The Midlife Makeover

Me…and a rock……in the desert.

I turned 50 in 2017. Never being one for big celebrations, my birthday came and went with little recognition from anyone. In my own mind, however, I had made a sketchy plan of where I had wanted to be in my life by the time I turned 50. Looking at that hazy dream, I realized that very little of it would ever be attainable. My health really put a wrench in the monkey works. But I had a new plan. I ALWAYS have a new plan!

My husband and I had been collecting rocks as a serious hobby since 2014. We ventured farther and farther from home and soon realized that , if we wanted to make the most of a three day weekend, we would need to purchase a trailer. So, in 2015, we bough a small, simple, jacked up trailer and followed our curiosity beyond the borders of Oregon and into Nevada and California. By 2016. we had acquired an 18 inch rock cutting saw and we started slicing into many of the rocks that were now forming piles around our property. Steve enjoyed this a lot, but since the beginning, his interest was focused, primarily, on thundereggs. While he was out-rigging our truck with a winch, stronger suspension and some serious off road tires, I was daydreaming about cutting my own stones to add to my jewelry designs.

So, on my 50th birthday, when we just happened to be a the local rock company buying a truckload of gravel, I wandered into the back garage and started eyeing the lapidary equipment. There was a new trim saw, a few larger old saws, two sets of grinding wheels from the 1950’s and a new, large flat lap. At the time, however, most of it was completely foreign to me. When the only mobile employee finally had time to answer my questions, I only had one. I wasn’t sure what a flat lap was for so when he told me that it was usually used for polishing thundereggs, my mind was made up. I rejoined my husband in the front, sales room and told him not to pay for the gravel just yet.

In the end, I purchased a combo grinder with two silicon carbide wheels, and expanding wheel and a flat sander, a 10 inch trim saw and, to my husbands near giddy approval, the 20 inch flat lap. Happy Birthday to me…and him.

Two days later, there was an ad in the local paper. Someone only two miles away was selling another combo machine but this one had diamond wheels. The price was more than reasonable. When we went to pick it up, the gentlemen who were selling it decided to get rid of all of the slabs they had as well and threw them in for free. NOW, I thought, I was ready to embark on a new chapter in my life. We were all set! I was going to figure out how to cut rocks. There was only one problem, however, we had no place to set up all these wonderful machines….yet.

It was a chaotic mess at first.

Life is a Journey

Life is a journey, not a destination. If life were a destination, however, I would like for it to be here. We are now miners as well as claim owners. We have two claims in the McDermitt, Oregon area which are for chalcedony primarily (in the form of thundereggs) and a gold mine in the Denio, Nevada area.

The gold mine was never very productive and has been abandoned since the 1930’s. We are finding a lot of silver but primarily, we chose this site for the copper minerals. There is lots of chrysocolla as well as gem silica and small amounts of azurite, malachite and cuprite. Occasionally, we get a little bit of gold as well.

There are a few folks who are not happy about our claiming these areas. They have been written about in books and many rockhounds believed that they were simply areas made available to the general public for collecting. In truth, all of these areas were discovered by miners who staked a claim and, once they were done with it, left it for someone else to claim. We came accross them, the same way that most rock people do but we realized that the bulk of the good material could not be accessed without the use of power tools and that we wanted to sell the material we found. I have a suspicion, that most people who go out and collect rocks, are unaware of the limits they can legally collects and that no matter how much they bring home, it is illegal to sell or even trade those rocks without having a claim. Power tools can only be used if you have a claim as well.

I will not make it sound easy to juggle three mines, two businesses and a home because it isn’t! My original shop, Tangible Imaginings, is being redesigned right now with the intention of reopening (online) on the first of the year. Our new business, SG Lapidary, is in it’s infancy and I am learning a great deal by default.

McDermitt is a 5 hour drive from our home and so is Denio. They are over one hour apart so even traveling between them can be quite a trek. My husband has a day job as a sheet metal fabricator for an HVAC company. It comes in handy especially when we need to redesign equipment. So, during the day, he is at his job while I am busy cutting rock, cabbing, lapping, washing (a lot) stabilizing, designing jewelry, fabricating and selling EVERYTHING!!

This blog is more a way for me to remember all that has happened on this journey than it is to enlighten any of my readers. That being said, however, I welcome any questions and hope you enjoy what you read. As you can see from previous posts, I am an illustrator but arthritis and EDS have taken my hands so I am no longer able to work in the detail I enjoy most. I also have Essential Tremor. So far, I have found ways to still make jewelry but I doubt that will be for too much longer unless I can get the surgery I need to stabilize my thumbs. Who know what the future may bring!?

Happy 2020. Lets hope this year lives up to its name and we all find a little clarity along the way!

Welcome to the New Year, AGAIN.

I know that I have said this before, but this time I mean it! 2019 will be a year of transition for me. A number of things transpired in 2018 that have drastically altered the landscape of both my business and personal lives.

My health and the health of my adult children have taken the front seat on this journey around the sun. My time is split between being a caregiver and finding unique ways to make money; mostly by selling what we don’t need. In between, there is art. There will ALWAYS be art.

Just like the dots on this apple, life is made up of uncountable moments.

What we do in those moments will shape who we are and how we impact others.

Being conscious of your actions and thoughts will help you reach your goal, even if you are not exactly sure what that looks like.

Every dot, every moment, every connection, every person, is required to make the idea a reality; a “Tangible Imagining” if you will.

My daughters and I are facing a somewhat difficult and unknown future. But, as it is with all things, if we focus on what we want from life and we execute each moment with care, eventually, it will become a reality.

I draw with dots because I cannot draw lines well anymore. We adapt, if we want to.

Here’s to a new year. I hope you can adapt and keep your eye on the goal!

Where the Magic Happens

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One major reason why I have been away from WordPress for so long is the long awaited finishing of my studio. Our 10th anniversary was in 2016 and my husband gifted me with this wonderful, little building. I told him that I wanted it to look like a Wild West mercantile. The wood is cedar that was milled by my father-in-law on a small, circular sawmill giving it an authentic, vintage look. The windows were salvaged from my sister-in-law’s house when she had all their windows replaced. My husband designed and built the entire thing including the garden which, soon after this photo was taken, was filled with wildflowers. He has two shops of his own and we turned my old porch shop (see previous posts) into a lapidary for the stones we have been collecting. I think it goes without saying, that I married into a pretty awesome family and I have a more than awesome spouse!

Dot Dot. Dot

This illustration has been sitting on my table for at least six months now. Every chance I get, I go and add a few thousand more dots to it and then set it aside for another day. I started using the most amazing erase-able pens about half way through. They are manufactured in Japan and use thermal ink. When you rub the ink with a piece of soft plastic, it creates enough heat that the ink completely disappears! It’s magic. Otherwise, the pens work nicely. It is an interesting solution for my unsteady hands. On the plus side, I can correct my mistakes. On the minus side, any extreme temperatures can either remove or replace the ink as well. I guess I will need to have a disclaimer on my work stating that it should never be stored or displayed in anything but a climate controlled dwelling. Put my artwork in an attic and you might just find out the truth!

Illustration

In my previous post, I mentioned that I have a separate site for my illustrations. My daughter is a graphic designer and we have teamed together to form a shop called Pronghorn Designs.

I started my career path as classic artist, earning a degree in fine art and, while I originally thought I would go into painting, I always seemed to drift back to drawing. I love the details. The above drawing of a dragonfly was done while looking through a magnifying glass. That is how much I love the details.

My drawings are almost always inspired by nature. I am not a big fan of architectural drawing or of portraiture although I have dabbled in both. I tend to gravitate towards individual subjects rather than busy scenes or layered compositions. My focus is rather intense.

My hands are badly arthritic now and I am not sure how many more drawings of this type I have in me. Lately, as in the above drawings, I have been working by stippling (drawing with dots) because my hands shake  too much to make a reliable line. I will eventually have both of my thumbs rebuilt but until then, I will focus more on the metal work.

 

It’s Been a Long Time!

As 2016 is drawing to a close, I realize that, while I did not manage to make it the year that my shop became successful, I DID manage to hone my skills and determine exactly what it is that I want to accomplish with my art. I have turned my jewelry design in a brand new direction and have settled in to metal smithing.

I have thus far, been working predominantly in copper. The colors I can achieve are really amazing but I have a very long way to go before I can say that I actually have any control over the outcome.

When I started, I was more interested in the shapes I could form and had not realized the full potential of the copper. I will be working more towards fold forming and color combined in one piece, There is still A LOT to learn,

My shop will go back into full sale mode beginning next year. I also have three other shops under my thumb: one for my illustrations, one for my personal journey and one for the extra supplies I have lying around that I no longer need. So busy is going to be my new name! Stay tuned!


Rock Hounding

We recently purchased our first travel trailer. I am not exactly sure how it happened. If you ask me, I will tell you that I just woke up one morning and decided that we needed one. I am sure it was more complicated than that, but I know that from the time the idea struck me until we were backing it into our driveway only about two weeks had passed.  I have a congenital condition that makes is impossible to sleep on the ground any more and perhaps I was just really missing camping. What ever it was, we are now the proud owners of a Jayco, Baja Edition trailer.Travel Trailer

The Baja Edition just means that it has extra clearance and truck tires; perfect for going off road. Maybe the idea started when my father sent us back to Oregon last year with boxes of mineral specimens that he and my mother had collected over the years. She is a geologist and he is a geophysicist, so I grew up with a deep curiosity surrounding all things “rock”. My husband introduced me to Oregon Sunstone a few years ago and we had always wanted to go and find some ourselves but hotel rooms are scarce in the middle of BLM land.

I am positive that my parents involvement with rocks is what has spurred my desire to make jewelry. Many moons ago, I was sure I would grow up to be a gemologist but life does not always dish out what you want. We had already done a day trip collecting Thunder Eggs which, for those of you who are unfamiliar, are volcanic burps that harden before they hit the ground and thus are very round. Over time, the centers turn to various forms of quartz. Geodes are relatively well known as are picture agate, but the ones we have here are mostly iron infused jasper. That is another story.

Our first trip with the trailer was to Glass Butte, Oregon where we picked up a tidy collection of obsidian. That is also another story as I have not managed to sort through those rocks yet.

So, I will show you pictures of our second trailer trip and third rock collecting excursion. This trip we went to Congleton Hollow.

Congleton Hollow

We chose this camp site because we could watch both the sunrise and the sunset. The goal of this trip was to find limb casts. Limb casts are not the same as petrified wood. They are formed when a volcano erupts sending hot ash into the air. This ash lands on the trees and quickly hardens into a cement like substance. Because it is hot, it also sets the tree on fire burning it away. What is left, is a hole in the shape of a tree. Over millennia, mineral laden water percolates through the castings, leaving behind, well, minerals which fill the castings. Then, over MORE time, the freezing and thawing of the ground, pushes these limb casts towards the surface where folks like us can wander around and, with hope, find them.

At first, we had NO idea what to look for, so we wandered around rather aimlessly, but then they started to reveal themselves and our eyes adjusted to focus better on our goal.

Limb Casts

So here they are. Most are agate, all are some form of quartz. I have yet to wash them and see how pretty they really are. The green is from copper, which you see everywhere there.

Now I need to turn one into a necklace.

Making and Making More

I promised my two youngest nieces that I would make each of them a new sweater for Christmas. That, of course never happened. So, instead, They each got a hat and an IOU. Now I am frantically trying to get two sweaters done before the intended recipients outgrow them or summer arrives. The problem is, that I make everything without a pattern, so my ideas have a way of growing and growing to the point where I feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew, sometimes. Here is the youngest niece’s sweater….12654262_1118210181545667_6805026182586991575_n

The only problem is that it STILL isn’t finished. After this photo, I decided to add an under layer of yellow to the bottom hem and the when I had it all washed and pressed, I realized that I had moved the hem a full 2 inches off on one side. My husband said to send it any way but I can’t….so…….snip….snip…….sigh.

 

Happy New Year 2016

It is finally here. 2016 is the year that I crank everything into high gear and make my shop what I have always wanted it to be; successful!

I have set up my jewelry studio and am hard at work creating new pieces that will be posted to my Etsy shop at the beginning of the new year. I have made several new pieces that have been given as gifts this Christmas, just to make sure I am “up to snuff”. It is amazing how quickly your hands loose the dexterity needed to work with such tiny pieces, but it is equally amazing how quickly you can regain the skills.

Turquoise and fire agate

This turquoise and fire agate necklace is for a friend of mine who is going through a divorce. Her birthday is in December (turquoise) and she said she was oddly drawn to orange recently, so what better than a fire agate!

Quartz and brass triangle

Thus far, most of my work is simply compiling things from around my shop. I am not doing a lot of fabrication…..yet.

 

Brass and blue agate earrings

Copper and natural blue agate. I enjoy working with complimentary colors like blue and orange but hope to get to some contrasting combinations like blue and yellow.

Tribal bead and lemon quartz