Monday, December 27, 2010

A Makeover for The FamiLee Jewels

You may have noticed new banners and avatars on our Etsy and Artfire shops as well as The FamiLee Jewels blog. We have had a makeover.
They were created for us by Pixel Paper, a fellow etsian who specializes in graphic design. Pixel Paper is a home based, Mom run business located in Palestine Texas.
I found Pixel Paper by placing an Alchemy request on etsy. Alicia's bid really stood out. She took the time to research The FamiLee Jewels on etsy and sent  a sample banner using a photograph that she captured from one of its listings.  I was impressed with her ingenuity and and get it done attitude and accepted her bid because of these attributes.
Alicia was a pleasure to work with, responding cheerfully and politely to my requests for changes. She lives up to her promise of  "Unlimited revisions until you love it!"
Pixel Paper has provided us 3 sets of Etsy banners and avatars for The FamiLee Jewels. They will be changed out periodically to keep the site fresh and interesting.
I would not hesitate to ask Alicia for help in the future, and highly recommend Pixel Paper for your digital design needs.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December Blog Carnival: How it All Began

This pearl and shell necklace was one of my first creations.
I was so proud of the wire clasp.
It all began with a single class.  In January of 2006 I took a basic beading class to help me get through the winter blues. Depression is a struggle for me and winter was making me want to hibernate. The class seemed like a really good idea--- a nice craft, a hobby to keep me busy, and a way to beat Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The class was very basic bead stringing, and a lot of fun so I called my mom Ella, daughter Becky, and sister in law Nancy and invited them to join me for the next class.

We were hooked! We visited the local big box craft stores. We found a few local bead shops. We made a road trip to Springfield Massachusetts to attend a gem and mineral show. We checked out every bead and jewelry book that the local libraries possessed, subscribed to all the bead magazines we could find, and scoured the Internet for sources and patterns and instructions. I ordered some instructional DVDs and we all watched them and practiced new techniques.
Through those books we discovered the teaching of Sharilyn Miller who taught us how to do it right the first time. Some day I will attend one of her Wild Women Seminars.
The DVD's were made by Preston Ruether, the Master Wire Sculptor himself, whose down to earth style and frank advice made us believe that we could do this too.
Internet investigation lead me to Eni Oken  whose free form work and use of wire gave me the knowledge to create the pieces I was dreaming about.
Developing my own style.

Bead night started every Monday around the dining room table. What did you make this week? Will you teach me that? That would go great with these beads. Try this! We were obsessed, and our volume of jewelry was growing, and growing and growing.

We decided to try our luck at an artisan street show called Art on Lark in June of 2006, and at the Jazz Festival in July, and in Saratoga in August. We were a hit. Sales were profitable but better yet we received the affirmation that what we had produced was good.

The FamiLee Jewels was born. We booked bigger shows, started a blog, and opened stores on  ETSY and Artfire. We booked home parties, did fundraisers, and took orders for custom work.

We discovered wire wrapping and cold connections and have never looked back.  My style has evolved into a sort of Steampunk, Victorian Industrial melange that blends new brass findings with vintage and antique hardware, watch parts and found objects. I enjoy the hunt for materials almost as much as the process of creating the jewelry.
A recent necklace that celebrates the love of wirework.

Read here about how other Starving Artists started making their jewelry.
Bead Sophisticate

Island Girl



Northern Girl

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November Blog Carnival: Book Review French Inspired Jewelry

I recently found French Inspired Jewelry, creating with vintage beads, buttons and baubles on the local book sellers shelf.  It was a "must have" for my collection. Kaari Meng, it's author, has been designing jewelry for more than 20 years using vintage glass beads that she has hunted for all over the world.  Her jewelry has grown from her love of those beautiful bits and pieces of the past.
French Inspired Jewelry is beautifully illustrated. The entire book has a vintage feel to it. You can be inspired just slowly turning the pages and looking at it's photographs of beautiful jewelry displayed with vintage ephemera.
The book is worth having for the artwork alone, but don't stop there. French Inspired jewelry contains a wealth of knowledge and helpful hints from an artist that has learned them through experience.
Kaari's  Basics chapter has the usual discussions of tools, findings, stringing supplies and techniques. The treasure of this section is the description of glass beads written by someone that values them.  Mass produced glass beads are often overlooked and even disparaged by jewelry designers. Here they are celebrated for their unique beauty and old world charm.
The remaining chapters contain projects. Some are standard and some unique. All are beautiful. My favorite part? They are presented according to a specific palette. This author makes me want to sort my beads by color!
La Mer shows a love of the Mediterranean Sea represented by turquoise blue, coral and white.  Le Marche shares the beauty of fresh fruits and bright flower blossoms. Le Cirque is a riot of color. La Volie're, Le Vigne and Le Jardin rejoice in bold and natural pigments. The designs laid out in Le Chateau are worthy of French atistocracy.
Please don't think me morbid but my favorite chapter is the last, La Cimetiere. The jewelry designs pictured there share a subdued monochromatic palette that is soft and pleasing to the eye. The use of vintage religious medals in this chapter gave me the courage to dig out the ones that I had been saving and to use them in charm bracelets of my own.
Every chapter of French Inspired Jewelry has design tips from how to clean old glass and millinary supplies, to setting up your workspace. The author is generous in her descriptions of favorite materials and how to find them. I somehow think that for Kaari Meng that search is an enjoyable adventure.

The topic of Book Reviews was chosen as the Starving Artists Team's Blog Carnival post for the month of November. Read how other members felt about the subject.


Northern Girl

Bead Sophisticate

Island Girl

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lonely No More

Every jewelry box has a sad little collection hidden away in it. Broken chains, stones that have slipped their bezels and lonely earrings gather together useless but too beautiful to discard. It is my mission to free them from their prison and give them new life.
To see more Salvage jewelry by TheFamiLeeJewels visit:

Salvage Rose Cocktail Ring made from a lonely earring.

Salvage Sun Ring made from a lost button.

Salvage Cocktail Ring made from a tangled necklace.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Felix or Oscar What is your work style?

I am organized and methodical in many aspects of my life. Nursing in a Critical Care area demands it. Raising a family while working full time makes one list oriented and task efficient.

But when the brain shifts to the right side and my artistic side takes over I start to channel Oscar Madison.
My studio is a mess. There are two  6 foot bookshelves in the room with beads, books and magazines organized on them.
There is a 4 foot table in front of these shelves with all of my salvage and found object bits laying on it so that I can see them, fondle them and pile them in likely combinations whenever the mood strikes. I must crawl underneath this table to locate a specific book or magazine on the shelf.

A repurposed computer  desk holds the Dremel with Flex Shaft and a stand that converts it into a drill press. The desk has neatly labeled drawers, open shelves and file cabinets.
The desk usually sports a fine layer of sawdust or metal filings depending on the project last completed.

The workbench provides a wonderful surface for hammering, etching, saw cutting and using chemicals for patinas.
One must move several trays of "works in progress" and stacks of magazines to discover the bench top.

The 10x10 studio also contains a rolling cart that serves as shipping center a small encyclopedia bookcase that holds the rock tumbler and ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, a tall wooden cart that holds a photo cube, and a two drawer filing cabinet.
These remain surprisingly neat.
We will not discuss the closet.
It sounds cluttered and confusing but my artistic mind thrives in the seeming chaos. I recently found a quote that says it all.
3 Rules of Work:
Out of clutter find simplicity;
Out of discord find harmony;
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
                 Albert Einstein

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Focus on: Mark Stowe

Mark's signature piece, a silver dragonfly
This weeks feature article showcases the talent of  jewelry artist and fellow upstate New york resident, my neighbor to the North, Mark Stowe. Mark is etsy artist  SilverDragonfly8.

Mark's passion for art and jewelry design began at a young age "back in the late 60’s with bending up my Mom’s silverware into spoon rings & bracelets for perspective girlfriends."

Mark's biggest fan Kathy says about his work "Mark's items are all hand crafted, by his own hands, in his own off the grid studio. He has 30 years of experience. He cuts his own stones. Each one is unique and extraordinary. His settings are creative, sturdy and elegant. The dragonfly is his signature design, and he is very diversified as well. He features many opals, jasper's, garnets, lapis, rubies and diamonds. His training is in traditional heirloom jewelry and he uses his unique, spontaneous response to the materials to create his own contemporary Art Nouveau inspired style."

Tiny Madonna sculpture from a Lake Champlain pebble by SilverDragonfly8

Mark's combinations of stone and metal and unique designs are beautiful to behold. Many of them feature a form of the piece that inspired him, a dragonfly. My favorite items in his shop however are the rustic sculptures that he fashions from smooth Lake Champlain pebbles. Each is a tiny expressive work of art reminiscent of the Moai of Easter Island.

Sterling Silver Spiral Ring by SilverDragonfly8

Mark's own words describe his passion for  art the best:

"to create beauty where there appears to be none. So often in life we miss the most beautiful things right in front of our eyes. Were it not for the artist, the teacher or the challenge, we might not stop and really see the things which bring peace and joy into our lives. I see a whimsical face in a beach pebble. A dragonfly lands on a woman’s hat. I see a moon rising in the shapes inside a piece of stone. I would like to share that wonder. I derive a feeling of worth when I’ve created, with these hands, a piece of jewelry that becomes someone’s special and cherished gift."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Focus on: Art Snark

Stacey Merrill is an etsy seller and fellow Etsy Holiday Bootcamper who creates and sells "Art and objects for the eclectic soul" under the name of Art Snark's Artifacts.  Her unusual shop is full of fanciful work with a Victorian Steampunk style. She works in several mediums including photography, jewelry design, and ACEO. Stacey says that she has always been eccentric, and that her life full of odd jobs, interesting travel and unusual characters has found its expression through her art.
My current favorite piece in her shop is a pocket watch shrine called The Mysterious Case of Dr. Varulv.  It is an imaginative artifact and definitely one of a kind.
Art Snark and I share of love of found objects, steampunk design and being the most happy when our "hands and minds are working together".
I asked Stacey what inspires her to create and she responded by saying "A love of looking - I'm obsessed with shape & texture, and how the light falls on an object. I also have a habit of looking at something & imagining what it could become. My husband just shakes his head at whatever odd scraps I'm hauling home."
You can see more of Stacey's work and read about her artistic process on her Blog Artsnark's Artifacts Art and Musings for the Eclectic Soul.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

October Blog Carnival: How it Came to Be

I make jewelry out  of salvaged cabinet, electrical and plumbing fixtures.  People often wonder out loud when looking at the jewelry that I make out  found objects and vintage hardware.

Where do you find this stuff?
Why do you see jewelry in it?
How do you get your ideas?

May I show you?
My favorite shopping grounds are salvage yards, garage sales and friends junk drawers.

I love the intricate ornate designs in old brass and reuse them whenever I can in ways that showcase their beauty.

This often means cutting them apart into reasonably sized pieces.  The Dremel tool is a very handy accessory for this purpose.

This is what the  pieces look like before dismanteling.

Afterwards I just clean them with a wire brush and mild soap and water. Nothing too strong, preserve the old patina if at all possible.

These are a few of the finished products.

Free Flight made of vintage watch band and gears.

Hearts Amulet made from an old wrist watch case.

Fleur de Lis made from an antique door knob.
The topic "How it Came to Be" was chosen as the Starving Artists Team's Blog Carnival post for the month of October.  Read how other members felt about the subject.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

New from the Shop This Week

This week I dug out a supply of beautiful agate slices to work on.  These organic slabs are cut from a geode and still have the rough rock ringing the outer edge.  They make a lovely background for collage type pendants.
A soft and lovely slab of swirly blue grays became the sky for these swallows.

Cafe au Lait coloring made a great focus for these fossils and antiqued brass elements.

Banded agate is lovely next to a rose and a tiny dragonfly.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October Jewelry Challenge

The Starving Jewelry Artists group that I belong to has decided to respond to a monthly challenge to stimulate the imagination, spur creativity and share ideas. October was a month for do overs. We were each tasked to take a piece of jewelry of our own creation that we were not satisfied with and to give it a makeover.

I chose an old wire wrapped piece. This necklace is about 2 1/2 years old. It consisted of a sterling silver hammered neck ring, a stone donut with wire wrapping and a tumble stone suspended from that. It was a difficult choice to take it apart because of the price of the silver so I devised a way to reuse almost all of it. Attached Image
Problems: I did not like all of the spirals and swirls, the setting was not tight and it just didn't seem balanced in design.
Positives: I did still like the colors, the ocean theme and especially the 2 dolphins swimming in a circle in the center of the donut.
Changes: The neck ring is gone. It was awkward and unappealing and a waste of 16 gauge sterling silver wire. It became the clasp on the bigger necklace and 4 bead links in the chain for it.
The 2 stones were separated and each became its own necklace. The Blue dumortierite donut was enhanced by the addition of small freshwater pearls and a lot of tiny silver beads to give it a more jewel encrusted appearance. I also wove 28 gauge wire into the bail wires to make it look more solid. The new pendant now has a sterling silver chainmaille necklace to hang on.Attached Image
Attached Image
The tumble stone with tropical fish charm was enhanced by the addition of beads and a silk necklace.
Attached Image

Featured Artist: Danagonia

Camilla Vejen Eriksen is a jewelry artist who lives and works in Denmark.
She is a fellow etsy vendor and member of the Starving Jewelry Artists.
Her whimsical feminine designs are dreamed of and created in the enchanted Kingdom of Dragonia, where gnomes and fairies rule and Camilla can make magical jewelry all day.  I have been lucky enough to watch her talent develop through the posts that we share on the forum.
Fairy Cross
Camilla works with copper wire and gemstones. Her jewelry can be recognized by it's swirls and filigree combining those elements in designs that are both strong and feminine.
My current favorite piece in Camilla's etsy shop is Fairy Cross.  Its delightful spirals, gleaming gems, and deep rich color represent everything that I admire about her work.  

The story is a bonus. Camilla's description of Fairy Cross begins " Fairies don't have religions like us humans, but they do carry certain symbols for protection and prosperity. This is one of them, I can't write it's name with our alphabet, so I've decided to just call it The Fairy Cross."

The name of Camilla's shop is Danagonia - Enchanted Jewelry it can be found at .  It offers fantasy inspired hand crafted jewelry and the tutorials that instruct you how to make some of them.. 
Her blog can be found at  where  you will find the story behind the jewelry and the woman.
Camilla comes from a creative family but she is the only jewelry artist among them . Her Mum is  the 4th generation, and Camilla is making sure the 5Th generation continues that tradition.
I asked Camilla what made her work special? She replied "I try to always leave my mark on my work, so that when people see my jewelry, they instantly know it's mine. Plus I try to write a small story for every piece. Most of the time a little fairytale."

When asked about her design process Camilla said  "I tend to work from either a stone or certain beads and create my design from that, or I make sketches and work from those. Sometimes I just make random spirals and see what I get."  She recently wrote a blog post that shared pictures from her sketchbook. It was a wonderful glimpse into her clever imagination.

Beware fairy boys if a fairy girl gives you a birth flower!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Second Annual SATeam Wrist Candy Holiday Giveaway

Lush and Loaded Cottage Garden Charm Bracelet waiting to be won.

The Second Annual SATeam Wrist Candy Holiday Giveaway has begun!

On a model

The talented members of the Starving Artists team on etsy have collaborated to make a beautiful Flower themed charm bracelet. Our instructions were to create a Flower charm using sterling silver and bright colors. The result is a lush and loaded charm bracelet that looks like a cottage garden.
The charms have all been added to a sterling silver charm bracelet and are ready and waiting to be won. The FamiLee Jewels are proud to have one of their charms on this stunning creation.

Shop early and Shop often.

Between October 17, 2009 and November 28Th, 2010 every  time you purchase an item from The FamiLee Jewels or any of the participating etsy stores your name will be entered into the draw to win this beautiful flower-themed bracelet, bursting with with charms hand-made by members of SATeam.  The winner will be notified on November 30Th.

For Full Details and a list of participating etsy shops visit:

The full bracelet.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The FamiLee jewels-now available at Artfire

The FamiLee Jewels have expanded our sales opportunities. Our merchandise is now available at ArtFire as well as Etsy.  ArtFire offers an opportunity for those of you without Etsy accounts to shop without having to create one.

The FamiLee Jewels on ArtFire

Autumn in New York

Monday, October 11, 2010

Goold Orchards

According to one  producer "Apples without cheese
 are like a hug without the squeeze."
 The FamiLee Jewels had a wonderful weekend at Goold Orchards 22nd Annual Apple festival.
The sun was shining and the weather was crisp, and there was frost on the pumpkins Sunday morning. It was perfect Fall weather.
Thank you to our many returning customers and to the new ones we met.
I did some shopping myself and would like to introduce you to some new local businesses that were fellow vendors. Their products are wonderful and they are nice people to boot!

Dirty Girl line by RAD Soap Co
Rad Soap Co keeps it real by making their soaps and lotions by hand, in small batches, with no chemicals or artificial ingredients. It all smells great from the coffee scented line for caffiene junkies to the Cheeks bar made just for the babies in your life. 
Satatoga Herb  from Hummingbird Haven.

Hummingbird Haven Herb Farm is a Galway based  buisiness that creates delicious blends for snacking. The Saratoga Herb blends are delicious.  Try the Taste of Tuscany with hearty crackers for Fall noshing.

Cha Cha for the Cure wine glasses.

Cha Cha ware by Armadillo Meat on a Stick is my latest favorite stemware! Their tagline of "Why walk when you can Cha Cha"  says a lot about the happy attitudes of Lisa, Donna and Marie who create functional art to beautify your life.

It was great to see new vendors and to catch up with old friends. We will see you again next year for the 23rd Annual Apple Festival, Columbus Day weekend at Goold Orchards.