Thursday, December 29, 2011

I live in a rose colored double wide with a 3 legged dog

I live in a community with several names. It is known as Mayer by the postal service. Cordes Junction by the people who stop at the truck stop on I 17 heading north or south between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Cordes Lakes by the developer who created this community back in the 60s. It is a community best seen by moonlight.

The community is unincorporated by choice. There are a lot of people who live here who want to remain anonomous and untaxed by such things as a town hall, mayer, city council, etc. Some are world reknown artists.

After 40 years of existence we have dining at the truck stop which includes a McDonalds, Subway, Noble Pizza and a cafe at the RV park/Motel. We have a small public library, a fire station, two small corner markets, paved roads, some stop signs and no street lights. We border a national monument and a couple of ranches - one of which raises deer.

There is poverty here, most of the children under 18 receive assistance. There is wealth here - you can see it in some vehicles and homes. The air is incredibly clear and it is quiet except for occasional vehicles that pass or the sound the children passing.

North of us is a very famous place called Arcosanti. It was founded in the 1970s by Paolo Soleri who studied with Frank Lloyd Wright for a while after coming to the USA from Italy. He is now in his 90s and just retired. Onsite is a bronze foundry where beautiful bells are created that support Arcosanti, a conference/educational center, restaurant and places to stay. There is a two mile dirt road that visitors need to take to get to this place. Several times a year there are musical and cultural events held at Arcosanti. I have met people from all over the world that at some time took training courses or student internships there.

Out of the thousands of cars that pass our community every day, few stop for anything more than a bathroom break, McDonalds or gasoline. Arcosanti, the wilderness and our community pretty much remain unknown. Some of us like it that way.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fiber Optic in the Wilderness

I live in an unincorporated community by the side of I17 in central Arizona. I did not know this community existed until the month before I bought here. Surrounding this community is a national monument, Arcosanti and a highway. Recently I have noticed trucks with no labels digging trenches along our main road - aptly named Stagecoach. I stopped today and asked workers what was going on - FIBER OPTICS!!!

Technology is my friend. Without it I would not be able to live in this small community. I would be living in New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles. With it I get to live on the edge of a wilderness because I have a telephone, fast internet connection, heat and air conditioning and a roof over my head. I have a computer and CAD (computer aided design), a bench, a torch and piles of stuff to make.

I can communicate with my customers a number of wonderful ways. There is even a shuttle down at the truck stop 2 miles from my home that will take me to the airport when I need to go.

I love living in a community where no more than 2 vehicles are usually to be found at an intersection and where I can really see the stars at night. That is my non-technical side.

But my geeky side is all excited about FIBER OPTICS coming to my little home in the wilderness.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Melted or Marketed? That is the question

I have created items that have never been marketed. They sit in my drawers where I look at them occasionally. If there is no hope - then they are melted down if there is inherent metal value.

Every designer in the world would like to win 100% - we don't. Sometimes the economy changes the game. When silver went from $8 an ounce to close to $50 some of my designs looked like door stops not inventory. The thing is designers like to design and it is a compulsion that can't be stopped.

This is all an introduction to the fact that I have designed some things that are new that may be melted or marketed. The pieces I have created should be able to be used in many ways. Swarovski flat backs, cabachon gemstones, chain maille, wire wrapping, beading and even more. I have renderings of them to show and no examples of how to use them yet. My mind has come up with options that could be included in other versions and as of yet I have not yet held the solid evidence of my imagination in my hand. It is what I do.

The pieces in the renderings are 1 1/2 inches and 3 inches left to right and can be hooked together easily or used individually. The rendering show cabachon stones and open. One side has seating for stones or crystals and the other side is round so the pieces are two sided.

I will have these components for Tucson - my customer will let me know how they think they should be used or that I should add to the collection in my drawer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Persistance as a part of the creative process

At 50 when I started the process to become a jewelry designer there was no evidence that it would work out. When I think of the first piece I made which broke the second day I wore it, there was no innate skill. I had never used a torch, hammered metal, cut metal, studied gemstones, worked in a jewelry store, I could go on and on what wasn't there.

What was there was a sense of what worked in design, color texture which I had learned from many years of art way back in history. I had worked with my hands making clothes, knitting, crocheting, doing needle work, macrame, calligraphy and many other things. I had learned a certain level of impeccability in design which needed to be kicked up an enormous notch to work in jewelry.

There was a persistance and a work ethic that had made me successful in other parts of my life and had pulled me out of bankruptcy, failed marriages, poor health and other parts of life that aren't so pretty. I had been a wonderful success and a dismal failure more than once in my life and had survived both.

And there was a desire to create beauty - to do what it took to do so. And there were some and are still some not so beautiful  pieces in sketchbooks and on my computer and even sitting in drawers. I need to fail to win. Being safe doesn't do it.

The following quote probably says it better than I can -

"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me: All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met. It's gonna take awhile. It's normal to take awhile. You've just gotta fight your way through."
Ira Glass

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Artists are motivated by different things and they use different mediums to express their art. Nature is one of the areas that motivates me highly. Sometimes I will take photographs or sketch something I find strikingly beautiful.

Architecture and other art forms motivate. If someone used a pattern, shape, texture in one medium, how can it be used in another.

Printed material can become three dimensional. A large object can be created much smaller and used in a different way.

Symbols can be combined to create a whole different meaning than when representated alone.
Patterns buried underground and rediscovered can become new.
Something real that is abstracted has beauty separate from meaning.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What does it take to made a new jewelry component?

HandFast Design designs and manufactures components that are just that - our designs. It takes time and effort to do this.

The first step is an idea or a need. I get ideas and needs from my customers and from my own jewelry creation. I look to consider toggle, hook & eye, magnetic, labyrinth, or slot clasps or cones, rings, beads, pendants or earrings.

I sketch out a rough idea on any piece of paper that comes to hand. I try to carry a sketch book all the time and I keep them for future plans. I take photos where ever I go. I cut out pictures from all matter of printed material. Almost anything inspires me. Below is a CAD rendering of The Road Ring followed by a photo of the final product.

When it seems time I take the idea into my computer and start design process. I use CAD (computer aided design). I am a traditionally trained silversmith, but prefer the use of my computer because it offers me quicker and more flexible design options. I can scale, create surface patterns. It is easier to discard things that do not work and try new things.  My training in traditional methods informs my designs. It assists me in choosing metal thickness, size of pieces, textures and shape.

Coming articles will take you through the steps of jewelry design, development and manufacturing.

Friday, July 22, 2011 is Smart Phone ready!

This last week I took one more step to make my website more accessible. Now if you have a smart phone and you access the internet with that phone is a smartphone optimized site.

I did this because I travel and sometimes the only access I have to email and the internet is my phone. When I try to make hotel, car and airline reservations or do simple purchases from websites that I know I sometimes feel I am seeing about 5% of the screen and have to scroll left, right up and down to get my job done.

The way that the handfast site is set up all you have to do is go up and down, forward and back. Every screen is complete in itself. It might be a little geeky of me but I am really happy with it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

You want my picture? Ohhhh

I got an email from GIA last week. They want to include my some quotes I made in literature they are sending out to potential students and asked me to give my permision for this. I was really flattered by this. The school has hundreds of students every year all over the world and I graduated 6 years ago and I was about 20 to 30 years older than most of the students in my class.

After all the warm feelings came the last part of the request which was for a high quality professional picture to include with the information. I ran through all the pictures I have of me from recent history and saw the one that I really liked was one with my dog Pooh. The picture didn't fit the profile.

This was followed by a serious look in the mirror. I decided I needed help so I called my friendly photographer to get an appointment. I have an appointment with him next Wednesday for a "sitting". I have an appointment with my hairdresser today for a trim and some serious searching in my closet and makeup bag to do before I go. My ego is on the line. I know how old I am - I just don't have to look at me all the time as a reminder

When I had a professional portrait done while I was working in the computer industry - there was the suit and small jewelry combined with minimal makeup - didn't need much then. School portraits were evidence of growing up. How does an artist/designer put her/himself out there. Do I leave my optivisor on? Find my most unique highly "artsy" top, dress in pajamas or a non-holey tee-shirt (reality)? Do I wear jewelry? How much makeup? Only at the end of the appointment on Wednesday will those answers be known.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Creating simple things is sometimes the most enjoyable

I went to school so that I could create custom jewelry for individuals. I started out in jewelry as a beader. I love pattern and color and texture. I love the satisfaction of completing a piece where I have chosen or created each component. A piece that displays my esthetic. I love the reaction that my creations give an appreciative audience when they receive or give something I have created.

The schools that trained me as a designer, gemologist and silver smith thought I would work in traditional jewelry, you know, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, gold and platinum. I did that for a while and I won awards for that work. I still do that work for myself and others, it is a part of what I do.

 I knew I wanted something different than that. I found myself coming back to the artisan work of stringing, wirework, kumihimo, chainmail. These are the skills that individuals who have artist's sensibilities use when they eliminate much of the technology in their creations. It is what I do when I watch tv, sit on an airplane, talk on the phone. It is the use of my hands and mind to create art that is mine.

What I get to create for myself and others is the piece that is missing from the artist's vision and that is the best thing I get to do. It is that clasp, cone, pendant, ring, charm, tag that fulfills and finishes the design.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Last weekend I was in Providence? Really?

This morning when I turned on my computer I got a note from Expedia asking me how I had enjoyed my visit at a Sheraton in Providence, Rhode Island? I was confused. I am not due to be in Rhode Island until June.

I checked my checking account, sure enough the hotel had charged for my stay. I checked my confirmation emails. OOPS!

Earlier this month while I was doing 3 shows in 3 weekends in 3 states I became a model of efficiency and started booking future reservations. You know that calendar you use when you book air, hotel, car or anything. I thought it was showing the month of June and it was April. So much for efficiency. After this error I went through all the show contracts, airline reservations, hotel bookings, etc.

A couple of years ago I was finished packing for the Bead and Button and went to the folder I use for shows - there I discovered that I had not booked airfare to Milwaukee. A week before the show I booked the airfare and made the show - it cost more than I wanted it to cost and it all worked out.

As many artists are I am a one person organization, I design for myself and work with other artists to create their designs, I handle the accounting, I am cook and bottle washer, dog walker, travel agent, etc. With all the check lists, folders, etc. somethings fall through the cracks. Luckily I booked a really good rate at the hotel, so this mistake didn't hurt much more than my pride.

Monday, March 28, 2011

White Bronze

We have a winner!!! Nancy Riordan guessed 1,2,3 and 7. Congratulations!!!! The magic that goes into this alloy is as follows:

Copper 61%
Manganese 17%
Zinc 16.3%
Beryllium 2.05%
Nickel 2% max
Lead 1.5%

The metal is durable. The manganese supports the lack of tarnishing. There is a very small amount of Nickel and Lead in the alloy. If you are concerned about reaction - the clasps can be clear coated using non-yellowing indoor-outdoor laquer.

The magnetic clasps are on the site now and advance orders are being taken.

Soon I will have many of your favorites like the Polka Dot Ruffle, Sea Urchin Ruffle, Chartres and Deco Triangle as well as the Gingko clasp available. I am having the cones done in white bronze so that those of you that do bead crochet, kumihimo, and multiple strand pieces can have the brilliant white of white bronze without the cost of silver. The clasps will be at the bronze price point.

Friday, March 25, 2011

White Bronze or Sterling Silver - Can you tell the difference?

With silver prices approaching $40 I figured something needed to be done to offer my customers clasps and finding product that would give them the durability and beauty that silver, jeweler's (or silicon) bronze and pink silver (or shibuichi) do.

As a white metal - pewter is an alternative that some have taken on. Since I work with clasps and other components that need tensile strength that is not acceptable. Plating is another thing that some have done, plating silver over brass doesn't work for me as many of my pieces rub each other and I don't want my customers coming back to me telling me their skin is turning green when the plate wears off.

I wanted to offer quality at an affordable price so we set out to do an experiment. We made some of my most expensive clasps out of an unexpected metal - white bronze. White bronze is an alloy of nickel, copper and zinc.

After the order was placed I waited nervously for the samples. Today they came.

I now have a challenge for you. I have taken a picture of both silver and white bronze clasps together. The first person who correctly names the clasps that are white bronze will win $25 worth of product on my website or $25 credit with your next purchase. One try per person.

There was no color correction used on this photo. If it is hard for you to figure out the difference I am thrilled and hope you are too. Email me at with your answers.
I am adding more clasps to the inventory this coming month and will post them on the website as I get them. This will offer you an option in white metal that is durable and affordable. Check for listings.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Predictions - good or bad

This weekend I am displaying in booth A29 at the Fountain Hills, AZ Great Fair which is one of the most hightly rated juried arts and crafts fairs in the U.S. The fair extends along the boulevards leading to the Fountain that is the center of this town outside Scottsdale, Arizona.

The weather for the 3 day weekend has gone through predictions of rain for two days, low temperatures, snow - snow. In fact I woke up the day before the show thinking maybe I should just forfeit the show fee and stay home where I could be warm and dry. However, I finished packing, grabbed my little dog Pooh Bear and drove my Airstream down to the RV park. My friend Piper came out and we setup under beautiful blue skies.

On Friday the skies remained blue and the breezes somewhat warm. Today we expect the high 60s with rain through the night. Sunday still may be cool.

This is all about predictions. I could be home where it would be warm and dry, but I wouldn't have met all the customers I met yesterday and sold all the pieces I sold. And I wouldn't have had the unexpected pleasure of seeing two old friends that came by my booth.

So much for predictions.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Home Again - Home Again Jiggedy Jig

This year weather tried to freeze us out. Planes stayed on the ground by the thousands. Water turned to ice. But we had a good/not great show. We got to see friends, new and old customers. This year there was no after the show flu to overcome. New products were admired. We made a change by showing at the AGTA show while maintaining a booth at the Best Bead Show. At the end we said goodby - hitched up and drove home in daylight.

In a couple of weeks we will be at the Great Fair in Fountain Hills and then on to Santa Fe. I feel that I got to grow up and join a wonderful circus. I am indeed lucky!

Have you ever heard of white bronze? More in a week or so.

Monday, January 31, 2011

AGTA all day

This is my first AGTA show - Elaine - a former teacher of mine who is assisting me at the show and I worked all day today putting the booth together. Up until I discovered lights that decided not to work, and other interesting things that could not be fixed with zip ties, windex or duct tape did we find ourselves driving all over Tucson to find an Office Max, Michaels and Home Depot to finish the project.

Tomorrow morning at 10 the doors open and booth 3706 will be ready. My body will have ample ibuprophen to make it through the day. I lifted, climbed, crawled, and moved stuff for many hours today and my body will tell me about it tomorrow.

Lisa Kan and I met tonight to exchange things so that she would be ready for setting up the Best Bead Show tomorrow. My planning left a lot to be desired. There are things I set aside for her that I forgot to put in the vehicle to take to her.

For someone who likes to have it all together - today has not been a stellar day. Tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Beautiful Day in Tucson

I had a day off before I setup tomorrow so I walked around Tucson. I went to the To Bead True Blue show where many of my friends are displaying. The crowds looked up and cheerful and I saw many bags being carried away from the booths. - it was all good.

I then visited the motels next to Interstate 10 and saw many people in very good moods and lots of people walking around with bags with lots of stuff - that was good.

Tomorrow I setup for the AGTA show which starts on Tuesday - On Wednesday night the Best Bead Show opens and I will be there. I hope to see many happy people with lots of bags filled with wonderful things at both of these shows.

I ended my day with friends at my favorite Mexican Restaurant - we had home made tortilla chips with 4 kinds of salsa, wonderful main courses, margaritas mmmmm! and for desert Sopapillas and Fried Ice cream. If you come by my booth and ask - I will tell you what restaurant it is.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Designers are allowed to change their minds

That last clasp I posted has gone to cyber heaven. I woke up the next day and looked at it and realized that it reminded me of two paper clips hooked together. Designers - namely me this time - need to change their minds. Sometime later a better version of that clasp will come to me - or it won't. Sometimes I have gone through the whole process of designing a piece, sending it off to get a wax made, had masters created, molds made and manufacturing done and when the product was delivered I wondered what I was thinking. This time I got there early.

I am in Tucson. All the gear for two shows, my inventory, recently purchased groceries, the Yukon and the Airstream are parked in a tiny rustic RV park in southwest Tucson. The people are friendly and the price is right.

Tomorrow I get to go do a little shopping at some of the dealers in the motels along I10 and go see some friends at the To Bead True Blue show at the Double Tree Reid Park. Maybe tomorrow night I will get to go to one of my favorite Mexican Restaurants if my friends are up for it. There is nothing worse than eating a whole bowl of chips and salsa by yourself.

Then on Monday (they say it is going to rain) I will set up my booth at the AGTA show and pass off inventory and display things to Lisa Kan who will be working with me at the Best Bead Show. She will be showing her beautiful things as well as mine.

I feel good this year about the shows and the jewelry business. We are coming out the other end of the tunnel and I can see light -

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My trailer is packed and ready to go-now I get to design stuff

My living room is now clear of the two show setups. Everything is in the Yukon and the Airstream other than inventory and food. I have a moment to relax. I have been working over a design in my head for months. Everytime I tried to design in in CAD it ended up looking ugly. After I saw that I might be able to relax for a little while before I pull out for Tucson Saturday morning it came to me.

I have always liked the infinity sign - it is seen as the number 8 in Chinese. I wanted to make a design using this symbol. I wanted it to be fairly large 40x12 mm (1.6 inches by .5 inch) but light and easy to use without a mechanical movement and secure. This is how I try to design all the clasps now especially now that metal prices are so high.
Double Infinity Clasp
I like the idea of using such a powerful symbol as a clasp. I hope that the designers that use my clasps think that the clean light lines of this clasp will work well in their neckaces and bracelets.

Friday, January 21, 2011

There has been an explosion in my house-getting ready for Tucson

This year I am showing at two shows. AGTA at the convention center and Best Bead at the Kino Center with Lisa Kan. I am getting ready for both shows.

The piles of stock, marketing, displays, are accumulating in my livingroom, dining room, out on the porch. My Yukon is starting to be loaded and my 22 foot Airstream Trailer is now being loaded with clothes and supplies. This is the part where I don't know if I will be done before it is time. My nightmare is thinking I will leave my purse on the table at home and not realize it until I am entering Tucson.
This is my rig - my home away from home. My dog Pooh Bear thinks I have it so that he can have a kennel with a view. Before I go to Tucson - everything I need will go into these two vehicles. Honk if you see me going by.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Products in just before Tucson!!!!!

Fedex delivered this week. Lots of new designs to be introduced in Tucson.
Ancient Treasures
Greek Key which is also available in bronze

Chartres Circle

Dream Catcher
Creating rings is my guilty pleasure - this one is available in multiple sizes and can be ordered in your selection of metal - with or without gemstones.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tucson Tips

One of the most complete sources of information for Tucson is found on the;  If you need to find the dates of a show, a vendor, or certain kind of product, look in the show guide on line. The printed version is the size of a big phone book but the show guide on line is weightless and you can print out what you want.

Getting to Tucson is interesting. Some fly - some drive - some live there. Flying into Tucson is easy, getting a rental car isn't so easy if you book late in the season. There are shuttles and they visit some of the hotels and most of the shows. If you look in the jewelry show guide you will find out which goes where. An option is flying into Phoenix and getting a rental car there and then driving to Tucson - 2 hours or so. You then will have wheels to go where you want to when you want to go.

  • A wheeled suitcase or shopping bag is important I think. After carrying many pounds of beads from place to place you will have a numb arm or a sore shoulder.
  • Bring water and easy to carry snacks - making decisions on an empty stomach is not good. 
  • If you have a tax id and plan to purchase in quantity - bring copies of your tax license, business cards, etc. so that you have the opportunity to purchase at a wholesale discount. Also some shows that are wholesale only will not let you in without this proof.
  • Inform your credit card companies and bank that you are going to the show and that they should expect charges from all over. There is nothing worse than finding out that your credit card is frozen on a Friday night.
  • Make copies of all important credit cards and documents and keep them separate in case you lose the originals. Use the safe at the hotel.
  • Some of my favorite shows include AGTA (wholesale only),  GJX, Best Bead, the Holodome (overwhelming), the shows in the motels next to the freeway where you can find everything from genuine plastic amber to gemstones that will blow your mind. Some of the shows have great educational opportunities, many free.
  • Last little note - I have bought genuine plastic amber - and gemstones that blew my mind.
Surrounding Tucson are beautiful mountains. For those that have the time and desire there are places not associated with gemstones, beads and stuff. It is worth a visit in it's own right.