Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's hard to believe 2009 is almost gone.  As we prepare our Thanksgiving feasts, eat way too much and begin to decorate for Christmas, Hanukkah and a myriad of other year end celebrations, it's a nice time to reflect on the things that truly make our life rich.  I have so many things and people to be thankful for, as I'm sure you do to.  I truly am a lucky individual and grateful for my very full life.  So, I thought I'd share a few things that I'm mindful of this Thanksgiving:

1.  After a torturous 2008, my dad has remained cancer-free for almost a year and a half.  Thank you M.D. Anderson!
2.  My family.  We're all so close and I don't know what I'd do without each and every one of them.
3.  My husband.  It took me a long time to find him, but it was worth the wait.  Aside from giving me the freedom and support to explore my artistic endeavors, being incredibly supportive, and providing our wonderful lifestyle, he's also brought my four amazing stepchildren into our lives.  They're just the best people ever and I'm so lucky to have inherited them. I know I don't tell him thank you and how much I appreciate him nearly as often as I should.
4.  Having my two youngest stepchildren home for a full year (and a bit) now after four years of studying abroad in Ethiopia.  Our lives are richer for having them back in Texas.
5.  Having something to share with my mom.  She makes handbags and I have my jewelry.  We've not always had a lot of common interests to share, but for the past year have worked together in support of each other to grow our individual businesses.  Dad has always said to mom, my sister and myself that we should be doing something with our talents.  Now we are (my sister's a graphic designer).  Mom and I have done several craft shows together...something I might not have done on my own, but truly enjoy doing with mom.  It's fun to share business ideas with her and encourage each other along the way.
6.  My unfailingly good health (knock on wood) and that of my family.
7.  No matter how bad things get, for some reason everything always works out for the best for me and my family.  Our guardian angels, I'm sure...the family no longer on this earth, but still a part of our day to day lives.
8.  My many, many, many dear, close friends all around the world.
9.  The eleven babies that many of those friends and family members have brought into the world this year in addition to the children they already have.  They make every day a little brighter.

I could go on for pages.  I truly consider myself lucky and I think it's beneficial to stop and actually think about it.  Sometimes we get caught up in the day-to-day and don't stop to realize how fortunate we are, for both the little things and the big.  Feel free to take a moment, if you feel so inspired, to comment on what you're thankful for as well.

Wishing everyone out there, in the U.S. and abroad, the very best on this Thanksgiving, through the holidays and in the coming year!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eye Candy Everywhere!

I've really loved checking my e-mail in the morning these past few days!  This morning's surprise was a message from Olivia of S and O Productions today alerting me that a treasury I was included in was highlighted on her gorgeous blog (of which I am now a follower!).  Olivia and her sister, Sarah (the S in S and O) have put together an amazing list of their "Elite Eight" treasuries.  Needless to say, I feel so privileged to be in a tiny little corner of such a wonderful collection.  By the way, be sure to check out Olivia's shop, OliviaOlivia on Etsy!

One of the treasuries featured in S and O's post was from Nurit of NuritDesign, who keeps pouring on the Etsy love and included my Bird's Nest Necklace in another one of her beautiful treasuries entitled, "I don't worry about diets..." with the description, "The only carrots that interest me are the number of carats in a diamond."  Good advice in a quote from Mae West as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday weekend here in the United States.  Since Nurit is in Tel Aviv, she may well have no idea how appropriate that quote is at this time of year!  Let the feasting begin!
While I do have my own website for Amy Holton Designs, I have to say, I truly enjoy maintaining my shop on Etsy (amyholtondesigns) and have met some wonderful people there.  Imagine, a whole site of independent artists doing what they love together and supporting each other in any way they can.  I've met so many amazing people in the forums, including Olivia, Nurit and Noa, all willing to help each other share our creations with the world.  From Texas to Tel Aviv, the love of creating beautiful things knows no boundaries.

I'm off for the Thanksgiving holidays tomorrow, so Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's All About Getting What You Want

"If you greatly desire something, have the guts to stake everything on obtaining it."  So says the quote by Brendan Francis which was cleverly used as the title to Noa Brumberg's new treasury on Etsy and there are many objects of desire in her treasury!  For one, I'm slightly obsessed over Nurit Design's Flower Ring...

It made me so happy today to find that she'd also featured my Hammered Hoop Emerald Earrings in her treasury as it's so full of beautiful, colorful objects of desire!  

Check out Noa's shop as well.  NOICA has the most adorable plush creatures and graphic designs.  She's also a member of the Craftomania Toolbar team who created my new favorite toy...the Craftomania Toolbar.  If you're on Etsy and haven't checked it out, I highly recommend you do...after clicking through her treasury and checking out NOICA, of course!

Thanks, Noa for the support and the wonderful holiday shopping ideas!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Treasure of a Treasury

As I was at my work table today, rushing to get to a trunk show, a little window popped up on my computer screen letting me know I had a new e-mail.  Hmmmm...."Etsy Conversations."  I'd better go check it...

To my delight and surprise, I had a lovely message from another fellow Etsian, Nurit of Nurit Design letting me know she had chosen my Emerald Hammered Hoop Earrings for her beautiful treasury, cleverly entitled "Jewelry Takes People's Minds...Off Your Wrinkles."  It's always so flattering to be chosen for someone's treasury and Nurit's is truly beautiful.


After having a look in her own shop, I felt even more honored to have been chosen.  Nurit does metalsmithing (my next goal) and creates beautiful jewelry of sterling silver, 9k or 14k yellow, white or rose gold and her work is just amazing.  You must go an check out her shop at Nurit Design on Etsy.

Today was like Christmas, as Nurit also sent me this fabulous tool for us Etsy folks...the Craftomania Toolbar!  It was created by her friend and fellow Etsian, Noa Brumberg whose shop has the most adorable graphic designs, baby onesies and plush creatures ever at NOICA (find her under noabrumberg, which is how she's listed on Etsy). Read more on the Craftomania Tools blog, then go promptly to the Craftomania Toolbar download site and get your own!  Everything you need, right at the top of the screen.  I heart Craftomania (and every plush toy in NOICA)!

Thanks again, Nurit and Noa, for the Etsy love...both through the treasury and a fabulous new toolbar!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Little Etsy Love - Cool New Etsy Tools!

A fellow (brilliantly clever) Etsian, Shannon Kish, has created a great Etsy shop statistics site for those of us who sell on Etsy and are addicted to checking our statistics. Etsy Goth provides similar features as Heart-o-Matic (which is another favorite tool), but Shannon has taken it a couple of steps further, having also given the user the ability to sort by the returned information as well as show summary data regarding the returned results.  While she says it's still a work in progress, I find it very useful and it has quickly become one of my daily must-check sites.  You can view statistics about items in your shop, those who "heart" your listings and shop as well as retrieve summary information about listings and favorers.

Also don't forget to check out her fantastic artwork and jewelry at her own Etsy shop, alphagrl

Thanks for the great new tool, Shannon!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Musing on Personal Connections Through Art

I have a problem...an addiction, if you will, that I must learn to temper.  Just lately, I spend way too much time in the Etsy forums.  After many months of insisting to myself that I should be using this valuable resource, I now find I indulge too much of my time reading the posts.  However, there's so much knowledge to be gained!  I'm a sponge who constantly wants to learn more.  There are so many beautiful, talented people out there who are also trying to make a mark with what they create and Etsy's forums are such a great place to share with each other.  There's an endless supply of helpful information, marketing ideas and just plain old support and incredibly inspiring talent.

Today, one Etsy shop owner, Elan Vital Anthology, started a thread entitled, "Why do you LOVE Etsy?" At first, I thought of it as one of those fun, little chit-chatty threads that people sometimes post, however, not much by the way of useful information.  As I'm trying to control an addiction, perhaps I should have skipped it and moved on to more directly business-related topics.  Nonetheless, I clicked on it and read her post.  Before I even began to read, I started to think about why I love doing what I do and the post became even more profound to me, forcing me to think about why I invest so much of my time in my jewelry.  I truly love what I do.  I'm passionate about it.  Much more so than I actually verbalize.  I'm terrible with face-to-face self promotion (and I'm a very outgoing person otherwise).  It feels like bragging and makes me feel very vulnerable at the same time.  Maybe because I'm exposing a part of myself and the fear of rejection is too great in person.  Subsequently, I posted my response:

As an independent artist rather than someone with huge corporate backing and an exorbitant marketing budget selling mass-produced items, that connection provides validation, that what I create with my own hands matters to others.  The fact that other people are personally affected by my work, enough to purchase and wear it thus defining their style or give it as a thoughtful gift, is such a high compliment.  As artists, we put a lot of who we are into our work, consciously and subconsciously.  It's very personal.  Every time someone buys a piece of my jewelry, it's truly humbling...and very flattering.  I suddenly have a little personal connection to someone I've never met and likely never will, something shared with the one who chooses one of my pieces.  Etsy allows me an outlet to share not only my work and business ideas, but also a venue to share the personal side with other people who understand and feel the same way.

Another poster wrote, "I love knowing that things that I've made are now in Norway, Ireland, Australia and more!"

Yesterday, I packaged up my much-loved emerald earrings to send them to Illinois.  As happy as I am that they've found a home, it truly made me sad to see them go.  That little piece of me is on it's way to Illinois...sigh.  At the same time, that little piece of me matters to someone in Illinois...JOY!

I went to Elan Vital Anthology's Etsy shop.  The opening line reads, "Welcome to our niche in this world."  Doesn't that just say it all?  Every little thing we create becomes a little mark in our little corner of the world.  As our pieces find new homes, it's only left to be seen how great that mark might be and how far in this world that personal connection might extend.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thanks for the Mention!

What a nice surprise yesterday!  I found out about this cool tool on the internet that searches Etsy treasuries to see if someone's featured you.  It's called Etsy Treasure Hunt.  How flattered was I to learn that another local designer chose my Turquoise and Carnelian Circle Necklace to include in her beautiful treasury of local Austin artists' work?

You should really take a look at her crochet pet collars at her Etsy shop CrochetPetCollars.  They're way too cute!  Don't think for a second she's not forgotten us!  Check out her lovely adornments for your two-legged friends as well.  Very elegant and delicate lace-like crochet necklaces, chokers and cuffs can be found at ModernNeedlepoint.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thanks for a Lovely Review!

Today a review of my work was published by the Feminist Review on my Freshwater Pearl and Blue Topaz Earrings.  I was really flattered when they found my site and contacted me with an interest in doing the review and happily packaged up and sent samples. 

The Feminist Review is a collection of 20 editors and 200 writers around the world.  Their daily reviews include books, movies, music, fashion, jewelry and a whole slew of other interesting items from a feminist perspective.  Not to mention, I love that they support independent artists, which is really great.

Many thanks to the Feminist Review and to Mandy Van Deven for a lovely piece.  Definitely check out their online publication.  You can folow them out at http://feministreview.org.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seed Planting Success!!

Ah...what luck!  It stopped raining almost long enough to get my little seeds in the ground.  Right as I was finishing up, it began to sprinkle, but I persevered.  I tried to keep my seed packets as dry as possible, covering them in their little plastic bucket while outside but they did get a little damp (so did I!) so I've laid them out to dry.  I'm sure they'll be fine.

So now I have several heirloom lettuce varieties, Swiss chard, a few more herbs (can you really ever have enough?) and I managed to get my collard green transplants in.  Grow, damn it, GROW!!

As happy as I am about the rain, I must admit I was a bit frustrated not having been able to plant more yesterday.  It's meant to rain most of the week.  I've been staked out at my computer near an open window listening for my opportunity.  Thankfully it came!  It didn't take nearly as long as I expected it would.  The rain continued all day yesterday.  About the time the sun was going down, I noticed the sky out of the front windows was a pinkish hue, despite the rain.  Hmmm...there must be sun somewhere...and sun+rain=rainbows.

(My view from upstairs yesterday evening.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wouldn't You Know It...

Aside from making jewelry, I love to make things grow.  When we lived in Houston, my husband and I built the most lovely potager garden...and then were relocated a couple of months later.  Sadly, I never was able to enjoy or take care of it once it was planted.  Now two years in Austin, I've been working on my new garden this year.  We live in the side of a hill, which provides some challenges, but it's not that bad.  I have a raised bed bordered in native limestone running down the left fenceline of my back yard.  It makes me happy.

Since we have mild winters in Texas, we can pretty much grow year-round.  I've begun planning and planting my fall garden.  I'm probably a bit over organized (read "neurotic") about it.  There's a massive spreadsheet...a map of my garden plan, coded for each variety I have (and this is only a section shown). Don't tease...I did admit to being a bit neurotic about it!

I do grow organically and have a wonderful nursery/garden center here in Austin called The Natural Gardener that emphasizes organic methods.  The owner even has his own line of organic products "Lady Bug" brand and is a contributor for Organic Gardening magazine.  A great resource to have locally since I'm still fairly new to this! 

My dad plants by the Farmer's Almanac gardening calendar, and it works for him, so I follow it too.  Whether or not there's anything to it or all old wive's tails...who knows.  The Natural Gardener plants by the moon as well and their gardens are beautiful!  I figure if the method has been in practice this long, there must be something to it!  Last week was good for planting root crops, so I'm starting to get little sprouts of French Breakfast Radishes, Parmex Ball, Adelaide Baby and Nantes carrots and beets (I grow a mix of  gourmet heirloom varieties - Bull's Blood, Chiogga - which are beautiful, and Golden).  You can see my tiny radish and beet sprouts in the photo.

Today is supposed to be good for planting leafy vegetables.  However, it's raining.  Not that I'm complaining!  I love the rain and we desperately need it.  My sweet husband came home to spend an hour and a half with me before leaving on a business trip.  I was itching to get outside.  The rain had stopped.  He feigned hurt feelings with a laugh and I told him, "Just watch.  It will start raining the second you leave for the airport!"  Well...guess what?!  Woudn't you know it!  The very second he backed out of the garage...and it still hasn't stopped!

Oh, well.  I still have tomorrow too!

(The last of my Listada de Gandia eggplant from my summer garden)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Now, About Those Emerald Earrings...

Ok, ok...I should have posted this months ago...

Back in May, I mentioned a pair of emerald earrings I was working on. Well, I finished them ages ago and thought it was high time I shared them! I have a couple of strands of beautiful faceted emerald rondelles and I'm so happy to have finally put them to use.

I first shaped the hoop section of the earrings and hammered them to give them a bit of texture and sparkle. I love my hammer. It's actually a bit sentimental. When I moved into my first apartment, my dad gave it to me so I'd be able to hang pictures on the wall. He said, "Don't lose it. Your mom's father gave it to me." Many years later, now that I'm married, obviously we have more than one hammer. So, my husband helped me polish my grandfather's to a mirror shine to use for my jewelry.

I love the way these emeralds are strung with a gradual fade from the darkest green to the lightest. I was careful to keep them in this order as I wanted that same gradient shading in my earrings. So, I lined them all up carefully, poised on their vermeil headpins, to ensure I ended up with the effect I wanted. I added vermeil brushed wavy disks to the top-most emeralds for a bit more shine and texture, fashioned the eye end of the headpins with my pliers and finally put the whole assembly together and hung them from French earwires.

I'm really pleased with the way they turned out, though I'd love to hear your opinion. There's more photos and details on my website. Now they just need a good home!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

New Website!

No, I haven't fallen completely off of the earth. After a wonderful vacation, we've had many visitors in Austin including a close family friend home from Russia with her son. They came from snow to 104 degree weather and nearly melted! We also had a great week with my eight year old niece. She's quite the little jewelry designer herself! I'm flattered that she wants to be like Aunt Amy and bought her some beads and tools of her own. She really surprised me with a lovely little flower necklace made of freshwater pearls. I was quite impressed! She has one of my amethyst flower necklaces (a request from her for her eighth birthday) and she did a good job of working out how to make flowers from her beads. No assistance from me!

On top of family and friends, I've been diligently working on a new website. At long last, I've finally completed it and am very pleased with the way it looks. New, more detailed photos and a much better format to allow shoppers to better see the detail in my pieces. I'd love to know your thoughts! www.amyholtondesigns.com

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I'm Not Quite Dead Yet!

OK, so I've been terrible about updating my posts lately. It's been a whirlwind these past several weeks! Thankfully, I'm finally sleeping normally again. My teenage stepchildren had their final school events, performances, etc. and they've kept us very busy. Not to mention, my husband Steve and I are looking forward to our upcoming vacation at The Tides Riviera Maya. We've been to this resort before and absolutely love it. The service, food, beach and amenities (and the spa!) are incredible!

Directly after we return, We're off to the fabulous little town of Bandera, Texas ("Cowboy Capital of the World!" Seriously! There are hitching posts outside of the "saloons" and some people DO ride their horses into town!). As the town receives many tourists from around the world, July 4th promises to be a successful weekend. My sister, brother-in-law and niece live there. I'll be doing the show with my mother. She creates a line of handbags that are oh-so-cute! (Another post about that later!) Her line is sold under the name "Bumble-B Bags." I'm trying to convince her to post her line on Etsy and am working on designing her website for her (in all of my "free" time...but I love doing it!). She definitely needs one. Even if she's not ready to sell online, she at least needs an online portfolio. Needless to say, I've been frantically creating new pieces for the show and prepare for that while shuttling my stepchildren (mostly my stepdaughter) to all of their activities...and there are a lot! I don't mind it at all, though. They're so fabulous and I was equally active if not more at that age. They've been with us all week while their mom is away. It's so great to have them here every day. They were in Ethiopia for four years, so now that they're back in Texas, we can't get enough of them!

In preparing for the Bandera show, I've completed my emerald earrings...which I still promise to share. I'm working on the pearl and coral ones intermittently and may change my mind on the design altogether. I did complete my amethyst flower necklace, which everyone loves. You can see the details here. It's the first item on the page. I also still need to photograph my new pieces (as well as take better ones of those completed earlier...thanks for the new DSLR, sweetie!!). Couple that with packing for vacation (which includes laundry of course), packing for the Bandera show, cleaning the house, finalizing details with the house-sitter, finishing my mom's banner for the Bandera show, shuttle services...WHEW!! Does Etsy sell more hours in the day?! Would that fall under "Supplies"?!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Where in the Hell is Mr. Sandman When You Need Him?

UGH...
It happens to me every spring. For 2-3 weeks I find myself completely unable to sleep at night, no matter how tired I am. Sleep aids just don't do any good, either. Getting 2-3 hours a night doesn't work for me at all.

What's even more frustrating is it leaves me completely void of energy. I lie awake at night thinking of all of the things I want to accomplish the next day, but when morning comes and all hope of a good night's sleep is gone, I just don't have the energy. I have so many things that I need and WANT to be doing...my emerald earrings, the coral and pearls are still in progress on my desk, not to mention I so want to re-vamp my website with updated photos. (My husband gave me a fabulous SLR for my birthday and my stepchildren gave me a fantastic lens. I'm dying to take new photos, but can't find the motivation to set up...and then pick up after myself!) Instead, I've been laying low. At least I've caught up on reading blog posts that interest me! Indie Fixx had a blog post which included fabulous cocktail tables by Michael Arras that might have to come live in our house.

Hopefully this no-sleep slump will pass quickly and I'll find my energy again (and have something better to blog about)! It was terrible when I held an office job. Thanks to my wonderful husband who's out saving the environment, I'm able to be at home, which makes this so much more tolerable. He's even stopping to pick up dinner tonight so I don't have to worry with it. I should probably tell him more often how lucky I am to have him! Mentally motivated, but physically void of energy. So frustrating...

Mr. Sandman...bring me a dream. (Preferably one that lasts at least eight hours!)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Looking Forward to Sand and Surf in the Tropics

Well, my emerald project is going to have to take a brief backseat. I decided to do something different and needed to order a few supplies, so I'm waiting for them to arrive.

However, I was going through my beads the other day with the intent of destashing some items I've had for a while, this coral included. Maybe it's because of the warmer weather, or maybe it's because I'm looking forward to sitting on the beach next month, but whatever it was, I was suddenly motivated to make a pair of summery, sea-inspired earrings.



I've had this coral for so long (someone gave it to me ages ago). I'm so glad I didn't get rid of it now! Suddenly, I have so many ideas for it. There will likely be a bracelet and a necklace or two to follow...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Go Green…Emerald Green, That Is!

We may celebrate Earth Day and all things green in April, but May is the month for glittering green emeralds. I bought these emeralds some time ago, just because I thought they were beautiful and I couldn't leave them behind. At the time, I had no idea what I was going to do with them. However, they’re about to become the main component of my latest jewelry design.

Emeralds have always been my favorite gemstone (along with diamonds, of course), and not just because emerald happens to be my birthstone. There’s just something about them that fascinates me and has since I was a child. So when the inspiration struck, and I knew exactly what design I wanted to put them in, I was anxious to get to work. With today’s arrival of some needed tools, I’m about to do just that. These little gemstones will soon become a pair of fabulous earrings. I have a necklace design in waiting as well, but that’s another post for later.

So, as we enter the month of May, it seems only fitting that my first jewelry design to be included in my blog should be done in my birthstone. I’ll share my progress as I go, and of course the final product! In the end, the big decision will be, do I put them in my shop or, since my birthday is on the 3rd, keep them for myself?!
Hmmm…

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Snow White Enters the Era of Internet Blogging…


OK, so I don’t have black hair and alabaster skin, nor are there seven dwarfs running around my house (thank goodness!). But I do live perched in the side of a hill, surrounded by wildlife, in of one of the best cities on earth…Austin, Texas. The front of our house overlooks the neighbors' rooftops across the street and into the hills. The back yard slopes up into a forest full of deer (yes, I feed them…and they have a water dish too. It gets hot in Austin!). We also have tons of birds that visit so regularly you can identify them, a few rabbits and the occasional grey fox, not to mention tons of squirrels. Seriously, with all of the friendly visitors, our back yard is like something out of Snow White!

Anyway, I’m pretty internet savvy and thought that as it's the "done thing" these days, it was high time I started blogging about one of my favorite pastimes…making jewelry. I’ve always been very artistic, though I studied business at the University of Texas. That eventually led to a career at Enron, from which I was laid off along with 4500 of my closest friends in December of 2001. After that, and during a two year hiatus, a friend and I started making jewelry. It was just the creative outlet I needed to keep me sane while searching for employment. As my 4500 good friends were doing the same, finding a job in Houston was not easy. Eventually, I did find a non-profit job in the performing arts (thanks to my now-husband’s support, I was able to accept the drastic cut in pay) and jewelry fell by the wayside. I missed it and always wanted to get back to it with the idea of starting my own little business selling my designs.

About two years ago, a company here in Austin came knocking on our door. They wanted my husband to come work for them. I came home that evening and he asked, “How do you feel about moving to Austin?” My response was, “I’ll start packing now!” I loved living here in college and have always wanted to move back. It’s funny how things work out. Our move here has allowed me the freedom to get back to my jewelry designs and work on getting them out to a larger audience (again, thanks to my husband) and Amy Holton Designs was born. I have a lot of work to do and a sketchbook full of ideas. Not to mention strands and strands of lovely, sparkling gemstones. All of my work is hand-created in fine and sterling silver, 14k gold filled and 14k gold metals with precious and semi-precious gemstones. With this blog, I hope to share with you my ideas, trials, errors and designs and would love to hear your feedback and suggestions.

So there we have it…Amy Holton Designs’ first blog post! I have lots to write about so there will be more to come. Hope to see you back again soon!