Chasing and Repousse'

by mary November 24, 2014

Today was the final day of my chasing and repousse' class at the Des Moines Art Center this semester; & I'm happy to say I was able to complete 2 pieces!

For those not familiar with chasing and repousse', both are metal-working techniques in which malleable metal is shaped by hammering.  Repousse' involves hammering from the back to raise the design, while chasing is used to refine the image on the front by sinking the metal.

The class was taught by Sheena Thomas, one of the owners of Elements Ltd. here in Des Moines & a great instructor.  It was absolutely one of my best classes I've taken, although I was a bit nervous about it at first.

The first piece I made was inspired by a trilobite fossile I saw at this fall's Gem, Mineral & Fossil show.  Here's a picture I took of the trilobite fossil . . .

and here's the pendant I created . . .

I used liver of sulpher to get the rich patina that you see -- I especially love the way it highlights the detail of the hammering!  I plan to hang it on leather cord -- either brown, black or blue -- I haven't decided which yet.

The 2nd piece was based on a gingko leaf . . . here's a picture of a gingko leaf I found on the internet . . .

and here's the pendant I created . . .

I used liver of sulpher again on this one to get the rich patina -- I'll hang this one from leather as well.

One of the things that really surprised me about chasing & repousse' was the number of times you had to hammer the front & back (& anneal the metal -- in this case, copper -- in-between) to get the design you're wanting.  It was challenging at times, too, figuring out just which chasing tool to use to get the effect you want. 

That's all for today . . . as always, thanks for reading and for supporting small businesses!



Filed Under: Classes & Favorite Books | Inspiration

Body Guards by Desmond Morris

by mary November 16, 2014

This is another one of my favorite books -- "Body Guards: Protective Amulets & Charms" by Desmond Morris.

Like "Charmed Bracelets", I was introduced to this book by Carrie Herndon, one of my instructors at the Art Center.  "Body Guards" explores the history of lucky charms, noting that the form these charms take varies from country to country & culture to culture.

Chapters cover body guards from zoological to mineral to botanical to religious to words, body parts & gestures.  It was interesting to see the range of bodyguards designed to ward off bad luck & encourage good luck.  I was also surprised to see the number of charms that have stood the test of time & are still popular today.

This book has been especially helpful when I am making charm bracelets in which the individual charms & gemstones need to have specific meaning -- like this Good Luck themed charm bracelet. 

According to Morris, the pearl, for example protects against "a bewildering array of misfortunes", including female depression, insanity, jaundice, guarantee a safe journey, immunize against animal bites, & protect agains sharks for a diver, etc.  And the horseshoe, although its primary purpose has been to serve as a House Guard, has also often been made as a "portable" amulet to be worn on the body as a lucky charm.

It's also been helpful when I'm sure about the meaning of a charm I come across, like this one that I picked up awhile ago.

After looking through Morris' book, I learned that this is the "Fig-Sign" -- described as an obscene signal that provides a sexual symbolism.  I also learned that in some countries, however, the fig-sign sends a protective message based on the idea of countering the Evil Eye.  In fact, Morris suggested that in many countries such amulets have outlived their magical, sexual beginnings & are sold simply as "lucky charms".

In his final chapter, Morris makes an interesting point about how today science has replaced superstitious beliefs in many of these amulets; and that while we enjoy many benefits as a result, we have also lost the "old comforts of believing in magical protection."

While the internet can be a great source of information about the symbolic meanings of various gemstones & charms, I'm still old-fashioned & enjoy a real book & am very glad I learned about his one!

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!  And, to see more of my charm bracelets with symbolic meaning, check out my website at


Filed Under: Classes & Favorite Books

Charmed Bracelets by Tracey Zabar

by mary October 26, 2014

I've always loved charm bracelets -- both making them & wearing them.  I got my first charm bracelet when I was in grade school (& still wear it), & one of the first things I made when I started making jewelry was a charm bracelet.  I love the jingling sound they make when you wear them & I love that each one tells a story.

So I was thrilled when one of my instructors introduced me to charmed Bracelets by Tracey Zabar. 

Tracey's book covers the history of charm bracelets, noting that charm bracelets, in one form or another, can be found in almost every era of jewelry history.  Ancient peoples, for example, often wore lucky charms & other amulets to ward off bad spirits. 

She also covers types of charms & charm bracelets, & includes lots of pictures of charm bracelets from over the years.  In one chapter, she talks about charm bracelet themes -- I found this one in particular to be "up my alley", since almost all of my charm bracelets are theme-based -- including spiritual, lucky/game, travel, animal, political, holiday, etc.  Finally, she includes some advice on where to find charms & some other ideas for how to use charms.  For anyone

Here are just a few pictures of some of the theme-based charm bracelets I've made.

Spiritual theme . . .

Political theme . . .

Animal lover theme . . .

Travel theme . . .

And another travel theme . . .

And here's one I did for a photographer friend . . .

And here's one with a luck/game theme . . .

One last example . . . a holiday theme, in this case Halloween . . .

All in all, this book was a really fun read for me & inspired me to think of new themes to use in my charm bracelets!

To see more of my charm bracelets, check out my website at

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!


Filed Under: Classes & Favorite Books | Inspiration

Basic Digital Single Lens Reflex Photography Class

by mary May 30, 2014

What a difference a good camera, lighting, & knowing a little bit about how to use your camera can make!  I recently took a 4-week class on beginning DSLR photography that was both a lot of fun & even more importantly, it helped me to finally understand the "exposure triangle" (aperture/F-stop, shutter speed, & ISO) & to really appreciate "white balance"!  For the first time since starting to make jewelry, I feel like I am on my way to taking decent photos that will actually show off the jewelry I make!

But, let's start at the beginning . . .

Initially, the only reason I took photos of my work was so I could remember what I had made after it sold -- as a result, the quality of the photo wasn't all that important.  It wasn't too long, though, before I thought about entering juried art shows & setting up a website, which meant that photo quality was going to be very important.

For equipment, all I had when I started was a basic "point & shoot" digital camera.  No matter how hard I tried to set up good lighting inside the house, the pictures always turned out "off-color".  Here are 2 photos of a pair of earrings I took using our point & shoot camera -- the first is without the flash, the 2nd is with the flash.  While the 2nd photo is a bit better in terms of color, you can clearly see the camera flash reflected in the glass -- not so good!

One thing I often did that helped a lot was to take pictures outside in natural light -- but that brought its own set of complications -- for example, I had to find shade or take photos on an overcast (but not raining) day to get the best light, & if there was any wind it was hard to keep things in focus.  It also meant I had to haul out whatever I wanted to use as a back-drop or props every time I wanted to take photos.  And, of course, being in Iowa, it was too cold to do this comfortably for a good portion of the year!  Here's a picture of the same pair of earrings taken outside in the shade -- better more accurate color, but again with a fair amount of reflection & a less "controlled" background.

So, we decided it was time to make an investment into better equipment.  We started out by getting Adobe Photoshop Elements 11, so I could do at least some basic editing of my photos.  Next, we invested in a DSLR camera - the Canon EOS Rebel T3i; & pretty shortly after that, we picked up a basic lightbox (to help soften the light) & set up a permanent area for me to take photos.  However, with my limited background in photography, for the first several months, I was taking pictures strictly on the "automatic" setting -- in other words, treating my new more expensive camera as if it were still a basic "point & shoot" rather than a DSLR!  Here's a picture of the same pair of earrings using the Canon EOS Rebel T3i on automatic & taken in the light box.  In this case, there's a lot less reflection (thanks to the light box) which is a good thing, but the color is way off.

And, then a month ago, I saw in the Des Moines Community Education catalog that they were offering a 4-week course on basic DSLR photography -- and I thought, here is my chance to actually learn more about what I should be doing!

And, while it was a bit overwhelming at first, the instructor Gil Lea did a great job of explaining about the importance of light; the elements of the exposure triangle; & the effects of adding light through wider aperture openings, lowering shutter speed, or increasing the ISO number.  He also provided guidelines for composition & creative lighting that I hope to incorporate.  And, we did some fun activities to actually experience what we were learning -- including taking "ghost" pictures, painting with light, & night photography.  Here are a few of the photos I took down on Court Avenue the night we experimented with night photography!

And, finally, here's a picture of that same pair of earrings that I took in my lightbox using manual ISO, F-stop & shutter speed, as well as with a custom white balance setting!

All in all, while I still need to practice in order to increase my comfort & skill using the manual settings (especially the manual focus), & I want to experiment more with composition, I'm feeling much better about my photos -- thanks both to better equipment & to Gil Lea's class on beginning DSLR photography!


Filed Under: Classes & Favorite Books

Marketing & Publicizing Your Business Online

by mary May 8, 2014

I thought I would share some of my "take-aways" from a class I took last month through Des Moines Community Education on "How to Market & Publicize Your Business Online".

Probably the most important thing I learned is that using online networks can be a great way to build a community & develop relationships with readers/followers/customers/potential customers.  That really resonated with me, as one of the things I've always liked about doing shows is that I get to visit with & learn more about the people that stop by to look at my jewelry.  It's one of the things that always seemed like it would be missing about putting my jewelry on my own website or on another site like Etsy.  I just hadn't thought before about how the website, blogging, Facebook & other social media could fill a similar role & actually provide a forum for developing relationships that extend beyond the local area where I do most of my shows. 

The one thing I wish the class had focused a little more on was to actually expose us to the various social media & how to use them beyond blogging & Facebook, which I'd already started using a bit & am starting to feel more comfortable with.  I've never really used Pinterest or Instagram or done much with LinkedIn, though, so feel a bit overwhelmed about approaching them.  Morgan (the instructor) would tell me that was my "lizard brain" trying to get me to go slow & avoid risk, & that I just need to quiet & ignore it, & just jump in & start using them & see where it takes me.  I'm committed to doing that over the next several months & will let you know how well I do quieting my lizard brain!

Another take-away was the importance of knowing what your "key message" is & being sure that you use it on your website & in your mailings, blogs, etc.  That got me thinking about what is my key message?  I believe it's that my jewelry is hand-crafted out of vintage materials & found objects, that each piece has a history & a story of its own, & that each piece is unique & one-of-a-kind.  Something I will be working on is integrating that more actively into my website, etc.

Beyond those 2 important take-aways, Morgan focused on specific aspects of on-line marketing -- especially having a website, blogging, mailing lists, & Facebook. 

Website - In terms of having a website, one of the key things I learned was that there are some real advantages to having a blog-based website vs. having your website & blog separate (which is what I have) -- primarily because it makes it easier for you to build a community around your website & to interact with & develop relationships with your customers & potential customers.  It also makes it easier for people who visit your webiste to move back & forth between your website & your blog.  And, as a side benefit, when your blog is part of your website, entries on your blog "count" as activity on your website, which can help move your website up in Google searches.

Another take-away was to not focus too much on SEO (search enging optimization) strategies.  Instead, focus on building community & having an up-to-date, active website that is easy to navigate, & includes accurate descriptions of your product. 

Blogging - In terms of blogging, Morgan suggested the ideal is to blog daily, & if not that, at least 2 times a week.  I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to post something daily, but I've been doing 2 a week ever since the first week of class (after a hiatis of 8 months) & feel pretty good about that!

At first, we all wondered what in the world we would blog about, but we brainstormed ideas & in-between classes I looked at other jewelry blogs, & that helped.  Morgan noted that it takes time to build a community, so don't feel bad if you don't have many people reading your blog to begin with -- just keep on blogging. 

Mailing lists - Morgan also talked about the importance of building a mailing list & strategies to add to your list -- including signing people up at shows or when they purchase something, or holding a drawing for everyone that signs up.

I thnk that pretty much sums up what I took away from the class -- most importantly, be clear on what your key messages are & use on-line tools to build relationships & community.  My goal is to keep those 2 ideas front & foremost as I work to also incorporate some of the specific strategies that she shared.




Filed Under: Classes & Favorite Books

About the author

Pauline's Jewelry Box was founded by Mary Nelson in 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa.  I chose the name Pauline's Jewelry Box because my mother's name was Pauline & I have many fond memories of looking through jewelry box & playing with her jewelry

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