Thursday, June 30, 2011

Giveaway! Win a Pair of Earrings and a Necklace!


It has been quite a while since I had a jewelry giveaway.
I am giving away a set from my Bubble Collection.
The lucky winner will receive a pair of Double Bubble Earrings and a Ring of Bubbles Pendant both pictured above.
Retail value of these two pieces is $97.

There are several ways to enter, and you can enter multiple times. Just be sure to post a comment for each entry on this post. Also be sure that you leave a way for me to contact you so that I can get your address in case you are the winner.

Ways to enter:
1. Follow my blog. If you are already a blog follower you are eligible as well. The button on the side bar to the right lets you sign up for this.
2. "Like" my Facebook page.
3. Tweet this giveaway and post your tweet in the comments.
4. Sign up for my Mailing List, you will receive emails about Sales in my Etsy shop, Giveaways, and shows that I do. There is a box on the side bar for this also.
5. Blog about this giveaway and post a link to your blog post in the comments.
6. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook.
7. "Like" my Etsy Shop on Facebook.

Don't forget, for each chance to win you must leave a comment and your comment must have a link or a note about how you entered. Also, be sure that there is a way for me to contact you.

This giveaway will be open for at least a week, please be sure to tell your friends.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend and be safe.
xoxo
Ashley

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Path Back to Creativity

I have been in a creative rut for quite some time now. I have, what I have heard fellow metalsmiths call creative ADD. I want to make all kinds of things, not just jewelry. I want to work in the garden, sew, make my house look nice, crochet, bake, etc. I just have to make things, but staying focused on making jewelry is difficult at times. This month I think I have done better and am slowly, but surely finding my way back to being inspired and excited about jewelry.

I have a ton of inventory, much of it not yet photographed or listed on etsy. I work hard getting ready for big shows, but I don't do enough shows to keep the momentum going year round. Also, much of what I make for shows is the production work that is easy to sell, and more afordably priced. What I really enjoy making are more complex, larger pieces of jewelry, but these are hard to sell. In all honesty, how well my jewelry sells is a great factor in how motivated I am. It is ironic, that the more new work I make and put out in the world, the more of it will sell. When shows and/or online sales are slow I lose motivation. It is a bad cycle, and I hate the fact that my joy in making jewelry can be so tied into whether or not it is profitable. The work I make is not for everyone. It is kind of funky, pretty modern and does not have gold or diamonds for the most part. I use non-precious materials often and the value lies in the design and craftsmanship of the pieces, more so than the materials themselves. Not everyone appreciates my work, nor do I want it to be appealing to the masses. That said, and I hope I haven't over shared, here is how I am finding joy in jewelry making again.

I started some new pieces, these earrings are one of them. I made these polymer pieces last year, and made this ring from the batch. The design of these earrings is deceptively simple, yet the construction is somewhat complex and a bit time consuming. I made a copper box for each earring with silver tabs on the ends. I could have, no doubt, finished these already, but have worked on them little by little when I'm at my bench. I think they will be great when they are done, but they are certainly not instant gratification.
Almost finished with these earrings

So I moved on to playing around with new ideas.
This one didn't work out, but all is not lost. I will still make something of this ring.
This idea didn't quite work out

The ring above and this little sample were for experimenting with fishing line. I have seen this done before and am not the first to melt the ends of fishing line to capture beads. In fact, I have hesitated to try it because two of the people that I have seen do it are peers and friends. They have used this to great effect and I did not want to be seen as a copy cat. Both of these designs could incorporate balled up silver wire in place of the fishing line, but I don't have the right torch for that. I think there is a bit of a learning curve with the melting of the plastic here, and I was not as crazy about the process or the outcome as I thought I would be. Oh well, I learned what didn't work for me and had fun trying something new. And for the record, I really want one of those Smith Little Torches!
Playing around with fishing line

In the midst of playing around and working on the polymer earrings I came up with a new earring design. I have done something similar before, but these were less planned, and therefore I think more fun. I don't know why, but these simple little studs make me so happy. I think it is because this is a new design, which I really like, and I am enjoying making jewelry again!
Gestural Earrings with Peridot
These are available here in my etsy shop, if you are interested.

Another way that I have been feeling motivated is by photographing and sharing all that inventory that I mentioned. It will take me a while to get everything photographed, but I'm working on it. I unapologetically enjoy getting feedback from my peers on my work. I don't think it is vanity, but just a need to know if others can see the beauty that I do in some quirky thing that I make. I think it also helps for me to see my own creativity in photos. I am proud of the work that I have made, and it is easy to forget what I am capable of when I am in a creative rut.

I am sure my creativity will wane again, I think that is just a part of being an artist and putting your work out there in the world. I hope that I can remember to play, have fun, and learn new techniques in order to keep joy in my work.

If I am feeling low on creativity in the jewelry department I need to:

*Look at images of my work to remind myself that I am indeed creative.
*Play around with materials and have fun, no expectations.
*Sketch ideas for new designs and/or look back through old sketchbooks.
*Try a new technique or material, currently wanting to use etching, wood,
mother of pearl, and clear glass cabochons in my work.
*Work on projects that were started but never finished.
*Expand on current designs and lines to come up with something new.

What motivates you, how do you find and keep your creativity?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Importance of Gardening

I didn't have a vegetable garden last year or this past winter. The last time I am sure that I had this garden planted was summer of 2009. I am so happy that I planted my veggies this year! I love all of my gardens, but I think this one brings me the most joy, satisfaction and tangible rewards. Here is the vegetable patch less than a month ago.


Gardening, and especially growing vegetables is in my blood. Both sets of grandparents grew veggie gardens, but my maternal grandfather Pawpaw was the best at it. He grew everything from seed, I believe, and saved seeds from his crops. I can vividly picture his little jars of hand labeled seeds and his tomato seedlings growing outside under the covered patio in their Houston backyard. His tomato plants got so big that they were caged with sections of chain link fence! He grew cucumbers, onions, blackberries, pomegranates, tomatoes, okra, and I'm sure there was much more that I'm forgetting. He was always outside in his garden or garage no matter how hot and humid it got, and it did get hot and humid. I can understand why. Though I don't spend too much time out in this 100+ degree heat, I do feel calm and relaxed in my garden. I love to check on the progress of my rapidly growing plants and vegetables. I feel a great deal of pride and joy watching my babies grow. In this heat, that we will no doubt suffer under for the next two months, I am so glad that I have a drip system for my vegetable garden. We all have to stay hydrated, plants and people alike!

Here are some of my babies, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

A basil seedling
Baby Basil

The first tomato
Tomato

Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry Tomatoes

Zucchini, which still hasn't produced. I never have luck with squash, always get squash vine borers, which this plant had but I killed. The plant is thriving but the female flowers don't open, so they just fall off and die.
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My first successes with cucumbers. They are really good!
I believe the variety is called Tender Green.
I couldn't resist picking the first baby cucumber!

First success with Eggplant as well! This guy is growing so fast. I noticed it at the end of last week, it was just barely swelling up. By Saturday I could see the purple, and it has grown even more since then.


First time to have success with Bell Pepper as well!


Tomato blossoms


Watermelon seedlings


Cucumber flowers


And Zinnias, always have to have Zinnias!




I'm also growing Okra, and Poblano and Serrano Peppers.

I hope I haven't bored you with my enthusiasm for my garden. I know now that I must have one each year. Luckily we can grow veggies year round here, so I am already plotting my fall/winter garden. I am also determined to start my own seeds next spring (and maybe this fall). Though I don't have much invested in plants here, maybe $15, I could get a jump start on the season as well as have more varieties to chose from.

I grow vegetables because:
I am carrying on a family tradition and it's in my blood.
It is good for my health, both the veggies and the stress reduction of being in the garden.
It brings me great satisfaction and joy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

In the shop and on the bench

There are some new items in my shop:
Bull's Eye Cuff Links



And on my workbench:
Long Horn Tips

These are Longhorn Horn tips. I bought them at a flea market from a couple who polishes and mounts the horns to sell. They said that when the pair of horns differ in length they cut off the longer one to match. I love the color variations in these and can't wait to get them to a state where I can utilize them in my jewelry designs. I plan to slice and polish these and use like cabochons. I have had success cutting and sanding, but haven't figured out how to get a high polish yet. I normally use Zam for my polishing compound, but it got down into cracks in the horn and darkened them. Any ideas what I could use that wouldn't do that?

Long Horn cab

Friday, June 24, 2011

Looks Like Summer

Dining room

I cut and brought in my first bouquet of Zinnias from this years garden. I added Artemesia and Dusty Miller and put them on my dining room table on top of a piece of crocheted lace that my Great Grandmother made. I'm loving the look! The lace contrasts nicely with our dark table, which I have been leaving open lately. It closes up to be a square and we used it open this spring for dinner with friends. I thought it seemed too big at the time, but decided I like it open. I think I will take this bouquet to a friends that we are visiting tomorrow.

Zinnias with Artemesia

For some reason all of the Zinnias that are blooming so far in the garden are pink. I like pink, but need some variety. I hope its not too late to get some more seeds going. I don't think it is as long as I keep them watered, I have had a few come up and then die off this year.

This little bouquet is in my kitchen window and really makes me smile. It is in a little antique jar from my collection and I put in the Dusty Miller stems that were too short for the other vase. Looks like summer to me!

I love this one

Have a great weekend.
xoxo
Ashley

An Etsy Metal Treasury



Check out this gorgeous treasury that my Tidal Pool Ring is in. Thanks Cynthia for curating this and including my ring with all these beautiful pieces!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Blackberry Pie

Homemade Blackberry Pie

I made a Blackberry Pie for the Father's Day dinner that we prepared for my parents. I haven't made many pies in my time, well at least not with from scratch crust. I liked it, and Frank loved it, but I think I can improve on this recipe. The recipe calls for mixing the berries with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup flour. There was quite a bit of that mixture that did not coat the berries and I went ahead and poured it on top of the berries even though I thought it was strange. Well, you can see in the second picture that I made a paste and though it wasn't super noticeable it did bother me. I think adding more berries and using a bit less sugar and flour would help. I have seen another recipe that used cornstarch instead of flour and I think I might like that better. I guess I need to try again, I'm sure Frank will taste test for me.

Close up

A La Mode

I used the Pie Crust Recipe from Baked. It is very simple and though I'm no pie crust expert I thought it tasted good. It was nice and tender, maybe not as flaky as I expected:

3 Cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 Cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
3/4 Cup ice cold water

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together.
Cut the cold butter into cubes and toss the cubes in the flour mixture to coat. Put the mixture in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the pieces of butter are the size of hazelnuts.
While pulsing in quick, 4-second bursts, drizzle the ice water into the food processor through the feed tube.
As soon as the dough comes together in a ball, remove it from the food processor and divide it into two equal balls. Flatten to a disk and wrap each disk first in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the disks until firm, about 1 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding with your recipe.)

Tidal Pool

Turquoise, Coral and Carnelian Tidal Pool Necklace

I'm so excited to finally have my Tidal Pool Necklace listed on Etsy! I also took new photos of my Tidal Pool Ring. I'm liking my new photo set up and style, it seems fresh to me for some reason. I hope you like the images and the pieces too!

Tidal Pool Ring

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ahhhh Sweet Rain

We got some rain last night and the plants are loving it. I water the newer transplants and annuals daily, and even still they struggle. It is amazing how refreshed they look after a good rain.

Four o'clocks and canna blooming

My Cannas are doing well this year, better than ever before.

My cannas are doing well this year

Salvia Guarantica is one that really struggles with the heat, it looks great today.

Salvia Guarantica, really loving the rain!

The Morning Glories just keep getting better. Now that our new fence is up I'm thinking about putting my trellises along the fence with more annual vines.

grandpa ott morning glory

grandpa ott morning glory

another corner

The veggie garden is going crazy! I was out here last night building these trellises for the cucumbers to climb on. I think they will really appreciate it. I have already picked and eaten several baby cukes, but hopefully they will produce even better now.

Vegetable garden

Zinnias came up voluntarily in the garden. I think the seeds had been there for two years, just waiting for water because I didn't have a veggie garden last year. I have planted a few seeds this year, but am not having as much luck with them as the volunteers.

zinnias

The Veggie garden brings me lots of joy. I'm hoping that eggplant produces. If it does I will be making Baba Ganoush with homemade Pita Bread and some Eggplant Parmesan for my honey.

veggies

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Summer!

It's officially the first day of Summer, though it has felt like Summer here for quite a while!

A Texas Summer is Swimming holes, Beautiful Skies and Zinnias from my garden!

To me Summer in Texas is swimming in cold, clear water, enjoying the garden and all the work I put into it before it gets too hot, and big beautiful Texas skies.

In the Summer time I mostly just wear earrings, here are some Summery pieces that are easy to wear, lightweight and won't make you sweat.

Perfect Summer Hoops, these are my everyday earrings lately. Bonus, you don't have to take them off to go swimming!

Transparent Blue Circles

Transparent Teal Circles

Sky or Water colored Enamel Earrings. Sexy with a tank top or sundress!
I can make these in smaller sizes too.

Another pair of earrings that are perfect for summer, these Segmented Saucer Earrings are super light weight and have a fun swing to them.

If a necklace is more your Summer style, this one looks great with a plunging neckline. I picture a v-neck maxi dress with this necklace for a hot Summer evening.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day Dad!

Bill Dennard, Connie and Karl Akers
My parents (on the right) with friend Bill Dennard at an art show in Houston in about 1973.

My dad, Karl Akers, is the best. He has been endlessly supportive of my artistic endeavors for as long as I can remember. He was the first person to show me how to solder when I was in high school, and I knew that jewelry making was something that I wanted to learn from that point. It was several more years before I was able to take a metalsmithing class my sophomore year in college. When I took that class my parents gave me a tool box with a jewelers saw and some other tools that they had used in college. Dad had worked in the Arts and Crafts Studio at the University of Houston while he attended school there. Both of my parents used that studio to make some jewelry in those days. Though neither of them pursued jewelry making beyond those years, both are crafts people, dad a woodworker and mom a fiber artist. I grew up in a make it yourself household, surrounded by handmade objects, and art has always been a part of my life. Dad also gave me a jewelry design book that was an early influence on my aesthetic and interest in the field, Contemporary Jewelry A Studio Handbook. This book belonged to my dad, the original inscription reads, "To Karl, with Love. Happy Anniversary 1972. Connie", a gift from my mom to my dad. Below that reads, "To Ashley, My own Jeweler. Love Dad, Christmas 1995". Dad built my workbench, made my hydraulic press, has made display cases and earring stands, tent weights and many other necessities for an art booth. He has helped me to set up for shows and hung out at shows. I am one lucky girl, and these are just the jewelry related things that dad does for me. More recently he made Frank and I a bench with our names sandblasted in the side and built a fence in our backyard in the 100 degree heat. Like I said, my dad is the best. He even wears my jewelry. He has several bracelets that I have made, and has worn them all over the years. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of those. His favorite bracelet was lost last year, it was a simple woven sterling chain. I plan to make him another of those for his Father's Day gift.

Dad, Mom and I in May 1978.
May 1978

The bench and new fence that dad built us.
The bench and new fence

Happy Father's Day to all you fathers out there! I hope you have a wonderful day with your family and friends enjoying a celebration of fatherhood.