Monday, April 27, 2009

Earth Day--And a Lesson In Ignoring Your Inner Editor

On Saturday, 25 April, Lisa and I attended the Earth Day celebration in Placerville, CA.

The day started out a bit strange when a toothless gentleman wandered up to our booth just as we finished setting up and announced that he had to kill his fish because he didn't like what it was saying to him. And for a few tense moments he just stood there going on and on about about his fish. Needless to say, this was not the most auspicious start to our day. However, he soon wandered off and the real festivities got underway.

The weather was great, sunny, perhaps more windy than we would have liked, but overall we could not have asked for a better day for an outdoor event. We were fortunate to have a place right on the grass with a view of the stage.

Lots of people stopped by our booth and most seemed to genuinely like our work, but they weren't least not at first. But then, a woman working two booths over from ours came by and fell in love with one of our simple copper hybiscus designs with a rouge patina. It was the least expensive item on the table, but she truly loved it and wore it all day. Her purchase turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. All day long her customers asked about that pendent and she happily pointed them to us. After that, sales were brisk! Thank you flower lady!!!

The funny thing is, I was not fond of that piece and wouldn't have even brought it if Lisa hadn't insisted. She saw something that I missed and rounded up the half dozen or so of those hybiscus flowers I had made and polished them and fired a patina onto each one. All four of the copper versions sold and one of the brass too! Lesson learned. Never assume you know what people will like and never underestimate the value of a simple, direct design. Every time we sold another one of those flowers it was like having a walking talking billboard praising our work. Every woman who bought one immediate put it on and proudly pointed to our booth when people enquired about it.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Noticing the Negative

In Dr. Randy Borum’s article entitled, “Re-Train the Negative Brain” (first appears in Black Belt Magazine, January, 2008, pp. 48-50) he explains that numerous studies have shown that the electrical (or neural) connections in your brain are stronger and faster when they are responding to something unpleasant than when responding to something neutral or pleasant. Since the negativity gets the most ‘juice’, it seems obvious why negativity can become the major orientation. This is a survival tactic from antiquity to insure our survival since our brain needs to evaluate information automatically and often without our conscious participation in order to remain safe. When given the choice of positive, neutral, or negative, it will choose negative almost every time research shows. (From

I have observed (over the past few years)...
Someone asks, "How are you?" If my answer is , "Good" (or something better)... there is not too much of a continuation of the conversation.
If my answer is anywhere along negative lines...then I get asked out for coffee, lunch, dinner, pedicures, massages, movies, drinks...
I began to notice this when I was very young. My mother would spend Sundays visiting the other church ladies. If one was in a positive space, the visit wasn't very long. If a woman was "going through something", there would be tears and holding and attention and yummy foods eaten. Even though I was "just a kid", I recognized the pattern.
I still see the pattern.
I've break free.
For I also read about neuroplasticity...and that we can change.
Doesn't even phase me that I'm up against evolution...or am I?
(Ponderings and Photograph by Lisa)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Forging a new trail...or making the cats deaf

Today I completed a piece using forged wire. I have to admit that forging is not my strongest skill as a silversmith, but I really enjoyed the challenge, although I don't think our cats were too keen on the loud ping ping ping of the hammer.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, forging is the process of shaping metal--typically wire--into the desired shape by hammering it on an anvil. It is a distinct skill from fabrication, which is the process of cutting, bending, soldering etc. Forging metal requires special hammers with highly polished surfaces. Striking the metal repeatedly with careful blows, you push the metal and shape it. Sounds easy, but it isn' least if you want to do anything more complex than flattening the end of a wire.

Anyway, I decided to make a pendent from a drawing I had lying around for months--a gentle "S" curve with a semi-circle cabachon nestled at the bottom. Webought this beautiful moss agate at a local gem and jewelry show and it inspired the drawing. Looking at that drawing I knew that as slender and long as the "S" was, the only viable solution was to forge a length of Sterling silver wire. Forging has the benefit of "work hardening" the metal. As you strike it, the molecules realign in a way that makes the metal more rigid. This is why forging was the solution for this project. You will see what I mean when you view the image at the bottom of this post.

I am sure a forging master could have whipped this piece out in a matter of minutes, but it took me considerably longer, but I am pleased with the result. I call it Silver Swing (Thanks Lisa for the name!) Silver Swing is available at our Etsy store, so check it out.



Friday, April 17, 2009

Ring Ring

To honor the 13th anniversary of our marriage, I made Lisa a ring. She had picked out this beautiful topaz a number of months ago and the time seemed right to put it to use. Lisa always says she LOVES "sparklies." And this rock certainly fit the bill.

She had been wearing this simple silver band for a long time, but recently she set it on our work table, saying, "You should see what you can do with this."

So, I set to work the morning of our anniversary while she was at the office. First, I used a ring mandrel to reshape the band because it had gotten misshapen from months of wear. Since it isn't a closed band it is more prone to lose its roundness over time. Next, I used a fine grinding bit to add some texture to the surface. Then, I soldered the prongs into place that would hold the stone. And finally, I set the stone. This was by far the most difficult part of the project. setting a gemstone takes a great deal of precision and patience...but it was all worth it. Lisa loves the ring and everywhere we go people comment on it. People are fascinated to learn that we make jewelry.

And on the heels of this success, I decided to make another ring (Why not? I was on a roll!), this one for the business. The new ring is made of silver, textured brass and holds a small pink quartz. We just love how it came out. Elegant, yet not pretentious.

This one went really smoothly until I tried to set the stone. For some reason I could not get it to sit still while I adjusted the prongs. But eventually, I got it right...after spending over an hour grousing and grumbling and bending and straightening prongs and generally carrying on cranky. But I still love it. It was worth the hassle!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chip Tips...

Yes, that is a fire opal resting on a tortilla chip.

Here's the back story.

April 14 is our wedding anniversary. We met for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. We ordered our usual pre-meal chips and salsa. We munched on the chips and talked about our know, anniversary stuff! We ate our meal, drank our sodas and nibbled on a few more chips. I lifted up a chip and looked at it carefully. Then I held it up as if it were a pendant. We both declared that it was a lovely shape and would look incredible in silver.
We then began to dig through the basket of chips looking for other aesthetically pleasing pieces of fried tortillas. We found one other chip worthy of becoming the model for a piece of 'fine art jewelry'.

I cradled these two precious chips in my hand as we left the restaurant. I'm sure the staff that bid us "Have a nice day" wondered why I was carrying out two tortilla chips.

I placed the chips carefully in the car, Josh took them home...and carefully placed them in our "up-and-coming" jewelry stash.

Tonight...I pulled out the fire opal and the tortilla chip.

Stay tuned for the final product!
...and if you want to know how to keep your tortilla chips fresh...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New Work, New Challenges

Lisa and I recently started a new series of work where we are collaborating on the designs and sharing in the construction duties. It seemed like a great idea...and it is, but--there always seems to be a but--things don't always go as planned.

The piece in the first image (Moonscape-now available at our Etsy store) came out pretty much how we both agreed it should. We just love the blend of fused, reticulated silver, Brazilian quartz and brilliant orange opal.

Things didn't go so smoothly on our second piece (Moonscape 2-also on our Etsy). The blue crystal and orange opal are about where Lisa envisioned them in her original design, but that is pretty much where our good plans ended and our misunderstandings began.

Lisa had some strong opinions about this piece (she came up with the original design, after all) and thought she had communicated them to me. However, I also had some ideas, so I asked her, "May I play with this a little?" and she replied, "Yeah, sure." This is where I took a detour. Let's just say that I thought I had more leeway than Lisa thought.

While Lisa was at her day job, I was happily working away on Moonscape 2. Later, when I revealed my progress, she was stunned to find lines of wire running along its surface instead of just holding the blue crystal. I thought they were great, but they weren't in the original design.

There were a few tense moments with me feeling that I had stepped on her creative input and her working past her vision for the piece. So we consulted a bit and realized the design was a nice blending of our styles. It wasn't exactly what Lisa envisioned, but it was a nice design all the same.

Now that it is done we love it. And we both learned a good lesson. Communication is more difficult and subtle, even after thirteen years of marriage, than either of us realized. Be very sure your partner truly understand what you are trying to say.


--Joshua **content of this post approved by Lisa ;-)
-- except the title...I suggested "She Said, He Did" for the title...see? *laughing*...Lisa
--LOL. What about "Oops, I did it again!" Seems appropriate since you DID suggest your title before I came up with mine...Joshua

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sacramento's 2nd Saturday Art Walk

Last night Josh and I explored the art scene during Sacramento’s 2nd Saturday Art Walk. My original intention was to take pictures of a fire spinning group, see what the samba parade dance group was up to, and visit the gallery of another associate who was showing work.

None of THAT happened…although I did see a fire spinning group a block away, but we were hungry and sitting down for dinner at Tres Hermanas won the debate!

I had forgotten that it was the 2nd Saturday fell on the last Saturday of Spring Break! Therefore, it seemed that the crowds were very ‘young’ and very inebriated at a very early hour!

However, I thought I would share some of the artists that I discovered, as well as some shots that I took.

Yuko Oyaizu Carson does wonderful work that I immediately was attracted to. Bright colors and lots of cats! Her artwork portrays her love of cats, sense of humor and her excellent eye for composition. Check out her site at:

Michelle Mackenzie does "contemporary abstract paintings". I found them to be quite lovely and ethereal. She paints what I see in my head as I sit down to work on jewelry. I have not achieved enough technical abilities to actually portray these wonderful images! Check out her work at:

Finally....Kristen Hoard. HER large metal sculptures LOOK like my jewelry. In fact, she was showing a couple pieces that looked like sketches in my book! Needless to say, I loved her work. PLUS...she uses fire as an element to her sculpture. I love fire. I spent a fair amount of time taking shots of the fire in her work! Check out her site at:

The pic that opens this entry was taken at Ms. Hoard's installation.

(Lisa Kewish)

Listen to your inner voice to find inspiration

A while ago Lisa and I found these unusual beads made from compressed old furniture and other recycled bits. We bought several of them without really knowing what we were going to do with them. They sat in a box for months until just this last week when I suddenly remembered them as I was looking for inspiration for an upcoming Earth Day celebration. Earth Day...recycled jewelry components...INSPIRATION!

So now I am making a series of pieces using those beads. The first one is already done--silver, copper and recycled furniture. How cool is that? I wore it last night and got several positive comments from strangers.

The lesson? If you see something that catches your eye, but don't know what to do with it, trust your instincts. Take a moment, listen that inner voice, and if it tells you there is something there, then pay attention.

In this case, not only have I come up with a new series of work, I am helping the environment by using recycled materials. It is a win-win.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Necessity of Art

People have been creating art for tens of thousands of years. Creating is a primal urge. It is one of the main drivers of humankind's advancement throughout the ages. Why would the Ancients venture into dark caves to paint on the walls or create thousands of beads from seashells? These activities are not technically necessary for survival--or are they?

In our modern Western culture we often downplay the importance of the arts...and artists. It takes an extra special person to persevere in an art career these days. Finding a support system is key. The life of an artist can often be lonely with hours spent in studio laboring over our latest work of love. I am beginning to see the value in developing connections with other artists, for networking, for friendship, for inspiration. There are so many reasons for artists to unite. We artists expand the realm of the possible and with so many people filled with gloom and despair, what we have to offer humanity is a balm for their hearts. And by making these connections, we also heal ourselves.

I am an artist. I paint, draw, sculpt and make jewelry. These activities fill my heart with joy and contentment.

--Joshua Kewish


"Fill your life with as many moments and experiences of joy and passion as you humanly can. Start with one experience and build on it."

Marcia Wieder

The old way: "How have you been?" (sigh) "Busy"

The new way: "How have you been?" (giggle) "Actively Being."

Lisa Kewish

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Creating is About Synthesizing Many Different Elements

‘Ideas, I find, come most readily when you are doing something that keeps the mind alert without putting too much strain on it.’
Lenox Riley Lohr

Creating is about synthesizing many different elements to produce something that is unique. Sometimes the act of creating seems like it isn't happening. The process begins in the sub-conscious and eventually finds its way out.

‘I waited for the idea
to consolidate, for the grouping and composition of themes to settle themselves in my brain.’
Claude Monet

It took me awhile for the piece featured in this post to materialize. I probably have a dozen different designs to showcase the beautiful fire opal. Straight lines, basic settings, mod showcasing...none of them made the opal "sing".

This was a commissioned piece. A friend handed me this opal and basically told me to do anything I wanted. That whatever I came up with it would be "hot". No pressure!

It took several months of staring and ignoring...then drawing and asking others for their opinion. Then more attempts and some mistakes. Meanwhile time passed by and still no product. Once in awhile the friend would ask me if I had come up with anything. No.

‘One must still have chaos in oneself in order to give birth to the dancing star.’
Friedrich Nietzsche

While in the process of incubating an idea for this opal, I became fascinated with spirals and circles. I suppose it is because I'm going through a lot of internal change, and yes, chaos. I feel like my thoughts go round and round, they begin and spiral out into who knows where. I have quite a few pieces sitting around with spirals. Spiral flowers, spiral abstracts, spirals... on and on.

Enough to give me a good case of internal motion sickness. I was feeling frustrated that on one hand I had this friend's opal to set...and on the other, I had all these squiggly spirals all over the place.

And one night, as I was falling asleep, the spirals came to rest. And I saw them differently.

Things don’t change. You change your way of looking, that’s all.’
Carlos Castaneda

Although the spirals were still there, an order appeared. They all rested.

The next evening, after work, there was not hesitation. "Jamie's Fire" was put together in just a couple nights.

Not the end of story.

The silver backplate had slightly "reticulated" (more on this in other posts). The irregularity bothered me. Everything was set...there was not much else I could do. I spent an entire day at work problem solving. I would be seeing my friend later that evening at a party. I wanted to give her the piece THAT night.

‘Talk of inspiration is sheer nonsense; there is no such thing. It is mere a matter of craftsmanship.’
William Morris

I realized that I needed to change the backplate to a uniform texture. How to do that with a piece that could not tolerate any heat, and where there was no room to file. And then it came to me. I took the smallest, sharpest drill bit that I could find, and I began to scratch. I scratched the entire backplate creating a surface that is web-like, shimmery and completely different than most silver pieces.

Instant inspiration isn't always available. And sometimes it is. Eventually.
I was my own inner chaos, that fed the creation.

(Lisa Kewish)