Monday, November 17, 2014


If you are a smoker then you know what it is like to want to deny the habit. I would rather jump into a pool of acid than to admit, on my blog no less, that I smoked cigarettes. But, here I am admitting it. I figure I must have been a smoker for 35 years. Notice I said that in the past tense? I have spent the better part of every day, for the past month, doing nothing except for not smoking.

I had tried to quit smoking millions dozens of times in the last few decades. For each failed attempt, I had a set of reasons. Yes, there are so many really great reasons to quit. They are so obvious that I won't even list them. If you smoke, then you know what they are and if you don't smoke... then you know what they are. But, apparently, I hadn't found the right combination of reasons to quit.

I had every obvious reason to quit. But, I had a new reason, too. Our health insurance had dramatically changed, becoming much more expensive. Worse than that, our beloved doctor of some 15 years closed up shop because of all the new guidelines. There were a lot of changes going on behind the scenes at our Dr.'s shared practice. He thought that his patients were suffering for it. He was limited to seeing a patient for under 15 minutes per appointment, too. You have no idea how hard it was for us to find a really great Dr., I didn't want to lose him. My husband was even more unhappy with the prospect of losing our doctor. After a month of being, literally, at a loss, we got a call that he was opening his own office. One problem:  It would be a Concierge Practice.

Essentially, what being a concierge practice means is that the practice requires a per patient retainer, in our case, to be paid up-front every year. So, we had to fork out-- out of the blue-- a substantial amount of money to be able to be one of the few patients whom he would follow at his new private practice. This Dr. is worth every penny and I don't blame him for a second for choosing to open his office like this. Now, we will be able to see him whenever we need to or we can call him on the phone. He will see us in the office for as long as we need or he will make a house call. His secretary can even hand deliver prescriptions to our house, if need be. While all of those are great bennys, I don't think I will be calling him to my house! I'm just happy to continue seeing him. Unfortunately, the expense, especially coming on top of the increasing changes to our insurance plan, made the concierge service something of a burden. 

Being able to keep our family doctor required sacrifice. In fact, the yearly cost comes in at almost the same amount of money as it costs me to smoke! No brainer, right? Well, the nicotine addled and addicted part of my brain assured me that we didn't really need this doctor. My husband, on the other hand, really wanted to continue seeing our doctor. He didn't usually have very strong opinions about things. For him to share this was a pretty big deal. So, without even really thinking about it, I quit smoking.

Quitting, for my husband's sake, has turned into a much easier and more gratifying way for me to quit. If I were to do it for myself, I could easily justify smoking again. I mean, we are talking about a woman who has absolutely no shame in admitting that she loved to smoke. No lie. I rarely, if ever, took a drag, leaned back and contemplated how much I disliked that cigarette. No, in fact, it was exactly opposite. My husband says that I was the most contented smoker he had ever seen. I would happily continue to smoke and take full responsibility for my untimely death. However, I love my husband even more than I loved to smoke, which, as I said, was a lot.

I have gone cold turkey. From the first day, this attempt to quit has felt different from all the rest. Although, I am not using a patch, gum, ecig, etc., I have not craved a cigarette bad enough to remember it. During the first crucial 72 hours of the nicotine withdrawal, I was 99.9% free of any withdrawal side effects. I haven't wanted to scream at anyone, throw anything; nor, cry for any reason.

I am not having any of the usual problems. However, I do have one really strange and terrible side effect. It is that I have lost all of my muse. Every last bit of it. The weird thing is that I am bored to death, but I have absolutely no motivation, desire or initiative to do much of anything about it. I think my psyche is adjusting to not having a cigarette to punctuate the beginnings and ends of all the tasks in a day. But, I am taking things one day at a time and dealing with whatever comes my way. In order to be a winner at quitting, I am willing to go with the flow and let my muse play hide and seek with me. It has been frustrating. I don't mind, though. I am in this for the long haul. I can wait for her to settle back in.

To close this post, let me just say, if you still smoke and want to quit or have tried to quit and failed, keep trying until something really clicks for you. Honestly, I believe in my heart, mind and soul that I am an ex smoker- even though I have not been quit much more than a month. It just took my most personally, perfect motivation to get it right. I'm pulling for you! You can do it, too!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Muse Replenishing Vacation

With summer winding down and the end to my cabbing days nearing, I recently realized that my wire muse had gone missing. Wire wrapping became a forced chore rather than a pleasure. "Forced chore"? Yes. Forced chore. Rather than being inspired or compelled to push boundaries, I have been, for the most part, just going though the motions, with few inspired pieces. If you run a shop, then you know that can happen.

Golden Ocean Jasper in sterling silver with patina

I have waxed on before about selling. Selling my jewelry has never been an easy thing for me to do. I do it so I can buy more rocks and wire and so I don't have piles of jewelry sitting around. I have learned, though, that it is very rewarding to see the right piece go to the right person. I also find it very humbling that people want to part with their hard earned dollars for my things. And, it makes me happy to make other people happy when they acquire something they love. I have learned that selling has its virtues. But, the act of selling itself has always been difficult for me. "Damn it, Jim, I'm an artist, not a salesperson". (Sorry, a little Star Trek there.) It is very hard to be both. Selling is very time consuming work and self promotion, for me, is like having a root canal done. But, I have learned to deal with it -- only to learn, too, that it saps my creative juices.

Natural Cobalto Calcite Druzy in sterling silver

About three weeks ago, I got a custom order for about eight pendants with the clients stones. When I got the cabs, I was pleasantly surprised to find not only some lovely cabs to work with, but some challenging cabs to work with, too. Some were very small, which I'm not used to doing and some were Montana agates which are very slippery. One was double domed and one was real thick. They each presented a challenge.

Agate in sterling silver

Dinosaur bone in sterling silver

As I sat and thought of ways to wrap the cabs, I felt a renewed interest in wire wrapping. Soon, they began wrapping themselves. I stayed on a roll, too. I was so happy to get my muse back, but I had little time to do it while running my shop.

Deschutes Jasper in sterling silver

K2 jasper in sterling silver

It was about that time when I decided to take a break and spend some quality time with my wire. I had a temporary problem in my shop and needed to put it on vacation for a few days. After I did that, I realized that it was a blessing in disguise. I really needed that break.

Little Gel Lepidolite in sterling silver

Maw Sit Sit Jadeite in 14k gf

I'm going to try not to be closed for too long. I feel like I am skipping school! I guess me and my wire will be playing hooky until the little nag in the back of my head says, "Enough play, back to work!"...

Little Argentinian Rhodochrosite in sterling silver

Turquoise in sterling silver with patina
Peristerite (schiller feldspar) in sterling silver with patina

... Until that time, I will be here wrapping to my heart's content and getting ready for Old man Winter to set in again. 

Happy Wrapping and may the Muse be with you :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Free Wire Wrapping Mini Tutorial : Wire Wrapped Bail / Woven Bail

Hello good readers! I hope you all are having a wonderful day. I woke up to a horrible day. Awful, just awful. Then I got an email from someone who is performing a random act of kindness on my behalf. I can't tell you how much this improved my day!

In the spirit of paying it forward and since I'm not rich enough to surprise you all with an envelope of cash. (Who wouldn't love that??) I have decided to share a quick tutorial I whipped up for a friend a while back.

I don't know how other people do their woven bails, but this is how I do it. You will need to be a relatively competent and experienced wire wrapper to follow this, but it shouldn't be too hard to give it a try, anyway. This will depend on how well your eye is calibrated, too, because you'll have to make some decisions on your own, based on your project. (Try it with copper first.)

As some of you know, I like to tie down my wires. If you are comfortable not doing that, then by all means, adapt this to suit your style. This isn't written in stone. Experiment. For example, I like to wrap with (4) 20g round wires, so I have 8 at the top. I turn 2 down leaving 6 to weave with. You can do it whichever way you work, but you will need, at least, 2 wires at the the top to weave. If you are using 22g, you should probably hammer your wires. But, use your own judgement. That's what wrapping is all about- individual expression.

If you find this Free Wire Wrapping Mini Tutorial useful, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you. :) I'd love to see you at my new blog and site, too.

Remember to pay it forward.

So, here it is- the rough, dirty and quick pictorial tutorial for my wire wrapped woven bails. You can click to enlarge images.

2.5 arm lengths is a good start. Better to have some leftover than to run short. BTW, my arms are kinda short, so don't make it too much.

Have fun and happy wrapping!

Monday, September 22, 2014

White Balance Settings

Last week, I touched on DSLR cameras, mid range cameras and depth of field. This post will address white balance and why you should understand it.

Have you ever noticed in your pictures that your pretty white backgrounds were red or that your subject was some groovy color not found in nature? I sure have! That is, until I learned about the white balance settings on my camera and what they can do for me.

Most cameras, even some point and shoot cameras will offer a few settings which will allow you to shoot more accurate colors in different lighting conditions. You see, cameras, especially modern digital cameras, are computers. You have to tell it what you want. It doesn't have our brain or eyes. So, tell it what lighting conditions you are shooting under and it will try to accommodate your needs. Every lighting condition will look differently.

My mid range Canon G-12 has lots of white balance settings. I can choose the setting most like my conditions, or I can set my white balance manually. I don't know your camera, so you'll have to get to know a few of its functions to follow along. If you lost your manual- Google is your friend. :)

The following images were taken of a pale pink limb cast chalcedony cabochon on a sheet of white paper under halogen lights with the Canon G-12. I used every white balance setting. White balance is sometimes just referred to as lighting conditions.

This is a little purple looking to me.


Warmer still


Warm again

Warm .... again

.... and warm

I set the custom white balance, using a sheet of white paper, since the camera doesn't have a halogen setting. The color is closer now, but it is still a little cool (blue) and still needs help with the gray background.

Using Photoshop or another image editing program which has levels, pick the white eye dropper and click it in a white area of your image. That should brighten things up. Play around with levels a bit and get a feel for what it does.

Here, the image background is almost true white (you can still make out a tiny tinge of blue) and the stone isn't as dark. My stone, indeed, looks like this indoors and under halogen lights. 

Of course, if you can, try to use natural sunlight. My stone is a bit washed out, but the color is very close to what it looks like outside. I used the daylight setting on my camera.

So many of us post images online to share or to build an ad for selling purposes. It is paramount that these images look great. But, they should look like the original, too. Be careful not to over process, but don't neglect the little tweaks, like levels, that will improve your images. 

I finally found my forever camera with my Nikon D5200. If you don't have many options on your camera, especially white balance options, you really should consider another camera. Don't beat your head against the wall because you can't get good shots. Take a breath and explore your settings. Learn your camera. If you still can't get great images, maybe it isn't you. Maybe its just time to step up.

If you are happy with your camera and you can set a custom white balance get a digital gray card on eBay to help you set the white balance. I could have gotten an even closer white balance had I used it, but I'm lazy and I wanted to show you levels. Essentially, the gray card is an exact gray point for your camera to reference. Instead of using a white paper, you use the card. Really simple and effective.

Since I haven't posted any jewelry in awhile, here's a couple pieces I recently finished. I used custom white balance on the Nikon D5200 using a gray card, a light tent with color correct bulbs and a shallow depth of field. I shot on full manual except for the auto focus lens.

Willow Creek Jasper

Stone Canyon Jasper

Dinosaur Bone

Gemmy Druzy Ocean Jasper

Purple and Red Agate

Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful. Post your comments and or questions and I'll address them and answer, if I can.