I hope you’ll come and see me at the Mount Dora Craft Fair on October 26th and 27th. With the “holidays” starting earlier and earlier, you could consider this your kick-off to the holiday shopping season. Get a jump start and buy handcrafted jewelry for the people you love. Trust me, you won’t find anything like this in the mall!
This will be my first outdoor tent show EVER. Most handcrafted sellers progress from selling online and at shows to selling through galleries. I sort of skipped over those earlier stages and jumped straight into the wholesale/gallery world. As a result, I’m a bit nervous about this show. It will be really interesting to see how people respond to the work in person. I plan to be like a sponge and soak up every bit of feedback, knowledge and understanding I can glean from this experience. Won’t you come out so I can see a friendly face amidst the sea of strangers?
I know I do! Adding color to my copper and bronze pieces is truly a labor of love. Early in the process, I’m like a kid slopping color around in pursuit of creating her masterpiece. By the time I get to the final steps, with my back aching and sweat dripping from my brow, I wonder if this pile of metal will ever end. Here’s a glimpse into how the magic happens.
It all starts with my very own copper and bronze components, tumbled to a shiny finish and ready for color. After that, I heat up the metal and layer on the dye oxide patinas. These colorants meld into the pores and becomes one with the metal. I like to start with a base color and then splatter in touches of a contrasting dye for a more interesting finish. Next, I sand back each piece by hand to show off the raw metal in the high points and bring out the intricate textures. Several coats of lacquer and a layer of museum-quality preservation wax lock the colors in place. A final power buff melds all those layers together and give each element a deep, rich luster. Truth be told, I skipped several of the more boring steps involved in a process that’s lengthy and laborious, but oh so worth it. Take a look at some of the finished designs that will come out of these components.
September 23, 2013
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We’ve recently returned from a much-needed vacation. This time around our choice was coastal Maine, and it did not disappoint. Maine served us seven days of extreme weather, from a heat wave to foggy mist to cold driving rains. We made the best of each day, and along the way, we began to feel at home with the rugged coast that’s so very foreign to a couple of Floridian flat-landers.
We started with an afternoon in Ogunquit, which is a sweet little seaside village. The masses of tourists flocked to the shops and restaurants, or toasted themselves on the beach, but we were here for The Marginal Way. This oddly named walking path hugs the rocky shoreline and delights the senses with beautiful wild roses that smell like heaven mixed with the ocean air. After a satisfying stroll, we gorged on our first lobster of the trip before heading on up the road.
We spent two days exploring the Portland are, including a climb up the Portland Observatory. This 86 foot tower was built on Portland’s Munjoy Hill in 1807, and was used as a signal towner to communicate with incoming vessels and observe the weather patterns. Today, you can walk up the 103 steps to the observation deck, learning more about the history of Portland and the tower along the way. We were lucky to come on a clear day, so the views were fantastic from the top. Portland is a great walking city, and we trekked through one distinct area after another, discovering funky shops, local eateries, public art, war memorials and a seaside park along the way. We took the Downeast Duck, a quirky tour which covers the city’s highlights by both land and water in a custom-built amphibious vehicle. It was a hoot, or should I say, a “quack”! Nearby, we checked out the Portland Head Lighthouse on Cape Elizabeth, an iconic and much-photographed landmark. Portland was lovely, but we could have done without the 90 degree temperatures each day. It was painful to check the weather and see that it was actually cooler in Orlando. We slathered on the sunscreen and soldiered on in spite of the blazing sun.
Along the mid-coast of Maine is a series of peninsulas and inlets dotted with charming little towns and villages. It was here that we experienced the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, one of my personal highlights of the trip. The main part of this attraction closest to the visitors center is all that a great botanical garden should be, with plants, water features, stone work and sculptures expertly arranged in a way that invites you to find a bench (in the shade) and take it all in. In the five senses garden, visitors are encouraged to experience the sight, smell, feel, sound and taste of various planting areas. While we didn’t actually get to taste, the kitchen garden section of this garden was really intriguing with creative approaches to growing food in small spaces. Beyond the manicured plantings we discovered an extensive wooded trail system that seemed to be made just for us, and provided a shaded and private connector to the farther reaching sections of the gardens.
Our final destination was Bar Harbor and the Acadia National Forest. I was nearly quivering with excitement as we approached the Hulls Cove Visitors Center to gather information, purchase a trail guide and get our bearings for the days ahead. The weather was cold and misty, but armed with our rain gear, we were still able to get in a good bit of hiking on our only full day in the park. We checked out the Ocean trail, where the pink granite cliffs and rock-strewn coast meet the crashing waves of the Atlantic. The Jordon Pond Shore trail took us around the enchanting “pond”, which certainly looked like a sizeable lake to me. From here, the views of the Jordon Cliffs and the North and South Bubbles, two iconic mounded hills were perfect. The next morning, we took the Bar Island trail, which is only accessible for about 3 hours at low tide. It seemed like half the town turned out for the surreal experience of walking across a sandbar to Bar Island. The receding waters reveal barnacle crusted rocks and provide a feast of mussels, crabs and snails for the resident seagulls. A walk up to the summit of Bar Island provides a unique overlook of Bar Harbor, or at least it does if the fog and mist do not obscure the view.
On our second, and sadly final day in Bar Harbor, shortly after our Bar Island hike, the skies opened up and the rain started in earnest. Our exploration of downtown was cut short when the rain actually soaked through our “waterproof” jackets and we found ourselves wet and chilled to the bone. After a quick change to dry clothes we decided to take this opportunity to explore the less-traveled western half of Mount Desert Island by car. This allowed a pilgrimage to Thurston’s Lobster Pound near Southeast Harbor. This out-of-the-way destination was one of the culinary highlights of our vacation. We chose our live lobsters from the tank right at the counter and saw them dropped into mesh bags destined for the giant steamer on the back deck. OMG, this was the most tender, delicious lobster I’ve ever tasted, and by far the cheapest! We devoured our lunch on an enclosed deck overlooking huge stacks of lobster traps right at the edge of the harbor. No wonder that lobster tasted so fresh!
So now we’ve come back to reality. If I had it to do over again, I would allow at least one more day in Bar Harbor. I feel like the very best version of myself when I’m out on a wooded trail scrambling over rocks and tree roots, making my way to another amazing view. We got in loads of walking every day, but I would have liked more time in the woods of Acadia National Park. That corner of the world has a special kind of magic for me where I can feel my stress slip away and a sense of calm settle into my soul. I suggest you start making plans now to visit coastal Maine. You won’t be disappointed!
July 22, 2013
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At the gathering after my dad’s funeral, my Aunt Elisabeth shared a little insight about him that just blew my mind. Apparently, when Dad was a young man and it was time for him to choose a trade, he was encouraged to take up the family business and become a tailor. But what did he really want to do? He wanted to learn to be a goldsmith and make jewelry. My heart nearly stopped beating when she spoke those words.
This revelation both thrills me and makes me incredibly sad. It certainly helps explain why he was so fascinated by my jewelry work and so supportive of me following my dream. I wish he would have told me himself. I’m sure we could have had some interesting conversations on the topic. It seemed that he never wanted to open a conversation about the past. Maybe he knew we would ask so many questions, and he wasn’t interested in sharing the answers. I’ll never know why he didn’t share this connection with me. I’m happy to learn about it now, and I’ll remember it each time I sit down at my workbench.
May 30, 2013
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This week we faced the painful challenge of saying goodbye to the kind, generous man I was lucky enough to call Dad. He passed from this life peacefully with his three daughters standing strong together by his side.
Born in Vreden, Germany in 1939, Anton Abbing was the youngest of eight children and the only son. His family were tailors by trade, and at 18 Dad emigrated to the United States to find work in the garment industry.
In his new life in America, Anton became Tony as he learned to speak English flawlessly and worked hard to move up the corporate ladder. By his early 30′s, he was the manager of the Somerset, KY Palm Beach Clothing Company plant, and had fathered two daughters, my sister Helena and me. His first marriage to my mom, Joy Lee, didn’t work out, but the two remained friendly and respectful of one another as they worked together to raise their girls.
With Diane Daulton, Dad found love again. They added my sister, Michelle, to our blended family, and once again, Dad was surrounded by females. The young couple followed a series of career opportunities which moved them from Kentucky to California, Pennsylvania, back to Kentucky and then to Tennessee.
In Knoxville, Dad got into sailing and bought a boat. This hobby was well-suited because he loved the outdoors, and needed to challenge himself. While he did take the family out on the boat from time to time, it was mostly a solitary pursuit, which seemed to work out well for a man of few words.
During this same period, Dad got seriously into photography. He built a darkroom in the basement and had the full backdrop and lighting setup for taking formal portraits. He took my senior pictures, and I was so proud that my shots were different from everyone else’s.
When the clothing manufacturing industry unravelled in the U.S., Dad proved his resilience by moving south of the border to continue his career. Dad and Diane spent three years in San Jose, Costa Rica followed by two years in Merida, Mexico. With this new challenge, Dad learned to speak Spanish. I loved how his subtle German accent would come through when he spoke this new language.
Some of my fondest memories of Dad are from a trip Helena and I made to Costa Rica. The three of us travelled the country from the Pacific to the Caribbean Coasts. We explored the rain forests and volcanoes of the interior, and we trekked the streets of downtown San Jose. That trip marked a shift away from the parent/child dynamic to a more adult relationship with Dad, and I began to better understand his subtle humor and his gentle way of dealing with the world at large.
When they tired of the ex-pat lifestyle, Tony and Diane relocated to Naples, Florida. Much to everyone’s surprise, they purchased a local coffee shop and became entrepreneurs. Tony rekindled his passion for cycling, and could be seen decked out in full spandex making 40 to 50 mile bike runs with men less than half his age.
Tony’s next series of adventures began when The Men’s Wearhouse hired him to troubleshoot production issues around the globe. His assignments took him to every corner of the world. At a family gathering just a few months before his passing, we tried to count how many countries Dad had visited. We all called out every country we could think of, and when we ran out of ideas, we got out a globe to help us think of more. We finally counted to 65 countries that Tony had visited. I learned my approach to travel from him. Stay calm. Go with the flow. Enjoy the ride.
When Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer, Dad was so gentle and patient as her caregiver. After 38 years together my dad struggled to find firm footing without his beloved wife, but he put on a brave face and stayed active. That June, on his 70th birthday, Dad rode his bike 70 miles! He was so proud of this accomplishment, and he seemed to be learning how to live his new life as a single man.
Later that same year, Dad’s health began to falter. He first suffered a stroke, then Parkinson’s disease, and finally melanoma that spread quickly throughout his weakened body. The decline in less than four years from a vibrant, physically fit man to his death was shocking to see. Through it all, he maintained his signature laid-back approach to life. In short, he was a class act to the end.
He spent the last year at Dogwood Forest assisted living facility, with a constant stream of visitors. My sister, Michelle, and her family live just 5 miles away, and she was there every day to check on him and take him out for dinner or lunch regularly. He relished these outings, and enjoyed spending time with his three grandchildren, Andrew, Caroline and Elisabeth. Helena and I made the trek from Texas and Florida as often as we could, and we enjoyed many good times together in this last year. The staff at Dogwood Forest loved my Dad, and often spoke of how sweet he was, always smiling and never wanting to be any trouble.
My Dad was a practical man. He always thought he would die young, and he was perfectly fine with that outcome. He never complained, and when he learned of his terminal cancer diagnosis just four months ago, he seemed content to know how his story would end. The rest of us would have to process this development in our own way. We would get no parting speeches from Anton. Even in death, it seemed like he was just trying not to be any trouble.
Dad didn’t really know how to relate to us as kids. He was so quiet that it was not easy to get close to him. As we took on adult lives and careers of our own, our bonds to him grew. Dad hesitated to offer advice, and often stated that he wanted us to make our own decisions. He really felt that we knew best how to manage our own lives. But, from time to time, he would share some words of wisdom. One particular bit of advice helped me to overcome my fears and make a major life change. Click here to read more about my dad asking “What are you waiting for?” and giving me the courage to make a big move in the game of life. Go check it out and get another glimpse into the man he was.
So, this is goodbye, Dad. May you have a safe passage to the other side. You were a good and loyal man. You loved deeply and were loved in return. You will be missed.
May 5, 2013
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