Feb 28, 2009

Shop Israel, shop... me?

Thank you, Made for You, for adding me as featured artist in your blog!

http://madeforyoublog.blogspot.com/ - click on Shop Israel in the menu on the left.

For those of you unfamiliar with Made for You's blog, the moderator picks out artists and puts in a bit of a bio + items from their Etsy stores. I'm honored to be there, and I'm happy to recommend to my visitors to view her eclectic yet charming collection of artists from around the world!

Feb 24, 2009

The Color of Prayer

In the western world we're used to the idea of seeing stained glass in churches. People even sing about them. But in Israel, for many generations, most synagogues were small, poor and without much decoration. Fortunately, glass art, particularly stained glass, is becoming more popular and I've been privileged to create glass art for 2 synagogues.

My first commission was for a family who wanted matching, but not identical, panels to commemorate 2 family members who had fallen in the wars. (One panel is shown above). I'm not sure there was any aspect of this project that wasn't challenging! They were - and remain - the largest pieces I have ever made, each about 2 meters across. Designing them was tricky - the client had a very definite idea of what he wanted - and changed his mind 4 times. In the middle of the project he changed the size, which required that I recut some of the pieces. I didn't have any place to easily store the larger pieces, and once accidentally stabbed myself in the leg with a particularly pointy piece. (I still have a scar). I didn't have a work table large enough so pieced and soldered the panels on the floor of my display room, with the door locked so that no one could enter and trip over me or step on my work-in-progress. Transporting them was the worst - we had to find a vehicle with a long cab and I prayed all the way to the framer that we wouldn't hit a pothole. Prayer was probably appropriate since they were eventually hung on a synagogue wall.

The second synagogue commission couldn't have been more different. The clients wanted windows depicting the Jewish holidays and holy days, gave me bare bones of design requirements and left the rest up to me. They ordered the windows in sets, as they gathered donations, and over the course of 2 years ordered 12 windows. The biggest challenge was creating so many windows over such a long period that looked as if they belonged together.

There is something undeniably pleasurable for me in making windows and then seeing them installed with the light streaming through, be it for private homes or public places. From design to installation, I think the toughest part is always delivering the windows. I'm always terrified that they will somehow be broken on the trip (they never are.) I'm afraid the clients won't like them (they always do). And I always wonder if I'll see them again, and if their new owners will enjoy having them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Feb 19, 2009

It's so easy to.... break the law!

Curiosity - that was my main feeling when I opened up one of my emails today. I wasn't even sure it was a real email but it didn't look suspicious, just odd.

Curiosity was swiftly followed by incredulity, that OMG feeling. I was reading a notice that I had broken Swiss law. Fortunately, it didn't look like anyone was on their way to arrest me.

So how did I, a basically law-abiding citizen (hey, I don't even download music!) become an international criminal?

I'm in Israel. Some of my products are stained glass and fused glass pendants. I string them on a simple silver chain that I purchase from someone else. She doesn't make them, she purchases huge quantities from someone else. It's a regular food chain, and we're all happy.

Recently a very nice woman from Switzerland purchased one of my stained glass pendants from JesterJewelry, one of my Etsy stores. I shipped it to her in a small jewelry box, in a small bubble mailer, with a receipt inside. Apparently this packet was stopped in customs. The chain, just for the record, is worth about $2.

The Problem
As I learned today, imports of anything made from precious metal are restricted in Switzerland. The pendant wasn't a problem. The value wasn't a problem. The $2 chain was a BIG problem. Because I didn't have a clear RM - Responsibility Mark, the equivalent of a precious metal import permit, I think - I broke the law. It doesn't matter that it was just a chain, or that I didn't make the chain, or even that this was the very first time I've had a sale to Switzerland.

The Customs lawyer sent me a longish manual for using RM's (it's not enough just to have an RM, you have to apply other notifications to it, depending on what you are sending) and encouraged me to apply for a permit or face having all future "shipments" rejected if they contain a chain. I don't know if it's hard, or expensive, to receive an RM, but I can tell you that fulfilling the requirements for marking up the items is very complicated. I know, because I read the manual.

The Lesson
I see myself with several choices - I can apply for an RM that I might never need, I can send the pendants without chains or with leather cord replacements, or I can refuse to sell to clients in Switzerland. No matter how I look at it, it's a pain in the butt.

I wrote up the story with a bit more technical detail for the Etsy business forum. Fellow sellers are very sympathetic, and I do appreciate that. It doesn't help me regarding the business at hand, but it's nice to know that other artists stand by me. And that they didn't know about the Swiss law, because I would have felt really dumb if everyone knew about it but me.

Do you need a copy of the Swiss import specifications for precious metals? If so, contact me through the blog with your email and I'll post it to you.

Feb 18, 2009

Ammonite Madness

Ammonites were sea creatures that floated in our world's oceans about 75 million years ago, give or take 25 million years. They were mostly around during the Jurassic period, along with good ol' T-Rex.

Today ammonite fossils can be found in many countries. Some have set them aside as a protected resource (for example, Israel) while others allow them to be harvested and sold (for example, Madagascar).

I love putting ammonites into my work for a very showy accent. I buy them halved and polished to show off their chambers. You can use ammonites, too, if you remember some simple guidelines:

Tips for glass artists

Be sure to buy from a respectable seller, or you might be buying something that was illegally harvested. You don't want to encourage crime.

If you're planning on edging your fossil with copper foil, use raw or polished ammonites. All the opalescent ammonites I purchased cracked when I applied solder.

  • When planning your design, remember that you'll want to put the ammonite in from the back, flat side down, so it will be flush with the front of your work.

Feb 17, 2009

Fishy, Fishy, in the Sea....

I love making glass fish. And I'm happy to say that they are easier to make than one would think (am I giving away a craft secret here?), at least the simple ones. I base my design on the important, evolutionary premise that


Yes, for all you fish bead lovers out there, those cute little fishes with the gorgeous fins, the bright colors, and the LIPS... they're not anatomically correct. They are cute, I agree.

And I'm not saying that my fish are perfectly shaped, either. My colors certainly are not like the real thing. But I have a problem with fish lips.

Tips for glass artists:
  • Glass fish beads are useful for more than necklaces - you can string a copper or silver wire through them and solder the beads into your stained glass work. They also make nice dangles or decorative tails for suncatchers.

  • If you're creating a glass fish and you want it (him, her?) to have a decorative tail, decorate half the bead before you start sculpting it. One of the first steps in making a fish is flattening your round bead, which is done after this decoration. Just be sure to flatten the bead so that the flattened part on the left side of the mandrel is plain, and the flattened part of the right side of the mandrel is decorated. You'll pull that decorated side into a tail, and shape the plain side into the fish head.
  • If you start with a hollow bead, your fish will be a bit lighter.

Feb 16, 2009

The Golden Glow of Dichro

Us fusers love using glass with dichroic coating (commonly known as dichro). Dichro is created by bombarding plates of glass with metal ions until an ultra-thin layer of metal is created on the glass surface. (Don't try this at home, folks). When the glass is moved, the angle of light changes, and the color shifts. We're not talking about dark blue to light blue, but orange to purple, blue to gold, etc. Dramatic color shifts.

Specialists who create dichro ramble on about reflected light and absorbed light. That's more technical than I can understand. I do know that when I fuse the glass, the metal melts and cools at a different rate than the glass, so the metal spreads out a bit and stands up, giving my piece the amazing illusion of 3D depth. It also heightens the color shifts.

Dichro can also be used "as-is"in stained glass, as in the panel on the right, Leaves in Her Hair. In this case there is no melting so no depth, but the color shifts are still very dramatic (as you can see) and there is an interesting metallic sheen on the glass pieces.

Tips for glass artists:

  • always cut dichroic from the back. Even so, when you grind, expect some chipping of the dichro layer, so be gentle with the grinder!
  • If you want to use dichro in lampworking, cut your scraps into thin strips and handle the with tweezers. Heat them slowly in the coolest part of the flame and do your best not to put the flame directly on the dichro coating, only on the back!
  • an excellent source of scrap dichro: http://www.dichro-wonderglass.com/ . When you buy scraps you let them know if you need thick or thin (buy thick for stained glass, thin for fusing and lampworking), black or clear back, or specific COE's. These guys give great service!

Feb 14, 2009

Parting Ways on Valentine's Day...

Yes, I'm letting my darling go. My darling bead, that is. (What, you thought I was breaking up with my boyfriend? You must be nuts....) This is a bead that I've hung onto for ages, I love her so much. I'm praying that someone who loves lampwork and will treasure her will purchase her. The alternative is to toss her into the ocean so that someone can pick her up off a stormy beach in 2,000 years....

I kind of want to look like this when I'm old. And if I don't stay away from the wine and chocolates, I probably will, but without the dichroic flash :-)

Feb 13, 2009

Let you hair down... or pin it up, as you prefer!

Hair clips - can you really ever have enough? Well, I suppose if you are as bald as Yule Brenner, even one is too much.

But for those of us with long locks, barrettes can be a fashion statement, even for the over-5 set. (That's over 5 years old, not over 5 feet tall.) I might not notice if my tennis shoes have small holes in the toes (I'll probably notice but not worry too much about it - after all, are you looking at my feet? No! Don't look!) but I'll take some time to pick out a clip that looks good with my clothes. I think that's what girls with fashion sense are supposed to do. My fashion sense is that inner voice that says "put on clean underwear in case you're hit by a truck!" and "don't wear that, it's missing too many buttons." Other than that, I'm a pretty casual dresser - and these clips look great with casual clothes.
I create all my hair clips using metal clips and art glass. Sometimes I thrown in other goodies like precious stones or crystal dangles. Then I post them in Jester Jewelry for sale.

Are you holding on to some glass with sentimental value? I bet you're wondering what do with it. You're in luck! You can commission a hair clip with it from me, too, like Penny from UK did. She collects sea glass and had me put some into a clip for her. You don't need much for a clip, and it's a lovely and original way to wear your special glass. (Photo is not of Penny's clip, sorry)

Feb 12, 2009

Beads, beads, beads...

I'd like to thank my newest client for making my day bright and sunny -


Teresa visited me on Stringythingy, my Etsy store, and purchased a lot of my lampwork beads. Her selection included some of my favorites. Her choice includes sets and focals, with a good amount of raku and some recycled wine bottle beads.
Selling my creations is very exciting, and selling them in this economic climate is exhilarating. It also helps me pay my rent, in a very practical and basic way. So, Teresa, thank you again. I hope you make a lot of beautiful things with my beads!

Feb 11, 2009

Wearing my politics on my sleeve...

I have to admit that I didn't check out what the candidates in yesterday's Israeli elections think of glass. In the larger scheme of things, while I hope they love glass as much as I do, I also hope they have other things on their mind. After all, we are expecting them to lead Israel into a bright, safe, democratic future, and I'm not personally expecting any of them to show up asking me for stained glass lessons.

And I will also publicly admit this shocking fact: I voted for Liberman. I don't think he is a fascist - I think he has focused on an important concept that is vastly lacking in Israel, even among Jews - loyalty to our country and to our right to exist as a democratic state. I think Americans who live in the US, where people stand up for the anthem, salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning as young students (with their hand over their heart, no less) can not understand the reality of living in a country where 20-25% of the population desires to see your government, and the majority of the population, destroyed and replaced with a different country with Islamic rule. Intolerant, violent Islamic rule, I might add. Imagine if 25% of the American citizens in the US supported or practiced terrorism to force collapse of the US government and turn the USA into a new, recognized province of Iran or Syria. Take a look at how the Hamas operates in Gaza and think - would you want to live there? I don't.

Living in the South of Israel, where the percentage of Arab population (to our north) and Bedouin population (to our south) is much higher than in the center of Israel, I live near towns that no Jewish Israeli in their right minds today enters - and that includes our medical services and our law enforcement agencies. Some of these areas are so dangerous that just for driving through them you can be murdered. In other areas, particularly to the south, we see wide-spread homesteading by Bedouin, an activity not legal in Israel nor tolerated when done by Jews, but ignored in the Bedouin sector for fear of inflaming them into an uprising. Unfortunately, as these "towns" spread, the crime rates in the neighboring Jewish cities rise, particularly burglary and car theft. As well, the driving practices in many parts of the south are so dangerous that serious accidents are the norm, and I've already heard more than one story of a Bedouin using his vehicle as a weapon, deliberately and repeatedly attacking a car driven by Jewish Israeli with their truck until they managed to cause a serious crash. Israel handles these as "accidents" rather than attempted murder, because its easier in the short run. In the long run, all this adds up to a lot of lawlessness that is fairly tolerated.

So I voted for Liberman, because I think that Israel has a very serious, internal problem with security and safety. I do not think that all Muslims are bad, I do not think that they should be removed from Israel if they want to live here peacefully and can accept Israel's right to exist as a democratic state, and I think that Palestinians should have their own country that they rule however they want. I just don't think that they should have all of Israel for that country, and I think that people who break the law, Jewish, Christian or Muslim, should go to jail for it, rather than have their actions tolerated or ignored - or somehow justified - because of their political or religious background. And I think that Israel, as a state, has the right and obligation to defend itself and its existence without apologizing.

If believing that Israel has the right to exist and that I have the right to live in a democratic country that is ruled by law rather than terror makes me a fascist, so be it.

Feb 8, 2009

Seeing Stars....

Yes, I do windows. And that's not my response to the Global Recession (better known as GR..., brought to us by way of that big state of Texas...). I hate cleaning windows. I love making windows.

For a while I was a full time artist, but with this GR thing I've gone back to working for someone else at least part time. (Yes, boss, I love you and I appreciate my job. I promise).

So today I'm bringing you one of my new window panels. These are installed in my house, in the entrance. Unfortunately it's not a place that gets a lot of light but they are colorful and I love them. Like all my glass art, these are OOAK (that's one-of-a-kind for you non-eBAY folks) and eventually there will be 6. Currently, top panel is a Star of David and the second panel is our house number (no, I'm not dsylexic - you're seeing it from the inside).

The next panel made will be a GOAT, in honor of our love of goats and my eldest son's job as a goatherd.

Feb 2, 2009

Wa-wa-wee-wah - What a FIND!

My glass addiction sends me outdoors compulsively searching for little bits of Roman glass - glass that some poor fool dropped 2,000 years ago and never bothered to clean up. At least, that's how I imagine some of it gets there. I never collect from archaeological sites but you can hike fields and hills and forests in Israel and often just find this stuff laying around. Which is unbelievable. (Hint - walk into the sun and look for something shiny). What is really unbelievable is that I can infect other people with this compulsion and we all clamber over rocks and through gullies with our eyes glued to the ground as if we are contemplating a major concern of the planet. Or as if we've lost a contact lens. It's a miracle that we haven't walked into trees or off cliffs while doing this.

So there we were, David and I, having a nice conversation while returning from such a hike, (OK, he was trying to convince me to take on a huge project that would gobble up my life for the next 20 years; it's the kind of project you could only consider for love, and could only take on if you are independently wealthy, which I'm not) and I, while walking down the perimeter road of our village - the one that 2 joggers had just run down and that I had walked up with David just that morning - I noticed THIS!!!

Since it's only about 1/2 inch in diameter, and I'm over 5 feet tall and don't have the eyes of an eagle, I didn't actually see it the way you're seeing it now. But I did see that it didn't look natural. I spend a lot of time picking at things that don't look natural but are natural, as you might guess. I once even picked up some squished deer poo, which is pretty natural from close up. And the first thing I noticed about this is that it wasn't glass. But I was only dissapointed for a second - I think the entire region must have heard my screech. I think David may have feared for a moment that I'd stepped on a snake....

I've sent photos of this for identification but my best guess at the moment is Roman. A lot of those guys and gals posed for their portrait coins with decorative hair pieces and togas, while facing to the right. Although I've searched, I haven't found anything like the back of the coin (not posted here), so I'm not sure exactly what I've got but, by golly, I AM EXCITED!!