The story of a custom pendant

Hello Aquilla followers!  I want to share a journey with you, the journey of a custom pendant from start to finish.  Last week I was contacted by a woman in PA who wanted to have a custom piece made for her daughter, who is soon going to be completing her doctoral program.  (I do have permission to share the story, of course!)  This woman told me in the email that the last few years have been difficult for her family, yet they have come through the hard times stronger and closer.  There were some things which this woman wanted to incorporate into the design....strength, her bond with her daughter, and Vermont, a place they both hold dear.  

After re-reading the email a few times, I took my sketch book outside and just started to draw ideas.  I felt strongly that a spiral needed to be the main design element because I had been looking at a book of Southwest petroglyphs in the 24 hours before I was contacted by this woman and had been very drawn to the spirals in the book, although I was not sure why I found them so compelling until her email came through.  For some reason, I was seeing a line cutting across the spiral.  This eventually became a mountain ridge line, which was meant to represent this woman's love for Vermont.

I felt like a stone needed to be part of the design and was at first drawn to ocean jasper.  Then it became clear to me that Vermont serpentine was the best choice.  

As the design evolved, and emails were exchanged, I came up with the idea of adding two silver spheres on the downward side of the mountain.  I wanted those to represent this mother and daughter's bond and the fact that they are on the 'easier' side of their difficult journey, hopefully.  

The client wanted a bit more open space in the pendant, so I revised the sketch and came up with the one which would turn out to be the final design: 

The client was happy with it, so I proceeded to carve a mold out of a baked polymer clay slab using a carving tool.  This would eventually be used to press the metal clay into and form the core spiral.

I wish I had taken pictures of the pendant in its clay state....but I didn't!  I had to change the design for the bail (the part which connects the pendant to the necklace) because of the placement of the open parts of the spiral.  I carved the open sections while the clay was still wet, let the piece dry, attached the bail and sanded everything to make a nice, smooth finish.  Then I added the two spheres, attaching them with slip (clay paste) and then finally drilled the hole at the base of the pendant for the serpentine bead.  Into the kiln it went for two hours!  The final step was oxidizing the piece, which darkened everything and added depth.  Voila!  Ready to go into its velvet bag along with my new business cards (front and back are pictured).  The client is very happy...with the pictures anyway!  I hope the recipient is happy as well and I look forward to getting her feedback.  All in all, I'm very pleased with the outcome and enjoyed the process a lot.  I hope you enjoyed reading about it!

Until next time...

Sharon

A year ago...

I haven't posted in three months....oy.  Not that you don't have things to do other than read my jewelry ramblings, but still.  I had loftier goals yet somehow my school-based job and life trump my best intentions.  Now that school is out, I feel I can breathe a bit easier and create without worrying about planning meals, having track uniforms ready, or getting to bed in time to get enough sleep before I have to do it all over again.  

I actually have been able to spend time in the studio, mostly on weekends.  Much of what I've been doing is custom work, often one of a kind talismans combined with intuitive readings....love it!  And I've discovered a new way of turning my drawings into stamps in just a matter of minutes.  This has opened my world!  I can't wait to play with it this summer.  

But back to the reason for my post's title 'a year ago'.  Last June I flew to Denver to work with Lexi Erickson, a well known jewelry designer.  I'm so inspired by her story and her work!  She's got a PhD in archaeology and is also a jewelry designer who is particularly inspired by the Southwest.  Here's a picture of one of the pieces I created while I was with her: 

I took the turquoise stone with me and worked on the design process and some metalsmithing skills with Lexi.  The ridged area was influenced by the Catalina mountains which border Tucson to the north.  I sawed out two pieces of silver, textured one, and soldered them together.  The result is a big chunky piece (about 2" across) which seems to work in the West where everything is a bit larger.  I don't wear it much here in VT but I do love having it.  

Here's the other piece I did with Lexi: 

This piece definitely pushed my skills and design aesthetic!  The large round stone is a labradorite and the smaller one is an iolite; both are inspiring stones for me.  If you check out Lexi's work on her web page, you'll see her influence in this.  The hammered border is classic Lexi and the texture on the inside backplate was made by putting a piece of silver on her driveway and pounding it with a hammer.  The whole piece has a very galactic feel to me; haven't worn this one yet!  

And here's a look at some things I just took over to the Miller's Thumb Gallery in Greensboro today.  My things are selling very well already, just a few weeks into the season, and I'm really excited about it.  I think what's making the difference is that I type up a description for each piece and, of course, they're all one of a kind and have a story to tell.  My hope is that the stories connect with people...seems to be working!  

Until next time, 

Sharon

Remember: 15% off and free shipping!

I have finally gotten much of my inventory up on the website.  Feel free to browse!  Prices range from $35-$120, but the new pieces are much more in the $35-$40 range.  Remember that I'm having 15% off in December with your code: December15.  And, as always, free shipping!  I'm happy to take some of the holiday pressure off you by sending gifts directly to your recipient.  I'll even wrap it!  

15% off in December! And donation to a great cause!

Well, I came home from selling my jewelry at our local Holiday Market feeling very grateful.  I love my tiny little town and all of the people who came out in bad weather to support local artisans and crafters...yay!  I'm especially grateful for my 'fan club' who made it a really successful day for me.  Thank you!  I'm inspired to offer 15% off items in my online store for the month of December.  Use 'December15' to get your discount!  And, because it just feels like the right thing to do, I've been debating about donating a portion of my proceeds to a charity.  I spent some time thinking about which charity, but I kept coming back to something a bit avant garde, not a traditional charity.  My favorite non-fiction author is Craig Childs.  He's a naturalist, an explorer, and an exquisitely soulful writer, whose books I read over and over.  During this frenzied time of year (made more-so because of our Christmas tree farm happenings), I am ending my days reading his book 'Soul of Nowhere' which is so grounding that my mind settles right down and I sleep soundly.  Craig (I call him Craig because I like to think I know him and Mr. Childs feels way too formal) lives off the grid in Colorado and often has items in his 'wishlist' on his website such as books to help him with research.  This year there are no books on the list, but I feel compelled to donate money directly to him because I believe that his writing is a true gift to humanity.   I have no doubt that he lives simply and that he does not reap big financial rewards from his writing.  And, one of the best parts is that he has a small Craftsbury, VT, connection!  He was part of a writer's workshop several years ago which took place here every summer.  Anyway, my intention is to donate 5% of my online December profits to him because his work is so important to me.  

 Picture of Steve from Yankee Magazine, by Julia Shipley

Picture of Steve from Yankee Magazine, by Julia Shipley

So, that all said, I hope to get more jewelry on the site tomorrow....if I can find the time and escape our choose and cut business.  And on that note, for those of you who haven't seen it already there's a great blog series on Yankee Magazine's website about our tree farm; lots of great pictures and behind the scenes info. Sneak peek picture of Steve (my husband) holding a list of trees to be loaded.  Here's the link to the site: http://www.yankeemagazine.com/vermont-life/moffatts-tree-farm-may-tree   and, if you're interested, a link to our tree farm website: www.vtxmastrees.com

Thanks for reading again.  One last thing....I haven't forgotten my giveaways!  I realize I missed November, so I will make it up after the holidays pass and things slow down.  In the meantime, don't forget your 15% discount. Code: December15.  Happy shopping!

Sharon

In the studio

I wanted to give you a peek at what I've been working on in preparation for the annual Holiday Market, hosted by the Art House, which will happen in the Craftsbury Academy gym on December 6th.  Mark your calendars...this is a fun event!  Lots of local artists, vendors, and food; a great way to get some holiday shopping done in one trip while supporting the local economy. 

The earrings to the right are kind of fun and whimsical.  I sawed the silver triangles, hammered them, drilled holes, and added some little coral beads to dangle from the bottom.  

I love how delicate these earrings are, very feminine.  Again, I sawed and stamped the teardrops and hung them below tiny iolites and pearls, all of which are hung from french wires. Ooo la la!

Stay tuned....my next giveaway is coming up soon!

Sharon

These colorful earrings are made of sterling discs, which I sawed and stamped for kind of an organic look.  The discs hang below turquoise beads in shades of blue and green....love turquoise for its variability!  The french wires are nice and secure.

Survival, Remembering, Healing

I've been thinking for a while about how to write this post without coming across as arrogant and conceited, two things I try very hard not to be.  I also don't care much to toot my own horn, but I recognize that one of the obligations I have in this lifetime is to be a conduit for the healing of others.  And by 'healing' I don't mean to imply that anyone is broken and in need of fixing.  Instead, I mean healing in the greater, larger, sense.  My personal belief is that we all have a life purpose to fulfill during our time on earth.  We are presented with situations, experiences, and people who will nudge us along this path.  And, it does not mean we won't experience hardship; quite the opposite.  It's the most difficult times which offer us the greatest opportunities for learning about ourselves.  How does this relate to jewelry?  Well, I have sensed for a long time, years, that I was being pulled into the jewelry world for a greater purpose and I have followed the opportunities which have come my way and led me to now.  Although all of my jewelry carries with it my intention to empower the wearer, the talismans are meant to aid in a more focused way.  With that in mind, I want to share a story.

 'Remember' talisman

'Remember' talisman

A friend of mine bought the 'remember' talisman for a friend of hers whose dog was very ill and going to die soon.  After the dog's death, this person sent the talisman (on a cord) to her friend, who received it gratefully but with a bit of wondering about its purpose. I had infused the charm with a shamanic process, asking helpful spirits to assist the wearer with her grief and the wisdom to learn from the dog's passing. A few days later, my friend received an email from the woman whose dog died.  Here's a piece of it:  

Well let me tell you, thank your friend a lot for the talisman,  I really like it and the meaning but didn't really understand how it was going to help me. Well now I understand. It was amazing, I haven't stopped crying and feeling sad since (my dog) got sick and of course it was worse after she left. Hours later, after I had the talisman on me, I started feeling more calm and at peace with myself.  The change in how I felt was truly noticeable.  Then I started thinking, well wait a minute it is true, the talisman helped me that much. I almost couldn't believe it, I went from crying to feeling calm, relax and at peace. Haven't cried, haven't felt sad. It actually came to me that I shouldn't be sad, that instead I should be happy for (my dog) because that wasn't the end for her but the begining of something new and, I bet, amazing for her  because she was such a good girl.  the fact that I can see her now didn't mean I wasn't gonna see her again.  Maybe in another life or after I cross the rainbow and get to doggie land.

Me again, Sharon.  I love this story, and it's a humble reminder to me of the power of these little tokens.  I was relating this story to another friend, and she didn't seem surprised at all, instead told me that she notices a significant difference when she doesn't have her talisman with her.  Hmmm.  I will let you take what you want from these little stories, but I couldn't help but share, with permission of course.  

 'Survivor' talisman

'Survivor' talisman

And, now, onto another talisman.....this one's called 'survivor'.  Who among us has not survived something? What's your survival story?  It doesn't have to be heroic, tragic, or grand.  Sometimes the things we survive or bounce back from are tiny, sometimes big.  Did you make it through middle school?  Adolescence? I'm living with a middle schooler right now and it reminds me of the struggles we can face during that time of life, a time I affectionately refer to as the 'armpit of life'. Sometimes there are days where simply getting through it is the triumph.  Have you survived cancer?  The death of a loved one? An abusive childhood?  Wear this talisman to remind yourself of your strength and resilience, which you can carry forth into the world in the form of wisdom and kindness.  

Enjoy this beautiful fall!

Sharon

And we have a winner.....!

Hi everyone!  Well, the winner of the pair of earrings is Judy in Farmington, NH; congrats, Judy! I can't wait to send them out to her and what makes it even more fun is that we have a 'small world' Craftsbury, VT, connection.  I love when those things happen.

 

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Stay tuned for more jewelry being added and more info on how to use talismans; I'll be featuring two specific ones this week.  Plus, drum roll, I'm making some of the more popular talisman designs into earrings so you can have a double dose of good energy around you.  Can't wait to share.  In the meantime...enjoy these sneak peeks at things to come:)

Sharon

 

 

New jewelry and a giveaway!

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Well, I just LOVE to give things away so I've decided to do it every month!  Just sign up on the homepage to receive my journal entries, if you haven't already.  Now to the good stuff:  I'm going to give away these lovelies to one of my journal subscribers...drawn randomly.  Enter by Sunday, Sept. 21 at midnight.  I promise not to post more than once a week.  Aren't these fun?  I love the organic-y print, kind of leafy.  They make me think of William Morris, an artist/designer from the Arts and Crafts movement from the late 1800s. They're made of recycled fine silver and hand made sterling ear wires.  These are truly every day earrings.  

 

All that sparkles! earrings

I've been busy in the studio making some one of a kind pieces for people I care about who are dealing with health issues.  But I've also made some new things which are now on the site.  Look at these sparklers!  Druzy quarts cabochons set in a brushed sterling bezel.  These could add a touch of fun to your everyday life; I guarantee they will get attention.  I saw a pair similar to this on a woman in a workshop and I couldn't stop looking at them; druzy catches the light like nothing else. I've bought another set of stones to make some for myself!

And these little earrings are called 'Find your center' for obvious reasons.  Who couldn't use some support to stay centered?  I'm always drawn back to spirals because I just find them timeless and mesmerizing.  I put a little ball of silver at the center of these, which is echoed by the sphere at the end of the handmade ear wire.  These are only $25!!  And, as always, free shipping. 


Finally, for your viewing pleasure, this 'Adobe moon' necklace.  It's one of a series of adobe necklaces I've made.  Originally I was thinking the design would support first chakra work (sense of belonging, deserving to be 'here', safety) but I think it works for everything and reminds us of our roots.  I can't figure out if the moon is the window or if the door is outside and the gateway to a portal.  What do you think?

Well, dear readers and friends, back to the studio to finish my healing pieces.  Enjoy this lovely upcoming weekend!!

Sharon

What's a talisman and why do I need one?

Let's get right to the point! A talisman is an object 'believed to contain certain magical properties which provide good luck for the possessor or possibly offer protection from evil or harm' (Wikipedia).  I thought for a long time about what to call the charms I make.  'Charms' felt a bit overused, 'amulet' seemed a bit too specific, but 'talisman' seemed to capture the essence of the spirit-infused pieces of jewelry I was designing.   I need to digress here for just a bit..... I've always known deep-down that my jewelry-making skills and my intuitive abilities were going to mesh somehow.  I couldn't really see how the two would intersect, but I had faith that it would all come together.  For a while, I've been making one-of-a-kind pieces based on either doing an intuitive reading or tuning in specifically for a design.  I loved to do that kind of work, but I realized that cost of such a piece would be prohibitive for many.  I wanted to be able to reach more people with my intuitive jewelry so I crafted a line of talismans at an affordable price point but which still are infused with intention for the wearer.  

'Release' talisman, shown on a leather cord.

Alright, that's the background.  So, how can talismans be helpful?  Think of them as providing little boosts of support or energy around a specific desire.  Here's an example: you've just ended a relationship that wasn't healthy for you, but you're feeling stuck because you're thinking about that person more often than you'd like.  Or maybe it feels like your head wants to move on but your heart isn't getting the message.  This is where the 'release' talisman could be helpful.  I have found, in both my intuitive and counseling work, that people often struggle with letting go or moving on.  We form energetic cords (yes, it's true!) to people all the time and the strongest cords run between us and those about whom we feel most strongly. This is great if you're in a happy healthy relationship with that person, but not so good if you want to move on or not feel so intensely about that person.  'Release' can help with that.  I can even fine tune the talisman to you specifically; just add 'infusion' when you order your talisman.

 'Protection' talisman, shown on a leather cord.

'Protection' talisman, shown on a leather cord.

Let's explore another example.  Many of us are empaths.  Empaths are people who are exquisitely attuned to the feelings of others, sensitive to moods and the energy of locations.  I personally believe this is a great way to go through life but it can feel overwhelming and difficult at times unless you learn to protect yourself from all of those 'inputs'.  There are many ways to shield yourself if you're an empath, but I designed a 'protection' talisman for just that purpose.  I could imagine this being used in so many ways and for so many situations.  Are you in middle school or do you have a middle schooler in your midst?  This talisman is perfect for all of the 'ick' that swirls around the halls at that age.  Are you an empath working around groups of people (such as a teacher) or in difficult situations (a hospital, perhaps)?  The protection talisman would be helping you in such an environment.  For goodness sake, I could see wearing this talisman when going into the big box stores, which I find quite challenging to tolerate.  

So you see, there are endless possibilities for these little lovelies.  

Just charming!

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Well hello everyone.  It's a rainy Friday here but I'm getting ready to do my first Artist Talk at the Art House, which is really about beginning to put myself out there a bit.  I'm excited to be launching a new 'line' of jewelry, pieces I'm calling talismans.  I've known for a while that my intuitive abilities and jewelry skills would come together, and I have been doing some custom pieces based on intuitive readings.  But I wanted something a bit more accessible to people, and at a lower price point.  Call them talismans, charms, amulets...whatever suits you.  They're meant to support one's journey through life; mix and match as needed.  Here's a peek at my process:



It started with little drawings that I did for a variety of different qualities/feelings/ideas that any of us might want more of, things like patience, trust, confidence. I had the drawings made into rubber stamps, which is what you see in the above picture. 

 

 

 




 

 

Here's a lump of precious metal clay which has been rolled flat.  The clay is made of recycled fine silver dust and a clay binder and can be worked just as you would regular clay.


 

 

I pressed the stamps into the clay, cut out the shapes, then softened the edges with the rubber-tipped tool you see in the picture. 


 

 

 

Then the little guys (or gals!) need to dry completely, so here they are hanging out on my handy dandy mug warmer.  This speeds up the drying process.


 

 

 

After some final sanding and drilling holes, the talismans get fired in my kiln.  

Here they are after firing, looking dusty white.

 

 

 


 

 

Time for a bath!  I toss the fired talismans into my tumbler, add some water and a squirt of dish soap and then off they go to tumble for half an hour or so.  

 


Sorry for the blurry picture, but here are the charms after they've been tumbled and oxidized.  Putting liver of sulfur on the tumbled silver turns it black, which enhances the design.  The mug warmer is back in the mix because heat helps the oxidization go much more quickly.  Word to the wise: liver of sulfur smells like rotting eggs, or sulfur (obviously), or, if you're an adolescent boy (and I just might have a couple of those around), well, I'm thinking you can guess which bodily function they think it smells like.






 

The finished product!  From left to right:  just a leaf:), remembering one who has died, family of three...all on a snake chain. 

On a bangle bracelet (which I LOVE, by the way).  From the left: confidence, healing, centered

On a leather cord.  From the left: nature, intuition, strength.

Hope you enjoyed a glimpse into process of talisman-making.  Next up:  How these can best be used!  

Sharon

Aquilla Jewelry Presentation at the Art House Aug. 22

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Visit Aquilla Jewelry at the Art House Friday, August 22 at 7 PM.

Sharon Moffatt, Jewelry maker from Craftsbury, Vermont, visits The Art House to discuss her techniques in silver smithing and precious metal clay. Sharon has worked with Marilyn Nicholson of the Taos School of Metalsmithing and Lapidary Design and Celie Fago, a master in the art of Precious Metal Clay. Sharon is interested in the idea of jewelry pieces as talismans, objects with deep, sometimes hidden meaning for their wearer. She will be talking about her creative process and will demonstrate some techniques as well.