Muse Monday #3 – Jeweler Gabriella Kiss

Welcome to installment three of my new inspiration series. Weekly on Muse Mondays, check in to see what is catching my eye. The goal is to nourish my own muse by following wherever she leads with amazement and study,  but I’ll gladly share with you. Today’s artist is jeweler Gabriella Kiss.

When inspiration doesn’t come,
I go halfway to meet it. -Sigmund Freud

Gabriella Kiss – antler tiara – oxidized bronze with pearl, kyanite, smoky topaz & champagne diamonds

Gabriella Kiss

When I travel up to Dallas occasionally, I always make a point to go visit Grange Hall, just to look at their collection of Gabriella Kiss jewelry in person. Her work is, like mine, nature inspired. I find a great sense of elegance to her creations, along with a touch of whimsy.

As before, I sat down this week to do a bit more research and study of this artist. And more than just a collection of pretty images (which is plenty inspirational, but fits better on a Pinterest board), I wanted to do a little analysis. Why am I attracted? How do I characterize her work overall? What techniques does she use? How has the work evolved? What can I learn here that can guide me on my own creative journey?

Gabriella Kiss – Large Mushroom Necklace – sterling and 14k with labradorite

Luxury Fashion Jewelry

I’d classify Gabriella Kiss into the category of luxury fashion jewelry, so a bit different than the first two artists I profiled. That is to say that, while her work is wildly original and handmade, it is for the most part production jewelry cast into bronze, silver or gold.

Her larger tiaras and necklaces definitely fall into the aspirational category, but there are multiples of them out in the world.

Gabriella Kiss – Intaglio Fish Pendant, one of a kind

Gabriella Kiss – Brown Rose Cut Diamond Ring

There are some one-of-a-kind pieces, and seemingly a more recent move toward simpler designs with stone emphasis and her signature scalloped bezels

Gabriella Kiss – druzy leaf pin

Gabriella Kiss – 14k Clipper Ship Earrings with horn sails and sapphire drops

Gabriella is well known for striking earring designs. Who else dreams up clipper ship dangles with carved horn sails and sapphire water drops??

Gabriella Kiss – Sleeping Bird earrings 18k with pearls

Gabriella Kiss – Hand Earrings sterling silver with crystals

Gabriella Kiss – Eye Pin with labradorite and pearls

All of her work from bird and insects to “body parts” like hands, feet, ears, and eyes is streamlined and elegant.

Gabriella Kiss – nose studs

There’s a subtle sense of humor behind some of the choices, like nose studs.


Inspired by nature, Gabriella’s jewelry is nonetheless pared down to the essentials. Since all the production pieces are available in multiple finishes (bronze, sterling, various gold alloys), it’s clear they are cast as multiples. Finishing, including gemstones, of course, would be done individually by hand.

Her work tends to fall into series. Anatomical designs study gesture through hands, feet, eyes, etc. Birds, insects, snakes, mushrooms, and bones reference the natural world. Another gifted collector, rather than combining found objects (see Muse Monday – Jeweler Grainne Morton), she reveres specimens for their purity of form.


Gabriella Kiss is Canadian born and attended the Pratt Institute where she studied sculpture,  where she designed her own jewelry major within that department and learned lost-wax casting. She apprenticed with Ted Muehling, another amazing jeweler, spending eight years learning the trade and craft before going out on her own. Married to a furniture maker, and living/working in a collected and curated home means that her entire life is consumed by art ,


As a maker, I strive to analyze why I’m drawn to certain art and how it might help me move my own work forward. So, I’ve searched through the collections of Gabriella Kiss’s images, seeking a thread to lead me forward.

Of course, I share nature as a source of inspiration with this artist (and a million more!). I’m drawn to the lyrical line and elegance of her pared-down designs. Sometimes I think my heavily detailed jewelry is too much – overdone – and that I should experiment more with abstracting just a bit or using more negative space. Another thought I’ve had repeatedly is that I need to work more three-dimensionally, whereas my current process is low relief. My ceramic clay experiments are serving as a stepping stone in that direction, but the tiny scale of jewelry makes this difficult (and maybe that’s part of the appeal of Gabriella Kiss jewelry).

Her clear focus on small details is interesting. The idea that she can do a simple gemstone ring that looks similar to so many others, but have it clearly marked as her own by something as simple as a scalloped bezel detail is helpful to ponder. Similarly, she has particular ear wire designs that she uses over and over, another detail for which I’ve been searching for myself.

So my take away seems to be simplify more, look at details closer, design signature elements.


Gabriella Kiss website

Gabriella Kiss Instagram

Dont miss! Gabriella Kiss Portrait in Creativity video

Gabriell Kiss studio tour 1 and studio tour 2

Muse Monday #2 – Jeweler Judy Geib

Today is the second installment of my new inspiration series.  I don’t promise that all will be jewelry artists, as any art can inspire. Weekly on Muse Mondays, check in to see what is catching my eye. The goal is to nourish my own muse by following wherever she leads with amazement and study,  but I’ll gladly share with you. Today’s artist is jeweler Judy Geib.

You can’t wait for inspiration.
You have to go after it with a club. -Jack London

Judy Geib – Wheel bracelet, 18k gold, silver and opal

Judy Geib

Another jeweler whose work sings for my muse is the prolific Judy Geib. Her studio creates luxury jewelry featuring superlative materials and intensivelabor. Many of her designs feature medallions grouped together, often with kaleidoscopic arrays of filigree and/or gemstones to give a delicate sense of movement. They are unabashedly handmade, with a reverence for imperfections, but meticulous craftmanship.

As before, I sat down this week to do a bit more research and study of this artist. And more than just a collection of pretty images (which is plenty inspirational, but fits better on a Pinterest board), I wanted to do a little analysis. Why am I attracted? How do I characterize her work overall? What techniques does she use? How has the work evolved? What can I learn here that can guide me on my own creative journey?

Aspirational Jewelry

Judy Geib – Alpha earrings with opal centers and emerald drops. Meteor Shower line.

Based in Brooklyn, Judy Geib launched her line in 2002 when the buyers at Barneys New York perused her 12-piece collection after a chance encounter while wearing a pair of her own handmade earrings. Trained as a graphic designer, she found her calling in jewelry after a 15-year career working with an architect.

Judy Geib – opal Totems bracelet

Judy Geib – Flowery Necklace with emerald


Part of the appeal of her work is her technique, which is very graphic and spontaneous. Her graphic artist background is evident in the pages of sketches she doodles to determine a design. Then the work begins, mostly now in luscious high karat gold. Every scrap is carefully recycled, melted in a crucible, poured into an ingot mold and then hammered and rolled and drawn for the needs of the design. Many of the designs are based on “squashes,” melted balls of gold hammered flat and then assembled into flowers. The freeform designs are a clear contrast with the commercial perfection of typical high end jewelry, unabashedly handmade and one-of-a-kind. Despite the imperfections in the design, the craftsmanship itself is impeccable (she does have a goldsmith assistant for tricky work), reinforcing the deliberateness of the doodle designs. Stones, similarly, are individually shaped in her studio, not matched, but coordinated.

Judy Geib sketches

Judy Geib asymmetric earrings

Her trademark flattened wire flower earrings are wonderful for their balanced asymmetry.

Judy Geib necklace – Wish Sweet Wild Silly

This more structured necklace is based on glyphs from the Book of Kells, and took months to make.

The making of Corsage Sauvage from dirk vandenberk on Vimeo.

For an idea of the meticulous construction techniques, watch this video of the Coursage Sauvage.

And if the jewelry itself isn’t enough of an amazement, consider the custom-made packaging!

Judy Geib – Amorphous necklace and earrings in their fitted box

Judy Geib – Corsage Sauvage Duex, aka Wildflower Wrist Corsage. Opals, peridot, moonstone, silver, 18k and 24k gold, alligator strap


As a maker, I strive to analyze why I’m drawn to certain art and how it might help me move my own work forward. So, I’ve searched through the collections of Judy Geib’s images, seeking enlightenment.

Why am I so drawn to this jewelry? The originality, quality and sheer beauty of the work call to me. I love the calligraphic line, the rhythm, and movement of the work. Again, the component process reminds me of my own work, only taken to a much higher level. How would my work look if I repeated my smaller elements and grouped them together into larger creations? Again, there’s a sense that I need to “go for it.”

I’m also drawn, again, to the use of gold. I admit fearing this expensive material. I’ve made small components in gold and used them on silver jewelry, without major malady. I have 18k and 22k sheet and wire awaiting in the studio, but I have yet to commit. Maybe it’s time to push forward, reassured by the notion that all scraps can be melted down and hammered or rolled for reuse. It might actually be easier to think of keeping a piece all gold than to combine it with silver, which is harder to separate in case of error.

And finally – the packaging. This is something that I’ve long considered. Beyond a box for safe storage, I love the idea of a decorative display where the jewelry forms an integral part of a larger sculpture. I need to pursue that more aggressively. Perhaps a ceramic sculpture will hold a special piece soon?


My Judy Geib Pinterest board

Judy Geib website (only goes up to 2012)

Judy Geib Instagram


Judy Geib Book of Kells inspired glyph necklace video Wise-Sweet-Wild-Silly

Judy Geib Corsage Savage video

Judy Geib Neo-Geo necklace video

Judy Geib Plateau Vivant video

Process #1 – Metal Clay Components

My personal jewelry style is very sculptural and nature-inspired. I like detailed, intricate jewelry that makes you look closely. I utilize technical skills honed over decades, laboriously fabricating components over the course of many hours, days or even weeks. But it all begins with metal clay.

Vickie Hallmark: fine silver clay components fired and ready to use in jewelry

What is Metal Clay?

Metal clay is an intriguing high tech material that has only been around for twenty years or so. Think of using simple tools to sculpt a piece of clay, but then popping it into a kiln to perform a bit of high-temperature alchemy. Voila! Clay transformed into pure metal. Originally, only fine (pure) silver was available, but now there are many choices, including sterling, multiple colors of gold, bronze, copper, and steel.

Vickie Hallmark – tiny flowers and leaves made from gold clay, ready for use in jewelry

Metal Clay Components

I love metal clay for its immediacy and sculptural qualities. I could carve traditional waxes and cast them to produce my small components. However, skill with clay allows me to use a minimum of time and very simple tools to work directly in metal and make each piece an original.

I typically warm up with a batch of tiny leaves, each cut as a disc from a sheet of silver clay then individually shaped by hand. It’s a meditative process that gets me into the groove before I start to work on more complex sculptures.

Vickie Hallmark – small silver clay sculptural components

For floral designs, I have flowers with 5+ petals, roses, fuchsias, and trumpets, and lots of leaves, big and small, lobed and veined. I also often use small quote plaques on the reverse of complex pieces, and these are made with clay.

Vickie Hallmark – hummingbirds and gold flowers, components for jewelry making

Once I’m warmed up, I can graduate to the fauna. I commonly make birds of every variety and pose, goldfish, and bees. The challenge is transforming a tiny lump of clay to a highly detailed sculpture the size of my fingertip. Each bit is dried, carefully sanded, and kiln fired to reduce it to pure silver or gold. Finally, I sort components into multi-compartment boxes for use at the bench. Only then will I design the base of the jewelry piece and sit down design and arrange a special vignette.

To see what Is on my bench at the moment, follow me on Instagram.





Muse Monday #1 – Jeweler Grainne Morton

I’ve decided to do a new blog regular feature on an artist that inspires me.  I don’t promise that all will be jewelry artists, as any art can inspire. Weekly on Muse Mondays, check in to see what is catching my eye. The goal is to nourish my own muse by following wherever she leads with amazement and study,  but I’ll gladly share with you.

Whatever you love, begin there. -Robin Chapman

Grainne Morton – bird medal brooch

Grainne Morton

This week’s first installment features the jewelry of Grainne Morton, whose work has exploded in popularity recently.

I’ve been watching Grainne’s work for some time now, as it flittered across my Pinterest and Instagram feeds. And with an overnight trip to Houston and pops into the Museum of Fine Arts and Kuhl Linscomb, shops among the limited stockists of her work in the US, I became even more smitten. So, I sat down to do a bit more research and study. And more than just a collection of pretty images (which is plenty inspirational, but fits better on a Pinterest board), I wanted to do a little analysis. Why am I attracted? How do I characterize her work overall? What techniques does she use? How has the work evolved? What can I learn here that can guide me on my own creative journey?

Aspirational Jewelry

Grainne is an Edinburgh-based jeweler whose website describes her work as both eclectic and contemporary, inspired by collectors and collections, comprised of found objects and precious metals. As the daughter of antique dealers, she’s a collector at heart and chose to incorporate vintage and kitsch bits into her jewelry.

Grainne Morton collage necklace pearl leaves and birds

Grainne Morton – Sylvain Deieu pearl leaves and birds

The earlier pieces of her work that I first saw were complex and beautiful, built of gorgeously collaged collections of antique ephemera. This necklace gives a good example of the delicacy and beauty. As a serious lover of both mother-of-pearl and birds, this was a piece that appealed to my heart.


So how is it done? Bits and pieces are extracted from vintage jewelry, then reset into delicate bezel or prong settings. The art of collaging these disparate elements into a cohesive whole is trickier than the results might suggest. The rhythm of the pieces are lovely, achieving balance without being perfectly matched. The workmanship is superb. The overarching themes for each piece bring cohesion.

Grainne Morton asymmetric earrings

Those older pieces also included a wide array of asymmetric earrings, which have been a favorite of mine. I love how these earrings utilize similar shapes and color to build the structure, but then there is variation. The rhythm is excellent, a perfect use of push/pull: smooth and carved, transparent and opaque, matte and shiny.

Contemporary Jewelry

The newer work that has come with the high prominence is a bit more contemporary,  more streamlined, an intriguing combination of opposing trends towards minimalism and boho revival.

Grainne Morton – eye balance earrings

Grainne Morton eye balance earrings

Grainne Morton – Coral Chandelier Earrings

Chandelier earrings, especially those featuring eyes have been hugely popular.

Grainne Morton – hand earrings

And simpler styles and less expensive items are now available, for those admirers who can’t afford one of the aspirational pieces.

Grainne Morton – charm necklace

Minimalist charm necklaces have also been prevalent, using antique charms, buttons, and stones. All these contemporary pieces are much simpler in technique, with simple bezel or prong set charms and classic wire connectors.


Grainne Morton – early fibula pins

Press has picked her up and suddenly she’s a phenomenon. but it’s interesting to see the curve of her career. She earned a post-graduate degree in jewelry from Edinburgh College of Art in 1993 and garnered several UK awards in the following decade.  One of her earliest blog posts in 2009 shows the origins of her charm pieces in these simple fibula brooches.

Grainne Morton

Grainne won the Jerwood Arts Prize in 2007 for her narrative assemblage jewelry, and afterward focused on a series of “heritage” jewelry when she participated in CraftScotland’s exhibition at Collect 2011. She claims that it encouraged her to make a new body of work and “go for it,” working beyond the more salable pieces required for galleries. Both those latter links are videos – don’t miss her speaking about her process in her lovely Irish accent.


As a maker, I strive to analyze why I’m drawn to certain art and how it might help me move my own work forward. So, I’ve searched through the collections of Grainne Morton’s images, seeking enlightenment.

Why am I so drawn to this jewelry? I love the collection aspect of it, the similarities and juxtaposition of so many elements. My current process is actually quite similar, in that I build small components, sort them into tiny collection boxes, then sit at the bench and shuffle them into pleasing arrangements. I envision the same technique is at work for Grainne, but with the advantage of many pleasant treasure hunts to amass the components. It validates my process, I suppose, which I often feel is too labor intensive. Perhaps I should consider whether I can incorporate more found objects? Or perhaps I need to more consciously study vintage jewelry for inspiration for my components? Or maybe I just need to feel secure and move forward?

Sometimes I feel that the current trend in minimalism is at odds with my personal proclivities. I like tiny, detailed, narrative work, but I fear that it is “out of fashion.”  Seeing the success of Grainne’s work reassures me that there is a place for such work, and that I too should just “go for it.” Perhaps my attempts to make more marketable work should take a backseat for a time to my more elaborate dream constructions.


My Grainne Morton Pinterest Board

Grainne Morton Instagram


Grainne Morton website

Grainne Morton Jerwood Prize video

And just for fun, a tour of her home, including her studio, And another.

Tucson Gem Show Workshops

Happy 2018! January means that the Tucson Gem Show is just around the corner. Gems, minerals, gems, minerals, everywhere you look! This year, I’ll be there to snag some new gem treasures for future jewelry, but also… I’ll be teaching workshops!!! For those of you who are curious about metal clay or Argentium silver or fusing or metalsmithing (or all four), please consider signing up for one of my one-day workshops at JOGS, organized by JewelryTools.

I have two primary reasons that I combine metal clay and Argentium:

  1. Metal clay is expensive compared to milled silver products. Using metal clay for only small sculptural components stretches that clay expense to more jewelry.
  2. Argentium is special – it’s low-tarnish, hypoallergenic, fusible (easier than fine silver!), very malleable (easy to bend and form) when fully annealed, as well as heat-hardenable for maximum strength.

Vickie Hallmark – Wedge Earrings Workshop – fusing PMC3 and Argentium sheet

Wedge Earrings

The first workshop, on February 1, combines metal clay with Argentium sheet to make a simple pair of earrings (or a pendant, if you prefer). We’ll start off by making sculptural components from metal clay, covering this exciting material’s properties and appropriate firing. Then we’ll learn about the special characteristics of Argentium silver, hammer texture some sheet, fuse the metal clay components on top, then shape and finish the earrings with hand make ear wires. Overall, it’s a great introduction to my process, covering a wide range of skills that can help you move your jewelry to the next level.

Vickie Hallmark – Floral Earrings Workshop – fusing PMC3 and Argentium silver wire

Floral Earrings

The second workshop, on February 2, uses Argentium wire to form interesting supports for metal clay components. Again, you can make earrings or a pendant. The first part of the workshop is quite similar to the wedge earrings class, with focus on working with metal clay and my approach to sculpting details. After firing the metal clay, we move on to fusing wire into rings, ovals, or other shapes. Fancy details like jump rings and granules will be added, and again we’ll hand make ear wires.

In both classes, I strive to work with my students to personalize the experience. While you may want to exactly copy my class samples (that’s fine!), I encourage each student to follow their own muse and change things up. Change the shapes. Change the details. Experiment! I want my workshops to be inviting opportunities to try out new ideas with expert guidance. Making mistakes is encouraged, as my philosophy is that mistakes are design opportunities.

Here’s hoping to see you in Tucson! If you can’t take a workshop, but you’re there shopping, stop by to say hello and browse the jewelry I’ll bring with me!





Tucson Gem Show Classes

As the end of 2017 quickly approaches, I’m starting to plan for 2018 and increased teaching opportunities. One of the most exciting options is at the Tucson Gem Show. I’ve only attended the show once before (and left early when I caught swine flu that year). On February 1 or 2, I’ll be offering two single-day workshops at JOGS. Both are introductions to metal clay with Argentium.

JOGS 2017 Jewelry Class Vickie Hallmark Argentium and Metal Clay

Wedge Earrings: Fusing PMC3 And Argentium Sheet

In both classes, we’ll make a pair of earrings or pendant (your choice). The first class uses sheet, while the second uses wire for the Argentium compoonents.

JOGS 2017 Jewelry Class Vickie Hallmark Argentium and Metal Clay

Floral Earrings: Fusing PMC3 And Argentium Silver Wire

In the morning of each class, we’ll cover the basics of working with fine silver metal clay (PMC3) and build a few small components. Those will be kiln fired over lunch. In the afternoon, we’ll introduce the novel properties of Argentium silver and learn to fuse Argentium to both itself and the metal clay.

If you’ve avoided soldering or fusing in the past, you’ll love Argentium fusing! There’s no firescale to clean, and the fusing temperature range is very broad compared to fine silver, making melting and unsightly joints much less likely.

I’d love to have you join me in Tucson for a playdate tucked in amongst your gem shopping.

Art Exercise

Art Exercises?

When I played the piano, muscle memory was important – hence the incessant scales. At the gym, I always warm up before I head to the main work, be it yoga or pilates or free weights. Musicians play scales; athletes do warm ups. I think artists need their own set of art exercises to get into flow.

My personal fitness program came together after lots of time with regular trainers at the gym who failed to assess properly that I had muscles that never turned back on after a bad leg injury. I finally chased down the issue myself, after more injuries from their workouts. Ever resourceful, my brain had developed some weird compensation schemes to allow my body to do what was asked. I looked “normal” to those trainers, although in an inefficient, potentially longterm detrimental way. Trained physical therapists could see it and attack the problem. I needed a year of going back to “baby” muscle work to turn those sleeping muscles back on.

Making art exercises certain “art muscles” as well. If I’m struggling with certain activities that don’t seem to work as well as in the past…

… maybe it’s because I have weaknesses from an injury that need to be addressed. Time to go back and analyze my personal issues and set up a scheme of exercises to wake up and strengthen those sleepy art muscles and relieve the overworked, compensating muscles.

So what art issues stymie me at the moment?

Getting into the studio, for starters. I have a recent fear of starting that’s very akin to my fear of certain physical exercises (especially anything that invokes my PTSD about falling – standing while moving on Pilates reformer comes to mind). I find myself going out of my way to do anything else but go to the studio, even though once I get there I can get lost in the work if things are going smoothly. As with the scary gym exercises, careful and safe repetition is needed to remove the fear and inspire renewed confidence.


My usual way to address this type of creative block is to “go around” by finding a new medium. That allows me to access beginner mind again. Gone are the expectations of high technical skill, the thought that I might want to sell the product, the pressure to view art not as play but as work. Ceramic clay is the most recent experiment, and I’m loving it. I’ve dabbled in hand building  and wheel throwing. Most of those early experiments where I was getting the feel of the material have gone to the landfill. I began a course in ceramic sculpture, and I’m in love.

True, it’s akin to what I do in jewelry, but at a much larger scale and with less cost so that I can work with abandon. So how do I bring the lessons from ceramics into the jewelry studio? How do I make it more playful and less fearful? Or do I jump media, which I have a long history of doing? Can I make my ceramics into an art exercise to build my creative muscle?

One obvious pattern from my analysis: working in a series. As with any creative pursuit, there are more ideas than hours to work. I can’t do everything in one piece (especially when it’s tiny like jewelry) so I add ideas to the next piece, slowly modifying as I go. For example, the Backyard Predators series dfrom my ceramics forays started as a small bird head, which became a bird bust (because everyone else in my sculpture class was doing human busts).

ceramic sculpture heron bird goldfish sgraffito

Vickie Hallmark | Backyard Predator: Heron/Fish | stoneware with sgraffito

That morphed to a full bird to hang on the wall, and then another and another. Each one has certain elements in common, but there are always differences that make it new and exciting.

ceramic sculpture owl wren sgraffito

Vickie Hallmark | Backyard Predators: Owl/Wren | stoneware with sgraffito

ceramic sculpture hawk bird lizard sgraffito

Vickie Hallmark | Backyard Predators: Hawk/Lizard | stoneware with sgraffito


What lessons did I learn from this series that might apply to my jewelry? One possibility: I flipped the classic black/white sgraffito to white/white after being inspired by a white Monet snow scene. While I’ve been mostly working with dark-oxidized silver for some time now, maybe it’s time to flip back to a lighter palette. Gold has been calling my name.

Another lesson I learned: these complex ceramic sculptures are slow to make. The clay can only be pushed so far in each session. I need multiple sessions to get the form made, many more to build and attach surface components such as the lizards, flower and songbird. Carving the clay surface to reveal the floral designs is a painstaking process. Color and gloss is built up slowly, with multiple kiln firings. But each new session, each layer of detail matters. The piece is greater for all those additions. The time I invest is not a burden – it’s a joy, as long as it’s made without pressure to sell the piece at a “reasonable” cost. So what if these pieces stay with me forever? They get to be what they were meant to be.

And maybe I need to do the same with my jewelry. Slow down. Enjoy the process more. Let the jewelry be what it needs to be. I love details. My sketchbooks are filled with super-complex pieces that never get made. I dream of adding more and more, but I’ve let dollars deter me. I should let the artist muse have free rein.

Or maybe explore something new just for freedom? I’ve toyed a bit with the simplicity of square wire. It’s such a departure for me. Abstracting from my detailed and more realistic compositions. The first experiments are fun and freeing.

Argentium cuff bracelet

Vickie Hallmark | Petal Leaf Cuff | oxidized Argentium sterling silver, fused

Vickie Hallmark | Daisy Hoops | oxidized Argentium sterling silver, fused

Workshop Teaching – Creative Pressure

Vickie Hallmark workshop samples

workshop samples: metal clay + Argentium

I’ve been feeling the creative pressure, at least as it applies to teaching workshops! After several years of avoiding teaching engagements, I’ve done a few recently and booked a few more for 2017. I’m still on the fence about my suitability to this teaching long term. I can argue both sides.

Vickie Hallmark workshop sample

workshop sample: metal clay window with fused Argentium bezel used to tab-set enamel-painted glass

Teaching Pros

  1. I get to travel and meet wonderful people.
  2. It’s easier to sell instruction and supplies than finished jewelry. (Sad, but true.)
  3. Working out class projects forces me to clarify the processes that I use, to simplify and streamline as much as possible, to work out all the little bugs that inevitably arise with the development of new techniques.
  4. I learn from my students. They see things differently, and that can really stimulate new ideas for my own future work.
  5. Workshop income brings extra materials or new tools to the studio.

more complex workshop sample: metal clay window with Argentium decorative wirework and bezel, and tab-set enamel-painted glass

Teaching Cons

  1. Teaching is hard work. The pay doesn’t nearly cover all the hours invested in developing the project, making the samples, writing out notes, and travel before I even teach long hours at a workshop. I’m a bit obsessive about making multiple samples at different stages to show, an itemized timeline, detailed notes with photos,  and a comprehensive packing list, as well as taking every tool I can imagine that might be needed to solve a potential issue. Admittedly, if I taught the same workshop more frequently, all that work would amortize out and make more sense…a reason to stick with it.
  2. Showing how to duplicate my work is an artistic quandary. I sweat blood to develop my own ideas, an artistic voice of my own, and a complex body of work. When I teach, I strive to lead students to put their own personal twists on the class project rather than simply duplicate my sample, but exact duplication has to be inherently acceptable. Ultimately, I have to trust my own creative voice to always be moving forward. Realistically, I’m not teaching my latest discoveries or ideas because I don’t have those all worked out yet. I’m teaching older debugged techniques, which are second nature to me, but new to students. I release those ideas into the greater world, trusting that I’ll be rewarded with new ideas.
  3. I’m an introvert. That means that I can enjoy the group experience of a workshop, but it’s draining for me. I get my energy with solo time, not from other people. So a workshop is a one-way energy drain for me. I put my all into it, and I come out the other side exhausted. Normally, a full week afterward is needed for recovery.
  4. All that time spent preparing for workshops is time subtracted from my own work. A class sample is desirably something I as the instructor can knock out with ease. As an artist, I’d rather be pushing the edge with new ideas, some of which will inevitably fail. Time must be allowed for experimenting, but workshops are not experiments.

As we charge into the now-not-so-new year, I feel that I’ve spent the first six weeks working as much on workshop prep as on my own designs. And I have to ask myself what I really want from all of this.

Stay tuned for details about the upcoming workshops.

Creative Flow

How do the studio hours vanish? Getting into creative flow in the studio while making art is tops on my list of things to do, yet days go by where little of it seems to occur. If I’m not careful, my days vanish into body time (pilates and yoga, Redcord and PT) and head time (meditations, guided and written) and home time (spring cleaning and paleo cooking).

The point of all those good-for-me things is to make room for more creative flow, which makes me ecstatically happy. Yet hours in the studio can lack that sense of time loss and joyful floating where everything just works effortlessly and the results are gorgeous.

Mismatched Earrings

I did complete the mismatched earrings that I started right before Christmas, although there were struggles. I maintained calm and soldiered on, even when a bezel popped loose while setting a stone.

Mismatched earrings with rose cut sapphires.

Garnet Earrings

I also put together some January birthstone earrings, using some of the wren components. Who knew that Wren is a trending baby name??? Maybe those January Wren babies need garnet earrings for their mamas. And red stones work for Valentine’s Day as well.

Garnet Wren earrings with cab drops

Yes, there were hiccups. There were granules on the drops, and one popped off while setting stones. So I sawed them all off. Take that!

Garnet Wren earrings with tube set stones

Creativity Meditation

I made it through the first three weeks of Headspace (my meditation app) and started the creativity pack that’s only unlocked after the intro is complete. Part of the creativity meditation is to state an intention, which for me was to achieve flow in the studio more easily.

The very first session had me floating on air. I went out to the studio, slipped into flow and worked for several hours blissfully on a rose cut sapphire pendant…

Only to crash back to earth when I walked inside to find my husband asking me why I wasn’t where I was supposed to be (one of those body things – that I had to pay for, despite creative flow making me miss).

I guess I have to get clearer about my intentions. I need to be a river and creatively flow around obstacles.


2017: A New Year, A Renewed Blog

Welcome back, dear blog!

I originally started writing this blog as a creative journal for myself, to document what I was working on – and more importantly – why. Then a few years back, when social media took over the discussion bandwidth, I personally found myself unable to keep up with the blog properly. I devolved into sporadic posts here and there. It was easier to just post a photo to Facebook with a single line description than to craft an introspective and insightful blog post about my creative journey. However, it’s less satisfying as well. And since this is all by me, for me (although thrown out there to the few who might care to follow along), I’ve decided to try a big change. I want to go back to the more creative me, and short-attention-span social media isn’t really helping.

bird owl ceramics sgraffito

Persistence – handbuilt stoneware with underglaze and sgraffito, ready for second firing (Vickie Hallmark)


Goodbye Facebook!

I’ve flown the coop. I suspended my Facebook and Twitter accounts (I still have my Instagram account active), at least for now. Actually, it has been several weeks, and I’m feeling like it’s a very good thing. More time in the studio is really what I need to focus on – more sketching, more playing, more learning new skills. I’m reassessing this new year. Where do I want to go with my art? How do I go deeper and more intimately into connection with the muse? How do I achieve flow, rather than floating from distraction to distraction? How do I select my path through the myriad options to make art that truly speaks to me and to others?

I’m making time for my new agenda:

  1. Daily meditation (I like Headspace)
  2. Daily morning pages (kept from my foray through Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” years ago)
  3. End of day listing of accomplishments (back from the past, as well)
  4. Regular metal studio time, even if I only sweep and putter
  5. Weekly artist dates
  6. Weekly play time in a different medium (ceramics)
  7. Weekly sketching time
  8. Weekly study project (more about that to come)
  9. Weekly blog post
  10. Monthly newsletter (sign up here)

Please join my conversation with myself by leaving me a comment!