Children and
 adults too, dress up in costumes and go door to door to collect goodies such as candy treats. Halloween always falls on the evening before the Christian Holy Day, otherwise known as All Saints Day, which occurs on November 1. Since All Saints Day was known as All Hallows' Day, October 31 was named All Hallows' Eve (meaning the evening before All Hallows' Day).

It was believed that the dead souls roamed the earth on Halloween and needed to be appeased. The tradition called "mumming", which originated in the Middle Ages, was practiced on certain holidays, Halloween being one of them. Mumming required dressing up in costume and performing short skits or plays for food and drink. As time went on, the tradition of giving candy "treats" to the children in costume developed.

The Jetteam on Etsy would like to share a few "treats" with everyone. Enjoy!!
"Happy Halloween"

Saturday, October 24, 2015

What's on My Bench??

Today's episode is from JET member, Mollie. Mollie Ann has two jewelry shops, Rough Magic Creations and Rough Magic Holidays.

Because my husband Joe and I both keep vintage shops on Etsy, it's only natural that we indulge our penchant for discovery treasures from the past as one of our favorite adventures.

Not long ago, while Joe was on the hunt for (ahem) "literary classics" in the book section of a nearby antiques mall, I was poking around in the gee-gaws and bric-a-brac booths. Even though I wasn't really searching for vintage jewelry (I've got plenty of that of my own!), I "just happened to notice," peeking out from behind a shelf of dented teapots, world weary antimacassars and battered fedoras, a little hook holding a dozen or so necklaces. Could I resist? You have to ask?

Yes, I looked. And handled. And, forsaking the others, came home with two. Not to wear myself, mind you, but to disassemble and salvage the beads.

The first necklace comprises more than 100 creamy ivory color bone (or perhaps horn?) heishi beads strung on a worn leather cord that will have to go. After I've cleaned and inspected all the beads, I'll know better how to use them, but I already have a couple of ideas for giving them new life. Necklaces!

Some of the beads may provide complementary support for a large carved cat bead, also bone, from my stash. 

Drilled lengthwise from the tip of her tail to the toes of her right forepaw, Kitty will prefer to be placed a bit to one side in an asymmetrical strand. Perhaps I'll add a few matching carved barrels, also stashed pieces. Funky fun, I'm thinking - with a bohemian twist.

Another idea! I have this fabulous etched and carved bone elephant bead from my fellow Jet Elizabeth's shop:

I think Mollie is on a creative tear. I'm looking forward to seeing the results in her shop, Rough Magic Creations. Don't forget to check out her holiday jewelry shop, Rough Magic Holidays. Both of these shops have jewelry and home items!

If you like vintage then check out Mollie's vintage shop, Miranda Mercantile or if books are your thing (and how can they not be!) check out our honorary JET, Mollie's husband Joe's shop Prospero's Bookshelf.

Don't forget to come back next week for another episode of What's on My Bench!


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Researching Vintage Turquoise Jewelry

Our feature this week, was contributed by another of the Jetteam members, the very talented Denise from LoveStoneArts. Visit her shop to see the beautiful, handcrafted jewelry she creates.

Ya'at eeh! Greetings  
Maybe you are lucky enough to have some pieces of vintage southwest jewelry.  There is so much information online; a few searches might help you to learn more about your treasure.  Of course, each search leads to more searches!
GENERAL INFO - Click the link to read about the History of American Indian Jewelry Making
Southwest style turquoise jewelry was a popular fashion trend when I was a teen and all my life I have appreciated Native American art and culture.  The gorgeous jewelry of the Southwest is one of my passions and an influence in some of the designs I coax from silver and flame.  I love the wonderful nugget my grandma Gracie bought from the Dine’ people in Yuma Arizona when we passed through on the train in 1954; in fact I’m wearing it right now.  I think my magic blue rock has been with me the longest of any of my possessions.
My parents have a 5 part set of silver and turquoise jewelry that was commissioned by my great-uncle in about 1960.  Their recollection is that the artist was known to my uncle as “Charlie” and that some bail bond money was required to help their friend complete the order.  Sometimes these stories passed down through the family get tweaked a bit with the passage of time, so who knows?
The set consists of a very large man’s bolo tie with a huge freeform piece of Morenci Mines turquoise, a ring, cuff bracelet, pendant and earrings also of Morenci turquoise and traditional silver work.

They all have the typical Morenci intense color and interesting pyrite inclusions.
ABOUT THE MINES - Read about the Turquoise Museum by clicking on the link to the left.
The hallmark is a capital C and sunrays symbol.  There are plenty of good Native American hallmark sites.  HALLMARK SITE 


It turns out that perhaps the artist went by Charlie but his name is actually Carl Allen Begay, also known as Carlos Begay.  I think my folks got the story mixed up a little.  Sometimes a search will turn up a bio of the artist but I had no luck in this instance.  Begay is the most common Navajo surname and there are lots and lots of Carl-s and Carlos-es.  He must have been a popular and prolific artist because a general search of his name turns up quite a bit of his work including these stunning examples~

I’ve enjoyed researching and sharing with you a few things about the intriguing blue jewelry of the American Southwest.  
Ahéhee'  Thank you!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

What's on My Bench??

Today's episode of What's on My Bench is brought to us by JET member and  frequent contributor, Gaetana, of SatinDollCo.:

This necklace came about as the first attempt to make by Godmother a necklace for her birthday present, some months ago. First, I gathered the beads, which included blue or teal glass beads, black glass beads, black onyx teardrop beads, and a gemstone leaf pendant.

Next I started arranging the beads in a pattern for the necklace.

With so many black beads, I had to make sure to use the blue/teal beads to break up the black.

All done. Now I need to string the beads on beading wire and finish it off with the findings, such as the clasp.This is the finished product. 

I ended up not sending this one to my Godmother since she's more into earth tones but it found a home the following weekend when my Aunt came over and went through my entire inventory. It went perfectly with her outfit she had on. So that shows there's a piece out for there for everyone.

If you want to learn more about Gaetana, please go to her shop, SatinDollCo. Stay tuned to next Saturday, for another installation of What's on My Bench??

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Photographing Your Finished Jewelry

Today, our Jetteam member Phylly, will share her thoughts on photographing those finished pieces of jewelry that you created. You can check out her shops;  Sending Love Gallery and Loves Vintage Delights to see all of her items offered for sale.

I have found that the best place to photograph my jewelry is in the front hall of my home. There is an abundance of indirect, natural light that is great for taking photos of my jewelry listed in my shop, Sending Love Gallery.  I use the top left corner of an old Mexican buffet cabinet that I have finished. Originally, this piece was located in the foyer and was used to store mostly odds and ends for seasonal decorating, board games, etc.. When I discovered the great lighting in that area, the cabinet began to be a place to collect photography supplies like jewelry props and scrapbook paper which could be used to photograph jewelry.  After awhile,  I began to store some mailing supplies in it as well.

The right side of the cabinet stores bubble mailers, a small paper cutter and mailing supplies. I try to keep a few USPS flat rate mailing envelopes in there and small flat rate boxes as well , in addition to one each of the two sizes of cardboard boxes I often use for my vintage shop, Loves Vintage Delights. When I need to weigh something, as the result of an item that I have listed on the Etsy website, I have a sample box/mailer available to weigh on my scale.  The bottom shelf also has some candle overflow, however I found a little space for my bracelet cones and an extra “jewelry hand”.


This is what I have in the three drawers of the cabinet:
Top drawer:
  •  digital mailing scale, my ribbon rolls for tying pretty packages, scissors, tape, etc.
  •  earring card punch and baggie with earring and necklace cards and clear silicone stoppers for    earrings.
  •  package of tarnish strips and a baggie of already cut squares of the anti tarnish paper to pop into my anti tarnish clear zip lock bags for mailing are kept here along with my business cards for both shops.
  • jewelry polishing cloths,  a little paint brush and Swiffer cloth (both are great for getting rid of any specks of dust on what I need to photo or wrap up.)
  •  package of white cotton gloves that came from a garage sale. I use those mostly for polishing and removing fingerprints on the vintage objects for my shop, Loves Vintage Delights.

Middle drawer:
  •  photo props for jewelry
  •  a bag of packing peanuts and a box of jewelry gift boxes.
  •  a selection of folders .


A purple folder contains the appropriate size of the bubble lined mailing envelope I use most often for both shops. It also includes paper equaling the amount for the mailing label and the receipt, business card, earring or necklace card, zip bag, ribbon and a small amount of tissue paper. When I need to enter the weight of a piece of jewelry for an Etsy listing, I grab the folder with these items, add the right size gift box, then the jewelry and layer them on my digital scale to weigh. Tape has weight too, so after I see what the digital scale says, I allow a little wiggle room in the listing for that and any extra packing I might include.

The green folder has a few vellum sheets and photo paper (which I sometimes use as a base for my photos), card stock,  scrapbook paper, white computer paper – also great to photograph on, and a stash of my uncut printed jewelry cards. There is also a folding photo background I made with white computer paper taped inside a manila folder that I sometimes stand up when photographing hanging jewelry. This is a great way to take photos when I don't want the rustic look of the plaster wall that is directly behind the cabinet.

Bottom drawer:
  • extras of flat paper supplies, tissue paper and a roll of bubble wrap – just enough to keep inside.
The cabinet won’t hold everything so I keep a larger stash of boxes, peanuts and packing stuff in the garage. The drawer has  room for one of the necklace busts that are used. There are a few board games remaining in the cabinet right now. Oh well!  We'll work on finding them a better place.

I hope that this has helped give you all some ideas on storage and photographing your own pieces. My trusty Packing Supervisor and Photography Assistant, Charley … has fallen asleep on the job!  


Sending Love Gallery
Loves Vintage Delights

Saturday, October 10, 2015

What's on My Bench??

Today's episode of What's on My Bench is brought to us by JET member Laurie Spoon of EveryDayaPromise.

This week, I am making beaded barrettes! I will soon list them in my Etsy shop as something new that I am offering in woven seed bead accessories. In this first photo, you will see the various barrettes that I have been making. I use several types of seed beads and crystals, and weave them into the pieces that I will then attach to the base of the barrette. 

The first step is always the hardest for me, choosing the bead combinations that I think will look amazing and will be something someone will love to wear. Today I am choosing Czech glass silver seed beads and amethyst iris bugle beads. To weave them into the piece for the barrette I will use black fireline.

I will make two matching barrettes as a set. This pattern works in rows. Each row will need two silver seed beads on the ends and one bugle bead for the center. There will be about 29 rows to make one barrette so I will need 116 seed beads and 58 bugle beads to make the set.

When my woven piece has reached the correct length, I will attach it to the barrette by looping the fireline back through the piece and around the upper body of the barrette in several places, making certain it is tightly connected so that it will not shift and get out of position. The photo below shows a completed barrette from the back, so you can see the looped fireline.

Since I have yet to finish the barrette set that is on my bench, I will show you a photo of a similar set, done in aqua bugle beads, so you can get an idea of how these will look when completed.

That’s what is on my bench! I am happy to share it with you!

If you want to learn more about Laurie Spoon, please visit her shop, EveryDayaPromise. Stay tuned to next week for another episode of What's on My Bench??

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fun With Clay

Today, Donna from Donna's Artisan Designs shares her experience with working with clay. Donna is one of the members of the Jetteam . You can view all of her gorgeous creations by clicking on her shop link above.


"Hello everyone, it’s been awhile since I’ve shown what I’ve been up to, but trust me, I’ve been having lots of fun. I’ve observed over the years, that generally if you are led to some art form you may start one place, with one medium, then go into other “side roads” along your journey.
Now it may be all toward “jewelry artist” that your “side roads” lead using several different specialties such as bead weaving, metal artist, glass artist, gemstone cutter, wire worker, etc.

For a couple of years I seriously wanted to try PMC (Polymer Clay) but wasn’t keen on spending a great deal before I found out if I’d be good at it. So I stocked up on polymer clay, a few tools a few books and spent time on YouTube!


I had played with clay years ago with my kids, so I already had a little experience, but also some tools.  I even had some of the beads we had made. In all honesty, of all the things we had done together, everyone spent many hours on this activity. This time my granddaughter and I spent hours together, which is Nana’s favorite thing to do anyway!
I have to say, once again that I think I chose this for therapeutic reasons. It may sound strange, but you can relieve so much stress just playing with clay!! This medium has grown tremendously both for jewelry artists and so much more. If you do a search (on YouTube, Pinterest, etc.) you are going to see some of the most incredible creations. You may get smitten and you WILL definitely be impressed!

In the collage you can see some ways I’ve explored “canvases” for uses.
I’ve done journals, pens, Candle holders, hair accessories, pendants, cabochons, buttons…and so much more! The things that I love about this medium is its flexibility, it’s inexpensive, gender and age neutral…tons of fun for everyone and perfect for family time.
Wow…that sounded like a commercial! I will warn you, if you are anything like me you can easily become addicted to this medium!
I hope I’ve given a slight overview about a very fun “side road” to venture down some day. At the very least, go take a peek at some seasoned artists' creations or check out a tutorial or two. Polymer Clay is a stress reliever, great family project and a new palette for your creativity!"
Until later,


Saturday, October 3, 2015

What's on My Bench?

This week's episode is from JET member Jennifer of WearablebyDesign.

I'm between projects right now. I've just finished up several rings and am going to start a new one. This new ring will be complex and might take awhile. After finishing several projects in a row, and before starting a new one, I always do two things: Clean and Reorganize my bench.

So today, I'm going to show you my Clean and Reorganize procedures. This is a more of What's in My Bench than a What's on My Bench.

First, I pull out all previous half started projects and reassess if I'm likely going to 1.) finish them  or 2.) go in a different direction with them  or 3.) scrap them.

If there are gems involved, and I'm not going to finish them, then I have to replace the gems into the Gems Box.

Next, I tackle the contents of the pan (the metal lined tray in the center of the bench). I begin by marking a ziplock bag with the contents. I usually have sterling silver, silver sweeps (dust), or gold. When working with gold, I always do the pan clean up before I start so I can collect the gold and gold dust separately. I never let it mingle with the silver scrap.

Invariably there is other junk in the pan. If it's easy to pick out - like broken drill bits or copper scrap, I do that first. Then I pick out all the sterling silver bits. The rule is if I can pick it up with a pair of tweezers, it's considered scrap and not sweeps. Lastly,there's the dust. I collect it into a small pile, then I sift it through a fine mesh sieve. This helps remove the bits of stuff that is definitely not silver dust.

Lastly, I make a trip to my friendly neighborhood refiner and he gives me a bit of cash for my efforts!

If you would like to learn more about Jennifer go to WearablebyDesign. Remember to return next week for another episode of What's on My Bench!