Great Expectations

If you follow me on my personal social media platforms then you already know the news, if you don’t let me be the first to tell you: I am pregnant!  I am 6 months and at the tail end of my 2nd trimester and what a time to be pregnant!  This has been for the most part a decent experience considering the current circumstances.  

If you are wondering what we are having; we are having a boy and I could not be more thrilled.  

A dear friend asked me how if feel about bringing a life into this world with all that is going on? Well, to be honest I feel honored and very hopeful.  These recent times of a global pandemic and civil urest have inspired me.  The conversations that people are having around loving and respecting thy neighbor and around race, justice and equality have been needed for so long that I can only feel hopeful and empowered.  

As this little male body grows inside of  my female body, I can only imaging the talks we will have together and as a family.  Deep thoughtful conversations are something that I truly enjoy and I hope to pass that ability to dive into the real, on to my young boy.  

My hope for my son is that he will feel free enough to think and question all that he sees and hears and reads.  I hope that he learns courage and grace from what I do and say, but mostly from how I move around in this world.  We have learned that children are visual learners and I must be mindful of how I represent my Black womanhood to him.  

I hope to empower him to speak-up for himself and others when they need an understanding voice.  I hope to encourage him to be a free thinker and to have the courage to make space for himself when others are not willing to make space for him.   

I also hope for my son to be of this world and know that the world is of him.  I believe education, travel and exposure to various ways of being are the building blocks to compassion, community and self-confidence.  There is a beautiful quote that I love: 

“The best teachers show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see.” – Alexandra K. Trenfor 

With that, I look forward to watching my soon to be boy truly see this world, and know that it is a place of wonder and possibility, with its beauty and it’s many flaws.  

Thanks for reading!

Charmaine 

Supporting Artists During Quarantine

Today I wanted to write about supporting artist during quarantine.  There are many small business’ and artists taking a financial hit during this bazar time.  As an artist and being friends with many artists and makers, I have a direct understanding and experience of this impact.  Many of us are experiencing low to no orders, and some of us have had to temporally let employees go.

On the other side of that, I’ve seen some very enthusiastic people (both artist/makers and patrons) on social media talking about supporting small business and it just warmed my heart.  So much so that I thought it’d be a great idea (as an artist/business owner) to share a few ways that you can support us artist and makers during quarantine.

Commission a Piece of Art

What a better time to commission a piece of art that you’ve been wanting for some time.  Granted you are in the market for some new art and have the means to do so, some artists are still taking commissions as many of us are experiencing very slow traffic in orders and commissions during the COVID-19 quarantine.

If you are in the market to acquire something special for yourself or as a gift, don’t hesitate to reach out to see if we are up for taking your commission.  Chances are some artists will consider it a lovely distraction to being stuck indoors for weeks, and would more likely appreciate the much needed revenue.  Also how great would it be to have something made for you during one of the most strange times of 2020 – you’ll have a story to tell for years to come.

Purchase Ready-to-Ship Items from Their Online Shop

Most of us creatives have an online shop of art and goods that are “ready-to-ship”.  This means that the products are made and ready to leave our studios in a day or two, sometimes on the day of your purchase.  If you have birthdays, anniversaries or other special days coming-up, this is a great time to send gifts and celebrate those you love and miss all while supporting the person who made it.

We are taking extreme precautions during our shipping process, and some of us even have a section on our websites explaining how your purchase will be handled and shipped during this pandemic.  This offers you peace-of-mind while purchasing things that bring joy into your everyday life.

Scroll through our on-line shops! Chances are you will find something you’ve had your eye on or discover a new piece that speaks to you.  And don’t be afraid to reach out to your favorite artist about inventory not shown in their web-shops.  It is very common for an artist/maker to not have every piece of their art/goods listed on-line, myself included.  I guarantee you; most of us have 20%-40% of inventory in our studio that is ready to purchase; not listed on our online shops, and those are real gems as they are usually one-of-a-kind pieces! So reach out, you’ll be surprised!

Check-in on Them!

Simply check-in on your artist, we will appreciate being thought of by someone who isn’t family or a close friend.   Aside from that, some of us creatives are experiencing lack of creativity and inspiration, which is our motivation.   An email or direct message on Instagram or Facebook, checking-in or even inquiring about how we are staying creative during this time could be the lovely boost we need to get back in the studio or start brainstorming new ideas.  So again, reach out!

I know we are encouraged to stay put for our safety, but that should not prevent us from celebrating ourselves and others, we just need to be a little creative on how we do so!

Stay healthy.  Be safe!

Charmaine

jewelers studio_charmaine vegas

#QuarantineLife and #StudioLife: Getting Creative

We are going through some strange times these days with the new and invasive COVID-19 sifting up our lives. Most of us have been home going week 3 now due to the mandatory “isolating” and “social distancing” and we have another 3 weeks to go. For me this does not change much of my everyday work life, since I work from home. However, this “social distancing” does effect important tasks for my business like picking-up new materials in the Jewelry District in DTLA.

So my question to myself has been, what do I in the with what I have in the meantime?

Getting Ideas

This morning I was on my sofa watching GMA and two of the personalities from Shark Tank were guests on the show answering question from small business owners whom are trying to wrap their heads around COVID-19 and it’s effect on their businesses and employees. One question that perked my ears was from a owner of a specialty bakery:

“My business has come to almost a complete halt, what steps can I take now to stay on the front of my customers minds when things begin to get back to normal?”

I thought this was a fantastic question that I relate to as my business has slowed down dramatically as well. One of the Sharks answer was seemingly obvious and idea provoking. He advised her to use her platform (Instagram, Youtube, Twitter) to teach her customers about baking.  Her customers currently have more time on their hands than ever. Teaching them how to become a better baker would allow the owner to not only connect and share her passion with her patrons, but to stay at the forefront of their minds. When life does go back to normal (or a new normal) and they have less time to bake and they are in need of a specialty cakes (and I gather there will be a lot of celebrating going on after all this) they’ll remember her brand and her generosity.

Getting Creative

At the beginning of all this “isolating” and “social distancing” I made a decision to stay off social media – something, if I’m honest, I do often.  But one social media platform that I continue to use no matter if I’m social cleansing or not is Youtube.  For some odd reason I don’t consider Youtube “social media”.

What I’ve noticed on Youtube these days is people, mostly business owners and influencers, getting creative and keeping things going.

Jimmy Fallon started doing the Tonight Show from his home, with his daughters doing the graphics and his wife woman-ing the camera.  Musicians like John Ledgen and Dj D-nice doing concerts and dance parties from their homes.  Gym owners are teaching classes remotely to help they’re members stay fit and interested in their fitness.  These are all great ways people are staying busy and keeping their passions aka business going (although not bringing in much or any revenue).

This not only shows ingenuity and focus, it also shows that these business owners and entertainers are ‘in it” for more than the money and ratings, they see that people need what they are sharing more now than before. And there is something heartwarming and human about that – people respect and appreciate that they aren’t just another dollar, viewer or follower to a business and entertainers.

With seeing others continuing life and business I began wondering, is “incubating” during this time healthy for me and my business?  So this morning I began considering what I could do to connect and share with my customers and others? Here are a few ideas that I came up with:

From Start to Finish

This would show me making a piece of jewelry or another object fully from start to finish.  A ring, a pair of earrings or a spoon even.  Unlike periodically showing my work-in-porgress’ on Instagram Stories; I’d record the full process and upload it my Youtube channel.  This could be interesting as making something from start to finish would show successes and failures.

Jewelers Talk or Artists Talk

This would be just as the title suggests; jewelers talking about what their studio, their practice and the creative ways they are staying busy during “isolation”.   This too would be recorded and uploaded to Youtube.

Jewelry Book Projects

This would be similar to From Start to Finish but instead of showing how something from my collection is made, I’d attempt to complete a project in one my jewelry books!  This could for sure lead to some entraining results as jewelry book projects rarely come out as depicted in the book.  And again, this would be recorded and shared on Youtube.

I have few more ideas, like, how-to-video, example: how to properly clean your jewelry, etc.  The ones listed above seem the most entertaining to me.  Having said all that, I have no idea what the end result would be of this or if it would be successful let along watched.  But, I am strongly leaning towards giving them a try.

In the meantime, if you have any ideas or suggestions do send them my way!

Stay healthy,

Charmaine

Diamond Stacking Rings

I had the pleasure of creating this custom set of stacking rings for a client this past month.   Last November I was vendor at Holiday Marketplace at Craft Contemporary and my client spotted a set of 3  stacking rings that I made (they've sold since) with 2 citrines and one sapphire.  She loved the set of rings but was not quite sure about the color of the stones; so instead snapped a photo with the thought of commissioning a set later.

Later came this February when I ran into my client at an advisory board meeting that we are both part of.   She told me that she's been thinking about that set of stacking rings since she took that photo at Craft Contemporary and knows she for sure that wants a set for herself but can't figure out what color stones should adorn the rings.

After chatting for a bit I was able to get a since of her style.  I could see that she was attracted to neutral tones, just like me, and I immediately thought  "what about black, grey and white diamonds?".     After a few email correspondences she loved the idea of using neutral toned diamond for her set of rings.  I as trilled.  I enjoy working with diamonds and I knew that this set of stacking rings were going to look just lovely!

With or Without a Mentor

Is it possible to be a successful artist never having had a mentor?  Of course the answer is “yes”.  But, does having a mentor make you better?  I question this often. Wondering “would I be a “better artist” or “metalsmith” if I had a mentor?  Deep down I feel that I would be a better metalsmith having had someone to guide me and push my boundaries. Question my thinking and my process.  To me, a mentor is a form of extended education and should be a prerequisite as an undergrad.  I suppose one could say: “what about internships?”.  And yes, internships are form of extended education.  And could very well lead you to new opportunities or even a mentor.  But I believe they are different both approach and objective.  The objective of an internship is to learn the way of the business or working. Learning the industry and how to go-it on your own.  Honing in on certain skills.   With a mentor, you are learning about learning . You are being exposed to questions you never thought to ask.

#collegeat42

Each year I give myself a few goals (spiritual, personal, relationships and career) to walk towards (I'm the turtle in the Tortoise and the Hare tale).  This years one of my goals was to go back to college and complete my undergrad.

"Wait, Charmaine.  You mean you never finished college?"

No, I did not finish college; I, instead, followed (or got swept away) in my career (and love) as a Visual Merchandiser/Stylist - before I became a jeweler.

"Why go back to college now?"

Finishing school, obtaining a formal arts degree, has been a goal for many, many,  years, a goal that I was too busy (aka scared) to make a reality.  Also, lately, more now than ever, I've been feeling like something is missing/lacking in my art practice and ability to push my work farther.   I believe what one gets from the experience of college is a necessary ingredient in creating - and I want and need that experience.

I am happy that I've reached this point in my life because I am doing this with sheer desire and hunger for information and experimentation, not with obligation or expectation.  And with that, I feel most ready to dive into the deep dark waters that is #collegeat42.  I decided to go for my B.F.A. in Studio Arts (have not yet decided on a minor, it may be painting).

Because I've been out of school for so long, I went about the enrollment process as a recent high school graduate would have.  I met with a counselor, and mapped out my education plan.   Do note, I am starting at a city college (Long Beach City College), as that is where I began after graduating high school, I know some of the faculty and it's near my house; so it made the most sense to me to begin, or rather "restart", at LBCC.

I am taking one class this semester (advised by my counselor, to ease back in to it) Art 2, Art and Civilization.  The first meeting was on February 6th, and I have to admit I was scared and intimidated.  Why?  Because, I am not keen to the classroom setting (a lot of childhood triggers involved) and I knew I'd most likely be the oldest student in the class, besides the instructor, learning next to 2o somethings with a lot of this information fresh at the front of their young adult brains - and all of that was the reality.

With all of that, my fears, my apprehensions, and my insecurities, I am 100 percent looking forward to this chapter of growth that I am writing.  It is going to be challenging, fun, embarrassing, hard, amazing and exhausting, attributes that make great character and an interesting story - I am here for it.  I am confident that I will do well, because I want to do well, and I'll be a better student now than in my 20's.

So, here's to doing #collegeat42, with courage (and age) in one hand and fear in the other.

oak leaf spoons after solder ready for picketing

Making Oak Leaf Spoons

annealing copper sheet_making oak leaf spoons
cutting oak leaf stencil out of copper sheet for oak leaf spoon
oak leaf spoons after solder ready for picketing

When making the Oak Leaf Spoons, I like to make a few at a time.  I begin by annealing some copper sheet to punch out circles for the spoon bowl.  The bowls are then sanded and formed and put to the side until final soldering.

The handle of the spoon takes the most time.  A leaf is traces onto a sheet of thick copper, then sawing begins.  Hand sawing is a slow process, when you incorporate curves and other details, it becomes even slower, so I usually put on some instrumental music to enjoy while cutting.

Once the leaf is sawn, the edges are sanded to remove any saw marks, another slow process.  Getting into those tiny curves can be tricky - lots of small files are helpful for getting into those spaces.

The handle is soldered to the bowl once the edges are smooth.  After soldering the veins of the leaf are drawn on and hand sawn.   Because the veins are intuitively drawn on each spoon has its personal character.  After sawing texturing, final detailing and dark patina are applied.

The finish result, a beautiful little sculpture.

leaf sugar spoon in sugar sand and bell jar

Oak Leaf Spoon and Morning Coffee

The Copper Oak Leaf Sugar Spoon began as an homage to a road trip my husband and I took through Oregon in 2016.   We'd driven from Long Beach to Bend, from Bend to Portland and from Portland down the Oregon Coast and back to Long Beach.  I collected objects throughout our travels (pebbles, driftwood and leaves) with the intention of creating keepsakes to remind me of our winter trip.

A few days after we'd gotten back to Long Beach,  I went into my studio and begin thinking of things to make with my Oregon mementos.  It wasn't long before I found myself tracing one of the leaves on a sheet of copper; cutting, sanding and forming, ending with a little spoon.

Till this day that little spoon, that I made on as a playful doodle, has been part of my morning coffee, which are usually shared with my husband, sipping double espressos with cream and nibbling on some sort of pastry.

leaf sugar spoon and rainy December mornings
leaf sugar spoon close-up
leaf sugar spoon in sugar sand and bell jar

My Oak Leaf spoon is my sugar spoon lives on my kitchen counter on top a plater with my coffee making paraphernalia It sits in a clear glass dish with a bell lid filled with sugar, looking like a little sculpture standing in sweet sand; it.  When guest come over and request sugar for their coffee or tea, I love to catch the pleasantly surprised look on their faces when I point them to the sugar.

When I decided to sell the Oak Leaf Spoons,  I knew I wanted the user to feel special every time they used it.   I see the spoon as a functional sculpture that is to be viewed everyday and to be part of everyday life.  So it is paired with the same "barely there" glass dish and bell jar as I have in my home.

I enjoy my morning coffee ritual, and even more I enjoy when I can visually appreciate all of the little things that are a part of that process.  Hopefully this little spoon will make the everyday moments, like sipping coffee and taking in the morning before the day begins, a bit more special for others, too.

 

Thanks or reading,

cv

5 Jewelry Tips to Consider When Traveling

As a jeweler I receive questions about jewelry care, and one thing I notice that people forget is, how to care for their jewelry when traveling.  So I thought (with all the holiday shopping and family visiting going on) I'd share my 5 jewelry tips to consider when traveling.

I travel often and I have found these to be tried and true, I hope they do you good.

 


1.  Keep your valuable jewelry on you while flying

A rule I live by when flying, especially if I am bringing sentimental jewelry with me, I find it is best to store your jewelry inside of  your carry-on bag.  This eliminates some of the heartbreak if your checked luggage is lost in transit or worst, is stollen.

 

2.  Pack versatile pieces of jewelry

When I travel I pack a capsule wardrobe; a limited number of versatile piece of clothing and accessories that effortlessly make up different outfits.  By packing a capsule you are encouraged to pack jewelry that can carry you throughout your trip.  This isn't so much a "care tip", more of a "packing tip", but I still find it to be useful for jewelry.

I tend to pack a pair of hoops, one statement ring, a pair of studs and a minimal necklace.   These piece will go with every outfit that my capsule makes up and will take me from day to night.

 

3.  Properly store your jewelry

Proper jewelry storage is key if you want your favorite pieces to last you years to a lifetime.   Proper jewelry storage is also the key to keeping your jewelry safe, organized and tangle-free.   I advise packing your jewelry in jewelry pouches when traveling.  If you no longer have the pouch that came with your jewelry, simply store pieces in plastic zip bags, just be sure to pack necklaces and dangly earrings in their own pouches / zip bags.

A tip for packing dainty necklaces; place the majority of the necklace in a small zip bag leaving about 2 inches (where the clasps is) hanging out and secure the zip around the chain, then place that zip bag into a slightly bigger one.  This suspends the necklace, keeping the chain from tangling.

 

4 Always put jewelry away after removal

When traveling, I tend to jump from one outing to the next and it is easy to misplace things when constantly on the go.   One way to avoid misplacing jewelry is to designate an area in your hotel room for your jewelry when getting dressed.  Once you are done accessorizing yourself, put unused jewelry back into pouches and the pouches back into your luggage or hotel safe. And that leads me to the next tip.

 

5 Use the safe (?)

This one is tricky.  I'm a slightly overly cautious person when it comes to matters like this.   If I am staying in a nice hotel (4 to 5 stars) AND traveling with expensive/sentimental jewelry, I would opt "yes" for the hotel safe.   I rarely travel with jewelry that would cause me to faint if lost or stolen but, if I did - I'd be using the safe.  When I am staying in accommodations like Air B+B, I would wear my valuable jewelry or hide it in a safe place or simply leave  valuable/sentimental jewelry at home.  I throw a "better safe, than sorry" at this one.

 

Those are my tips for traveling with jewelry and as I said before, I hope they do you good.

 

Happy travels + Thanks for reading,

Charmaine