Sunday, December 28, 2008

mosaic memories

Hooray for a holiday weekend! I finally feel caught up with work and moving preparations. After unearthing my desk from piles of cardboard boxes and packing tape, I found myself, sitting, with metal and saw in hand.

These earrings have lived as a sketch since my trip to Italy. It was amazing to witness the abundance of history, buildings built on ruins of other buildings, and beautiful bits of mosaic and tile that peek out from layers of time (certainly a study in the futility of physical attachment). I was especially drawn to a section of tile (see the image below) tucked away in a room of illuminated manuscripts inside the Duomo di Sienna, which is famous for its mosaic floors representing the sibyls and stories from the Old Testament.

Starting with a one inch recycled sterling silver circle, I’ve repeated the crescent shape, with smaller cuts to represent tiles. An extra long ear wire allows the piece to swing one and a half inches away from the ear.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Naturals of Ashland is hosting a promotion this weekend, one of my handmade recycled sterling silver Small Lunar Necklaces with every $200 or more purchase! Check out the homepage with banner here.

In other news, it has been a busy few weeks. I've been happily learning new techniques, soldering and casting, and am feeling a little more comfortable with the idea of introducing a flaming piece of equipment into my workbench lineup. However, hunting for my very own torch will have to wait until spring, as Pell and I are relocating from Oregon to the Midwest!

In January.

(Yes. I know. We’re renting a truck and driving across the mountains at the same time of year when, those who can, pack their suitcases and travel south. Our parents are trying hard to be supportive.)

Our days are filled now with sorting through bits of papers and randomness accumulated from four and a half years in one state, searching for jobs, and hunting out a new home to flyaway to…

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Something new for this week. A single piece of recycled silver, hand cut, drilled, and sanded. I was thinking sprouts, but they do look like fireworks. I think we're all ready to celebrate the 4th of November (It can't come soon enough for me).

Monday, October 13, 2008


The economy has turned, pieces of on my own world have turned, and now the weather has followed this head-over-heels tumbling act.

After two hard frosts, it was time to turn the garden under, ending the abundance of summer, and preparing for cool season crops like leeks and lettuce. A couple of weeks ago I took down a massive bunch of bolted arugula from where I had hung it to dry. In the driveway outside my studio I sat and separated seeds from pods. It was warm then. No 10% Dow drops, no news yet about reeling world banks.

This weekend, after composting the last frost-wilted tomato plant, and feeling quite sorry for myself and overwhelmed with the world, I saw bits of green arugula peaking up through the river rock, in hard-packed earth, in between the stones and our feet, and despite all impossibilities.

They wink at me: Your turn.

Monday, October 6, 2008


My poor neglected blog...I have had several delightful distractions, and after a couple of weeks with family, and a weekend in Portland, I am now ready to tackle the monstrous piles of to-dos and to-files and to-do-not-forgets that seem to be interbreeding on my workbench. I must, sorrowfully, admit that I have nothing new to share with my metalwork, but I've posted two pictures from my rainy visit to Portland.
The above shot is a detail of Allan Houser's bronze sculpture Desert Harvest at the Portland Art Museum 's sculpture garden, and the image below looks into the Zig Zag Bridge (yatsuhashi) at the Portland Japanese Garden.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

pod blog

These began their lives as tubes of recycled sterling silver and survived cutting, sanding, hammering, drilling, sanding, hammering, oxidizing, hammering, buffing, and general overworking. The result: two pods, minus peas.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I'm not sure I can adequately describe the kind of crazy my day job has snowballed into, so spending time in the studio this weekend was a must. Nothing like a hammer and anvil to make a girl feel like herself. These earrings are a new favorite in an attempt to balance both of my worlds. I cut, etched, and oxidized a curved piece of recycled sterling sliver to look like a twig, or piece of bark. They're light and lovely and will be a talisman against the hordes of post-its tomorrow.

In other news, brendesign is now included in the collections at Circular, an eco-friendly, earth inspired shopping haven in Anchorage Alaska. I'm happy my work has found a home in the 49th state, and I would so love to visit...

Monday, August 4, 2008

still sleepy

I good day in the studio ended in another addition to the sleep series I started two weeks ago. Half of this 1" recycled sterling silver circle is cut, etched, oxidized, and bound with a 14k recycled gold wire wrap.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Last night was a roam the house night, which doesn’t really work, as there are only 5 rooms and the hardwood floor creaks. So, last night became a sketch the dirty dishes on the counter night (I was desperate).

Needless to say, Sleep is the only thing on my mind in the studio today. The result is a set made in honor of my evanescent goddess, a ¾” piece of recycled sterling silver, the front buffed to a shine, and one edge a delightful uneven cut oxidized to a smoky grey. A contrast of our (occasionally) lucid state, and the subconscious beyond…

Monday, July 7, 2008

home again

Hello, all--I'm finally back and unpacked! Italy was absolutely everything I hoped it would be and more. I would love to go back...soon. I don't have my pictures online yet, but will post them when I get around to sorting and labeling. The above photo is at the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, where we wandered through water gardens and rooms filled with frescoes.

I came home to piles of work and to-dos that should have been finished before I left, but that is just how my world is. One fantastically fun to-do was to harvest my giant heirloom Oregon Applegate garlic and hang them to cure. Aren't they beautiful?

Now it's back to the studio for me!

Monday, June 2, 2008


Friday I leave for a two week tour of Italy with my mother, a holiday we've dreamed about for years and now, finally, is a reality. I have Italian phrases and travel dos and don'ts swimming around in my head with last minute to-buy lists. So, please excuse the short post, but I have some serious packing to do. Just how many pairs of shoes can one cram into a carry-on?

Monday, May 26, 2008


These past two weeks have been action-packed with outdoor activities, and not the fun let’s-go-camping kind, or the let’s-play-in-the-garden kind. We’ve been working on making our yard picture perfect for this temperamental housing market (anyone interested in a quaint Southern Oregon home?). After a day laying edging and reseeding the lawn neither I nor my hubby feel like braving the kitchen and sorry-looking fridge to scavenge for dinner. Out to eat it is! After moderate debating, we decided to give a downtown Chinese place a try. The parking lot is always full, so it couldn’t be too awful, right? We entered to find a clean, busy establishment, even though it was after eight at night and a full menu with our favorites followed by several American dishes on the back pages. We ordered vegetarian egg rolls, veggie chop suey, and hot tea. Our server was quick to bring our drinks, and accompanying the tiny teacups and shiny pot was a bright red plastic bottle. Ketchup.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I am happy to announce the arrival of a new addition to my tool family, the Flex Shaft! No, this is not the lead character to a ‘71 film (or awful 2000 remake), and yes, this tool is for my work bench and not my panty drawer. A flex shaft attaches to a Dremel drill, with a long, well, shaft, ending at a hand piece that is held like a pencil. With an additional etching bit I can now draw on metal. Which, I don’t mind saying, is pretty freaking cool.

Monday, May 12, 2008

simple shapes

Hooray for a productive day in the studio! I’m in love with the shape above. It’s a 1” recycled sterling silver circle hammered, curled, and oxidized, with the outside brushed for contrast. I’m not sure yet what to call it, or if I need to add some gold wire wrap, or just leave it alone. Below is another new earring, a teeny-tiny hammered recycled silver piece wrapped with recycled 14k gold. Not cute, but sweet. There’s a difference.
I’m also excited to announce that I’m up at now! Check out my pieces here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

a dandy landscape

There are two divided camps in the rampantly spreading aesthetic of American monoculture lawn gardening; those who care and those who don't. I fall into the latter category, and the above shot accurately represents the variety of species that thrive in our tiny front lawn. It makes my neighbors twitch to look at it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

when i close my eyes i see two colors

We're painting our little house in between snow flurries/rain/hail. This weekend was all sun and time for trim.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

bag lady

Bags seem to be on everyone's brain. My local food co-op will begin charging 10 cents for bags this month. Paper or plastic. How progressive! Yes, except we are a bit behind.

While Taiwan had already banned plastic bags in '01, 2002 should be crowned the year of the bag bans. Bangladesh took the lead, banning all plastic bags, and Ireland followed with a "plastax" of 15 cents for every plastic bag handed out. In '03 South Africa banned plastic bags, and the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh passed a law that could fine or imprison anyone caught using a plastic bag for up to seven years (um, a bit drastic?). By '07 the UK had caught on, with an abundance of bag banning spreading across the country. The use of plastic bags plummeted.

Where is the US, we ask? Following. Slowly. San Francisco was the first city to ban the plastic bag for major retailers in '07 and Seattle mayor Greg Nickels is pushing for a required charge of 20 cents for every disposable bag (paper or plastic) starting Jan. 1 2009. Non-recyclable plastic food containers and utensils would be banned in Seattle by 2010.

Now the plastic people are getting worried, right? Because how can they make millions off of their flimsy petroleum product if we as a world community decide we don't need them. So, they point to paper bags manufacturing process, arguing that paper is less environmentally friendly than plastic. Read a press release from the Progressive Bag Affiliates of the American Chemistry Council (seriously, who would put that organization on their resume?) concerning the debate of an Oakland, CA plastic bag ban here.

We're back to the usual paper vs. plastic debate. I'll have to agree with my co-op and choose neither. I do bring my own canvas bags with me shopping, but am guilty of using copious quantities of those thin clear plastic bags for my bulk items and produce, and this new bag charge has me searching for a way to impose a personal bag ban. I found a few answers in Project Felt's shopping green article on etsy about ways to green one's shopping experience (I love kootsac's amazing bulk bags), and provides a range of reusable container options. Instead of paper vs. plastic, now I'm debating organic cotton vs. hemp...

Monday, April 14, 2008

sustainable surprises

Truly, it is the thought that counts, but I must admit that presentation is everything for gifts. While each brendesign piece arrives ready to give in a recycled paper box with hemp knot, I have searched for a sustainable gift wrap option for those extra special occasions, and found a solution in furoshiki, a Japanese fabric wrap technique that was traditionally used to contain clothing during bathing at a public bath house.

I put my fibers background to work, using low-impact dyes to color heavy silk charmeuse, a fabric with a shiny satin front and crepe back that results in a beautiful, reusable wrap for perfect presentation. Look for this gift wrap option on my etsy site soon, or, make one yourself. For a step by step tutorial that details some fantastic folding click here (I’m using the otsuka tsutsumi wrap with the extra flap folded over the knot) and imagine the wrapping possibilities.

Look out Christo and Jeanne-Claude!

Monday, April 7, 2008

indie love

It was a busy weekend in the Rogue valley with the Ashland Independent Film Festival, and five days of indie film is heaven to me. In exchange for tickets they allow an army of volunteers behind the scenes, which is even more fun than standing in line with a ticket in hand. So please excuse the short blog post this week, because after two days of ushering, set up and strike, today is a designated studio day, which means I must get to work!

Monday, March 31, 2008

slow spring

Spring brings grand notions of change, new life, possibilities, and the nagging feeling that I Need To Get Busy. So, I close myself in my studio and work like a crazy woman, and that is exactly what I become.

I spent (what seemed like) a whole afternoon searching for a round file, a handy, indispensable tool used for smoothing the interior edges of circles. As my studio is small, messes from multiple projects crowd each other for space, and I searched through reclaimed wool sweaters, old paintings, potting soil, and rocks (yes, I do posses a box of rocks, and yes, I have ranked my mental capacity a shelf above them). Frustrated, (I won’t finish an order!) I abandoned the studio for the couch, a cup of tea, and online shoe shopping.

Lately I’ve been reading (along with everyone else in the US) Michael Pollan’s books on food, and would love to adopt his confidence in the equation Slow equals Positive Change. As the Slow Food movement develops, so does the slow arts and crafts, where real individuals support themselves by hand making all the items our culture loves to buy from the big box stores. I wish to live mindfully, to attempt to practice the slow movement, not just in food, but in the everyday, and especially in my small business. I just need to be a bit more literal in my definition of Slow.

The goal in the studio for today is to not only take or make time, but to forget time.
And find that file.

Monday, March 24, 2008

hand-sewn wings

[Heart Offering (8"h x 12"w x 9"d) Hand-dyed silk, steel wire]
Hammering metal bits into jewelry is an incredible stress-reliever, but combining metal and fabric with hand stitching, the meditative action of pushing a needle through fabric, is soothing to me, especially if I am not forced to follow a set pattern or shape. I work from a wire armature, adding a machine sewn form stuffed with scrap fabric. Fabric shapes are hand-sewn onto these forms, sanded, cut again, and sometimes hacked apart entirely.

I am inspired by objects that seem to have dropped from a storybook or myth, well-worn from so many adventures. Birds are my current subject of fascination. I think I like their awkwardness best, as they have one motion that transcends them into gracefulness, flying, the coveted and dream-inspiring action that produces envy in all land-locked creatures. However, when faced with alternative elements, such as the ground, they reveal inelegant movements. I relate to those struts and hops of my everyday, and appreciate the visual reminder that we are all able to fly.

Here’s a sneak peek at my current work in progress. I'm using hand-dyed silk, found cotton muslin, and found copper wire.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

silver silk crepe

I’m off to LA for a couple of days, so I’m posting early!
I’ve had a good week in the studio with new work up on etsy (like these crinkled crepe-like recycled sterling silver circles). Want to see more? Check out brendesign at flickr, where all available styles are carefully arranged in complete randomness.

Monday, March 10, 2008

cheese princess

This weekend I joined the ranks of an unusual group of DIYers. I made cheese.

I didn’t have to pour through ancient bovine manuals searching for instructions, either. My cheese kit arrived at my door, courtesy of Ricki the Cheese Queen (yes, that is now she refers to herself) in a bright pink and yellow box, with perky graphics, and enough supplies to make 30 pounds of cheese. Now, really, I ask you, what more could a girl need?!

The 30-minute instructions were simple; mix milk with citric acid, heat, add rennet (which is either cow stomach or vegetable-based. I chose the veg option), and leave it alone. At this point the curd (solid white mush, or, ricotta cheese) separates from the whey (clear water-like stuff), the curd is then drained, re-heated, and kneaded until it stretches its way into cheese.

With fantasies of fresh mozzarella goodness, I was off to the store for one gallon of pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) organic milk. Milk is treated in several different manners which are incredibly boring to read about, but apparently quite necessary to understand when making certain kinds of cheese. Milk that has been treated at very high temperatures (hence the ultra) will not make mozzarella. Period. That should make milk-intended-for-cheese purchases difficult enough, but dairy companies are not required to accurately detail how the milk has been processed, so even though the first gallon of organic milk I carried home was labeled with the p not u-p word, it was interested in only going half of the way to mozzarella heaven. Ricotta was all it wanted to be, poor thing.
So, I journey back to the store and bring home another dairy company's promise of p not u-p milk, repeat the recipe, and end up with mushy curds again.

Containers of ricotta are crowding the refrigerator, and I slouch on the couch, defeated by cheese, and question our ability to consume 2 pounds of ricotta in the next week. Then I despair at the logic of attempting to consume 2 pounds of ricotta in one week.

My ever-internet resourceful husband is online in an instant, and in a few minutes finds one, just one, local organic dairy that distinguishes between the regular and ultra. Off we go to the one, just one, store 20 minutes away that carries gallon jugs of Organic Valley’s pasteurized whole milk, and back we come, milk in one hand and lasagna noodles (for the ricotta) in the other.

Five hours and three gallons of milk later, I have curd that has separated from the whey, and when reheated, It. Begins. To. Stretch! We ate, very late, my husband’s homemade pizza dough with my very first mozzarella. I know I am worlds away from Ricki’s Cheese Queen status, but perhaps with a few more tries I’ll vie for the Cheese Princess title.

Monday, March 3, 2008

seed, soil, and string

Absolutely nothing was accomplished in the studio this weekend. Instead, I spent my time during the little peeks of sunshine playing in the soil. It was lovely.

I feel I must apologize to my Midwest friends and family who will read this and hate me as today they are expecting a couple of inches of snow, but, here in southern Oregon it is time for planting lettuce, spinach, onions, and carrots.

Even with a short west coast winter I was sill climbing the walls this year. My 80 year-old gardening neighbor agreed with the claw-mark inducing weather we've had, as he handed advice and a few extra garlic cloves over the fence, and checked on the 'Egyptian walking onions' he gave me last fall. I am always excited about any plant that walks or flings itself into unexpected an unplanned places. I'd much rather weed volunteer dill seedlings than grass, and I believe that our dear Mother N. has quite an excellent sense of vegetative composition. I'm looking forward to watching these onions walk like an Egyptian.

With rows marked and watered, I then brought my dirty fingernails inside, and started my brandywine and roma tomatoes, tomatillos, oregano (I could not find a single organic oregano plant to put in my garden last year. Oregonians don't like oregano!?), and leeks.

Yes, these are toilet paper rolls. Gayla Trail details how to make these perfect seed starter homes in her You Grow Girl blog. I cut my rolls in half, as all of my tomatoes will be replanted into larger containers before they venture beyond my living room window and into the Great Outdoor Garden, the dream every tomato seed.

Monday, February 25, 2008

repeat after me: r, r, r

My husband is having an affair with craig and his list.
He faithfully visits The List every morning, coaxing computer keys to reveal the secrets of our neighbors’ garages, searching for the wants and never-knew-we-neededs. I must admit that I have benefited from this reuse relationship, most recently by the find of a metal shelving unit for my studio space (above). Not that I’ll be any more organized, but now I won’t have to dig through boxes searching for tools, and I am quite excited about that.

In the interest of green self-education, I’m reading The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman, and finished an article, The Last Empire, by Jacques Leslie, in Mother Jones. Both works discuss the impact of our consumer machine. Fishman illustrates how it is created and sustained by following the growth of the world’s big box monster, and Leslie digs into the consequences of our unquenchable consumption on China’s environment. Both works provide a case for an educated consumer base, and now have me guiltily questioning and accessing all my recent purchases, from new siding for the house, to my most recent curly hair care product.

While I am envious of the dedication of groups like The Compact, who refrain from new purchases for an entire calendar year, I seem unable to commit to limiting my consumption that drastically, possibly because I work in retail, and most certainly because my little jewelry business is based on the temptation of new (albeit recycled metal) earrings. However, I do believe that all businesses, economies, cultures, and environments would benefit if the overheard and underused Three R mantra could be dug out of our closets, dusted off, and practiced in order: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

So, in my home and for brendesign, I’ll be pushing to reduce my consumption past the recycled metal, to produce limited samples, to use only recycled or reused paper and materials for packaging, and reuse or recycle all metal and paper scraps. I’m also encouraging my husband’s romance with online junk trading, and will therefore have to bravely argue against the acquisition of all the lonely motorcycles, trailers, and mechanical tools of southern Oregon….but, free chickens, now that would be great fun!

Monday, February 18, 2008

spring circles

Today, spring line sheets are on the to-do, so I'm sharing a sneak peak of a few new pieces I'll have up at etsy and (hopefully) in a few shops in the next couple of months. Circles still dominate my designs. I love circles! Big and round and complete, they are the perfect symbol to attach to our struggling selves as we search for the whole within us.

The Full Moon series (above) is just that, full, round recycled sterling silver circles with a feel-good reflective brushed surface.
A bit of texture is added to the brushed silver in the Sewn series, with a recycled 14k gold wire stitched in an arc across the piece. I'm thinking about adding another element, maybe a gold or oxidized silver disk, so that the gold 'thread' holds the two pieces together...

The Dream series adds dimension to the circle theme, with flat recycled sterling silver circles hand hammered into bowls, oxidized, and edges buffed to a shine, leaving smoky centers.

Monday, February 11, 2008

recycled mountains

Before any pieces were hammered or photographs taken, a goal was made for brendesign that all materials used would be recycled. Two works greatly influenced this choice (as previously I had tinkered with what the local bead stores had to offer, and the metal origins were not discussed). The first is a fantastic indie documentary, The Devil's Miner, which follows 14 year old Basilio Vargas as he works in the Bolivian silver mines to support is family, and the Tio, or devil, that determines the fate of the miners. The second is In Search of King Solomon's Mines, a book by Tahir Shah, which details his adventure into Ethiopia as he searched for the mines of biblical fame, and the environmental and cultural devastation created by the demand for mass quantities of gold.

Our current cultural trend to consider the origins of our objects of consumption is an exciting and beneficial practice. We have become quite familiar with the exploitation of natural resources that lead to pollution, poverty, and war. Asking questions is the most positive and progressive action we can offer as we attempt to redefine our needs and wants.

Monday, February 4, 2008

the handmade guerrilla

I do not knit.
I've attempted, but the closest I've come is wire crochet.
Also, I have yet to participate in a guerilla group.
Admittedly, I am envious of anyone who can combine the two.
Last week's Bryant Park Project's Knitting Guerrillas Rock the Yarn, covered Sabrina Gschwandtner's new book KnitKnit about the expanding world of knitters, the groups, materials, and messages. I was most interested in a group called Knitta, who supply their city and various spots on earth with knitted graffiti. Hand knit cozies circle accessible spaces from telephone poles to a brick on the Great Wall of China. Like the guerilla flowerpot gardeners in Tokyo, the Knittas are altering their urban landscape and culture, returning man-made to handmade.

Monday, January 28, 2008

welcome to stories from a small studio

Stories included in this little blog will follow my obsessive quest of building an eco-conscious small business from nothing more than a pile of recycled metal bits and Mondays off. I'll also post about all things handmade.

Handmade is an important word. I believe in this crazy world where Mass Production dictates our daily bread, cars, wars, loves, that we need space to remember that we can all create something good with our hands and hearts. This may be an earring, or a painting, a poem, a cup of soup, cookies, or a boat, a coat, a book, a garden...

I believe this process empowers us, and people who are empowered make positive choices and changes, simply by participating.