Okay, I'm trying this blog thing! Just spent a week with my daughter, son in law and granddaughter in Gatlinburg TN. The daughter talked me into giving this thing a try. (Actually she just started one and suggested it... she didn't know I would try this so soon. Particularly since I don't know what I'm doing.) But, like everything else I do.... I'll just jump in and then worry what is in the water. (Will get the "Blogging for Dummies" when I get home!)
I live in Pennsylvania. My daughter lives in North Carolina (which is so, so far away). She has a 2 year old daughter which is the most adorable little girl. ( I really am not the prejudiced type....she really is adorable.) I miss them soooooo much but get to see them about every 6 weeks. It helps to be retired. My son lives closer to home (about a mile away) and he has 3 adorable little boys. (Really, they are adorable too. I can't help it if I'm brutally honest.) The boys are 5, 3 and 2 months old. Being a grandmother is the greatest. The only drawback about it is how old one has to be to have grandchildren.
This blog will mostly be about my jewelry making which I just started about a year and a half ago. I'm a retired art teacher, which was the greatest job in the world. It was like going to work and doing my hobby every day. I loved making up lessons. Then seeing how my students interpreted them and seeing what they created. I did that for 35 years, teaching elementary art for 13 of those years and high school for the rest. Even the days, when someone had an attitude didn't sour me on teaching. (Well, to be honest.... menopause and one class full of druggies, did help me to decide that it was time to retire. The menopause was the biggest factor. Darn those hot flashes. Sorry about that for any male readers and young female readers. But, it will catch you someday.)
Anyway, this blog is about making jewelry with a few musings on other subjects thrown in. (Well, maybe lots of musings. Actually, what is a blog anyway?) When I was teaching, people would always ask me what was my area of interest. Assuming that maybe I was a painter, or potter or something. Actually I didn't have an area of interest. I loved it all! Teaching gave me the ability to keep working with all mediums. If I had any specific area of interest it would have to be making up the lessons and seeing what the students created. (Didn't I say that already? Well it is worth saying twice.) Of course I had favorites like printmaking, weaving and art history. (If you asked my former students what they learned from me, they would probably talk about the art history) Basically I was a jack of all trades and master of none. ( I know what you are thinking.... Those who can do and those who can't - teach.) But I never really wanted to be an artist per se. I knew in third grade that I wanted to be an art teacher. And, I guess that is why for all those years I felt that teaching itself was my art.
When it was time to retire, it was time to choose an area of interest. Way, way back in my first year of college, (it is a foggy memory, it was soooo long ago) I took my first jewelry class. We did fabrication, which is sawing, forming and soldering our pieces together. I have never had a casting class. I loved that class. I learned how to saw, form and solder for starters. I also learned how to make jump rings, cut an ugly stone into a slab and form a beautiful large cab, polish, file, use a dopping block, etc. All the beginner things a jeweler learns. The teacher liked my designs. He especially liked the body ornament I made. It came down to my knees in front and my hips in back. The idea behind it was tension. The piece included the cab I made, black ivory, and hundreds of jump rings. I had to make a long velvet dress to wear with it. I only got two pieces done during that class since the body ornament took so long. Unfortunately I never got a picture of the piece and I don't lead the kind of life where I could wear something like that. I never took another jewelry class though. Even though I loved making jewelry, the teacher made me nervous. He was one of those guys that never talked to the eyes in your head. He talked to the headlights on your chest. (At 18, that made me nervous. Actually it still would, but no one is looking now. Which is quite okay!!) I do have a picture of my first piece in that class which was a pin. I still have it but have never worn it as I made the beginner's mistake of soldering the pin back in the exact center. SOoooooo it never did hang right. Think I will remake it in metal clay.
My very first piece of jewelry was made when I was a child. I use to take acorns and string them between pearls to make a bracelet. Loved those bracelets. I will probably remake those first pieces with silver. Actually I want to make a series of jewelry called "Child's play". That bracelet would fit into that series. I already have a pair of earrings for the series and ideas for many others.
Okay, back to the topic at hand. When I retired, I decided to go back to my first artistic love, jewelry. Several years ago, I came across something called Art Clay Silver, when I was ordering supplies for my class. Since I was always on the look out for new mediums to excite my students, I ordered some. For some reason, my students never wanted to use it, so it sat in the cupboard for a few years. I didn't have time to try it myself. (Teaching is a very demanding job. Life goes on hold from September until June.) It wasn't until I went to an art education conference that I had a chance to try this new medium. My first experience was limited and we were rushed for time. (With metal clay, there is no rushing.) My first piece dried so fast and was very cracked. After it was fired, pieces broke off because it was so thin. It was probably another 3 years before I would retire and decide to learn this new medium.
I started to teach myself metal clay in February of 2007. Metal clay classes in my area are non-existent so I had no choice but to teach myself. There are a lot of good books out there that can help anyone wanting to learn. (But it sure helps to take a class here and there. It is also so much fun to work with other people who are into metal clay.) To make a long story short (how long are blogs supposed to be?) I finally took my first class in NC. We made an S-hook. It took us 4 hours to make an S-hook. (Nothing against the teacher, she was so sweet and helpful) but I could have bent a piece of wire in 4 seconds. (Well actually it probably would take me longer because I am all thumbs when it comes to wire bending. Don't know how those people do that.) Then I went to TN in October and took a Level I Certification class from Leslie Tieke. (A very good teacher and lots of fun.) Figured I'd better get certified. It doesn't really get me anywhere, but it sounds good on the business card. The girls I met in that class where such a nice group that we got together again this past June and took a Level II Certification class and an enameling class. Again, we took the class with Leslie. We went to her house for the class which is as colorful as she is. And, again we had a great time and learned so much. We plan on doing it again next Spring.
I did finally find a class in Pittsburgh. I had to drive about an hour and a half to get there but it was worth it. Donna Penoyer taught us to make a worry ring using metal clay and seed beads. The ring was designed by Donna and is beautiful. Besides learning to make the ring, I developed some new friends in Pittsburgh by joining the Western Pennsylvania Metal Clay Guild. I was able to attend the very first meeting of the guild.
In July, I went to the PMC Conference at Purdue University in Indiana with my friends from Pittsburgh. Wow, what a great time we had. I met so many people there; people I recognized from the forum I belong to, people who wrote books that I have, and important people in the jewelry world. I also took a bezel setting class from Linda Kline while I was there. Barack Obama was holding a question and answer session in the room next to our classroom. We had to have our purses checked and the wand run over us, every time we went to the bathroom. We couldn't see him, but we could hear him until a security guard shut our door. The female guard was more interested in what we were doing, than what Obama was saying.
I started my business, Ally's Art last November. I was playing around with some other names but when I started my Etsy site, I needed a name like RIGHT NOW..... CAN'T CHANGE IT. So, I decided on Ally's Art since my cousins called me Ally as a kid. (Actually, they still call me Ally). It doesn't sound as elegant as some of my other choices. My business started with an Open House at my house. (Made me decorate for Christmas early! That was a plus.) I really wasn't expecting big things. Told myself that if I had 30 people come and made 10 sales I would be happy. 36 people came and I sold over 1/2 of my inventory. (There were empty spots the second day.) Needless to say I was VERY happy. Since then, I have been working on the business rather sporadically. We travel a lot and I haven't been home for much of the summer. Right now I am sitting in the hotel on my way home from Gatlinburg. Have to get to the studio on Monday.
Speaking of the studio. I just moved my studio from my daughter's old bedroom to a studio in downtown Oil City. Hadn't planned on it, but it just seemed like the place to be. I took possession on June 1st but haven't been able to get in there too much. This is my last major trip for awhile so I should be able to get in there quite often ( between golfing and playing with the grandchildren.) The studio is actually 2 studios. The bigger studio is set up as a selling area for my jewelry, a space for me to work and an area to teach classes in. It should hold between 6-10 students. I already have a class schedule set up for the fall and hope to offer some open studio days. The smaller studio holds my kiln, dehydrator, and tumbler. It will also be a good area to lay out refreshments when I have this year's Open House. I'll add pictures of the finished studio some time next week.
Okay, enough for today. I probably over did it. (Remember, I was a teacher and teachers love to talk.) Future posts will mostly be about my struggles with learning this medium and finding a signature style. Plus, musings about the grandchildren. They are always good for a story. (I am also going to take a business class which starts in a few weeks. Definitely need work in that area too. This is all new to me. )
Goodnight for now. Alice