Saturday, May 31, 2008

One Jeweler's Work Space

Since the etsybloggers were talking about our workplaces as a topic for carnival, I thought I might show off my workroom, aka my living room. This used to be our dining room table (above), before I took it over for my work table.

The computer has become an crucial part of my jewelry design and business. I now purchase supplies and research online, sell on Etsy (of course), use money exchanges (like PayPal and Propay) and play with layout and design, all using my desktop. I love my computer. I started out with a desktop around the turn of the century :-) , then went mobile with a laptop. After my laptop froze up, I returned to the familiar desktop and printer setup. I like having the widescreen now - better for playing on my blog.

But enough about my computer hardware/software.

Since my handiwork was taking over the house, my husband graciously gave me his tool chest to use.
I store my Etsy shop items in one drawer - ready to whip out and send in the mail to customers.

I have my scales and shipping supplies handy, all in the tool chest.

And of course my beads take up a few drawers.

I usually take out different containers of beads with an idea in mind. I choose the beads and test how they look together on a multi-strand bead board and mat. I know some people can sit in front of the television, doing their handiwork, but I need magnification and a flat surface.

When I complete a piece, I take a few photographs. I either lay the item out on stone, or wrap the necklace around a large gourd.

I finish writing my haiku, and do my figuring -what did the materials cost and how much time did it take.

Then I place the piece on Etsy, or give it up for consignment.

I put all the information into my workbooks - photos, material descriptions, my haiku, etc. This is a very important step and I recommend it to other artists. You can use these workbooks to trace your progress and compare projects.
Well, that's my space. Where do you hang out?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Outdoor Summer Activities - Take a Hike

(for the June 9th etsyblogger's carnival)

Begin your summer by getting outside on June 7th for National Trails Day 2008, currently celebrating its 16th year. Check out the American Hiking Society web page, and see how you can become a member today.

I couldn't be happier staying around my neck of the woods, and enjoying the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, in southwest Oklahoma.

I know, people from the Rockies laugh when I call the Wichitas "mountains," but they should be respectful, seeing that the Wichitas are ranked among the oldest mountain ranges on earth. They were formed about 500 million years ago when stratified layers of eroded silt were deposited. Through the ages, climatic forces have chiseled the mountains down, leaving some breath-taking sights.

I want to tell you, the Wichita Mountains is a favorite destination in southwest Oklahoma for locals and tourists alike. They offer opportunities for rappelling and rock climbing - personally, not for me. I like to keep my boots on the ground and enjoy the hiking trails.

The roads through the mountains are great for taking in the scenery by car, or on a bike. If you get to the refuge, take a drive up to the top of Mt Scott, which rises 2,464 feet above sea level. There's a great view of the lake and the surrounding countryside.

I love looking at the wildflowers and trees in the Wichitas, though I can't remember any of their names. And the wildlife. Whether you run into bison, longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, or eagles, it's always breathtaking and surprising. And, of course, we can't deny there's buried Spanish treasure out there!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Get thee to a nunnery - "Nuns: a history of convent life" is May's book of the month

BOOK REVIEW, with images courtesy of the author

I think it's distressing to see that women's choices in the 16th and 17th centuries were "a husband or a wall" as Silvia Evangelisti points out in her book Nuns: a history of convent life. Women were even ruled by men when it came to the operations of their convents.

Some girls willingly accepted convent life, such as the illegitimate daughter of a low-ranked Spanish nobleman and a Mexican mother, Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz (1648-1695) (that's her, right, Fig. 6). Her convent was not "a particularly strict institution as far as religious discipline was concerned, and Juana managed to maintain many contacts outside the cloister," Evangelista writes. "In the convent she was also able to satisfy her intellectual hunger." But others were sent to the convent gate by their families, never to come out again.

One Venetian nun, Arcangela Tarabotti (1604-1652), advocated for women to act according to their own will. "The father must not and cannot marry off the daughter who wants to be a virgin," Tarabotti writes, "nor should she be obliged to respect his determination, and he cannot oblige her with violence to profess the vows against her own free will." This proposal was very uncommon, since women didn't have many rights in the first place.

The further I got into this book, the more the author told me about extraordinary religious women over the centuries. One such nun was Fiammetta Frescobaldi (1518-1586) who died in the convent of San Jacopo de Repoli in Florence. Being bedridden for 38 years, "her genius was probably also fuelled by her desire to let her mind move with a freedom that was denied her body." Fiammetta wrote histories of the world and translated 118 saints' lives from Latin into the vernacular, in addition to writing about her own experiences.

Beginning in the Middle Ages, cloistered nuns wrote poetry and plays which they staged inside the convent. Audiences, including relatives and patrons living outside the convent walls, watched through the grilles in the parlour or in the convent's courtyard (note grilles, above, Fig. 15). The plays were used as a teaching method, and "were more accessible to women lacking in [the] necessary literary skills to read them," Evangelista explains. "The nuns and borders who performed were able to act out the lives of the holy women and other characters they played, absorbing their moral values." In addition to religious themes, plays took on other topics including man's subjugation of women, marriage, and the reality of enclosure, often using allegory and comedy.

In European convents, instruction in music was offered to novices and boarders by the nuns. It stands to reason that music would end up in the convent since it has always been in religious ceremonies. Not surprisingly, though, people were worried that nuns might be corrupted by their singing.

In her chapter on the Visual Arts, Evangelisti introduces the reader to many noblewomen who supported the building of convents. Some nuns were able to provide an income for themselves through artwork and restoration of murals and paintings, bypassing the need for outside (male) artists (left, portrait by nun, Fig. 11). But were the sisters creating their work exclusively for the convent audience? I didn't feel this question was altogether answered. I was glad to see twenty plates included in the book, but only four of these were works completed by women who lived in the convents. It would have been nice to see more of their work.

There's a chapter on expansion that introduces the reader to women who gave up their cloistered homes, and traveled to far lands to set up new convents (right, waiting to sail to the Phillipines, Fig. 7). The author points out that these nuns were involved in "the first institutions to be transplanted to the colonies." In her last chapter, Evangelisti gives examples of women who opted to take "simple vows only, rather than the solemn vows taken by nuns." Although these open communities for women were available in the Middle Ages, they weren't common by any means.

This book gives a fascinating look at women's history from a religious perspective. Evangelisti did an excellent job in researching and documenting her topic. Luckily for us, there were cloistered women who had an interest in the historical events taking place in the outside world. As the author points out, "New kings and emperors, the election of popes, and natural calamities such as plagues, earthquakes, floods, and wars filtered through the grilles of the parlour and found their place in the nuns' historical texts."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tips for Preserving Documents and Photos

Lots of people on Etsy recycle old paper and photos, reusing them in new products. Well, I'm a big believer in recycling. On the other hand, there’s a time and place to keep original documents.

I work in an archives in southwest Oklahoma. So when this week's Etsybloggers Carnival was revealed ("Create a tutorial"), I thought I could write something about preservation:

Tip #1 - Don't Laminate.
Did you know that laminating your important documents is one of the worst things that you can do? The process uses glues and heat, which permanently bond the items to the plastic. Once it’s done, there’s no way going back. Irreversible.

Tip #2 - Use archival sleeves for your photographs.
To protect your images and documents, enclose them in archival quality transparent sleeves. They are currently being made of polypropylene, polyester, or polyethylene. These products are chemically stable, and free from additives and surface coatings. (see Tip #7)

Tip #3 - Environment.
At our museum, we place the transparent sleeves into acid-free envelopes or folders, and place THEM in acid-free boxes. I guess you would call that layering. But where you store your folders and/or boxes is paramount. They should be kept out of direct sunlight. Most people know that basements and attics are off limits. You need a dry and even temperature; an inside closet or under the bed, if space is an issue. The same rules apply for artwork and books. If at all possible, avoid shelving books against an outside wall, where condensation can form. A room with north or east windows is the best location for books and keepsakes.

Tip #4 - Copies.
Now, I know I’m going to get flack from all the scrapbookers out there, who make some great looking gifts. But there’s a difference between a fun scrapbook and original documents. If you want to put together a scrapbook, make copies! This can’t be overstated. Scan those marriage certificates and land deeds, and all those family photographs. Then store the originals in your archival sleeves, and leave the scrapbooks on the coffee table.

Tip #5 - Reversibility.
The rule of thumb is: if it’s not reversible (like lamination), it’s not a good preservation practice. So place originals in sleeves and folders, and use glue or tape on the copies.

Tip #6 - Write down names, now -
when you and your elders can still remember who people are, and when things happened. Photographs won’t mean much to the family, if they don’t know who they are. I see over and over again, when people donate to the archives, nobody knows who the people are in the photographs. They are lost forever. So do it today, or maybe on someone‘s birthday or a family get together.

Tip #7 - Archival products.
If you don’t use archival products, you’re wasting your money. There are many companies whose sole business is selling archival supplies. Whether you are looking at storing original photographs, certificates, baseball cards, negatives, wedding dresses, or books - there are storage containers of every size. Several mail order companies with catalogs are:
Light Impressions , Hollinger Corporation , Metal Edge, and University Products.

I hope this inspires you to sit down with your family, go through the albums and gather your important documents, and put things in proper storage containers. And have fun doing it!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Etsyblogger's Carnival, May 19 edition

Decoration Day

Memorial Day was formerly known as Decoration Day, a day of remembrance for those who died in our nation's service .

Americans can honor soldiers this day by decorating gravesites and participating in colorful parades.

Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of summer. I’m not sure if this year’s visitor count at the Museum (where I work) will be lower than previous years because of gas prices, but I’m hoping on good consignment sales in the Gift Shop.

Pictured here are a few items from Etsy shops I visited, with Memorial Day in mind….

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Featured EtsyBlogger - Cozy

This month's Featured EtsyBlogger is Cozy, aka Kathy, who you can find on Etsy at A Cozy Life . Her shop opened in October 2006. My favorite item on sale right now is the Blue Paisley Headband, with an off-white crocheted edging. Never thought a headband could look so classy!

Kathy also has a store at Silk Fair, and Ecrater. She's one busy lady! In addition to running the three stores, she helps the EtsyBloggers keep track of birthdays and weekly minis. So if your interested in crafts and good company, go by Kathy's blog - it's a great jumping off place.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Arts For All Festival in Lawton, Oklahoma

May 9-11, 2008
The annual Arts for All Festival is both a celebration
of the arts and a “thank you” to the community for
supporting the arts throughout the year.

In addition to the artist's booths, there will be children's activities under the Big Tent, a wine garden and international cuisine,
all starting Friday evening at 5:30 PM

Entertainment on two stages, including:
  • dance
  • youth programs
  • music

Last year was the first year for the Wine Garden, featuring five Oklahoma wineries who gave samplings and sold bottles of wine to guests. I was at the Museum of the Great Plains booth, right next to the Garden. Great spot, great music! There were small tables for adults to relax at, wine tasting all day long. This year will include more vendors and a chocolate booth to compliment the wines.

So don't forget to come and visit downtown Lawton, on Gore Blvd. between 4th and 5th Streets (Shepler Square). Hope to see you there - and please, tell me if you saw my blog!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Don't Forget The Gloves

Gardening is a labor of love. This past Saturday, I finally got outside to dig up those bulbs that didn't bloom anymore. Piece of cake! They came up pretty easily with a shovel and a little excavation.

While I was outside, I saw those pesky dandelions, and started in on them. After a while, I noticed a dreaded callus on my palm. Oh no.

If you've ever dug without gloves, and ended up with raw skin, you know what I am talking about. Never realized how incapacitate you can get with a callus on your palm. It hurts when you get it wet - forget about washing your hair or doing the dishes - or driving a car (or riding a bike), and don't even think about hand tools.

Moral of the story: if you are working in the garden, don't forget the gloves.
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