Fly With Me

fly-with-meWhen it comes to jewelry, there are two kinds of people. There are those who see jewelry strictly as fashion accessories, and then there are those who see jewelry as deeply personal pieces of personal expression. I find that most of my customers tend to fall into the latter group, which is extremely fortunate for me because I learn so much from their stories and from working with them to create something that is uniquely their own.

Every now and then, I get a custom request that reminds me that I am ultimately in the business of helping people, and “Fly With Me” began with one such request. On December 3rd, I received an inquiry for a custom piece from a guy who is clearly head-over-heels in love with his girlfriend. He explained that his girlfriend lost her horse suddenly eight months ago, and she’s been grieving ever since.

I’ve had a life-long love affair with horses myself, and I’ve had some mystical experiences with them through the years. So, I completely understand the depth of the bonds that form between horses and the women who love them. The story broke my heart, but at first I declined the request because I’m unfamiliar with horsehair as an art medium. I referred the customer to a company that specializes in horse hair jewelry, but sadly, the lock of hair his girlfriend managed to keep from her horse was too short for that company to use. They’d already been turned away from there. At that point, I realized that I needed to take this commission, if for no other reason than to give a grieving young woman some peace.

Once I agreed to the commission, the design came together almost effortlessly. “Fly With Me” is one of those rare pieces that allowed me to get into that elusive flow that every artist lives for. Anyone who has ever galloped freely across an open field on the back of a beloved horse knows very well the sensation of flying just above the ground, and the horses we’ve loved and lost remain forever in our hearts. They’re angels with hooves. Wings seemed like the perfect theme for this piece, and I love the way the wings turned out. They’re subtle, and they frame the focal piece—a tassel, which is made with a lock of a beloved horse’s mane—perfectly.

Since this is the first time I’ve ever worked with horsehair, making the tassel was a bit nerve-wracking. The client provided precious little hair, so there was absolutely no room for error. Once I finally worked up the courage to give it a go, however, even that part of the process flowed effortlessly. “Fly With Me” is just one of those pieces that was meant to be, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it!

“Fly With Me” consists of .999 fine silver wings which frame a horsehair tassel capped in silver plated pewter and sterling silver wire. The pendant, which is approximately two inches wide by three inches long, is suspended from a patterned sterling silver chain. The chain is accented with pretty little gray and aqua blue Amazonite beads and finished with a hand forged sterling silver clasp.

Amazonite is a healing stone that is believed to help soothe emotional trauma, and I can think of few things more emotionally traumatic than suddenly losing a beloved horse. They’re such powerful creatures, yet their lives are startlingly fragile. That, of course, makes them all the more precious to those of us who know and love them.

If you’d like a special horse remembrance necklace of your own, please email your request. I plan to make this design, along with one or two other concepts currently in the works, available in my shop in 2017 as made-to-order semi-custom designs.

 

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You’ll Know Your Work is Getting Noticed When…

…the Internet trolls start hating on you. It’s one of those things you always half expect to happen as a working artist (or just as a healthy, functioning human being who interacts with the outside world, I suppose), but it’s no less shocking or upsetting when it finally does happen.

My initiation to the sad, twisted world of unhappy Etsy trolls happened today. Mere minutes after receiving a new order and while still riding the high I get when I’m preparing a shipment for a new customer, I opened my email to find this:

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Initially, I intended to show my sweet little troll’s user name to properly call her out as the shameful coward that she is, but a quick Bing search suggested that, although it’s likely this handle is used by one individual all over social media, it’s equally possible that there is more than one person going by that name. I don’t want to inadvertently disparage someone by that same name who does not run around the Internet verbally attacking people behind the guise of a nameless, faceless Etsy user profile. So, I’ll just refer to this individual as My Pet Troll or MPT from now on.

I replied immediately to MPT and invited her (I presume she’s female, based on her user name) to a very open and honest discussion about which pieces in my shop she feels are stolen. Needless to say, the response to my invitation has been deafening silence thus far. I’ll let you know if she does accept my invitation to hash things out.

Here’s the thing: an unfortunate reality of being a working artist and throwing your work out there for all the world to see is that people are going to knock off your designs. That’s just the nature of art as a business. If I had a dime for every one of my designs that I’ve seen pinned to someone’s “Projects to Try” board on Pinterest, I’d make way more money than I’ve made from sales of those same designs through my Etsy shop. The numbers aren’t even in the same ballpark, as a matter of fact. One of my most popular items on Pinterest, my Trumpet Vine Earrings (pictured below), has been pinned nearly 1000 times through multiple image sources to inspiration boards all over Pinterest. I’ve yet to sell the first pair of those earrings, which is a shame because they are truly lovely. Photos simply don’t do them justice, but I digress.

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Am I under any illusion that people aren’t already knocking off this lovely earring design? Nope!

Do I care? Honestly… a little, but not as much as you might think. For one thing, I know perfectly well that I’ve drawn inspiration from other wireworkers while honing my own wire work skills over the past several years. I still draw inspiration from other artists, to some degree, though the field of artists who inspire me narrows as quickly as my own design skills and confidence improve. I don’t believe I’ve ever overtly stolen another artist’s designs, but I’d be lying if I said I never got ideas from other people’s work. I don’t live in a bubble. I see all the same things on Pinterest as everyone else who shares my interest in wire jewelry, and with a nearly photographic memory for things that catch my eye, it’s virtually impossible to erase anything I’ve ever seen from my mind.

One of the ways I strive to stay true to my own creativity is that I don’t keep any visual references within eyesight while I work. My laptop is not even in the same room while I am designing, and I have to get out of my chair and walk clear across the room to reach my bookshelves if I need to refer to a book or magazine article for technical reference. The only time I keep a visual reference in front of me is if I am consciously recreating a project from a purchased tutorial or book, and as of last year, I’ve stopped purchasing books or tutorials for wire wrapped jewelry, which is my primary discipline. I reserve browsing Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for times when I am away from my workbench and out of work mode, and then I consciously stay off the Internet and away from photographic images of jewelry when I sit down to work.

I’ve also been signing up for a few classes in other jewelry making disciplines, such as bead embroidery and micro macramé, for two reasons: First I feel it’s important to give myself a mental and physical break from wire wrapping now and then. Secondly, I’m interested in further setting my work apart from other wire artists by integrating other techniques and disciplines that interest me.

If you’ve been paying attention to the progression of my work, you’ve probably noticed that I’m starting to do a lot of multi-media pieces, like this Starfish Necklace, which I recently completed in response to a design challenge proposed by micro macramé artist extraordinaire, Sherri Stokey of Knot Just Macramé on the wonderful blog to which Sherri contributes, Love My Art Jewelry:

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My system for maintaining design integrity isn’t perfect. I don’t doubt that the work of certain artists I admire clearly influences my own work, and I openly address that fact in my product descriptions as well as in my Etsy profile. Short of properly crediting those artists when I do create something designed or inspired by them and continually policing the visuals available to me while I am in design mode, I don’t know what else I can do to ensure that my designs are purely and clearly my own.

Several hours after reaching out to her, I’m still waiting for MPT to tell me which of my designs she believes have been stolen from another artist, but I won’t be surprised if I never hear from her again. Not directly, anyway. If she stays true to the tried and true Internet troll formula, she may very well start anonymously bashing my work on every social media platform where I have a presence. And my response will remain the same. I’ll invite her to engage with me in a civil discussion about my work so we can get to the bottom of this “creative theft” nonsense.

Thankfully, I recently had a very different conversation with a happy repeat customer who sincerely admires my work. Had I not already been actively engaging in a discussion about the evolution of personal design style, my response to MPT might have been far less calm and rational, so I owe this wonderful customer a huge debt of gratitude for that as well as for her continued encouragement and support.

According to this lovely lady, who makes no effort at all to hide her true identity in her own Etsy profile by the way, my work has a certain recognizable style that she feels she could identify even if not clearly credited to me. That, of course, is the highest compliment any artist can ever hope to receive. That unique individual style is what every working artist strives to achieve because no one with even a modicum of integrity wants to be accused of creative theft.

Life is hard enough without hating on random strangers we encounter on the Internet, isn’t it? One of the things I told my lovely customer, who is also a jewelry maker, is that there’s more than enough room at the table for all of us because we all have something unique and special to offer the world. I hope to be the sort of artist who encourages up and coming artists to spread their wings and fly.

I’m on the fence as to whether or not I’ll start offering any of my designs for sale as tutorials or start formally teaching classes. Part of the challenge of that for me is that I’m left handed, so writing tutorials and taking photos that will make sense to everyone may be tricky. That said, I trust that those who admire my work will treat my designs as respectfully as they’d like me to treat their own designs. If we all do that, we’ll all thrive. Believe it or not, there are enough potential customers and admirers out there for all of us.

A message for MPT, on the offhand chance she’s reading this: There’s no reason to be so mean and spiteful. If you feel strongly that someone is stealing another artist’s work, it’s not unreasonable to confront her about it, but do it respectfully and don’t hide behind an anonymous user profile. Any artist who is worth her salt will welcome a respectful dialog about the origins of her designs, just as I have.

Life is short, people–much too short for petty nonsense from nameless, faceless trolls. Do what you love, do it with integrity, and never let the haters bring you down.

 

I Have a Thing for Connections

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt compelled to connect the dots all around me. As a child, I remember observing strange and erratic behavior in many of the adults in my life. My childhood was, well… let’s just say it was chaotic at best. The way that I coped with the chaos is that I learned to order it.

I started paying attention to the nature of cause and effect, and the more I paid attention to those things, the more I began to see how all things are connected. The more I understood those connections, the more I was able to create some semblance of order in a world that could erupt in chaos at any moment.

Creating jewelry is, for me, a personal expression of my understanding of connections. I suppose that’s why I’m so intensely (perhaps even compulsively) drawn to art forms that involve connections. As I look around at my workspace and the materials I choose to work with, what jumps out at me is that they all have one thing in common: they’re all used for various forms of weaving.

The chains I weave are intricately connected together, link by link, in various forms that are as pleasing to the eye and to touch as they are mechanically strong and sound. The wire work that I do is similar to basket weaving in that it allows me to create forms that are both functional and beautiful. More importantly, it allows me to create forms that will last. Pieces that are timeless.

As I begin my foray into working with knotting cords and micro macramé, I find myself once again exploring an art form that centers on connections. What starts out on my workbench as a chaotic jumble of individual cords gradually comes together to form a cohesive, ordered design. The sum of those once chaotic and disconnected individual parts join together as one to create a beautifully ordered and functional whole.

 

I create jewelry in order to make sense of the chaos around me. And through the process of creating, I rediscover daily how I am connected to everything and everyone else around me. When you like a piece of Door 44 Jewelry that you see on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter, I feel an instant connection to you. When you buy a piece of Door 44 Jewelry, I’m acutely aware of all the connections that might come from that single exchange–from my hands to yours–for better or worse.

Perhaps that piece will go on to form another link in a chain of sisterhood, from your hands to those of someone you love. Maybe even on through multiple generations from you to a daughter, granddaughter, or niece who may pass it on again to the next generation of women of your family–all of whom will be irrevocably connected to me and perhaps my own daughter, should she choose to follow in my footsteps.

Jewelry, as it turns out, is a wonderful means for me to connect with my 12-year-old stepdaughter. We’ve only known one another for about three years now, and we still have a great deal to learn about each other. But I do know for certain that we share a common love of jewelry. Teaching her to make jewelry and to appreciate it is proving to be perhaps the most powerful path toward an unbreakable bond that we share at this fragile phase of our mother/daughter relationship.

A dear friend got me thinking today about why I make jewelry, and what (ultimately) I hope to achieve by sharing my jewelry with you. I realized that the heart of the matter is this: Our mutual love and appreciation for beauty is what binds us together. We may have disparate political ideologies or wildly different world views that seem to divide us. What inevitably binds us together, though–what restores our sense of connectedness–is a return to those essential elements of life for which we all share a mutual appreciation: love, beauty and harmony. Sisterhood. Compassion…

 

Jewelry is all about connections, and I have a thing for connections.

Thanks for allowing me to connect with you today.

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.

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.

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?