What’s New for the New Year?

I expect to be doing a lot of wire weaving work in the next few months – reason being that it has finally “clicked” for me, and instead of being frustrated by all but the most simple of efforts, I am getting really excited to be making some more elaborate pieces.

Sodalite Semiprecious Gemstone Pendant with Wire Frame

Sodalite Bead Pendant Framed with Copper Woven Wire and Antiqued for a Rich Patina

You can see more images of the work, and purchase if you’d like, through my Etsy shop. This piece was made following a tutorial, but now I feel confident that I can actually branch off on my own and come up with designs without following a step by step process.  In fact, this afternoon I will be working in weaving a frame for a beautiful Fire Agate that I recently purchased.

I’m also making new earrings almost daily, and have been traveling this last month and stopping at bead shops along the way.  Here are a few pieces that have come out of recent bead binges! Click on the images to be directed to the item in my shop.

Swarovski Crystal Pearls with Vintaj Bead Caps

Pearly Beads, from Swarovski, topped with pretty Vintaj bead caps

Another pair of earrings recently made – simple and casual.  A little bit of metal manipulation to halter these pretty Dove Gray Czech Glass beads.

Czech Glass Beaded Drop Earring

Pretty drops of Czech Glass in Dove Gray Sway from Antiqued Brass Rings

Next is another dagger-style drop design, pinched with a delicate bail.  Something a little bit unexpected!

Iridescent Earrings Black Tie Gala Dressing

Iridescent Glass Twists, Suspended from a Delicate Bail

 

Feel free to browse both my Talisman Too and Talisman Studios Shops, to see what else has been done since your last visit, and “Favorite the shops to see new additions when you log on to your own home page at Etsy!

 

A Few of My Favorite Things

I have to admit that, when I organize my inventory, I am often enchanted with my own work. I guess that’s not a bad thing!

Here are some of my recently made items, but you know what?  I have not been able to get time to work with all the newly found beads I have – oh, how I wish the temps would cool down a bit, so I can feel inspired to work with them.

Ruby Red Czech Glass Bead Earrings Copper Accents

Deep Red Czech Glass Beads, accented with Antiqued Copper

Genie Lantern Earrings in Iridescent Blue

Genie Lantern Earrings in soft blue iridescent glass, accented in antiqued brass

Blush Pink Beaded Earrings with Antiqued Copper

Lovely peach pink Czech glass beads, with hand hammered earring pins and wires, antiqued copper

 

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The Big Problem With Hillary Clinton

Big-Problem

Disclaimer: This post has absolutely nothing to do with my creative endeavors Talisman Studio and Talisman Too.  However, I enjoy writing, and believe we live in, as the purported ancient Chinese curse goes, “interesting times.” Many of my friends and family supported Sanders during the primaries, and likely still do, but I feel it was of the utmost importance to choose a president who is capable of leading us through the delicate path the world is currently embarked upon.  Sanders was not that person, and Trump is such a blunderer I swear his intention is to destroy our political structure, and our country’s place in the greater society, in it’s entirety.

So forgive me for “going rogue” with a political post. For what it’s worth, it is as much about my personal viewpoint on gender equality as it is on the 2016 U.S.  presidential election.

Polls tell us that a large portion of the citizens of the United States have a problem with Hillary Clinton and that, as a presidential candidate, they hold reservations in casting a vote in her direction. Check in with any news source for even a short while, and you’ll be apprised of a smattering of reasons for this discomfort with our Democratic nominee.

Take a moment to think about what is actually behind those labels and, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably come to the same realization that I have. The problem with Hillary Clinton is not that she is seen as untrustworthy, dishonest, or as Donald Trump loves to remind his listeners every time he drops reference to her, crooked. The REAL problem is that Hillary Clinton is a strong woman.

It is that simple.

How do I know? Because, as another old saying goes: It takes one to know one.

As a strong woman who recognizes strength in another woman, I clearly understand that Hillary Clinton gets the same reactions and responses that I have dealt with from the day I understood that it was not acceptable for a little girl to playact as a Cherokee Warrior, galloping her sawhorse pony across the grassy plains of her backyard without a shirt on.

It was a tearful moment for me when I came to that awareness, as I am completely certain it was for Mrs. Clinton the first time she stepped forward and bumped up against that unseen barrier that has kept women corralled the world over for centuries. Apparently, there were times long ago when women were not deemed the lesser gender, but for anyone alive today, that is indeed ancient history.

My revelation that “boys will be boys, but girls must be girls” grated pretty strongly on my sensibilities, even as a child of about four years old. I adored the stories of native women that I knew of, particularly Sacajawea, who anyone with a fairly decent intelligence quotient knows saved the day, day after day, for Lewis and Clark. She was a strong woman, but instead of being honored as an equal, if not leading, member of the expedition, history gives her only a supporting role, and that was the story I was told. But I did not see myself as a woman who happened to gently point out the upcoming right turn or left exit as I tended to the more important task of cooking dinner; I saw myself as the warrior, scouting for opportunity, and safeguarding my people.

I can think of a few other strong women that I was aware of as a child, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, and Madame Curie, and they were viewed almost as anomalies. The unspoken part of the story was that “most” girls should consider themselves unlikely to make history, that we would almost all eventually play out our part, as women, and strive to marry, bear children, and keep our husbands and children content, in that order. Our Barbie dolls showed us what we should endeavor toward as we grew up, but left us to imagine how to prepare for the day when we married our “Ken” and took on the role of an adult woman.

Of course, a good number of us rejected the suggestion that we were fit only to be wives and mothers, or that if we must support ourselves, it should be respectable work for a spinster, such as that of a teacher or librarian. My own mother, in the late 1950’s, disappointed her parents by choosing to go to nursing school. They wondered, aloud, why she should bother, since she would be wasting the education. Against odds my mom persevered, and used her nursing degree, although she did delay work until her last, her eight, child was in school.

Some strong women find their voice only after trying for years to live within the constraints applied to them. This is often the case with a woman who finally speaks up against harassment in the working place years after that time has passed. When it is happening, we believe the veiled threats that our career depends on compliance. Often, the implication is the reality. At my first job in the fashion design field, the owner, and some of the male employees of the company, regularly “flirted” in sexual ways with the female employees, most of whom were hired fresh from college. I was groped in the stockroom, and even followed into the woman’s restroom on one occasion. One day I felt something on my leg, about calf height. Thinking it was a mouse, I quickly turned, only to see that it was a rat; the owner of the company was running his hand up the length of my leg, because “the pattern on my hose was so sexy.”

At that particular job, each and every young lady who applied for ads in sales was told the starting job was as “sales assistant” to the owner, and that they would also handle the front desk. In other words, they were to be the receptionist, and would sometimes make calls to buyers on behalf of their boss. They had no accounts of their own, and whenever a strong women demanded their promised promotion, they were given one-half of one percent commission on sales, when all men hired received one or two percent at starting sales positions. No man was ever told they need start at the front desk, either. Lest one think that was back in the early years of females in the workspace, it was not. I was employed there from 1988 to 1991.

Today I would stop a fellow employee at the first instance of sexual harassment, but as a young designer, I knew very well that any complaint would have me blacklisted in the industry. We all knew this. I’m sure that Hillary Clinton, too, saw and experienced harassment on some level in the early years of her career.

Yet, we persevered. We developed strategies to dodge abusive people, and continue on our professional progression. In doing so, we often found ourselves labeled, sometimes to our faces, and sometimes behind our backs:; labels like Ball Buster, Backstabber, and Bitch. When we attained powerful managerial positions, it was almost always assumed we had “slept our way to the top.” If it was clear that we were not the type to do so, people were sure we must be lesbians, as if this explained the fact that we had been able to discover some covert entry point into the men’s club – a corner office. It was never on our hard work and professional merits that we had been given that which was our due. Every decision we made was second-guessed by subordinates unqualified to analyze the situation, and every workplace guideline we put in place was resisted, simply because it chafed many to be “told by a woman.”

I am sure there are many young people for whom these tales seem implausible. What I say to you is this: Thank your lucky stars that you can’t imagine such things. Your lucky stars, and many strong women and strong, decent, men who fought, and continue to fight, for gender equality. Women like Hillary Clinton.

A woman does not gain a position of authority by demurring to those who see her as an inferior, nor does she get there by ignoring signs of resistance when she is perceived as a threat. Strong women brace themselves for the battle, recognize and protect themselves from their foes, and ally themselves strategically. Just. Like. Men.

Strong women instill fear in the insecure members of both genders, and out of base instincts, those people lash out with whatever weapon they can get their hands on; untruthful rumors, attempts at debasement with name-calling, and sabotage. No one, no woman, has been forced to endure these attacks like Hillary Clinton has over the years. She has fully earned her place as a presidential nominee; a good percentage of others, past and present, could never have withstood the pressures she has taken on.

Hillary Clinton is a strong woman, and that is what troubles so many people. She can’t be easily hoodwinked, her composure doesn’t lapse when weak-minded people douse her with ugly monikers, and she won’t succumb to pressure tactics. Add to that strength of character the fact that she has an exceptional grasp on the political, social and economical state of the world today and a brilliant mind capable of maneuvering delicately through diplomatic channels. Our president cannot be focused on the United States and it’s problems as if this nation is somehow insulated from every other country on the planet. While it is true that we have a great number of issues within the U.S. that desperately need attention, to ignore our strengths and vulnerabilities as they relate on the greater stage would be a magnificent, and terrible, blunder. That is why I am glad that Hillary Clinton is a strong woman, and that I believe her “big problem” is also her greatest asset. That is why I’m with her.

An Historic Small Business

Small Business Saturday Harkens Back to an Every Day Lifestyle for Many

Brinegar Cabin Blue Ridge Parkway

On Saturday, November 28th, American Express will sponsor it’s sixth annual Small Business Saturday. As an entrepreneur with several online ventures, I have been planning my strategy for the day and intend to include the promotion of many other small businesses as part of my campaign.

I grew up “small business.” My father owned an independent propane gas service company, which his father had sold to him when he married. Grandpa Marcoe, a small businessman himself, divided his holdings amongst his children when they wed. The heating oil portion went to the husband of his youngest daughter, and the bar/bowling alley called Van Dyne Lanes to the oldest daughter’s husband(yes, in days back, the daughter’s husband got set up, with the expectation he would manage her welfare wisely). He kept his gasoline dealership for himself.  It was not a gas station as we think of today – instead he delivered gasoline to other garages, gas stations and private individuals who had a gas pump at their farm or residence(as did my father, who had to lock it up tight once his children began getting old enough to drive!).

On my mother’s side, her father was a milk delivery driver, who began his career with a horse-drawn wagon. She loved to make the joke “My daddy was the milkman!”

As a youngster, I was already in the minority by having a father that worked for himself in a small business venture. By the 1970’s, factory jobs were the norm for most in my community and there were several prominent one, such as Giddings and Lewis, Tobin Tool and Die, Mercury Marine and Speedqueen. Amazingly, all these companies are still operating, but I do recall the winnowing years as they pared down to survive as the Great Wave of Importing began washing upon our shores. It was tough for my father as a sole proprietor, but at least he had some semblance of control over his operations.  The factory workers were at the mercy of middle managers and factors beyond their comprehension, much less their ability to manage.

Currently, I am traveling for the winter months, as I do each year when it gets too cold to live in my woodland cabin in upstate New York. I decided to drive down the east side of the Appalachian Mountains, and in particular go through Shenandoah National Park and go the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Yesterday, I stopped to visit an historic homestead along the route, the Brinegar Family Cabin. I couldn’t help but to compare my more modern way of living, despite the fact I do live in a log cabin(albeit made from a kit) without plumbing or electricity. Whereas they had fireplaces in both rooms of the house to heat during cold months, I use a portable propane heater to warm things up before heading to bed and when waking up.  But unlike the Brinegars, I abandon ship once the weather actually begins to turn cold!

The Brinegars built a root cellar and spring house to keep their perishable foods, and though I refuse to purchase ice for my cooler, I am able to make trips to town easily enough that I need only keep food for a few days. The Brinegars used an outhouse and bathed in the cold spring, and I – well, some things don’t change!

But the thing that touched me during my visit to the Brinegar Farm, was to find out that Mister Brinegar, along with farming his 125 acres, made shoes for neighbors and nearby townsfolk, as well as acted as a notary public.

Brinegar FamilyBrenigar Family InformationBrenigar Family Information

Even in a lifestyle where so very much was done on one’s own, there remained some things one wanted or needed money for. Shoemaking obviously helped Mister Brinegar to bring in those funds. In that respect, he operated a small business. It may not have been as formally organized as our small businesses of today, but no doubt he fulfilled the needs of those who sought him out and did his best to satisfy them – hallmarks of any small businessperson with a desire to succeed.

On the other hand, maybe he just found joy in making shoes! I can certainly understand that.  It’s why, after four years and with sales not yet reached $1000, I keep buying beads to work on things for my Talisman Too shop! Part of having a small business is the ability to keep blowing oxygen at the coals, hoping at some point for ignition. For me, that would mean that I could count on the business to sustain me economically.  Until then, I have other ventures, including working at the Mohonk Preserve half year, to keep me fed and clothed…and buying beads like these below, which I found at Strand Beads in Boone, NC.

Czech Glass Beads to be Made into Earrings and Bracelets for Talisman Too CollectionsHere’s one pair of earrings I put together with some of the beads yesterday.

Czech Glass Earrings in Nature Tones Boho StyleI know I ramble as I type, but am told that this sort of wandering is part of the charms of my writing. The thing I am trying to convey is that small business has been a part of our world’s culture long before the age of industrialization.  I wonder just when it was that the first small businesses came into being?

So – to wrap things up – here’s my wishes for a strong Small Business Saturday to entrepreneurs in the US this year. Do you have a small business?  Feel completely free to post a link in the comments, along with a promotional bit!

 

Hats Off (On!) to Autumn

Winter Hat, made from vintage sweaters

I adore a cute hat, and since I spend the majority of my time in an outdoors environment, these first cool, post summer season days have me thinking about my wardrobe of chapeaus. The picture above is my tried and true standby. It’s made from recycled sweaters, by Face II Face London, and I paid good money($70) for it when I bought it at Barneys in about 1998. (I’ve tried to locate a web source for the designer of this hat and been unable – If anyone has a link, please contact me and I’ll update!)

Actually, my friend, Rita bought this particular hat. I had purchased another coloration, in creams and gray tones, from the same designer, and Rita so adored my cap that she immediately insisted we go find one for her. She chose this one, and we were an awesome pair when we sauntered the streets of Manhattan in these wonderfully original creations. Rita died a few years later, from Lung Cancer, and her partner asked me to help clean out her closets. He kept suggesting I take an item; that Rita would have wanted her clothing to go to friends, but Rita was size 4 or 6, and I am…not. When I saw the blue sweater hat nestled with a pile of her winter accessories I knew I could honor our friendship by donning that cap.

So, most of the time, that is the hat I wear in winter, but I still really love hats! And so I find myself thinking about a purchase…..

Here’s another one, which I bought last year at a local craft show. This piece was made by Karen Lloyd of Knit in Color.  It was just so damned cute that when I saw it, I had to take it home! It has a tassel on the back as well as the two at the sides, and the texture of the yarn is fantastic. She has similar ones in other colors in her shop, and…I know this post is about hats, but Karen also makes doggy sweaters(and my Lucas loves the one she made custom for him!)..

COLORFUL HAT FROM Knit In Color

Another hat I wear, this one from Knit In Color

One of my favorite places to window shop are at the digital boutiques of my fellow Etsy sellers. I’d like to share a few of the finds I have come across in my search.

This, from Wildthyme, is wild! The creator makes each hat with no pattern

Freeform Tam by Wildthyme

Freeform Tam in Hues of Blue

I love the colors in this one, from Dog Mountain Knits. The textured yarn is so pretty.

Handspun Yarn Beehive Knit Hat

Handspun Yarn Beehive Knit Hat

This one, from The Mast Hatter, reminds me a bit of a French beret!

 

Burgundy berry hat by The Mast Hatter

Burgundy Berry Hat

Here’s one that is also made from recycled sweater pieces, from Enchanted Ground.

Blueberry Muffin Elf Hat

“Blueberry Muffin Elf Hat” by Enchanted Ground

Etsy vs Amazon in the Battle of the Handmade Market

Why I’m Sticking with Etsy, the Reigning Champion

There’s not an online seller of indie craft who isn’t intrigued by the announcement that Amazon.com will be entering the market for handmade items, particular those that frequent the forums at Etsy, who’ve been discussing the lurking competitor daily.

For the most part, sellers are excited at the prospect; many feel Etsy betrayed them when the company relaxed it’s definition of handmade to include factory made products. Like myself, they are distraught, if not disgusted, at having to now compete head to head with factory-produced items which always undercut on price and can often be found at malls and street fairs across the country. Personally, I don’t think the person who chooses a brightly colored plastic bubble necklace

Selection from Etsy Search on "Bubble Necklaces"

Selection from Etsy Search on “Bubble Necklaces”

is the same customer who would want one of my beaded pieces

A necklace from the Talisman Too Collection

A necklace from the Talisman Too Collection

but I can see how this affects many others. My beaded jewelry shop would probably suffer more at the hands of these imported goods if my goods could be found in searches, but I am not fooling myself to believe that even the massive influx of these cheap goods is the reason my items don’t rank highly. There are thousands of “blue beaded earrings” on the venue, and a large percentage of them are genuinely designed and constructed in the minds and by the hands of people in their home studios, just like me.

Nonetheless, I’m under no delusion that a move to Amazon will solve my dilemma. In fact, I may be helped by the behemoth, once the disgruntled and starry-eyed Etsyians make their move to the newly launched platform.

A small seller like myself simply won’t be able to jump through the hoops that will be required at Amazon, once they have populated their community with hopeful selling residents. Right now, the vague outlines of their program seem almost comforting to the casual observer. Sellers must have less than twenty employees or be part of a collective with under one hundred members, but many people don’t seem to realize that China abounds with factories employing numbers that are well within the “collective” range, particularly when the products being produced rely on hand work, such as intricately embroidered or crocheted goods.

Amazon promises handmade sellers a respite on fees that can bite deeply into one’s overhead, but I wonder if most sellers aren’t employing their reading comprehension skills. Specifically, the lowered fee structure is only temporary, and this has been stated outright. Suggestions of a more “small-seller friendly” fee structure have been hinted at, but certainly not promised, an important distinction. The statement’s been nicely framed, lulling the gullible into believing that this beastly creature(the definition of an amazon, after all) will nurture their growth like a kind motherly type, saving them from  the cruel feudal hardships they feel they’ve suffered under the reign of Etsy.

The issue, as I see it, is that once a person puts the amount of time needed to build out their shop, develop linkbacks and all the other efforts that go into online selling, they will be heavily invested in the venue, and the idea that they might have to abandon the project will certainly bring on feelings nausea. They will hold on, struggling to work harder, and many will fail, while hungry-for-revenue Amazon swallows and burps. I’ve experienced something like this with my ClimbAddict shop, part of which is housed on the print-on-demand venue CafePress, where the Terms of Use I accepted upon arrival in 2006 have been changed nearly as frequently as one changes their bedsheets. I won’t go into those details, but suffice it to say that many, many sellers who once cheered and supported the company now write venomously about the cut-throat tactics they’ve endured. Why will Amazon, with it’s voracious appetite, behave differently?

I like the idea for Handmade at Amazon, but I believe they are counting on naive entrepreneurs to flock en mass to the cozy nest they have created, partly out of some vindictive desire to claw at Etsy’s foundation. Perhaps it is because some of the factories and importers which have been part of Amazon’s selling base found it lucrative to move to Etsy during the relaxed-guidelines transition?. When the harsh winds of reality blow the loose straws away from the nest, I feel many a former Etsyian will have been devoured and excreted like a compressed owl pellets

The Delicate Beauty of Arabesque Beads

Arabesque Bead Earrings Teardrop Shape

While visiting the A Rolling Stone bead store in Redlands, CA, I found a display case of beads different than what I had been used to seeing. Labeled as “double dipped copper beads,” I instantly fell in love with the delicate filigree construction. Expensive they were, but I could not resist.  I bought what I could afford – but two sets of two beads; enough to make two pair of earrings. I hoped that I would be able to reorder more when needed.

Once I got home and had some time, I began scouring the internet in search for suppliers.  The bead store I had visited wasn’t really set up well for ecomm, and I admit – I was hoping to locate a source selling at below retail cost.

At first I had difficulty finding the beads, but this was due to my searching under the term the beads had been labeled. Once I did some brainstorming, I easily found several sellers of these wonderful beads which are made in India. Unfortunately, I also found that the retail-priced beads that had hooked me in the first place were actually inexpensive, comparatively!

Nonetheless, I went forward with a purchase from one supplier, and added a few new designs to my shop.  First was a pair of earrings made from exquisite pillow beads in a trapezoid shape. The intricate work in this arabesque design in so pretty, I had a hard time not keeping them for my own. I’ve paired them with Caribbean Blue faceted beads of Czech glass.

Trapezoid Pillow Shaped Arabesque Bead Earrings

Another bead design I could not resist were round in shape, reminding me of our sun, or that of an antique clock set atop a street post in a European town. The stylized flower design, to me, could be inspired by the flares of the sun, and perhaps that is what made the connection for me. I accented these antiqued gold beauties with amethyst purple glass beads, along with metal bead caps to balance the design.

Arabesque Beads in Orb shape with Flowere Design

I had located the original teardrop beads in silver color(the bead is made of copper with a coating of silver), and with this design, I tried hand hammering metal for the headpins. I chose a sickle shaped motif, which I envisioned as a stylized variation of the star and crescent element, so important in ancient eastern design, and nowadays associated with Islam.

Arabesque Teardop Bed Earrings in SilverI hope to add more designs that incorporate these beautiful metal beads, but for now these will have to suffice, The old saying may be that one has to spend money to make money, and I have certainly done my share of spending! Now I need to make some money to justify spending more.  Well, at least until I fall prey to my propensity to visit bead stores and online catalogs…..

MetalWorking, Here I Come!

Handmade Silver Hoop Earrings

 

Not so bad for my first try, I think!

A while ago I decided that I would like to begin learning some new techniques, to expand the possibilities for my jewelry line. I have a good feel for composition, and people adore my pieces, but the fact remains that what I am doing is simply combining components, That won’t get me noticed by people looking for something special, such as those who make decisions on juried shows.

If I want to further myself, I need to grow past the stage I am in and find ways to make my work more special. Wire wrapping and weaving “seemed” to be the best place to start.

Easier said than done of course.  I purchased some copper and silver wire in 18 and 28 gauge, only to quickly understand I need more than these two weight options. Sigh….I told myself to “learn” with what I have and make purchases later. This is also an attempt to force me away from avoiding practice because I am “waiting for new materials” to arrive.

So I had my wire and then I needed to form it.  “I need a hammer!” I thought. So – yeah, I DID buy one.  And because my friend Sonya, from StoneMetal Design, had once mentioned how she found it important to have a good hammer, I bought  a Fretz. Yes, it was costly, but I just feel so good handling it.  I purchased from Firefly Studios and recommend them highly. The seller helped me decide on my hammer and then quickly shipped once my order was in hand. What a surprise to find out how much lighter a jewelery making hammer is compared to the carpenter’s claw hammer I beat the headpins down with on the earrings below – hahah

Sodalite Earrings with Hand Hammered AccentsI have made a few more pair of the hoop earrings in the first image, and will offer them in three sizes(the ones shown are the larger, at 1 3/4 inches in diameter), and in antiqued copper.  That means my next experiment will be in using Liver of Sulphur(also purchased from Firefly Studios), to add the darkened patina to the metal.

Also I have been busying myself drawing up ideas for new designs. I have tried following tutorials, but I often don’t like the actual designs offered, and just can’t enjoy making an item that I don’t feel is something I would want to sell. Instead, I read the instructions and then incorporate the techniques in my own designs.  It is frustrating,for sure, but it is more often that my design needed a tweak and not an issue with the technique employed.

It’s slow-going, I am finding.  But fun!

Are You a One-of-a-Kind Kind of Girl?

Antique Mother of Pearl Button

Often I come across remarkable antique buttons, as you can see from the selections with the Talisman Studios shop, but until I began doing beadwork, I wasn’t sure how I could use these miniature pieces of art. Luckily, the beading inspired me to incorporate the tiny delicacies into jewelry.  Here is my most recent – a princess length necklace.

The piece features a Mother of Pearl antique button with a brass escutcheon. Made in the late 1800’s, the pearl background serves to highlight the romantic details of flower and wreath border.  Bronze colored faceted English Cut glass beads, along with seed beads in iridescent hues compliment the colors within the shell button.

This is a one of a kind piece available for sale in the Talisman Studios shop.