Category Archives: Philosophy

Tipping Point?

Year’s ago my son told me about a book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell, first published by Little Brown in 2000. I was intrigued by the tenet of the writing, but fear that I have turned the idea more toward my own interpretation. Gladwell suggests the tipping point is "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point."

As I’ve tried to reorganize my studio this week I’m reminded of the “tipping point” and have used it to describe the positive force at work in my own little productive world. I’m trying to become less shambolic.

My tipping point yesterday came as I began collecting the many nice jewelry components I found just sitting around waiting to be used

components

The photo shows a small pile of those components. I’ve learned that I seem to enjoy making these more than putting things together for finished products. Yet, I now have too many components and not enough products for an upcoming show – thus, I’m at the point at which I must do something different. I guess this is my “critical mass”. (with apologies to Gladwell for this misinterpretation).

There comes a point in every designer’s life when you just have to stop and put things together; I’m there! Let’s see what I can do now that I’ve reached this threshold or boiling point. . . . to be continued . . .

It’s Come to This!

There’s a new word that has been popping up in my mind and on my lips since the Christmas holidays. The term shambolic was used by someone during a CNN discussion about Congress. Liking the sound of the word and curious about it’s full meaning, I consulted Webster.  It means “obviously disorganized or confused”. This is not a word that I would like as an adjective for Karen. Yet, you might think it appropriate if you saw my studio.

I think artists often work from a chaotic, but productive, state. The seeming disarray of materials and tools in a studio can lead to wonderful juxtaposition of colors and designs and result in art. What seems disorganized to a visitor may actually be exactly what the artist requires for productive creativity. Still, today I don’t want to be shambolic.

The old saying “too many irons in the fire” could easily fit my upcoming week; so I decided to get organized. In one corner of the studio I can find the materials needed for the three classes I’m teaching this week. The materials for these are also spread out (or organized?) on the dining room table.

classes

earri bags

Another corner houses the metal that I’m cutting for next week’s torch enamel class. When I announced to the class that I would bring the metal components I didn’t really think about the fact that we are making several sets of earrings. Let’s see, that’s ten people, 20 ears and two sets a piece = 40 discs.

disc

It was a good holiday season for most of the boutiques I serve, but I’m wondering if they gave away the earrings. Where did they all go? I’m in high production on earrings at the bead table and wishing that I wasn’t so particular that I feel the need to make my own ear wires.

workbench

Finally, I have trays of partially completed jewelry sets to be offered at the Methodist’s Heart Warming Affair on February 9th. Let’s just hope the pieces all have hand made clasps by that time.

trays

The moral of this tale is that I keep hearing “shambolic” in my mind dueted with my great grandmother saying “just do the next thing.” Today, I’m organizing, doing the next thing and hoping it pays off during the next two weeks. How about you . . . shambolic?

Sharing Hearts

It isn’t even February, yet, I’m making heart shaped pendants. It just seems like the thing to do! I prepared the two in the photo because I wanted to experiment with making bails for an upcoming meetup of designers.

hearts

The bail for the heart on the left is made from a small piece of copper sheet soldered on the back. The one on the right utilizes a bail made from wire, also soldered on the back. My grandson told me that this heart has heartworms! Hmm, I really didn’t see it that way, but I’m not three years old. I used my new leather sand bag as a base for creating the doming effect on both pieces. I dimpled them with dimple pliers. By the way, thanks to a talented friend, I was able to saw the heart shape from the middle of each piece. Thanks Adele!

Following is another photo of a heart pendant made for the same meetup. I torch enameled the copper rectangle and riveted the heart, cut out of the center of a piece shown above, to the metal. I used a tube rivet which gives it some dimension. The back shows the small piece of tube I soldered to the metal for a bail.

heartfront  tube bezel

The photo below doesn’t seem to fit with this blog entry . . . yet, it is the essence of “heart”. It was commissioned by one adult sister for another in remembrance of their girlhood when they watched the cardinals together. I’ve shared this previously online, but wanted to repeat. Wouldn’t you say the giving sister was “sharing heart”?

cardinal complete

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I hope that commercialism doesn’t remove the heart from the giving. It often seems that men, in particular, are harassed by the advertisements to a point where they feel they must spend a good deal of money for their sweeties. I hope the men I know will understand that this woman just wants a little “heart” in one form or another.

Coping

I’ve tried to avoid writing this entry and I do so now, not because I want to, but rather because I need to.

Home alone last weekend as the news of the school shooting rang out, I chose to ignore it. I didn’t turn on the television or radio and avoided the internet news and posts per the subject. Two days later, when my husband returned home and turned on the TV, I left the room each and every time reports of the shooting were aired. I simply ignored them, worked frantically on my business and avoided the inevitable. It was as though I put up a concrete wall to protect my emotions from the pain so many felt. Yet, that wall was a porous, constructed subconsciously as a useless shield.

I managed quite well until Monday when the funerals began and I finally cried. It was as though the faces of those young children shown on television were those in my own classrooms so many years ago. Those faces still reside in my memory box although the children are now grown or well on their way to adulthood. I remember all the angels and the rascals and would have protected them with all my might.

I cried not only for the parents and grandparents of the lost children and adults, but also for those at the school and what they now face. It is possible that some of those children will never resume the emotional stability that is their birthright. The spiral of evil, initiated by a single young man, will likely continue to effect many in ways we will never comprehend.

As I think about my own former students, I cannot help but recognize my own fear of and for a very few of them. As a teacher, I approached mental health carefully yet forthrightly, speaking with parents and counselors when I sensed deep seeded issues in a child. While parents usually listened to my concerns, I don’t know of any instance where they took action to seek professional help for their children. Now, I cannot help but wonder what type of people these youngsters became and whether I should have pushed harder to get help for them. Yet, it is a rough ride on the horse of guilt if you choose to consider the “what ifs”. What if I missed a child who called out for help? Was he or she the one capable of horrific deeds? What if I missed the actions of a parent toward a child that I might have saved? What if, I was just too wrapped up in my own life to recognize problems that grow until they become destructive?

It’s too late for me; my days in the classroom are past; yet I hope that teachers will always care enough to trust their instincts and that parents will care enough to listen and act if things do not seem quite right with their offspring. I believe we are all trying.

. . . and so I write because it helps me recognize what I’m feeling. I write because it guides me toward healing. I write because I care.

Vining

I enjoy making handmade chains. If my hands would hold up, I could sit for hours twisting “S” links and making jump rings; yet I wanted something a bit different for the design below. As it developed, I began to picture a vine running along one side toward the wearer’s neck. First I made the chain without beads on the vine, but now I think it’s better adorned with them. See what you think.

vine sweet pea

My friend from Magpie Gemstones , made a few suggestions and I think the design is working now. Another friend named the above necklace “Sweet Pea”.

Below is another version. You can also see that I’ve played with the use of different size jump rings to add a bit of interest.

vine lapis

My analogy for the initial necklace may be a stretch, but here goes any way. As so many of us gather with family members and/or friends this special time of the year, it seems to me that we are vining. Vines often reach toward their nourishment whether it is sunlight or water and it seems that people do the same. We lean towards those who nourish us by listening, caring and sharing our lives. While we may originally “vine” in one direction, later that part of the growth may wither and we vine in another direction depending upon our needs. I watch my ivy houseplant do the same thing. It grows well in one direction and then I notice it withers and needs trimming. Once trimmed, it angles off toward something else. It doesn’t seem to inhibit the plant as it takes the process in stride. As we traverse our own growth including changes in relationships and in families, it may be important to consider new directions or perhaps to better nurture those old ones. I think we just need to keep vining.

Rude America

The Today show on TV this morning had an interesting segment about Rude America. It really struck home with me and I wanted to think about it through this writing. The piece basically referenced emails and group posts, focusing on whether what we write online is the same as what we would actually say to someone face to face. I wondered if I was braver about saying things in print than I am about saying things in person.

I appreciated the fact that the professionals in the segment noted how face to face someone may start to express negative feelings to another person, but then read the person’s reaction. Certainly if I began to tell someone about my frustration toward them and they immediately begin apologizing or admitting that they were wrong; I would simply stop my words of negativity. Unfortunately, online we do not have that face to face read that tells us we’ve made our point with just a few words. At times, I’ve likely written posts and emails that continued past the few words that needed to be written for the other person to reach understanding. Yet, I continued since I couldn’t feel or see the other person’s reaction.

My other concern about Rude America is the possibility that I sometimes jump on the Rude Bandwagon. Do I agree with another person’s negative comments and add my own when I would not have originally thought to write them? I hope not!

While some Facebook and Yahoo groups are designed to foster contrary discussions, many others are meant for healthy, helpful advice and communication. I’ve just got to remember which is which. I do, however, believe that I can write in the former without being rude. We learned as teachers to comment on the actions of the student and not on the person. The negative actions can come from good people and I never wanted to hurt the student but simply correct the behavior.

Rude hurts! I’ve felt it online much more often than I’ve felt it in person. While I cannot control what others type, I can control my own fingers. I am trying to carefully read what I write prior to pressing post or send on my computer. . . . AND, if I forget to check, there’s always that little delete post possibility on Facebook. Since I don’t have that luxury on my emails, I guess I’d better read them twice before sending. I really don’t want to be a contributor to RUDE AMERICA. Do you?

Life is Like a Crooked Road

When I was a girl, I thought that life came in a straight path. If I just behaved myself, studied hard and sought the goal, everything would pan out. Work = results – right?  If I didn’t get the top score at a piano contest, it was probably because I didn’t practice hard enough. (Remember that day I went to the drug store with my friends instead of practicing?)  If my African Violets didn’t bloom, I probably over watered them. If my children acted up, I must have not taught them properly. If I ate too much, I gained weight (now that was is actually true!) Even now, if a piece of jewelry doesn’t sell, I think that I must not have polished it enough.  I could and probably still can justify most everything through cause and effect.

Now, I’m grown up and I know I’m not responsible for every occurrence in my life. Today, I’m coughing and sneezing because of the allergens in the air. Is it my fault? . . . I don’t think so. As confident as I am, I don’t really think I can control the elements. One of the classes I offered didn’t have enough participants. It’s not all my fault; people are just busy. My favorite dog is growing too old to last much longer . . . it’s not my fault; things just happen on this crooked road.

You can practically drive yourself crazy by trying to avoid the inevitable and working hard visioning what might come next. My former idea that life follows a straight path from A to B is absurd. Life is just plain crooked.

When we first bought the ranch, every day something broke; an animal got in the wrong pasture or something else initiated a crook in the daily routine. We wondered when we could just get on with the plan. The fact is that these things were the plan; we just didn’t know it and we learned to expect the unexpected like the pit in a cherry. If the young bull fell in the well (as he did one night), you just get the tractor and pull him out. After all, it’s not my fault he fell in!

There are tiny crooks in the road and enormous ones. There are crooks that narrow to the point that you feel yourself being strangled while other crooks pleasantly open up to a plethora of possibilities. I think the trick is to accept all the twists and turns both ahead and behind us and embrace the road. I remind myself that life would certainly be boring if it were totally predictable. Do I really want to be able to manipulate what comes next? (actually, some days I do)

If life is a crooked road, my current thinking is “give yourself a break.” I can’t straighten the road by working hard or caring more. Let’s just hope my best efforts help to smooth out a few bumps on those hard turns.

Here’s hoping all your crooked roads lead you toward happiness.

Coming Together

Families and friends often find themselves spread hither and yon both physically and emotionally. We may live in the same city as someone, care about that person, want to be with them and yet never find the time. Others live across states, oceans or continents, but make the time for one another when it counts. Those meaningful times build the memories we store in the albums of our lives. Last week was one of those times for our family. While the bride’s family came from across the waves in Germany, we packed in Texas and converged in joy for our son, the groom. San Francisco was a beautiful backdrop for the wedding, held on a 7th floor terrace overlooking the Bay Bridge. 540385_10151325843644112_74449676_n[1] We all dressed in our new duds and enjoyed the sights and sounds which were significant in this merger. The first photo below shows my husband, daughter, grandson, son in law and son. Below that you see my husband with my son and then with his grandson. My daughter sewed the little guy’s ensemble. Don’t the red shoes just make it? family wed guys g wed I was delighted to hear my daughter sing “Make of our hands, one hand . . . “ from West Side Story. She was unaccompanied and the notes were clear and lovely. Later, at the reception, the couple sang a duet followed by Brad’s rendition of Lyle Lovett’s “She’s No Lady, She’s Your (MY) Wife.” Someone captured both of these and put them on youtube.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZvOaGrC9_c&feature=youtu.be So, now there is a new Mrs. Meador. I gladly welcome daughter-in-law Erin to our midst and appreciate the energy she brings to this merger and the love she gives to my son. It’s difficult to describe how I felt the day of the wedding. Mixed with the joy, was the simple sadness of giving an only son to another woman. Yes, he’s been in her arms for a long time, but now it’s final. I’ll still be his mother, but she is and should be the main woman in his life. . . . and so, a new cycle begins for us as it has for others. Coming together is more than a trip across the miles that separate us; it’s the beginning of new feelings, new relationships and new happiness. For that, I say “thank you Erin Connolly for becoming Mrs. Brad Meador.”    

If At First You Don’t Succeed . . .

I thought I knew the correct ending for the title phrase, but I’ve learned that “try, try again” doesn’t always work.

For the past two months I’ve been trying to teach myself how to do torch enamel. It looked so easy when a friend demonstrated the technique at a meetup. She even let me do one following her demo and I did just fine. Yet, after ordering my own enamel and giving it a try, I found things weren’t so easy after all.

I don’t give up easily and believe that if I just practice something long and hard enough, I’ll eventually get it. That was not the case with torch enameling. I’ve been trying to enamel flat copper disks, but they either turned out bubbly or bumpy or mottled. Thinking I had one of the variables wrong,  I tried altering various things. I tried several different gauges of copper sheet metal. No luck. Then I tried various colors of enamel thinking perhaps one color had a problem. No luck. I even switched torches, trying three different ones. . . no luck. I also took my inferior disks to my friend who did the demo, but she didn’t know what was wrong either.

Finally, I was asked to bring my torch and help the same friend work with a large group at another meetup. During our time together, she let me use some of her enamel. LUCK! I torch enameled those disks like a pro and learned that the problem was the brand of enamel I was using. Although I’m relieved to know it wasn’t me, I’m upset that I spent so much time trying to alleviate my difficulty.

Now, I have purchased Thompsons’ enamels and am having a great time with the technique.  The blue earrings below look like they have some white on them, but this is just the glare.

enamel

This learning episode reminds me of when I was taking doctorate level statistics. The professor said we shouldn’t struggle with a problem more than 30 minutes before seeking assistance. I believe her advise stems to more things than statistics. The next time I can’t get something to work, I’m going to visit a successful friend.

Why Didn’t It Work?–Variables

Have you ever been enthralled with a design in a book, magazine or online tutorial, rushed to make it and flopped? I have. I used to get disgusted and think “surely there’s something wrong with the pattern.” Yet, you know that’s probably just a personal excuse. It doesn’t help at all when a friend says she tried it and it turned out great.

When I read a tutorial, I tend to jump right in and attempt to make the piece whether I have the specified supplies or not. I’ve even failed at making something from a tutorial that I wrote. Here’s a case of that.

allb

I have a new bracelet tutorial in my etsy shop( https://www.etsy.com/listing/103694934/wire-and-beads-diamond-bracelet-tutorial) . I’ve made the bracelet time and time again and know it is correctly written. Alas, the other day, I tried it with a different size beads and flopped. I only changed one variable and, of course, it changed the dimensions on the circumference of the piece. Rather than using the 4 or 5 mm beads I suggest on the tutorial, I just grabbed a pretty gemstone and used it. Unfortunately, the pretty amethyst had a diameter of about 12mm. Using it on the bracelet caused the piece to stick out farther on my arm and made it too short. I needed to alter the bracelet wire length to accommodate for the larger beads. The bracelet below shows the correct bead size for the wire length.

diamond bracelet

This is only one example of how variables change an outcome. I might have used a different gauge of wire or different style hook and these, too, would have changed the end product.

Variables effect everything we do. Did you ever say something perfectly kind to a family member only to have that person bark back at you in an angry voice? It’s possible that the person just had an unpleasant encounter with someone else and you received the outgrowth of that situation. Perhaps that person has a headache . . . ? I’m sure it wasn’t YOUR fault.  I know it’s never MY fault . . . ha!

Driving up a hill at my normal quick speed takes a nasty change with the weather varies and the road surface is wet. I guess I should slow down.

The point here is to be aware that variable are ever in the way of perfection. Consider the variable before initiating an action. How might the variable change the outcome or product? Plan for this change.

The other more positive side of variables can result it happy happenstances. I can use a different gauge wire and sometimes the jewelry piece gets better or has a new pleasing look. In the aforementioned person to person encounter, recognizing the variable/current temperament of the person you speak to might allow you use different words or just steer clear of the person.

So, the question of “what did I do wrong” should come prior to initiating a project. Rephrasing it to ask ‘how will the change in this variable effect my outcome and how can I adjust for it?” might help us all get more pleasing results. I think I’m going to try the last question.

There’s no way to get rid of variables in jewelry making or in life. We should just expect them and know that outcomes are often altered when a variable changes.

I’m wishing you variables that result in good things.