Friday, May 30, 2008

Progress

I worked on "Autumn Dance" some more today and I think it's finally finished. I really enjoyed working on this piece, especially because it was not very expensive to make.
I used dark annealed steel wire from the hardware store for a framework, and fine-gauge copper wire to wrap agate chips and attach them to the frame, along with amethyst chips, garnets, and Czech glass beads.
I hope the publishers at Interweave Press like this enough to include it in my new book!
I also got some great news today: Art Jewelry magazine is interested in publishing a how-to article in a future issue on my Big Heart Pin. I don't have any more information about this yet, but I'll let you all know when I find out which issue it will appear in. I'm very excited and certainly very honored to have a project accepted by this fine magazine!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Here's what I've been working on lately...

So this is what I've been working on lately: a necklace I'm calling "Autumn Dance." It's still a work in progress and, now that I see a photo of it, I realize that it's terribly unbalanced. Funny how you don't always notice the flaws in your designs until you photograph them! So tomorrow I'll work some more on this one.
The design is loosely based on a beautiful (and quite different) necklace submitted to me by wire artist Dale "Cougar" Armstrong, who is one of the very talented participants in my new wire jewelry book. Dale's piece is beautifully balanced and made with an elegant, almost bridal style. You will love it when you see it in my book, which comes out in September 2009.
Until then, you'll just have to wait...!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

www.wirejewelrydvds.com update

I just updated my Web site, www.wirejewelrydvds.com, with a bunch of brand-new photos of the jewelry pieces featured in my upcoming DVD, Ethnic Style Jewelry Workshop.
Although I love the styled shots of my jewelry that were taken by professional photographer Sylvia Bissonnette (who also took all the styled shots in my book, Bead on a Wire), I felt that some of the jewelry was a bit soft-focus in the photos. So last night I took several pictures and posted them to my wire jewelry DVD site, which gives you a chance to see exactly what you will learn from this workshop.
Pictured you see one of the four bracelets featured; this one is called the Ethnic Charm Bracelet but it might as well be called the "Leftovers Bracelet" or something similar! I used textured copper tubing bead connectors, foreign coins, double spirals, leaf charms, and a commercial clasp along with handmade twisted-wire jump rings to make this piece.
It is literally made from components rejected from other jewelry pieces featured on the DVD: the Etruscan Spiral necklace with copper tubing bead connectors, the Ethnic Coin necklace, the Leaf-Link bracelet, etc.
I enjoy putting all my rejected little bits from bigger jewelry projects into a box and leaving them for a few days. Later, when my mind is refreshed and I haven't seen the components in a while, I can look at them with new eyes and find unique uses for them. Often my favorite jewelry designs come from this collage of new ideas... and that's why I always say, never throw anything away, no matter how ugly or misshapen!
If you'd like to know more about my new DVD, which will be released next month, please visit www.wirejewelrydvds.com.

Update: Orphan Works Controversy

In a previous post I brought to your attention a concern that I have over the Orphan Works bills that are currently pending in both houses of Congress. Just today I received an e-mail from The Artist's Magazine with a link to a very good article that they provide on this topic, written by Leonard D. DuBoff and Christy O. King, both attorneys. King is the author of Art Law in a Nutshell.
I encourage everyone to read their article, as it is very thorough and written in such a way that anyone can understand it. Topics include defining orphan works, proposed legislative solutions, understanding the procedure, concerns for visual artists (very important!), databases and registration, and reasonable compensation and rights. This is a very informative article; it is thorough, factual, and well worth reading. To access it, click here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tribal Treasures Necklace Workshop

It doesn't have to be "tribal"... as you can see in this photo which I just took of the necklace I completed this morning. Yesterday I taught my new Tribal Treasures Necklace workshop at Brea Bead Works. I came home with a nice box of components that needed to be made into a piece of jewelry, so this morning I made a silver chain (a simple chain of easy links featured in my book, Bead on a Wire) for the back of the neck area, and then I put it all together.
Next I submerged the necklace in a hot solution of liver of sulfur, hoping that the solution wouldn't leak into the hand-blown glass beads I purchased years ago in Montreal (they are originally from Venice, Italy). Once the silver had darkened, I removed the necklace and rinsed it thoroughly, and after it had dried I polished it with 0000-steel wool from the hardware store.
At this point, usually I would tumble my jewelry in a Lorton tumbler with mixed stainless steel jewelry shot and Rio Grande's burnishing compound (I demonstrate this in detail on my DVD, Tribal Treasures Bracelet Workshop) to remove the last bits of 0000-steel wool from the jewelry and bring it to a high shine. But I was concerned about my beads, which are well made but might be fragile—I just didn't want to take the chance of breaking them in the tumbler.
So, instead I squirted Dawn dishwashing liquid on my jewelry and then ran some water over it. Then I scrubbed the necklace with a plastic mushroom brush, the type you buy in a kitchen store. I use this brush exclusively for jewelry, by the way! I demonstrate this alternative to using the tumbler on my brand-new DVD, Ethnic Style Jewelry Workshop, which will be available to purchase next month.
It's pretty amazing how clean and shiny you can make your jewelry by using this technique. And after rinsing the soap away and allowing your pieces to dry, you can use a yellow Sunshine cloth to polish it even further. I enjoyed making this necklace using beads purchased in various countries: Canada (Montreal), the Czech Republic (Prague) and Italy (Florence). Some of the silver components came from Bali and Thailand, two countries I have not visited yet, but hope to someday. By using different beads, you can completely change the look of your jewelry—from ethnic to elegant—it's that easy.
Perhaps we'll meet in a workshop someday; I hope so!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Scott & Wendy show off their new digs

Just got home from teaching a great class at Brea Bead Works today, my Tribal Treasures Necklace workshop. I had nine talented students who patiently worked through all the techniques: spiraling, coiling, twisting heavy-gauge wire in a drill to make jump rings, the easy-link chain, and double-wrapped eye-pin loops. I really enjoy teaching at BBW, and even more so now that the store has been relocated nearby in a huge new retail space.
Storeowners Scott and Wendy Remmers (pictured) have every reason to be proud of their new digs—just two doors down from their old digs—in Brea, California. Recently they renovated a retail space in a shopping center across the street from the Brea Mall. And I'm talking big-time renovations! I love the way they modernized the space with spicy green paint and gallery-style lighting, which shows off their huge selection of beads, tools, findings, and more.
They have a beautiful foyer and a private area nearby where a couch and TV has been set up to entertain spouses and kids while customers shop. The picture I took this morning shows only one corner of the store, and, as you can see, it's beautifully laid out with plenty of elbow room for shoppers and simply tons of gorgeous beads from all over the world. Of course, my favorite part of the store is not really in the store at all, but next door, where a studio/classroom has been set up for regular workshops in beading, lampwork, metal clay, wire art jewelry, chainmaille, and much more.
I hope you visit BBW sometime, especially if I'm teaching a workshop that you can attend. The great thing about teaching for such a fabulous bead store is that if my students run out of supplies, they can shop quickly and then return to class, ready to go back to work on their projects.
If you'd like to visit BBW, their address is 1027 E. Imperial Hwy., Suite D5, Brea, California.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Real life intrudes...

I haven't blogged in two weeks and I feel so ashamed—picture me with a hanging head and downcast expression!
Seriously though, I do feel a bit guilty and I wonder if this is normal. I'm still new to blogging, and had high hopes of being able to post something new about every two days. Then real life intruded: a new book that I'm writing for Interweave Press has an urgent deadline with a photo shoot in Colorado next month, and I've been scheduling several new workshops for 2009. I simply haven't had time to blog. In fact, I've been stuck inside my house for the last two weeks, working in my studio (which I love) and writing up the instructions for my new jewelry projects (which I don't love). To be honest, there hasn't been much to blog about...
Tomorrow, however, I look forward to teaching my Tribal Treasures Necklace (pictured above) workshop at Brea Bead Works in Southern California. If you're interested in signing up last-minute, there are three openings. Call the store at 714 671-9976 to register. They have recently moved into a gorgeous new facility that you simply must see to believe. BBW has one of the best workshop/studio setups I've ever seen: a great place for classes not only in wire jewelry making, but also in metal clay, glass bead-making, stringing, and more.
Today I received an e-mail from my friend, Dina Cuomo, who was a student at my most recent Wild Wire Women retreats. She wrote to tell me that she had posted some new images on her blog of some Love Knot jewelry she made, using techniques she had learned during our retreat. I am very impressed with Dina's craftsmanship as well as her creativity. I hope you'll visit her blog and have a look. Dina made a lot of progress during our time together in part because the retreats are restricted to six participants, so I can give everyone lots of one-on-one attention. It makes a big difference, as you can see in Dina's finished jewelry. If you're a "Wild Wire Woman" interested in participating in an upcoming retreat in Idyllwild, California, please visit www.sharilynmiller.com for more information. Or you can always e-mail me for more info at sharilynmiller@mac.com.
Cheers!

Monday, May 12, 2008

I'd rather be making jewelry...

Sooo... this is what I've been doing all day today: staring at my computer screen until my eyes feel like a pair of boiled eggs. Yes, I'm updating my Web site, www.sharilynmiller.com.
This is the not-so-thrilling aspect of working for oneself. If any of you imagine that my full-time career in jewelry making is full of fun and creative adventures every day, let me just say—not so. I spend a lot of my time (waaaay too much time) on the business aspects of my business, and that includes the usual paperwork plus Web site updates and adding new workshops to my schedule, etc... (and I really do mean etc...)
New workshops are great, of course. The best part is creating new jewelry designs to teach my students, but to turn a new design into a workshop means that I have to figure out the supply list with wire measurements and so on, and then write up notes describing to others how to make the jewelry piece. I enjoy this—except the math part—but I'd rather be making jewelry!
I'm sure that some of you can relate...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tribute to my mother

This is Mother's Day, and I didn't want this special occasion to pass by without acknowledging my mother, Lenore Miller. She has guided and protected and advised me for 47 years. She has loved me and supported me no matter how crazy or far-fetched my wild ideas, and I am so glad and grateful to have had her in my life.
My mother is special to me because I have always felt her love and support, whether I was living nearby or very far away. She never made me feel foolish for wanting a creative life and career in the arts. She shows me by her daily example how to be the best person that I can be. It doesn't get any better than that!
I count myself blessed to have known my mom and to have enjoyed her friendship as an adult. I hope our friendship continues to bloom and grow for many years to come.
Thanks so much, Mom!
I love you forever...
Sharilyn

Friday, May 9, 2008

NEW Class offered at Brea Bead Works

I'm offering a brand-NEW workshop at Brea Bead Works in Brea, California on May 24. If you're going to be in Southern California over the weekend, I hope you can pop in for the class, which is held Saturday.
The "Rosie Posy" pendant I'll be teaching on Saturday is an original design that I'm really excited about. It's a fun and unusual way to use the Knifty Knitter small flower loom (only about $4) with fine-gauge wire plus your favorite small beads and pearls.
This actually ties into my previous post about sources of inspiration.
Last winter, I was shopping with my mom at our local WalMart store (where I routinely buy tons of birdseed and squirrel food for the critters), and she wanted to check out the yarn in the craft section, so I went along with her. That's where I found the Knifty Knitter flower loom. It's a small round loom originally intended for making decorative raffia flowers. Hmm... not sure who would want to do that! But I picked it up anyway, and my creative brain started ticking away.
It wasn't much of a stretch, really, to think of using sterling silver or copper wire instead of raffia to make a metal-based flower with the loom. But I also devised a creative way to use my wire-working and forging skills to turn the petals into real, lifelike shapes. Adding tiny bead dangles made from garnets and pearls to the center of the flower turned it into a very pretty work of art. I also devised a way to turn the completed flower into a pendant.
From there, I again turned to my wire-wrapping and forging skills to create a beautiful neck wire twined and wrapped with more pearls and garnets; a chain around the back with a handmade clasp completes the necklace.
Needless to say, this is an intermediate- to advanced-level workshop! But for those of you who are in this area and looking for a brand-new design to test your skills, I encourage you to enroll. You can call Brea Bead Works at 714 671-9976 for more information.
I'd love to see you in the workshop! You can find a supply list here.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sources of Inspiration

Artist Patsy Adams recently sent me an e-mail with photos attached of some jewelry exhibits she had visited at the British Museum in London, England. The jewelry is remarkably beautiful and contemporary in design, but was probably created between 150-500 B.C. Amazing!
Her pictures reminded me that inspiration can be found in many places, and sometimes the best place to look for it is in the artistry of those who have gone waaaaay before us.
One of the challenges that many of us who create original works of art may encounter is finding legitimate sources of inspiration for our own artwork. You know how it is: sometimes you feel very inspired and great new designs seem to flow effortlessly from your hands. All too often, however, there's just nothing in the noggin. You may scratch your head for hours, desperate for just one good idea... and out of that desperation comes the temptation to simply copy someone else.
This is not a good option, however. For one thing, copying someone else's designs is not artistically satisfying. Wearing a piece of jewelry that is a direct copy of something you saw in a store catalog or on the Internet will never make you feel good about yourself--quite the opposite. And if you make commercial gain from a copied design (by selling such jewelry, or tutorials, etc.), you make yourself vulnerable to lawsuits that can strip you of everything you own. Just defending yourself in court can cost tens of thousands of dollars, never mind the stress and wasted time.
Copying someone else's copyright-protected designs is a really, really bad idea!
So, what to do? Fortunately, there are many wonderful sources of inspiration available to us all, most of them free.
Perhaps the original source is nature itself. The next time you feel uninspired, take a walk. There are literally millions of ideas out there: colors, textures, line, form, values, and shapes. Even the urban landscape offers thousands of great ideas to jewelry artists; look for structures, connections, textures, lines, unique materials and shapes in the buildings around you. For instance, could you use cement and iron in your next jewelry design? Why not?
I recently found several ideas for bracelets and earring designs in a catalog of lighting fixtures (I kid you not); many more ideas, in fact, than I can ever utilize. I find ideas for color combinations by going through design magazines such as Veranda or House Beautiful. I do look through jewelry catalogs as well, to keep current with trends such as the popularity of certain stones (turquoise seems to go in and out of fashion) or styles such as big pendants or chandelier earrings. But I don't copy other artists--or at least, I try really, really hard not to. I don't want to repeat someone else's work, I want to create my own. When I see a great jewelry design that I wish I had come up with myself, I just tell myself that, with a little effort and creativity, I will come up with something even better.
And you know what? I always do.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Thank you, Claudine Hellmuth!

I just had to write a special thank-you to collage artist Claudine Hellmuth for posting a very helpful link on her blog. She (and now I) and a lot of other artists are very concerned about two bills currently going through the House and Senate; they are known as the Orphan Works bills. Normally I avoid politics and hate discussing them or writing about them, but this issue affects all artists, photographers, illustrators, and even authors. We must band together to stop these bills, or many of us may be out of business.
These are the bill numbers: H.R. 5889 The Orphan Works Act of 2008 and S 2913 The Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008. If they pass, we will literally lose all rights to our work that is published on the Internet. For instance, if you take a photo of your child and post it to your Web site or blog, this image can be taken and used for commercial purposes without your consent or any compensation to you. If you share online (through Flickr, for instance) a painting you made or a photo of some jewelry you've designed, you lose intellectual rights to your photo and it can be used for commercial gain by some big fat corporation.
In fact, in order to protect your work you will have to register it with a private agency and pay for this service yourself. How fair is that?
This is a serious issue and I hope that everyone who reads this will take action. Find more helpful information about this issue here: Capwiz.com.
Then please sign this petition! The goal is 20,000 signatures, and so far they only have 481, including mine.
I'm thankful to Claudine Hellmuth for alerting me to this issue, and for making it easy (it takes less than a minute) to sign an e-mail petition through www.thepetitionsite.com. From there I found links to my state Senators and wrote personal e-mails to both Boxer and Feinstein, asking them to oppose these bills. Again, it took very little time or effort on my part, and I was glad to do it.
I often find myself wishing I could do more to make positive contributions to society, but with my busy life as a working artist I find it difficult to find the time. Now that I've found www.thepetitionsite.com, I will be getting more actively involved in making my voice heard. I promise that my blog will not be excessively devoted to politics in the future (I hate politics), but every now and then an issue comes up that directly affects my readers. If you are an artist, this issue profoundly affects you. I hope that you will take action, as I have done--it will make your day.
Thanks for hearing me out!
Sharilyn

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ethnic Coin Necklace

Stacie posted a comment to my first post asking if the Ethnic Coin Necklace (pictured far-right) is demonstrated on my new DVD, Ethnic Style Jewelry Workshop, which is currently in production and will soon be available to purchase for $39.95 via FilmBaby.com.
The answer is: YES! This great necklace, plus the Big Etruscan Spiral Pendant made with textured copper tubing bead connectors (not as complicated as it sounds), is accompanied by four original bracelet designs--all very ethnic and cool, I assure you.
You'll learn how to use a drill to twist heavy-gauge wire and make big, bold jump rings (also works for little jump rings), how to use a metal hole punch, how to texture and use copper washers creatively in jewelry, spiraling (lots and lots of that!) and much more. I really do mean MUCH more. Most importantly, you will have a chance to try your hand at creating jewelry with heavy-gauge wire, because I only use 16ga and 14ga throughout the entire workshop.
I'm really proud of this one. If I were to teach all the workshops individually, the lessons would take several days to teach and would cost students hundreds of dollars, so this DVD is without a doubt a terrific value.
I'll let you know when it's available... until then, visit my new Web site for more detailed info: www.wirejewelrydvds.com.

Article in Step by Step Wire Jewelry

My latest news is that I have an article published in the current (summer preview 2008) issue of Step by Step Wire Jewelry magazine. It's found on page 17: Be Steel My Heart. Not quite sure why they chose that title, since the heart-shaped earrings I submitted to them were made of sterling silver. But I'm not complaining! I'm thrilled and honored to have my jewelry design chosen for this issue.
Thank you, Ed.-in-Chief Denise Peck!
If you like my article and would like to see more of them in future issues, send Denise an e-mail: dpeck@interweave.com.
Finally, I have an announcement: The magazine sent me four extra copies of the summer preview issue and I already have two copies of my own (being a charter subscriber and advertiser), so I'm giving them away FREE to the first four people who post a comment here! All I ask is that you provide the postage.
We'll need to figure out a way to connect because I'll need the mailing addresses of the first four to post. Anyway, good luck and post quickly!

Monday, May 5, 2008

About Rosie & Sparkle...

A friend of mine just wrote to tell me that I must post a quick note about my girls, Sparkle & Rosie. So here's a picture of them; this was taken a few weeks ago. Sparkle (on the right) was sleeping peacefully in her basket by the window when her daughter, Rosie, jumped in and settled down next to her. Rosie doesn't seem to realize that she's all grown up, and taking up a lot more space than she did when she was a kitten. Sparkle very kindly moved over and went back to sleep...

Welcome to my Blog page...

Hi, everybody, and welcome to my new blog page!
Blogging is probably not new to you, but it's still fairly new to me, so I confess to feeling a little bit intimidated by the whole process. I've just recently started looking in on a few artists' blogs and I am inspired by the wealth of creativity out there. I hope to keep my blog interesting enough to attract your attention every now and then. I intend to add little newsy bits and photos at least twice a week, and more often than that whenever possible.
For those of you who do not know me, I am an artist and art instructor working with wire to make creative wire-art jewelry. My background is in graphic design and journalism, but I have enjoyed making art in years past using various papers, rubber stamps, polymer clay, inks, paints, fibers, fabrics, beads, foreign coins, old buttons, and other fun things. Just now my favorite medium is wire, and I do enjoy exploring the possibilities! Wire can do so many things, you could spend a lifetime working with it and still come up with new ways to bend and shape it into beautiful art pieces.
I have a Web site with my current workshop schedule and more information about my books, instructional DVDs, and art/travel excursions. I welcome you to visit www.sharilynmiller.com anytime. I just recently launched a brand-new Web site to devote more space to my DVDs: www.wirejewelrydvds.com. And now this blog...
I want to thank my friend Janet Hofacker for encouraging me to go for it, and just start blogging. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me. If you have any suggestions for ways that I can improve my blog, I'm all ears! Thanks for looking in...
Sharilyn