Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The downside of making jewelry ...

There's a downside to making jewelry? How can this be?

Well, let me tell ya!

I shipped off four pairs of earrings to a very nice lady in Florida yesterday. Hooray! BUT, two of the pairs were among my own personal all-time favorites and I'll never see them again. The lady is a stranger to me so we won't travel in the same social circles where I might chance seeing the earrings, and she lives on the other side of the US of A.

Oh, I hear you. Just make another pair for myself, right? Wrong! Some of the components aren't accessible to make the same earrings. And I'm not a precise maker of jewelry and I don't do production pieces. Each pair of my earrings is unique, so even if I start out trying to make the same earring design, they end up different. Different isn't bad. I'm just not precise enough to replicate EXACTLY what I've created before.

I do console my loss by thinking of all those women out there sashaying around wearing my earrings and that is an upside to making jewelry.

All is balance.

Having a busy summer ... you, too?

Just received a convo--Etsy lingo for email--from a previous customer at my West As the Crow Flies shop on Etsy. Back in July Brian purchased two listings I had of Birch Bay driftwood and some faux beach glass. Brian was kind enough to share what he created using some of those components. See photographs below.

Brian, who lives in Florida, started his Etsy shop in 2007. To see his Etsy shop The Glassman or Glassman, go to

Thanks for sharing, Brian!

This is the first piece Brian made with the listing
from West As the Crow Flies, and it
is currently listed for purchase
on his Etsy shop

Created by The Glassman

This is the driftwood listing Brian purchased,
and the faux beach glass listing shown below.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

As featured in an Etsy Treasury ...

Curator Angela, of Angela Design, featured a mix and match set of earrings of mine in her Etsy Treasury. It's always a pleasure to receive a pat on the back in this manner.  Here's the link if you would like to check it out:

Because I make earrings that I would wear, and because I often wear one earring on my right and two or more on the left, I sometimes make a set of three mix and match earrings rather than a more traditional pair. I like giving the buyer the option to wear all three, a pair, or perhaps only one to go with some personal eclectic fashion aesthetic.

Angela has created a shop full of colorful, cheerful polymer clay jewelry.

Thanks, Angela!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tricks with Backgrounds ...

I’ve often thought a solid color background was best to photograph my jewelry to advantage. Under more formal gallery or presentation circumstances a solid background is probably still a good rule to follow. However, I was bored with white today as I photographed some new earrings I had just finished and wanted to upload to Etsy.The white didn't allude well to the rich burnish of the copper. I needed color.

I’ve admired those jewelers who incorporate intriguing backgrounds in photographs of their jewelry. Some go a little overboard and it becomes distracting, but some get it just right. There’s often an ambience created of adventure, romance, or ethnic back story woven around the jewelry. Unfortunately I’m not gifted at creating poetry or a storyline to accompany my jewelry.

However, looking around my digs for something nifty to use, I spied a Cindy Rinne art quilt I purchased years ago. I’ve always loved the colors and textures, and thought it could work without overwhelming the earrings. That was my hope anyway. I liked the fiber and thread stitches contrasting with the metal.

I think the photos of the earrings turned out pretty well. I’ve uploaded them to Etsy. If you want to see more of Cindy Rinne’s art, that she terms, “nature’s edges in stitch and verse,” go to She’s also on Facebook at

"Fire" by Cindy Rinne

I apologize to Cindy about not having THE best photograph of her art quilt, but I wanted you to see the entire thing and not just a detail. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

Sunday morning and I can hear the Indy 500 on the television upstairs. I think of all the noise and hoopla of the racetrack and fans out for the kick-off weekend of summer, all the families heading to parades, picnics and BBQs.

I want to take a moment to remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our Country. If not for them, our present and future freedom and way of life might not exist. Thank you!

OK ... now on to beautiful baubles!

I received a photograph from Mimi Dunski of Milton Ontario Canada. She recently bought some gorgeous red jasper beads from my little Etsy store West As the Crow Flies. Much to my delight, the photograph is of a necklace she has designed using the beads she bought from me.

I absolutely love seeing what other creatives do with the materials I'm selling!

Here is Mimi's necklace, which you can see and read about at You can also learn more about Mimi and her lovelies! Go take a peek!

Thank you, Mimi, for sharing!

For more stones, beads, other jewelry components and vintage pieces click on  I've also uploaded some new earrings incorporating vintage African Trade beads at

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Just getting better the older they are ...

In addition to the gorgeous assortment of beads to which I feel privileged to have access, I love their history. Take for example, the African Trade beads I used in a pair of tribal earrings I finished making this morning. As I worked with them, I was deeply moved by the realization that these beads have been in existence for so much longer than I have been, and will be around long after I become dust to dust!

Vintage Bohemian and Czech glass trade beads,
Nigerian brass, old Yemen silver, Ghana metal beads

That's rather a humbling thought. I feel like a facilitator in the ongoing "story" of these beads that were made far away and long ago. I think it's incredible that I can hold these bits of history in my hands and know that other hands made them, sent them off to Africa for trade, other hands received them and sold them or traded them for other goods. They've traveled farther than have I. And they're not done yet!

A number of years ago, I attended a historical bead exhibit at the Bowers Museum. They had a timeline displayed along the walls showing where different beads originated and where they traveled on the various trade routes of the world. Amazing!

These earrings, heady with history, are now available for purchase at

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring and Creativity Run Rampant ...

There's something so primal and invigorating about seeing crocus bursting into bloom, leaf buds ready to burst with life on bare branches, spring green grass appearing as the snow melts away. And, of course, we, too, participate in this surge of energy, growth.

Jewelry projects I've had on a back shelf are being pulled out and finished ... finally. New ideas are crowding in so fast, I can't get one sketched before another 5 blossom. I love this flood of energy!

Here are a couple of new things I've added to my Etsy store at

I love the nubby handmade, hand-colored yarn made by Juaquetta Holcomb in Newman Lake, WA. I met her at an art fair here in Spokane, and she had short lengths of yarn for sale. I don't come anywhere close to using a whole skein of yarn in my brooches, so I was ecstatic at being able to get some of this yummy stuff without forking over a bundle for a whole skein.  Her website is and she also has a shop on Etsy with her local mohair and sheep yarns. You'll love her yarns, too!

Computers oftentimes confuse me. The No.6 glass beads in the brooch are a pearlized PINK, but on my computer they look orange; perplexing because all of the other colors in the brooch seem to be true representation. So, why just those beads??? Hmmm, maybe the pearlized surface?

As for these lime and lavender faux beach glass earrings, I first made them a different way. They looked nice, but I could not force myself to put them up on Etsy. There was something "not right" about them. After about a week or so, I redid the lavender earring and took off a sterling silver swirl that I had on the lime green dangle. They are now more contemporary, simplified with no distracting gimmicks. I guess, that's what bothered me before, I wouldn't have worn them they way they were before I redesigned them. I would wear these!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

February Flurry ...

I'm not referring to a snow flurry, but life flurries. Here it is the 4th of February--already!--and I should be selling jewelry for people to gift to others as tokens of their love and affection. I feel like I'm operating in slow motion, while bombarded by flurries of life challenges, family challenges, and my children's challenges!

Take a deep breath, right? Get a grip! Things are going to happen whether I'm cool-headed or I'm a hysterical crazy woman, so am trying to maintain a sense of calm. Life happens.

I also happened to finish the custom necklace a customer commissioned me to create to match a pair of earrings she had previously purchased from Birch Bay Kay and gifted to her sister at Christmas. I'm now waiting to learn if she likes the bauble, or if she would prefer I design and make another to better suit her aesthetic. Wish me luck!

Here are the earrings and the necklace:

Well, time to get back into the maelstrom. I have to laugh. When I step back from my perceived dilemmas, the in-my-face drama lessens and I recognize everyone else's problems are not MY problems. I need this detachment in order to more effectively and calmly assist or counsel family members.

AND make jewelry!

Friday, January 20, 2012


Yes, it is invigorating to upload some new earrings to for people to see and purchase! Just in time for someone to gift to their sweetie, or to be nice to themselves for Valentine's Day.

I've been putting so much time and effort into West As the Crow Flies, that the jewelry creating was placed on a back burner. There were some earring designs I wanted to FINISH; they've been started for quite a while, but now two of the pairs of earrings are finished and uploaded. Whew! Feels great!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Authentic or not authentic? That is the question!

The carved ivory on the left is authentic.
Dad served as a pilot in WWII in India
and brought back the carved ivory rose for my Mom,
who he secretly married before heading to India.

A number of years ago at a dusty little thrift shop in Redlands, I came into possession of an old necklace. I tucked it away for future use, forgot about it, but in hunting through some boxes I came across it again. I had a strong suspicion that the carved ivory elephants and beads weren't real ivory. The beads on the right above are from that salvaged necklace.

I will be uploading the beads to West As the Crow Flies, but I wanted to make certain I knew if they were authentic ivory, bone or resin.

I went online and came across the following article by Pacific City Antiques Gallery. It provided a lot of insight about various types of ivory, which I found helpful. The test to determine authenticity was also interesting.

There were a couple of comments about poaching that I can't really stand behind, but I don't know when this online entry was made. I found it helpful enough to include the entire article here.

I tested the faux ivory beads and, indeed, they melted in an inconspicuous place and there was the definite smell of plastic. Nonetheless, they are lovely beads and I know someone will be tickled pink to purchase them!

Ivory ... Is It Fake?

"There is always that fear that the treasure you just bought is a fake. I think the fear is exaggerated. After some experience handling ivory, one can easily distinguish most 'fakes'. Fakes are usually made from resins. Sometimes these resins will be blended with the remnants of ivory or bone carvings ground up to a fine powder. They then mix it with resin and cast them in a mold and then 'clean' them up by hand (sometimes not). They usually stain them a very dark, heavy stain then wipe off the high areas to give the impression of 'wear'.There is also 'French ivory', 'celluloid', or 'ivrine'. This type of man made material looks like ivory with very nice grain. However, the grain is very wide and consistent (too consistent.) This material was used mostly for dresser accessories such as brushes, combs, change boxes, letter openers, page turners, etc., very few figures, although I have seen them. Resin items will not have the weight of ivory. Ivory has a very heavy specific gravity compared to most materials.

Now let's talk about ivory. There are many types of 'real' ivory. Even though some consider anything but Western African Elephant ivory 'fake', this is not true. Netsuke and Okimono carvers used a variety of natural materials, not just elephant ivory.

When someone asks me what I collect, because I collect more than Netsuke and ivory, I tell them 'hand carved items made from natural materials'. It is the art I am after, it is just a coincidence that the vehicle is ivory.

Real ivory comes from the tusks or teeth of mammals. Some of these mammals live in the sea, some on land. One thing they have in common is they are all 'long lived'. Some types of real ivory are elephant, walrus, hippopotamus, whale, norwal, mammoth, mastodon, and wild boar (warthogs).

Without going into the characteristic of all ivories, I will concentrate on elephant ivory. First, 'green' or 'live' ivory usually referred to as 'new' ivory (not necessarily newly carved). 

This ivory was usually taken from live elephants (poached?) But also, keep in mind the natives would kill elephants to eat and then harvest the tusks to sell later to the ivory buyers. Not all elephants that were poached were killed just for their tusks. Imagine having to feed a tribe of 300 natives daily in the barren plains of African. The elephant was a prime target. This new ivory is warm in color, translucent and dries out much lighter.

Then there is African elephant ivory and Asian elephant ivory. The Asian ivory is a denser white and is more open of grain and softer than African ivory. This is why most India carvings are so intricate, they used the ivory from Asian elephants, which is much easier to carve.

So the old fable of 'ivory grain' is not dependable to tell 'real ivory.' Some ivories have little grain.

There is also Western Africa ivory and Eastern Africa ivory. The ivory from the eastern side of African is referred to as 'soft ivory', which is more dull and contains more moisture and stands changes in temperature better. The ivory from Western Africa is referred to as 'hard ivory', which is glassy and translucent.

The Japanese used a lot of the Western African ivory for their Okimonos.

So, now that you are totally confused about the many types of ivory, I will tell you that elephant ivory does not always have obvious grain. I use a 15x loupe to inspect for grain. On the bottom of most carvings you like to see the crosshatching where the grains crisscross. This cannot be 'faked', but also does not mean it is not ivory if absent. Hippo ivory will have fine grain but no crosshatching.


The tried and true method to test ivory is the famous 'hot pin test'. This method is used by beginners and experts alike. Because true ivory is virtually impenetrable with heat, this is a good test and will not damage the item if it is 'real'.

Take a pin, large needle, or better yet, a large straightened out safety pin, and heat the tip RED-HOT. Poke the item somewhere that it will not show too bad. I use the Netsuke hole. If it is real ivory, it will NOT penetrate and only leaves a tiny, tiny mark. If it is resin, it will enter the item and produce a little crater around the hole.

Now the big test. Smell the 'smoke' that comes of the test as you are poking the item. If it is real ivory, it will have that unmistakable smell of the dentist's office, when you had that root canal. It smells  like burning tooth, because it IS.  If it smells like burning plastic, it IS.

Now, bone is also resistant to heat, but not as much as ivory. The smell is less, or hardly at all, and is different from burning tooth. Bone is absolutely free of grain and will always have little pock marks, where the marrow or blood was. One may need a loupe to see such pock marks ..." (Pacific City Antiques Gallery)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy Endings ...

Several months ago I made a pair of sterling and garnet dangle earrings for my sister in appreciation for a favor she did for me. (I love barter)

On only the second or third time she wore them she came home from the restaurant and realized she was missing one. She went back to the restaurant the next day, but nothing had been found.

Today she went back to Thai Bamboo, just on the slim chance the earring showed up. Lo and behold! It was her luck day! The earring is back in her possession and we're BOTH happy about it!

Just a reminder that those pesky little plastic earring plugs DO work, and can save you the heartbreak of a lost earring.  You can push them up behind your ear, out of sight; a great precaution!

I hate to see anyone lose an earring, but I have to admit I LOVE being asked to create something mismatched to match the remaining earring. Just ask me!

A separate example:
The earring on the left lost its mate. I played on
the calligraphy aesthetic with vintage amber and came up
with the mismatched match on the right.
Happy customer!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Missing an opportunity ...

Since launching my West As the Crow Flies store online at Etsy, I've expanded the inventory from cabochons, polished stones, sterling silver findings and vintage collectibles to include specialty fiber bundles.

I use so little of a variety of fibers in my fiber-wrapped brooches and the like, but I always have to buy an entire--costly--skein for just a yard or three. I know there must be fiber artists "out there" just like me who would love to use these novelty threads but not have to spend an arm and a leg to use them. One skein I remember cost me about $28 for the skein, and it was well-worth the expense, but there I am with almost the whole skein.

So, I've included bundles of 6-7 different fibers in each bundle, each selection 4 yds in length for a total of 24-28 yards per bundle.

I realized I was missing an opportunity whence selling those fiber bundles! The fiber bundles cost under $5 each, and yet the fiber-wrapped brooches sell for $25 and up. Why not include sample photographs with the specialty yarn bundles showing how I use the fibers being sold?! Then cross reference to the Etsy store where they can be purchased ...  Indeed!

It's all a learning process. I think I'm a little slower than others, but I'm learning!

So, here are a few of the fiber sample photographs I'll include:

A brooch

A brooch

A brooch

A lariat neckpiece

A brooch