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.

First Painting in 20 Years DAY ONE

It has been a very long time since I last sat down and put my mind to starting a painting. In truth, I have always thought of myself as a painter, even though my degree focus was in illustration. I had only discovered painting in my senior year of college and did not have enough credit hours under my belt to be able to use that medium in my final project. I knew right away, however, that I was hooked….

.Aspen tree

When we moved into our house in central Oregon, this was the view from the dining room window. One of my first thoughts was of how much I would like to make a painting of this tree. Aspen trees are one of my husband’s favorites. This tree, like all Aspens, captures the seasons so clearly and this autumn was no exception.

Aspen tree layout

At first, I tried to draw directly from the subject, but the constant back and forth, as well as the light to dark was giving me quite a headache. I have never been much for drawing out my subject anyway. There is something about drawing on a vertical surface that has always been a challenge for me. I used to get in trouble in college for insisting on moving my pad of paper, no matter how large, from the easel onto my lap.

Aspen tree image 1

So, instead, I took a photo with my phone and used it as my primary reference. This was also helpful because the sun was moving in and out of the clouds all day making the lighting different every time I looked up.

With a dirty brush and a limited palate, I scratched the primary shapes and color fields onto the canvas and called it an end of day one.

Painting takes a CRAZY amount of concentration and a steady hand. These are two things that I no longer have, so I imagine this project will take some time to complete!

Welcome to My ETSY World

IMG_1449Vintage bead necklace

As you may have surmised from my blog, I have an ETSY shop.

ETSY is an on-line crafter’s web site that allows each seller to maintain their own internet store. Until recently, only handmade, vintage and supplies were allowed as shop wares. Now ETSY also allows designers to create their own product and  have the actual items manufactured by a second party. Some folks are happy about the change, others are not, but that’s the basic gist of what ETSY is, if you are unfamiliar with the site.

When I first signed up, I could not remember the name. I wanted to call is ESTY, because that followed the basic rules of the English language. It was easy to upload pictures and follow the instructions for descriptions and price. I think the hardest part of posting is trying to come up with a list of 13 “tag words” that could easily be picked up by a search engine as a customer is combing the web for your product. Most Etsians (that’s what we call ourselves) would agree, I think. There are whole tutorials about picking the correct words and something called SEO, which I later learned was short for “search engine optimization”. Everyone likes to feel a bit smarter by making their new fangled computer lingo into an acronym.

IMG_5402-0013 colored crocheted baby blanket

So, I started with ETSY about 2 years ago. I was THRILLED to find a place that seems designed to help someone like me (a closet artist who likes to make nice things) find a venue to sell their creations. I had read some really great success stories and thought that I coud at least make a bit of side money while I was a stay at home mom. Let me be clear here. I call myself a “closet artist” because in a real sense, I am just an artist who has not managed to come out and express that to the world yet. I have a degree in fine art and have been creating in one sense or another my entire life. I always told myself, when I was younger, that I would NEVER cave in to becoming a “crafter”. To me “crafting” was not ART! Boy, was I wrong!

Through ETSY,  I have seen some absolutely AMAZING creations. The ability to share ideas and the products that came from them is really the soul of the site. There are forums and teams that supply you with endless insight and support. Etsians create treasuries, which are a collection of 16 items with a similar theme and then post them for the rest of the world to see. It is a clear and continuous way to help support fellow artisans by showing off what their peers find to be interesting or pleasing to the eye. I particularly like making treasuries of the oddities that some folks post, like sculptures made out of dust bunnies or giant octopus tentacles that you can hang on your wall like a hunting trophy.

IMG_0466-001

ETSY was my new “home” and in the beginning, I spent hours pouring over what others have made and how. Then I started adding my own creations to the mix and found that what seemed like an easy solution to my need to make some petty cash, was not as easy as I had thought it would be….

Etsy and the Future of Handmade

I was recently engaged in a conversation with another blogger about the new changes that have been made to ETSY. If you are unfamiliar with ETSY, as imagine most of you are, it is (or perhaps was) the foremost site on the web for selling and purchasing handmade arts and crafts. If you were looking for a truly unique, one of a kind hand crafted treasure, ETSY was the place to look.

When I joined ETSY in 2011, I was extremely optimistic. Not optimistic that my handmade crafts would sell necessarily, but optimistic that there was a place out there on the great information highway that was not only listening to the small, introverted, creative wave that pulsed vibrantly through space but also celebrating it! We have always been here. The craftsmen, the artists, the woodworkers, sculptors, jewelry designers, painters, weavers etc. Our ancestors have their handiwares in museums, because they are considered to be a part of an important cultural past and, well, a lot of what we make is just plain AWESOME.

We are special…bear with me….To decide to make one’s living as an artist, takes guts. It takes a belief in yourself that most of society did not help nurture. Most of us had to turn our backs on “better” careers that would have ensured financial stability. Most of us still have a “real” job on the side to support what the majority of non artists see as a hobby. Most of us…heck ALL of us, can’t help ourselves. The desire, the need to create is innate.

ETSY was a place, where we could all congregate, converse, support. promote and CARE about each other. I am an introvert, and I do not use that term lightly. ETSY gave me a platform that allowed me to not only show the world my talents, but give them value in the form of cold hard cash. Psychologically speaking, ETSY was great therapy, it was a safe place to take a risk with something new, or collaborate with others to create something unique. We, as artist, did not have to compete with machines, or corporations, or mass produced junk. We were among friends, kindred spirits, we had a home.

At this point you are most likely wondering why I am writing this all in the past tense. ETSY has, at the urging of those with their hands on the financial forecasting spreadsheets, decided to allow artist to have their designs created by a manufacturer. Now at first, you might think this is no big deal, and in truth, sellers like this have been popping up all over ETSY for years, unchecked to my knowledge. But what this means is the ETSY marketplace will be dramatically altered. If I design a dress, I can have a factory make it in a variety of sizes and colors. I can send my drawing to ZAZZLE or a similar site and have several cases of coffee cup made, ready to ship. I can, in theory, design almost anything my heart desires and have it mass produced to sell on ETSY. Now, the powers that be, say that the seller will need to identify themselves on their profile as a designer, not a crafts person, but lets get real, who looks at a seller’s profile before making a purchase any more?

So, now when a customer wants a unique, hand crafted treasure, and they type in “coffee cup” they will have to wade through the same mass produced products they can find anywhere on the web. They will have to read every seller’s profile to see if they are getting what they want. Mass produced items will have a lower selling point, so when a buyer is looking to spend only $20.00, their top options they will see will not be from the artisan, but from a designer. Don’t get me wrong, the creative world turns on designers, EVERY item you buy was designed by SOMEONE. My own daughter is in art school hoping to be that someone, some day. I have a great respect for all areas and levels of creativity, but ETSY was the one place that WE had. WE the hands on crafts person. WE who had no other venue but seasonal craft fairs and farmer’s markets. WE who so desperately needed and deserved a platform high enough that someone could hear our voice. And now it is gone.

The kind folks at ETSY have told us that they know they did not implement the support structure to protect the lowly artisan from mass produced items…. YET. They know that they “still have a lot of work to do”. They know we are unhappy. They know we feel betrayed and I hope they know that by not giving us, the artists, a voice, they have ruined many dreams and put many of us out of business. They tell us they know……they know. But do they care?

Please let me end by saying that as a shopper, I still highly recommend ETSY. There are still thousands of artists slugging their way through, trying to get your attention. We on ETSY have heard from several of you, who despair at the time and effort it takes now to find us through the confusing mess….please don’t give up on us. We need you!!!!