AJE Component of the Month – September edition!

I made the (hard, painful) decision not to participate in this month’s component challenge over at Art Jewelry Elements – even before I got sick, I knew September was going to be exceedingly busy because of the move. So I didn’t get to play with one of these beauties:


These were offered by the amazing Kristi Bowman – I just love her components, so it wasn’t easy to pass up the opportunity to work with one of these great pieces!

Other members of the AJE team participated, though, along with three guest designers. Head over to the AJE blog for the links – you won’t be sorry!


I stumbled across this video last night, and it stunned me.

I believe – deeply and passionately – that like these wolves, human beings have a purpose here on earth. Beyond that, I believe with equal passion that each individual human being was created by a loving Father God with a plan and an intention for every single one.

Every. One.

Including me.

When we turn aside from or deny the things that God created us to be and do, it has an impact – not only on us as individuals, but on the people and places and circumstances and culture God created us to engage. Often our choices and decisions are well-intentioned – like the removal of the wolves from Yellowstone in the first place – and it’s only when we recalibrate our perspectives that we understand the damage we’ve done. When the solution is as simple as reversing course – reintroducing the thing we removed or setting aside an indulgence – we breathe a sigh of relief. Sometimes, though – often – it takes more work and focus and discipline. And sometimes the damage cannot be undone.

I spent the entirety of my Sunday yesterday contemplating some challenging truths about myself, my choices, and what lies ahead for me. There are things I have – with good intentions – allowed into my life that have no business there. Important things have suffered from inattention and a lack of discipline. As difficult as it is to admit, the imbalance all of that creates is devastating to the internal landscape of my spirit. Everything around me suffers – relationships, creativity, environment. Me. And honestly? I walk through periods of intense self-loathing every time I stumble over one of those icky, unpleasant parts of myself I wish desperately would just go away.

And then… hope. Perspective. Grace. A God who forgives and empowers and and directs and casts vision. It is not an accident I found this video last night, or that my day was full of small moments of beauty. If you missed my story about the widow’s rosebushes, read my post from last week and then look at the beautiful rose I found yesterday afternoon when I stepped into the yard.

Helen's Rose

God loves me. I am – largely in spite of myself – where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to do. I have some recalibrating to do, but none of it is fatal, no essential part of me or my life is extinct or damaged beyond repair. Because… God. And grace. And Jesus. And I am so, so grateful for the reminder.

Happy Monday.

Getting to know you…

I woke up this morning with the urge to write. I felt words stirring in my head and my heart in a way I haven’t for a long time, and so I just spent some time letting them out to walk around the page for a while. The exercise did me good, although I didn’t come up with anything earth-shattering – but writing used to be such an integral part of every day that it felt wonderful to immerse myself in it again over a cup of coffee. It didn’t hurt that this was my view.

Francesca Watson Designs

It’s overcast today, but things are really that green right now. We’ve had a lot of much-needed rain!

We’ve been living in the new house for about two and a half weeks now, and we’d be farther along in getting things set up except that I came down with a terrible case of bronchitis a few days after moving in. It was by far the most serious case I’ve had in years (bronchitis tends to be at least an annual visitor since we moved to Texas), and it literally laid me out. Getting up and taking a shower was the most I could manage most days – any kind of exertion sent me into bouts of coughing so violent that my ribs hurt. Steroids, inhalers, antibiotics, essential oils – all were pressed into service, and I’m deeply grateful that today I finally feel human. My stamina is low, so I have to be careful not to overdo, but I seem to be back among the living.

The process of getting to know a new house is always interesting – every house has a personality and this one is no exception. It was built in 2006 for an Army widow so she could be closer to her adult children. My understanding is that she was quite elderly and – in the last several years – in poor health, so the house has all sorts of features that are perfect for us as we looked for somewhere to “age in place.” It’s very small compared to the 3000 plus square feet we left behind, but it’s a perfect size for two people and sits on a lovely lot with all sorts of potential.


This is a small hillock that is impossible to mow with the riding mower. Not sure what we’ll do with it.


The clump of grass in the middle is where a bunch of old wood has been tossed for a burn pile. We’ll need to clear it before I can put a vegetable garden in.

We’re going to build a studio building in this area after the first of the year. We haven’t even started the process of planning for it – we want to live in the house a bit and watch how the light interacts with the land before finalizing its placement. The lot is surrounded by cedars, many of which need to be thinned or cleaned up or taken out altogether, as you can see in the photos above. That will be an on-going chore, I’m sure.


We’re going to start on this side of the lot, where I plan to put in a chicken coop next spring. When we were looking at the house, I honestly didn’t notice the two oak trees way in the back – you can see their canopies above the cedars at the left and right in this photo. Cedars are water hogs, so taking some of them out will help the oaks to be healthier in hot, dry weather. The plan is to start by removing some of these cedars and thinning up the others so we can tuck the coop into the tree line without infringing on the septic fields.

(Yes. I said chicken coop. I have wanted chickens all my adult life, and finding a place where we could have them comfortably was high on my list of priorities for the new house. I am doing a ton of research into heat-hardy dual-purpose breeds – good layers and good meat birds. If I’m going to raise chickens, we need a retirement plan for them and I love chicken stew!)



We have a lovely back porch with plenty of room to just sit and enjoy the views. We’ll be putting in some welded wire fencing so Rocky can come sit with us without running off to chase the many deer that call our property home. There’s not really room for that outdoor dining table on the porch proper, so we’ll put in a brick or flagstone pad to extend the area outside the french doors and put it there.


The widow who lived here loved roses – this is actually three separate plants, and they were all bravely putting out a few blooms the first time I looked at the house. I knew when I saw them this was going to be our house – something about this wildly overgrown bit of beauty tugged at my heart. On the day we settled, I told this to her son, and he got a little choked up. “I thought maybe I should have pulled those out when we listed the house, because they look so bad,” he told me. “I couldn’t bring myself to do it because Mom loved them so much.” My friend Kimmy is a rose-whisperer, and when the weather gets a little cooler, we’ll start cleaning them up, and when they bloom next year, I’ll think of the sweet woman who loved them as much as we do.

In the meantime, it’s a favorite morning stopping place for neighborhood birds – cardinals, blue jays, and a large sparrow-type that I haven’t been able to identify yet. Yesterday there was an enormous blue bird, but he didn’t stay long.

And the deer – literally dozens in the neighborhood, and six or eight that regularly visit our yard, including a mama with twins.


This is from mid-June, when the babies were really small – Mama wouldn’t let me get close enough for a better photo.

Rocky is mesmerized.

His favorite pastime towards the end of the day is watching "Deer TV" out the back door.

His favorite pastime towards the end of the day is watching “Deer TV” out the back door.

So we’re settling into the rhythms of rural life and looking forward to the much slower pace that will be ours once the house settlement is done and things are unpacked. We’re just five minutes from Roadhouse (where I’m headed next for some much-needed playtime) so our need to be on the road so much will be greatly reduced, especially once Nick retires at the end of the year. I feel such peace here, and such a sense of opportunity and potential. I can’t wait to see what this next phase of our lives brings.

Component of the Month – August Edition!

It’s almost impossible to believe that September is right around the corner…. this year has been jam-packed with activity, and August was no exception. Nick and I spent the last few weeks finalizing the purchase of a new home just a few minutes from the studio, and are just about all moved in. Because we’re down-sizing, there’s still a ton of stuff to weed through and make decisions about, and not a lot of time to do it in. So, yeah – we’ve been insanely busy.

But I carved out some much-needed play time to participate in the Art Jewelry Elements Component of the Month for August. Rebekah Payne offered us these stunning hand-painted leather feathers, and the minute I laid eyes on them I knew what I wanted to make.


I knew immediately that I wanted to turn Rebecca’s feathers into a pair of shoulder dusters. These ultra-long earring pairs are all the rage right now and feathered versions are very popular. After digging into my scrap chain and vintage bead stash and fusing a pair of Argentium marquise links, I started laying things out on my workbench. Although I had a pretty clear idea of the feel I was going for, it was surprisingly difficult to get the proportions right and it took me several tries to get something I was happy with. At last, though, everything fell into place and this is what I came up with.






I folded each of the tops of the feathers over and through a fused silver ring and closed it with a copper rivet. Then I connected the feather to the marquise link with a short length of sterling silver cable chain. Vintage Czech glass beads in vivid blue and metallic gold and bronze hang from lengths of tiny silver rolo chain. They’re lightweight with tons of movement, and I could not be happier about how they turned out. They’ll go into the Roadhouse gallery soon, and I hope their BoHo vibe catches someone’s eye!

Thanks to Rebekah for the wonderful components and the opportunity to take a break from the hustle bustle! To see what our guest designers and members of the AJE team did with these gorgeous feathers, check out the links below.

Guest Designers
Karin Grosset Grange – http://ginkgoetcoquelicot.blogspot.com/
Ann Schroeder – http://beadlove.wordpress.com/
Claire Lockwood – http://www.somethingtodowithyourhands.com/
Toltec Jewels – http://www.jewelschoolfriends.com/
The AJE Team
Jen Cameron – http://www.glassaddictions.com/blog
Diana Ptaszynski – http://www.suburbangirlstudio.com
Kristen Stevens – http://kristen-beadjourney.blogspot.com/
Lesley Watt – http://www.thegossipinggoddess.blogspot.com/
Jenny Davies-Reazor – http://www.jdaviesreazor.com/blog
Francesca Watson – http://francescawatson.com/ <— YOU ARE HERE!
Linda Landig – http://www.lindasbeadblog.com/
Melissa Meman – http://melissameman.blogspot.com/
Sue Kennedy – http://www.suebeads.blogspot.com/
Rebekah Payne – http://www.treewingsstudio.com/
Caroline Dewison – http://blueberribeads.blogspot.co.uk/

Resources 101 – All Things Metal

I get a lot of requests from my students for information about the best sources for purchasing metals and studio supplies, and usually I just toss out a few of the sites I frequent. But I recently promised a class that I would put something together for them that was a little more comprehensive, and it seemed like a good thing to share here, so here is the first installment of some of my favorite online resources.

For metals, I have a few “go to” site:

Rio Grande – www.riogrande.com

Rio is the grand-daddy of jewelry supply, and if they don’t have it you probably don’t need it. It is also the Nordstrom’s of jewelry supply, meaning everything is priced for high end consumption. I generally buy silver and wire from Rio when I have a short fuse order to fill, because they’re very good about getting things out quickly. I will say that – disappointingly – I’m hearing more and more from jewelry friends that their customer service has gone down some since they were purchased by Berkshire Hathaway. I’ve only had one recent glitch that was a serious problem for me, and Rio was very good about fixing it.

Metalliferous – www.metalliferous.com

I buy all of my copper stampings from them for enameling, and a lot of my copper and brass sheet. Terrific pricing, superb customer service, and a good selection. If you need copper, this is the place.

Thunderbird Supply – www.thunderbirdsupply.com

I love Thunderbird and I buy my sheet and wire from them whenever possible. They have regular sales, where you get their best quantity pricing on any amount of metal you buy – and that can really add up if you can plan far enough in advance to take advantage of the deals. As a bonus, they have hands down the best and most proactive customer service out there. If your order is more than what you approved when you checked out on line, you get a phone call from them before they charge your card. Love it.

Monsterslayer – www.monsterslayer.com

Located in Albuquerque, it’s pretty obvious which monster they’re looking to slay, and I used to buy from them all the time – good pricing and helpful staff. However…. in this day and age of internet commerce, their website makes me crazy. It’s hard to find things, it’s ugly to look at, the photos don’t resize, and sometimes the way things are grouped together seems a little counter-intuitive to me. I order from them when I can and when I know exactly what I need, because I genuinely believe in supporting the littler guys, but as good as their pricing is they are often not my first choice.

Otto Frei – www.ottofrei.com

If Rio is Nordstrom’s, Otto Frei is Lord & Taylor. Top notch stuff, but priced accordingly. They also have some good sales so if there’s a big-ticket item you’re saving for, it might be worth it to stalk their site. (When I bought my flex shaft, I waited for one of their sales and bought from them.) One major drawback of dealing with them, though, is their shipping policy. Any shipment over a certain value MUST be signed for in person, no exceptions – and they don’t make that clear on their site. This can be a real pain – I once paid for two day shipping but because I couldn’t be at the house when the delivery arrived and couldn’t get to the shipping center during their open hours to pick up the item, I had to pitch a fit and arrange for a special evening delivery. Two day shipping became five, which was very annoying. On the other hand, when we had a last minute supply issue for our retreat in March, I called their customer service in a panic and they jumped through hoops to get us what we needed. So: watch the pricing, appreciate the excellent customer service, and be sure you’re thinking through your shipping needs.

I’ll do more of these over the next few weeks, and let you know where I get my studio supplies and tools. If there are things you’d especially like to know about, let me know – I’ll answer if I can!

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