Boxes and Walls

Squee! I figured out the missing part of a new display idea I want to build for next season!!

Okay, so you ever have these half-formed ideas that feel like the beginnings of a GREAT idea, but needs *something*??

I do that A LOT and back-burner mull things until something occurs (I work through a lot of jewelry designs this way), and sometimes I run across an independent idea that’s the missing puzzle piece…

So the problem has been that I need a better way to display larger neckpieces and more fragile/expensive pieces at the renfair.

The challenges are:
–wind (flat neck boards go sailing, along with jewelry, which can get bent or broken…a few okay, but don’t want tons)
–not lots of tall along back of counter (it’s already high, we stand behind, and lots of that would be in the way. A few okay, but not solid line or we can’t reach things in front)
–easy to pack up at end of day
–not vulnerable to weather (damp)
–look in keeping with renfair setting
–unique/artistic/interesting (not common looking)
–ideally protect some from dust/tarnish since larger pieces are more intricate…less cleaning

When I had my shop’s back wall behind the counters in my building ripped out and redone a couple of years ago, along adding a few new cute/quirky windows…I had an idea. What if I hung shallow display cabinets on the wall behind the counter? I normally don’t use cases since I think the jewelry sells much better if people can touch it and I like the friendlier atmosphere it gives the shop. But these would be larger pieces or more fragile that don’t need to be handled as much anyway.

…and ooh! What if, in keeping with the cute little house my shop looks like…what IF instead of just a few plain display cases, I made them interesting shapes and sizes AND made them look reminiscent of picture frames on the wall in a house, but with jewelry hung in them instead of pictures?

Hmmm…okay, so design considerations:
–easy way to add/remove/rearrange jewelry and flexible for variety of shapes/sizes
–some sort of door that won’t be obnoxious that will keep out the dust (more intricate, bigger, more expensive but also may have longer before they find their home…a door would help with cleaning dust and tarnish)
–shallow so that it’s not in our way as we walk by (especially since its in the busiest area)
–wall mounting and secure, but removable for off season
–buildable by me (can customize, make more down the road, and less expensive than commissioning them)

Some solutions:
–the easy to add/remove/rearrange…simple. Will fit interior with board covered in Velcro loop fabric yardage. Mount jewelry on my silver cardstock. Can move around at will, take out to show a customer. Cards have room for more detail (these special pieces sometimes have more info). When sold, easy to rearrange so no big holes. Various sizes can go anywhere, so flexible.

–the look…hmm, half-formed idea of modifying picture frames. Did quick look at store. Nothing commercial case-wise that really works or isn’t cheaply built AND overpriced. Want these to be durable. I can buy frames and modify. A little costly, but if on sale…hmmm…or start haunting thrift stores, get a variety for a song, then paint them similar. Interesting if each a bit different, then painting to tie together. I’m thinking base coat of dark green or black then brushed textures with bronze or copper metallic. Will mull.

–front…glass or plexiglass? Still mulling. Glass, easier to get super clean but is fragile. Plexiglas is sturdier unless a direct blow, but scratches easily. As much dust as we have, the cleaning it would take…I think it would frost up quickly from tiny scratches and be just as “fragile” when moving because of avoiding accidentally gouging it. I think I’m leaning toward glass and replace with plexiglas if it breaks. Will research tempered glass or display case type glass costs. Would be worth price if stronger if not toooo dear.

–the construction…have a half-idea of a hinged side that opens.
Hm, which way? Will mull.
Have glass over frame? Hinge how? Hardware?
How deep then should frames/cases be by the time add depth of fabric board, Velcro, jewelry, stones? Not too shallow, but too deep in way. And find frames that deep? More limiting. Hm. Store-bought shadow boxes start getting costly and tend to be plain. Not quite right.
And look of adding glass on top of or just inside frame? And mechanics. I’m handy and can figure out a lot, but feeling fiddly here. Hm.
And closure…latch or what?
Opening…knob (could catch our clothing going by, latch…how/where to attach)
And how to mount on wall (plus wall is concrete board) so steady while there but removable for storage off season

Hmmmm…the overall idea I’m loving BUT the construction isn’t quite gelling. Onto the backburner…

Squeee!! (and DUH! *headsmack*)

The answer:
Make shadow-box BEHIND the frame, put the frame (the ENTIRE frame/glass is door) with normal glass as usual on top, hinge hidden behind frame connecting to box, magnetic closure. The interior Velcro board as planned.

Here’s the video I ran across today that made everything gel:

Neat idea. Of course the interior of hers isn’t what I need (though cool) but the rest of the construction, I can totally do.

AND bonus, I see a new tool in my future! (happy dance!) …corner clamp 🙂




Another project done in getting ready for the renfair, I badly needed to repaint my sign. The original sign (first image above), a friend painted for me for last season. I really liked it and got nice compliments on it, but it was a little hard to read from a distance and it wound up flaking really bad by the end of the season. The first picture above is BEFORE sanding and the way it looked the end of last season. Not good.

Maybe I just needed a push. For these past twenty years, I’ve always had someone else paint my sign. First time, I paid a gal to paint me one. After a few years, just went back over and freshened it up. A few years later, my mom did a quick job. Couple refreshes every few years after. Then the pretty but flaky one last year. Hm, you know what? Maybe I ought to try it myself. Paint my own darn sign. I sketch jewelry ideas all the time, I should be able to come up with a sign.

First step, sand off the flaking paint.

Then I put down a coat of outdoor primer on both sides, then background paint coat. This was spread over a couple of days because the sign is two-sided and had to let one side dry between coats before it could be flipped to cover the other side. There’s a frame that goes back on, but it’s removed in the pictures so that I don’t have to worry about getting paint on it (natural wood).

While waiting for that to dry, mixed paints for the lettering and vine colors.

My counters at the fair are painted green with purple trim. The base of the paint I used for the sign was my counter paint, so it all goes together nice.

I took some white and mixed some of my green counter paint into it and it came out this lovely pale green.

The lettering is the counter-trim purple that I added black to darken it. It saddened it a little too much by the time I got it dark enough so I also added a touch of red and navy blue to keep it dark but brighten it up a bit, then it came out just right.

Above is my little rough-draft reference sketch I made for my sign idea. Below is what I sketched on the board as a paint-guide.

I used a T-square to lay out the lines for the text, then sketched out the lettering and vines. Once one side was laid out and looked okay, I flipped it over to do the other side.

Interestingly, it wound up being kind of a personal project and more of me in the sign than I expected. The letters are very close to my normal print hand, so that seems extra appropriate. The vines, those sort of echo a viney motif that’s been making a regular appearance in my artwork the last few years, across various mediums. Again, personal and appropriate. They also echo a little bit of the medieval illuminated manuscripts I sometimes like to reference for ideas. Not a bad presence on a sign for a renaissance fair, but with my own twist on it.

So, the final version wound up very similar to the second picture above. I did wind up taking the serifs off of the letters to leave them cleaner and not break up the energy of the letters. I also made the S on the first word thicker like the T on the second, partly to smooth it out (a little jagged in the picture) and partly to give it better visual weight. I also diminished the little sweeps on the large S because they detracted a little from the movement. Better now.

I thought about a little shading on the letters or veins on the leaves, et cetera, but decided to leave it flat. One, I liked the clean, clear look and sharp contrast. Important in a sign. Two, a more minor reason, most medieval illumination is flat and one-dimensional. If you want to be picky, the delicacy and intricacy of the vines isn’t really all that medieval, but more like later renaissance period. However, it’s the medieval-period illuminations where I find the best source images to adapt for inspiration in my art projects. But like many of my ideas, I borrow a little from here and there, then blend them together. So, a tiny personal thing there.

And what was happening between waiting for paint to dry?

Rory helping me glue flowers in my new window boxes for the second-story windows of my shop.

Here is the finished sign in its final version with its frame back on and hung at my shop.

Overall, pleased with the sign. It felt like a huge project to me, probably just because I’ve never painted anything like that. My friend that painted the pretty first sign above is probably rolling on the floor laughing to read that. She paints these amazing giant wall murals. My little sign probably felt tiny to her. It felt huge to me. I realized that most acrylic projects I’ve done have been very small scale before now. It’s all in the perspective. But in the end, it was fun and I won’t be as hesitant to jump off into the next one.

Almost there

Making progress on my new jewelry displays. This…


…became these:


This is an experiment with making beads and cabochons out of raku-fired pottery for use in my wire jewelry. I’m pleased with results, so I’ll definitely be doing more.

…and these:


Some of these are bases for my earring stands and some for pendants. The volcano shapes will be getting swirly copper inserts (see prototype in recent post). The rocks with slits are pendant and necklace stands and will have sheets of intentionally aged copper (not too shiny!). More on the copper-aging experiments in a coming post. Fun experimenting with patination techniques and copper-abuse.

By the way, the solid copper were done in smaller containers proportional to the size of the piece (soup can sized). The colorful ones were in larger containers (coffee cans and small cookie tins). Same glaze on all, just differences in the amount of oxygen available to burn. Cool, huh?

I like both the colorful and the solid copper. Since they’re for my jewelry counter, some colored ones will be eye-catching, but too many would be distracting. But they all go together. Btw, my counters are green, so all copper and color shimmers should look awesome on them.

This last raku firing was a good learning experience. Learned the control thing mentioned above. Learned that the small jewelry cabochons we had on a clay shovel and just dropped the whole thing in a container worked great. The little volcanoes on the shovel though…bad. It acted as a heat-sink and the glazes didn’t mature. Small amount of those will have to be refired. No big deal.

Also learned how to deal with lots of small pieces. Just dumping several smaller pieces in one container won’t work. Tried that the week before. Not good. Too hard to control. If they touch, the glaze sticks to each other and damages both. Have to refire.

Prepping and pulling lots of individual pieces is tricky with logistics of numbers of containers, opening the kiln a lot (losing heat) and dealing with minimizing smoke.

Normally the process is pull a piece, drop/cover, rush it away from area so we can breathe (tons of smoke boiling out). Come back. Rinse and repeat. No biggie with a few larger vases and bowls, but a lot of little things (30+) it’s much more complicated.

So combining a couple of ideas, we tried this below:


Soup cans nested in wet sand. To the left, tray of slightly larger and taller cans to act as lids. Instead of wet newspaper to seal the lid (tricky up in a can), just plopped the larger can over, made sure edge was buried and the water in the wet sand acted as the seal. Worked great.

Helper (my teacher) pulls the glowing hot piece from the kiln with long tongs, drops it in the can, the combustibles explode into flames, then I quickly slide the slightly larger can over the flaming smaller can (heavy leather gloves up past my elbows!) and push it all down into the wet sand. The sand starts boiling and steaming like crazy. Some smoke, but not so bad it has to be moved outside the kiln area. Great! Open the kiln again, repeat. Once the cans in the tray are filled, then move it all away to cool. Wait a few minutes for the kiln to heat again, and start pulling the next set of stuff.

I’m just tickled about my new displays I’m working on. I’ve been wanting to upgrade my jewelry displays for awhile now, but had some very specific needs for the replacements. (See a couple of blog posts ago.) I’ve been taking pottery classes for awhile and it hit me recently that clay would perfectly solve the problem. I’ve been playing with raku firing, love the coppery look…well, you can see where this is going.

The coppery tones will look beautiful with my exisiting displays, have an earthiness that goes with my current aesthetic, and meet the specific requirements I needed. Best of all, made them myself. Love blending several skills in one project (clay, wire, metalwork). I have the last couple of steps to finish them off this weekend, then I’ll do a blog post at some point with the final products.

Also have been making some other displays:

Other pics

These are some rose leaves I got from the bridal section at the craft store, pair them together and wrap with floral tape, bend, then hang them from a manzanita tree on my counter. Earrings go in them and it looks like leaves and jeweled flowers/fruit hanging from the tree. Very pretty.

Other pics

Also for earrings, I need hang cards. I don’t like the commercial shiny black plastic ones for display out at the renfair, so I found these neat little stick-on backs that I can use to convert anything to a hang card. I have some nice paper cardstock with a slight shimmer that I use elsewhere. Looks nice and ties everything together.

I’ve got a wooden display with bars and one of those normal spinner-type displays. I like the tree better, but it takes more space or if I’m low on earrings, I use these instead. Plus if someone buys earrings for a gift, it’s a way to present them and I can write the name of the stone on the back.

A lot of big changes around here. I’m completely reworking the website to a cleaner look, reorganized, with more content and PICTURES. I had a lot of “coming soon” on the old website and not very many images. The old software I was using had a big learning curve, proving an impediment to regular updates. I discovered WordPress, which is much easier, and very customizable. Once I get the basics built (in progress right now), I’m switching out my old one for this site and moving my blog over here as well. I think it’s going to be awesome!


Other changes, I just totally revamped my business cards. Love the way the new ones look and much more representative of me. I put a graphic of a close-in view of one of my personal favorite custom pieces, added background color (mine have been white for 20 years), and found a nice clean but artistic looking font that’s actually very similar to my handwriting. Very cool.

The renfair is coming up rapidly. This is my last free weekend for the next couple of months. Not like there’s much free-time involved this time of year, mind you. In full swing trying to wrap up a to-do list a mile long and finish up my stock goals before the fair starts. I never get everything done, but I think I’ll be able to get the critical stuff done.

It’s a little stressful getting ready, but I really enjoy it once it’s here. Seeing friends I haven’t seen in a year, both fellow merchants and patrons…it’s weird. Once I see them, it feels like I just saw them last week and the year hasn’t existed. Very nice. Great to see everyone and it’s like slipping on a really comfortable pair of old shoes. Like going home. Nice. This season will be my 21st year out there. Hard to believe. Time has flown.