Fresh New Creations!

Finally, FINALLY i was able to get my ass to Spruce Pine North Carolina, home of the revered Penland School of Craft. If you're not familiar with this institution, definitely pay their website a visit.

The school has been around for nearly a hundred years, and it serves as a place for artists to come and learn new techniques and study with established artists from a variety of different mediums. Of course, for me it was ALL about learning new jewelry techniques, but other class offerings included glass blowing, woodworking, ceramics, textiles, and printing. The school is INTENSE. We began every morning at 9am and even though classes technically ended at 5pm, the entire class stayed in the studio late into the night working on their personal projects. 

The class I took focused on a process I've always been fascinated with -- bi-metal etching. This is a process of fusing two metals together, then chemically etching away one of the metals. The result is a two-tone mixed metal design that really has endless creative possibilities.

The Jewelry We Wear This Time of the Year

As some Queens Metal fans probably already knows, I started my jewelry company when i was living in Queens, NY, a place I loved so much, I named my business after it. After ten years on the east coast, I relocated to the swampy south and fell in love with my new home, New Orleans. 

For most of the country, the months after Christmas are DARK, COLD, and, at times, DEPRESSING. But In New Orleans, they are some of the most joyful and beautiful stretches of the year. Because after Christmas comes MARDI GRAS!!! The giant misconception about Mardi Gras is that it's nothing but boobs, frat guys hanging from light posts and people vomiting in the street. And yes, all of that happens. But it's a teeny tiny portion of the whole Mardi Gras celebration. In reality, Mardi Gras is a family celebration, something that parents share with their kids. The weeks leading up to "Fat Tuesday" are an endless stream of parades, balls, music, pageantry, and ELABORATE costumes. One thing I was told before I moved here was, "Everyone in New Orleans has a costume closet." And it's true. It's impossible NOT to have one, unless you plan on locking yourself in your house for all of carnival season (and most of the rest of the year too.) In the few years I've spent as a resident of this beautiful city, I've acquired more wigs, corsets, tutus and pairs of fake eyelashes than I could ever count. I've spent countless hours covering my shoes in glitter and attaching strips of battery powered neon to corsets. I've spent many late nights comparison shopping one piece latex body suits, or hot gluing thousands of feathers to an elaborate tiered tutu. And the weird thing is.... no one here thinks this behavior is weird. 

On Mardi Gras day, the whole city sparkles, and the people sparkle too. Everyone is decked from head to toe in their finest and most over-the-top creations. You'll see all types of costumes ---  beautiful, raunchy, hilarious, politically inspired. Every one created with love, and lots  of dedicated hours.

This is a city of creative eccentrics, of hard partiers and working artists. It's a city full of families who've been celebrating mardi gras for generations, and thus it's a city that embraces it's traditions. It's a city with a fair share of expats, who fell in love with this place and wanted to become a part of it. Put these people all together and when carnival season starts, it's impossible NOT to get swept up in the magic. 

  And , of course, theres the most recognizable symbol of Mardi Gras: beads. It's a misconception that women need to lift up their tops to get a strand of beads. In reality, thousands and thousands of beads are thrown from floats every year, to absolutely everyone. If you attend a parade in New Orleans, you can easily leave with so many strands of beads around your neck that you can barely stand upright!! What surprised me when i experienced my first Mardi Gras was how distinctive the beads can be. There are your standard round ones, of course, but then theres beads customized for every Krewe. These beads can match a theme or a commemorate an event. They are truly works of art! 

So, for the next few weeks, Queens Metal jewelry is going to take a bit of a back seat to a different kind of jewelry, as I join my newly adopted home in celebrating, partying, costuming and generally basking in this fabulous  , unique and wonderful time of year. 

A small sampling of last years bead haul. I think I saved these with the intention of some sort of craft project, which, of course, never came to fruition!! 

A small sampling of last years bead haul. I think I saved these with the intention of some sort of craft project, which, of course, never came to fruition!! 


Bringing Back A One-Off Design

The great thing about having your own jewelry business is that whenever the creative urge strikes, you can follow through and make it. Sometimes the crazy creations you see in your head look amazing in real life. And sometimes they just don't work out the way you imagined them. A while back, I had an urge to make a crazy pair of earrings that had a lot of moving components and I little bit of an industrial edge. So I got to work hammering a couple dozen silver circles into domed, pod-like shapes, drilling a center whole in each one, and then slowly adding them to an earring framework. The earrings would only work if each pod stacked against the next "just so". At the same time, I needed them to make sure that the earrings weren't to heavy or bulky.

After a lot of work, my "pod" earrings were done. I brought them to my booth at the Frenchmen Art Market, and it didn't take long before they sold. Under normal circumstances, these "one off" earrings would never be made again. Often times, I'm amazed how quickly I forget about my one-off pieces, even the ones that took hours upon hours to create. I rarely photograph or document my one-off designs, so usually when they sell, that's the last I ever think of them.  In this instance though, I was surprised when, months later, I got an email from a fan who'd seen and fallen in love with the pod earrings, but they'd sold before she'd had a chance to snap them up. She wanted me to re-create them for her. And -- thank god -- she'd snapped a picture of the originals at my booth before they'd sold. (Some artists don't like to have shoppers taking pictures of their designs. For me, it's not a problem and actually something I encourage customers to do). Using the photo she sent me, I was able to make her her very own version of the pod earrings. Yay! It turned out to be a win-win: She now has the earrings she coveted, and I actually have photo documentation of these awesome earrings in case i want to make them again in the future! 

Forming the "pods"

Forming the "pods"

Before being oxidized 

Before being oxidized 

The picture my customer sent me! 

The picture my customer sent me!