Going With the Flow

The Florence Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

The Florence Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

Something broke loose recently. I’m not sure what or how, but after months of being stuck in what felt like a mental logjam, I’m finally back in the flow. Back in a flow, that is. I have no idea where the current will take me, but I’m so relieved to finally be moving forward that I don’t think I care.

On the jewelry front, I’ve been busy. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m working through Sarah Thompson’s new book, Fine Art Wire Weaving. I’ve been making jewelry my whole life, and I’ve been focused on wire jewelry specifically for about five years now.

The Calligraphy Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

The Calligraphy Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

I feel like I’ve explored just about every wire wrapping style and technique there is at this point, but the techniques I’m picking up from Sarah Thompson are proving to be the key to unlocking my own personal wire wrapping style. After years of creating jewelry that was almost, but not quite, what I’d envisioned, I’m finally starting to find my own creative “voice”.

The Raindrop Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

The Raindrop Pendant: Design by Sarah Thompson; crafted by Wendi Reamy

The three pieces featured in this post are Sarah Thompson’s designs–projects from her book. Sarah’s book has not only been instructive, but it’s been tremendously inspiring as well. Stay tuned for some of my own original designs, which I can create to my own satisfaction now that I’ve finally found the right weaves and construction techniques to translate my ideas into finished jewelry.

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Back in the Creative Groove

The original intent of this blog was to share my jewelry, my creative process, and the ways in which my life influences my jewelry and vice versa. My plan at the beginning of 2013 was to step my life-long jewelry hobby up to a business, but I got married that year instead.

I thought I’d try again to launch the jewelry business in 2014, but instead I became a full-time mom when my stepdaughter came to live with her father and me. The first half of 2015 was an absolute whirlwind with job changes and lawyers and school and cello lessons and moving to a new city, but things are starting to settle down now, and I’m finally finding the time to get back to my personal goals.

Having been out of the daily habit of making jewelry for a very long time, I decided to get back into the groove by honing my metalworking skills and experimenting with some new wire-wrapping techniques. The following images are the results of some of my first focused attempts at wire work in… well… a very long time.

Nicole Hanna of Nicole Hanna Jewelry has long been an inspiration for me. Where she finds the time and energy to do all that she does is beyond me, but besides making gorgeous jewelry and writing fabulous tutorials for aspiring wire wrappers, she also runs a great page on Facebook that’s become a sort of gathering place where artists help artists by sharing tips, techniques, and tutorials. The page is relatively new, but I’m amazed by how quickly its membership has exploded, and that’s largely because Nicole has a huge following in the wire wrapped jewelry world. Seriously, if you’ve never heard of her, it must be because you’re not a wire worker. Or a hand crafted jewelry lover.

Anyway, long story short, Nicole has this way of getting people to step out of their comfort zone and create stuff they might not ordinarily attempt. This month she issued a challenge for group members to create something with a leaf theme using only wire, a single bead, and no tools besides wire cutters and a single pair of jewelry pliers.

Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s not. Particularly if you’ve taken a couple of years away from wire work in order to focus one some huge life changes. Add to that the fact that I love tools. I generally work with a minimum of three different sets of pliers, so committing to using a single pair for this challenge was almost physically painful for me. This piece fought me every inch of the way. I scrapped my first attempt and restarted the design. I broke several wires. Nothing flowed properly or ended up looking quite the way I saw it in my mind, but I finally ended up with a piece I liked enough to submit for the contest. And then I broke the bead while I was doing the final polish. Ugh! Another repair (and more wire added to my scrap bin), another round of the whole clean/patina/clean/polish routine (my least favorite part of the whole process); and this is the result of all that wire and frustration (not to mention some pretty colorful language):

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Dew-laden Aspen Leaf – design inspired by Nicole Hanna of Nicole Hanna Jewelry.

It’s my interpretation of a dew-laden Aspen leaf in the fall. The colors are peaking here in Colorado this week, so it’s a timely tribute to my favorite season. The design is also a nod to Nicole Hanna’s style, which I adore even though I’ve never quite been able to do her designs justice.

As a jewelry artist, I don’t wear a lot of jewelry that I didn’t make myself, but I make an exception for Nicole’s work. I own three Nicole Hanna originals, and I gush about her work like a proud parent whenever someone compliments me on one of those pieces.

The second big challenge I took on this week was a pair of earrings designed by another jewelry rock star whose work I shamelessly worship. I mentioned Sarah Thompson in  a previous post after I’d taken her online course through Craftsy.com. I first discovered Sarah’s work a couple of years ago while I was looking for wire wrapped inspiration on Etsy. It was there that I first saw her Scorpio earrings, and I fell in love with her work the moment I laid eyes on them. As luck would have it, Sarah included that particular earring design in her new book, Fine Art Wire Weaving.

Here’s my first attempt at that design:

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Scorpio Earrings – Design by Sara Thompson

Fricken fabulous, aren’t they? I can’t begin to explain how inspiring her work is, so go check it our yourself at Sarah-n-Dippity! And tell her I said hello. Cuz that’s not creepy at all.

Now that I’m finally back to focusing on jewelry, this blog might start to have fewer words and more pictures. Probably not a bad thing, given my tendency to ramble.

Oh, one more thing… Welcome to all the new followers I’ve picked up over the past few weeks. Thank you for taking the time to read and share my blog.

Now, go make something beautiful!

Rubbing Elbows with Jewelry Rockstars

WP_20150731_016It’s impossible to create in a bubble. For me, anyway. I find that my work is continually influenced and challenged by that of other artists I admire. One of my biggest wire-wrapped jewelry idols is Sarah Thompson of Sarah-n-Dippity. Her work is modern, yet romantic with just the right amount of edginess.

Sarah has been getting quite a bit of press in the jewelry world lately because her first book, Fine Art Wire Weaving, is scheduled for release in September. I’ve been inspired by her work for a couple of years now, so I’ve been dabbling a bit with jewelry in her style through online classes and excerpts from her book that have been featured recently in magazines such as Belle Armoire Jewelry and Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry.

These four bracelets are some of the results of my exploration of Sarah’s style. I’m looking forward to seeing how her style and the techniques I’ve picked up from her influence my jewelry. The two love knot bracelets are m y own designs, using the techniques and concepts I learned through creating the other two bracelets, which are Sarah’s designs. I’m toying with a few more knotted designs in my head right now as I type.

WP_20150731_004I shared these photos in the projects area of Sarah’s wire wrapping course on Craftsy today, and I was thrilled to get a response from her. It turns out she’s working on a similar knotted bracelet design for a future Step-by-Step edition, and she liked my spin on that idea. She said it was “super cool”, and I’ve been grinning like a fool ever since.

Some people get excited about a close encounter with rock stars. I get excited about a complement from one of my jewelry idols. Today is a good day.

The Big Reveal

IMG_6633About once every decade or so, I get the urge to tackle a monumental cross-stitch or needlepoint project. I finished a Celtic Lion and Lamb rug designed by Alice Starmore and featured in her book, Celtic Needlepoint (Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1994) in 2005. I think I actually started that rug in 1999, so it was a six-year labor of love.

When it comes to needlework, I tend to work on projects in fits and starts. I’ll stitch steadily for a few weeks, and then I’ll put the project aside for a while—sometimes years. I currently have two projects in progress that I haven’t touched in several months. I’ll eventually finish them, but for now, they’re waiting patiently in a drawer in my craft armoire. When I decided to make a very personal wedding tapestry, though, I didn’t want to drag that project out over a period of months or years. I wanted it to be displayed in our home as soon as possible considering I didn’t even start stitching it until the month after our first wedding anniversary.

I originally envisioned a hanging tapestry finished something like my rug, but I ultimately decided to frame the stitched piece to better preserve it. It is, after all, something that will be displayed in our home for the rest of our lives. Our daughter was very interested in watching this piece come to life, so perhaps it will even become a treasured family heirloom that she can pass down to her own child someday. A mom can only hope…

I documented the progress of our wedding tapestry here, here, and here in case you’re curious about the process. We picked up the finished piece from the frame shop on Valentine’s Day (a happy coincidence), and it’s been hanging above our dining room table ever since. Photographing the piece has proved to be a challenge because the lighting in that area of our apartment is poor, and the conservation glass I selected to protect the tapestry from UV damage is highly reflective. The photo above doesn’t do the finished tapestry justice at all, but it’s the best image we were able to get.

This is, by far, the largest needlepoint piece I’ve ever done in terms of stitch count. I limited the palette to just three colors, which made for a fairly simple pattern, but the stitch count alone (239 stitches wide by 310 stitches high) made it an incredibly labor-intensive project. I never keep track of time when I’m stitching because it’s something I do purely for pleasure. But if I had to guess, I’d say there are over 200 hours of stitching alone in this particular project. That doesn’t include the many hours I worked on the design. It’s the first semi-custom pattern I’ve ever done. I purchased a pattern for the center monogram from New York Needleworks and added our name, wedding date, and a simple border.

Truly a labor of love.

Does Happiness Kill Creativity?

I used to crank out jewelry like a machine. I’d come home from a stressful day at work, and I’d sit down and lose myself in the process of cutting, shaping, hammering, and wrapping wire into pleasing forms. It wasn’t uncommon for me to make a half dozen pairs of earrings in a single sitting, and designs seemed to flow effortlessly from an image in my mind to the wire in my hand. That process seemed so automatic at times that I wouldn’t fully realize all I’d accomplished until I lined everything up on my workbench to determine how many batches I’d need to tumble polish overnight.

And then I got married. My life is so very different now. I no longer have a stressful job. I no longer work in an office full of snarky coworkers continually looking for ways to get under each other’s skin. I’m no longer responsible for keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars steadily flowing into the company’s coffers each month. I’m no longer fighting an up-hill battle against a CEO who can look me in the eye and (with a straight face, mind you) say, “I’m not a manager. I’m a nurse.”

Work was just part of the pre-marriage stress in my life, though. Some of the other stressors I left behind when I got married are my alcoholic father; a small, backwards town that is essentially owned and operated by some of the most corrupt people I’ve ever had the misfortune to know; and struggling to make ends meet on a diminished salary because I was underemployed when my husband and I started dating. Making jewelry back then was a welcome escape from an unpleasant and seemingly hopeless reality.

Today I am living a very different reality—one from which I have neither the need nor the desire to escape. I can’t recall another time in my life when I felt so content and carefree. I have an amazing husband who is my partner in every aspect of the word. I have a bright and beautiful daughter who fills our home with music and laughter. For the first time in my adult life, I have the luxury of not needing to work for a living. That’s big. Prior to marrying my husband in 2013, I’d worked full-time and lived solely on my personal income for nearly twenty-five years.

Sometimes I worry that I’m going to turn into a bored housewife, but I’m never bored. I’m never lacking for something to do, so boredom is perhaps the least of my concerns. What does concern me, though, is that I seem to have lost both my ability and my desire to create jewelry. I still have plenty of ideas in mind, but translating those ideas to wire no longer flows effortlessly. Rather than making finished jewelry ready to be antiqued and polished, I find myself making large piles of scrap wire and walking away feeling annoyed and frustrated. I’ve even tried new media recently with the hope that learning new techniques and working with new materials might reignite my creative spark. It hasn’t worked. Yet.

When I agreed to quit my job and move to Denver so my husband could advance his career, I imagined myself turning my jewelry hobby into a home business. I was excited about the prospect of working from home and finally having the time and energy to focus completely on something I love. And now that I have an abundance of time and energy to focus on making jewelry, I no longer have the urge to create.

There’s a reason the image of the tortured artist is so pervasive. Art, I suspect, is something akin to gemstones in that a certain degree of pressure is necessary for its creation. So I find myself wondering, is it possible to create art without stress?

Does happiness kill creativity?

Itching to Stitch – Part III

Part of my charm is that I’m undaunted by large projects. The bigger the better, really. My proclivity for massive undertakings does present certain challenges in terms of balance, however. This particular project has proved to be more of a full-time job than an evening pastime, I’m afraid. I’m not getting much of anything else done while this project consumes my time, but it’s been fun to watch our wedding tapestry evolve from a cartoon to a nearly finished piece.

Here’s a quick look at the evolution of a needlepoint tapestry.

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Center monogram pattern designed by Marlene of New York Needleworks.

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As I approach the home stretch on this needlepoint project, I’m already thinking about my next big project, which is to set up an online store for my jewelry. And of course I have tons of ideas for jewelry that I’m anxious to create.

 

 

 

Itching to Stitch – Part II

WP_20141215_002It took months to locate the materials for our wedding tapestry. During that period between the completion of the final design and the day that my specially ordered wool arrived, it never really occurred to me just how monumental a project this really is. The finished pattern is 239 stitches wide by 310 stitches long. That’s 74, 090 individual stitches, not including the finishing hem and tapestry loops, which I haven’t figured out yet. By my estimation, I’ve completed less than a quarter of that project so far, but I am enjoying every minute and every stitch.

I’m the sort of person who likes to take on large projects. As a kid, I always gravitated to the most complicated jigsaw puzzles with the largest number of pieces. I’ve single-handedly tackled two full house remodels. Well, three actually, but I abandoned the third project when I moved to Denver and married my husband last year. As I understand it, the couple who bought that house from me successfully completed the work I started and have since settled in comfortably.

During my corporate drone period, I was the person who inevitably ended up taking on the big, messy projects that everyone agreed were necessary, but no one wanted to own because the effort to accolade ratio wasn’t high enough. These were huge projects that took years to complete. I once developed a routine network maintenance program for a massive satellite communications network that covered the entire state of Alaska. While working for that same company, I later spent over two years rebuilding an entire database of thousands of circuit layout records that were lost due to a poorly planned migration from one database system to another. I suppose you can say I have a high tolerance for tedious work.

I remember a conversation I had once with a man I dated briefly in 2010. I was working on a different stitching project at the time, and he made sort of a snide remark about how much time I “wasted” stitching. I pointed out to him that the time I spent stitching was essentially the same amount of time that he spent sitting at a bar, drinking beer and talking about nothing in particular with whomever happened to sit on the stool next to him. At the end of the day, I was creating something lasting and concrete in my spare time while he was merely killing time and brain cells. To his credit, he acknowledged that I was right. He even curbed his drinking and started a fitness program for a while after that, but it wasn’t long before he returned to his comfort zone and we parted ways.

The point I suppose I’m trying to make is this: how you choose to spend your time is important. Are your chosen pastimes creative or destructive?

Do you have something positive and concrete to show for your efforts at the end of the day?

Are you spinning wool with which you can knit a sweater, or are you just spinning in drama by picking fights with your spouse or kids?

Are you cooking wholesome and healthy meals from fresh ingredients for your family, or are you mindlessly shoveling commercially processed junk food into your mouth while staring blankly at your TV?

How you choose to spend your time is important. I can’t stress that point enough.

I’ve always instinctively appreciated processes more than the outcomes. The moment I finish one large project, I find myself immediately seeking out the next one because it’s in the midst of the work—whatever sort of work it might be—where I find peace and contentment. Whether I’m stitching, making jewelry, or untangling a massive snarl of digital data records, I’ve noticed that I tend to settle into a steady, meditative rhythm as I work. And it’s there in that rhythm that I feel most connected to my source.

I believe that we’re all designed to be creative. The idea that some people are creative and others are not is utter nonsense. We’re all creative at our core. When creative energy isn’t allowed to flow naturally, however, it can easily turn destructive. And that destructive energy manifests in ways that beget more destruction. Substance abuse, violence, drama… these are all cycles of destructive energy that are completely unnecessary, and they can be eliminated merely by redirecting that energy into some sort of creative channel.

Life is short. Find a creative outlet for your spare time. Spin wool instead of drama. Sculpt clay instead of shaping political discourse. Carve wood instead of driving wedges between yourself and your loved ones. Take up competitive archery instead of shooting barbed insults at those with whom you don’t agree.

There’s an infinite well of peace and joy to be found in the creative process. It’ll change your life. I guarantee it.

Taking the Plunge

Earrings 037I’ve been talking about this since 2010 when I found myself suddenly, if not unexpectedly, free of the soul sucking Twin Vortices of Evil. Back then, making jewelry was my particular brand of therapy. Hammering wire was a safe and welcome release for the pent up frustration that comes from working within a spiritually draining organization while weaving chain and wrapping wire gave me the sense of achievement that my day job failed to provide.

Since then, my path from hobbyist to professional jeweler has proceeded in a two steps forward; three steps back fashion of fits and starts. I realized recently, after reading a wonderful post from Charrette Metal Crafts, that the one thing that has been keeping me from taking the plunge into entrepreneurship is fear—not the fear of failure, which would actually make sense, but a completely irrational fear of success. As 2015 approaches, however, I’m finding my stride. I’m finally ready to move beyond the fear and take the plunge into self-employment.

Door 44 Designs is beginning to take shape, and my jewelry will soon be available for sale online. In the meantime, I’ve renamed my blog to more accurately reflect what I’ve always intended it to be: a behind-the-scenes glimpse into my creative process along with my thoughts about life, art, and the myriad connections I find between the two.

I’m excited to unveil my re-branded blog, BeyondDoor44.com, and I look forward to connecting with you there. Thank you so much for reading, following, liking, and sharing my posts. I’ve met some wonderful people here—some truly amazing artists—and I learn something new every day from your insightful posts and comments. So, thank you, too, for sharing your own unique perspectives.

Life is short. Don’t let the fear of success stop you from doing what you love.

Itching to Stitch

House of ReamyI’ve loved the needle arts since I was a little girl when my grandmother first taught me some basic embroidery stitches. Since then I’ve completed dozens of cross stitch and needlepoint projects—most of them from kits or books. My largest and most ambitious project to date is a cross stitch rug that is approximately 3’ x 5’. The rug, which depicts a Celtic lion and lamb, is designed by Alice Starmore and is featured in her book, Celtic Needlepoint (Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1994). That rug hangs on a tapestry rod above the TV in our living room presently, and it’s one of my most treasured pieces of personal art.

Last year when my husband and I got married, I decided I wanted to stitch a personalized tapestry to commemorate our marriage. After weeks of toying with design ideas, I ultimately settled on the design pictured here. I purchased the pattern for the center monogram from New York Needleworks, and then I added our name, marriage date and a border using PCStitch. It’s my first semi-custom design, and I’m dying to finally begin stitching.

It took quite a long time to gather the materials necessary to complete this project. It’s been many years since I completed my needlepoint rug, so I was blissfully unaware that the original manufacturer of Paternayan wool (my favorite needlework yarn) had gone out of business not long after I purchased the wool to complete the rug project. As luck would have it, however, a new manufacturer, Saco River Dyehouse, recently began reproducing this gorgeous wool. I managed to locate a wonderful local retail supplier for the new Paternayan wool. The timing of my itch to stitch a new needlepoint project and the renewed production of my favorite wool is truly remarkable. I was amused to discover that nearly all of the wool in stock at my local supplier was from dye lot 001.

Needlepoint is sort of a bastard art in the United States. It’s far more popular in Europe, so it’s not always easy to locate materials here in the US. If you or anyone you know is looking for a reliable source for stitching supplies, I highly recommend A Stitching Shop. Ask for Christine and tell her I sent you. She caters to several stitching disciplines, she carries a fantastic range of products, and her customer service is truly exceptional.

Life is short. Do something you love, no matter how long and hard you must search for the perfect materials. The challenge of locating the materials to stitch this very personal piece makes this tapestry even more special for me and my husband. Now that I finally have all the materials I need and I’ve nearly finished graphing the canvas, I can hardly wait to start stitching.

Happy Medium

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My first attempt at making a braided cord necklace (waxed nylon jewelry cord with Czech glass and metal beads) . The leather monogram pendant was made by my good friend, Laura Hansen.

Every artist has a preferred medium—the go-to material that provides the foundation of their work. My favorite material is metal, and I’m not very particular about the type or alloy. I’ve worked with lead, copper, silver, bronze, gold, aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, iron and brass. Each one has unique characteristics and even a personality of its own, but something all metals have in common is that they are predictable.

Being a bit (okay, maybe a lot) of a control freak, I like the precision I can achieve with metal. I’ve dabbled with other media—wood, for instance—but I inevitably migrate back to metal when I can’t achieve the level of precision and the clean lines that sooth my inner perfectionist.

Early in 2013 when I started dating my husband, I was happily making chain mail and wire-wrapped jewelry, and I was starting to explore increasingly more intricate styles of wire wrapping. I discovered amazing artists like Nicole Hanna, Ivona Posavi Pšak, Sarah Thompson, Kornelia Kubinowska, and Iza Malczyk. I dove into learning new techniques through Nicole’s and Kornelia’s tutorials, and I was immediately hooked.

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This is my first attempt at the macrame bracelet technique taught by Sandra Younger, creator of the Knotty Do-It-All. See theknottydoitall.com for more info.

I spent every spare minute working with wire, and then life got in the way. I started spending more of my spare time with my husband and less learning new wire-wrapping techniques. Pretty soon, I stopped making jewelry altogether because it wasn’t long after we started dating that we decided to get married. The next several months were a whirlwind of packing, moving, getting married, unpacking, merging two households, purging excess belongings, and adjusting to being a full-time stepmom.

Now that life is finally settling down into what has become my new normal, I’ve tried to pick up where I left off on wire-wrapping, and I’ve been horrified to discover that I apparently lost my edge. The precision that once came so easily seems unattainable now. I’ve started countless projects only to toss them into my scrap bin in disgust when it became painfully clear that the finished piece wouldn’t meet my expectations.

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This is a simple copper wire monogram I created out of scrap wire so I could experiment more with this macrame technique. I kinda like the way it turned out!

At some point amid all that frustration it finally occurred to me to try redirecting my creative energy down a new path. I wrote about that insight here, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see forward progress with something as simple as a change in medium.

Unlike metal, cord is not a material with which I can achieve perfection. In fact it’s infuriatingly prone to imperfection in certain ways, but that imperfection has proved to be surprisingly liberating for this (formerly?) Type-A personality.

The past two years have softened me in ways I never would have imagined possible. I’m more flexible and less attached to perfection. I’m more open to allowing a piece to evolve organically and less determined to adhere to my original vision of the finished piece. I’m less attached to outcomes and more curious about the creative process.

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Another quick and dirty wire focal piece that I made so I could master this cord technique. I’m a Leo, and I’ve always wanted to create an astrology collection. This concept has potential, I think.

This is uncharted territory for me. Historically, I’ve been a pretty driven and results-oriented individual, and those qualities are clearly reflected in my work. As I’ve explored various cord and macramé techniques, however, I’ve been surprised to discover that imperfection can be beautiful, too. I’ve included a few photos of my most recent experiments with cord techniques. Cord is still new to me, so these pieces aren’t quite as refined as I’d like them to be. I’m very pleased with my early attempts, though. Perhaps I’ve finally found a happy medium.

Life is short. Don’t waste time and energy pursuing perfection if it keeps you from loving what you do.