All posts by Karen

Flutter By

Sometimes, when you are old, the memories from your past flutter by like butterflies in the Fall. They can be just as difficult to capture unless someone is there to help you.

Mamaw turned 93 a few weeks ago and we have to admit that she has considerable dementia. Yet, if I am with her at just the right moment in time and ask the right questions, occasionally the stories of old, although brief, unfold.

Mama Young

Today, we were talking about why my hair isn’t gray yet. I remembered that my grandmother’s hair was late in turning; so I asked about my great grandmother, Dee Dee, too. Neither of us remembered a time when her hair wasn’t gray. So I guess I’ve been lucky.

I also ask about my great great grandmother. “Mamaw,” I said, “do you remember Dee Dee’s mother?” “Well, of course.” Mamaw replied. I asked her what the woman’s name was and quick as a wink she said “Grammaw.” I said, “no, what is her real name?” She gave me the same answer and told me that Grammaw was all she was ever as called. Mamaw told me that Grammaw lived out on the farm in Oklahoma with her brother, Will, who had a wagon. Of course, I was thinking a little red wagon, but Will’s wagon was the big kind pulled by horses. Once, Mamaw said the family had her go to town with Will. She told me that she hid in the back of the wagon so no one in town would see her. Can’t you just see a little girl doing that?

Next, Mamaw told me that once someone in town died and she was sent out to the farm to tell Grammaw about it. She couldn’t remember how she got out there and with that, this day’s memories fluttered on and left us behind. I’ve learned there is no point in asking more probing questions; this only proves frustrating and, for Mamaw, painful.

Although I learned this years ago from my studies, today it was even more apparent that emotion has a big affect on memory. Whether it’s happiness, sadness, embarrassment or another emotion, feelings at the time of one of life’s episodes help a person retain the memory. It is also apparent that feelings at the time when a person is trying to remember can also affect the story. When Mamaw is upset, weary or frustrated, she answers most questions with “I don’t know; I just don’t know.” At that point, it’s definitely time to stop asking.

Some say emotions are fickle and perhaps that’s true, but when and if they are just right, feelings can help us capture those memories as they flutter by. I just hope I’m around when things are “just right” for Mamaw.


I’m preparing to teach my newly designed Hot Metal Mania class in a couple of weeks. I’m very excited to be able to include prong settings in the curriculum using both sterling silver and copper settings.


I originally set out to just do the type of prong setting that has a back plate, like those below. (The first piece really does hang straight, I just rushed with the photo.)



prong setting

These require carefully fitting wire prongs snuggly into holes in the back plate and soldering them in place. I made quite a mess of the first few I tried, but persevered and finally figured it out. This has all manner of possibilities for embellishment.

Since I want my students to work some with sterling silver, I figured out a reasonably simple and fairly inexpensive way to make prong settings that have open backs such as those below.

pr2prongs 6


You can see the open back in the photo below.


I went ahead and wrote a tutorial with photos on this one for my students and also put it in my etsy store. This type prong setting really emphasizes the beauty of the stone.

My current challenge is to QUIT making prong settings and move to the next design. I’m just enjoying these so much that I hate to stop. But then . . . surely I need a bit more practice; don’t you think?

Just Do the Next Thing . . .

As I likely have mentioned before, my great grandmother, Dee Dee Lewis, supported not only herself (post husband) but also my grandmother (post husband) and her two children. Yes, we are a family of lingering women. When someone would get in a muddle and become anxious about what they should do, Dee Dee always said “just do the next thing.” It didn’t really think that was very helpful and often couldn’t even figure out what the next thing was. However, lately, that little phrase has been sounding in my brain and I’ve follow the tenet behind it. I’m no busier than the next person, but sometimes I need a little help from my elders.

I enjoyed the past holidays and actually took some time away from designing to sit quietly and do some crocheting and sewing. It was a welcome respite and gave these hands time to recover from the hurried wire and metal work pre-Christmas.

Then it was suddenly January and there was a list of things that needed ASAP attention. First, I needed products for a silent auction donation to the San Marcos River Foundation. I wanted them to have a choice and they selected the blue tree below and some copper earrings from the three things I offered.

blue tree     Raindrop necklace


The next thing . . . I needed product examples for the three January-February classes I was teaching. Luckily, I had most of the wrapped rocks and cabachons below already done; yet I did need to practice.

Cabs 2014

Then . . . the next thing . . . I needed to create new products for the Hot Metal Mania class coming in February. These took a while as I tried to differentiate the level of skill needed for the products.

Hot Metal

When I completed enough of the Hot products to at least get information out to students, I decided to take a day off, but then the phone rang. Someone that I convinced to be the program chair for one of my groups needed a project/leader for February. She wanted something in metal. I got her into this . . . so I said yes and arose fromf my chair and back to the bench.


bracelet 3

Feeling pleased to have the former completed and tired of following Dee Dee’s advise, I took a some time to try a new scroll design. I thought I was making a bird, but I do believe it turned out to be a hen. She is soldered and the wing flower is torch enameled



Today, I realize that “the next thing” is preparing the products for the Torch Enameling class which is in two weeks. I guess you know what I’ll be working on today.  OK, great grandmother, I think you were right! At least I’m having fun.

Fun Problem Solving

I’ve enjoyed seeing the numerous posts by Facebook friends showing the joy of seeing family during the holidays. I’ve also had a great time, the last few days of which have been playing with the grandboy. I told his Mom and Dad a little white one, saying that I thought they might enjoy having some time to themselves. Yet, the truth was that I wanted to see that boy!

We had a super time, but we kept coming back to one of our preferred activities, hiding and finding objects.  We had been reading Eggbert, the Slightly Cracked Egg and decided to make our own Eggbert and friends. While he thought we should do it with real eggs, I fortunately convinced him to draw faces on some plastic Easter eggs.  We made Eggbert, Egg-guy, Egg-gal and Rocko. I have no clue about that last name.

After we had hidden those characters many, many times, it became clear that the activity could go on forever. By the second day of it, I really needed to do some computer work and had an idea.  I helped him learn how to hide and find those eggs by himself. You see, when you wear the “Wild Things” cap, you are the hider.

g hider

But, when you remove that hat, you forget where the eggs are and become the hunter . . .

g seeker  G seeker2

It worked like a charm and he was a good actor, pretending he had no idea where the eggs were hidden. I finished my computer task and we were off to another activity.

Today, he’s back with his parents and I just have those silly eggs. . . I wonder if that “Wild Things” hat would work for me . . . .


Most of you know that post back surgery, I’ve been doing a great deal of walking. Even last week, when I got a positive report from my surgeon, he still said walk, walk, walk! On one of my 2 1/2 mile moseys around the ranch, I ended up on the banks of one of our back tanks. I was huffing a bit from climbing the hill leading to it when I heard a splash. I quickly looked to the water and although I didn’t see the splasher, I did see the after effect. . . nice concentric ripples moving away from a center. They grew ever larger until eventually there was nothing left to see. The water was still again. It struck me that one little start, a dip by a bird or a dunk by a frog, could lead to the ever widening circles on the water.

Throughout this season’s art shows, shopping and gatherings, I’m reminded that we also have a ripple effect on others. It doesn’t take but one grumpy person to send a whole group into the complaining mode. It’s almost like “one up-man-ship” when the complaining starts (my problem is bigger than yours). On the other hand, one happy and appreciative sole can definitely send that ripple in a positive direction.

One of my Facebook friends shared the video below that sent positive ripples in my direction. While the piano in the video is inanimate, it is controlled by a human sending joyful ripples to those willing to partake. Alas, there was one grump!

I hope you enjoy this video and it send positive ripples your way.

As the season rushes to a close, it is my hope that the ripples you both give and receive will be happy ones.

Thanks for reading.

Cover Girl

I was pleased to see my original bracelets on the cover of this month’s Step By Step Wire Jewelry Publication. I’ve had a number of other pieces in the magazine, but not previously on the cover.


The editor named them “Taos” which I think is fitting for the design. There are many different variations for this style. For example, the weaving can be varied depending on the number of outside wires used and the specific weaving technique. I’ve also varied it from weaving into a single row of holes down the center to holes on each side of the middle sheet. You can also see that sometimes I use my own torch enameled discs as embellishments while other times I use gemstones. I thought the two hole turquoise discs, which I have only seen at one bead show and never again, turned out nice. At the time I purchased them I couldn’t think what in the world I would do with them. Once I figured it out, of course I couldn’t find them again. That’s why I ended up making the two hole torch enameled discs which I offer on etsy. There’s a link to it on my website blog page

If you have interest in these and pick up the publication, you’ll find a full tutorial complete with my photos of the process. I hope you enjoy it.

Crooked Halos

I don’t recall anyone (even my parents) ever calling me an angel, but in the last week I think I’ve connected with the type I would want to be.

After writing the Tree of Life tutorial for my etsy shop, I wanted to use the weaving in the round technique for something else. Weaving is a bit addictive and this one is especially interesting. So, I worked on creating an angel with this weave. This provided him or her with a 3-D body similar to the tree trunks. It’s also a project that doesn’t require as much weaving as the tree piece.


I had several miss-starts trying to figure out how to make the angel wings. Finally I figured that out, but had no way to give the angel a head. The halo was tricky too and in the end I added an extra piece to that part. This makes it possible to adjust the halo forward, backward or more to the side depending on the attitude of the angel. When I finally figured that out, a customer wanted this piece to be a pin . . . back to the drawing board to figure out how to weave the pin into the back of the angel. The weaving is too tight to simply secure the pin with another piece of wire.

The silver angels below are made from artistic wire which is much more difficult to use in weaving than bare wire. I still like working with copper wire best.


If I were an angel, I would want to be the kind, like these, that can adjust her halo depending upon the situation. Would that make me a divergent angel or just an wanna-be angel? hmm . . . that bears consideration. What kind would you want to be?

Tree Fall

Tree of Life pendants have been popular ever since I started making jewelry (and probably long before). I’ve made many and people always seem to want them. The other day, I decided to try a different type of tree. This one looks like it fell over and thus the name blog entry name, Tree Fall.

leaf weave 2

The above tree or branch, depending on how you see it, consists of eight pieces of wire that I wove in the round with lighter gauge copper wire. While working on it, I kept looking out the studio window to see how the dimension of most trees changes on the way up. My observations indicated that the diameter of the tree branch should reduce on the way up. I attempted to represent this by splitting the bundle of wire to create smaller and smaller twigs or branches.

I enjoyed making the above piece and decided to combine it with some of the copper sheet leaves shown in a previous blog. I also thought this would give participants in my leaf classes this weekend another choice for creation.

leaf weave 1

I soldered wire stems to the copper leaves, torched painted them and then put them in cooking oil to achieve the red color. Finally, I sealed them with an automotive spray. I worked the stems of the leaves into the weaving. I think this piece will hang vertically as opposed to the horizontal position of the first necklace. I’m still cogitating about that.

I created a slightly different look between the pieces with the wire weaving. I went over each larger gauge wire on the first one and under each on the second one. I found it much more difficult to go under, but like the look; so I guess I’ll just need more practice.

The weaving continues to intrigue me leading to hours of play with the wire. This is confirmed by the callouses I’m building on my fingers. The difficult part is resisting closure and allowed myself to experiment with the weaves without a preconceived notion of what I can make. I have a book about Free Play sitting on my desk and it reminds me of the importance of play, like my experimental weaving, in the creative process. Author Stephen Nachmanovitch states “There is a time to do just anything, to experiment without fear of consequences. to have a play space safe from criticism . . . “ I’ve just got to remember that self criticism is also detrimental to creativity  and and try to think more positively about my play.

More Fall

That’s what I’m wishing for – More Fall. Actually, I would take any Fall at all since we are having 100 degree plus days here in central Texas. I’m sure Fall is coming, but I’m a bit premature with my daily wish.

Nevertheless, it is Fall in the studio. Some of you have previously seen the leaves I’ve posted elsewhere. These are for a class that I’m preparing.

chain necklace

These copper leaves were torch painted with a little butane torch. Their friend, the dragonfly, is from a wire tutorial I just finished for my etsy shop. It was requested by the people who wanted the leaf workshop.

Here’s a little different type leaf. I turned these red by annealing them with the torch and then throwing them in Crisco cooking oil. I also tried some in sesame oil and the red is about the same.

red leaf

Here’s a comparison of the cooking oil vs. the sesame oil. The sesame dipped leaf is on the left. The difference in color is slight.

red leaf comparison

Finally, this set of leaves was also torch painted and I made a brass chain. I like the difference in color. Torch painting always provides surprises.

leaf brass

The only time consuming part of this project is cutting out each leaf. It makes my hands unhappy!

Let’s just hope my leaves are a harbinger of Fall (the real one with the cooler temperatures). I’m ready for clothes with leaves and shoes with toes!

Where Do Songs Come From?

We’ve always been a very musical family and yesterday I realized that music holds my memories, giving them a time, context and emotion. For other families, it may be a handmade article, special piece of jewelry or other artifact that stirs the memory pot, but for me, it’s the music.

Sunday, at my daughter’s suggestion, my spouse and I met her family to take food to Mamaw at the nursing home. This was the first time I’d seen Mother since my back surgery 2 weeks ago and it was exciting to be out.

We usually eat outside in the courtyard when we visit Mamaw, but for some reason I was insistent upon eating indoors in the living room this time. We all enjoyed our food and talk, but the littlest one soon moved from our table over to the corner of the room where two new cockatiels were in their cage. He pulled a wooden rocking chair up in front of the pair and as they screeched, he sang to them.


Appearing a bit disgusted with the birds, he sang louder and then softer, trying to get them to stop being “annoying”. Finally, he tried a new tactic, we made up a song for the birds. The tune was strangely family . . . mmm and Bingo was his name . . . but the words were new. They had something to do with a shooting star. The birds selected the point at which the new song started to become quiet and we’re all sure it was the song that did it.


Later, when the child’s mom asked who taught him the song. He said “no one”. “Then where did it come from?” she queried. Without hesitation, the little 4-year-old put his hand over his heart and said “from my heart and then it goes to my brain.” I guess that’s where all good songs come from.


This episode helped me remember so many of those little songs this child’s mother and his “unc” made up when they were little. “Unc” is still doing it, having just given an acoustic performance of his own music at a café in San Francisco the night before.  My daughter performs daily with this little fellow as they sing through part of their day. My songs seldom escape in any audible form anymore, but they are definitely still within me.

So where DOES the song come from? My songs comes from a need –  to comfort sadness, to bring joy or perhaps to find a memory. Now that I really think about it . . . songs DO come from the heart. It’s a good place to hold them.