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Down for the Count

I’ve been away for a while, which happens when life comes at you.

First off, illness and the Little One’s school year being over. Going from school to summer schedule is always a bit rocky, but compounded with a sinus infection, it was doubly hard. After that, the sun poisoning and poison ivy hit!

On Memorial Day, we helped out a friend who was locked out of her car. In searching for her lost keys, I got sun poisoning. I’ve had it before, and while it sucks, I can deal. It’s the poison ivy that’s been causing the most trouble. I decided to clear it out after we got home, and it’s not pretty. You see, I’m normally immune to poison ivy. I clear it away from our lawn in the summer, and I have no problems. But this year, I’m covered! And new blisters keep appearing, even now! I think the oil got into my bloostream via a cut or a bugbite. Either that, or I’ve lost my immunity, which can happen.

Either way, open, seeping blisters on my arms shouldn’t be in a workshop. I have to dry them out, so they’re not exactly covered, and if the fumes, compound dust and metal shavings get in there, it won’t be good.

So, I’ve been doing a bit of chainmaille in preparation for the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival, which will be here before we know it, and trying not to scratch. Luckily, the worst of it is starting to heal, and I should be back in the shop soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) Night Markets every Saturday, and I’ll keep doing them until the Saturday before Pennsic. Then it’ll be Pennsic, and then the Ren Fest, and then MORE Night Markets ni October.

So, yeah – Busy busy busy! Hopefully I’ll see you around!

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Blackstone Raid 2017

We’re back from Backstone Raid and we had a wonderful time!

Aside from manning the booth, we participated in much socializing and mead drinking, which is something we haven’t done in a very long time. Brian cut a gemstone after one of the stones in the Cheapside Hoard, and entered it into the Arts & Sciences Competition. He won Queen’s Choice and Baroness’s Choice! Our friend Anthony (AKA Albrecht) won an Onyx award for his service to the barony in general, Chatelaine duties and his tireless efforts to help things run smoothly for everyone he ran across.

There was also a nasty storm that we thankfully survived with no problems, but several tents were flattened, incliding some fellow merchants. Lukcily there was lots of help on hand to help with immediate damage control and packing the next day. Brian also got to play some music in court, which is something he’s been wanting to do for a long time.

I also took a bunch of pictures, so here they are!

Thursday – Setup & Arrival

Friday

   

Saturday

    

Sunday

Thanks again to everyone who came and visited us in the booth! ^_^ It was great seeing you!

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A Giveaway, Steel City and the FIRST BOX.

First off, the Giveaway!

In case you didn’t know, Brian is a published author. He’s always made his short stories available at conventions as little mini books, but due to popular demand he’s making them available as 99¢ Kindle books. To celebrate, he’s offering his most popular short, “Insomnia” for free starting today and going through until the end of the holiday weekend. It’s a horror/suspense story about a man’s struggle with severe insomnia, and partially based on Brian’s own personal experience with sleep paralysis. Very creepy!

You can visit his author page here, and get the ebook on Amazon here. Please tell your friends and leave a review!

As for Steel City Con – We had a great time and will be back with his book (potentially more books!) in July. Brian will have two books done by then, and hopefully the second Windsmith City book available for purchase.

And speaking of books – I got the FIRST BOX of my “Celtic Spirals to Color” book in! That means it’ll be up in the shop as soon as I get enough light for a clean photo. Probably later today. Aren’t they pretty?

If you’d rather get one from Amazon, that’s fine with me. Here’s the link to the coloring book.

I have some new local shows coming up next week, and you’ll hear about those soon. Talk to you later!

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A New Arrival

Sleepy Mara. She settled in quick!

This brings our cat count to three. I’d like to share how Mara joined our family, because I believe it’s a perfect example of the Universe (or whatever you want to call it) providing you with exactly what you need when you ask for it.
Now, some backstory. This time a year ago was one of the worst times in our lives. We lost three pets and my grandmother in a period of about 8 weeks. Losing four immediate family members hurts, furry or not. Among those we lost was Bentley. He loved us all, but it was very obvious he was Brian’s cat. He slept next to him, curled up on his lap as he wrote, sat next to him in the dining room – He was just there, at all times, and he helped Brian manage his depression in ways only a pet can.
We adopted Simon, and while he’s the strangest, silliest, most clownish cat I’ve ever known (I swear he’s part dog) he is simply not a lap cat. He loves hugs. Pasha, our black cat, is a shoulder cat.
So, Brian’s been missing a lap cat for a year, and it was getting to him. I’ve always said that if a homeless animal came to us, they’d have a home. He said that he wished he had a lap cat again.
Guess what happened? The day after he said that, Brian was hugging Simon while he dozed in the cat tree at the dining room window. Brian looked outside and saw a cat come out of the woods a few houses down. She confidently walked though the back lawns (not at all like outdoor cats or strays – they tend to slink) until she got to our fence. She jumped up onto our fence, looked Brian in the eyes, and walked along the rail straight towards him. She sat down on the gate post and stared. Waiting.
Brian called me so I could watch her while he got his shoes on and food ready. He got her in the house, where she scarfed down almost two whole bowls of dry food and drank a ton of water. She was clearly a pet – Clean, friendly, and a bit tubby. Not knowing if she had been turned out due to illness or simply lost, we took her to the shelter so they could scan for a microchip and give her a health check. We took a ton of pictures and hunted for her owner.
To make a long story short, there was no chip, no one came to claim her and we couldn’t find her family. We couldn’t get her out of our heads and by Friday night we decided to adopt her. Saturday morning she came home, and even though it hasn’t been two weeks yet, it feels like she’s been here forever. We named her Mara after the goddess of love in Skyrim, which is quite fitting.
She settled in almost instantly, and within hours found her proper place. On Brian’s lap.

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It’s 2016 – What’s the Plan?

That’s the big question, isn’t it? It’s the beginning of January, so it’s time to make some plans and start getting things done. If you’re in the SCA like us, you probably got some cool new Society-themed toys for Christmas. Now that it’s 2016, you’re making plans to finally get that weaving done, or learn how to sew. Perhaps you’ve got your eye on a top combat spot, and you’re eager for your local practices to start up again.

I know it’s early, but Gulf Wars isn’t that far off. If you meet weekly, you’ve got only 8 or so more meetups until it’s time to hit the field! With that in mind:

What do you need to make your persona complete?

I do metalwork, and I know literally dozens of professional artists and craftspeople. I can help you get your look together in more ways than one! Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to get you in touch with people who either sell what you’re looking for, or who can make it happen. My commission schedule is wide open now that the holiday orders are finished, so if you need metalwork, we’ll get it done.

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Racing The Rock

I’ve got a secret. I’m in a race with The Rock.

Yes, THAT Rock. Dwayne Johnson. That huge guy who’s all over HBO and in a ton of movies.

I know it seems odd that a historian/artist would pick him. I mean, there’s so many jewelers, jewelry brands and artists out there for me to pick from. Tiffany’s, Van Cleef and Arpels, or Bvlgari (my favorite) come to mind. But I can’t race them. They’re companies. Sure, I can learn from their strategies, or look at their numbers and see how the trends are going, and that’s good for a company to do. For me, as a human, that’s not feasible.

Brandy Sinclair can’t race Ippolita, but she can race Dwayne Johnson.

Let me explain.

I’m very fortunate that I learned early on in life, that if I wanted to be a great artist my chief aim every day should be to be better than I was the day before. Dwayne Johnson, along with every other pro athlete out there, knows this. That’s why he’s up before 4:30 in the morning, and has done his cardio and (literally) tons of heavy lifting before most of us have hit the snooze button. That’s why I try to wake up at 5 am or earlier and either get into the workshop or spend time studying and learning before the rest of the house wakes up. His first order of the day is to be bigger, faster, or stronger than he was when he woke up yesterday. I can do the same with my art. It’s not as easy to measure as physical improvement, but it can be done.

So how, exactly, does one “race” The Rock? With Instagram, of course! When I wake up the first thing I do is check out @therock. He sometimes posts screenshots of his wakeup alarms, and when he’s on the East Coast I like to try and be awake before he is. Yes, I’ve been up before him, and I do a little dance every time I see it. Later on in the day, when I decide to take a break from whatever it is I’m doing, I’ll look at Instagram. I look at lots of things, but I always check in on him. Is it a marketing promo image? I think I’ll post some jewelry. Is it a slice-of-life shot? Maybe I can find something cool you guys would like. Is he pumping iron at his bench? Well, this is what’s on my bench! You get the idea. When he hasn’t posted anything new from the last time I looked, I’ll post something and see if he posts the same type of image later.

There’s more to it, though. I like to see if I can beat the profit margins on his movies with my events. I’ll enter a contest when I see he’s up for an award. When I see him celebrating his fans, it reminds me to make extra-sure my family and friends know how much I appreciate them. When I see him with his family or with his pets, I’ll take a break to give them some love. You see, I’m only human, and so is he. Companies don’t sleep. They chug on every second of every day. I race Dwayne Johnson because he helps me up my game in every area of my life.

So you don’t get the wrong idea – I’m not racing against him. I’m racing with him, because the only person I’m competing against is myself.

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What You’re REALLY Buying

Given how yesterday was Small Business Saturday and tomorrow is Cyber Monday, you’ve probably seen some variation of this floating around on your social media feeds. And while it’s true, you’re buying so much more when you Shop Small and Buy Handmade this season.
You’re not just getting an unbelievably cozy scarf, or an expertly finished cutting board, or a ring you literally can’t find anywhere else. You are buying blood, sweat and tears.

Literally.

Allow me to explain.

The blood is the simplest, so I’ll start with that. If you’ve ever made anything with your hands, you know that sooner or later, you’re going to get hurt. All bakers have been burnt. All the people I know who sew have cut or stabbed themselves at some point. Even fiber workers like knitters get hurt. And when it comes to hammers and saws, it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”.

As for sweat, well – That’s also pretty self-explanatory. Making things, even if you love it, can be hard work. Hard work isn’t a bad thing, but it does make you sweat. Whether it’s over a stove, a saw, or a sewing machine, we sweat. We sweat from the work, from putting up tents at craft shows, from hauling our totes of goods and displays up and down stairs. We sweat when see the application deadlines approaching, while we wait for acceptance emails and before the events start. We sweat over the details, not only in the work itself but on our business cards, our websites, and the pictures we take for our online stores. We’re doing this full time, but do we look professional enough? Do we look too professional? Is that a bad camera angle? Does this font look cheesy? Am I using the right words? Did I choose the right images to send with my application? Is this display “right” for my work? There are buckets of sweat behind everything you see in an online shop or at a show.

Now for tears. Big Artist Confession Time: Yes, you are buying tears. We usually don’t cry when we bleed, we’re used to that by now, but we cry at other things. We cry at numbers, especially when they’re bad, but sometimes when they’re really good, too. We cry in frustration when the work just isn’t working. We cry at rejection emails and shutoff notices. We cry happy tears when we’re accepted into one of our dream shows. We cry a lot when someone favorites half of our Etsy shop and then copies our work.

But if you really, really want to make an artist cry, come up to our table and say loudly, “I could make that.” We’ll smile and maybe we’ll used our canned comeback for this phrase (because trust me, we all have one), but on the inside, we’re crying. We’re crying because those four words contain every single bit of naysaying that we’ve ever heard from society, from the people we love and from inside our own heads. We’re crying because you’re devaluing the skills we have literally bled to acquire (see above). Some of us are crying because we’re honestly afraid that you’ll steal the designs we’ve spent days or sometimes even weeks developing. We’re crying because we’re literally putting a price tag on little pieces of ourselves and you’re telling us we’re Not Worth It.

We’ll be okay. We’re artists, and we feel all the feelings, but we’re tough. Some of us have been at it so long that The Phrase doesn’t hurt us any more. It might sting in the pocketbook, because those people never buy anything, but we know that the words are empty. Still, we feel for the others who have it used on them, because the person who says it always says it a lot. And loudly, too.

So remember, while you are wandering the shows and the Internet, that when you buy the Perfect Handmade Gift, you’re not just getting a thing. You’re getting blood, sweat, and tears, and you’re giving encouragement, opportunity, and hope.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I’d just like to say “Thanks” to you.
Yes, you, who’s taking time out of your busy day to visit me here on the Internet. You could be getting your Black Friday pre game on, or double checking that stuffing recipe, but you’re here, reading this.

And I really appreciate you checking in on me today, and all other days.

Thank you, my friend.

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My Project 365

If you haven’t been on Instagram, you haven’t been seeing the little Project 365 I’ve been working on. Normally this is a photography challenge, where you take a selfie a day or a picture of your morning walk. Maybe you give yourself a theme for the month and try to work with that. For me, my Project 365 is a jewelry design a day. I’ve been using the hashtag #sjdesignaday to mark them. A lot of people have asked about my design a day and exactly how I go about it. So, without further ado:

How to draw a jewelry design a day:

  1. Get out a precut square or rectangle of semi-transparent drafting vellum. Cut down 8.5×11 sheets into quarters or sixths to make sure you design at a sane size.
  2. Tape it down to the drafting board. (I like to use Alvin Drafting Dots.)
  3. Pick up your Faber-Castell 6H pencil and stare at the white space.
  4. Get up and pace around.
  5. Use your T-square and a triangle to draw centering lines so your design will be balanced.
  6. Get up and look through some Dover design books. Question your talent.
  7. Sit down and stare at the white space again.
  8. Turn to the Internet for “inspiration.”
  9. Cuss when you realize what time it is and go back to your little square of drafting vellum with two lines on it.
  10. Sigh heavily and refill your drink. Wonder why you started on this madness in the first place. Remind yourself of the Sunk Cost Fallacy and of the fact that you are under no obligation to anyone to do this.
  11. Sit down and glare at the vellum while it mocks you with it’s blandness. The two lines you drew on it earlier only add to the scathing contempt you KNOW it’s directing at you.
  12. In desperation, grab a drafting template at random from your drawer and pick a shape to trace on the vellum. It doesn’t help.
  13. Look back at your previous work, back when you had Creativity and Ideas, before the vellum sucked it out of you.
  14. Draw some more lines around your center shape. This is your focal stone.
  15. Draw a few more.
  16. Erase those lines – They sucked.
  17. Draw more lines, and bring some of the old ones back. They weren’t that bad.
  18. Erase the guidelines from step 5.
  19. Darken your main lines. I recommend an H lead.
  20. Refine and darken as the design comes into shape. Resist the urge to shade with your pencils.
  21. Carefully pull off your tape and flip your design over.
  22. Pull out your Copic (or Prismacolor) markers and begin to color your design on the back. Lay out flats for the metallic parts first.
  23. Use a colorless blender to give some areas of highlights.
  24. Add shading with your markers. Be conscious of the height of the gemstone while shading.
  25. Pick out a color for your gemstone or stones.
  26. Hesitate as the Doubt begins to creep back in.
  27. Start coloring in the gems anyway, ignoring Doubt as it calls you a talentless hack.
  28. Darken the gems, but don’t use gray unless the stone itself is that color. Grays muddy it up.
  29. Now to add shine. Get out your trusty Sakura White Gel Pen and add highlights to the metallic areas.
  30. Smile to yourself when you see the work really start to “pop”.
  31. Add white to the stone to show areas of shine. The gel pen is fine for small dots of lights on small stones, but I like to use white acrylic ink and a small brush to cover larger areas.
  32. Sign and date your design.
  33. Share it on Instagram!

See? Nothing to it!

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Picking up the Graver

pracetice engraving on steelRecently I started engraving again. I say “again” because I had been engraving a little bit before summer hit, but with events and the subsequent insanity of Fall, I haven’t touched it. Now I’m doing a little bit of engraving, every day until my graver gets dull and Brian needs to resharpen it for me on his faceting machine.
It’s been wonderful!
For those that don’t know, I used to be an animator. My specialty was hand-drawn animation, done either on paper or in programs like Flash with a tablet. My career was barely started when I heard the words, “You have carpal tunnel,” from my doctor. I could barely react before it was followed with, “In both hands.” The solutions were either surgery, which would restore 80% of my functions (if I’m lucky), or just don’t draw anymore.
Drawing was something I had done every day since my fat little baby hands could hold a crayon! You might as well tell a fish not to swim, or a bird not to sing. I sunk myself into metalwork so I could still make money, create and not lose my mind. Eventually, my hands got better. The muscles around my wrists grew and were able to support the “drawing hands” and about five years ago, I could draw again.
By then, the animation world had changed, and frankly, so had I. People I had known in college were leaving the studios in droves, burnt out in every way. Technology I had mastered was now obsolete, and I was incredibly rusty, to boot. But I had found that making jewelry combined my art skills and my obsession with history into something that I could do every day, without pain or fear of further damage.
I still missed drawing.
So I looked into engraving. Drawing on metal. I went to an intro class back in May and I feel like I was given drawing back. I’m being smart, though – I’m letting the tool do the work and I’m taking breaks to stretch. I still have some more practicing to do before my engraving can go up in the shop, but keep your eyes peeled. I like to post my practice work on Instagram.

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