New Jewelry Pieces!

Green Agate Neck

I've been slowly but surely photographing all my newer jewelry pieces to get them uploaded to my Etsy shop and website. Sarah was an excellent assistant this past weekend, holding my reflector card just right to shine the best light on the pieces. She's hired! It's nice to have helpers...when I can keep their attention. This is one of my newer necklaces. I've been trying to work my way through the huge bin of semi-precious stone stones I have in addition to working up more of my signature lampwork pieces. I'm really happy with the way this one turned out. Very elegant.  I used a large smooth green agate teardrop, paired with those gorgeous clear citrine nuggets and emerald crystals. All silver is sterling. You can find it over in my Etsy shop with lots of other new pieces.

The girls have also been working on building their inventory of scrabble tile pendants back up, but it sounds like they have plans to give them all away to their friends instead of selling them at the Riverside Arts Market!  They'll make the perfect end of the school year gifts. I can't believe the last day of school for them is a week from Friday!

Best Shot Monday: Classic RayBans

Olivia RayBans-72

When I was college I wore classic RayBan aviators like these. I still have that 25-year-old pair put away in my desk. Olivia pulled these out of the console in my van and started hamming it up. Good Lord help me, I can already see the college girl in this picture. The girls will hit double digits this summer, 10 in July.  Hard to believe it's been nearly ten years and they'll be out the door and to college themselves in another eight.

Today is my 18th wedding anniversary.  Benny and I had our first date Memorial Day weekend 21 years ago, going to a Jacksonville Suns game, and got married 18 years ago today, Memorial Day. To celebrate, we took the girls to a Suns game Saturday night and have been enjoying a day playing on the dock and in the river today.   

Have a Best Shot Monday you want to share? Feel free to post it in the comments! 

Decluttering and Destashing...

Purple Soup 2

Remember my post about my magazine addiction? Well I'm coming clean on another front today: I'm a bead junkie. Yes, I suppose you would say that since I'm a jewelry designer I need to be a bead junkie, but there must be limits. There are a couple suppliers I purchase from regularly who suck me in with an email almost every time. It's getting to be embarrassing really. I'm afraid those people from that hoarders show are going to show up one day and find me buried under a pile of beads.

So I've been working on saying goodbye to some old friends here lately, listing more and more beads in my destash shop. Now the challenge is how to keep the "destash" beads organized and away from the "I will never part with you" beads so that when I do get a destash order, I can find it without having to unearth my entire workshop. I'm still working on that part! In the event you would like to start a new addiction, I've got some bead bargains in my destash shop with more to come over the next few weeks!

The Part About Broken Hearts...


I had a first at the shelter during my weekly photo session last Friday. I sat down on the rocks in the middle of one of the outdoor enclosures with a dog in my lap and cried. I mentioned in my post about Kay last week that while I enjoy photographing these dogs because I know my photos are making a difference in finding them homes, there is also a bit of heart-break involved. Little did I know then that just a few days later, I'd get my heart completely shattered.

This is Honey. She and her friend Tuga were the last two dogs I photographed this past Friday. I had already been working for more than three hours when I got to Honey and Tuga and had to search for them as they had been moved since the length of stay list I had had been printed.  When I found Honey, I greeted her as I do all my charges and opened her kennel door to take her out. But she wouldn't come to me. She wouldn't even stand up. She just crouched down on the floor cowering. I could tell it was out of fear not out of aggression that she crouched, so I decided to just pick her up and carry her outside. She's about the size of my Molly, but a lot thinner.

Once I got her outside, I put her down on the ground and she immediately just cowered down, shaking with fear. I put my camera in my gear bag and sat down on the ground with her. She crawled over and put her head in my lap, shaking the whole time. In that moment, she completely broke my heart. I knew she was an owner confiscation, so that meant there was neglect and/or abuse involved.  It appeared as if her tail had been cut off half way up and what was remaining had been broken in three places.  What had happened to this poor girl?  Just imagining that brought me to tears.  Here she was, this sweet, gentle, beautiful dog, and she had lived through something so terrible that she had to be taken from her owner, neglected, abused, starved....and yet she layed her head in my lap just wanting to be loved.  It's amazing to me an animal's capacity to love and want to be loved, despite what she may have been through.

We sat there like that, Honey and I, for about 30 minutes, her head in my lap, me petting her and talking to her with tears running down my cheeks.  After a while, I got up to see if I could get her to walk a bit and go potty.  She got up but would only walk wherever I went, very close to my legs, so we just walked around a bit.  Once I got her leash on her to take her back inside, I was able to catch a couple shots of her sweet face, and then I picked her back up and carried her back inside.

I haven't been able to get her out of my head, or my heart, since.  Tuga, below, who I'm guessing came in with her from the same owner confiscation, didn't seem quite as bruised and broken as Honey did, but he, too, stuck close to my side during our time together.  We're currently fostering two baby kittens and will be going out of town in two weeks for our annual summer vacation, but if Honey is still in need when we get back, I do believe she'll be coming to my house, even if just long enough to foster her and build her trust back up and then find her the perfect home. I have a feeling Honey and my Molly might have some things to talk about.

Update, May 23:  Honey and Tuga were taken in by the Jacksonville Humane Society today! They are safe until the right family comes along to adopt them!  (That right family might still be this one if they are still available when we get back from Boca Grande....)

Best Shot Monday, Sweet Yellow Daisy

Lily pond daisy-72

I recently bit the bullet and bought the 18-300mm zoom I've been wanting for nearly two years now. It is by far the most expensive lens I own, but by far not the most expensive lens out there! When you really get to looking, it's amazing how much moola you could spend on camera gear if you had unlimited funds!

I took this shot at the zoo with that very lens.  The neat thing about a telephoto lens like this is you can get a short range of focus on a long lens.  That allowed me to get this sweet little daisy in focus while the pond behind it is completely blurred out.  I took this shot in the zoo's garden area. I was about five feet away from the daisy as it stretched its pretty little self out over the pond.  Lots more playing to do with this lens...and at the recommendation of a fellow photographer friend, I purchased a monopod to help me with it as one of things I learned while taking it on its inaugural shoot at the zoo is that it's darn heavy!

Hope you had a lovely weekend. The girls and I spent Saturday with several other moms and daughters for our Mermaids and Mamas mini camp. Even though we didn't get the overnight experience this year, it worked out perfectly doing it at the house.  We got plenty of art time, the girls got plenty of play time, and my studio was just steps away to grab last minute supply ideas.  Sunday, we had a family beach day, our first this summer!      

Have a best shot you'd like to share?  Post a link to in in the comments! 

A Little Book for Mermaids

Scrap Book Cover-72
Front Cover
The girlies and I have been getting ready our Mermaids and Mamas mini camp tomorrow! I think we may make some journals like this one. I made this basically from scraps. The three different sections of spray painting are from three different sheets that I cut down for another journal. I simply collaged them on to a piece of watercolor paper and added in the script scraps for contrast.
Scrapbook Back-72
Back Cover
The signatures are mixed media paper left over from another project as well, sewn in with a butterfly stitch. Overall, the little book is about 4" x 6". I've recently joined the Art Abandonment group on Facebook, so I think I just might abandon this one somewhere when we finish with Mermaids and Mamas tomorrow! 
  Scrapbook Spine-72

Memory Loss and Frantic Searches

Antique Jade 1

It's amazing what you find when you do a major cleaning! This time around, I came across a whole little bag of sterling wire clasps I vaguely recall making over one weekend at least two years or so ago (this would also explain the 16 gauge sterling wire I have but couldn't remember why I bought...).  Not sure why I never used them, so now that I've rediscovered them I'm finally working them into bracelets.   I have nearly a dozen new bracelets I'll be loading into my Etsy shop and website over the next few days. 

Somedays I do feel like my memory is leaving me.  I'm getting more and more scatterbrained. Not sure if it's just a case of my brain being too full or if I'm showing early Alzheimer's symptoms (certainly hope it's not the latter as that's what I lost my grandmother to).  Case in point: a couple weekends ago, the girls and I went to the Avondale Arts Festival here in Jacksonville.  We stopped at the food booths to get some treats. Olivia wanted ice cream and Sarah wanted a cupcape, and since these were in neighboring booths, I pulled out my wallet to give Livvie $5 to get her ice cream and then I waited in line with Sarah.  When it was time to pay for Sarah's cupcake, my wallet was nowhere to be found.  I frantically searched my purse (guy next to me said "Dump everything out! That's what my wife has to do!"), looked all over the ground, asked Livvie if she had it, nothing.  The cupcake girl said, "Don't you worry, sweetie, you go ahead and take this one on me. Go find your wallet."  The girls helped me look and were beginning to panic. Then I found it. Know where it was?  Tucked under my arm the entire time.  No joke.  Does that sound like a woman who is losing it?  I felt a little better when the girls said they couldn't see it there either, but hey, it was under MY ARM.  You would think I would have felt it, right?  It's a thick little wallet, not filled with cash, but rather all my daily lunch haunt frequent visitor cards!  But no, it was at least five panicked minutes before I realized the darn thing was tucked under my own arm. 

Am I the only one losing her mind? 

Best Shot Monday: Meet Kay


Now that I've made it through my crazy April, I'm back to my weekly photo shoots at the shelter. I enjoy this volunteer work, I really do, and I feel like I'm making a difference. I wanted to share some stats with you.  In April 2012, Animal Care & Protective Services took in 1,462 animals (yes, you read that right: 1,462 in one month, which is not unusual). Approximately 73% of those animals were either adopted, returned to their owners, or taken in by other shelters; approximately 27% died or were euthanized due to illness, aggression or lack of space. In April 2013, ACPS took in 1,220 animals. Approximately 89% were adopted, returned to their owners, or taken in by other shelters, meaning only 11% died or were euthanized. I'd say that's a wonderful improvement!  I have to feel that my photos have been a part of that improvement. I started volunteering there in May 2012. 

But I will tell you this. As much as I love spending time with these dogs, it can be heart-breaking work. Take sweet Kay here. I photographed her this past Friday.  Do you see the wisdom and the hope in her eyes?  I haven't looked into her full story yet, but I can tell that she's suffered some abuse. She is such a sweet, sweet girl. And it made me so sad to see her cringe when I went to pet her, afraid maybe that I was going to hit her instead. That broke my heart.  I just sat down on the sidewalk next to her, let her warm up to me, and then just loved on her.

I've learned in my year there that Pit Bulls are incredibly wrongly maligned. They are not the mean, vicious monsters many people make them out to be. If you come across a Pit or Pit mix that's aggressive, it's because a human has made that dog that way; it's not a natural tendency. Sure, they are protective, but no more protective that many other breeds, including shepherds and even small dogs like Dachsunds and Chihuahuas (I grew up with Dachsunds, and they'd take your hand off if you came near me!).  And you try getting near our girls when Molly and Isabelle are around (both Lab mixes).  When dogs are given love, no matter their breed, they give love in return. Take a look at the website called "I Am Not a Monster."   Pits are not monsters ... unfortunately, many people are

Spiral Journal Spread 6...and a Confession or Two

Spiral journal 2-19-13

Well, let's see. Today's May 8. Last time I completed an art journal page (other than at An Artful Journey)?  Apparently it was February 19, if this spread is any indication. And flipping through my Flickr sets, I realized I never shared it with you here.  This spread includes several of my secret addictions:  magazines (the Coach perfume bottle probably came out of Glamour), old books, and old maps.  When you work on a college campus and are good friends with the dean over the library, you get first dibs on the old books and maps they are purging.  The circles are cut from painted and inked coffee filters. I also used gesso, acrylic paint, spray inks, Sharpie paint pens, and alphabet and swirl stamps.

So about those magazines...they are my husband's nemesis. And I will confess that I'm a "piler." Recently in one of those magazines I subscribe to, I believe it was Redbook, I came across an article that talked about the different ways people manage clutter.  When I saw the description of the "piler," I yelled from my reading perch, "Oh my gosh!  That's me!" and immediately read it to Benny. He wholeheartedly agreed (yet I pointed out that my piling tendencies are better controlled and neater than his "leave it wherever I put it down" tendencies).  So to come clean, here is the long list of periodicals that appear in our maibox on a monthly, bimonthly or quarterly basis (it should be noted that not ALL of these are for me): Glamour, Redbook, Coastal Living, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, Better Homes and Gardens Do It Yourself, HGTV Magazine, National Geographic, National Geographic Kids, American Girl Magazine, Sports Illustrated (weekly! you know how those can pile up!), Florida Sportsmen, Cloth Paper Scissors, Somerset Studio, Artful Blogging, and Art Journaling (okay, so MOST of these are for me....but I will add that Benny is a closet Glamour and Redbook reader--yes, now his secret is out--and the girls will read anything I do).  My longest standing subscription is National Geographic.  My mother got me a subscription when I was in middle school, and I have received every issue since. For a while, I couldn't bear to part with them and kept every one in one bookcase dedicated just to those yellow spines. Finally I realized we were about to be overrun, so I donated my entire collection to a couple of local schools (but they are piling up again...).

Then there are those that I just happen to pick up in Publix or Books a Million: Flea Market Style, Flea Market Finds, Sew Somerset, Somerset HandMade, Better Homes and Gardens 100 Storage Ideas (because, obviously, I need storage ideas), the occasional quilting magazine, and random others that just happen to jump out at me. I confess. I am a magazine junkie. But I do read them all!  Cover to cover!  Once my "I've read these" pile has reached the point of consistently toppling over, the girls and I have a big cutting session, cutting out images to use in our journal pages before I sadly put them in the recycle bin.  But it's not just magazines; I'm a big reader in general.  In addition to my magazine addiction, I also read two to three novels a month.  And I'm a want-to-feel-the-real-thing in my hand kind of girl. I don't have, nor do I want, a Kindle, and I don't like reading magazines on tablets. Last night I started The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen, and I've read several of her books recently (The Peach Keeper has been my favorite of hers so far). I also fell in love with Jacqueline Sheehan and have read every one of her books over the last few months (it should come as no surprise that all of Sheehan's books have strong canine characters).  I'll have to do a post on all my favorite reads...

...and then there is that HUGE pile (well, to be honest, about four piles) of vintage Popular Mechanics magazines, courtesy of eBay, piled up next to my book table in my studio...don't even get Benny started on those.  Sometime this summer, I'll be flipping through those searching out vintage automobile ads, a whole other addiction I'll spare you from for the moment.  So, hmmm, back to the point of this post: sharing an art journal page. In a round about way, I believe I have just proven that you truly can share all your deep dark secrets through a journal page, even if they start in your mailbox. :-) Any secret addictions you want to share? 

Best Shot Monday

Pink Daisy with water-72

We've had an incredibly rainy four days with extremely high tides, so the girlies have been having a great time kayaking in the back yard during high tide (yes, I said kayaking in the back yard...when the tides are this high, the river moves in!). As I mentioned in last week's Best Shot Monday (on a Thursday...) we have several pots of daisies on the back deck. I was lucky enough to catch this one during a break in the rain with some pretty raindrops still hanging on.

My craziness finally wrapped up yesterday with our Commencement ceremony. We do two ceremonies in one day, so it makes for a very long day, but at least we get it all done in one day. With a good nine hours standing on a hard concrete floor, my back and knees are always screaming by the end of the day, but I love Commencement.  So fun to see all those happy students cross the stage, particularly those I've had so much direct involvement with.  Now that the Spring term is over, I'll be able to catch my breath a bit and hopefully be able to catch up on some art-making and listing new jewelry pieces I haven't had time to post yet.  Things slow down a bit in the office for us during summer term as well, so it's end of the academic year report writing time.  I hope your May has started off bright and sunny!

Have a Best Shot Monday of your own you'd like to share?  Post a link in the comments!

Time for May Free Bling!

May Free Bling

Time for Free Bling Friday!  Congrats to Patti from Lafayette, Louisiana, for winning my April Free Bling! 

May brings Mother's Day, so to get your name in the hat for these abalone and sterling earrings, tell me about a favorite memory you have of your mother.  It could have happened many years ago, or it could have happened yesterday, just as long as it's a favorite!  Along with your answer, include your location and a way to reach you by midnight June 6. Want more entries? Tweet, blog or Facebook this giveaway and leave another comment with the link. The next winner will be drawn via Friday, June 7.

My favorite memory of my mom?  One that particularly jumps out is when I was in 10th grade, when Michael Jackson's first album came out.  I was singing along to MJ in my earphones and then realized my mom was standing in my bedroom doorway watching (and listening to!) me.  We both cracked up.  :-)

Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email updates or subscribe in the reader of your choice over there in the right column. And be sure to like my Facebook page or sign up for my monthly newsletter on my website here for specials. Thanks for stopping in!

Best Shot Monday on a Thursday and a Few Thoughts on One Spark


Well, I'm hanging in over here, but I'm obviously not doing a very good job keeping up on my blog.  I'm taking the liberty to post my Best Shot Monday on Thursday. We have three pots of daisies growing on our back deck, and we've been pretty good lately at cutting them and bringing them inside to put in vintage Coke bottles for a little flowery-ness around the house. Before I brought the latest batch upstairs, I decided to stick one in between the boards on the deck to catch a few shots, and lo and behold, in the middle of my shooting, Molly decided she needed to take a sniff. I caught this shot purely by accident, but I love it!

Taking time to smell the flowers...that's what I've really been needing to do lately. April truly was a whirlwind I don't care to repeat any time soon. I tend to overload myself on my own accord, I realize that, but when I add in an incredibly busy month at work, that overload goes into super-drive and usually ends in a crash.  April started with the Springtime Tallahassee Arts Jubilee the 6th-7th, then our annual SGA Conference in Orlando the 11th-14th, then One Spark the 17th-21st, then Amber and Jarrod's wedding on the 20th, then my annual Student Awards Program the 24th, then our annual High Honors Luncheon May 1, and I'll wrap up the insanity this Sunday with Commencement.  In between that, I've still had class every Tuesday night and I'm currently trying to wrap up grading to post final grades for the term.  Then there's those two little red-heads and that husband of mine who have all been trying to help me keep it all together. There have been quite a few "stress relief bubble baths" set up by my girls in the past month, and they have been much appreciated! 

So how do you slow down? This is the battle I've been fighting for quite a few years now. I think in working one full-time job, teaching at night, and running a creative business on the side along with raising a family, I get lost somewhere.  Sometimes I feel like I'm getting by strictly on sweet tea and Bit 'O Honeys (side note, I posted a Facebook update recently that I had run out of Bit 'O Honeys, a minor crisis in my world, and my Lord, I now have nearly 10 joke...10 pounds of Bit 'O Honeys that have appeared either in my mailbox or on my desk from friends and family....can you feel the love?....sorry, rambling...).  I know I need to find a way to better manage the juggle, but I just haven't gotten there yet.  I'm open to suggestions (which reminds me of this post)!

I've hestitated to say much about my One Spark experience, but I'm going to share a few things as I feel that's really what's fueled my exhaustion this past month, no pun intended. (Click here to read my initial One Spark post.)  Have you ever put a lot of time, energy and money into an event, excited with high hopes that it's going to be truly awesome...only to be very disappointed?  Well, that's what happened for me with One Spark.  I'll say this.  I think One Spark has the potential to be a great thing for the city of Jacksonville, but to do that, a lot of things that happened this first year need to be addressed.  The creators in the outer venues, where I was, did not get near the traffic nor media publicity that the creators around the main hub of Hemming Plaza did.  That's a feeling that's been shared by many creators in those outlying venues.  The whole festival needs to be more centralized.  Closing off the streets around the Hemming Plaza area and placing all the creators there could be much more effective. Second, I think the "projects" need to go through some sort of jury process, similar to a juried arts festival.  While 95% of the projects were legitimate projects (though they did not all fit into One Spark's advertised "Art. Music. Science. Technology" if I am remembering those four correctly), some truly did not belong there, and when those are covered by the media, I feel they hurt the overall image of what One Spark advertised itself to be.  I also asked that my funds be transferred to another creator I was very touched by (check out the J.T. Townsend Foundation), but One Spark would not allow that. That one completely baffled me.  Why would they be against one creator wanting to give her funds to another creator?  So nope, in order to do that, I have to submit my W-9, get the check and then write a check to J.T.  I hope that's also something they'll reconsider should this event go forward next year. 

So there's my take. Yes, One Spark can be a great thing for the city of Jacksonville, and I think that maybe it just became far bigger than they expected it to be this first year (466 creators), but in order to be a great thing for the city, changes need to be made. An honest survey of creator feedback would be a good start. That hasn't happened yet.  It was definitely a learning experience for me, and a lesson I don't think I'll choose to repeat. 

Onward!  If this rain quits, I'll be back in the shelter photographing sweet furry faces in the morning. That makes me a very happy girl!