Sunday, December 4, 2011

Catching up on the last 1000 years.

This month's Blog Carnival** asks us for memories of 2011.

If you’re like us, round about this time every year you get plagued with lots of people looking back at the events of the last 12 months and wondering “what the f**k just happened?!”  These usually come in the form of Christmas cards containing retrospectives from relatives and other people you don’t know or are trying to avoid.

As fascinating as a detailed description of the family pet’s intestinal antics for last year are, we thought that a brief review of the last 1000 years might be helpful and offer more perspective on just what did happen in 2011. 

Caveat: The following is history. You can't make up stuff this crazy.

Not much happened this year. Bernard I, Duke of Saxony died. He is noted for supporting Otto III over Henry the Wrangler for succession to the throne of Germany. Picking your political candidates was much easier in 10ll.

Pope Paschalis II crowns Henry V, Roman emperor. Back to stinky business as usual with all the scheming, scandal, intrigue and betrayal you know and love in modern politics. In 1111 the political phrase “sticking a knife in your back” had a different meaning than it does today, but the results are the same.

1211 celebrates the birthday of Henry VII, who’s reign set a new benchmark for greed and corruption. Considering his predecessor was Richard III of Shakespearean villainy fame, that’s a big benchmark. His son, Henry VIII took over the family business and went on to become the patron saint of divorce lawyers.

Battle of Halmyros: The Catalan Company defeats Walter V to take control of Athens. 2011 marks the 700th anniversary of a corporation overthrowing a government. This is what happens when you don’t pay the utility bill.

Battle of Harlaw, one of the bloodiest battles in the history of Scotland, was basically a real estate deal gone bad that went on forever – with no clear winner. It set the tone for real estate law for the next 600 years.

Spain and England decide they don’t like France and hire the Swiss to kick their asses. Well, actually it was the Italian’s who didn’t like the French, but they convinced Spain and England it was their idea.  The Swiss were only in it for the money. Things didn’t go so well, and when the money ran out so did the Swiss.  Which is why the national motto of Switzerland today is “mind your own business”.

Henry Hudson, looking for a route from England to China discovers the coincidently named Hudson Bay and the New York metropolitan area instead, inadvertently founding Chinatown.  Hudson’s crew votes him worst navigator of the year and promptly sets him adrift in Hudson Bay. Years later the marketing efforts for the Hudson automobile suffer roughly the same fate.

On a brighter note, the word "telescope" is invented in 1611 by Prince Federico Cesi, replacing the commonly used term “thingamajig”.

Shakespeare releases the 3D version of the "Tempest".

Charles VI Habsburg becomes king of Austria, and starts the women’s rights movement and a subsequent 12 year international war disputing women’s rights, which is how the nation of Serbia and Gloria Alred was invented.

A French corporation of investors invades Rio de Janeiro for profit.  Led by bankrupt shipping magnate René Duguay-Trouin, they succeeded in taking the city hostage and walking off with 4 million in ransom. Ahh, the good old days of unregulated commerce.

Timothy Pickering becomes the first U.S Senator to be censured for publically revealing confidential government documents. Ooops, my bad. It turns out President James Madison’s was involved in a stinky illegal land-grab annexation of south Florida in collusion with a group of real estate developers. Pickering trumps Wikileaks by 200 years.

Austria declares bankruptcy in the wake of excessive borrowing to finance a series of wars. It takes 25 years for the economy to recover, while the Austrian government prints lots and lots of worthless money.

Major earthquake hits New Madrid, Missouri, causing widespread damage. Blame is quickly laid on flatulent Quakers.

1st US colonists on Pacific coast arrive at aptly named Cape Disappointment, WA and establish a trading post and coffee shop.

Orville Wright remained in the air 9 minutes and 45 seconds in a glider at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Later that same year the first photo was taken, and the first bomb was dropped from an airplane. The first transcontinental airplane flight from NY-Pasadena also took place, in 82 hrs 4 min with lots and lots and lots of stop-overs. Peanuts were served.

In business news, Belgian mining law introduced the concept of a 9½ hour work day, while in the U.S, the Supreme Court dissolves Standard Oil under the Sherman Antitrust Act, deeming it too big to continue.

In a bit of irony that keeps on rusting, the R.M.S. Titanic was launched at the same time the first US group insurance policy was written in Passaic, NJ. Draw your own conclusions.

A U.S. audience throws vegetables at actors on stage for first recorded time in history as
NY receives its first Marconi wireless transmission from Italy. We’re sure these are related events …somehow.

The Tabulating Computing Recording Corporation (IBM) is started, and Chevrolet officially enters the automobile market in competition with Ford. Meanwhile the first old-age home is opened in Prescott, Ariz, and the first public elevator is put into service. For our protection, the US sends 20,000 troops to the Mexican border, as the first Indianapolis 500 car race is run. Ray Harroun wins at 74.59 MPH. Chevrolets are now built in Mexico, Ray Harroun is living in an old age home and IBMs stocks are going up and down on a perpetual elevator.

History marches on. If we could only remember where we put our keys.

** Blog Carnival is a group-think project of EtsyMetal Team, an International cabal of jewelry designers and metalsmiths. Each month a number of us write on the same subject and you get to see how our entropied brains deal with it.

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Monday, October 3, 2011


The topic for this month’s Blog Carnival** is “food”, and like our fellow artists, we’ve been known to use the stuff.  Of course, because we don’t do anything casually, we jump into food with both feet, sometimes literally. At various times, as a continuum to our art careers, we have owned restaurants, marketed food products, did food styling for television, written a nationally syndicated food column, and been an award-winning pâtissier among other food related activities.

What does all this have to do with “art jewelry” you ask.

Everything and nothing.

For some, life’s activities are compartmentalized.  They work at a job and do art on the side. We approach everything we do as an art form. Everything is interrelated and thus a running a restaurant or writing a food article becomes a satisfying creative expression.
All of these experiences also become influences in our jewelry, and that’s the point. The exercise is about becoming a free-flowing conduit to leverage life’s experiences and our creativity into whatever activity we’re engaged in at the moment.  All of this may sound in turn, obvious, stupid, or morbidly philosophical. For us, it is simply the way we live, and it makes life fun – sometimes.

One of the side effects (benefits?) of such an eclectic life are the surreal moments that present themselves on a regular basis. We have learned that nothing trumps reality for sheer weirdness, and you simply can’t make stuff like this up.   Such a moment occurred once when we were marketing a food product. – dog food to be specific.

The client was a very large, well known international brand of pet food. As the new marketing people, we were summoned to company headquarters to meet the executive marketing team. Upon arrival we were ushered up to 24th floor where we were promptly greeted by an assistant who escorted us to the corporate boardroom.  The doors were opened to reveal a very large impressive room. It was totally old school, dark, wood paneled, high ceilings and largest conference table we had ever seen.
The entire executive marketing team was already in the room, They were all dressed in suits, standing, surrounding the conference table. No one said a word, they just stood there looking at us. Someone motioned us to enter the room.  

As we entered the room the doors were closed behind us, and we slowly realized that there was absolutely nothing on the conference table. Not one piece of paper, laptop, cell phone, nothing except, sitting in the middle of this huge table – a single can of dog food – and a spoon.

One of the executives motioned to the can and said, “we’d like you to try the product”. 

We stood there blankly trying to process what was happening. We looked around the table thinking someone would crack a smile and reveal that they were joking.  There were no smiles. They were dead serious. The executive took the can of dog food and spoon and held it out to us. “Everyone who works here try’s the product” he said flatly.

Our brains are racing at this point. Is this really happening? Are we acquiescing to a corporate ritual? Is this a test to see if we’ll debase ourselves? What’s does dog food taste like anyway?
We take the spoon and eat the dog food.

That turned out to be a really good choice and an important bonding ritual that is still playing out today.  There isn’t any moral to this story except the point of the ritual, which is to get past your pre-conceived notions. What did the dog food taste like?  Pretty darn close to canned beef stew.

** Blog Carnival is a group activity of EtsyMetal, an international collective of jewelry artists. Each month the group selects a topic and members link their writings on that topic, thus providing readers with a multidimensional rambling collaborative brain-fart experience.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Few Tips On Buying Handmade Jewelry

Oh Boy! This month’s Blog Carnival** topic is sure to elicit a wealth of stunningly obvious insights and self-serving advice. Not to be outdone, we’ll kick it off by offering this: buy what you like, but above all buy OUR handmade jewelry. 

OK, now that we have gotten that out of our system, the real tip is that most of you don’t really need any “tips” on buying handmade jewelry at all. 

The real tips come from selling handmade jewelry. As makers, we talk amongst ourselves, and one of the perennial topics is interaction with customers. These conversations often have recurring topics related to behaviors perceptions, and questions that come up over and over. The vast majority of people who visit artisan booths, stores or shop online are wonderful, polite and perceptive folks who are a pleasure to deal with.

But then, there are a few gems amongst you. Here are few tips for those extra-special situations to help you with buying custom and handmade jewelery.
Truth in advertising: ALL of the following have actually happened

Handmade jewelry (or handmade anything) will not be cheaper than what you buy at Wallmart, Kmart or Costco. The items you are looking at are not mass produced in a factory overseas. They are often one of a kind or a very limited edition.

Your kid cannot make something just as good. Declaring so to the person showing you the work simply demonstrates your lack of manners. In fact, the person showing you the work is almost certainly the person who made it. They have invested years of practice and study to develop their skills. Its OK if some art does not appeal to you. No need to be rude…and might we add, your kid is ugly.

When requesting custom work, artists cannot determine your ring size from a photograph, your weight, height, age, job title or any other information other than….your ring size.  Emailing the jeweler a photo of your girlfriend’s hand as an indicator of ring size will not work. Emailing the jeweler a photo of your girlfriend naked is just weird.

The jeweler’s name on the inside of your ring’s band is the maker’s mark. It is not an ego power play to put THIER name in YOUR ring.

A jeweler is not likely to make a “sample” of a custom ring, bracelet, or any other item so you can see it and then decide if you want to buy it or not. So don’t ask. 
PS: this doesn’t work in restaurants either.

Wearing your jewelry while swimming in the ocean is generally not a good idea. Particularly if incorporates wood, ivory, or other organic materials. The jeweler is not responsible for replacing items that are lost in the ocean, or corroded/damaged by prolonged exposure to salt water.
Extra Note: shiney/sparkly things are used by fishermen to attract fish. This could be inconvenient if you happen to be in the water WITH the fish, some of which are bigger than you.

While we’re on the subject, the jeweler is also not responsible for replacing your jewelry if:
1. You drop your diamond ring into a running garbage disposal
2. You leave your jewelry on the top of your car, drive off, and find it is not there when you arrive home
3. You hide the gift box in the garage under the car, and then run over it on your way to dinner
4. You break up with your girlfriend and she customizes your ring with a 5lb sledge hammer before returning it to you.

When having something custom made, the artist will consult with you to determine the specifics of the item to be made and a price. Once the job is started, changing the specifics will almost certainly change the price.  Deciding that you want an engraving of the Last Supper on the inside of your ring after it is made just might add to the cost. Nothing personal, we’re just sayin’…

We could go on and on, but we’ll leave some room for all the other Blog Carnival jewelers to weigh in on the topic. At the end of the day, making handmade jewelry is great fun, and the never-ending cavalcade of experiences stemming from those activities is an enriching source of humor and amusement. And don’t forget to buy OUR handmade jewelry.

** Blog Carnival is a group activity of EtsyMetal, an international collective of jewelry artists. Each month the group selects a topic and members link their writings on that topic, thus providing readers with a multidimensional rambling collaborative brain-fart experience.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Who and What Influences your work.

The July theme for the Etsymetal Team Blog Carnival* is "influences on your work, with examples". 

It is said in art, that we are all standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. This is certainly true, for there is virtually no one that can claim to have not been influenced by someone or something in the progression of their art.  The popular notion is that an artist sees another’s work and then goes off and tries to emulate it. This is rarely the case. Influences are much more oblique and subtle than that. Influences come from many directions and sources over a lifetime. Some influences are immediate and direct like a punch in the nose. Something stops you dead in your tracks, and you know it will haunt you till you find a way to express it in your art somehow. Other influences take years to develop, appreciate and find a voice for. These can be an experience from childhood or a philosophical point of view. 

Most artists are sensitive to other art forms and their environment and are often influenced by them. We see influences in our own work of our musical tastes and political views. These influences don’t necessarily take center stage, but they are there nonetheless, and tell part of the story of “why did you do that”.  In that sense, influences are an elaborate “connect the dots” trail of thought and emotions that result in a particular artistic expression.  

Here are some of the dots that connect our work:

Martini Glass 
Stainless steel, brass, color on metal.
Influences: Old botanical manuscripts and Caravagio. 
Corliss was apprenticed as a floral designer at a very early age. This has had a deep life-long influence in her artistic voice. John virtually grew up in an art museum and thus had extensive contact with classical painting and sculpture from an early age. Classicism has been a recurring thematic device in 2Roses work whether expressed literally or abstractly.

A botanical manuscript circa 1500 by Pietro Andrea Mattioli
Bachus by Carravagio.  Side Note: John was expelled from the high school art club over a dispute about Carravagio. Fuck you Shell Fishburne, Carravagio was an influence and still is. There, we feel better now.

Galaxy Bracelet
Circuit board, sterling silver
Influences: The Jestsons animated tv show.  Like most children of our generation, we spent countless hour watching, and being influenced by television.  What started out as a simplistic situational comedy view of the future soon blossomed into a heavy interest in futurism and science fiction. Frank Frazetta made our eyes water with his virtuoso painterly technique, but Syd Mead really blew our minds. This was industrial design done with a narrative.

Corliss was apprenticed as a floral designer at a very early age. This has had a deep life-long influence in her artistic voice. John virtually grew up in an art museum and thus had extensive contact with classical painting and sculpture from an early age. Classicism has been a recurring thematic device in 2Roses work whether expressed literally or abstractly.
The Jetsons

Syd Mead

Vaquero Concho Earrings
Nickel, sterling silver
Influences: Armor and early Western Tack. 
We were introduced to engraving early on through interaction with antique edged weapons and armor. This has manifested itself by getting sidetracked into knife making, but in recent years we've finally come back to focusing on engraving.

California Style vaquero tack

Spurs with Spanish style rowls

 Hurt Yourself Earrings
Sterling Silver
Influences: Robert Williams iconoclastic style and artistic "piss on your shoes" attitude puts him in the vanguard of artists you love or hate. There seems to be no middle ground, and Robert would have it no other way. We happen to love him.  We also love New Zealand art forms, Moko in particular.

Robert Williams, Empire hanging by a stretch

Maori Moko

Ghost of the Red Fort
Sterling Silver, bone
Influences: Islamic and Indian art. The rich classical tradition of Eastern pattern and textural decoration has been a great influence on our art. We almost always go back to ultra-conservative forms when we get in these moods.

a Mughal palace

The Alhambra

Ancient coins, repousse, micromosiaic, bone, neoprene
Influences: Ramona Solzberg, Ron Ho, Roman Mosaics
The work of Ramona Solzberg and Ron Ho has had great influence on the philosophy and form of our work. This has played out with the use of found objects seen in other examples on this page. The convergence of found objects (electrical components) with exposure to Roman mosaics gave birth to the technique of micromosiaics that we have developed.
Necklace by Ron Ho

Roman Mosaic

 Artifact of Faith
 Sterling silver, brass, rutile, Italian liturgical print
Influences: We were both raised in the Catholic religion and attended parochial school. This exposed us to lots and lots of religious-based art, the Catholic church being one of the great historical patrons of the arts. We did our stint at vatican-bashing with our art in our youth, but we've come around to appreciating the more ornate forms of Catholic religious objects. In particular, Spanish influenced cathedrals and Russian icons

Valencia Cathedral, Guanajuato, Mexico

Russian Icon

 Be sure to check our EtsyMetal friends to learn more about how artists are influenced and what plays out in their art.

* Blog Carnival is a team project of EtsyMetal. Each month, volunteer members of the group all write on the same topic. Topics are usually related to the artistic/creative lifestyle or metalsmithing in particular. The purpose is to give readers a sampling of the the diversity of thought that artists hold on common subjects.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Creative Mess

This month’s Blog Carnival theme is “Studio Tour”.

We’re all voyeurs on some level. For artists, peeking into each other’s work space is endless fun. What tools do you have? How are they set up? What level of chaos do you work in? And of course, the supremo question…whatcha workin’ on right now?

2Roses studio space encompasses about 2500 sq feet divided into three large rooms. There are also a number of out buildings for storage as well as rock cutting and rock storage external to the building.

The studio is in a constant state of flux, and we work in an atmosphere of a slow roiling controlled chaos. Equipment is moved and rearranged constantly as we add or upgrade items, or attempt better work flow.  We always have 30 or more projects going at any time. These will invariably encompass a cornucopia of materials and techniques, and will range from production line to commissions to exhibition work.

Storage is an ongoing battle. We accumulate stuff, every imaginable kind of stuff. We have learned to stop asking each other “what in hell are you going to do with THAT!?” We know that someday we will need a mummified opossum paw to finish a piece.  The real question will be, where in hell did we put them.

So without further ado, welcome to our studio. Feel free to look around, and send us an email if you spot a opossum paw in any of the photos. We’re also still looking for a Burmese ruby we dropped on the floor in 1994 too. 

Fabrication room

Fabrication room

Fabrication bench

Fabrication bench

Faceting bench

One of big rock saws, lapidary

Small kiln and ovens, enamel & poly clay
Lapidary bench

Machine room

Machine room

Machine room
Machine room

Machine room


Rock Storage, just a partial of 3+ tons of material




Woodworking room

Woodworking room

Woodworking room

Woodworking room