Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Tribal Tundra Sapphire Hoops by Pippi Jewelry

Some things, it's obvious that it took insane amounts of time and care to create, like these earrings by my fellow Wire Artisans Guild member (you need to click the link and look at the listing to appreciate the detail on these, this picture makes them look huge but they're not). Still, unless you've bent a wire or two, I bet you have no idea how time intensive something like this is, or how long it takes to build up the calluses that make this not a painful venture. And how hard it is to get the wire to do your bidding, not kink, all that.

But some things, the craftsmanship isn't quite so obvious if you don't know what you're looking at. I'm getting an education in pottery by visiting my friend Patrick at Misty Mountain Pottery. Russ is going to be taking a class from him (and maybe me too). But when we visit Patrick will pull out something and explain to us what it took to get the glaze to look like that, where I hadn't really seen anything but a pot, before, however pretty it was.

And it always occurs to me - the public needs to reconnect with artisanship. You don't have to do every craft to appreciate it. I doubt I'll ever be as passionate about bowls as Patrick is, even if I do throw a few some day. But meeting the people who make things, learning about the process, is eye opening. I was wandering through Wal-Mart (I HAVE to go there sometimes, for a lot of things it's the only place I can get it in town... which i find sad) a few days before Christmas, and I saw a platter that I thought would be perfect for the cheese Russ is enjoying so much these days, but then I thought: I'd rather have a handmade one.

YAY! It's awesome to think that. I'm sure the handmade one will cost me two or three times what that one at Wal-Mart cost (I didn't even look). But something that someone created with their hands, their expertise, their imagination, that has a story, a history. A story that doesn't exploit anyone in a third world country, too. It's awesome if you know the story but even if you don't, the energy that was put into a thing matters.

So my new MO is education. People need to know what it takes to create hand crafted things. Chances are good, if you read my blog, that you make something yourself. Take some time on your own blog, or in another way, to explain your craft to people, especially kids.

It's my hope that I can be part of this artisan education process in days to come, starting with some classes taught at the Fragrant Mushroom Gallery next month. More commentary on a handmade life versus a disposable goods society in days to come, so stay tuned :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Mug Collection!

I decided last year to start replacing my assortment of mugs with handmade ones. So far I have 3 of Thor's at Fragrant Mushroom and one of Patrick's from Misty Mountain Pottery. Both of those guys are friends (and I'm sure I'll buy more of their mugs). But I was perusing Etsy for the fifth mug in my collection today and came across this amazing potter from Pittsburgh who is firing decals onto his pottery with some awesome results. I was attracted to his shop first because of the mugs with the bamboo carved on them (and I may well end up with one!), but when I saw this decal fired dragon I bought it. Check out his shop for other awesome stuff, especially if you enjoy a bit of Oriental flavor to your pottery!

Even better, a portion of his profits support youth art education in Pittsburgh, which I definitely appreciate supporting anywhere!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I think I might've shared my wassail recipe last year but I'm sharing again, because this a HUGE hit at holiday parties. Someone asks me for the recipe every year. Perfect after caroling (does anyone else still go caroling?) Do get yourself some handmade mugs for your warm winter drinks... there's nothing cozier than a warm fire and a warm drink out of a handmade mug.

Holiday Wassail
Corn syrup (this year I used maple syrup and I liked it better - use the real stuff if you do, not Aunt Jemima)
3 Tb. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tb. butter
3 small applies (I like green ones)
1 gallon apple cider (I have a second gallon on hand to top it off usually, it goes fast)
1 lemon (and I added an orange this year)
3-4 cinnamon sticks
whole cloves
Slice applies into 1/4" slices. If you cut them horizontally it shows the pretty star pattern. Remove seeds. Dip slices in syrup, then in cinnamon mixed with sugar. Fry in the butter.
Fill a 4 or 5 quart crock pot with the cider and then put the apples in when they're done. There will be gooey buttery cinnamony goodness in the frying pan, throw that in too. Stir. Toss in the whole cinnamon sticks. Slice the lemons and oranges, if you're using them, and stud each section with a whole clove, and put those in the pot too.
Some years I'll add a little bit of another kind of juice, such as cranberry or pineapple, for a little different flavor. Just a cup or two.
Once everything's in the crock put, put it on high for about an hour to two hours, then turn it to its lowest setting to keep it warm during your get-together.
And of course, a little brandy or rum or even white wine added as its served never hurts... if you put it in the crock pot when it's hot the alcohol cooks off, though. Serve with a cinnamon stick and a curl of lemon peel, if you want it to look pretty.
If you make it once for a party, prepare to make it every year for the same party!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Not enough hours...

Red River Jasper Pendant available at Fragrant Mushroom Gallery
(or if you really want it, message me, I can get it to you!)

It seems like there just aren't enough hours in a day. I have so many plans for things to make, but between working on my yard and playing with my horse, I seem to have time to make enough stuff to send to Fragrant Mushroom Gallery here locally and not much more than that. So if you're local, go see my new stuff!

I just received a shipment of gold filled, argentium and niobium rings from C&T Designs (I haven't said it lately, but they're the best...) so I'm working on an assortment of chainmaille pendants in those materials, and playing with oxidizing some copper and silver. I also just got some wire from Monsterslayer and Parawire so MAYBE I'll find a few hours to wrap some of that stash of gorgeous stones I've got (I have this blue topaz, and a green amethyst... I can't wait to see what becomes of them). I'll take pictures!

This weekend two Gallery teams will be setting up holiday windows at the Gallery, so be sure to stop by and vote for your favorite, and see the new items everyone's bringing out for Christmas. If you haven't been over there (and you're local), GO! The talent is astonishing.

If you haven't found me on Facebook yet, I'd love it if you'd be a fan of my page there. Friend me while you're at it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Win some fairy magic!

I've been in love with the work of my fellow Wire Artisans' Guild member Karla (Thyme2Dream) since I first saw it not long after I found Etsy. She creates pure magic in wire and glass. I've even tried to imitate her work... not very successfully.

Kansas City Street Team is sponsoring a contest this month giving away the beautiful choker above so be sure to head over to their blog for your chance to win a little bit of Karla's magic!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy October!

Hey all, I'm still here, spending my mornings horsing around, my afternoons working (and sometimes evenings if I horsed around too much), evenings with the fam and trying to squeeze in some jewelry making for the upcoming holiday rush in there somewhere. Most of my jewelry is heading to the Fragrant Mushroom Gallery here in town but I'm hoping to get some cool new stuff posted in my Etsy shop soon, too. I'm thinking Christmas already so I'm planning some cool ornaments and things.

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness month. The above bracelet has been sold but it's inspired me to start a new line of awareness bracelets (and possibly other jewelry). I have plans for breast cancer awareness and other forms of cancer (did you know there's a ribbon for many of them? I had a recent custom order from the lady who ordered this one and wanted a lung cancer awareness bracelet as well), support our troops, and autism awareness. Got a cause? I'd be happy to help you design something to commemorate it. If you'd like one similar to the one above (the ring, ribbon or clasp may be slightly different), just drop me a line.

I'm currently working on a black enameled copper viking knit chain for Thor, who owns the gallery, as well as a bead-woven choker, some new chainmaille in sterling and, my favorite, niobium. I'm making more wire-braided bracelets, and of course I have all these pretty rocks to do stuff with....

and the best thing is I'm inspired again after an entire summer of being distracted and uninspired.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

From the Gallery

My first two weeks at the Fragrant Mushroom Gallery were a smashing success, and I think this month is going to be as good... it's at the point where I'm going to have to really push to make enough stuff to keep up with the Christmas season, and that's barring Etsy or any craft shows I do! I'm psyched. It's going to be weird the first time I see someone wandering around town wearing something I created :)

Success is good, but it means I've been neglecting my Etsy shops and even neglecting taking pictures. I sent a load of stuff over to the gallery without even managing to get pics taken, but this latest one I did. See my Flickr page for the latest batch. Even with the neglect, sales on Etsy haven't been bad.

Between my new horse Abbey (she's just a doll!) and keeping up with regular work and demand at the gallery, I'm finding it hard to keep up with a lot of my other online stuff, including my teams and groups, photography, and the Chainmaillers' Guild and Wire Artisans' Guild stuff, so to my friends who are there, I apologize. I haven't forgotten you all, and I'm still mailling and twisting and coiling away :) And riding into the sunset (closer to sunrise) whenever I have the opportunity.

The piece above is for sale at the gallery but if you adore it send me a line and I'll be glad to make one very similar. I'm about as proud of it as any piece I've done recently. The stone is a mystic topaz and is VERY difficult to get a good photograph of! The choker is helm chain done in Argentium and anodized Niobium. More pictures of it on Flickr.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Smithville Jamboree

I shared a booth at Smithville Jamboree (July 4 weekend) with Maggie (in the picture). Not a bad show - about the best I've done at a craft fair, actually, but I still wasn't happy with what I made, considering I sat in this tent for 25 hours that weekend. And packed up in a storm, with the car a block away.

The economy is really killing craft fairs. Anyone else notice this? Seems like people go to browse, with no intention of buying anything. They walk by with this glazed look in their eyes, not really seeing anything. It's kind of sad. I did another fair two weeks after this one and made $13 over my booth fee.

And I gotta ask myself, is this worth the hassle of lugging my stuff and setting up and losing a day of "real" work? I'll post more on the gallery opening in a few days, but my stuff is selling a lot better there and I don't have to do anything... I think my plan is to lay off the craft fairs until the holiday season.

How are craft fairs going for you?

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Think I'm In Love <3

I've never really grown out of the obsession with horses that started when I was ... I dunno, three? I can't drive by a pasture of horses without gawking and I browse horses for sale ads just to look at the pretty ones I'll never EVER be able to afford. I rode hunter/jumpers as a teenager but had to quit when I became a single mom just because it was unaffordable to ride even once a week.

Well, it's a buyers market right now for horses and our financial situation has changed such that I can think about actually -- after 30+ years -- owning a horse.

This is Abbey. We went to visit her last night and I think we'd be an awesome match. Best of all, I can afford her. She's an eight-year-old BLM Mustang mare. She was caught wild in California as a two-year-old and has made her way here to Tennessee. She's been ridden English and on trails and those are the two things I'm most interested in. Mustangs like to bond with one person and that's really what I'm looking for... an equine BFF :) We seemed to hit it off really well for a first encounter and what training issues she has (it seems like she wasn't started under saddle very gently) I think I can handle. And my saddle fits :)

Now to find a good place for her to live and seal the deal. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Eat it, Pizza Hut

First, the news: Smithville Jamboree was a moderate success, not sweltering hot, and although we got rained out on the 4th, I did better than other shows I've done. The Fragrant Mushroom Gallery opens the 18th so I need to start tagging my stuff for someone else to sell (this is more complicated than you probably realize). I'm looking forward to the artists' atmosphere, though. I also have a little fair at Cookeville Hospital on the 17th.

Now for some fun stuff. The last few weeks my family and I have had make your own pizza night. I make the dough in the bread machine, and they decide on their own toppings, we bake and we eat. I stumbled onto a dough recipe that is AWESOME. Pizza Hut has nothing on this. So here's the awesome recipe. You could probably do this by hand too, but a bread machine is a wonderful thing.

Bread Machine Pizza

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees or so, I just put my tap on hot and go)
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
corn meal

My bread machine calls for wet ingredients, then dry, so this is the order I put the stuff in. Dough cycle it up. When it's done, pull it out and divide the dough into enough dough balls for the number of people you've got. This pretty comfortably serves the 3 of us. For four I made 1 1/2 times this recipe (my 2-lb. capacity bread machine handled it fine) and we had some leftovers. No one complains about pizza leftovers.

Once your dough is done and divided, I drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil in one bowl per dough ball, oil up the dough, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 30-40 minutes. Preheat your oven to 500 F. You want it HOT. While it's rising prepare your toppings. Get creative. A list of ours from last night:

marinara sauce, pesto sauce, pepperoni, chicken, mushrooms, olives, onions, artichoke hearts, tomatoes

Bran and I had pesto/chicken/tomato/artichoke pizzas. YUM.

Try using cheese marked "pizza cheese" that is a blend - I think it works out better than mozzarella alone.

When your dough is done rising, if your pans are not nonstick give them a hit with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with corn meal and let everyone spread their dough (little kids love this and I'm not sure my big "kids" love it less!) and apply their toppings. When I was a kid the dough we used was really springy and hard to get to reach the edges of a pan, but this recipe spreads really nicely. This dough doesn't rise a whole lot so spread it thin if you want thin crust and leave it thicker for a "pan" style pizza. Bake 8-10 minutes (longer if you left it really thick), break out the pizza cutter and dig in.

Let me know if you use and like the recipe!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Smithville Fiddlers' Jamboree

This weekend I'll be sharing a booth with a friend at Smithville Fiddlers' Jamboree - it's a competition for people who play bluegrass music, as well as a HUGE craft fair that fills all of downtown Smithville TN. If you're local, stop out and see us.

Sure would love to bring my violin but I doubt my Rachmaninov would fit in :) I need to learn that good bluegrass improv!

In other news, the gallery opens next week - details to follow.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Paperback Swap - Book Club to Swap, Trade & Exchange Books for Free.

Read much? I confess, I'm an addict. Everyone hates it when I move because 40% of the boxes I pack are books (about 20% kitchen gadgets and then.. stuff). I sorely miss Half Price Books in my native Ohio.

But then again, I have a lot of books. I don't just read them, I kind of collect them. I have three tall bookshelves full, currently. And I have more than a few that I don't need or use anymore. What to do?

Last year my hubby (who is a mail carrier) discovered the coolest thing since Gutenberg: Paperback Swap. Despite the name, you can trade any kind of book, including audiobooks. In the past year PBS estimates I've saved $274 on the cost of the books I've ordered. Here's how it works.

1. You list books you have that you don't want or need anymore. If you list 10, you get 2 free credits!
2. The books go into the system and other members can request them. When someone requests your book, you ship it media mail at your expense, and you get a credit.
3. You then spend credits on new books that you want! There's no charge.
4. If a book you want isn't currently in the system, you can add it to your wish list, and then when someone lists it, you get notified by email and you can get it. Free!

You also get free credits for referring other people, so if you're interested in doing some book trading, do click the banner at the top here and sign up, and I'll get a credit for your joining (yay!). Then you can refer other people and get free books too, and it'll be like a pyramid scheme except it's legal and everyone wins :)

Don't toss books or throw them in a heap at your next garage sale... trade 'em!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Horse Slaughter Bill

Tennessee: Say NO to Horse Slaughter

The three horse slaughter plants in the United States were shut down in Illinois and Texas in 2007, and the federal government is likely to pass legislation that would halt the transport of horses for slaughter. Funding for federal inspectors has been halted, so horsemeat cannot legally be shipped across state lines. Congress has voted time and time again to ban horse slaughter and it is only a matter of time before a federal ban is enacted.

Despite all of these steps towards banning horse slaughter, the Tennessee legislature is considering a dangerous bill, H.B. 1428/S.B. 1898, to authorize the creation of horse slaughter plants—and would put in place provisions to protect such a slaughter plant from judicial challenge. This bill has just passed a committee—it is critical that we stop it!

Please call your state legislators to urge them to oppose H.B. 1428/S.B. 1898. Click here to look up your state legislators and the phone numbers. After making your call, please fill in and submit the form on the right to automatically send an email to your state legislators opposing horse slaughter in Tennessee. Your legislators receive a lot of email, so it is important to personalize the subject line and the text below so that your message will stand out and have a greater impact.

Please go to this link:
if you live in the state of Tennessee, and contact your representative and senator to protest this bill.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Like Rocks. And Rings.

I gotta confess. I have a major addiction to rocks. I suspect some of you know of what I speak... pretty beads draw us like magpies. I have a respectable bead collection, but the really crazy addiction....

.... is cabochons. There are a few drilled things here and some miscellany but for the most part this is my cab stash. The sad thing is, I can't stop. I have 11 won auctions and bids on another 8 or so from my favorite eBay cab supplier (WalyBeads) right now. The above includes several varieties of jasper and agate, chrysocolla, cat's eye class, carved quartz, goldstone, kyanite, snowflake obsidian, seraphinite, sodalite, bloodstone, turquoise, hematite, geodes, unakite, mookaite, opalite, some acrylic cameos, and a few other things. I store these in individual cello bags labeled with the stone, size, mohs hardness, country of origin if I know it, and what I paid for it. God forbid my hubby should pull them out some time and add up all those numbers =D

I "only" have about 5 Craft Mates boxes of beads, which include Swarovski, Czech glass, pearls, semiprecious stones, small metal ones, and some random stuff. Oh, and a few dozen tubes of seed beads and Miyukis.

The other MAJOR addiction is rings, which I have in sizes from micro to 14 gauge 3/8" in every metal you can imagine, and most colors you can imagine. I'll have to take a picture of those some time. Those I store in a soft-sided tackle box that goes with me nearly everywhere. I make maille in the car, at friends' and family's houses, watching TV on the couch... pretty much everywhere.

Last night my son came to sit on the couch beside me while I was working on a maille keychain. I had my little tackle box organizer open. He sat on the very corner of it and flipped the whole thing, scattering and mixing the entire box of rings. I'll be finding them for weeks, I imagine. I really should've taken pictures of the chaos, or of him sitting with his head in his hand sorting them with a bamboo skewer (I helped, though when it happened I could've beaten him). Several hours later, they were all neatly re-sorted. It was bound to happen sooner or later. I'm thinking Craft Mates individually locking compartments for rings, now.

I know beaders and maillers aren't the only packrats. I've seen seamstresses' fabric stash and kitters' yarn stash. I have a polymer clay stash, myself, even though I've never done anything serious with it but have always wanted to. I have a stash of acrylic paints for the miniatures I used to paint (maybe I should pull those out...). My three drawers of kitchen gadgets might count as a stash.

Sometimes the cool thing about a stash of goodies is that it can be inspiration in itself. Sometimes I just pull everything out and browse, and something jumps out at me and says "make this!"

What's your stash?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Obligatory "I'm Still Here" Post

I suppose from time to time everybody neglects their blog and then writes that "I haven't dropped off the face of the earth!" post. Well, this is mine.

May's always crazy. There's Mother's Day (hope all you moms had a great one), my husband's birthday, about three other birthdays, end of school...

I had our Middle School Renaissance faire a few weeks ago. I'm waiting for pictures from that, which I'll share when I can. It was a busy day, since in the morning I taught Renaissance dancing, in the afternoon I called the moves for our Human Chess Match and through the whole thing I (actually my wonderful hubby and friend Rachelle, mostly) ran a craft booth...

my friends Nate and Rachelle got married last week (happiness always! ... oh and check out Rachelle's Etsy Store HERE) (the picture above, they are about to get PELTED with bird seed)....

not to mention just gorgeous weather and wanting to get out more, except that the Blooming of Everything is making my allergies act up, which makes me REALLY tired, so there must be a daily nap.

So, weighed against all that, the blog got neglected. I'm sure you understand.

If you really miss hearing from me you should drop by my slightly less neglected Adventures of the Lack/Scott Family blog.

I will now return to finishing this custom bracelet that is annoying the heck out of me with its unevenness, and let you get back to your more interesting web surfing.

Happy spring!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Still Working?

The economy is the news topic of choice these days. News sources seem to be having a party with their DOOOOOOOOOM DOOM doom! stories (swine flu... really now, was it all that bad? Sorry pig farmers, I mean H1N1).

I don't know how you're doing in your neck of the woods, but in spite of the fact that people keep saying to me, "At least you have a job," it seems like everything is more expensive and the faster we run the behinder we get, and the ends stretch but don't quite meet. The savings we had, we've eaten through. I think it's rough on just about everybody.

But for those who have lost jobs... well, I can't even imagine what would happen if I or my husband did at this point. I ran across this very sobering animation of job loss/gain in the US since 2004. My son described it: "it's like watching a bunch of nuclear bombs go off at once." Do click the link and hit play... it's quite sobering. And I don't think it's much better anywhere else in world.

The Geography of Jobs

So I'm taking a moment to acknowledge the jobless and those who, like us, are stretching it paycheck to paycheck WITH jobs. Hang in there. We will live to see better times, though it may get worse first.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Artists' Co-Op

This storefront (the brick one) has been purchased by The Fragrant Mushroom here in Sparta and I'm very excited to be a part of the Artists' Co-op Gallery that will be going in here, right on main street in "downtown" Sparta, across from the courthouse.

An artist's co-op is a visual arts association jointly owned and democratically controlled by its members. A monthly membership fee buys space in the gallery, and there will also be available classroom space and studio space. Thor and Cheri, who own The Fragrant Mushroom (Thor makes wheel thrown pottery), have a vision for Sparta: to make it an artist-friendly town that draws tourism. They plan to hold classes to show other people how to do what they have done, so that all these other little buildings (many of which are vacant and getting somewhat run-down, but are quite old and charming) will eventually be galleries, making this a haven for Appalachian artists.

I hope it happens. My and Russ's daydream is to run a little bed and breakfast in this area ; I'd love to have it be one that focuses on creativity in some way, be it a gallery or workshops or both. That's a long way down the road, but one has to start somewhere.

So! At some point in June (date to be determined) my work will be exhibited here and I will do my part to bring art to my little town.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dragon Days Renaissance Festival

Well, Russ borrowed a nice camera and was going to take pictures of my booth. This is the only one he took :) At least it shows my nifty earring display, which I made myself out of a picture frame with strips of balsa wood to hold the earring cards (and I got really beauitful new parchment cards). There's Brandon in the background working on hacky sacks.

The festival wasn't bad. Considering the lack of advertising and attendees, I made back double my booth fee, and Brandon made only slightly less than I did, besides that.

Story there. I've been bugging him to make hacky sacks for a month and he's just been too busy. He got 2 made. EVERY person that walked by the booth picked those things up and played with them (they're great fun!). He got orders for 3 custom ones the first day and another 3 the second day, plus sold one of the ones he made, so he was busy cranking them out while we were there, and made almost as much as I did with a booth full of jewelry.

Wisely, he spent most of the money he made that weekend on supplies to make more hackys for the faires coming up. This Friday: White County Middle School Renaissance Festival. Hopefully we'll get some better pics of the booth!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Digital Sentiments

This past week my son had to do a family tree project for Spanish class with pictures of his various family members, and it occurred to me...

I don't have hard copies of pictures anymore.  Everything's on this computer.  If I don't back up my pictures on CD, I am one virus away from losing all those memories.

Not only that, but there's something real and sentimental about an album of pictures, whether they're attractively scrapbooked or just stuffed in an album.  My printer sucks for printing photos, but I can upload them to Wal-Mart's site (I assume other retail developers have something similar, which I will look into because I'd rather not give Wal-Mart business if I don't have to) and get prints made for not that much money.

All my music lives on this computer, too.  Well, not all.  I am old enough to still have that stockpile of CDs, though I've ripped all my favorite ones.  (Hell, I still have cassettes.  No vinyl or 8-tracks tho.)  But if I buy music these days, I'm usually buying it online and downloading it.  Again... one virus away from losing that investment, unless I've burned them to CD.

For the most part, I think this is all great.  For one thing, it cuts down on trash.  Sending me email instead of a letter means I'm not tossing a paper letter.  I'm not throwing away unwanted CDs (AOL doesn't send them anymore!).  The photos that didn't come out don't end up as landfille,  just another file in the recycle bin on my computer.  So there are benefits.

On the other hand, I'm not likely to save that email in a scrapbook.  Clicking through pictures doesn't mean as much as flipping through a scrapbook, somehow.  And I definitely have to rethink my backup plan for the data that is on my computer right now.

I still prefer to journal with a pen in a pretty blank book.  And an e-card will NEVER replace a Hallmark with a handwritten sentiment.  What about you?  Do you like hard data or is half your life on a hard drive?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What is Niobium?

Electric Rainbow Earrings at You've Got Maille

This weekend I sold a pair of these earrings online and a pair at the Renaissance faire. Last night, as I worked on an argentium and niobium choker, I decided I needed to talk about niobium.

It's my favorite metal. It's cooperative to work with (it won't break your hands like steel or titanium and it closes seamlessly without an argument). It anodizes in glimmering colors no photo I seem to be able to take does justice. Unanodized, it's a grey-silver color with just a touch of a glimmer that gives no hint of the iridescent rainbow it can become.

This is a relatively "new" metal, having been discovered in 1801. It's used in alloy with titanium and steel for lots of technology applications, including the space program.

The glory of niobium is the color. When it takes color, it takes it in a subtle range. I get a packet of multicolor rings and for some projects sort them into colors, and often there's no clear division - for example the bronze has purple highlights and the violet has gorgeous blue. As a result, you can get a beautiful gradient effect when weaving it into chainmaille.

The other tremendous benefit is that the stuff is as hypoallergenic as you can get. While a few people react to niobium, it's extremely rare. As a result it's used extensively in body piercings. So if you've got sensitive ears and you haven't tried niobium hooks, try them. A search on Etsy should turn up several. Niobum and titanium alloys, unlike surgical steel, should be free of nickel (which causes most metal reactions).

As I said, a search on Etsy should turn up quite a bit of niobium, but if you're a jewelry maker you're probably wondering where to get this great stuff. The suppliers I know of include The Ring Lord, Blue Buddha Boutique, and Spiderchain, although I cannot attest to their niobium because I haven't bought it from anyone. I bought first from someone on eBay but since the rings were "snipped" niobium wire, they had rough edges that weren't colored.

Every bit of niobium I buy now comes from C&T Designs, and I'll tell you why. One, customer service is the best. Secondly, Curt takes great care in winding, cutting and anodizing his wire, so you end up with very few "trash" rings (unlike TRL; I haven't bought the niobum but sometimes I'm disgusted with how many aluminum rings I have to throw away). The ends are carefully anodized and the color is gorgeous. Third, as far as I know, C&T is the only place you can get "rainbow" niobium rings, where each ring has 2-3 colors on it, and this makes for some beautiful stuff, and even prettier ear hooks. And finally, he does custom rings and custom anodizing so pretty much, if you can imagine it and he can manage it, he's up for it. Prices are really reasonable, too.

Niobium Ear Wire Selection from C&T Designs (rainbow bottom center)

I really love the mostly circular shape, they hang very nicely.

People seem to like "cheap" earrings so I'm still using surgical steel wires. If I had my choice, though, I'd go to all niobium and to eliminate reactions, although sometimes they don't look right on silver earrings. Also, if anyone knows of a good supplier of niobium or titanium posts with loops, I'd love to hear about it. I've found a few here and there but no reliable supplier.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Some Poetry For You

Coffee Haus Photograph print available at Karmabox

Inspiration by neon

and the dusk beyond
fueled by a double decaf
nonfat latte
and an urge that's been
driving me sane
all day.
This temple,
the place where amidst noise I grow
and seek out the
divine silence
in me.
The hush
that vibrates in gentle waves
that lap,
eroding the shore
of everything I thought I knew.
And all I can do is stare
at the far
and long for what gifts
tomorrow's waves
deposit at my feet.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SO busy...

Inventory, rehearsals, PR stuff, display... my head is spinning.

This weekend is Dragon Days Renaissance Festival in Cookeville, TN. Not only do I have a booth full of chainmaille and wire goodies for fairegoers to peruse, I'll be calling the moves for the Human Chess Match, themed Robin Hood this year - Nottingham side (yeah, the bad guys). My son's the sherriff. That's him being vaulted over last year as one of the Vikings in a 13th Warrior themed chess match. Besides that, my troupe of Renaissance Dancers aged 6th grade to adult, named Two Left Feet (appropriately sometimes, I'm afraid) will be performing. So if you're local, come out and see us Friday or Saturday. You'll get to see Johnny Phoenix, too, which is a treat.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weekend in Knoxville

Been away for the weekend. I took Brandon to his interview for Tennessee Governor's Academy in Knoxville. I've decided I like the town - big city convenience without a big city feel. I think Bran did pretty well and he's really excited about the opportunity - he'll get to choose a research area and work with a researcher as a mentor at Oak Ridge National Labs, if accepted, live on campus with 23 peers in an environment designed to encourage inquiry and learning. I think it was made for him, really. Fingers crossed - we'll find out May 1 if he was chosen to attend.

While he was interviewing and testing I paid a visit to University of Tennessee Gardens and traipsed their greenways, discovered the amazing Young-Williams Animal Center (oh my goodness, what an amazing adoption facility!! Check out the link. If Bran goes to TGA he needs to volunteer there, and I'll be jealous) and a really cool store called Aimee's Bohemian Jewelry and Gifts. Something really cool about having a few hours of completely free time in a new place and just discovering it - not something you often get to do close to home, or even on vacation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Team Picks of the Week

More team awesomeness for you!

There's so much stuff you can do with a little mobius unit, but I don't think I've seen this done before. Besides, I adore that color.

Wire Artisans' Guild: Little Green Tree Frog Brooch by Sonseeahray

I don't even know what to say about this except it's full of awesome. Not that many cool brooches on Etsy, either. He needs to live on your lapel. Before you go buy him though, you should check out Sonny's equally adorable fishie brooch.

Fantasy Artists of Etsy: No Ring On This Finger Lillith Print by Carapace

There's so much here... the story behind it (see the listing), and an obvious dark goddess drinking coffee out of a mug that says #1 Mom... put this print in your living room, it's guaranteed to generate conversation. Got to love art based on mythology.

Etsy Bloggers Team: Camouflage Handmade Vessel by Rosebud 101

Put a tiny amount of essential oil in this (neroli is soooo good) and you don't need to put perfume on yourself!

Etsy Twitter Team: Calm Me Lavender Soap by Soap Rehab

I know, I know, I can't resist putting soap in here. This looks like fancy marbled paper to me and is one of the prettiest soaps I've seen. I always hated lavender scent in manufactured soaps, but lavender scent that actually comes from lavender is dreamy. Literally.

Artfire Chainmaillers' Guild: Chainmaille Purse by Chains n Maille

Someone runs up to you and tries to steal THIS purse, you THWAP 'em! Besides, it's completely cool.

Tennessee Artisans on Artfire: Ring of Fire by Firepit Art

This falls into the "Oooooh, I want I want I want" category. Who needs a dinky little chimnea when you can have open fire!

Blogfire: Pico Seeks You Print by Nature Manipulated

Not sure this little guy was prepared to have his picture taken, but he sure is cute!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Puppy Intrigue

Really, now. People are accusing the president of "planting" this dog in a home, which would subsequently say the dog didn't work out so it could look like they adopted a rescued dog, and that the dog was intended for the Obamas all along. Don't people have anything better to do than speculate on what the Obamas have for lunch and their supposed PR plots? What's next? Will they be accused of "sneaking" pesticides into their "organic" garden?

Barack was quite clear in saying they'd prefer to rescue a shelter dog, but had to take Malia's allergies into consideration. As a result, they've adopted a Portie (Portugese Water Dog) courtesy Ted Kennedy that is a "sort of" rescue dog since he was taken out of a home where he was no longer wanted, and they have donated generously to the Humane Society, to boot. Seems like a quite responsible way to go, to me. Have any of the other First Dogs (or cats) been rescue animals? I'm not really sure. What I am sure of, is that all the coverage of the ins and outs of the White House these days are starting to look like our weird obsession with England's royalty, only tenfold.

All this silliness DOES highlight the need to consider a shelter dog when adopting, which can't be a bad thing. Oh, and, I know I've said it before, but don't add to the problem. Get your pets spayed and neutered.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy... Tax Day?

Rolling Stone Pendant at You've Got Maille

Not sure if it's because I've been listing daily, or because spring is in the air, or the economy is picking back up, or people are getting tax refunds back already, but sales have been pretty good for me lately. So there ARE some people out there with some money!

On an entirely unrelated note, my son Brandon's made it to the final round of consideration for Tennessee Governor's Academy (see THIS POST if you don't know what I'm talking about, and you care).

So in honor of all this good news, I propose...


If you've been contemplating buying from me, head over to either store to browse. With any purchase, a second item of equal or lesser value will be 40% OFF!! That's from either store, and if you want one thing from YGM and one thing from SR, go for it, I'll adjust your shipping and your totals, just send me a convo before you pay. Also let me know you saw this in my blog, since I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to make this a blog-exclusive sale.

This will last through April 20. I'll be out of town Friday and Saturday while Bran interviews for TGA, so anything ordered this weekend will be shipped Monday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Morning Coffee

Deep Blue/Chocolate Coffee Mug by GardKoizumiArt

K, I'm not going to talk about my morning coffee (since I'm writing this with insomnia for the last hour and a half at 5:00 a.m. and hoping for a little more sleep and thinking about morning coffee would just be torture... creamy goodness... steaming hot.... anyway). If I WAS going to talk about my morning coffee.... well I think it'd be really awesome in this gorgeous mug from Gard Koizumi Art. I've decided when I have a few extra dollars I'd like to start a handmade coffee mug collection so my morning hazelnut bliss is even better. Something awesome about drinking out of a mug you really like.

But that's NOT what this post is mainly about. I discovered a Firefox add-on called Morning Coffee. Basically, you tell it what websites you want to visit on a regular basis, then click the icon in your browser toolbar and poof! there are your websites for the day. You can put in daily websites, or certain ones certain days of the week.

How does this help you the crafter? Here are a few ways.

1) Have it open your blog once a week or a couple of times a week or once a day so you remember to post.

2) Have it open your social networking spots so you remember to do all that awesome promoting on Facebook, myspace, Indiepublic, whatever. Twitter is a different story.

3) This is the one I'm most excited about. Are you juggling several selling sites? Want to update them and/or relist on a regular basis but never seem to get around to it? I've got it opening Etsy and Artfire for daily listing and relisting, and a few others (Winkelf, 1000 Markets) that I have a more casual presence on once or twice a week. Since I have a heck of a time keeping track of what's what, this is really a huge boon to me.

4) Have it crack open Google Analytics, Craftopolis and Heartomatic so you can see how your stuff is faring in the wild world of teh Interwebs, and who's noticing.

5) Get an RSS feed to the blogs you want to monitor on a regular basis and put Bloglines in your daily routine. Throw in your Teams sites, and any forums you want to keep up with, maybe a news site or two so your friends don't think you're completely obsessed with your craft (yeah right!).

Now click, and you're off! Daily online business promotion in one handy click!

I also think the name is just the best, since morning Interwebs routine and coffee seem like a perfect match to me. Of course, you can do this with your evening nightcap too, if you prefer.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Go Teams!

Way Awesome Cool Stuff From You've Got Maille's Way Awesome Cool Teams
(decided to include Artfire teams this week)

Etsy Chainmaillers' Guild:
Long JPL Earrings by Mailled

I have a thing for JPL, and in sterling, with labradorite... magic.

Etsy Wire Artisans' Guild:
Victorian Miss by Follow The Red Brick Road

When you're done ogling this gorgeous pendant, go look at Marcy's other amazing creations. Sooo much detail there. Only problem is causing people to stare at your chest so much. ;)

Fantasy Artists of Etsy:
Floating Fairy House by Centaur 1201

This is positively dreamy. I imagine having an enclosed patio to put this on... maybe some day. It looks like a glowy fairy lives inside.

Etsy Bloggers:
Mel Marry Jack Puppets by Mia Rae

Are these not adorable!? You could do Sesame Street at home!

Teacher's Apple Beaded Paperweight by Red Bess Bonney

If I was a teacher, I'd totally want one of these.

Artfire Chainmaillers' Guild:
Flowers and Byzantine by Nightmaiden

She shows just how un-geeky chainmaille can be. A garden for your neck!

The Tree 2 Sided Stained Glass Pendant by Almond Tree

I see a lot of tree pendants but nothing quite like this!

Artfire Tennessee Artisans:
Cucumber Cantaloupe Soap by A Woman With Scents

Yum! This sounds so delightful. A reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Faire Season

Deutsch (will be available at Second Renaissance this week)

A lot of exciting things coming up in the next few months for us here in little Sparta, Tennessee. Here's the Renaissance Faire and Craft Fair schedule:

April 25-26 Dragon Days Renaissance Faire at Hidden Hollow, Cookeville, TN
May 2 Bobby Ray Elementary Spring Fling Arts & Craft Show, McMinnville, TN
May 8 White County Middle School Renaissance Festival Sparta, TN
May 23 Liberty Square Festival, Sparta, TN

As a result, I've been busily creating Renfaire-appropriate goodies mostly in maille. If you're local stop by one of the above shows and see us.

In other news, Fragrant Mushroom here in Sparta is opening a local art gallery and You've Got Maille will be participating with gallery display, classes, and more. More info on that as I receive it, but it's an opportunity to promote local artisanship that I'm really excited about. Besides, networking with other artists in a richly creative atmosphere is one of the most wonderful things in life.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chainmaillers' Guild Contest

Hey, go to the Etsy Chainmaillers' Guild Blog and vote for your favorite entry in the spring Romance Blossoms contest, and you can win some really amazing chainmaille presents (pictured in the post below the entries -- some of those goodies are worth $40 or more!). You can win more entries by publicizing the contest. Of course, I'm not telling which is mine. :D

Good luck!

My Entrecard Buddies

So far, I believe Entrecard has done a heck of a lot to promote traffic to my blog. I've definitely gained some new readers. Has it been great for business? I don't think so, not really, although I've gotten at least one sale from my new readers. Still, I like it when people read and comment on my blog and I have made some great new friends this way.

Entrecard is apparently not terribly well-run. Recently they've started allowing people to sell things for credits, and now they're going to allow third-party advertising to take up space on my blog (originally they weren't going to let me say no to specific advertisers! but they've changed this policy). In general, I don't like where they're going, and as one friend said, "I don't want to pimp out my blog." I'm staying for now, but I'm not sure for how long. Apparently has banned them entirely. Yikes.

To my friends, and other friends leaving Entrecard for the reasons above, if you enjoy my blog and I've spent some time around yours (I have SO many favorites that I visit on a nearly daily basis and thoroughly enjoy reading), I'd really like to keep in touch. Drop me a line here and I will definitely follow and/or subscribe if I'm not already. Maybe at some point we can set up a blog ring so we can keep making the rounds. I think I'm following most of your blogs already, so that's one way to keep tabs. I'll pull my "follow me" box closer to the top of the page here, or you can subscribe via RSS and I'll do the same. I check my Bloglines blogs daily and I recommend them. There are definitely other ways to keep an eye out for blogs you enjoy.

If you're not following me already, I'm also on Twitter and usually post updates to my blog there. Well, I forget a lot, but I'll try to be better.

I'll miss you most of all, scarecrow! (geez, I'm getting all sentimental!)

Have a great April everyone. April Fool's Day is over so I can say that totally seriously now :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wii Fit Review

I'm going on day 35 of using my Wii Fit and I've at least weighed in all but 5 days. I'm also eating a lot better and I'm tracking diet and activity with a great Internet program called Fit Day. Results: I'm down almost 8 lbs. since I started the diet (a week before I got the Wii fit).

Thinking of getting one? I do recommend it, more for the balance board than the program itself, which leaves some to be desired. First, it's quite obnoxious about telling you how fat you are (every day you start out as a twig and then your Mii ballooons up to your weight, which looks fat even if you're normal, and if you're in the "obese" range it makes this roly-poly circus elephant tune and the board proclaims "That's obese!" as if it's surprised), and isn't terribly encouraging. The trainers are repetitive and uninspiring - the best trainer in the game is the punching bag on Rhythm Boxing. Every day it wants you to do balance and agility tests, but it doesn't track actual results, only the esoteric "Wii Fit Age" (a concept I never understood - I surely don't feel the 30ish it tells me I am). I would also prefer on a lot of the games to be able to look at MY best scores, not the best my 16-year-old tennis playing son can do. The other thing that annoys me is the fact that I can't just set up a workout and do it. I have to stand around clicking the A button while I listen to the trainer say the same things he/she has said the last 35 days, or I move in and out of aerobic games while my heart rate drops.

Still, every day I warm up with my favorite yoga and strength exercises, and then go to aerobics to do a little hula hoop (very little, my knees don't like it at all), regular and advanced step, and then Rhythm Boxing (my favorite) workouts, all of them in order, and then cool down with a balance game or two. It gives me about 40 to 60 minutes of exercise, 20 to 30 of it aerobic.

Great things about Wii Fit -
  • The balance board has tremendous potential. More on this later.
  • It's nice to have a way to track your weight, and your activity, although the FitDay program linked above has much better options for this, including a line that tracks what your progress should be to reach your goal.
  • It's fun. Even if you only do balance games, you're up and moving. Fun while exercising is not something I've had a lot of, excepting things like hiking, dancing and horseback riding, which I can't do on a daily basis really.
  • It gets you thinking about exercise. Even if you don't want to play games for exercise every day, you want to get your exercise in, so you go for a walk, take the stairs, get your family moving with you.
All that said, I am VERY much looking forward to a new exercise system coming out for Wii that uses the balance board (although the preview vid doesn't show much of that) and also seems more comprehensive in targeting body areas and cardio. You strap a nunchuk to your leg so it tracks what your lower body is doing and isn't as focused on balance as Wii Fit is. It's called EA Sports Active. Check out the preview on Amazon. A "new 20-minute workout every day" sounds great to me. I've also heard that My Fitness Coach is a good program, and I hope to pick that up at some point too, to give me some variety when the Tennessee summers get too hot and humid to think about exercising outside much.