Mount Dora, Here I Come!

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?

Studio McManus at Mt Dora Craft Fair

October 4, 2013

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Need A Bit Of Color In Your World?

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.

Patina.collageIt 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.

Nature Walk Mixed.collage

 

September 23, 2013

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What Was Handed Down

My dad, Tony Abbing, and his sister, Elisabeth Ricke.

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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Fifteen years of love and laughter

I’m feeling a bit sentimental today. It’s my 15-year anniversary, and I spent several hours last night looking through photos of Jim and me. The earliest days are not so well documented. Back in 1998, we were still using FILM CAMERAS! Can you imagine? Can you remember taking photos and having to WAIT to see how they would turn out? Can you remember how each photo was so carefully considered because of the cost of film and processing? And then, where did we put these paper images that came back from the drugstore? If you were organized and on top of things (sometimes I was), they would find their way into an album, which was a lovely format for sharing your photos in person. If you were not so organized (often I wasn’t), they ended up in a box in the closet where they still live today, waiting to be re-discovered in some archeological dig in the 21st century.

Here are a few (mostly digital) shots of our 15 years together.  The shot in the lower right corner was taken just last week.  I think we’re holding it together pretty well, don’t you?  Click and then click again to see a larger image.

But I digress. This post is not about film versus digital.  It’s about my sweet husband on our 15-year anniversary, and my thoughts on staying happily married. If I may, I want to offer up some advice for those of you who have not yet found your life partner. First, choose wisely. This marriage thing is not always easy. Even the best relationships go through really tough times that will leave you wondering if you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life. This is an inescapable truth, regardless of how very much in love you feel the day you make your forever commitment. Second, find someone who makes you laugh. The ability to laugh together is a key to happiness, and can really help to overcome the challenges I mentioned above. Third, find someone who likes the same movies, music, sports, or whatever, that you do. You don’t need to be joined at the hip, and it works perfectly well for each partner to have interests and friends of their own. But I know that Jim and I share a common language and thousands of inside jokes because of our common tastes in music and movies. Also, I couldn’t care less about sports, and I found one of the few men on the planet who shares my apathy in that regard.  We generally operate at about the same speed, we like doing the same things, and we make each other laugh.  As a result, we continue to enjoy each other’s company immensely.

So, here’s to all you lovers out there, and here’s to my sweet soul-mate, Jim McManus.  I’m looking forward to our next 15 years together.  Remember, “The further we go, the happier we get.” (quote first seen at the FurtherFest in 1997 where Jim proposed to me).

April 25, 2013

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Updated Earwires

I recently updated the type of earwires used in my copper earrings.  Previously, I used a surgical steel earwire with a copper accent ball.  I was under the impression that surgical steel would be a good choice, given that so many people are struggling with metal allergies.  They use it for surgery, so it must be good, right?  Well, not so much.

I learned that surgical steel contains nickel, which is the most common metal allergy.  Oops!  Armed with this knowledge, I set out to find something that would look great with the warm reddish tones of the copper elements, and would be good for sensitive ears and folks with metal allergies.

My solution is this niobium earwire in a copper finish.  Niobium is a semi-precious metal that is truly hypo-allergenic.  My research turned up scores of women with ears so sensitive they could not wear silver or even gold earwires, but they are able to wear niobium.  The copper finish is anondized onto the metal, so it should be stable over time.

These niobium earwires will be included with all future orders.

Above all else, I just love how the niobium earwire looks with the copper elements in my earring designs.  With its warm finish, the earwire no longer fights for attention. I hope my customers like this solution as much as I do!

Please note that my sterling and fine silver earrings will continue to come with sterling silver earwires.  This change affects only the copper earrings in the line.

I still have lots of the surgical steel earwires on hand, so feel free to request this option if you wish.

Surgical steel earwires with copper ball. I’m not using this style of earwire on future orders unless specifically requested.

 

 

October 5, 2012

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Harvest

Yesterday morning I ventured outside to do what couldn’t be ignored any longer.  The Bamboo and Butterfly Ginger that I planted just a year ago had flourished during this hot, wet summer.  Their bushy branches had encroached on patios and pathways, creating a jungle-like environment that was rather pleasant, but certainly not conducive to actually using those outdoor spaces.

With my first step out the door I noticed the change in the weather. The hint of a cool-ish breeze ruffled the leaves above my head, renewing my faith that surely summer would break sometime soon, and make way for the glorious season that Floridians anxiously await.

As I worked on the Butterfly Ginger, it began to rain; not a pounding rain laced with thunder and lightening, but a gentle rain that cooled me and washed away the sweat of hard work.  The birds chirped happily overhead, and I decided that if they weren’t bothered by the rain, neither was I.  My reward cutting back the Butterfly Ginger was the heady scent of ginger root wafting on the breeze.  Lovely.

Next, I tackled the big Graceful Bamboos. As I pulled 10 to 20-foot Bamboo canes away from the mother plant, it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn’t just cutting back, I was harvesting.  Bamboo canes are so strong and so useful, and here I was creating a large pile of them in my backyard.  This realization completely shifted my perspective on the work at hand.

Although I was a bit shaky from the exertion, I decided to power on and trim up the Dwarf Buddha Belly Bamboo. This luscious plant gets its name from the bubble shapes on its canes, which look like Buddhas in profile.  The effect is lost when the plant gets overgrown with foliage covering up those beautiful bulgy canes.  This job offered a big payoff for a small amount of effort.

Working in the yard offers such great rewards for me.  It makes me feel strong and productive in a way that nothing else does.  Working in the yard frees my mind to wander and sometimes even think deeply on what it means to plant and harvest.

September 10, 2012

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Moving in the right direction

Boy, this business of running a business can be tough sometimes. From one day to the next, it’s difficult to know if I’m doing the most important things to move the business forward, or if I’m doing them the best that I can.  To keep myself sane, I just try to keep moving in the right direction and being kind to myself when things get tough.

It really helps when I feel like I’m moving in the right direction creatively.  I blogged last week about the experimental tree pendant.  The piece was experimental not only in design, and also in using a brand new clay that I had not tested before.  Let’s just say there was a lot that could have gone wrong.  But, it didn’t. The piece fired beautifully and polished up to a gorgeous warm shiny bronze.  Then, I used my favorite green dye oxide patina to bring out the texture, and WOW!  I just want to wear this piece everyday!  It’s a lovely expression of what’s I had visualized in my head.

Even more exciting is that I had an epiphany over the weekend.  I think I know how to expand this design concept into a cohesive collection that I can offer to my customers.  I have a bunch more pieces in various states of completion, where I’m trying out these ideas.  I like this direction, so I’ll go with it and ride the wave of creative energy.

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

~Aristotle

September 5, 2012

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Experimental

This image is a prototype of a sculpted pendant that’s been rattling around in my head for months.  It was in the greenware state in the photo, meaning it was still fragile, but when it comes out of the kiln, it will be solid bronze.  Then, I’ll start playing around with patinas to add some color to the piece.  If all goes well, you might see a new set of pieces from me based on this concept.  I need to play with the design to make sure I can bring something fresh and unique to the ubiquitous tree motif.

I’ve been in an experimental phase recently.  I’ve just been accepted to the Buyer’s Market of American Craft show next February, and mind is racing with new ideas for collections I would like to develop before that show.  That process of developing collections is filled with great leaps in creativity and productivity interspersed with hours of slogging through trials, missed marks and flat out failures.  The ultimate key to success, in my opinion, is the ability to edit the options, keeping only the best interpretations of the idea and leaving the rest in the scrap pile.  It’s difficult and emotional, but the results can be so satisfying when you present a body of work that makes you proud.

August 25, 2012

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New Birdhouses

I’ve been creating some sweet new birdhouse designs. The are intentionally a bit wonky.  I think it gives them more personality, and it’s fitting coming from this cock-eyed optimist!  I’m offering them to my galleries for holiday sales, as well as my own retail customers.  Please contact me if you are interested in purchasing

First up is the Bird Condo Necklace.  It’s a bigger piece, hanging 2 3/4″ from the tip of the roof to the bottom of the leaf dangle.  I’m offering an option with the two birdies and the leaf coated in 22 carat gold.  It’s a gorgeous look and the contrast really makes the birdies pop.  This design retails for $297 or $385 with the gold accents.  Both options hang on a 30″ adjustable sterling silver chain.

The Cozy Birdhouse Necklace is smaller, but more intricate and detailed.  This birdhouse hangs 1 3/4″ from the tip of the roof to the bottom of the pinecone dangle.  This design retails for $231 or $297 with the gold accents.  Both options hang on a 18″ adjustable sterling silver chain.

The Cozy Birdhouse explores a concept that’s been rattling around in my brain for some time.  The tiny roof shingles are made from a leaf mold, and they are layered one at a time to get this sort of feathered look.  I was able to have some of the leaves overhang the house body in a way that’s organically lovely.  I think this may be my favorite Studio McManus design ever!  Shhh…I don’t want my other designs to hear me taking favorites.

Eventually, I’d like to have enough birdhouse designs to break them off into their own collection.  Today, I’m working on a tiny set of birdhouse earrings.  It’s time to get out the magnifiers and dive into that detail work I love so much.

August 18, 2012

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Welcome to the neighborhood!

Here’s a sneak peak at a prototype for a new addition to my Nature Walk Collection in Silver.  This Dr. Seuss inspired birdhouse is intentionally wonky, curvy and hanging at a jaunty angle.  The momma and baby bird are embellished with 22 carat gold as is the tiny pine cone that hangs below the house.  This was the first try and I just need to work out a few small kinks before I can add this to the line and offer it for sale.

June 26, 2012

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motologo