Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Foxfire Daily: Materials, Price, Design

I was browsing some of the jewelry pages I watch, from Facebook to deviantART, and began to hear the rant muse in my head. I notice the differences in style and materials and workmanship... and then I start to twitch at the terrible disparity between cost of materials and what the so-called artist is charging for a piece made from three-dollar faux-bronze components, or fake pearls that should only be worn by a six-year-old at a fancy church function, or... ah, well, the list goes on.

Steampunk style seems to attract a large number of people taking pre-made elements of a brass or copper color, sometimes silver, and stringing them together and calling it jewelry. Now, while I do a lot of beadwork which, I'll admit, is essentially the same thing, I have to protest when someone goes to their local Michael's craft store, picks up half a dozen cheap metal findings, and slaps them together in a majorly haphazard fashion... and then has the guts to put it up on Etsy for 3-4 times what they paid for materials! I know, I've done the research.  And I'll admit, I've gone to Michael's and picked up some of those bits and bobs to make some things, but I don't generally sell them in my shop or at shows - those, I play with for fun, or use as inspirational ideas for some of my other design elements.  Those little components - the keys, the birds, the gears, the vintage-style filigree - can be gotten for a few bucks, and people sell pendants and necklaces of these things for upwards of $40. The best work I've ever seen done with these was a little shoddy solder-work to affix two or more pieces together that really don't match in the first place.

Now, there are a good number of steampunk jewelry artists that do actually work at their product. Many of them hunt down their components with care. They typically use authentic watch gears and actual vintage or antique bits in their work, and most of them tend to be very fair in their pricing, AND they are careful as to their materials - a lot of the cheap little components you get at craft stores are who-knows-what kind of alloy (in other words, you don't know if that pretty little bronze-colored pseudo-vintage style pendant you picked up at Michael's the other day contains lead or other toxic metals. No offense to Michaels - you can actually find quality components there for decent prices).  My big complaint about these cheap little pieces that hobby-crafters expect you to wear, is that they can often contain sufficient amounts of toxic metals to make a measurable impact on your body, and these hobby-crafters don't always do their checking, or even know that they should be.

Personally, I try to make sure that the components I use in jewelry are lead-free pewter at the very least.  Excepting that, I use sterling silver or jeweler's brass or a true bronze.  Yes, it makes them a little more expensive, but it should be worth the extra money to create something that is actually safe to wear.  This is one of the reasons I haven't done much "steampunk" jewelry. It's damn hard to find components that are steamy AND safe, for a price that isn't ridiculous.

And what about some of these sixty and seventy dollar pieces (or even the forty dollar ones) that are made from haphazard lumping-together of random beads that may or may not color match?  Or people that don't realize that their lovely beaded strand is too much for the pendant they're trying to put it with.  Lack of design sense applies to the crafter AND the customer.  Something is only worth what a person is willing to pay for it, right? Too often, it proves true in the most wrong of ways. I see true artists put heart and soul into their work, only to have it passed over for a hobby-crafter's cheap attempt at making something to sell.  The problem here is that the hobby-crafter often makes more money than the true artist, unless the true artist is very, very lucky.

Now, I truly have nothing against hobby-crafters. Some of my best friends are hobby-crafters. But they enact their hobbies with sense. And that is what I'm getting at... be a sensible hobbyist! 

It's a ridiculous world. If I could make one request to the handmade community at large (to both hobby-crafters and professional artisans and everything in-between) it would be: Please, please consider the true worth of what you're trying to sell.  Don't undercut the artists who spend hours and good money perfecting one piece, but don't overcharge for a piece that cost you virtually nothing to make, either.

And don't underestimate yourself, either. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Foxfire Daily: With the ebb, with the flow

Fox here, again, with a few thoughts.

Learn to count your blessings - before you know it, you may end up with fewer than you expected.
Take stock of the people who say they care, who say they love you no matter what... and then think real hard about the ones who actually show you that they mean it. (I want to give my mom a hug when I think about this one)
Don't worry, be happy; if you're not happy, maybe it's time for a change.
Good things don't come to he who waits.  Good things come when they want to, and bad things do the same.  The trick is recognizing the difference and holding on tight when the good things show up.

Take the bad with the good and come out smiling on the other side, because neither lasts forever but that's what life is about.  The only lasting good comes when you find someone to walk through it and come out on the other side with you, hand in hand.

It's all about circles and cycles.  Up and down, back and forth, round and round.  This, I think, is the deepest secret, the best wisdom Nature can teach us.  Follow the cycles, the seasons, the natural ebb and flow of life, of everything that is good and right and true in the world.  Every person has their own natural ways.  Take some time to be silent, be still, and listen to your inner seasons.  Is it your Winter, when your trees and flowers sleep? Summer, when everything is warm and maturing towards harvest?  Is it time for your soul's Spring Equinox, when everything starts to bloom again?  It all reflects back and forth, the large mirror and the small, macrocosm and microcosm.  From the smallest cell to the galaxy and beyond, everything in Nature follows its own cycles.  Humans are the only things that fight these natural inner impulses, our inner cycles and seasons, and that is our greatest... and perhaps only... sin. 

As it was
As it is
As it shall be
With the ebb, with the flow
-Celtic blessing

Friday, April 8, 2011

Foxfire Daily: a Word on My Art

a friend on dA (deviantART for those of you unaware of the site - where I keep my galleries) posted a question asking whether it bothered her watchers that she was moving away from pencil & paper towards a crafting style.  It got me to thinking about my own art, and how I move from medium to medium...

I've found that my art runs in cycles, from pencil & paper (and/or digital) mediums to "solid" mediums (aka my crafting) and back again, and every time it cycles I find myself better at the one I'm coming back to than I was before. I feel, for me at least, it's a natural circle that my artistic self has to make in its own season.

When I get stuck in one medium I move to something different, maybe something new.  For a long time all I did was draw; mechanical pencil and paper.  It was the art class at my middle school that really got me to expand my sights to new avenues and new techniques.  There are things we did that year in art class that I would still love to try again, and other things that I still use.  We learned various inking techniques; I think the one that stood out the most for me was stippling.  I don't use it very often (read: never) because my style doesn't really work with it right now, but I did enjoy it.  The other two art projects we did that stand out are papermaking and batik.  One of these days, I will (I hope) have a chance to try those again.  They were fun, and different, and unique. They weren't as complicated as I expected them to be... even if the papermaking did stink to high heaven!  It was still fun.

Later, I had the opportunity to go to Art of the Carolinas, a huge art convention largely sponsored by Jerry's Artarama (my favorite art supply store... shameless plug!).  I took classes mostly in oil painting, which was my favorite medium of the time, and the one skill I really wanted to expand, but I also took a silk painting class.  Aside from the abstract oil painting class, which was incredibly amusing thanks to the teacher who had a very cavalier approach to his art, my favorite class at that event was the silk painting.  Again, it's something I want to try again some day.  There were techniques discussed in that class that I want to play with and see what I can come up with.

As for my jewelrymaking, I've always loved gems and metals, for as long as I can remember, so it was as natural as breathing for me.  When I was 12 or so, I first started playing with scraps of copper wire (my dad was an electrical engineer and had gobs and gobs of the stuff lying around) and rock crystal found in the driveway. Then I got a book or two and it just kept going from there. I've taken classes in chainmaille, Precious Metal Clay, and lost wax casting, and I've got so many books sitting on my shelf on so many different jewelrymaking techniques that I may never get to try them all.

But isn't that what being a crafter, an artist, and/or artisan is all about?  Finding new ways (and revisiting old ways) to let the muse out to play?  For me, that's exactly what it's all about: letting my muse out to play.

I -like- changing mediums every so often.  The inspirations are the same, no matter how they manifest.  It keeps me from getting bored or frustrated.  And it keeps me learning new things. If you're an artist or artisan and feeling the need to change up your creative routine a little (or a lot), I say go with the flow. It's that inner nature, inner self, instincts telling you what you need and perhaps what the world needs to see from you.

Foxfire Daily: Quote

A thought, a quote, or a word that inspires. Today's Foxfire (at least for the moment):

Approach love and cooking with abandon. - the Dalai Lama.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Quotes from Dragon, posted by Fox

I just remembered something Dragon said to me yesterday (after not sleeping for over a full day - he does that sometimes) and it amused me, so I thought I'd share.

"I'm more than delirious.  I'm right."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Flame of the Day (Dragon Speaks)

Believe it or not, unlike most artists, both the White Fox and myself are online regularly(daily), and are entirely ready and willing to answer questions and the like for any who are willing to ask. Just as an extra bonus for checking in our activities I am prepared to offer my wisdom to the masses, so as of today April 6 2011, at 9:21 a.m. be prepared for whatever it is I choose to write in for the "Flame of the Day"! Whether it be a quote, or a daily guidance mantra, or even a witty limerick. Check in, say hi, and see how the artistic juices are flowing. Hopefully we will have new works available soon for your viewing pleasure along with my quips. Well, anyway I've stretched this explanation long enough, so here it is, what you've been waiting for....

The Flame of the Day:

"Never poke dragons with sticks, it may give them ideas."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fox and Dragon's blog: Handmade jewelry and other crafts.

Also on Facebook, Pinterest, deviantART, and Etsy for convenient access. Photos of our work can be found on Facebook and deviantART. Purchasable items can be found on Etsy. Also see links at the top of the sidebar. Please visit our various and sundry pages, add us, and tell your friends and family!

We use whatever mediums happen to be at hand.  Fox prefers gemstones, antler, bone and metals, but has been known to try her hand at sculpture with polymer clay, and the occasional bit of wood or leather work.  Dragon will put his hand to whatever strikes his fancy next, though he has done a little of everything from wire pendants to metalsmithing and woodworking.  His latest - polyclay and bonecarving.

What's upcoming in the Studio's plans? We'll be exploring our own lives in sculpture and carving, with items such as offering bowls, wands, prayer beads, jewelry, spiritually inspired art... and whatever else strikes our fancy.