Saturday, June 27, 2009


This sign points down a narrow space between 2 buildings, behind which is the site of Kirk's future birthplace.

The site of the future farmstead of James T. Kirk's parents.

George Takei, Michelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig were at Trek Fest today to speak and sign autographs. Isn't the longevity of this franchise amazing?

Today, Paul and I went to the new Star Trek movie. Yes, I am that geeky. I really like the whole Star Trek thing and Paul is a huge fan, so it's really surprising that we hadn't gone when it first came out. I was actually afraid that I was going to hate it, since it was a prequel set when the Enterprise crew were really young and no one from the original show was in it, except for Leonard Nimoy. I was wrong! It was so good. It was very entertaining.
Ironically, the the annual Trek Fest in Riverside, Iowa is going on this weekend. Riverside (12 miles south of Iowa City) is the future birthplace of James T. Kirk. They even mention it in the movie. In 1985, Riverside was trying to come up with a new theme for their annual summer festival when one city council member remembered reading in a book by Gene Roddenberry, that Kirk is going to be born in a small town in Iowa in 2228. The council wrote to Roddenberry for permission to be that small town, and he agreed. I guess sometimes all you've gotta do is ask!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Marie got some great colors on her hammered copper discs using the torch.

Sheree's dragonfly brass piece turned out really cute.  Of course, I always like dragonflies.

Pauline's etched pieces.  I like her nickel silver flower.  

I had another acid etching class tonight at Bead Haven.  We had fun, as always, but this group was more rambunctious that usual!  They wore me out.  Actually, they were great, as they were all really eager to learn and to laugh.  Thanks to Sheree, Pauline and Marie.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


This photo is from KGRG TV taken by on of their weather spotters.  I'm not sure exactly where in eastern Iowa it was taken, but tonight, it could have been almost anywhere in our area.

This is what our summer solstice was like this evening.  There were bad storms all around us and for quite a while we thought we were going to have to go to the basement.  The tornado sirens blew for a while, but then it all just kind of lost it's steam.   I guess we dodged another bullet.


Happy Father's Day !

My Dad.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Sister's Garden, south of Iowa City.

Bloom, a new old house at Sister's Garden.

An old column and some barbed wire.

That same day, I found this tattered body of a moth, beautiful, even in death.

The view from Sister's of the woods and a cornfield.  A quintessential, summer scene from here in Iowa.

Yesterday afternoon I went on a little road trip with a friend a little south of where I live.  There is a little shop out in the country near Kalona, Iowa, called Sister's Garden.  Sister's consists of an decrepit old farm house and another house that is new, but was built to look old.  It's quite a unique place with garden art, antiques, new things that look antique and bits of architectural salvage that are really pieces of art in their own right.  Going there got me to thinking about the beauty that's to be found in decay.  Have you ever walked or driven down a country road and come upon a an old abandoned house that just called out to you to step inside?  That's sort of what I'm talking about.  When my sister's and I were kids, there was an old house down the road from us like that.  We called it the Haunted House, not so much because it was scary, but I think because we wanted it to be haunted.  It was on this bit of property that once was probably really well-tended, but by then was full of nettles and brambly raspberries (that we really enjoyed!).  There were old fallen in sheds and rusting old farm implements.  I loved this place.  It captured my imagination.  What is it about places like that?  Is it that little bit of sadness that places like that conjure up in us?  Is it that people long ago lived lives there and were hopefully happy there?  Or is it the thought that all things end up in decay, and that as unimaginable as it seems, so will we?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Here's a Barred Owl in the eaves of my neighbor's house.  Do you think maybe they should clean their gutters?  

A better photo of a Barred Owl.  I can't seem to get my owls to pose so well.

I know I've posted about these guys before (don't worry, no owl barf pictures today, but see my March 24th 2009 post, if you dare!), but I just can't get over how amazing they are.  They've been really active again lately.  We must have a new population of rabbits or mice in the yard.  Lately two owls are hanging out on the north side of my house, sitting on either the downspouts or the eave brackets close together.  Every time I venture to that side of my yard, they fly off, up into a tree or to the neighbor's downspout.  I hope they will start to get used to me, like they did last year and let me get close enough to get some good pictures of them.  You should hear them call to each other through the woods.  There are quite a few of them in the area, judging by how many calls I hear.  To hear what they sound like, click here.  

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Ann and me.  I wish I'd gotten a photo of Mary too.

Mary's water-etched piece, in progress.

Ann's Keum-Boo (layered gold) pendant and her molded charm with a amethyst-colored cz.  Ann got such a great patina on her Keum-Boo piece.

Mary's ginko leaf, Keum-Boo pendant.  I like how she layered gold on only one leaf.

All of Mary and Ann's finished pieces.  Not a bad day's work.

Today, I had two students in the studio for a private class.  They were really good students, but also good-hearted and lots of fun.  It was especially fun for me, because they just wanted to learn a lot of techniques, and weren't so interested in making, for example a bracelet, start to finish.  I love that.  Not that it isn't fun to see a project through to the end, it is, but it's also great when you can just explore a series of techniques.  It was a full day.  We worked on water-etching, silicone mold making, firing stones in place, Keum-Boo, and joining pieces together with nail rivets.  That's a lot of information in one day and they handled it beautifully.  Thanks for coming such a long way to spend the day with me, ladies!

Friday, June 12, 2009


Downtown Cedar Rapids on June 13th 2008.

This is the company where my sister Jamie works.  Amazingly, after a lot of work and months of operating out of an empty grocery store building, they are now back in their downtown space.  This building is many, many blocks from the river.

It's been exactly a year since the epic flooding occurred here in Iowa.  Cedar Rapids had the worst of it's flooding on June 13th 2008, while the Iowa River in Iowa City crested a few days later, destroying much of the University of Iowa Arts Campus.  I really can't believe that it's been a year.  Some estimates make this the second most expensive disaster that the U.S. has ever seen.  It's shocking how much reality can change in a few hours.  Recovery is slow and in some cases, nonexistent.  There are signs of recovery every day though, however small they might be.  A business reopening here and there, a completely new business opening up, or a homeowner moving back into their newly remodeled house after bringing it back from the brink of destruction.  For every one of these triumphant stories though, there are many, many more sad ones of people, businesses, and neighborhoods that will never recover.  Not to over-generalize, but we in the Midwest, tend to be stoic people who really have difficulty asking for help.  I guess that's why you don't read too much in the national press about the flooded neighborhoods in our area, like the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, where more than 150 years of history and community were wiped out in one afternoon.   At 10 am tomorrow, church bells will ring in our area to mark the moment that the Cedar River crested at more than 20 feet above flood stage.  I know all of those directly affected will be in my thoughts at that hour.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


While I was at Bead and Button, I spoke with some ladies from the Bead Museum in Glendale, Arizona.  Apparently, the Museum has been in financial straits for quite a while.  Due to a bad economy, declining donations, and the failure by the former director to apply for funding for this year, the Museum is in real trouble.  I understand that they have mitigated some of their financial issues in the short term, but need continuing support to remain open.
The museum was founded in 1984 in Glendale and houses a collection of more than 100,000 beads and changing exhibits.  I've actually been lucky enough to visit there and I can say that it is a resource that would be sad to lose.  Where else can you see a 40,000 year old bead?  They have an exhibit that tells the story of beads dating from the dawn of time to the present that I found really compelling.  It's fascinating how little the urge to make and adorn one's self with wearable art has changed in thousands of years. 
It's hard to ask for money right now, but if you live in the Phoenix area, visit there a lot, or just really love beads and the stories that they tell about the history of humankind, please consider sending a little money their way.  To donate or visit their website, here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


A water-etched pendant with a slide bail on the back.  The pattern is based on an upholstery fabric called 'Small Dot', designed by Ray and Charles Eames in 1947.

A sort of Tim Burton-esque piece.

This one reminds me of the kelp forests of Monterey Bay in California.

I got home from Bead and Button on Sunday, and I'm having a bit of trouble getting back into the swing of things.  The week was so great, but man, did it tire me out!  I hadn't done any work until tonight, when I taught a water-etching on PMC class at Bead Haven.  I like this technique.  It's one of those "How did you do that?" techniques.  Those are always fun.  In water-etching you roll out a piece of metal clay thicker than normal, dry it completely, and paint a design on it with wax.  Once the wax is dry, clay from the unwaxed potion of the piece is etched away, creating a fairly deep relief. Once it's fired, you're left with a really unique piece.  I remember taking a pottery class in college where we did a very similar technique on bone dry, unfired ceramics.  The only difference was that the etching was done with a fine spray of water instead of sponges or baby wipes as we use with PMC etching.   It a great technique in it's self, but it also creates a nice surface for enamels or resin.  To learn more about water etching, check out a great article by Catherine Davies Paetz in the September 2006 issue of Art Jewelry.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Our house.

Sophie was happy to see us.  Really, she was!

We had fun, but are happy to be home.  Sophie was glad we were home.  We went out for dinner a few hours after we got home and she tried to block the door so we couldn't leave.  I assured her we'd be right back and we were.
I've got lots of soldering, weeding and teaching in my near future.  I'm ready to get back to life.  It's great to go on these trips, but there's no place like home.


The rings I made in Celie's class. The one on the left will have that heat patinated piece of copper in the upper left hand side of the picture riveted to it.

Celie doing a demo. Gail (with the glasses on top of her head), looking less than alert in the background.

Our funny waiter from our last dinner in Milwaukee. The people in Milwaukee are very nice.

Some of my Bead Show Booty. Copper and bronze from Africa, fossils from Madagascar, The large stone is from Australia.

A very large Oolite bead from Australia that I bought from Gary Wilson. I think it's one of the most beautiful stones I've ever seen.

Well, that went by fast. What a week it was! Today I finished up my ring class with Celie Fago. It really was a good class and I was really happy with the results. We walked around the show floor and I bought a few things, though less than last year. I bought lots of interesting one of a kind old, ethnic things to make into necklaces with my new-found bronze chain making skills. I also bought some beautiful stone beads and cabochons from lapidary artist, Gary Wilson from Tucson, Arizona. He has the most interesting and beautifully cut stones that I've ever seen.
Tonight, my friend Anne Mitchell received this year's Excellence in Bead Artistry Award from Bead and Button Magazine. It's quite an honor for her and I'm very happy for her. She's a great teacher and I know that she works very hard. Congratulations, Anne!
We didn't stay too long at the Bead Social (where Anne got her award), as we got there quite late and there was no where to sit so Paul, Gail and I went to the bar at the Hilton. Paul left after a bit, but Gail and I sat there laughing at dumb things until after midnight. We both head home early tomorrow, and I think neither one of us wanted to say good bye. I had so much fun with Gigi, Gail, Anne, Terri, Henriette, and Karen. Such a special group of people and I'll miss you all. You all make me laugh until my sides hurt. I wanted to say a special early Happy Birthday to my friend Gigi. Gigi had a terrible accident earlier this year in which she cut tendons in her ankle. She has had awful luck with complications from her injury for many, many months. A week before the show she still wasn't sure that she was coming to the show. She did come, and I'm so glad. I know that it was a physical challenge for her, but it wouldn't have been the same without her. Gigi es una chica valiente! I'm sure she'll let me know if I said that incorrectly! Home tomorrow!

Friday, June 5, 2009


Rings made by Celie Fago.  The one's we made are similar to these, but of course not nearly as nice.

Paul's boot full 'o beer at Mader's.

I can't believe this week is almost over.  It was really fun and I had some of the best classes that I've ever had.  I loved seeing my friends from Miami, Arizona, New Mexico, Ohio, Canada, etc, but I'm ready to go home.  It's a long exhausting week, that's over before you know it.  
Today, I had a class with the amazing Celie Fago.  Celie is a teacher and jewelry artist form Vermont and if you ever get a chance to take a class from her, grab it.  I've taken 5 classes from her, more than from any single other teacher and I'd take a class in almost anything she wanted to teach.  One reason is that no matter what the project is, I always learn something huge that I can take away and use in my own work.  Another reason is that she is such a kind, patient and skilled teacher.  She's the sort of teacher that other teachers aspire to be like.  I know that I do.  Today we made rings from bronze, which we will finish tomorrow, by embellishing them with rivets and beads.  They are very ancient looking and I really like them.  The technique was so simple and yet produces such an elegant result.  I forgot to take photos of them in class while they were in progress, but I will post pictures of the finished ones tomorrow.
After class, Gail and I wandered around the show floor, talking to friends and buying a few things.  I don't buy a lot anymore.  But I did get a really pretty, very large Oolite stone pendant that came from Australia from one of my favorite vendors, Gary Wilson.  I really should stay away from his booth because it's really dangerous for me.  I'll take pictures of my goodies and post them tomorrow.
Tonight, Paul, Gail and I went to a Milwaukee institution called Mader's.  Mader's is a really old German restaurant with the most amazing food.  I thought we would burst.   There is a street festival going on downtown here tonight and we had to fight our way through it on our way to and from the restaurant.  Loud, bad music and lots of drunk people, so that part wasn't fun, but overall another great day.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


A doorway, that from a distance we thought had fancy ceramic Koi fish sculptures attached, turned out to be very nicely painted milk cartons.

Milwaukee architecture.

The bracelet that I made in Susan's class.

Another view of my bracelet.

Yesterday, I had a day off from classes.  I spent it wandering around Milwaukee a bit and finally seeing something aside from the inside of Midwest Airlines Center.   Milwaukee has lots of great architecture that really reminds me of Chicago.
Last night was the Meet the Teachers event.  Attendance was a bit low, as it seems to be for the entire show.  Not many of the classes are full and that's really too bad for the teachers.  
Today, I had a class with Susan Lenart Kazmer.  Susan is a very interesting, enthusiastic teacher.  She's very free spirited and her classes reflect that.  There's a lot of fast paced problem solving and on the fly adaptation in her classes.  I'm a thinker when I'm working, I like to ponder problems, so her classes are challenging for me in the first hour or two.  I must say, I'm thrilled with the bracelet that I made in her class.  I'd love to adapt the technique for a project that I could teach my own students.  It was  a lot of fun.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


A bracelet that I soldered together in class, with bronze pieces that I brought from home.

Today I had a soldering class that was run by Rio Grande in Albuquerque.  Their classes are always good, but this one was a real education for me.  I had been having trouble soldering bronze wire, no matter what I did I just couldn't make it work.  The instructor, Mark, asked me some questions about how I'd been doing it and then in a matter of fact way, told me I'd been using the wrong solder for the job.  A small sounding thing probably, but it was such a huge thing for me.  I tried using the solder he suggested and voila!, just like that I'm a bronze soldering queen.  Ok, not really, but it was so much better than I had been doing it.  Honestly, I know I'm a geek, but that one little piece of information was worth the price of the class to me!  
I had a fun day and another great evening with Gail, Gigi, Henriette, and Karen.  I couldn't ask for more fun people to spend time with.  Tomorrow, I have a day off from classes.  I'm going to see a bit of Milwaukee for once and and maybe help some friends set up their booths.  Tomorrow night is the Meet the Teachers event, where all of the show's instructors have tables and sell their kits and meet and greet with all of the crazy show attendees.  It's always an interesting people watching evening.  

Monday, June 1, 2009


This is my finished piece from Robert Dancik and Louise Duhamel's class.

Everyone in class did a great job.  Same materials, same amount to time, same instruction, 12 completely different pieces.  I love that!

Robert, helping my friend, Gigi.

I'm messy when I work, but Gail creates the 'Work Bench of Chaos'.  It works for her, though.

Paul at dinner, wearing Karen's pod necklace.  Paul's a really good sport.

A close up of Karen's necklace.  It's even more impressive in person.

Gail passing the empanadas and Paul looking like his sense of humor just ran out.

I had another great day at the show.  Today was the second day of a two day workshop, and I'm a little sad that it's over.  I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever learned so much in a class before.   The class covered PMC, resin, metal smithing, working a plastic material called 'Faux Bone', as well as design theory and something close to my heart, in depth discussions of the importance of narrative in the art of jewelry making.  I have worked quite a lot with most of these things, except the Faux Bone, and yet I came away from this class with so much new information.  I really want to thank both Robert and Louise very much.  
After class, I went to a small focus group that I had been invited to by Art Jewelry Magazine.  It was really interesting and kind of cool to possibly have some input into the future content of the magazine.  
After that, Paul, Gail, Karen, and Karen's friend Amy from Toronto and I, all went to an excellent restaurant that Paul found for us, called Charro.  It was sort of a Latin fusion place.  We ate empanadas and Ropa Vieja and drank pineapple mojitos.  The manager came over just when we were all laughing hard and being silly and we thought we might be kicked out, but he was just a friendly guy who came over to chat.  Gail shamelessly told him he should give us free dessert and he did!  I'm taking Gail to every restaurant that I go to from now on!  It was a great place that I highly recommend, and not just because of the free flan.  
Tomorrow is a class that I have long been looking forward to.  It's a bronze soldering class, which I really need.  I make a lot of bronze jewelry and have great difficulty soldering chain for it.  I'm a good silver solderer, but for some reason, I have problems with bronze.  The class is sponsored by Rio Grande (a supplier of jewelery making tools and equipment).  I like their classes a lot as they supply the best of everything to the student and you don't need to bring a thing.  I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.