Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Be Prepared

We live on a small planet. Those of you raised in the instant information age have grown up accepting this as fact. Those of us that are baby boomers and older have come to realize it as we watch in real time when disasters unfold in other parts of the world.
Hurricanes in Louisiana and Haiti, flooding  in Austrailia, tsunamis in Hawaii and Japan, war and civil unrest in Afganistan, Libya and Egypt are all right in our living room with us.
The devastation caused by these natural and manmade disasters is appalling and difficult to wrap your brain around. I find myself glued to the TV as though somehow by sharing the trauma I can help alleviate the pain. I can't. I can only watch in horror as cities of people whose lives are not so different than mine are torn apart.
I can do nothing to help them but offer my prayers and make responsible donations to organizations like the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity International.

I can do something for myself.
I have come to realize by watching these events unfold that our home is not prepared to sustain us in the event of long term disaster.
Years ago when the girls lived home and were dependent on us we laughed about our stockpiles. Fred used to tease that I could feed the neighborhood for a week if there was ever a problem.
We don't have that stockpile anymore.
We have become accustomed to 24 hour grocery stores, all night gas stations, and atm machines for banking. These conveniences have made us complacent and I don't like it. If a disaster should strike here I don't want to be waiting to be rescued. I want ot be able to care for myself and my family and the neighbors if necessary until some kind of order can be restored.

Beginning now I will:
Fill the gas tank in the car when it gets down to half. (This will make Fred very happy)
Keep enough durable food and water in the house to sustain us for 2 weeks.
Have a backpack ready to grab and go in the event of evacuation, with a change of clothes, work gloves, power bars, water, flashlight and a radio.
Take the emergency radio out of the camper and put it in the house.
Make sure to keep flashlights with extra batteries, matches and propane.
There is already enough wood for heating or cooking fires.

With very little effort I can gain some peace of mind.
If and when disaster strikes I will not be a helpless bystander.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March Blog Carnival: Who has Influenced my Jewelry Work

The question of who has influenced my work is always one that I love to answer. I am so greatful to those who have gone before me and have been so generous in sharing their ideas and design principles.

I knew very early in my bead and jewelry journey that I wanted to work with wire. I couldn't find any classes available locally to teach me this skill but google helped me find the Master Wire Sculptor himself Preston Reuther.  Preston had a website that was so full of knowledge that it encouraged me to try this medium. I purchased several of his DVDs and following his instructions learned to manipulate and be comfortable with wire. Preston has a very down to earth manner of presentation and makes the video seem like he is sitting in the room with you. His "If I can teach myself to do this anyone can learn it" attitude gave me confidence in my abilities.

Google also helped me to find wire artist Eni Oken. Eni has a wonderful way of layering fine gauge wire. I fell in love with her style immediately. The thing that I liked most about her website is the fact that I could buy instructions for a specific project or technique and download them. That kind of instant gratification is hard to pass up when you are absorbed in the development of a new skill.  Eni's instruction has allowed me to make jewelry that tells a story.

The first jewelry instruction book that I bought is bead on a wire by Sharilyn Miller.  It is still in my collection of basics and i won't part with it. Sharilyn's teaching style is fantastic. Her directions are clear and concise. Her advice is deliberate. Do it, do it over and over and over until you can do it right the first time, and you will have developed a lifelong skill. Sharilyn taught me about hammers (I love my hammers) and she taught me about structural integrity in my work.

My most recent influence is Susan Lenart Kazmer. I was gifted with her book Making Connections last year and was so thrilled to find someone that shares my love for rusty  dusty aged patinas. Susans book of cold joinery techniques is beautifully illustrated with her own designs. Those designs convinced me that the direction that I am going on this jewelry journey is the right one for me. Instead of worrying about being outside the box, I am cutting up the box and using it to make jewelry!

This post is part of a Blog Carnival.  Follow the links below to learn who infulenced the work of these Starving Jewelry Artists.

Island Girl




Sunday, March 20, 2011

March Treasury Madness

Have you ever shopped on etsy?   
It is THE greatest place to shop for handcrafted and vintage goods of all kinds. There are so many talented artists and craftspeople there. My favorite thing about the venue is that the artists all represent themselves. You can get to know them through their profiles.
You can learn about their design process in the item descriptions.
You can contact the artist/shop owner directly if you have any questions or concerns.
It is the next best thing to a face to face art/craft show and gives you the opportunity to shop with vendors from all over the world.

I have many favorite sellers and favorite items. I have showcased them in treasuries this month. You know how I feel about hunting for treasure. These are some of my finds.

These are items made locally in the Albany/Schenectady/Saratoga region of New York State.

Some of my favorite ecofriendly etsy items.

To celebrate National Poetry Month.

Have you ever shopped on etsy?
Ever made a treasury of your own?
What is your favorite etsy item?

Friday, March 18, 2011

You are One of a Kind

Recycled, Repurposed, and Reused
 Do you appreciate the use of recycled materials?
Do you love steam punk or lust after antiques?
Are you fond of repurposed salvage?
Do you enjoy quirky and unusual?
Do you embrace setting your own style?
One that represents your unique point of view?

These are some of the attributes of customers of The FamiLee Jewels.

Many of you are antique and collectible shoppers. You enjoy hunting for Vintage treasures. Garage sales, estate sales and flea markets are some of your playgrounds.
I love hearing your expressions of pleasure and seeing your smiles when you recognize some of what you search for in the jewelry that I make.

Most of you recognize that we live on a small planet and that we are responsible for treating it with respect.  Your appreciation for reusing and  repurposing discarded materials reflects that belief.
I always know who you are because you give me back my packaging materials and wear your jewelry home, with pride in the choices that you have made.

All of you are style setters. You enjoy wearing clothing and accessories that tell the world who you are, not which stores you shop in. I know you. We are soul sisters. 
When customers say to me "I could never wear a pendant that big." I say to them "It is not the size of the person, it is the size of the personality that determines what you wear." 
It is you that I am thinking of.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Signs of Spring

Three little boys learned that it's ok to splash in puddles when you have your rain boots on!
Friends and relatives in other parts of the country and in other hemispheres of the world have been asking if we are seeing any signs of Spring. Until this week my answer has been a dismal "No we are still buried under 4 feet of snow."
Saturday night we moved the clocks forward and all of a sudden it seems that Spring has arrived. I have seen three definite signs of better things to come.

The chipmunks are done hibernating and have dug there way out of the snowbanks to look for their warm weather perches.

When I got out of work Monday evening there was a group of RPI students playing basketball in Beman Park in shirtsleeves.

My three favorite little boys learned how to jump in puddles.

My heart is happy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Studio Tour: A piece of equipment I use every day

My beautiful workbench the workhorse of the studio.
There are many tools in my studio that I use frequently. There are tools that I love and get excited about using. I have written before to tell you about my Dremel and of the wonderful new jump ring maker that Fred made me for Christmas.
The Granddaddy of them all has to be the workhorse, my beautiful solid wood workbench. There are other tools and devises that are more fun to play with but none makes my work easier than the bench.
Fred picked it up at a woodworkers garage sale a few years ago. It was new in the box so he couldn't pass it by. He already has a beautifully handcrafted workbench in his shop so this one is all mine.
Storage is everything.
The bench has a spacious and strong work surface. I can hammer and stamp to my hearts content. Nothing bounces off or moves around.
There is plenty of room for my small butane torch and pickle pot, metal stamps  dapping tools and doming block, circle punches, anvil and steel block, third hand and a vise.
It has drawers too! Six of them with plenty of room for hammers and other hand tools.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March Giveaway

Oxidized Copper Love Knot Earrings by The FamiLee Jewels
March is here and with it more snow, but the hope of Spring.
In honor of March and it's popular Holiday St. Patricks Day The FamiLee Jewels are giving away a pair of Copper Love Knot earrings to one lucky fan of our site.

The knot uses 3 coils of wire. Each wire represents one of the  forces of nature - earth, water and fire. Weaving them together in one continuous knot signifies unity, strength, spirit and being.

The giveaway will run from now until March 31st.

To enter your name into the draw for the giveaway:
1.  visit our etsy store at and choose your favorite piece of jewelry.
2.  comment here on the blog or on our Facebook page about which piece you like best and why it is your favorite.
3.The winner will be chosen sing a random number generator.  I will notify you of the winner on April 1st.

Good Luck!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Product Development: It's Quite a Process

Inside the cable were many strands of fine gauge copper wire.
Pressed pennies are a new interest. I stated collecting them about a year ago and since then my mind has been filled with ideas for turning them into jewelry. They make interesting earrings and necklaces but the most intriguing possibilities are bracelet designs.
The elongated or squished pennies are malleable enough to be slightly curved to accommodate the shape of the wrist.
Used electrical wire
The challenge then is to create a band that is strong and beautiful yet lets the penny be the focal point.
I  made several bracelets using chainmaille patterns. Byzantine, Half-Persian, and Japanese 8 in 1 all lend themselves to the task.

Several weeks ago I pulled a length of used electrical wire from the trash bin in the garage. I was curious to see whether I could recycle it for use in wire jewelry.  I cut the coating off several feet of the electrical cable and discovered a bundle of fine gauge copper wire.  While unraveling the bundle into usable  portions I decided to make a bracelet band of Viking Knit. 
Viking Knit is an ancient Scandinavian weaving process that creates sturdy metal tubes from tightly intertwined fine gauge wire. It is a technique that will allow me to assemble the bracelet using cold connections .
The used wire is tarnished in it's raw state but that suits my purposes perfectly as I plan to oxidize the entire bracelet when it is complete.

Viking knit made from recycled electrical wire.