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More Designs for the Montford Festival!

I haven’t had much time to photograph all the new designs I am getting ready for the Montford Arts & Music Festival, but here’s a preview of a few of them:

Five Elements Fine Silver Pendant by Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs

Carved jade & sterling silver pendant by Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs

Turquoise & coral necklace by Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs

Again, the Montford Arts & Music Festival is in Asheville, NC, this Saturday, May 22nd, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. I will be sharing a booth with my friend Alex from Gaucho Glass, so come and check us out. Great music, fun people, and lots of creative and friendly artisans!

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New Exciting Designs

While I am getting ready for the Montford Arts and Music Festival in Asheville, NC, on May 22nd, I have come up with some new and exciting designs that I will post here soon, and I also had to finish some designs I had been working on.

I was commissioned to make some rings, and since pure silver has proven not to be the strongest material for a ring that is going to be used on a regular basis (although it’s fine for a fancy ring used on special occasions, and yes, rings do take a beating whether we’re aware of it or not), I chose to solder silver wire to make these:

Sterling Silver Spiral Rings by Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs
Sterling Silver Spiral Rings

Another design I have been working on for a while is this necklace created with pure silver clay and sterling silver wire, inspired by European (especially Portuguese) amulets to ward off evil spirits:

Fear No Evil Necklace by Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs
“Fear No Evil” Necklace by Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs

I find that I am gravitating more and more toward working with metal these days, although I like to add gemstone beads, too… Silver and copper have such a sweet energy that it is really pleasurable working with them, either making my jewelry collages or pounding and soldering wire… Ok, back to work now.

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Interview with Yol Swan on the Jewelry Report

Before I go on vacation (and take a break from everything but my family), I wanted to share with you an interview about my jewelry work on the Jewelry Report, which was published in two parts:

Part I: http://jewelryreport.com/news/interview-yol-swan-sacred-jewelry-and-yoga-designs

Part II: http://jewelryreport.com/news/interview-yol-swan-sacred-jewelry-and-yoga-designs-2

Enjoy!

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Seven Moons Pendant on the Cover of ACS Quarterly!

I wanted to share with you that one of my designs, Seven Moons Silver Pendant, won the competition for the cover of the next issue (Spring 2010) of the Art Clay Society Quarterly! This is the kind of news that bring me joy and inspiration…

Seven Moons Fine Silver Pendant by Yol Swan
Seven Moons Fine Silver Pendant by Yol Swan

My Seven Moons Silver Pendant is a pure silver collage created with metal clay (PMC) that was inspired by the feminine energy of the Moon and also by the concept that the Moon reflects the light of the Sun in the same manner that our mind reflects the light of pure consciousness. I chose the number Seven because it is a very mystical number with deep symbolism used by many esoteric schools. Some popular ones that come to mind are: 7 days in a week, 7 major chakras in the body, 7 notes in a scale, and 7 is the number of the seeker of Truth in numerology. Seven is most definitely a divine and mysterious number (being a prime number and all), and I believe that each 7-year cycle brings the opportunity to learn from experience to make progress in life, in terms of personal and spiritual development. Otherwise we just repeat the same mistakes in the next cycle. Seven also seems to be the cycle that tests our relationships (every seven days, months, years) to check how strong they really are…

My Seven Moons Silver Pendant shows seven moons at different stages of the lunar cycle with various textures, along with a feminine face and a dichroic glass cabochon acting as two of the moons. It has a light golden accent on some spots to convey the energy of the Sun that is reflected on the Moon. It has a light patina to add contrast. The three different parts of the pendant are linked with sterling silver wire, and the whole pendant weighs 41 gm of pure silver. Needless to say, I will be more than delighted to receive the next issue of the Art Clay Society Quarterly with my jewelry design on it!

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Day Dreaming…

The days have been dreadfully overcast here lately, but I was able to take photos of some my new designs today. The one pictured below is a silver metal clay pendant entitled “Day Dreaming.” Like many of my designs, it was inspired by the mental world we artists tend to live in…

Day Dreaming Fine Silver Pendant by Yol Swan at Sacred Jewelry & Yoga Designs

It is a completely handmade silver collage. I really like the energy it projects. I grew up surrounded by art in my mother’s house and was really into the European artists and writers of the surrealism movement when I was a teenager. This design is obviously reminiscent of my love for that period. I hope you enjoy it!

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Why Am I a Jewelry Designer?

Earth Ascension Earrings by Sacred Jewelry & Yoga DesignsHave you ever wondered why you are doing what you do, or why you chose a specific profession, or hobby, or activity to devote your time to? I am sure you have, especially during times when you actually had to ask yourself if what you were doing was what you really wanted to be doing… I always double check with myself if I still enjoy what I am doing, if it still means the same to me, and if I want to keep doing it.

A couple days ago I had a revelation of sorts in relation to this issue. No, I wasn’t actually asking myself if being a jewelry designer was what I wanted to do. I was having a conversation with my husband about something totally unrelated (or so I thought) and it just dawned on me. Looking at my journey, I see that life has shaped me into who I am now by pounding my ego, filing it away, while nurturing and polishing the best in me. And this is exactly where I am at in my life right now: pounding, shaping, filing, and polishing metals!

I find it fascinating how we artists are always creating and re-creating ourselves in our chosen field, whether it’s on a canvas or a fabric or, as in my case, a lump of metal clay. To me, this is exciting, because it gives me a sense of purpose and it makes me feel like I am in the right place at the right time. And that’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?

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The Dream: New Pure Silver Pendant

I had promised to post the pendant I was working on when I wrote my New Silver Jewelry Designs post a while ago. I just hadn’t had the time to make the chain I wanted for this pendant with one thing or another getting in the way… Ok, so here is a close-up view:

The Dream Fine SIlver Pendant
The Dream : Close Up

Below is a view of the whole pendant with the oxidized sterling silver chain I made for it:

The Dream Silver Pendant with Chain
The Dream : Silver Pendant with Chain

This design was inspired by a song I wrote many years ago entitled A Dream Within a Dream, which referred to the yogic philosophical view that the external world is not real, just an illusion, and that the only true reality is the self, as well as by the incredibly versatile nature of dreams, where desires, fears, experiences and people get mixed up and re-created to fulfill a subconscious purpose. I tried to blend the masculine, outside world-ish aspect with the feminine, more introspective side of our mental field, as they intertwine in the subconscious.

This silver collage pendant was handcrafted using PMC (Precious Metal Clay) and weighs 44 gm of pure, beautiful silver.

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Where Does Inspiration Come From?

Someone asked me the other day, “Where does your inspiration come from?” As a business owner and manager, I have to spend a lot of time dealing with business related stuff, learning about and implementing marketing strategies, designing new ads, keeping inventory and books up to date, optimizing web sites, etc., and with all the “technical” stuff going through my head sometimes it can be tricky to turn that switch off and jump back into the creative process of my jewelry designs. You may find yourself in a similar situation if you have a job that is not related to your creative endeavors. Even if you are a full time designer or artist, I am sure that sometimes you wonder what happened to your muse…

I have to admit that it is not inspiration that is generally missing in my creative process, but time to convert all my creative ideas into reality! Not to say that I haven’t had those blah days like anyone else, or doubts about what it is that I am doing. I don’t think any artist or creative type is completely free from those days, ever. But those are the times when I take a close look at myself to make sure my creativity is on the right track. Any designer or artist has to find their own style, their own voice, their own personal statement (that which makes their creations totally theirs), to find satisfaction in what they do. Otherwise it becomes like a mechanical job. I have to make sure I stay true to myself with what I am doing. This, of course, doesn’t mean that I don’t think about who my customers are or how to market my designs. It does mean, however, that creativity and business have to find a healthy balance to keep me sane and to keep the inspiration flowing.

So, where does my inspiration come from? Obviously, it emerges from my own life experiences and interests, but it gets nourished with the creations of other artists and designers. I really enjoy going to a bookstore or the library and browsing books or magazines on art, jewelry, and design (of course I love museums, too, but there aren’t that many where I live now). I browse the internet, too, of course. Not to copy or try to emulate anyone, but to get inspired by the length and depth of human creativity.

To give you an example, today I bumped into a blog post that I find not only inspiring, but also fun and ecologically minded, and if it has nothing to do with jewelry. Plus, it was like the perfect blend of “technical” (read, electronic) and creativity:

Animals from Old Electronic Parts
Animals from Old Electronic Parts

Inspiration can come from looking at shapes, colors, hues, ideas, designs, ads, and pretty much anything in between. That is why I don’t just look at jewelry books, but at a wide variety of art and design sources. It can also come from the feelings that certain music, movies, or conversations triggered in me at any given time. Regardless of where inspiration comes from, I keep myself in check to make sure that my designs come from my own ideas. Inspiration is one thing and trying to emulate someone else is a completely different animal. Not to mention that trying to transform creativity into a selling statement doesn’t work for me either. I am always in search of my own personal style, however changing and evolving it may be. Still, just my own.

Anyway, if you ever feel like your inspiration took a vacation, just give yourself a break  and go to a good concert, talk about the stuff that you like with a friend or other creative types, visit a bookstore, and check out other artists and designers to get re-inspired to find your own voice. Finding your true creative expression can be a challenge, but you have to remember that everything in life is a process and give yourself the necessary mental fuel to feed the creative flame!

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My Love for Paisleys…

I was attracted to the Hindu ethnic culture and anything Indian since I was a kid. My mother had history and art books with photographs of India and designs of tapestries and such that I always loved looking at. My first contact with the Hindu culture actually happened when I was around 11 or 12 and a very close friend of mine moved to a new house in a neighborhood where there was a Krishna temple. She invited me to check it out because they were very open to having people come by to dance and feast with them.

There was a beautiful big Ganesha statue at the main entrance that robbed my heart and got stuck in my mind forever. I didn’t know anything about the Hindu culture, or Krishna, or Ganesha at the time, but I certainly fell in love with all the colors and designs, smells and tastes, and Ganesha, of course! Little did I know back then that the Hindu spiritual culture would have such an impact in my life later on…

So my love for paisleys and Indian design goes way back… And to counteract my frustration with the somewhat failed Art Copper Clay experiments, I gave myself the pleasure of creating some paisley earrings that I wanted to share here before placing them on the web site for sale:

Fine SIlver Paisley earrings
Fine Silver Paisley Earrings

I added faceted Amethyst beads and a Garnet tassel, which has become somewhat of a signature for many of my designs (yes, I love tassels, too).

Working with PMC silver has always been easy and a real joy for me, so I tend to go for it whenever possible. I have been working on other gemstone designs lately, but haven’t had the time to take pictures yet. Trying to promote your work as an independent artist is so time consuming that I wish the day would be longer than just 24 hours! Plus, I am starting to get ready for tax season for the family business and my own business, and that is so much work!

Anyway, no excuses. I will get to taking pictures and uploading them to the site soon, I promise…

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New Art Clay Copper Experiment

Of all PMC (Precious Metal Clay) and Art Clay, Copper and Bronze clays are still pretty new, so there is still a lot of experimentation going on amongst metal clay artists. And here is my second experiment with Art Clay Copper. I want to share here the steps I went through as well as my observations about each step. So here I go…

art clay copper pendant
Putting my pieces together...

Here I am putting together the pieces I want for my copper collage. I notice that the clay gets dry pretty quickly, making it harder for me to manipulate without it breaking or getting little cracks. I tried to smooth the clay out with water, but it was never completely smooth. It had these mini cracks that seemed like nothing, like they could be sanded once the clay dried.

copper clay collage design
Sticking the pieces together with some paste I made

Here I had to make some paste to stick things together, so I used a little bit of clay and mushed it up with Sherri Haab’s paste maker, which I use for silver clay. Now I think that the copper paste would have probably been better with just distilled water and lavender oil instead, because it gets so dry so quickly. I tried to reinforce the spots I considered weaker on the back of the piece, and once it was dry I sanded and reinforced the edges.

firing copper clay pendant
The finished pendant being fired...

After I finished adding all the parts and making sure it was completely dry, I fired the piece on the SpeeFire Cone at 1400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Notice the very red color, which is different than the salmon color you get when firing silver clay.

As the piece was being fired, it bent a little bit, probably because the strips were of different thickness and not flat against a surface. Still, I thought the bent shape actually looked good!

copper clay pendant quenching
Quenching the copper clay pendant

As the pendant was fired, it became darker and darker, as it was oxidized. When I quenched it in cold water, most of the oxidation fell off right in the bowl. I was so excited!

I placed it in a pickle solution to completely remove the oxidized layer and left it in it for over an hour.

Finished art clay copper pendant
The pendant after being pickled and finished

Here is the somewhat finished piece, after being pickled and polished a little bit. You can probably see the small cracks here and there, especially the one on the bottom. I was disappointed to see these cracks and tried to file them, but a couple were deep enough to make the piece unsellable.

The left section didn’t lose the oxidation after being pickled, so I put the pendant in the pickle solution again for another hour, Still, the oxidation didn’t go away and I am not sure why.

In any case, this was an experiment, so after closer observation of the piece I noticed that it was weak and showed cracks in certain spots where I had used the paste, and in other spots where the clay was probably too thin, or maybe was bent while putting the pieces together. This would probably not have happened had the pendant been a single flat piece and not several strips of textured clay.

However, the fresh clay already had many little tiny cracks as it was drying, which was quick, and even though I tried to smooth them out, they were still there after firing the piece and got even deeper. I had filed some of them once the clay was dry, but apparently those little cracks run deep! It seems to me that the copper clay is much drier than the silver clay, at least the Art Clay Copper is (I’ve never tried the PMC Copper clay), and that makes it more difficult to work with. I think I will try to keep it moist and smoother on my next experiment, which will be with a flat piece. I will keep you posted…