Flames of glory

So.  My torch burst into flames, and I think I’m done working for the day.   Not flames coming from the torch where they’re supposed to come from the torch, but just general flames.  Like a ball of fire, and that, blogosphere, is not the way torches are supposed to work.  No, sir!

On the upside, I now know the answer to the question people everywhere are always asking themselves: “What would you do if something you were holding suddenly burst into flames?”

You throw the f**ker.  Just toss it across your studio.  And as soon as it lands, it occurs to you that this could get much, much worse, very quickly.  And then you think, “F**K!  I never bought a fire extinguisher!”  And then you grab a huge sketch pad, scoop up the fireball, run outside and fling it into the front yard, saying “f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck!”

And while you are doing all this, your children have instantly gathered –so quickly it might be magic– upon hearing the work “F*ck!”  And they pepper you with questions as you scoop up the fireball and run from the house.

“Mom, why did you say f*ck?”

“Matt, you said f*ck!  You can’t say f*ck!”

“Mom said it!  Mom why did you say–  Is that on fire?”

“Why is your torch on fire?  Is that why you said f*ck?”

“Riii! You yelled at me when I said f*ck, and you just said it!”

“Is it supposed to do that?”

“Be careful, Mom! What happened?!”

“Where are you going?”

“She’s throwing it!  Oh, COOL!”

One would think it impossible to ask this many questions in what couldn’t have been more than ten seconds, but with Bob as my witless, it can be done.  Anyone who has met my children will attest to their mad skillz with the questioning.

But the best part is that it’s two Sundays before Christmas, and so several neighbors are outside putting up their Christmas lights as you emerge from your house saying  “f*ck,f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck,” to toss a flaming object into the yard, where it explodes when it hits the ground.  And, bless them, they are so used to seeing you do things like this that it doesn’t even phase them, and after the flames subside, they wave and call out, “Hey Katie!  How you doing?”

I’m doing well, thanks.

Personal Entries

Mojo concerns

Grrr!  Argh!   RRRRRRRRGH! 

It’ll never work.  Never, never, never, never, never.   IT. WON’T. WORK.

Blogosphere, it’s not  *#!*&%$  working.

And I have to get it to work. And get it to work beautifully.  How many times do I have to attempt this; how many different ways?  There is nothing I haven’t tried, but there has to be a way…..There has to, because this is possible.  And once I get it to work?  I’m going to put it in the middle of the floor and dance around it.

But here’s the thing.  You want to know the thing?  I really, really feel strongly about maintaining a peaceful state of mind while I’m working.  I don’t want to put negative energy into the jewelry I make;   I believe that if I feel anger or resentment or frustration while I’m working on a piece, then I send a piece out into the world that has anger or resentment or frustration mojo worked into it, and that’s not fair to the person who wears it.  While handforged jewelry might never be a totally clean slate, mojo-wise, I want any mojo it carries out of my studio to be good mojo.

You dig, blogosphere?

Thank you for listening, I feel nicer now. 

Cup of tea, and back into the studio I go.

Personal Entries · Studio

Alright, so.

I’ve been working on a number of challenging custom orders this past week, my head busily trying to wrap itself around how to achieve the effects I want to achieve.  And because I’m so pig-headed (that’s the term the boys feel most accurately describes me), failure to achieve these effects is not an option, damn it.  I’ve been hyper-focused on studio work.

But I’ve also been dating, which really takes a lot of brain power, too.  Serious focus is required to not overthink matters of the heart, but I am very capable of overthinking lots of other aspects of dating: What will I wear?  And how will I do my hair?  And why am I breaking out like a thirteen year old boy who has yet to grasp the need to wash his face every day, with soap? And how well can I conceal this breakout, and how much will it take away from my general fabulousness?

And speaking of my general fabulousness, my commitment to maintain my fabulousness has slipped some this past year as I’ve thrown myself into my business, and what I’d like right now is to have my cake and eat it, too.  I’d like to be top-of-my-game-gorgeous: buffed heels, toned shoulders, tight abs, hienie like two firm apricots sitting side by side, but I’d like this to have occurred while I work the hours of a possessed woman who has no time to buff and tone and tighten.

I’m not good at juggling multiple thought bundles, and the problem begins when I’ve let my mind focus on nothing but buffing heels,  polishing nails, curling hair, and moisturizing for a whole day.  I walk out the door for my date, leg city and with cleavage so visually magnetic it threatens to suck the poor man’s brain right out of his skull, and after preliminary flirting and a glass of wine all I can think of is….. how can I get that embossed effect on a curved, dapped surface?  And the black diamond….I’m just not liking what I started, and I really shouldn’t have purchased that new tourmaline, but how could I let something that gorgeous get away?

And I tell my date all this when he asks about…. Oh, I don’t even know what he asked, but my answer was “blah, blah tourmaline and sapphire, blah blah silver mordants and embossing, blah 22k blah.”   Because I’m that slick.  Katie Stein: Love Machine.

But, here’s the thing.  While I did this, while I babbled on about jewelry and gold and lovely clients, the beautiful man got a look in his eyes.  Not the type of look I’m used to seeing in men: a sexual look that says they don’t mind listening as long as my voice comes from roughly the same area as my cleavage.  This was a much softer, sweeter look which seemed to say that my fabulousness was nice and he really liked the Magneto Cleavage, but my brain was doing it for him.   His look stopped me in my tracks.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said,”Etching, embossing, milling.  But I really like how you talk about it.”

And then he had my full attention.



Alright!  There’s been coffee, lotsa lotsa coffee, and there’s been advertising set up to run tomorrow, lotsa lotsa advertising.  And I’d really like to have a few new pieces listed for tomorrow when the advertising runs.

So.  Today I’m going to finish a new pair of diamond dangles and set the black diamond into a pendant.   It’ll take ten minutes, tops.  Right? RIGHT!  Let’s go!

I’ll show you what I have at the end of the day…..


Custom love story…continued

Is this not the loveliest couple ever, in the history of the world?

Nick and Holly, engaged!
Nick and Holly, engaged!

Several readers have emailed to ask what became of Nate and Heather’s custom engagement ring.

These two happy people are Nick and Holly, from New Zealand, and when I previously wrote about them I referred to them as Nate and Heather in order to maintain their privacy; they weren’t yet engaged.   Now they are happily engaged, though, and had their engagement party last night.  Now we can totally talk about them without spilling any beans.

This is the original mock-up for Holly’s ring, with notes discussing possible changes to be made.

mock up

Both Nick and Holly wanted the ring to be symbolic of two hands curving towards each other to complete a circle, and Nick’s original sketch and an explanation of the changes I advised can be seen here.

Between the silver mock-up and the final product, though, two significant changes were made. 

First, Nick sent me Holly’s ring size, which is roughly an American size 9.   I was concerned that if I followed the mock-up exactly, Holly would end up with a teeny little ring which would look quite twee on a larger hand.  I didn’t, however, want the ring to be bulky or masculine, as Holly strikes me as very, very feminine woman.   I decided to make the ring significantly heavier, and modify the added weight by making sure every bit of the ring was rounded, with no hard edges to convey masculinity.  The result was soft yet solid, delicate but not silly.

The second change, and one which will make every woman reading this fall in love with Nick just a little bit:  when I told Nick the ring’s cost would be lower than he had anticipated, the wonderful man told me to find a much bigger champagne diamond.  When the stone arrived it was gorgeous, and I was frustrated that the camera couldn’t catch what I could see in the sunlight.  Sparks of greens and ambers and purples, the kind of colors which make champagne diamonds one of my favorite stones.  I couldn’t wait for Nick and Holly to see it in person.

And the final work.  Well, almost……after I shot this I realized I had set the stone slightly crooked, and went back and fixed it.  It’s amazing how shooting a piece can show up previously unnoticed flaws, and I often rework pieces after photographing them.



Shortly after Nick’s proposal, Holly wrote to tell me of it, and I opened the email in Charlotte Douglas Airport while waiting for the boys’ flight to take off:

I feel right now, and have done for a few weeks now, like I’ll never stop being happy and content again.

The rest of her letter made me laugh and cry, and I’m shocked that the passengers around me didn’t alert security about the crazy woman at Gate 6.  An older woman looked at me with concern, and I sniffled and said, “They got engaged.”  This seemed to explain everything to her, and she smiled and nodded, because it’s perfectly reasonable to cry and laugh when someone gets engaged.

Holly wrote of Nick’s proposal:

He stopped on my favourite trail, where it widens out to let people stop and admire a view of Queenstown, the remarkables, and the southern alps and he dropped a knee and asked me to marry him.

She went on to say how she’s spent hours looking at the ring, how it catches the light, and how much she loves the deep, beautiful color of the stone.

I have been so incredibly honored to be involved in Nick and Holly’s important moment, to be the one they chose to make their ring, and to have had the tiniest little part in these two wonderful people’s lives.

Personal Entries · Studio

The whole answer

Today I’m answering interview questions, one of which is asking why I pursued jewelry.  The answer I’ll give is an honest one, but is only part of the whole answer.  Does that still count as the truth?  I hope so.  The whole truth is far less glamorous, and not as PR snazzy.

The answer I’ll give?  I love the way jewelry bookmarks events and becomes part of our life story in a way no other body adornment can.  I love gold, and its warm glow and tactile properties.  For those of you following along, you know this already, don’t you?  I do love me some goldsmithing.  Love it bad.

The rest of the answer is important, though.  Especially to women, and especially to women with children.   The beautiful children we bear and nurture and adore limit our ability to self-rescue; there is only so much we can do to help ourselves without harming them.  Some of us are happy to always put our children’s well being ahead of our ambitions, some of us struggle with that.  Some of us have no choice but to be ambitious in our pursuit of financial success, because our children’s well-being hinges upon it.

I was at a crossroads several years ago when I decided Matt needed to be temporarily homeschooled.  As a wee little thing during the divorce and my illness, he’d struggled and there were some lingering issues I felt we needed to stop and address so that he could go forward and thrive.  I had just finished my degree, and was working as a school district tutor while I decided where to apply to MFA Painting programs.  Working as a single mother with young kids wasn’t going well.  I was calling in sick a lot.  The limitations motherhood would place on a career were becoming obvious.

I took a good, hard look at my little family, and decided we couldn’t do the move an MFA program would require.  I couldn’t uproot these boys, settle them into a new town, start an MFA program full-time with the teaching assistant position it would surely include, and have us all thrive.  I’d put a lot of time, post-divorce, into making sure the boys and I were strong and healthy, and to move us would undo so much of our progress and stability.

So what to do?  How to pursue a career in art (which damn it, I’d waited so long to do and owed myself), provide the steady income a single woman with children needs, and be home when the kids were home, when they needed me?  That was going to be a trick.

I decided to use the time home with Matt to switch mediums, and made a list of studio arts which could sustain a business.  Of the mediums I considered, jewelry was the obvious choice; I knew I could love it and do it well. For the eighteen months I was homeschooling Matt I researched, practiced, and learned.  The depth and breadth of my BFA was invaluable in my ability to quickly pick up a new medium.  One of the best parts?  My son did this with me; he watched closely as I made this decision and struggled to attain a new goal.  At times his pride and belief in me brought me to tears, and was all that kept me from throwing up my hands in defeat; I’m keenly aware of the example I am to my boys, and quitting out of fear and frustration isn’t a model I want my children to learn.

When Matt went back to regular school I was ready to go, and gave myself six months to begin to earn an income before I would need to scrap my plans for financial reasons.  It’s been a doozy of a year with high highs, and deep pits of self-doubt and worry, but it’s working. I’d like to believe the interview today is an indication that I must be doing something right.

This is the part of the answer to the reporter’s question I don’t think she’d be interested in hearing,  the part that isn’t about art and creativity and glamour:  I chose goldsmithing because I’m a mother, and my choices have to work for three beautiful, amazing young men, not just me.

Personal Entries · Studio

Maine Seaglass Ring

Shall we take a look at what came out of my studio today?

Maine Aqua Seaglass Ring
Maine Aqua Seaglass Ring

I loved the color and shape of this piece of seaglass, and wanted the ring to feel ancient and regal, rustic and elegant, feminine but not delicate.  I’m really pleased with the outcome.

In creating the bezel, I left the base a bit wide to accommodate the gold granules.  I do love the granules, but I also liked the look of the extended base before I attached them, and I plan on playing with the extended base in some upcoming designs.

While I’ve had this design in mind for some time, I was hesitant to execute it because of the higher price tag the piece would call for.  The weight of the gold granules adds considerably to my materials cost, and their addition also requires a substantial amount of work time.  My simpler seaglass rings (priced  from $150-$250) are usually purchased soon after listing,  but I’m uncertain if a ring featuring seaglass, instead of a precious gem, will be salable at a higher price. This bit of seaglass is such a beautiful little jewel, though, and I didn’t want anything less than the most perfect setting for it.

I’ll list this tomorrow morning, but right now I’m very tired, blogosphere.  I’m going to go get in my pajamas and curl up with my new book.


Swearing helps us survive


I knew it!  My studio-mouth syndrome is simply my anthropological destiny fulfilling itself.  If I clench my teeth and mutter objectionable phrases when I hammer my finger or set myself on fire?  Good. On. Me.  I’m doing the right thing.

My  studio exclamation, “damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it,” actually helps my survival, and I would go so far as to hypothesize that if these researchers continued their study they would find swearing increases our ability to cope with frustration, as well.  In fact, I’m sure they would find that, so I’m just going to go ahead and state that as fact.  Destroyed bezel-related “DAMN IT (s)!” are good and right and proper and reasonable.

I didn’t read the whole article, and I’m afraid if I do so it might undermine the conclusion to which I have just come:  To curse in pain and frustration is good for me.

I am so healthy.

Here is the article from Live Science, and you can come to your own conclusions.

Swearing Makes Pain More Tolerable
(July 13) — That muttered curse word that reflexively comes out when you stub your toe could actually make it easier to bear the throbbing pain, a new study suggests.
Swearing is a common response to pain, but no previous research has connected the uttering of an expletive to the actual physical experience of pain.
“Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon,” said Richard Stephens of Keele University in England and one of the authors of the new study. “It taps into emotional brain centers and appears to arise in the right brain, whereas most language production occurs in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain.”
Stephens and his fellow Keele researchers John Atkins and Andrew Kingston sought to test how swearing would affect an individual’s tolerance to pain. Because swearing often has an exaggerating effect that can overstate the severity of pain, the team thought that swearing would lessen a person’s tolerance.
As it turned out, the opposite seems to be true.
The researchers enlisted 64 undergraduate volunteers and had them submerge their hand in a tub of ice water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice. The experiment was then repeated with the volunteer repeating a more common word that they would use to describe a table.

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The researchers think that the increase in pain tolerance occurs because swearing triggers the body’s natural “fight-or-flight” response. Stephens and his colleagues suggest that swearing may increase aggression (seen in accelerated heart rates), which downplays weakness to appear stronger or more macho.
“Our research shows one potential reason why swearing developed and why it persists,” Stephens said.


The diamonds are good and gone.

We’ve torn the house apart and gone through every bag, but I knew even before we did those things that the pretty shinies were classing up a landfill somewhere.

It’s probably not reassuring to hear the jewelry artist say “Well, dang y’all!  Where did those diamonds run off to?”   Especially if one is considering putting something precious into my care.  But that’s the point, these weren’t precious.  This was a bag of  quarter carat champagne and chocolate brilliants, which I ordered as I begin to stockpile for Christmas.  I casually tossed them to Karen to take a look at as I worked on two pieces which did have deep value for their clients and therefore deep value to me: a custom engagement ring with a diamond lovingly picked, and the 22k jade ring ordered for an adored wife about to receive permanent United States  residency.  I didn’t give the diamonds a second thought because they were just raw materials to use, with no sentimental value of their own.

When specific stones arrive, either those sent by clients or unique stones ordered for clients, quite a spectacle takes place at my house.  It’s as if the Virgin Mary has appeared in my french toast, and everyone is called to see.  My clients have no idea how many curious eyes watch their jewelry progress, how many well-wishers know their names and their special occasions, how many are as excited about their jewelry as they are.

Look at that color!”  We’ll exclaim, looking at the new arrival. ” Ohhh, he picked a pretty one!”  Or,  “This was her Grandmother’s?  Ohhhhhh!” 

And then the stone is lofted overhead as a procession of the dazzled accompanies it to my studio, where it is placed in a monster-sized Ziploc bag with Sharpie labeling, and push-pinned to the wall.  You missed seeing it?  Tough.  Can you take it down and look at it?  No!  And stop breathing in that direction, you might hurt the pretty.  Lofted overhead might be an exaggeration.

These lost diamonds weren’t due such adulation and interest, which is why I carelessly tossed them to Karen and thoughtlessly left them on the kitchen table to begin with.  These were just generic diamonds still in their generic vendor bags, waiting to have life breathed into them; waiting to become someone’s something special.

And that is what I keep repeating like a mantra now that I’m done vomiting and tearing my cuticles to shreds.

It really could have been so much worse.   Beyond a kink in my finances, these just weren’t important.