Tag Archives: work

blaugust #18: tell me a colorstory.

I spent a lot of time this past weekend making new necklaces for urban legend. Well, cleaning up a dire mess in my supplies and work area, and then making new necklaces. Whenever I’m planning a weekend session of making, I collect sources for color inspiration. Depending on how specific they are, I’ll either make a list or I’ll print out a sheet of thumbnail photos that I’m planning to work from. These come from all over – photographs that I’ve taken, posts I’ve liked on Instagram, spreads in magazines, color boards on Pinterest – the list is endless. In the last couple of years, though, outfits I’ve spotted while riding public transportation have played a huge role in my creative process. I never used to sneak pictures of strangers, but the fashion in Portland is so good that I do it at least once a week now. When I sit down to collect that sheet of thumbnails, it always includes a scroll through the photos on my phone. That’s right: I am that woman surreptitiously taking a photograph of the back of your dress while you, all unsuspecting, ride the train. Because it’s a really sensational dress. In the first place, I’m a huge fan of stripes cut on the bias like that. And in the second place, I’m a sucker for a punch of black right in the middle of those juicy summer melon colors. So I’ll hold the phone up as unobtrusively as I can, and grab a picture that just shows enough of a pattern so I’ll remember it. Thanks, fellow commuter and your outstanding dress. And then I’ll just happen to glance out the window as the train goes over the river, and I’ll see that boxy mustard yellow building that I see every day, but today it’ll have a perfectly blue sky behind it and a towering rusted crane in front of it. That’s another necklace right there. I hadn’t realized until I made my list this week how much commuting has featured in my color work lately, but it’s nice to know that all those hours soaking up what I see eventually get used in the studio.


blaugust #14: artifact.

Last night I was scrolling through my draft blog posts in search of some things I could finish up and use for Blaugust. It’s pretty slim pickings in there, to be honest. Most of it was a couple of photos with no text (deleted all those), and some poems I’m collecting for next year’s National Poetry Month. There were a couple of things that I thought could be interesting, and then there was this little snippet of a list:

in the past year I have:

gone 36 hours without food only to eat 3 full meals in 4 hours.

done without milk/peanut butter/laundry detergent in order to buy silver/beads/bubble mailers.

spilled tomato sauce on my ottoman and liked the resulting color story so much I went back to work before cleaning it up.

watched 19 straight episodes of Dark Shadows while preparing inventory for holiday sales.

worn the same pair of pajama pants from Monday-Thursday. WHAT.

claimed deep tissue massages as a business expense.

Well, that’s interesting. I have no idea how long ago I wrote this, or what I was planning to do with it. This blog originally lived on a blogger site, and when I ported all of it over to WordPress, the drafts came too, but their dates didn’t survive. So what year was this when I went without groceries and was utterly slovenly in the service of color? The draft had a title – “My name is Kateri & I’m a crafter” – but that doesn’t tell me anything about where I was going with the post, or what else might have been on that list.

It did make me think about how the life of making has changed for me in the last few years, though. I’m much better at self care than I was when I started out in small business. I’m careful to eat (mostly) healthy food at almost regular intervals. I’m better at budgeting, and have also been in business long enough to have a pretty substantial supply inventory. I don’t offer what I can’t produce with materials on hand, so although there are still some very thin months, I don’t go without peanut butter in order to keep stocked. My day job now is so much different than it was when this was written, and I no longer have summers off or two week holiday breaks.

Other things remain the same. If Dark Shadows was still on Netflix, you can bet I’d still be marathoning it while I work (there’s never any chance of running out of Dark Shadows, there are 9 frillion nearly identical episodes). If I get four uninterrupted days at home, I am definitely wearing the same pajama pants the entire time. There’s even a word for this now, thanks to Shawn Hampton: pajampion. (That’s actually a good dating device for this draft post – it must predate the word pajampion, or I’d have used it there. So no later than 2010 by the linguistic yardstick.)

There is no way on earth I’d leave a tomato sauce spill in situ now, as the tiny ants that plague Portland would be all over it. Honestly, I can’t really imagine doing it then, either – I may have exaggerated that one for effect, who knows. Not the spill, I spill everything all the time. But leaving it while I made something might have been made up.

My takeaway from this is that the life of making is messy and compelling. It takes your time. It makes you forget time. It teaches you to care more for the thing you make than for your own body. The thing you make feeds you just as surely as food, and it is necessary sustenance. And it makes order out of chaos. From all the tumbled stashes of materials, a steady thread of coherent design is woven. I can see it stretching from that draft post to this one, from that home in Chicago to this one in Portland, from the thing I make now to the thing I will make ten years from now.

As I write this, I’m surrounded by piles of messy making supplies. Part of my plan for this weekend is to do a proper clean and sort so that I can start on new work for fall with a fair idea of what I have to work with. But not too much, not too clean. The work lives in there, and it’s my happy job to dig it out.

blaugust #12: adrift.

I’m sitting down to write this, and at a complete loss for what to talk about today. My hope, yesterday, was to get some good screenshots from venturing back into Guild Wars 2. Maybe have either a rekindled enthusiasm or a definitive reason why I’m not interested, and be able to talk about either of those points. But the installation hit a snag and I never actually got to playing anything at all last night. So that plan went out the window.

Even if it hadn’t, let’s be honest: it was a bit thin, as topics go. I’m struggling a bit with Blaugust at the moment. I’m ok with that – I didn’t expect it to be easy. I’m also not really concerned with the lack of quality in this post, or some of my other ones. The main point of this initiative, for me, is to keep going and not miss a day. Quality, or at any rate consistent effort, will develop with habit.

For today, though, I’m just making a note that I’m struggling. It’s been a really nice day. My boss (and sister-in-law) is the current featured seller on Etsy. The feature article was published this morning on the Etsy blog, and it’s really nice. She works hard, and she makes beautiful things, and I’m proud of her. It was really good to see her recognized and celebrated this way, and we enjoyed watching the comments mount up and congratulations roll in. I got everything for today’s ship list printed and packaged and out the door, and I also got to tidy up a bunch of straggly loose ends that have been on my to-do list for about three weeks. That felt good, too. My mind works better when the visual clutter is reduced.

After work, I went for a massage. I started getting therapeutic massage 5 or 6 years ago, when I first noticed repetitive stress pains from making jewelry. For a long time, I had a regular once a month schedule, and I saw steady improvement and strengthening over the course of a little over two years. Then, I moved to Portland and was unemployed for a long stretch of months. It took me some time to catch up financially, and continuing with massage just wasn’t in the cards for a while. I started going again early this year, and as of a couple of months ago, it’s a regular once a month thing for me again. Today’s work was calves (always, always tight – stretch more. no, more than that.) and my neck. As of right now, I’m feeling properly connected up and limber. In aid of keeping that feeling, I’m going to stop typing now and make myself some dinner.

Anyway, Wednesday. I’m still here. See you tomorrow!

(This post brought to you by the Blaugust initiative.)

A mile marker in candyland.

test pattern

The fledgling jewelry shop I started a few years back so I could play with plastics is about to cross a very big milestone. I’ve sold nearly 3,000 items in my urban legend Etsy shop, and I’m really excited to see the odometer roll over in the next few weeks. When I opened urban legend, I was just starting to experiment with using vintage plastics in jewelry. The bold colors and bigger shapes took my designs in new directions, and it was so fun that it just kept growing and growing.

In the last few years, urban legend jewelry has been featured in UPPERCASE magazine, and been sold in shops in 9 states, as well as in Australia and France. Best of all, it’s brought me so many new friends. I love my work and I’m proud of it. It’s going to be exciting to see that nice round number appear in my Etsy shop!

To celebrate, I’ve planned a special giveaway for the customer who buys my 3,000th piece of jewelry. One lucky buyer will receive a custom long necklace in the style of the pieces shown below, in the color or colors of their choice. As of writing this, I’m 9 items away from the finish line; I can’t wait to see what happens!

As always, please don’t eat the jewelry.

Memento Mori.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to make a jewelry design inspired by Victorian mourning jewelry. Mourning jewelry was worn both as a symbol of mourning and as a memorial to loved ones. It was usually made of black jet, and sometimes incorporated the hair of the deceased in intricate patterns. There are some fantastic surviving examples of rare pieces made entirely of hair.

Images from Flickr’s Creative Commons.

I love the intricacy of these pieces, and their simple, direct social significance. While the hair pieces were generally very intricate and delicate, jet pieces were frequently carved in a heavier, simpler chain pattern. They’re elegant, and eloquently symbolic.

My tribute piece doesn’t use hair, but I do have some beautiful old bone components for jewelry. When I set out to make my Memento Mori choker, I used those. For the jet component, I chose large vintage black glass rough cut beads. Rough cut (also sometimes called English cut) beads have smooth, irregular facets. They’re imperfectly shaped, but each facet is sharp and defined, and they catch the light so beautifully. They’re generally fairly small, so the larger ones in this piece are a bit rare. I love rough cuts for their imperfection, and their insistent personality. The ones I’ve used here seem both sedate and demanding, and I like the effect they create. The line of jet is broken on one side by a vintage bone infinity symbol, originally part of a clasp. The choker is finished with a vintage hand carved bone hook clasp, which is accented with an antique and very rare black tri-corner Czech pressed glass bead.


I’m really pleased with how this piece turned out, and I hope to do a few more pieces with the same feel. If you’re interested in mourning jewelry, you can check out some other photos I’ve gathered on Pinterest.