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This was my first trip to the Tucson Shows. I have gone to the big Denver Gem Shows in the fall, however, I wanted to experience what it was like to go to Tucson because it is the largest in the world. Dan (my husband) & I discussed going to Tucson, not just for the shows but also to see the area and have our first winter vacation in years.

Last October we decided we would go. Several of my friends recommended making reservations early, which we did.

Our plan was go to a given show in either the morning or afternoon. That would give us time for another part of the day to explore Tucson’s sights. This plan worked well for us.

Prior to going, I heard dire warnings about the crowds, that we would have to wait hours to eat at a restaurant, theft of personal belongings was an issue and the dreaded Tucson crud.  In retrospect, I think some things might be urban legend and other tales were slightly exaggerated, because we didn’t experience any of that.

Preparations Before You Go

That being said, I cannot recommend enough that if you go, be prepared:

  • Inform your credit card companies of your travel dates.
  • Be aware of your purse, messenger bag, back pack at all times. NEVER place them on the floor unattended.
  • Consider carrying cash because some vendors only deal in cash. However, I do not like carrying cash so I did miss out on buying some Kordrite Opals from Australia. However, I would add that particular vendor missed out on more than just my purchase too because he was unable to accept credit cards.
  • Carry hand sanitizers and use them liberally. Once I started to touch stones, I avoided touching my eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Take Ester-C at least 10 days before your arrival and continue to take it while there.
  • Pre-register for the wholesale shows you plan to attend. Not only does that streamline the process for getting your badge prior to the show opening, but it helps you to plan which shows you want to attend.
  • Carry multiple copies of your resale license for the wholesale shows. I print them off and they are about the size of dollar bills so they fit easily in my wallet. The vendors appreciate it when you are able to present that license along with your business card at time of purchase.
  • Business cards. Have plenty of them.
  • Pre-printed address labels with your business license number. This is a big time saver during the check out process because no one has to write the information down on your sales ticket. Attach the label to the sales slip and off you go.
  • Sharpie permanent markers, Post-it Notes and plastic zip-loc type bags. Some vendors do not identify the type of stones on your receipt. You can quickly mark bags with a Sharpie or Post-it Notes so you’ll know what the stones are. I only needed to do this in a couple of the tent type sites. Sometimes I would use my iPhone to take a picture when stone boxes were labeled. However, some of the shows do not allow photographs, so be aware and respect the rules.
  • Have at least two pairs of comfortable walking shoes.

The Shows ~ According to the Guide – 45 Shows

There are so many locations that we had no intention of trying to cover all of them. I did purchase a guide from Interweave so I could have a better idea of where the shows were, parking, shuttles, opening dates, hours, city maps with the location numbered & marked, etc.

However, once we got to Tucson, the airport had the E-Z Show Guide, which was indispensable. These little guides are everywhere in town and they are free! If you are planners like Dan & I, you will want to get a legs up on the strategy for your schedule so consider buying a guide from someone like Interweave ahead of time.

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We arrived in Tucson on Sunday morning January 28, a couple of days before the main wholesale shows opened. I was offered a pre-show appointment by Mark Lasater of The Clamshell for that Sunday afternoon. It was nice to be able to have ‘first pick’ options with him. Not everyone can or will do this. It gave me a jump start on my stone shopping and I was able to get some of the prized stones for this year, the Petrified Wood Blue Opal Copper matrix. That’s a mouthful!

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Some of my finds at The Clamshell – Clockwise Variscite, Chalcedony, Petrified Wood Matrix, Sugilite, Azulite/Malachite

If you know Mark or his son Gavin, they are already scheduling appointments for next year’s pre-show at a new location. Give them a shout to set something up if you are planning on Tucson in 2019.

— To Bead To True —

This show was at a new location this year according to what I read. Nice venue. Primarily beads and some tools. I went to meet Melissa Muir in person and seeing her was well worth it. She’s a delight. Watched her demo the Pepe Automatic Rolling Mill, which she sold! It was wonderful to catch up with her. Check out her YouTube channel for great tutorials too.

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GJX was one of the major wholesale shows I wanted to see. No photos were allowed inside this show, so I was only able to capture the scene at the registration center just prior to the doors opening. This was early morning on the opening day.

My first stop was Gary B. Wilson’s booth. I came away with so many perfect little stones that I’m currently using in my Celestial ring series.

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Treasures from Gary B Wilson

While there I enjoyed finding some new vendors too. Thankfully the number of people in attendance the first day was quite reasonable. We easily walked the show and were able to see the display cases without lining up behind people.

After a lunch break in downtown Tucson, we decided that we had enough energy to walk over to the AGTA show and explore that in the afternoon.

— AGTA —

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AGTA was the second major wholesale show I attended on its opening day. I was delighted to find some new suppliers like Rare Earth Mining and Out of Our Mines. There were lots of quality vendors there, including Mark Lasater of The Clamshell. Since I had seen Mark earlier in the week, I did cruise by his offerings but elected to explore what others had.

Again, this show was not super crowded and we easily saw things. It’s big too so lots of walking, but that felt great after lunch.

— JOGS —

Another large show, lots of specimens and a bit difficult to navigate due to the layout of the booths/tables. My impression of this show was I really needed to be careful if I bought anything because what I saw didn’t look like the best quality. I had pre-registered for this show and had my badge, however, I was still required to check in. There was a bit of confusion between the security guards and the registration desk about my badge; should it have another sticker, shouldn’t it? I found the process odd and inefficient. Suffice it to say, this isn’t a show I would go back to again.

— 22nd Street Show —

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This was the last show we attended. It really met my expectations of what I envisioned with fossils, rocks, a few gems and nice lapidary work. I found a number of things at great prices and quality. This was the eclectic mix of vendors. Large and small fossils of all varieties. Crystals, rocks, geodes and more.

One of the vendors that came from Australia had some super nice Koroit opals but he was not set up to take credit cards. This was the only supplier I encountered that needed cash, so my plan to not carry cash actually worked out well with this one exception.

Parking at the various show locations

Maybe the stars were perfectly aligned for us, but parking was never an issue. On the day of the two big wholesale shows (GJX & AGTA) opening, we got downtown around 9:00 AM an found plenty of parking in one of the city’s parking garages. If we had parked at the Tucson Convention Center parking garage where the AGTA was located, the cost would have been $20. However, we were just a few blocks away from both shows and only paid $8 to park for the day.

Tucson does have a great shuttle system set up for these shows. We had planned on taking the shuttles, however, parking access for each of the shows we attended was very simple and not costly either.

The Scenery ~ Exploring Tucson

Monday morning, we visited the Eastern Saguaro National Park. Let me tell you, there are cactus EVERYWHERE in Tucson. The National Parks (both East and West) do them justice, of course. I was amazed by seeing so many cactus.

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I found this warning sign amusing and spot on accurate. People were cycling through the park and you have to pay attention or you could really hurt yourself.

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We explored the Botanical Gardens. That was one of the highlights of the trip for me. They had a nice Origami exhibit throughout the gardens. And yes they had more than just cactus!

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Their butterfly and orchid pavilion was very special.

Our last day we visited a Mission, The Patronato San Xavier, dating back to the 1600’s. Our tour guide was great and his love of history apparent. They are restoring this facility and it is a active Catholic church on the reservation today. Incredible work; truly inspiring.

The Restaurants

There certainly weren’t any shortages for good places to eat. For some reason our go to app, Yelp, didn’t perform well in Tucson. However, Google searches and Trip Advisor provided a wealth of information.

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We liked the Union Public House so much, we went there twice!

We found  this delightful pizza / pub just off campus. It’s name is 1702 Craft Beer and Pizza. It did not disappoint with the beer selection and yummy pizza.

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I will say it was hard to find a good coffee place downtown. I think with all the renovation, the one we tried to find was well hidden. Whenever we travel, we try to experience local so that is why we by-passed Starbucks, of which, there were plenty.

Barrio Brewing was a great find. Loved the atmosphere. The food and beer was awesome.

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We celebrated my birthday at Brother John’s. Great barbecue. It was Whiskey Wednesday so I opted to enjoy a Basil Hayden based on our waitress’ recommendation. It was good advice and I definitely enjoyed this whiskey.

Thunder Canyon is downtown and was another place with great food and beer.

I think as most of these photos show, nothing was terribly crowded. We always got a table as soon as we arrived. It might be that if you are trying to eat at an actual show location, that’s where you run into the long waits. Overall, we found spots that were close and convenient to what we were doing. Loved exploring the local cuisine and I know we barely sampled all that we could have.

On our last night we stopped at a tap room close to our hotel called 1912 Brewing.

NLIV9876Very pleasant atmosphere. Excellent beer.

Back Home

We had a lovely time. Would we go back for the main wholesale shows? Probably. Only next time the trip would be much shorter with more precision for which shows I would want to attend. Dan & I think we would fly in the day before the main shows open, stay  two days tops and then come home.

Did we come down with the Tucson crud? Dan might have, although it seemed more like a bad case of allergies. I managed to escape unscathed. No matter, Ester-C and hand sanitizers are your BFFs for this type of event.

New works from show purchases

The Celestial Rings. I love making these and each one is from one of the stones I bought while in Tucson. More are on my bench waiting for me to finish them.

Thoughts on the Experience

I would say, if you have never gone to Tucson for these shows, yes make it a plan to do so. We did go with the intention to do more than just the shows. For us that was a smart decision. I have a feeling some go for a couple of weeks and try to take in all 45 shows. I just could not do that, nor would I want to.

It certainly helped that I have gone to the Denver Gem and Mineral Shows, which take place in the fall here in Colorado. I think that helped me to prepare for this and not feel overwhelmed.

Another thing to consider is know what you want, have a budget and rest when fatigue sets it. There’s lots to do and see outside of the shows. Enjoy!

Until next time, I aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

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It’s that time of year. Fall approaches. Cool, crisp mornings. Birds flock together. The leaves start to turn. And the Front Range Open Studios tour weekend is here.  September 9 – 10, 2017 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM each day.

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Once a year, the artists on the tour open their working studios to the public. We invite you into our creative sanctuaries so you can see where we work and have an appreciation for why we do what we do.

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My studio has transformed over the years, just as I have. You can see the view of a small aspen grove just outside my windows. Wind chimes accompany the playful songs of the wild birds that visit the garden.

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Our mission with the tour is to educate, inform and have fun! Throughout the weekend I will be doing demonstrations involving:

  • The Ancient Art of Chasing and Repoussé
  • Piercing metal with a jeweler’s saw
  • Stone setting
  • Firing up and using a torch

My hope is you will see and understand why I love working with my hands as I create my art.

You can see the variety of tools that I use in my work, including the latest addition of a CNC Machine, the Nomad 883 Pro by Carbide 3D. As my business has grown, I found this investment to be necessary.

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New this year, my husband and I have put together a video that covers the basic steps involved in fabricating a pair of my Treescape earrings. I will walk through the steps and we have a time lapsed video of the machine working. It takes a minimum of 16 steps to complete the most basic of my Treescape design, which surprises people.

 

Here’s the map to all of the studios on this year’s tour. If you go to the website, you can download Google maps to all of the artist’s locations. This year my studio is location #15.

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Remember, this happens once a year and it truly is magical. I hope you can join us.

Until next time, I continue to aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

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Opening Reception:  Friday, July 21, 2017 from 5:oo PM to 8:00 PM
Location: Commonwheel Artists Co-op
102 Cañon Avenue
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
Exhibit Dates: July 21 – August 14, 2017

Ever since Dan & I married, even before that, we have been a collaborative, supportive team. He is my best friend and soulmate. He is honest, caring, and one of those idea people. I love him with all my heart and soul.

He has influenced my work, new projects, and creative directions. As we journey through this life together, we have always wanted to do a joint show. Now that has become a reality for us.

On Friday, July 21, 2017, Immersion opens at Commonwheel Artists Co-op in Manitou Springs, CO. The concept for this show came from Dan. We love water’s qualities and its associated locations. Through this exhibit of our respective art works, we hope to convey the feeling of being surrounded by the beauty of the ocean, lakes, ponds, streams and waterfalls.

Dan has captured so many moments in time with his photography. Breathtaking ocean waves as they crash against the shoreline rocks, the Milky Way at Bandon, Oregon. During his local hikes, he encounters the occasional character willing to pose. I feel so blessed to have been with him when he photographed many of these scenes.

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Pacific Ocean ~ Cannon Beach, OR

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The Milky Way as seen at Bandon, OR

The Loch

Steller Jay at Lake ~ Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

As I worked on jewelry for this exhibit, I developed a completely new body of work. I incorporated stones the lent themselves to the imagery of water, waves, coral, shells and more. It’s the first time I have felt so completely free creatively that many of my works evolved in their own direction. Only a few started with designs that remained until completion; most became free form fabrication that I have never done before. Perfection and symmetry were not goals because I wanted to give my impression of the natural essence of water.

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Leland Blue set in Sterling Silver ~ Cuff

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Fossilized Coral set in Sterling with 18Kt Gold Accent

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Sterling Silver earrings with 18Kt Gold Accents

Dan & I are blessed to have found each other. We share a unique relationship based on love, friendship and mutual respect.

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Dan & I at Shore Acres State Park ~ Oregon

Immersion will give the audience a glimpse of our life together and our artistic souls. If you live in the Colorado Springs area, I hope you will be able to join us. The exhibition runs from 7/21 – 8/14/2017.

Until next time, I aspire to be more as an artist and a person.


I’ve been reading John Ortberg’s book “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”. Many things in this book have resonated with me. Most recently the chapter, A Life of Endurance, as he discusses perseverance.

“Any truly meaningful human accomplishment will require perseverance”

Isn’t this the simplest, most concise statement that conveys such a powerful message?

I started my journey in metalsmithing as a mature adult, not someone in their teens who went off to get a degree in fine arts or other related metal work curricula. Yet, my passion with this art form, to quote Steve Martin, is “To become so good they can’t ignore you”. Perseverance is one of the key elements in making that happen.

For the past month, I have had obligations requiring that I spend time away from my studio. Now it is time that I can return and I truly thirst for the positive energy I find in my creative space. I have so many new ideas, preparations for upcoming events and demands for new work at locations where I am represented. I find joy in all of that.

Here’s a sample of some of the things I’m currently doing.

Treescape earrings – progression shots

Designs for a new series…Celestial 

More Treescapes in fabrication

Flush set emerald – Treescape pendant

The driving force for me is perseverance to become better each day at this craft that I love. It requires practice, determination and desire. As I return to the bench, this is my focus.

Until next time, I continue to aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

 

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Every day is a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance for growth and unexpected opportunities. I want to encourage you to embrace each day with all the possibilities it holds for you. Please don’t limit yourself to the mindset that at the start of a new year, you have the chance to effect change in your life because you can take positive steps every single day!

I want to share something I recently read from Dr Wayne Dyer’s A New Way of Thinking, a New Way of Being.

Waste no opportunities. This is called following the light.

Several years ago when I was just starting my journey as a metalsmith, I attended one of the Colorado Metalsmith’s conferences. I wasn’t completely sure why I should attend the conference, but it was an opportunity for me to hear some prominent artists. One of the conference speakers was an extremely gifted metalsmith, Judith Kaufman. I was in awe of her work, her talent and her process. I still am.

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Judith shared how she got started. She was only 13 or 14, and she recalled how she used to sit at the bench and just play with putting components together. I was in awe. How could she do that and come up with such gorgeous creations? At that time, I was still dutifully sketching my designs, too afraid to try anything without a design. Hindsight is 20/20 and now I realized I was frozen by my own fear.

I listened, took some photos of her speaking and others of the slides she used in her presentation. She shared the quote by Isamu Noguchi in the picture above. It puzzled me. Again, I had self-imposed constraints on my art and was limiting my potential to create what was really in my soul. Now I get it. It takes time. Some grow faster than others. That’s ok, remember….a new day, another opportunity for growth!

So 2017 has arrived. Toward the last week of 2016, I was sitting at my bench, playing with components I had made. I was putting pieces together without designs in mind; check out the photo of my bench block at the top of this post. Initially, I wasn’t really aware of what I was doing. All of a sudden it hit me. How freeing and exhilarating. And then I remembered this is what Judith did and continues to do. Ok, that’s brilliant. Oh yes, and so much fun to play during the act of creating something beautiful….child-like in some ways.

I believe I’m following the light. It’s such a rush. Just let the creativity flow. That’s why it’s so important to just spend 5 minutes a day in your studio. Those 5 minutes can turn into something truly magical in what you are called to create.

Yes it’s a new year. Remember this, every day you wake, you are given a new opportunity to bring about positive change in your life. Please don’t limit yourself. Let go of that fear. Follow the light. Live!

Until next time, I continue to aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

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I have been spending time reflecting. I took a break from working at my bench for some much needed rest, relaxation and recharging of my artistic batteries. The break lasted longer than I expected, yet I believe that is exactly what I needed to become a better artist. My husband and I vacationed out on the Oregon coast. We enjoyed some fall hikes, walking along the shores of the Pacific Ocean and soaking in the beauty of nature. New inspirations were just a few of the benefits.

After that kind of hiatus from the bench, it felt both good and a little strange. Working with my hands is extremely satisfying and initially I did feel a bit rusty. I think it’s safe to say I am back and fully operational now.

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Sometimes I find inspiration from movies. Here is an example. Any thoughts on which movie inspired this piece?

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Quoting the infamous episodes from Friends with my own spin, “I was on a break…. a much needed break”. Given this experience, I broke some of my own rules of spending at least 5 minutes a day in the studio. That does give me some pause and contradiction, yet I know me and this break was something I truly needed to recharge my creative batteries.

All that being said, I would encourage my fellow artists to do the same. Don’t fight the need for breaks from the work cycle or even worse, feel guilty about it. There are times when the best thing we can do for our creative process is rest and relax.

Until next time, I continue to aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

 

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September’s Blog-o-Sphere Think Tank’s subject is “Share an image you really love right now”.

There are so many, but I love this one. Dan captured me during one of my early Chasing & Repoussé moments. Not everything is technically correct, yet I love looking at my hands working. I’m practicing. I’m learning. My goal is to continue to do so for as long as I live in this world. I can say my technique and skill has improved since this was taken two years ago.

It’s all part of my motivation to become a better artist.

Let’s see what my fellow bloggers shared on this topic.

Until next time, I continue to aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

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September signals fall. Accompanying that is the Front Range Open Studios tour of which I have been one of the participating artists since its inception just 6 short years ago.

The tour has grown, just as the artists have. My work has changed dramatically since I first joined the tour thanks to the encouragement I have received from others and my personal commitment to being a better artist. I have created new works especially for this coming weekend.

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This weekend, people who live in the Tri-Lakes area of Colorado, have a wonderful opportunity to visit working artists studios like mine. All of the artists on this tour enjoy discussing their creative process. Here is the map to all of our studios.

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One of the unique things about this tour is our desire to educate the public about how we create our art. Sure we have work available for purchase if it calls to you. However, our focus is showing people our process, our love of the craft and our inspirations.

In my case, I have a fairly extensive arsenal of tools. They help me fabricate my art jewelry. The photo below shows just a sample of the tools I use in my work.

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This year, people who visit my studio will see the process that transforms a flat piece of metal into a tiny Treescape earring. Those steps, a minimum of 22 for each work, demonstrate how committed I am as an artist to bring my interpretation of beauty into the world. I once had a gentlemen tell me that I “had too much time on my hands” because of what I did to make these. Sadly, he missed the point. As an artist, I am driven (just like my colleagues) to do what it takes to make art. It is our passion. As essential to our life as eating, breathing and sleeping.

If you live in the area, I invite and encourage you to visit our studios this weekend, 9/10-11 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM each day. I believe you will find the only real thing that differentiates us from each other is our respective mediums.

I work in metal. I am a Chasing & Repoussé artist. I create art.

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We hope to inspire young and old alike. Embrace your inner artist and join us.

Until next time, I continue to aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

 

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Ginkgo Cuff in Shakudo.

I imagine most of you remember or are familiar with the Jerry Seinfeld show. There are many memorable episodes for me. The one when George struggles to come up with a decent comeback to a co-worker during a meeting has stuck with me. He thinks he finally has the perfect response and here’s his ‘moment‘. Never worked out as well as he envisioned, did it?

Ever since that episode, I classify some of my “That’s what I should have said!” moments of enlightenment as my personal George Constanza percolations. They generally occur about 24 – 72 hours after something has happened where I didn’t feel I had the best response. Some I could never say, some I tuck away for future reference and chalk it up to a good learning experience.

My most recent George Constanza moment happened as I woke up this morning. It was the result of an interaction during this past Thursday’s Art Hop. I’m sharing this not only because I find it a bit amusing, but also because I think and hope it will be helpful to my fellow artists and to those who purchase our work.

The ginkgo cuff at the top of this post is one of my recent works. I created for the Botanical Expressions Exhibit this past May.  I brought it to Art Hop with a number of my Chasing & Repoussé works. Around 7:30 PM, several women entered the shop and were looking over my work. One stopped at this cuff, picked it up and turned it over to check the price…..$650. She raised her eyebrows and said, “Well, that’s pricey!“. I expected that response given her behavior. I suspect she had been enjoying the wine provided by the other merchants as is customary during Art Hop. No matter, I replied, “Yes it is considering it is a very labor intensive work.” She acknowledged my response with “I’m sure it is“, put the cuff back and moved on.

Fortunately, I had read some recent articles about how to respond to these types of comments, but I still felt I fell short of explaining the basis for the price.

This morning it came to me. My George Constanza moment. What I should have said was:

“Actually the piece is quite reasonably priced considering the investment I have made in workshops to learn this technique, the tools I have purchase to execute it and the hours I have practiced. It is made from a Japanese alloy called Shakudo which is comprised of gold and copper. So in fact, this cuff reflects my personal investment and is very reasonably priced.”

Note to self this is the right response.

It’s up to us, as artists, to explain the ‘why’ in how our works are priced if people ask or complain. We should never feel ashamed or contrite for how our work is priced. My forms of personal adornment are labors of love and have a part of my heart and soul in each piece. It is hand crafted, not produced in a factory.

One of the principles for the Front Range Open Studios tour is to educate the public so they understand why art costs what it does. I am one of the tour artists and each of us opens our private workspaces to the public once a year to help them understand our investment in our art. It gives us the opportunity to explain and demonstrate what happens when we are in the studio creating. Every time we interact with a possible collector, we have the chance to educate them about our process. Yes, sometimes that is difficult with the atmosphere that can occur during certain events such as Art Hop, but it is not impossible. We have a responsibility to ourselves and the public to enlighten them about what goes into our art.

I am so grateful for all those who have purchased my works and become collectors. They understand. They get it. As artists, we need to develop future collectors of our works by helping them to get a better feel for the process.

Yes, this reasonable priced cuff is still available. If it calls you to and you wish to become a collector, contact me at info@kathleenkrucoff.com

Until next time, I aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

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The take away here is “make“. I make art! This is so profound. No matter your age, where you currently are in this life journey, you too can make what you choose. It is a choice. Just “make“.

My friend, Will Weyer, is one of the creative forces behind “Where Design Comes From” (WDCF). He published this about a week ago and my immediate response was “YES”! Will is a designer with incredible talent. Follow him through any of the links I provided at the beginning of this paragraph. Stay motivated by his posts and maybe a few of mine too.

Here’s an interesting side note. Three years ago, five basset hound puppies were born. I was guided and blessed to be entrusted with one of those precious pups. All of them have brought remarkable people into my circle of friends. Another puppy from this litter brought Betsy and Will into my life. I am so grateful. You never know how some choices will have such a profound affect on your life. Look for the connections; they are there.

What Is “Why Do you Do What You Do?” All About?

It started  with a kid doing a school assignment: To interview someone from a community service agency. He looked in the Yellow Pages, dialed a number, and asked the person on the other end ” Why do you do what you do?”… and the receiver felt compelled to answer…. and it grew into this beautiful, interesting, amazing movement.  Read the full story here.

If you enjoyed this, please take a moment to see what my fellow bloggers shared on this topic and be inspired!

Until next time, I continue to aspire to be more as an artist and a person.

Kathleen Krucoff


Artist and Metalsmith

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