Tuesday, November 27, 2012

glad news

The last post was supposed to be sad news and glad news, but I ran out of time or energy or something.

So here's the glad news: the crafts fair was monstrously successful, both for the school and for me personally. I sold way more jewelry at than I ever had before in a single day, and made a big pile of money. Almost everything I sell is sold to friends, so it's always at a low-end price. But at the fair, I sold at a more real price - more than I would ask from Robin or Jannah, but a price that was still a decent bargain for handmade.

Of course, most of the buyers were faculty and candidates with whom I've been friendly, who have seen some of my work on me for a year and a half. But I actually tend to wear more staid examples of my work, except for earrings. (I often tell people that the reason I began making jewelry is that I could never ever afford to buy all the earrings I want. And that's somewhat true. Plus I always have the luxury of special jewelry for special occasions, often something made for a particular occasion or outfit.) The point is that a lot of people showed up with the firm intention of buying something from me, and I think some of them were surprised by how much they ended up buying. (Luckily, we accepted checks and credit cards.) Judy also decided to continue selling some items out of the office until the end of the term, and I've sold about half again as much since the fair.

It was also a successful day as far as my job; I was co-chair of the event, and Judy was good enough to mention that it raised more than the last two fundraisers combined. My measure of the success is that we're doing it again next year.

I kept 60% and gave 40% to the school, and even so, I made a pretty good sum of money. And now it's nearly all spent. I was of course thinking about what to do with my money before the fair, depending on what I earned. I actually managed to buy pretty much everything I wanted:

A Galaxy Lightray (Galaxy ii) smartphone. A 32" Vizio TV. A pair of jeans and some undies for Barry. Jewelry supplies: 25 feet of wire in three gauges. Headpins in two gauges. Five hook clasps. A string of jade beads, two of lapis, one of baroque pearls. Three different gauges of beading wire (in additional to the metal wire).

I'm waiting on an auction for some black Morrocan cotton pants, and if I win those, I'm also buying a tunic that goes well with black. (If I don't win the pants, I'll probably buy the tunic anyway and wear it with my grey pants, and spend the rest on some good cologne.)

It's a very mixed feeling, being able to buy so much stuff that I've wanted and needed, but also seeing so much money disappear so fast. When the idea of the fair was first floated, all I really thought about was being able to replenish my supplies. As it ramped up, I was hoping to be able to buy the TV and maybe a lesser-model smartphone.

I ended up with the exact TV I wanted, within a reasonable price range (under $400), and ending up with a Galaxy ii rather than a Galaxy iii was not such a big deal. (Especially since I bought it slightly used, at $160 below retail.) I figured, with the TV and phone, that I didn't want to outgrow the tech in a hurry. The TV can stream from the computer wirelessly, and can even do 3D. I did a lot of homework on both.

Now, the phone has a pretty good camera with flash, and if I can get get reasonable photos of my jewelry, I'll set up a website or Etsy store pronto. I suppose the fair has also increased my confidence, and all of the new pieces I made for the fair have given me a pretty good appetite for the work.

I made the decision to try to move to using some silver-filled materials rather than sterling. Silver-filled is coated with sterling, and the coating is 500 times thicker than silver-plate. Silver-filled basically looks and behaves exactly like sterling, and costs what sterling did five years ago. I don't like working without a good stash of materials; I absolutely hate being in the middle of making something and running out of chain or wire, or having to change a design because I don't have what I really want. It's much better to have the luxury of all materials at hand than to have to be miserly because of the price of sterling. For now, I still intend to use all sterling clasps. I'll use sterling where it makes a difference. But it's too expensive to use sterling exclusively.

I've always used gold-filled, when I work with gold. For one thing, gold wire is way too soft to use for most of what I do; even 10K is mushy. Gold clasps are just plain ridiculously expensive, except for the occasional small lobster-claw or box clasp for pearls. I use vermeil clasps when I can (silver heavily plated with 22K gold). But I really prefer silver for the kind of work I do. I don't wear that much gold myself.

It seems I have a lot of cheerleaders and support when it comes to making jewelry. I've never done that well with consignment, but I sell pretty well in person. And I'm finally carving out something of a visual profile, a handful of styles I repeat with variations on details like size and stones, that has my fingerprint. That's taken a long time, given that I'm self-taught and have experimented pretty widely. It's kind of a big thing for me. It's like handwriting. It's like the way all Stephen Dweck pieces look like Stephen Dweck, the way you can always tell an Elsa Peretti or a Chan Luu.

The fact that I make most of what I wear has cut down considerable on my lust to buy other jewelry.

Rings excepted; I can't make the kind of rings I want to wear. Over the years, I've bought two rings that I consider really good and valuable, including The Ring That Waited For Me.

I used to work a couple of blocks from an antique jewelry store with a very friendly owner, who would spend a lot of time with me and let me try on anything without being the least bit huffy if I didn't buy, which was most of the time. And to backtrack a bit - for a lot of my life, I thought that men should be buying me good jewelry, with no prompting, which meant that I had very little good jewelry. (Having boyfriends who weren't too well-off didn't help.) But after I got clean and sober, I realized that I could get myself gifts - and since I was no longer putting a lot of money up my nose, I could afford to do so. I bought a lot of reasonable rings, silver and garnet or silver and amethyst, and lots and lots of baseball cards. (I think I've mentioned that I have the collecting gene.) Then I upgraded a bit and bought a white gold art deco rung with a big amethyst (though a light one), at the aforementioned store. Then I traded up a little, swapped the ring and more cash for a gold, peridot and amethyst ring (better amethyst this time).

But I was in love with a ring in the window that cost about three times as much as the then-current ring. It was also deco, yellow gold with red enamel and three rose-cut diamonds. It always reminded me a little of a cigar band. It was right there in the window. I visited it often. I tried it on. I'm not sure if I remember this correctly, but it stayed in the window for eight years; it may have been five years, but no less than that. It just waited and waited. So I finally turned in the peridot and amethyst ring, and started paying around $20 a week toward the new ring. It took me about a year, including a payment of $100 provided by a then-close friend for my birthday. I've had it for nearly 20 years now.

I also made a more impulsive, less costly buy at the same store not long after, almost equally beautiful and a lot more rare: a small tsavorite garnet in gold. A tsavorite is a green garnet that looks exactly like an unaffordably good emerald. They're rare and only found in one place on earth, and they're usually small. They're also a lot sturdier than emeralds. Emeralds can chip, as easily as opals can, but garnets are good and hard. I don't know the weight of the stone in my ring, but it's about the size of a 1/4 carat diamond. The photo in this article is about the same color as mine; like amethysts, the darker ones are better, and mine is an excellent color. A lot of them look like peridots, so what's the point?

A note: a lot of jewelers sell pale amethysts as "rose amethyst," but that's kind of horseshit to me. An amethyst is just quartz; the color makes it an amethyst, and the color you're looking for is purple. Yellow quartz is citrine; you wouldn't call it "yellow amethyst." (This is different from stones like diamonds; even the color variants are still diamonds, and often rare and desirable. Tourmaline is most often seen in pink or green, but there is blue tourmaline and red tourmaline...I do kind of call bullshit on black tourmaline, which doesn't do much for me. Sapphires, also, are most commonly seen in blue but come in a lot of colors. Most of the topaz you see is blue, and heat-treated to get that color. Really, natural yellow-orange topaz is called imperial topaz, and that's the good stuff. I have a killer pair of topaz earrings that belonged to my mother. Even good citrine doesn't come close, in my opinion.)

Anyway, enough yakking about rocks. I clearly have rocks in my head - and a hobby that's stuck for longer than any of the others.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

sad news

Sad news: http://www.dailycamera.com/obits/ci_20541341/diane-robin-hammer. Diane Hammer was something of a Mean Girl, but was also my favorite friend when I was 8, 9, 10 years old. We went to the same bungalow colony, and then to the same summer camp, although by the time we were at the same camp, she was blowing me off. Still, I hero-worshipped her when we were friends, and was fascinated by her even after. I loved her family; her father introduced me to the Marx Brothers. I watched the first moon landing at her family's bungalow (we didn't have a TV in ours).

I ran into her mother about 20 years ago, and she gave me Diane's address, but I couldn't figure out how to start writing a letter to her. Diane was very unsentimental. Five or so years ago, I saw her father's obit in the Times (he was a fairly well-known psychoanalyst), and a couple of years ago, I found her brother Cary on Facebook. Cary was not speaking to Diane; apparently they had clashed over their mother, Lila's, care and property, and according to Cary, Diane had threatened him.

Before and after I got in touch with Cary, I frequently Googled Diane just to find out about her. Too many Diane Hammers out there, and none was the right one. I was doing it again yesterday, and took a look at Manny's obit again, and noticed the mention of his "daughter-in-law, Patty" (this was in addition to the name of Cary's wife, so I knew it had to be Diane's partner). So I Googled "Diane Hammer Patty" and got smacked with Diane's obit. I messaged Cary on Facebook (we really haven't kept in touch); don't know if he'll have anything to say.

Having said all that - I'm still sad that I'll never see Diane again, no chance to re-meet, reconcile, talk about days gone by.

Knowing the Hammer family changed the lives of all of my family in a lot of ways, but that's for another day...

Monday, November 5, 2012

...and then there was a hurricane

What lifted the burnout was some serious jewelry-making time. Making that shift from verbal to visual language readjusts me drastically. And if I keep at it, amazing things start to happen.

Usually, I have about half a dozen designs in mind at any given time. When I first sit down to work, I almost always start with one of them. And maybe three or four of those ideas actually get made (some more successfully than others), I start to get better ideas as I make those first couple of pieces, and once in a while, something totally unexpected gets created. Last night, from out of nowhere, I made a big amethyst necklace, with some faceted black labradorite (leftover stones with no glow, but a beautifully faceted black oval nonetheless). Have to remake it though: the crimp didn't hold. I think I have to redo it on strong thread with clamshells or knot cups, and I really want to do it before Saturday. But weeknights are so sucky for for doing jewelry. Not much time, and tired time at that.

One necklace that was planned and amazing was a choker of huge, very clear blue apatite chunks knotted on blue silk, with an elongated toggle. (I found a treasure trove of old forgotten necklaces recently, and took the clasps off almost every one of them, giving me once again a decent selection of good-sized toggles and s-clasps.) I rarely make chokers because I don't wear them. Most of the jewelry I make is something I would and could wear myself, even when I'm not making it for myself. I made three chokers by request for the Village Scandal (more on that later), and there was nothing else to be done with 15" of outrageous stones that had to be knotted and could not share a necklace with any other stone. (Apatite is quite soft and needs to be knotted.) It is the most spectacular necklace, and one I would surely wear.

I still haven't made the necklace I want to wear to the Crafts Fair. Which is Saturday. Plus I have things to schlep to work like a brand-new earring carousel and gift boxes. I decided to buy the carousel when I realized that my space will be limited, and I had a whole passel of old, simple earrings that I wanted to sell at $10, 3 for $25. So they go on the carousel. I have three little one-pair earring stands for a few fancier pair of earrings, and two busts for the two best necklaces.

There was a hurricane last week. Enough parts of New York City got clobbered so that Barry and I were both home for a week. I did a little work from home, and all kind of work things had to be canceled and postponed and pushed back. So it's the same hellish crush that the rest of the fall term was going to be, but with a week less to get everything done. And the crafts fair is coming up on us fast.

We were lucky in that we did not lose power or have flood conditions in our neighborhood. Lower Manhattan lost power for days, Staten Island got clobbered, and so did Coney Island and the Rockaways. I'm still a little too dazed to register it. Most of the people I know had some power loss or no problems at all. But I'm hearing that at least 20,000 people need shelter (some have intact homes but no heat), and it's horrifying. Obama and Romney are in a dead heat the day before the election, and that's horrifying too. I feel like I'm moving by remote control...I'm functioning but deadened. And feeling kind of cut off from people.

The Village Scandal has had three chokers (made at the owner's request) and two pair of earrings on consignment for six months. I have been trying to contact the owner for two months to get my money or my goods. She doesn't answer voice mails to the store (and no one ever answers the store phone), her cell phone has no voice mail, she's never there when I go to the store, and doesn't respond to messages I leave there. Last time I was there, I took a good look, and the chokers are in her showcase, but I don't know where the earrings are. I would like to show those pieces on Saturday. But then there was a hurricane. I'm going to have to try to stop down there this week; maybe I can catch her on a lunch hour.I'm seriously pissed off, which is how consignment deals so often end.

I'm very scattered, I guess, and I'm glad to have my routine back even if it is horrendously busy.