Friday, July 31, 2009

Weekend Deal!

This weekend, July 31 - August 2, I am having another super sale in my etsy shop.

20% off your entire purchase when you enter the words "Weekend Deal" in the message to seller upon checkout. I will issue a refund through paypal.

Happy shopping!

Rick's Beads

Back in May, a lovely customer purchased 6 of Rick's beads for herself. She is an avid bead collector and she obviously has good taste!

She was kind enough to send me a photo of the 6 beads as she plans to wear them. She simply placed them on a copper colored multi-strand cable type necklace. I think she's created a real "statement" piece.

I have several more beads listed in their very own section within my etsy shop.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Personal Choice

We have all made many personal choices in our lives. We make them every day. These are some that I've made and try to hold true to.

I don't drink Starbucks. On the rare occasions that I buy coffee "on the go", I prefer to give my business to a local coffee roaster. To me, Starbucks is the Walmart of coffee companies. They've done their best to put local coffee sellers out of business all over the country. Plus, I prefer the taste of Kaladi's, one of Anchorage's best roasters.

Speaking of Walmart, I don't go there. All you need to do is see the play (or read the book) Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and you will probably feel the same way I do about Walmart.

I buy lots of beads at my local bead stores. They often do not have better prices or better selection than I can find online. But I can go in and purchase a single strand of something or even a single bead in some cases. They give me a discount because I have a business license and I'm a member of the Alaska Bead Society. I know that cuts into their margin. They are helpful when I have a technical question. One of them offers an amazing array of classes with teachers from all over the country as well as plenty of local instructors. I'm glad they exist and I like to support them.

I buy things from other artists and crafters, local and not so local. When I need (need?) a new bag, I know I can find great leather bags from two different Alaskan crafters. And Etsy is full of talented bag makers as well. I own a few ... cough.

I have not used supermarket soap in over 12 years. I first tried handmade soap when I met Carol in 1997. Now, there's just no going back to mass produced soap. She spoiled me. She is my business partner in Bad Girls of the North and a maker of fine soap. I've also purchased soap from several Etsy sellers and other Alaskan soap makers.

Well, that's a good start. What personal choices have you made that you feel strongly about?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another New Pair of Earrings

handmade jewelry earrings smoky quartz pink tourmaline sterling silver oxidized
I just love smoky quartz. My collection includes 4mm faceted rounds, fat twists, several sizes of coin shapes, rectangles, countless briolettes and these special pyramids.

I've tried using them with the pointy part up, but they didn't look right. I guess I consider the way I've used them to be "upside down", but I like the resulting flat surface that I can then build upon.

The smoky quartz is topped with a sterling spacer bead and a short, fat rondelle of pink tourmaline. The silver circle is one I fused from 16 ga wire and hammered and textured. The earwires are one of the several styles I make myself.

These earrings are for sale in my etsy shop.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brand New Earrings!

handmade jewelry earrings sterling silver copper turquoise lapis amethyst
These earrings are a variation on my new-ish copper hoop style earrings. I've sold a few pairs of those, so it was time to make some more. To keep it interesting, I decided to vary the design. These earrings are the result.

Along the bottom edge of the copper circle, I wire wrapped some turquoise nuggets, tiny lapis beads and amethyst rondelles. I chose to keep that sterling silver wire bright, but I oxidized the hand made earwires. I think I like all of that contrast.

These earrings are available in my etsy shop. Or, click on the photo to go directly to the listing. If you like this style of earring, but would like to see different stones, just let me know and I'll see what I can do!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bar Cookie Recipe

When I'm in a hurry and need to bake a little something for the voracious Rick, this is my go-to recipe. It's easy, it's quick and it's delicious.

Golden Blond Brownies

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla in a large bowl until creamy and well mixed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. This will be very thick.

Spread into greased (I use Pam) 9" x 13" pan. Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes.

I would have included a picture, but it's all gone!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

New Letter & Number Stamps

I purchased a new set of letter and number stamps for metal stamping from Evies Tool Emporium. I already had a 4mm set, and those were fine for my metal book covers. But I found them to be too large for my jewelry designs. The set I purchased from Michelle at Evie's is 2.5mm -- just right!

These pendants are copper. I cut the pieces of metal using my new brake and sheer combo tool that I scored at a yard sale a few weeks ago. The cuts made by the sheer are so much cleaner than I was getting from my handheld scissor-like shears. This made the finishing of the edges much less labor intensive. It's all about the right tools.

I also used my texture hammers that Rick made for some of these pendants. I used a metal oxidized liquid to tone down the super shiny bright copper finish on the raw metal. After sanding with 400 grit paper, the results are a mellow, slightly rosy copper color. Again, just right!

Friday, July 24, 2009


I'm quickly becoming a carnelian lover. I've always liked the stone, but lately my like has evolved into a love. In my early days of jewelry making, I used lots of round carnelian beads and mixed it often with poppy jasper. While I still like that combination, I now more often opt to leave out any other stones and simply focus on the spiciness of the carnelian itself.

I've sold quite a few pairs of carnelian earrings since my focus has changed with this stone.
handmade jewelry earrings carnelian sterling silver oxidized
These earrings feature great faceted coin shaped carnelian beads and are brand new in my etsy shop. This second pair of earrings is a lot simpler.

Recently, I purchased a strand of these 4mm faceted carnelian from my friend Deb. You should check out her gem shop on etsy, Crysallis Gems. She has some gorgeous strands of gems and pearls.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

BOGO Sale!

What is BOGO, you ask? Buy One, Get One at 50% off! Yes, you read that correctly. This sale applies to everything in my etsy shop. The special is good through Sunday, July 26.

There are two ways to get this special pricing:

1. Contact me via an Etsy "conversation" to tell me which items you would like to purchase and I will adjust the price accordingly. Be sure to mention that you read about the sale on my blog.

2. Make your purchase and I will issue you a refund for the appropriate amount through Paypal. With this method, you will need to use the code word "BOGO" in the Message to Seller.

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Some Things are Best Left to Professionals

I seem to be using this phrase a lot more as I get older. It's fine to try and do things for yourself. It's even better to know when this is not a good idea. Here's a brief list of things that I find are best done by professionals:

1. The grooming of the dog. Anyone who has ever tried to bathe and groom their furry pet will certainly agree with me that the paid groomer does a much better job at this task. Plus, they adorn her with this adorable little bandanna, which is always coordinated with the seasons. She had a really cute one around St Patty's Day.

2. The hemming of the pants. I'm quite short, at 5' even. With the exception of Lands' End petite jeans, every pair of pants I purchase requires hemming. I don't even know where to start with such a task. I go to a local seamstress whose workroom makes my studio look neat and organized. I can't figure out how she keeps everything straight, but my pants are always ready when promised. And she doesn't speak much English, so I never have to hang around and make chit-chat with her.

3. Serious accounting and the filing of the taxes. I really do enjoy a bit of bookkeeping and checkbook-balancing. But serious accounting? Fuggedaboutit. Again, I don't even know where to start. I've been using the same accountant for the past 12 years and he knows me better than I know me. That's a comfort.

4. The cleaning of the house. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that just isn't in the budget right now. On the rare occasions when it actually gets done, I do it myself. And I don't do it well. I remember the good old days when I had a real job and made gobs of money. The "girl" came once a week and my house was always spotless. That was a long time ago in a faraway place.

5. Anything involving the fixing of the car. My husband is a very handy guy, but we are both firm believers in going to the expert when the car is acting funny. We even take our vehicles to the shop for oil changes.

This list is by no means comprehensive. If you have things you would like to add, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Aqua Dreams . Necklace

handmade jewelry necklace aqua brass chain glass beads
This piece is brand new in my etsy shop. I gathered a bunch of aqua colored glass beads and suspended them from an embossed brass ring. Above, I added more aqua glass and a charm stamped with the word "dream".

It's so much fun collecting all the right elements for a necklace such as this. After those decisions, assembling the piece goes quickly. Sometimes it requires a few alterations, like when a dangle doesn't quite dangle as freely as I would like. Another jump ring usually does the trick.

This fun necklace is for sale in my etsy shop.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mixed Pearls

I've been creating this style of necklace, and variations thereof, for several years. What keeps it interesting for me is the influx of new pearls each year from my Tucson shopping spree.

When I first developed this necklace, I used a variety of pearls in different colors and shapes, much like this one from my etsy shop:

handmade jewelry necklace freshwater pearls sterling silver
Next, I introduced the tone-on-tone variation of the necklace, like this one in shades of blue:

I also do this in greens, coppery browns and all white for weddings:

I've also made plenty of these in custom color combinations for local customers. Of course, I still have the very first one that I made. It was the prototype and I continue to wear it often even after all these years.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Right Tools for the Job

Pliers are the most basic tools for any jewelry artisan. We all have our favorites. We know which ones we reach for most often. Some feel better in our hands than others. Some are for very specific uses.

My collection of pliers has slowly grown over the past 12 years. When I invested in my cherished Lindstroms, they quickly became my "go to" tools. Even my flush cutters are Lindstrom (yellow handled, all the way to the left). I have another pair of flush cutters made by Swanstrom that are much more heavy duty (not pictured for some reason) and just don't feel as good in my hand.

Besides my stand-by pliers, I have special wire looping pliers, bent nose pliers, brass jaw pliers (they leave no marks!), bail forming pliers, split ring pliers (totally unnecessary investment), crimping pliers and a few others.

There are no additional pliers currently on my wish list, so if you know of any that I might like, please leave me a comment!

Friday, July 17, 2009

What the Tide Left Behind

While walking at the inlet we had been noticing that Xena would occasionally stop and appear to be munching on something. Something crunchy. I could hear it. When I walked over to her and checked the ground to see what it could possibly be, there was nothing there.

Then, one day, Rick saw one before Xena did. A little fish, left behind by the tide. It was nice and dry and there for the taking, on top of the dried, silty mud. Quite a tasty tidbit for Xena.

On an unrelated note, I found something else on the dried inlet mud the other day. An injured dragonfly. One of it's wings was damaged and it couldn't seem too get off the ground. It's a little hard to see in the photo, but it was making quite a racket, so it was easy to find.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cassiterite and Carnelian . Earrings

handmade jewelry earrings sterling silver cassiterite carnelianI had never heard of cassiterite before my friend Deb sent me a strand as an extra goodie in a bead order I had placed with her.

It's a beautiful stone that according my new gem book, Gemstones of the World, by Walter Schumann, is an ore of tin. The primary colors are gray and brown, but it can have white, yellow and red.

This particular strand of beads has some really nice reddish-brown streaks. That's why I chose to use some glossy carnelian rounds as accent beads.

These unique earrings are for sale in my etsy shop.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bracelet Sizer

Why did it take me so many years to realize how handy this little thing would be? I just purchased this bracelet sizer at my local bead store last week. Over the years, most of my customers who purchased bracelets did so in person, where they were able to try it on. Selling bracelets on line poses a unique problem with sizing. Hopefully, this sizer will help and I'll be comfortable listing bracelets in my etsy shop.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Current Status of the Currants

The weather has been so beautiful that I decided to take advantage of the sun and get some pictures of the currants. They are coming along very nicely.

The berries are nice and red from all the warmth and sunshine. Now, a little rain will make them plenty juicy.

The high bush cranberries are quite a way behind the currants in ripeness. They are best when picked after the first frost. I hope that's far into the future.

I'll finish with a picture of the cutest furry face you will ever see ... XENA! She has an appointment at the Beauty Parlor later this week. She may feel the need to blog after the trauma of a bath and a haircut.

Speaking of baths, I bought this print yesterday from the featured seller, lulunjay, on etsy's front page. It looks like Xena was the model for this painting! The likeness is amazing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Champagne and Cream

I listed this necklace and earring set in my etsy shop yesterday. Truth be told, it isn't new. I realize this may be shocking to some of you, but I made this necklace about 2 years ago. I had displayed it at a show or two and when it didn't sell, I tucked it away.

You see, I liked it so much, I thought I might keep it for myself. Recently, I had a dose of reality and realized that I will never wear this necklace. I never go anywhere that I might need something quite as elegant as this. Such is my life in the north woods.

Click on the photo to see the necklace from other angles and to see the matching earrings.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Weekend Deal!

My etsy shop is featured in today's email from etsy entitled "Weekend Deals". I'm opening this sale for my blog readers. Here goes:

20% off SHOP WIDE -- just enter "weekend deal" in the message to seller upon checkout and I'll refund you through paypal. It's that simple.

These are the earrings that were featured in the email, but the sale applies to everything in my shop. If there's an item you've been thinking about, now is the time to act!

This offer is valid from July 10 -12. Happy shopping with Orion Designs!

Our Walk to the Inlet

Every morning, the three of us take a nice walk. We do this year round, regardless of the weather conditions. It's a much more pleasant activity in the summer and fall than it is in the winter -- duh. Lately, we've been going to the inlet everyday. It hasn't rained in a while and the tide hasn't been super high in a while, so this means the inlet is hard mud and very easy to walk on.

The wooded walk on the way to the inlet is beautiful.

Sometimes Xena (the beautiful Bouvier) needs a little encouragement to keep moving. The woods are full of great smells! I would think it smelled the same as it did yesterday, but Xena thinks it always needs to be re-smelled.

Peter's Creek leads into Cook Inlet. Here's a view as it heads towards open water.

And the view upstream is just as dramatic.

I realized that I didn't take any pictures of the actual inlet! That will have to wait for another day and another blog post.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Minty Fresh!

handmade jewelry necklace chrysoprase mint green cabochon brass filigree
I found this yummy mint green chrysoprase cabochon while buying gems in Tucson last February. There was only one, so this particular necklace is definitely one-of-a-kind (OOAK).

I wrapped the stone in brass filigree and added some vintage glass beads in contrasting greens. The final addition was that great art deco pyramid shaped charm.

Click on the photo to go directly to the listing in my etsy shop.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Best Chocolate Cake

I know, everyone thinks they have the best chocolate cake recipe ever devised. The truth is that this one really is the best (stop laughing, Patty). This is Rick's absolute favorite thing I've ever created in the kitchen. The photo on the right shows just how dense and moist this cake is. Here goes.

1 cup cocoa powder (for this recipe, I splurge and use Dutch process cocoa)
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
3 sticks unsalted butter
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 eggs (yes, 5)
1 cup buttermilk (I mix 2 tablespoons lemon juice with milk to make 1 cup)
1/4 cup water

An electric mixer makes this cake a snap, so if you have one, use it!

Cream the butter until fluffy.
Add sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
Mix in the dry ingredients alternating with the liquids.
Beat until super smooth.
Pour into buttered bundt pan.
Bake in preheated 325 oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes (check it at this point to see if it needs 10 more minutes)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Large Serpentine Beads

handmade jewelry necklace brass filigree serpentine olive jade green

I had a strand of these large (1 3/8") serpentine (olive jade) beads in my stash for several years before I discovered filigree wrapping. They are too big for earrings, at least for me, but are the perfect size for this type of necklace.

If this necklace looks familiar, it's because I've sold several variations of it in my shop since mid 2008. Sometimes I vary the dangling beads at the top, or the beads that I use at the bottom. For one of the variations, I used copper chain instead of brass. Each one has sold. I've also sold some locally. People seem to love green and brass together. I know I do.

Now, this latest version is for sale in my etsy shop. Click on the photo to go directly to the listing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Color Match :: Three Items, One Color

I started knitting a new top-down sweater a few weeks ago. It's a v-neck pattern that I've done before. The yarn I chose is a beautiful periwinkle color. It's made by Cascade and it is 80% pima cotton, 20% wool. It's a delight to knit with and I think the sweater will be wearable -- much more so than the last one I made.

I've just reached the point where I will divide for the sleeves and continue to work on the body of the sweater. This next photo gives you an idea of how much more I have to knit. These balls of yarn are two deep in the bag!

Knitting this sweater made me think of the wild geraniums that grow along the road and throughout the woods near my house. Their color is similar. This is my kind of flower -- it grows all by itself, with no human intervention. The rain is the only water it gets, yet it blooms for several weeks. Note to self: dig a few of these up and plant them in my perennial garden.

The third item in this color journey is from my etsy shop. This necklace starts with a briolette of gray/blue quartz. Looking up the chain, you can see that I've included some small beads of mystic topaz, which are the exact color of the yarn in my sweater and the flowers that adorn my street.

It feels like a circle has been completed.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Several years ago, Rick set up a 5-station archery range in the backyard. During the summers, we try to do the range at least 3 evenings a week. Surprisingly, I'm not that bad at it! Of course, Rick is much better.

Here's me:

And here's Rick:

And here's our best target:

The 5th station is a huge styrofoam moose:

This archery stuff is much more fun than I ever would have imagined. I've definitely noticed an improvement in my aim over the past few weeks.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Peach Moonstone Earrings- AND A SPECIAL!

handcrafted jewelry earrings sterling silver oxidized peach moonstone
Simple designs seem perfect for summer. These earrings satisfy that requirement -- and the color of these marquis shaped briolettes isn't too far from creamsicle color. Perfectly summery!

I hand crafted the earwires from sterling silver wire and oxidized with liver of sulfur to achieve that graphite color. A little hand sanding reveals just of bit of the shiny silver beneath.

These earrings are for sale in my etsy shop.

In honor of the 4th of July holiday, I am offering free worldwide shipping on any order from my etsy shop. This offer is good through Sunday, July 6. Use the phrase "July 4th" in notes to seller and I will refund the shipping charge.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Labradorite Flash . The Necklace

handcrafted jewelry necklace labradorite brass chain filigree
This brand new necklace started with an amazing labradorite cabochon. I wrapped it in brass filigree, added a few charms and suspended it from antiqued brass chain.

While at the Tucson gem shows, I found a vendor who carried cabochons in just the size I need for filigree work. I think I purchased 6 labradorite cabs and an assortment of other stones.

Click on the photo to go directly to the listing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Wholesale Account

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by the manager of Meg Allen Salon in Anchorage with a wholesale inquiry. She had seen my work on etsy and wanted to carry some of my jewelry. Rebecca and I met and she liked the items I brought. Voila, a new account was born. They also have a nice blog.

The salon was warm and inviting. The front "room" had some lovely comfy chairs and sofas. The tables were adorned with fresh chocolates and there were handcrafted items available for purchase attractively displayed throughout.

If you find yourself in South Anchorage, stop in and have a look around.