Monday, December 5, 2011

R.E.S.P.E.C.T aka Putting Our Founding Mothers Where They Belong

I recently watched the HBO miniseries “John Adams”.  Anyone who knows me (or has read some of my blog) knows I am OBESSED with antiques.  This obsession carries over into my TV viewing (or DVD watching as the case may be.  Even though I pay for cable, with hundreds of channels, I find there is normally nothing on.  That would be a topic for another blog…but I digress).  I love to watch period pieces and not for the reasons you may think.  I watch them to see the “antiques” (or set reproductions as the case may be).  I call it my antique porn (kind of like Dinners, Drive-Ins and Dives is my food porn; once again, another blog topic).

I will watch these period pieces and geek out over the sets.  Most of the time my long suffering husband will sit through them with me.  I’ve been known to pause the show when I see a really awesome piece and say “Aaron – did you see that (fill in the blank)?  I would love to have one of those!”  Aaron will briefly look at what I’m geeking out at, momentarily taking his attention away from Gamefaqs  where he is getting up to speed on the latest game, and say “Yes, Dear”.  Aaron is a very intelligent man after all.

Getting back to “John Adams” - As I watched this miniseries my attention was rapt.  Not just because of the beautiful sets.  The story gave me pause.  Whenever I think of the sacrifice of our founding fathers to form this new nation, I am overcome with gratitude for that sacrifice.  If the English had won the Revolutionary War, all the signers of the Declaration of Independence would surely have been hanged as traitors.  Benjamin Franklin said “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”.

We revere and honor these men.  We celebrate the 4th of July.  We put founding fathers on out money.  We even celebrate George Washington’s birthday.  Indeed we owe these men a lot.  However, in watching John Adams, it made me think of the unsung heroes, or heroines as the case may be.  Abigail Adams had to keep charge of the children and the farm when John was away at the Continental Congress and later when he was sent to France and Holland.  I have heard that Abigail was a better farmeress than John was a farmer (Go girl power!).  Taking over for John, I am sure, was no small feat.  I wonder, why don’t we celebrate the women who helped us win our independence?    Why isn’t Martha Washington or Abigail Adams on our money (I’m not counting the first lady coins; everyone knows, much to the chagrin of the US Mint, Americans don’t use dollar coins).  Why don’t we know more about the women “behind” the founding fathers?

In this week’s blog, I am going to set out to learn more about our founding mothers and give them the respect they assuredly deserve.  Will you come on this journey with me?  ‘Til Tomorrow - Melissa

Abigail Smith Adams

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – Part Three – The Ugly

I’m an artisan jeweler.  I have been making jewelry for about three years now.  I have learned over this time that jewelry can be GOOD, it can be BAD, and it can be downright UGLY.  In this blog today, I will share my thoughts as to what I feel fits into the “Ugly” category.


When you think of jewelry, you probably think of bright shiny pieces of jewelry and glistening gemstones.  This is true, but it is the end result of the jewelry making processes.  These wonderful pieces of jewelry weren’t always so pretty.

Being an artisan jeweler can be a very dirty job.  Of course there is no poop or dead animals, so Mike Rowe wouldn’t be terribly interested.  If I have a client coming to the studio to work on a custom piece (which is one of my favorite ways to create jewelry - with the client), I always warn them: Don’t wear anything too nice; wear something you’d clean the house in.

One of the dirtiest parts of the job is polishing the jewelry.  As you polish, little bits of the polishing compound get on your fingers, on your clothing, and on your face.  Sometimes after a long day in the studio, I will look in the mirror and wonder if I spent the day in a coal mine.  Also, if I have spent a long time polishing, I have to “dust” myself off before going in the house.  The cotton buffs I use to polish deposit little strings all over the place as I polish, which includes my clothing and my hair.  I can brush myself off when I’m done and watch it “snow”.

Another “ugly” part of jewelry is what it does to your hands.  I try to be as careful as I possibly can be, but there is always the occasional accident.  I’ve had the jewelry saw slip while cutting a piece and take a good chunk of finger with it.  On more lucky occasions I’ve had the saw just “trim” some nails.  Then there is the flex shaft.  It’s like a Dremel on steroids.  It’s one of the most versatile and needed tools a jeweler can have.  This multiuse tool can be a life saver.  It can also skin you alive.  I’ve had it happen.

On the one year anniversary of my Grandma Mizell’s death, I wanted to make a ring (me, make a ring, surprise, surprise) that reflected her personality.  It had to be big, bold, and sparkly.  On part of the ring I used my engraving pen to get a textural element.  In order to polish this part, instead of using the cotton buff and polishing compound, I had to use a wire brush attachment.  I lost control of the flex shaft, and before I knew it the flex shaft (still running with the wire brush spinning at many revolutions per second) had traveled down my index finger and part way up my middle finger, coming to rest in the webbing between the two fingers. When it was all said and done, the top layer of that webbing was gone.  That was one of the most painful injuries I have ever received in the studio.  The ring, which I went on to name “The Ruth”, did turn out beautifully, though.

There you have it, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  Being a jeweler is great. I have a ton of fun doing it and I love the creative process.  I love that it makes me grow and stretches me as a person.  As with anything, there are downsides, some of which I have shared with you.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my Good, Bad, and Ugly series as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Tomorrow we will go back to my Random Thoughts.  It may be jewelry-related, it may not.  That’s why they’re random.  ‘Til tomorrow – Melissa

Should you want to see some of my custom pieces please see my Facebook page at!/pages/Chrysalis-Jewelry/193401868091 or my Etsy page at

  The Ruth

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – Part Two – The Bad

I’m an artisan jeweler.  I have been making jewelry for about three years now.  I have learned over this time that jewelry can be GOOD, it can be BAD, and it can be downright UGLY.  In this blog today, I will share my thoughts as to what I feel fits into the “bad” category.


I shake my head (at myself) when I think of what falls into the bad category.  Now granted, the first thing that comes to mind, is well, my own fault.  As I have mentioned earlier, I love rings.  Just metal rings are nice and all that, but I LOVE rings with gemstones (or shineys as my friend who bought the alexandrite ring calls them).  What I really really love is rings with BIG gemstones.  I’m not just talking eye catching big, I’m talking it could be used for a door knob big.  I also love unique stones or stones with interesting cuts.
So why is this bad you may ask?  Well…remember that addiction to rings I talked about.  Here’s what happens.  I order a parcel of gemstones (for those unfamiliar, it’s a grab bag of gemstones usual bought on a per caret basis.  You get 100 or 250 carets of whatever they give you.  It becomes a treasure hunt).  I then get the parcel in and I start geeking out.  Look at this one!  Ohhhhh!  This  one would make a great ring (sets stone aside).  Ohhhhh, look at the cut on this one, it would make a great ring (sets stone aside).  Oh my!  Look at this stone, I’ve never seen one like it (sets stone aside to be made into…you guessed it… a ring).  I get done sorting the parcel and come up with one or two stones I’d be willing to part with and turn into jewelry.  So the parcel I bought to make jewelry (and ultimately money) become part of my own personal gemstone collection.  

Now I have no gemstone stock, what do I do?  Order another parcel!  You see how the circle can be quite vicious.  As the lady who trained me to be an artisan jeweler use to say “At least an alcoholic will pass out eventually.  There is no fail safe like that with gemstones”.  So you can see how this lack of self control on my part could be considered bad.  Now, I try to be an optimist and see the glass half full, so on the flip side, I have a rockin’ gemstone collection.

Similarly related to my gemstone issue is an issue with tools.  Can you do jewelry with just basic tools?  Sure, you can.  But they are always coming out with cool tools, or will save you a bunch of time, or a tool you need to do some new technique.  I subscribe to a couple of “trade” magazines.  These magazines either review these new tools or they have an advertisement for them.  So even when I’m just trying to keep up with information or learn new techniques, I get tempted into buying more tools.  Why is this bad?  My studio has a limited space.  I don’t think I can take over any more of the garage without starting a civil war with my husband.  Trust me, this would also be bad.

Then there is something I like to call Jewelers Tourette’s.  You think sailors have a potty mouths.  You haven’t been to studio when something goes wrong.  Picture this.  You’ve worked for hours on a project.  You almost have it done, just one more thing to solder on and you can start to finish it.  Then something goes wrong…horribly wrong.  It can be any number of things, previous solder joints coming undone (because you didn’t feel the need to put yellow ocher on it), or you get the metal too hot and it either melts or gets firescale on it.  You have just put your heart and soul into this piece.  AND IT’s RUINED (or at the time it feels like that).  The other thing that can happen is you have a piece that just fights you every step of the way.  Everything that can go wrong does.  I made a ring for my husband once that was like this.  I got so frustrated with it, I had to keep setting it down.  It took me over a year to complete.  I think my blood pressure just went up a 100 points just thinking about it.  Whew.  Deep breath.  Calm down…need to conclude this blog.

Being a jeweler isn’t THAT bad.  I think the good far outweighs the bad.  Besides, if you have addictions like I do, you do wind up with really cool collections.  Until tomorrow my dear reader – Melissa.

Should you want to see some of my custom pieces please see my Facebook page at!/pages/Chrysalis-Jewelry/193401868091 or my Etsy page at