Saturday, February 7, 2015

Maternity Photoshoot

This winter during a family reunion, I had the honor of doing a maternity photoshoot for my oldest cousin and "cuzzle" (family nickname for cousin-in-law). They are expecting a little boy!

We were working with a time crunch; it was freezing outside and the shoot lasted only ten minutes! Thankfully within that time I was able to find a nice corner of their neighborhood to take pictures in, and they were very willing models! These are a few of my favorites from the day.

The photoshoot went beautifully and since I was able to edit the pictures the same day, my cousins, the new-grandma, and the new-great-grandma all got to sit down in the living room and look through all of the photos together.  

Aren't they just the sweetest couple?!

I might start sharing more photoshoots on my blog, since photography is another great passion of mine. Over the past year I've had the honor of doing a couple of senior photoshoots and even being the second photographer at a wedding! 

The baby is coming soon, and the whole family is excited for the first wuzzle! (Have I mentioned that my family is crazy? My cousins decided that the new baby would be our "first cousin once removed" and hence would be our first Wuzzle).

Best of luck to the new family! :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1. This "Quick Takes" isn't so quick because there is so much going on!


Christmas break was fantastic. Nothing beats a family as amazing as mine, and I spent the month playing games, having late discussions, making and eating good food, playing with my little siblings, and basically just relaxing.

I did not sleep on an actual bed for eight nights of my break due to traveling and having guests over. It was so incredibly worth it!

One of the best parts?

50 people + 1 house + 1/2 week + board game marathons, good food, talent shows, charades, improv, engineering discussions, baby showers, fire juggling, late nights, dance parties, art lessons, robot wars, and more = MY AMAZING FAMILY!

3. Studio time-- also, I GOT A TORCH!

This Christmas break I had an entire week to spend in my little studio and made a lot of jewelry which will be appearing on my Etsy as soon as I get time to photograph the pieces here in my dorm.

But the best part?


Like, a propane and oxygen torch which gets to a couple thousand degrees and will let me solder, fuse, and melt metal.

I have been having so much fun experimenting and learning. This summer, when I have access to my torch again, I hope to come out with a new line of fine jewelry!

My first big project was developing a puzzle ring! These rings are SO fascinating to me. Expect more on this blog soon. :)

This ring's bezel is too big, but I'm soooo close to getting the hang of this.

I also have been perfecting the electroforming process that I blogged (and despaired) about several months ago. This is a tulip leaf turned copper!

I also made my own etchant with muriatic acid which makes life so much easier for my metalwork. This is a quote booklet I designed! It took forever but I love it. :)

4. Calligraphy

For Christmas, my grandparents gave me a dip pen for calligraphy. I'll be needing it for my illustration classes in the future, but I'm so glad that I got it early because I am experimenting with calligraphy!


When I was younger (somewhere between nine and eleven) I started learning calligraphy using my mom's scrapbooking felt pens. 

(My mom isn't very crafty, but the times that she has done crafty activities like scrapbooking and stamping with friends has really served me well by giving me access to awesome craft supplies!)

I had a cheap fountain pen with removable nibs that a friend gave me for my twelfth birthday, but after eight years of use the nibs were worn down. I hadn't really done calligraphy since the last Lord of the Rings poem illustrations I did two years ago.

I think that pointed pen calligraphy is going to be my new favorite thing. This is the first piece I made with that technique (from my instagram).

Pointed pen allows me to get the varying line widths and the cursive-style writing. I just need to practice more!

Also, nerdiness is important, even in calligraphy. This is a piece that I calligraphic with a broad nib. It's in Quenya, Tolkien's Elvish language, written in the Elvish script Tengwar:

5. Visiting a jeweler's.

My grandmother's wedding band was badly damaged recently, and they took it to a jeweler's for repair. This jeweler's isn't your ordinary retail place; they actually design high-end jewelry pieces.


The family that owns the business was so welcoming and showed me around the entire studio, even letting me watch their mill, laser solderer, and 3D printer in action! And the main jeweler showed me the tiniest little torch head I've seen in my life. The flame is so small that you can only see it under a magnifying glass. I also got to see the inclusions in a real emerald with the magnifying glass!

They sent me home with some sample molds. This is SO AWESOME guys. Went I took at Metals class at my school, it was all with hand tools-- even for the advanced students. For lost-wax casting, students had to use a flex shaft to carve the one-use wax mold by hand.

This studio creates molds in a CAD software (3D modeling) to the customer's specifications. They then either mill a mold and inject it with wax (the left blue ring) or print it with resin in a 3D printer (the red one-- which was a setting for a ginormous stone and I got to try on the real ring!). The molds are then placed in dentist plaster, the wax/resin is melted, and the molten silver, gold, or other metal is poured in.

IT'S AWESOME. And look at how tiny and detailed everything is!

I had this puzzle box that my brother printed in my purse, since I was showing it to my grandpa during that trip. The jewelers were fascinated by it and it led to a really cool discussion about the different kinds of new technologies out there.

Since I love jewelry so much, and love it even more that I've seen a real designer's studio, I started looking around for jobs at jewelers' for the summer since I can't find any graphic design internships. I really hope my leads turn out. Working at a jeweler's would be an amazing experience.

6. 2014 in Books

Farewell, 2014. This is my year in books. It is one of my shortest booklists ever, with giant blocks of audiobooks (and podcasts) representing long drives and homework hours for my art and design classes. 

I'm a little bit hard of hearing, and I've never been good at understanding people during phone calls. 

Last year, during my Drawing I class, we were allowed to listen to our headphones. I started listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks. I started off listening to books I've read already, and over 2014 I worked up to listening to new books. I still have a hard time hearing and retaining all of the information, but I can proudly say that I've listened to The Great Gatsby without having read it first and I followed along just fine! Listening to books is a very different experience, but I enjoy having something entertaining/intellectual to do while drawing, and my listening skills have been improving dramatically. I can now follow along with conversations in our noisy dining hall without getting headaches!

It's so interesting to go back and revisit these titles and the real-life stories I experienced over this last year. My hope is that over this next year I will have the energy to savor some classics I've always wanted to read. Which of these books have you read and do you have any recommendations for 2015?


 My painting from my first freshman art class, Fresh Aire, is on the front cover of my university's journal of undergraduate research! The painting was intended as a technical exercise for class, but I took the opportunity to explore the theme of synesthesia.

7.  It is January and school has begun!

Last semester was a rough one. Despite having amazing friends and great activities every which way, by the end of the semester I lived each day simply to see it done and mark off items on my "to-do" list. It was a variety of things: having 27 hours of classes a week (plus homework), getting behind on work for my Shoppe, and (most predominately) some very bad experiences with a certain professor.

On the face of the matter, I did well. I'm maintaining a good GPA. I took calculus for the sake of learning calculus and expected to barely pass the class, but thanks to help from my professor and a math-teacher-in-training-friend, I got an A! (Plus it's really fascinating, sooooo...) I was active at my campus ministry, found some time to hang out with friends, and even stayed on track with laundry. In Color Theory, I painted pieces that I am fairly proud of, and in my Literature gen-ed called Heroic Quest I finally had a chance to study and discuss some deep philosophical pieces.

Outward appearances aren't everything, though, and I was restless, overwhelmed, and disillusioned. Praying, thinking, tinkering, reading, writing, and drawing-random-things-in-my-sketchbook took a backseat. Several of my classes were unfulfilling and in many ways a colossal waste of time and money. (My parents ruined me for school by teaching me to love learning; I would much rather get a B in a class that I learned a lot from than a perfect grade because I wasn't challenged). I even became irritated at good friends because I have a hard time saying no and felt a lot of pressure to always be doing things. Put me in a group setting and I will talk to everyone-- but the biggest thing that I learned from last semester is that I need alone time to refocus. (Also I need more than five hours of sleep to keep from panicking).

My biggest goal for this semester is to allow myself to unapologetically take time for myself. It is the times that I feel I should be doing everything that I need to step back. I'm usually not the kind of person to spend five hours on Netflix when I am overwhelmed; I am the kind of person who will just do more things. Jack of all trades, master of none, and a very discontent Jack at that. There are a lot of very good things in my life right now, far outweighing my legitimately stressful problems. Isn't it possible to make the most of every opportunity and also stop to smell the flowers?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas! | Copper Tannenbaum Ornaments

I write this curled up on the couch, sipping hot holiday spice tea (compliments of Santa), with the Christmas tree lighting the room. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry is on the couch beside me, and the rest of my family is asleep. This Christmas was beautiful; while we officially began our celebration with Mass on Christmas Eve, we really began Christmas break a few days ago when both my brother and I returned from college and my dad took off work.

A tornado of little children tore through our living room on a mission to create messes. The remainders of a long day are strewn every which way. Instrumental Christmas music is playing and there is the promise of a day of unwinding and cleaning before more family events.

I hope that all of you have had beautiful Christmases, full of family and friends and crazy weird traditions!

My Christmas gift, both to myself and from my parents, is a TORCH!

That's right-- I now have a propane/oxygen little torch that can heat up to, you know, just a couple thousand degrees. I also now have a crockpot labeled "poison" (for heating up pickle, a substance which cleans metal when it is discolored from heat and flux). I can now solder!!!!!

My little sister and I test-ran the torch, my metal stamping set, and my miniature hacksaw to create  these Christmas gifts! These Christmas tree ornaments are handmade from copper and brass.

My eleven-year-old sister cut out the brass banners and stamped the numbers on them. (Can you believe it?!) She requested to be my apprentice over Christmas break, and while she sometimes makes things take forever, on the whole she's actually been very helpful and is becoming quite skilled.

The trees are hand-cut from copper which I etched and then drilled.

Normally I would etch copper with ferric chloride, but I recently ran out and discovered that buying more would be quite expensive. I was using etchant from my grandpa's old PCB etchant kit before. So, I did some research, and my dad and I mixed up an acid bath that is essentially a cupric chloride --> cuprous chloride etchant. So now I also have an apple juice container with bright yellow duct tape that shouts "DANGER: Poison" in thick Sharpie!

Unfortunately I had already etched quite a few pieces of copper by the time I got around to etching the trees and didn't properly reconstitute the solution, so the etch was not very deep. That or my resist came off. I'm not 100% sure what went wrong.

I think that the idea of little handdrawn ornaments comes through nonetheless.

I then soldered the stamped brass banner onto the tree (THAT was a process because I had a difficult time getting the whole copper tree up to temperature).

As you can see, my sister and I had a lot of stamping to do. Each letter is hammered in by hand.

At the very end of the process, we submerged the ornaments in a Liver of Sulfur solution, sanded it down, and sealed the pieces with a spray expoy resin.

Then, we strung glass pearls onto headpins, and made a pearled tree hook from an eye pin!

I am so fascinated by all of these new metalwork processes that I am discovering. :)

My grandparents gifted me a dip pen for calligraphy (and for my upcoming illustration class) so I'll be experimenting with that, too! I've been using a worn-out fountain pen with three nibs since I was eleven or twelve.

But that is not now. Now is time for bed, and visions of sugar plum fairies-- it's almost surreally peaceful tonight.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Entwife Circlet, Revisited

Over the past two years, I've had the honor of making jewelry for several weddings. This autumn, a bride asked me to create an Entwife circlet for her. My side of the dorm room started to look like a fairy trove as it became laden with strands of wire, boxes of beads, and pinecones for two weeks. The end result? A woodland fairytale wedding headpiece.

The base of the circlet is braided raw copper, which should develop a beautiful patina over time. I twisted many of my favorite Czech glass leaf beads in various shades of copper onto the copper, accentuating it with some glass pearls.

But that is not all, my friends.


The back of the Entwife circlet is made from real pinecones, more leaves, and strands of sparkling and rustic chains.


Two years ago (has it been that long?) a friend of mine asked me to create an entire jewelry ensemble for her to wear to a Lord of the Rings themed ball. She created an intricate Entwife costume, taught me how to make pinecone flowers, and left me to have fun.

You can see all of the tree-folk jewelry here, and a photoshoot with her costume here.

From this entire Entwife collection, the piece that I was the most proud of was the circlet. My fingers were so tired that I didn't want to do any crafting for days afterwards (gasp! --and, also, it's amazing how I've built up some serious finger muscles since), but it was worth it for this large Entish headpiece. 

The original version of the Entwife circlet. The copper is already patina-ed.
You can imagine how excited I was to get a change to re-create it-- with some changes to reflect my growing attention to construction details, quality supplies, and better techniques. Two years can impart a lot of experience!

I would like to officially thank my roommate for being a princess for an afternoon by modeling for me.

This entire crown took over 100 feet of copper wire to create! I spent several hours watching Netflix (Dollhouse, anyone?) and drinking tea while I busily slaved away at braiding and twisting wire. Unfortunately I had underestimated just how long it would take to make this piece, but thankfully even with all of my schoolwork I was able to ship it on time.

Pinecones do not like me.

First, I had to gather them. That is not hard on a college campus; there are several evergreens by the math building, and it was the right time of year for them to be blanketing the ground. The problem? I picked them up between classes, was on the receiving end of several odd stares, and only realized how sticky pinecones can be when I found that my notebook and sketchbook were glued together in my bag.

Then, I had to clean the pinecones. I wouldn't let that sticky mess anywhere near someone's hair. Plus, germs. Pinecones have to be baked to let the sap melt off-- that was an ordeal in a dorm.

Finally, I had to glue it all together and seal it. That part wasn't too bad at all, but it is when I am doing projects like this that I am eternally grateful for my roommates who deal with my weird projects.

When Spring unfolds the beechen leaf, and sap is in the bough;
When light is on the wild-wood stream, and wind is on the brow;
When stride is long, and breath is deep, and keen the mountain-air,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is fair!

-an Ent, in the song of the Ents and Entwives in The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien


In the Lord of the Rings universe, the Ents are the tree people who the Hobbits run into in Fangorn Forest. The Ents are tree-shepherds, and the fate of the garden-loving Entwives is one of the mysteries of Middle Earth.


When Winter comes, and singing ends; when darkness falls at last;
When broken is the barren bough, and light and labour past;
I'll look for thee, and wait for thee, until we meet again:
Together we will take the road beneath the bitter rain!

-an Entwife, in the song of the Ents and Entwives in The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

I hope that you've enjoyed these pictures! Making the circlet, taking the pictures-- it's all so much fun. :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On My Workdesk Wednesday #5

This is WOYWW #287 (and the fifth time I've participated) and if you want to see the workdesks of other artists and crafters, check out the linky here!

Well, my friends, this semester has been a doozy. When I wasn't in class for 27 hours (per week), I was working on hours upon hours of homework, working on custom orders for my Shoppe, going to bible study or other meetings, and somewhere in there trying to fit in as much of a social life as I could. Oh, yes, and eating, sleeping, and exercising. Priorities.

Needless to say, I don't plan on taking an overload semester again anytime soon. Next semester will only be 15 credit hours. Right now it is finals week, I am delaying on studying for calculus, and I really just want to be home enjoying Christmas break and getting the time and freedom to make some fun art.

For today's "What's On Your Workbench," I am going to share some pictures from the past several weeks!

So, this is a slightly random sampling of what my workspaces have looked like this semester.

Probably one of the most interesting things I had on my desk was the pinecone collection that I scavenged from the trees around campus...

This was when I was watching Anastasia while cutting up the pinecones and gluing them onto copper.

And THIS is why my roommate and suitemates are fantastic people. Well-- one of many reasons. They don't kill me when I take over our table with my wire and beads (and pinecones)!

All three of these pictures are from one project for my Shoppe-- a custom bridal "Entwife Woodland Circlet" inspired by the circlet I made a couple of years ago. I will be blogging about this piece sometime soon. Here's a couple of pictures of the finished circlet:

Another incongruous sight for a dorm desk:

(Well, I would imagine that the face of John Green isn't too incongruous. Same with the calculator and tea. However I think that the metalwork tools are.)

This was, again, for my Shoppe. I was stamping quotes on sheet metal, which I then sawed out (yes I was careful with the dorm furniture, mom, I am not five years old! lol!). Our priest at our campus ministry let me work with my chemicals in the church's backyard. I was using Liver of Sulfur to darken the letters and then a resin spray to seal it.

Here's some of what came from this batch of metal:

This is a picture from the classroom of my favorite class of the semester: Color Theory. A very sweet, classy, excited Polish lady taught the class. I found good friends among my classmates and am very sad that it is officially over (I had my final on Monday).

It's so much fun to be an art student, lugging up a summer's worth of money in paints and supplies up flights of stairs every day. Oh so much fun. But (very nonsarcastically) completely worth it for this class.

I'm not sure what project I was working on in this picture below, but I think I was braiding wire for circlets.

This is the only in-progress shot I can find of the bridal party jewelry I made for an autumn wedding.

These are more workdesk shots from my color theory class:

And THIS lovely shot is not of my dorm desk, or a workspace in one of my classrooms. It is the kitchen table at home, from the one day during Fall Break when I worked on homework for eleven hours and drank an entire kettle of peppermint tea:

(Picture from my Instagram)

The following three pictures are from my dorm desk when I was working on more projects for Color Theory. I didn't take many pictures of my design classes-- mostly because I did not enjoy them very much. Don't get me wrong, I love the subject matter and still plan on majoring in Graphic Design-- but it is amazing how much mediocre teachers and projects can try your patience.

This project pictured below is, weirdly enough, from a design class! We had to create a piece of art based on a list of mashups our GA gave us. My piece is a mashup of M.C. Escher ("Print Gallery") and Frank Lloyd Wright ("Fallingwater").

We were given the assignment on the Monday before finals week and it was due by our Saturday final. I got so into it that I actually finished three days early. What is this.

And what is on my workdesk THIS week?

A mess.

To be fair, I am both packing and studying.

Anyway, there you go, my friends! Please believe me when I say that this whirlwind is just a very small snapshot of all the craziness that has been going on in my life this last semester. :)

I'm off to study for my last three finals, but as soon as I am ready for a study break, I'm going to check out the workspaces of everyone else involved in "What's On Your Workdesk Wednesday"! So should you, if you can. There are some creative people participating in WOYWW.
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