Saturday, September 4, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Florida Etsy Street Team Monthly Challenge

I am so happy to be part of a wonderful group of Etsy sellers. They are Florida folks - all with shops on Etsy selling everything from vintage items to jewelry to baby clothes and lots of other stuff. It's a diverse and very talented group of artists. We have fun online and support each other - and we have a blog where we feature our members, have giveaways and lots of other stuff. Each month we have a themed challenge for our members, and anyone can vote for their favorite items. This month, our theme the June birthstone "Pearl" and alternately, "Capture the Memories."
The necklace shown above is my entry for the June Challenge - please visit our blog, check everyone's entries, and hey, you can certainly vote for me! :-)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Oh, Abalone!

Abalone cabochons, round or oval; natural or dyed shades of blue, green, red or pink. I use them all the time - they give focus, color and a little iridescent bling to the mostly neutral tones in the shells that I find. I found myself in earring mode on this hot sticky afternoon....

It's tough to find two shell shards that are the exact same shape, size, color and texture, so the abalone and the sterling silver wire wrap is what "brings it all together," creating a more or less matching pair.

I thought I'd do a little "how-to" post. Unfortunately, I can't take pics of myself making them, so you'll have to use your imagination a bit. The trick to combining just about anything with seashells is - glue. Shells can't be soldered, fused or baked in a kiln. It's pretty much glue or drill them and wire wrap. I do both - but today's project is glued - with E-6000. Now, I know there are purists who say you have to use epoxy, but I am not one of them. E-6000 is a great glue - IF - you give it plenty of time to dry and cure. I find that pieces that have been cured for a few weeks are very strong.

Glueing on the little earring bail and the abalone is pretty simple. Just dab on the glue and position it where you like. The E-6000 is very forgiving - it dries slowly and allows you to play around a bit - but it does get messy. Much better to lay it all out before the gluing begins. The sterling silver wire is a bit trickier to do.

I used 24 gauge dead soft wire and wound a piece approximately 4 inches long around a mandrel to make about 4 coils. Slide it off the mandrel, being careful to not allow it to loosen, or the wrap will be too big to fit snugly around the cabochon. Holding the wire coils tightly with one hand, use your pliers to wrap the two loose ends around the four coils. This gives it a look kind of like a coiled rope. Each piece will wrap a little differently, and that's part of the charm of this technique. Then position it over the cabachon - to check for fit. Ideally it will snap down snugly. When you are happy with the way it fits and looks, take it off and carefully apply a strand of glue around the cabochon. Fit the wire back on. If you don't have a real snug fit you might want to clamp it until it's dry. Check for excess glue - it's easy to scrape it off at this point with your fingernail.

For an oval cabochon, I just use pliers to carefully squeeze into an oval shape. You can use this technique for pendants and bracelets - just about anything. Here are a couple more pieces I've created with this technique:

It's really not too hard a technique to learn. Play with some craft wire first. If you don't have a mandrel - try an ink pen, sharpie, anything round or oval that you can wrap around. A good source for abalone cabochons is

Have Fun!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Week at the Beach

If you are familiar with my jewelry, you might think that I live at the beach.  Sadly for me, you would be mistaken - but I do live within a couple of hours of some of the best beaches in Florida, and just ended a wonderful week at one of my favorite little beach towns -New Smyrna Beach.  Situated just below Daytona, this east coast barrier island is home to surfer dudes and other laid back folks.   One road traverses the length of the island.  Take it south and you will come to a little known treasure:  Cape Canaveral National Seashore.   

If you have ever wanted to see what Florida looked like before paradise was paved, this is the place to go. No houses, no condos, no burger joints. Just natural shoreline that goes for miles - all the way down to NASA. They say this is a great place to watch the shuttle lift off. It's also one of my favorite places to collect shell shards. There are gazillions of them - and many have spent hundreds if not thousands of years sloshing around in the ocean, where they have lost their original shape, but gained texture and patina that makes each one a tiny work of art.

Early morning sunrises and sunsets are my favorite time on the beach - I'm not into baking in the sun during the heat of the day. Instead, I spend my time indulging my jewelry passion using my most recent beach finds:

Just after sunrise is a wonderful time to take photos.  I wanted to capture the wet sand and foam to give that beachy look to the shots, but to do so I had to risk getting everything wet.  With one eye on the surf I worked as quickly as possible.  Every few minutes I had to grab it all and run as a big wave came rolling in. 

This attracted the attention of a few snowy egrets who had been watching the early morning fishermen, hoping they could grab some bait or a small fish.  They decided that I might have something good to eat on the plate that held my necklaces. I let them think what they wanted, and used the opportunity to get a close shot.  These little guys have beautiful pure white feathers, accented by black and bright yellow on their beaks and legs.  Form is definitely following function - they have to sneak up on small creatures in the shallow water, so their feet blend in with the sand, and the black legs and beak disappear in the water. 

Later that day as I was walking in the classic "sheller's stance" (head down, looking intently at the sand and not watching where I was going) I almost stepped on this pair of ghost crabs, who were quite perturbed that I had interrupted their little tryst. 

Well, the week is over and even though I have a mild case of "sheller's elbow",  I also have lots of memories, pictures and shells.Time to get busy!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

And the winner is........

First, let me say a hearty "Thank You!" to everyone who entered the contest.  I enjoyed reading all of your comments about my work, and I appreciate so much those of you who signed up to follow my blog.  I hope to keep you entertained!  :-) 

Well, in case you are holding your breath, I will go ahead and announce the winner of my first giveaway - the glass, abalone and fossil pendant.  Congratulations to "Barb".  This little pendant will be going to it's new home in Minnesota! 

Thanks again to all who participated! 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Very First Giveaway!

In celebration of Spring, or nearly Spring, or we are hoping and praying for Spring, here it is - my first blog giveaway!  To the lucky random winner on March 31st, 2010 -  a handmade, one of a kind pendant featuring tumbled glass, abalone shell, sterling silver and petrified wood.


What do you have to do to win?

Doing any of the following gives you a chance to win:
1.  Follow this blog (if you are already following, you are already entered once)
2.  Go to my Etsy Shop:  and post here about your favorite item.
3.  Go to my 1000Markets shop: and post here about your favorite item.

That's it!  Not hard at all - and on March 31st, the Random Number Generator will pick the winner!  Now don't you think that Spring should show up in time for it's own celebration? 

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Jar Full of Treasure

  The good yard sale stuff was spread out on the lawn, but I had decided to check out the stacks of old picture frames left just inside the garage.  There it was, sitting on a dusty shelf  amongst boxes of junk.The pint size clear glass Mason jar with the bright gold lid was clean and full and had a sticker on it - For Sale.  But it wasn't full of seashells, my usual find - these were little bits of black and dark brown - stones?  Wasn't too sure, but the price was right - so I brought it home.  I set it on a cabinet in my studio and forgot about it. 

Then, this weekend a rare event occured - both of my sisters visited at the same time.  The Pate girls, when together, seem to inspire each other, and we spent a lot of time looking at, talking about and exchanging jewelry.The little jar was brought out late one evening by Amy.  She's one of those people who has so much creative energy she can have a dozen projects, all in different media, going at once.  She dumped the jar out all over the kitchen counter and we started playing with them, her creative process sparking my own. 

I had already noticed that there were some fossilized shark teeth in the jar, but now I realized that there were many bits of petrified wood with interesting, mostly oblong shapes.  There are many places in Florida to find fossilized shark's teeth and petrified wood, including the Suwannee River, the Peace River and the beaches in Venice.  Eons ago Florida was under the sea and neat ancient things can still be found.  I'm guessing that my little bits on history were lovingly collected by someone right here in Florida. 

Petrified wood, fossilized shark teeth, glass, abalone shell, copper, sterling silver.   Design happened.  And is still happening.  As usual, my new fixation has put other projects on hold (the Strawberry Fest is only days away) but I just can't help myself!  So, here are a few of the pieces that are finished. 
Below on the left, a piece of petrified wood with wonderful texture
and a finish that looks almost like it's been pickled, holding an abalone cabochon circled by sterling silver wire. On the right, petrified wood lashed to a triangle of pale blue tumbled glass and another abalone cabochon.

Next, a sliver of green glass, deep matte gray worn stone with a natural arch holds a large pale peach freshwater pearl.  The middle picture is another piece of green glass, petrified wood and abalone, this time done with copper. 
And finally, pale blue glass, deep blue abalone, petrified wood, sterling silver.  I have many more pieces in process and have begun using the worn and broken black sharks teeth - which have sort of a boomerang shape. 
And lastly, I stumbled on a photo technique to share.  I like to photograph outside, but full sunlight has too much glare, and if I create a shadow it's a bit too dark.  I carried my pieces out to the dock in a large clear plastic bag, which also held extra batteries and everything I might need on my little photo shoot.  My dock has deck boards with wide gaps, and I always worry that stuff is going to fall into the water and be lost.  So, holding onto the plastic bag with one hand, the camera with the other, and taking out one pendant at a time and trying to position everything just so, the sunlight accidentlly filtered throught the bag onto the pendant.  It created kind of a scrim effect and let in plenty of light but cut the glare and shadow.  The results are photos 1, 2, and 4.  I think this just may become my new technique, especially when shooting in the midday sun. 

I would love to read your comments about these new pieces - I'm so excited about them I'm thinking about doing my very first giveaway with one.  But right now I need to get back to my worktable - the creative juices are still flowing! I have two of the pieces listed on Etsy (3 and 5), and watch for the others to be listed soon!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Strawberry Festival Time

March in Florida is just about perfect.  Spring has sprung, the weather is usually in the 70's to 80's and strawberries are ripe!  This is the month of strawberry festivals which can be found all over the state.  The most famous is The Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, a quaint little town along the corridor between Tampa and Orlando.  A ten day bash that draws crowds from all over the world, they devour record amounts of strawberry shortcake each year, all grown locally on over 5,000 acres of land devoted to strawberry plants.  Florida is much more than condos and beaches - in fact, it is one of the top agricultural states in the U.S. 

A much smaller but just as yummy fest is on March 6 & 7, 2010.  It's the Floral City Strawberry Fest (Citrus County).  I'll be there with my Seaphemera Jewelry along with many other art & craft vendors.  This festival is new for me, and I'm trying to meet the promoter's request to have a few strawberry products.  Hmmmmm, strawberries, although the fragrance would be lovely, probably do not make very sturdy earrings or necklaces.  So, a search quickly brought up these alternatives:  Strawberry Quartz and Strawberry Glass.  The quartz is a natural stone with pink striations, the glass manmade with a pretty pale strawberry pink color.  I opted for the glass in both rough cut, which has a frosted look similar to beach glass, and some faceted briolettes which were impossible to resist.  I'm a total sucker for a briolette!  So, I have started playing with them, but I need to get busy since the festival is only two weeks away!  Here are some of the rough stones:
I'm creating some little sterling wire "leaves" to add to the top of the "berries".  The briolettes I matched up with some feldspar beads, and next will be some seashells and strawberry glass combinations. 

I came across some red branch coral in my stash, and decided to call them "Sea Strawberries" - I can do that, right?   I've made several pieces with them as well. 

It's going to be interesting to see how people react to my "strawberry" items.  I'll report back post-festival. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Heron Tree

I live on a little cove in central Florida. It connects to a larger lake - actually, a chain of lakes, which makes for really nice boating. My boat is a kayak. I guess I'm a fair weather kayaker - because recently I realized that I've haven't done much kayaking this winter. Florida has had it's own "rough winter" - lots of rain and cold, windy days. But this weekend has been wonderful. So, yesterday I went out in midday, across the lake and explored a bit. Found a quiet little cove with no houses - just a bit of old Florida wilderness. There I found treasure: several pairs of great blue herons nesting in the bare branched cypress trees. Why do I never have my camera with me when I need it? I could see one standing on the edge of the huge nest and it appeared to be feeding babies - or maybe feeding the mother as she sat on the eggs. Herons were flying back and forth - the dads, I presume, on guard - carefully watching me, the stranger, getting closer and closer. I took it all in for a bit and then headed back - making mental plans to come back tomorrow with camera.

As soon as I returned home I checked the weather for Sunday - darn - looked like a chance of rain as the day progressed, so I knew I needed make an early start. About 9:30 - not very early, but hey... it's Sunday - I put in, the water calm and the sky a lovely blue with wispy clouds. No threatening weather - not even a gator in sight (did I mention I'm a transplanted yankee and dread the first time I see a gator in the water when there is only a half inch of plastic between my butt and his teeth?) I paddled across the cove and under the railroad bridge that separates my cove from the lake.

The lake was like glass, and it was incredibly peaceful and quiet. Only a couple of fisherman in small boats along the edge. I was a little worried that

when I arrived the herons would be out to breakfast. I'm no expert on heron nesting behavior, so I wasn't sure if mom & dad went out to eat together - or if one stayed at the nest. I got lucky - they must have already had the early bird special like lots of the rest of us in Inverness (Rexall Drugs - home of the 88 cent breakfast!) - because the moms were all on the nests, and dads were close by soaring over to take a protective stance at the edge of the nest.

The heron tree is a cypress that sits alone in the water - not along the edge with the hundreds of other cypresses. I guess this makes it desirable to the birds - they have a clear view in all directions. This cypress tree is rather short & wide compared to those along the banks. There are five nests in the tree. The herons are about 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall - so you can imagine the size of the nests.

I paddled in through the water lilies, their thick white buds just about to pop open, and spiky grasses still mostly brown from the cold snap a few weeks ago. It was slow going, and I was keeping one eye on the birds, the other looking for gators. They are so darn hard to see until they're right there chomping your arm off. Thank goodness they are way more scared of me than I am of them! I'm sure they saw me coming a mile away and headed for quieter territory.

I got as close as possible, and with my little digital camera zooming in, managed to spy the mama bird's head peeking out of the nest. Hey Dad, it's a dead giveaway when you fly over and stand right next to the nest!

Here's some info about nesting herons:

and on this site you can listen to their calls:

And of course, Wikipedia

As I turned to head back across the lake, I saw another heron sitting on a clump of sticks right on the water. It didn't fly off when I approached. Looked kind of lonely. I decided not to pester it - maybe it was enjoying the solitude.
I paddled back home, under the old railroad bridge that is now a biking/walking trail, and had a nice cup of tea.