SCULPTURAL EARRINGS

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A few years ago, I introduced a wonderful line of sculptural earrings at the League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Fair.

They were BIG. Each set contained multiple examples of my handmade artifacts. Animals (birds, horses, otter, fish, bears), beach drift (pebbles, sea shells) and small “bones”.

Many were asymmetric, too. I loved balancing color and weight, while varying the elements.

People loved them. A few brave souls bought them.

One of my favorite stories was the professional violinist who fell in love with an especially long pair. They would interfere when she played her violin. We spent a good amount of time, trying to brainstorm a solution. Finally she exclaimed, “Oh, what the heck, I’ll wear them when I’m not playing the violin!” And she bought them.

Many musicians see musical notation in my marks.  They're more right than they know....

Many musicians see musical notation in my marks. They’re more right than they know….

Fellow artist Rosemary Conroy has a pair, too.

Rosemary's animal paintings are marvelous--check 'em out!  She picked animal earrings.

Rosemary’s animal paintings are marvelous–check ’em out! She picked animal earrings.

But many more languished on my worktable, especially since I couldn’t do the Fair last summer.

I love making them. People love looking at them. They’re expensive, for earrings. What to do???

P1000636

As always, a customer–and friend–inspired me.

Marcie had me custom-design several pairs of earrings. And here’s the astonishing thing: Marcie doesn’t have pierced ears. Yes, this amazing woman was going to get her ears pierced so she could war these fabulous earrings!

In the end, Marcie decided not to pierce her ears. Did she want to return the earrings, I asked. “Hell, no!” said Marcie (or words to that effect.) She invited me to her home to see what she’d done with them.

She’d set up a small shrine in a special place. Above it was a small wall hanging she purchased from me years ago. Below it, an upright box, filled with small, precious things that held meaning for her.

And hanging in the box were my earrings.

Today I realized that’s what these earrings are for.

I made this display for my museum mount-making class last year.  Foreshadowing!

I made this display for my museum mount-making class last year. Foreshadowing!

Many people tell me they love my jewelry so much, they never take it off. They tell me it’s their favorite piece. They love the stories, too.

But….There are jewelry pieces I make–pieces that really express my inner ancient woman–that you just don’t wear to to the beach, or to work. They are beautiful. They are powerful. But these pieces often don’t make it out of the jewelry box.

So what if the jewelry box…..became a shadow box? What if they’re sold as a unit?

What if the jewelry….is really a sculpture-in-miniature?

What if you could wear it on occasion….and look at it every single day?

What if it made you…and your home….look beautiful?

It’s a good feeling, standing back and taking a new look at these pieces. I feel that this year, they are finally coming into their own. That’s what happens with my artwork. Sometimes the pieces come into the world, and it takes time to realize what their most powerful place in life will be.

For the days you’re feeling your warrior woman self (or just rockin’ the big earring thing), you can wear them out in the world.

And for the days that call for a quieter, more introspective you, well, they can be on display in their own little shadow box.

Enjoy these sculptural earrings!

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Sculptures look GREAT with these dramatic earrings! Sculptures look GREAT with these dramatic earrings![/caption]

bracelets and earrings in shadow boxes.

bracelets and earrings in shadow boxes.

TWO SENTENCES IS ALL IT TAKES: Lessons from a Michael’s Ad

I don't know what the story of the red stag is yet, but I'll figure it out eventually.

I don’t know what the story of the red stag is yet, but I’ll figure it out eventually.

After reading all my articles about artist statements, are you going to tell me you still don’t like to talk about your art?

Then tell me about YOU.

Yes, I’m going to rag on you about your artist statement again.  (I’m never too busy for that!)

I’m getting ready for the League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair, and I should be doing a bajillion other things right now. But I got up early. I’ve got half a cuppa coffee in me.

And as always, I found a little artist life lesson in today’s email inbox.

It’s an e-newsletter from Michael’s. They asked six of their employees how they use picture frame to express themselves in their own homes.

I think they’ve taken a online peek at Oprah Magazine, but I took a look.

And here’s your takeaway:

Everyone said what they needed to say in two sentences.

Yes, in two sentences, you learn what these folks’ passions are. What’s important to them. What they chose to display in their homes, and why.

Melissa, like me, loves to shop for vintage eclectic stuff. Jenny has an artist’s eye for the tiny, beautiful details around her. Susan uses her photographer’s eye to capture unforgettable moments in her family’s life.

Yes, it’s a Michael’s ad.

But it’s also an intimate peek into the minds–and hearts–of six creative people.

And they did it in 25 words or less.

Now, it’s not easy to crystallize who you are into that short a sentence. Yes, I struggle with that, too.

But it’s worth it.

People have made art for over 50,000 years. It’s part of who we are. I explore what it means to be human and an artist, in the world today, through ancient stories retold with my modern artifacts.

(I know, it could be better. It’s always a work in progress!) Editor!!

HEY! I know…..
Tell me what you think MY 25-words-or-less could be!

CYNTHIA PICKED ME TODAY!

I’m still in a frenzy-crazy-making mode (just ask anyone in my family. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Yeah, they confirmed, right?) getting ready for the League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Craft Fair.

I’m swamped. And it shows. My studio has “projects” stacked four deep. My piles are careening into other piles. I’m busy! Busy! Busy!

And when I saw today’s Polymer Clay Daily post from Cynthia Tinapple, I thought, “I’m BUSY!!! But I gotta look….”

Because every Polymer Clay Daily post is a mini-treat/mental vacation/feast for the soul.
Plus it promised a time management tip. “I could use that!” I thought.

So I clicked. And thought, “There must be some mistake. That’s…..”

ME!!!!

My e-postcard pic of my ancient horse shaman necklace! Right there on Polymer Clay Daily!

So if you haven’t checked out Cynthia’s breezy, cool selections of innovative, fresh work from polymer clay artists around the world, visit her site today.

Oh. And be sure to tell her how much you loooooooooove my work, okay? (No pressure.) (Yes. PRESURE!)

This color combo reminds me of sunrise, sunset.

This color combo reminds me of sunrise, sunset.

WHAT HAS TO BE DONE NEXT? Time Management Tips for You

The Fair is coming! The Fair is coming!

The Fair is coming! The Fair is coming!

I don’t know about you, but right now, I’m running around like a crazed monkey in a giant puzzle box, trying to figure out what to do next.

I’m getting ready for the 80th League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Craft Fair. It’s where I see most of my collectors and patrons for the year. It’s where I introduce new work. In my booth, I create the most beautiful displays for my jewelry, sculpture and wall hangings. This year, it’s where I’ll introduce my new presentation of my artifacts in restored vintage and antique wood boxes.

Ignore the woodworking shop in the background.  That's my friend Gary's studio where I've been working all summer.

Ignore the woodworking shop in the background. That’s my friend Gary’s studio where I’ve been working all summer.

It’s also where I’ll struggle to put up my booth on a ski slope, stand for nine days in 95 degree weather, and wonder if I’ll make enough money to get me through to next year’s show.

Joy and anguish, laughter and tears, exhilaration and exhaustion, uplifted spirit and aching body. Yes, welcome to the Fair!

I’m getting too old for this.

But I digress. This is about preparing for the Fair: Creating new work (which always seems to happen as the deadlines approach). Creating and mailing a postcard to my customer list (over 1,000, and I’m very picky about who gets on my mailing list nowadays). Rebuilding inventory. Trying to remember where I packed my display stands and signs two years ago. (I took a “sabbatical” last year for knee replacement surgery.)

There are two techniques I use to get everything done. And asking a question is the key to both.

The first is productive procrastination. I’ve written about this before, so briefly… If you procrastinate (come on, ‘fess up! No one can see you while you’re reading this!) then, when faced with a task you don’t want to do, ask yourself:

What else can I do instead?

This technique is powerful, because you can get so much done! Just not the one thing you really need to do.

The second just came to me this morning. (I am the slow learner. That’s why I still write about this stuff.) Today, for example, I have about a bajillion things to do. (Yes, the procrastination technique backfired.) So the last few days I’ve been frantic–absolutely frantic–(hence the monkey metephor) about how much I have to do, and how much has gone wrong, resulting in even less time to finish this. So this morning, I ask myself:

What has to be done next?

And the answer (today–finish my postcard mailing!) gives clarity. And relief. And peace.

It’s not my fault the mailing is running late. I gave the order to the printer in plenty of time to make my deadline. (I have learned the printing lesson the hard way, and almost always allow 3x the time needed for a print job.) But despite my best efforts, the print job is late, my new label making program is overwhelming complicated, and everything that could have gone wrong, did.

The fact remains, however… What I need to do right now is label, stamp and mail these postcards.

That clarity is enough to slow my heart rate and soothe my frazzled brain.

By the way, if you don’t get a postcard from me in the next few days (and you usually do), blame my mailing list/label high-tech woes. In the meantime, here’s all you need to know:

LUANN UDELL http://www.LuannUdell.com
271 Roxbury ST Keene NH 03431
Luann@LuannUdell.com 603-352-8633

I’m all better! I’m back!!! YES, I’ll be at the
80th League of NH Craftsman’s Annual Fair
Mt. Sunapee Resort in Newbury, NH
Saturday Aug. 3 thru Sunday Aug. 11
10-5 daily rain or shine
Tent 2 Booth 203

NEW! My work displayed in restored &
refinished antique shadow boxes. They are
beautiful!! Create your own display!

(You can also scold me for not being here
last August….IF you bring chocolate.)

Photography by Roma Dee Holmes

And here’s the pic for the postcard:

Old new necklace displayed inside new old box.  Is that confusing?

Old new necklace displayed inside new old box. Is that confusing?

STORMY WEATHER, SUMMER VERSION: Lessons From a Bunny

Reflections from Stormy Weather, a story I wrote 8 years ago, and still can’t read without crying.

I work well under pressure…even if I have to create it myself (damn it!)

I’ve had all these visions in my head for a wonderful new body of work for months. And now that I’m on fire with making them visible in the world, I’m running out of time.

To be fair, the delay wasn’t all my fault. I really was stuck. Couldn’t move forward. Too many technical obstacles.

Simply put, I want to create displays–permanent display cases–showcasing my artifacts and animals, including jewelry. I imagine them sitting on table tops or wall hung, each one a shrine. Collectors can use them as I make them. Or they can add their own favorite objets de mémoire et le désir, as many customers have done. (You send pictures, people! I LOVE that.)

Soon I was overwhelmed with questions:
Where do I get the boxes? Okay, make that affordable boxes?
What kind of boxes will work? How do I refinish or restore them to keep/create that old, worn well-used look?
What about the mounts? Despite taking a terrific online mount-making class, I still can’t solder brass. What about using the steel stands I already have? Wait–I need more! But they’re getting to expensive to have custom-made!!

Here comes my friend and mentor, Gary Spykman, to the rescue! (Gary’s new venture is here.)

I’ve been a guest in his workshop the last four months, and he’s helped me find the answers to all these questions. I’ve learned to size up a good box candidate, determine what it needs to get the right “look”, where to find the necessary products and tools, how to order the parts for steel stands and hammer them together myself. I’ve learned a lot, and look forward to…well, soldering brass pretty soon.

I never thought the damn polymer would stymie me.

I tried to put together a magnificent new animal sculpture. I had a vision, and I knew all the techniques. Surely that would be the “easy” part, right?

Nah.

It all came apart late last night. (Literally and figuratively.)

Yes, the pic is fuzzy.  I don't want you to see how badly broken the antlers are.

Yes, the pic is fuzzy. I don’t want you to see how badly broken the antlers are.

And again, to be fair, I’m working outside my comfort zone, trying new sculpture techniques, experimenting. Always scary territory for an artist, and one that probably shouldn’t be undertaken two weeks before the damn thing is due at the exhibit.

This morning I took as long as I could to check my email and surf my tribal forms (e.g., the forum at BeadCollector.net and Facebook.) But finally, I had to admit it was time to start over with new antlers. (Oops!)

As I mixed up more clay, I saw a funny scrap of raw clay on my worktable.

It looked like….a rabbit.

Tell me I'm not crazy--do you see the bunny??

Tell me I’m not crazy–do you see the bunny??

So I made a rabbit bead.

My first bunny bead, ready to "fire".

My first bunny bead, ready to “fire”.

Rabbits and I go way back. I’ve written many times about the life lessons my beloved Bunster has taught me.

And I’ve noticed that, in the world, so many, many times, the things people write about/rant about/resent/judge are the very things they carry so painfully in their own hearts. Myself included. This astonishing article about Debbie Miller and her advice about taking creative risks and daring to be our true selves–which she never took herself until recently–resonated with me today. Beautiful,powerful words–if only we could really hear them!!!

It’s like writing about these things helps US be brave. And hopefully, helps readers, too.

And maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe we can’t hear these words until the ground is ready to receive them.

So what am I writing about today?

I’m writing about not being afraid.

But I’m actually writing about being very very afraid.

Afraid my work will be judged (again!) by unhappy, vindicative people.
Afraid my work is just a bad, sad echo of people who are much further on the cutting edge of polymer than I will ever be.
Afraid I am not worthy of making the stuff I make.

And yet I have to make it.

And so the rabbit.

Lee’s words come back to me like a prayer:

“Quit reading about the fear!” he exclaimed. “Be ordinary! You are creative—make your art!” He bent over to stroke Bunster, and his voice became gentle again. “Be like your bunny. She’s fearful—but she has a place in this world…”

I have a place in this world….

My art, my writing, my buzzing brain, my restless dreams, my searching, searching, searching for what I bring to this world…and what will be forgotten as soon as I’m gone, my best intentions and my worst fears, my generous and gracious soul and all my many, many, many shortcomings…

All have a place in this world.

Sometimes it’s okay to be ordinary….

If it gets you to an extraordinary place in your heart, eventually.

FRESHWATER PEARL BEAD TIP

No, I don't have too many pearls.  I can ALWAYS use more!

No, I don’t have too many pearls. I can ALWAYS use more!

I love using freshwater pearls in my jewelry. In fact, sometimes I think I make jewelry just so I have an excuse to buy pearls.

Today I got a newsletter from Beading Daily, an Interweave Press blog, about working with pearls. They suggested buying large-holed pearls for easier stringing on thicker cords, or using a hand bead reamer to enlarge smaller holes.

These are both great ideas, but there are even better ways to use your current pearl stash with leather cord designs.

I added this tip to their comment box, and thought I’d share it with you, too.

I love freshwater pearls strung on leather cord, too, but there are easier ways to enlarge the holes to accommodate.

Rings ‘n’ Things has a nifty battery-operated bead reamer (Item # 69-058 for $16) that speeds up the process considerably.

My first electric bead reamer.  I actually used it so much, I fried it.

My first electric bead reamer. I actually used it so much, I fried it.

It’s very safe to use–you won’t lose fingers!–and works quickly to enlarge pearl holes. I work with a small cup of water, submerging the bead and the drill tip, and use a ream/release/ream/release technique.

Once you are drilling so much, you can’t keep up with the fresh batteries, try a mini-rotary tool kit.

An awesomely amazing versatile tool!  And yes, the over-exuberance is warranted.

An awesomely, amazingly versatile tool! And yes, the over-exuberance is warranted.

Dremel is the most well-known brand, but you can buy nice lesser-known brands for $15-$25. They’ll come with a case and dozens of drill bits. They’re the same size as the bead reamer, with an electric cord instead of batteries. You can drill til the cows come home. (Sorry. I’m from the Midwest.)

BUT….the kits don’t have the wonderful bead reamer tip! Go back to Rings ‘n’ Things and buy these replacement bead reamer tips (item #69-058-A). Strip off the plastic tube casing that allows them to fit the battery tool, and they’ll fit your mini rotary tool.

And the amazingly awesome yet hard-to-find bead reamer tips.

And the amazingly awesome yet hard-to-find bead reamer tips.

You can actually use this tool to drill bigger holes in glass beads. Stone beads, too, but they take a little longer.

At one point, I was boring out so many pearls, I burned out my battery-powered bead reamer! Hence the switch to the small mini-rotary tool.

I’m betting once you try this amazing little tool, you’re going to find dozens of other uses for it.

P.S. For some reason, these don’t show up in catalogs or search engines under any variation of “drill”. Look for “mini rotary tool kit” and you’ll find ’em.