Lola d Menageries

I asked Jami of Lola D Menageries to answer a few questions about her work.   She's a smart, funny, outgoing lady who brings a fresh new perspective to jewelry design.

 Q:   How do you come up with your design ideas?

A:  I usually sit and play with wire.  I am not a sit-down- and-draw everything out type of person.  Instead I typically sit at my junky, messy craft table and start pulling bits together.  I may have a color in mind, but a particular design just pops out from what I see in the raucous on my table.  I usually can't make the same thing twice.  A piece usually takes anywhere from 2-12 hours.  On occasion more!

Q:  You are an artist in many different genres.  What is your favorite medium or your current obsession artistically?

A: I have three main artistic/creative obsessions- making jewelry, photography, and writing (the order rotates depending on the month).  I like most when I can combine them all.  I always take the photos of my own jewelry.  Sometimes I will write a poem to go with the piece as well.  Combo art :)

Q:  What was the very first thing you ever remember making by hand?

AJewelry wise it was a simple daisy chain necklace--the first piece of jewelry I ever learned to make.  I've been hooked ever since.  The first wire piece I ever made was a bangle with large-holed glass beads and 16 gauge copper wire.

Q:  Of all the things you've made so far, is there one piece that you consider to be your "masterpiece?"  If so, describe it for us.

A: A masterpiece--the first poly clay face and wire bracelet/cuff I made.  I tried it for a competition over in Jewelrygeeks (Metalchasers at the time).  Here's a pic :)

Q:  If someone wanted to learn to work in wire, how would you advise them to go about it?
A:  Immediately go searching on the internet for basic information.  After that, I suggest just grabbing craft wire and playing with it.  I don't like starting with the "basic projects" so to speak.  I rather find something I like and then try to make it.  That way I will be inspired to figure it out rather than making something I know I'd never really wear.  Maybe I am a glutton for punishment, LOL :)  But seriously, playing with wire and getting the feel for it first was easiest for me.

Q:  Other than wire work, what are some of your other hobbies or favorite activities?

A:  I like to read and write.  I write everything from essays to poetry and sketches.  I adore sci-fi movies and shows.  I like to paint and do pastels (although they are NOT my artistic strong points :) ).  I also enjoy salsa dancing!
Q:  Tell us a little about yourself...your family, children, pets, interesting facts, etc.

A:  Umm, interesting facts? I am involved in a relationship. He is absolutely sweet and adorable- my balance and sweetheart!   I have a cat, she's hilarious!
I am from Ohio where I teach as well as sell my jewelry. 
I suppose an interesting bit would be that I HATE doing dishes!  I'd rather clean a bathroom!  EEEWWW :)

Q:  If someone wants to contact you about commissioning a piece or placing an order, how do they go about getting in touch with you?
A:  Feel free to email me at lola_d_menageries@yahoo.com.  You can see my work on my blog jamilola.blogspot.com.  You can order pieces at my store jamilola.etsy.com.

If you have someone you'd like to see featured here, please make your suggestion in the "comments" area.


The Humble Key

I "met" Tim, aka, "Silver Artist," through Flickr.  He is a true artist in many media, including painting, calligraphy, pottery, graphic art, scupture, photography and silversmithing.  But what caught my eye and convinced me to feature him here was how he turned the boring, ubiquitous, everyday housekey into a wearable piece of art.  Please read on to learn more about Tim's fascinating life, talent and artwork.


Q:  Your handmade keys are just amazing!  Both in concept and in artistry.  How did you come up with the idea to make them and how long does it take to make each one?

A:  I have been fortunate enough, for as long as I can remember, to be able to visualize and then draw exactly what I see in my head in 3D.  I'm not sure how many people can do this, but people say to me, "I wish I could draw like that!"  So I think to myself, well you too can if you give it a few years' practice!  Once can have a "gift" or talent, but if one does not develop it...Not everyone is an artist, but people usually excel in one or more other hobbies or specialties.

In my career as a graphic artist/designer, my forte has been lettering and typography.  On a key head, lettering looks good, especially with ones own name on it, so I thought, let me cut a name on a piece of nickel silver (durable, stronger and cheaper than sterling silver), and see how it looks.  Then the head or disk of metal has to be braised or soldered to the key stem, once cut.  Then all the edges are de-burred and the piece polished to a shine.  It takes an average of about two hours.


Q:  You are an artist in many different genres.  What is your favorite medium or your current obsession artistically?

A:  At the moment, I alternate between silversmithing and metalwork and calligraphy (mainly illuminated manuscripts).  But that is when I'm not on my PC Flickering or digitizing!  The first example is based on yet another passion I had, model railways (HO gauge).


Q:  What was the very first thing you ever remember making by hand?

A:  The first thing I made was a tank out of clay.  I was eight years old.  Following that, at about that time, I learned to do basketry and fretsaw work on plywood sheet, working to simple pre-drawn plans.  I was a refugee living in a camp near Naples, Italy.  The camp chaplain organized some crafts as well as Cub Scouts for us.  I also became an alter boy and learned Latin, which was easy as I spoke Italian.


Q:  Of all the things you've made so far, is there one piece that you consider to be your "masterpiece?"  If so, describe it for us.

A:  In 1996 I took on an inspirational painting called The Tree of Life.  It went on to take five years!  I spent all my evenings and weekends on it when I wasn't working.  The "inspiration" was brought about through the Psychic Development Circle that my Chris and I were running, for the first year under the guidance of a trained medium.  The group attended once weekly in our home in Worthing Sussex, UK and it lasted five years.  Our main subject in Circle, apart from healing, was spirit rescue.  This photo is a poor reproduction of the painting, which is large and done in watercolors on board.  I am presently re-posting it on Flickr as a very good quality file.  The Tree of Life is about the pageantry of nature.  How we all depend on it and link with one another, people and animals.  Time stood still for me while I spent endless hours on this painting, with the accompaniment of music.  This was before the 'net and I only had a slow computer.  I used the local library for reference and research.


Q:  If someone wanted to learn to work in silver, how would you advise them to go about it?

A:  In spite of my previous experience in metalwork, etc., I went to evening classes and learned the rudiments like piercing and soldering and polishing and so on.  I first did piercing or fretsaw work at the age of eight with wood, so I knew a bit about that.  I found also that the tutor was a walking encyclopaedia of information on anything about the subject, as might be expected.  She also gave links as to suppliers of tools and metal.  I did my classes for two and a half years.  I got a distinction diploma out of it, which does not mean much to me!  During that time I knew a man at the class who was a dental surgeon who had been practicing jewelry for some years.  His work blew me away!

I would recommend anyone enrolling in a class, which is a popular subject, you will find. You can get info on courses at your local library.  It is not only about the craft, but the social aspect and the sharing of ideas.


Q:  Other than silversmithing, what are some of your other hobbies or favorite activities?

A:  I have a few that I have done in the past and some I still do and some I would like to try.  Back in London, I had regularly attended an ice rink for skating and made some friends there over a period of six years.  I got a Bronze Medallion with the Amateur Swimming Association at the age of seventeen.  I also got a qualification in personal survival (swimming).  I did used to do pottery, mostly on the wheel for about two years in my twenties.

Other things I love are painting in watercolors.  Here's an example I copied from a print, took one month.  

And the second is an original watercolor from a photograph.

Woodwork, carving and lathe work: I have done wood turning and would also love to have a metal lathe!  I would very much like to have a go at stained glass windows and enamelling on silver.  I'm a DIY enthusiast.  I fix anything I can that is repairable.  Most things are, but people throw them away!

If I had not become a Graphic Artist, I would have liked to be a tool maker and designer, specially for surgical instruments.  I have always been self-taught (except the silversmithing classes).  The best way to learn anything is to watch how it's done:  monkey see, monkey do!!


Q:  Tell us a little about yourself...your family, children, pets, interesting facts, etc.

A:  I was born in Italy and lived in refugee camps 'til the age of 11 when I emigrated with my family to the U.K.  Went to school there, learned English from scratch.  My stepfather is Polish.  Never met my real father, an Irish-American G.I., who had an affair with my mother and then the Army went back to the U.S.A. and I never met him, but have a picture of him...just the one.

From living in a multicultural setup in the refugee camps, I developed a love of languages.

I have a younger brother (half brother) that I don't have an affinity with.  My mother passed away a couple of years ago, bless her.  I had a traumatic childhood with my stepfather involved who was brutal towards me, but I survived with a strong mind of my own.  I learned mechanics and general DIY from him by watching:  monkey see, monkey do!

I was brought up with animals: Alsatians, poultry, etc.  I and my wife Chris, who is English, have had dogs and cats of our own.  We have an Airedale Terrier called Buffy (lots of doggitude here!) who is a sweetheart!  Another sweetheart of mine was my PussPuss, a Norwegian Forest Cat, who went to the sky last year...will never forget this baby!!

My dear wife Chris and I have been together 35 years, and some months ago she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, which also brought on epilepsy.  I am her caregiver now in between doing my thing with my hobbies, washing up, taking the dog out, etc.  She is feeling weak and sickly, following radiation therapy and chemo.

Last week there was a breakthrough in exactly the same type of cancer that she has.  Here is hope for some millions and I mention the link for those who need to know about it.  It is called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the type of malignant brain tumor that killed the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy,  It is difficult to treat because it spreads cancerous cells to other parts of the brain very quickly.  About 10,000 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.  Click here to find out more about the discovery of a protein that could hold the key to treating this type of cancer.

I have a son, Toby, married last year to Sam.  We share the same house in Staffordshire, UK.  They are in their early thirties and work as manager and inspector in the same casino in Birmingham, UK.  We originally lived in Sussex, UK, but moved around a bit.


Q:  If someone wants to contact you about commissioning a piece or placing an order, how do they go about getting in touch with you?

A:  Please click here to email me, or go through the FlickrMail system to inquire about placing an order.

Finally, two things I really detest:  advertisements and football, boxing or other cruel sports!  I love chess and monopoly and I used to play "Age of Empires" on the PC.


When you think about it, why not turn keys into wearable art?  We all have to carry them, they might as well be beautiful and functional at the same time, right?  I'd like to thank Tim for being my first featured artist.  It was a pleasure to get to know him better, and I hope everyone reading this will visit his Flickr site and appreciate his talent as much as I do.  I can think of several hard-to-buy-for people in my life who would love one of those keys!

All of the photographs and designs used in this article are copyrighted and used by permission of their owner and creator, Silver Artist.

If you know an under-appreciated artist, in any genre, please leave me a comment about them and I may feature them in an upcoming article.   



New Year...New Focus

Happy New Year to everyone! I'm making a few changes, as is appropriate for the ringing in of a new year and a new decade. 

Change number one:

In an effort to support under-marketed and underrepresented artists, I will use this particular blog space to present the works of some fabulous artists I've become acquainted with. I plan to try and feature a different artist from several different genres (not just jewelry) every week. The first one I have lined up is an extremely talented silversmith from across the pond...I think you'll like him.

Change number two:

I am opening a new shop with a new name, a new image and a new line of jewelry. The shop will be called JoiaBela, which is Portuguese for Beautiful Jewel. As many of you know, I was lucky enough to live in Brazil for a while and love everything related to that country to this day: the people, the food, the music, the atmosphere. So my new line will have a little taste of samba, a little feijoada and a little South American soul. The website is still under construction, but watch for a grand opening announcement soon. I will also be posting a second blog featuring my own jewelry where I can post new item alerts, sale announcements and specials just for blog subscribers. I'm considering a third blog where I can just ramble on about what's on my mind (sort of like I've done here for the past year and a half), but that's still undecided (feel free to weigh in on that).

Change number three:

m.o.d. custom jewelry, aka "missouri ocean," will be a venue where I feature only a few pieces of jewelry for sale, the proceeds of which will be donated to my favorite charity, Reef.org.

Soapbox Alert...woop, woop, woop...Soapbox Alert...

It disgusts me that I live in a country that spends 18.7 billion dollars a year exploring space and less than one tenth of that exploring our oceans.

Oceans cover 71% of the surface of the Earth. 97% of the Earth's water is in the ocean. One-sixth of the jobs in the U.S. are marine-related and one-third of the United States' GNP originates from coastal areas. Yet those same oceans which support 50% of all species on the planet are 95% unexplored!

I truly believe that the answers to many of our planet's biggest problems are to be found in our seas. The cure for cancer, the remedy for world hunger and the solution to global warming are most likely all right there, just waiting to be discovered. But we're not under there looking for them. Instead, we're blowing holes in the Moon to see if there was water there 100 million years ago.

(Steps down from soapbox)

Technically, I am not sure if the new decade begins tomorrow or a year from tomorrow. I remember that debate in 2000 about when the actual new millenium began. I'll leave those debates to more intelligent beings than I. Meanwhile, I want to thank all my customers, friends and family for your support and love over the past year. I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2010!


176 Nights

I've been cleaning up my studio/office. It's well past time, I've let it pile up pretty badly this year. I came across an alarming number of room card-keys for hotels I stayed in this year. I usually don't turn them in at the end of a stay and I've been throwing them in a basket.

I was curious, looking at this stack of 40 or 50 room keys, about exactly how many nights I spent in a hotel in 2009, so I went back through my schedule.

As closely as I can tell, I spent at least 176 nights in a hotel in 2009 (probably more). Most of them were spent in Hilton properties (Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites), about 30 or so were Marriott, a few Omni, some Renaissance. Hilton was my brand of choice due to the fact that you can "double dip" there: earning both frequent flier miles and hotel points.

People who don't travel much always think it's glamorous and fun. I admit that I do like to travel, but it's rarely glamorous and the travel itself is seldom fun. Being somewhere I've never been is fun, or seeing family and friends is fun, but the travel itself--not so much.

So the points you get, the miles, the little perks and bennies of being a frequent flier or frequent guest or whatever, become like a little game you play. How can I best maximize my points? If I have to do a three-leg trip tomorrow, how can I get the best benefit with the fewest hassles? (Hint to anyone: avoiding Chicago O'Hare Airport is always a good call).

I've seen the ads for the new George Clooney movie, Up In the Air. I suspect that I'll find a little of myself in his character.


Customer Service is Not Dead...(somebody should clue American Airlines in)

This is not about how bad American Airline's customer service is.

I will not go into a long dissertation about how badly I was treated recently in a situation with American Airlines. I won't go into how much their representative, whose initials are Yolanda Fernandez (Yolanda Fernandez/Corporate Insurance Risk Management/817-967-1289 / yolanda.fernandez@aa.com) yelled at me and told me it was my fault that one of their employees stole my property...not that the property wasn't stolen...just that it was my fault.

But I don't want to go into that. I've put it behind me. I'm over it.

No, this is about a company who really does know what customer service is all about. It's not a long story, so stay with me.

Back in March, I bought 3 new pieces of luggage from Lands End. Two big rolling duffels and a rollaboard. I used the rollaboard on every trip from March to September, which was about 30 round-trips or about 120 flight segments. Most of the time I checked it through to my destination. So in 6 months, it got more use than any luggage I've ever owned and it is still going strong. Yes, it has a few scrapes and bruises and isn't as new looking as it was, but then I'm not exactly shiny and new anymore myself.

The two big duffels stayed unused until September, when we loaded them up with dive gear and headed to Bonaire for three weeks. One of the duffels made the trip intact, but the telescoping handle on the 2nd one broke off. I procrastinated and never got around to returning it...I meant to, but just didn't get to it.

Fast forward to today. I had to haul some extra stuff with me on this trip, so I brought the rolling duffle with the handle that still worked. Well, when I got to my destination, the handle was broken off in exactly the same manner as the first one.

Well, I'm not a rocket surgeon, but I sense a pattern here.

Part of the reason I chose Lands End is because they guarantee your satisfaction with their products for life. Now I'm not one of those who will return a sweater I've had for 14 years and say I'm no longer satisfied with it, but I expected $239 (each) bags to hold up for more than 2 or 3 trips. So I called Lands End's customer service number.

Shock Number One: A person answered the phone on the first ring. Let me rephrase that: A. Person. Answered. The. Phone. I was absolutely gobstopped. I haven't had a person (let alone an English-speaking person) answer a customer service line since Reagan was president.

Shock Number Two: This person (I wish I could remember her name) didn't bat an eye about my problem. She apologized and asked me if I wanted my luggage replaced or refunded. She actually said, "Whatever you need to make you happy." I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

So tomorrow (yes tomorrow!) I will be receiving an overnight delivery with a replacement bag.

Shock Number Three: Did I mention I'm not at home? When I told her I was on a trip with a bag that won't roll she offered to ship me one overnight to my hotel and the other to my home.

Am I a satisfied customer? You betcha! Will I buy from Lands End again? You betcha!

See? Customer service is NOT dead.

Except at American Airlines.

Bitter much? Who me?