Homeschooling, Crafts, Design and the Joy of Learning

Homeschooling, Crafts, Design and the Joy of Learning

Last May we pulled our daughter, Emma from school and began homeschooling or non-schooling or… I’ve written more about all of this on the other blog, the one I share with my daughter:  Emma’s Hope Book.  One of the many benefits of homeschooling, aside from the huge relief and plummeting stress level, is that we get to explore, together and separately.  The beauty in exploring is that the goal is to be curious and discover.  There’s no right or wrong and there’s tremendous comfort in that. The entire process of learning becomes one of joy and experimentation without the burden or stress of feeling one should know something before having learned it.

So it was, some eight months ago when I sat down with Emma and asked her what she was interested in learning about.  She typed that she wanted to learn German and take a ceramics class among a number of other things.  So we bought Rosetta Stone for German and Emma began taking pottery lessons at a nearby ceramics studio.  Her teacher, seeing my obvious excitement and interest, asked if I might like to make some things too.  I eagerly said, “Yes, please!”

Learning anything new is full of experimenting, exploring, tweaking, practicing and refining techniques learned.  To dive into something you’ve never done before can be daunting, but only if you are comparing your work to another’s.  Particularly crushing is if you expect you will be able to produce something that is of similar expertise as someone who has been studying and refining their technique for decades.  The exhilaration comes with the process of learning, practicing and improving.  But so often we are not taught that this process is wonderful at all.  In fact, we are taught that it is hard work and the end product, only produced after years of practice and toil, is all that is of value.  Everything else pales in comparison.

I disagree.

This cereal bowl that Emma made for me is perfect for walking while eating.  It has an indentation that perfectly fits one’s thumb while cupping the bowl in your palm.  Why hasn’t anyone designed a bowl like this?  I’ve never seen one before, but oh, how I love it.  This is my new, favorite bowl.

My favorite Cereal Bowl made for me by Emma.

My favorite cereal bowl made for me by Emma.

The platter below?  “It matches” was what Emma typed in reply to my exclamation that I thought it perfect for serving cheese and crackers or maybe a brioche en croute with fresh baguette.


Emma’s Platter

This bowl that Emma made used cookie cutters and then she painted after joining all the shapes.

An Autumn Bowl

An Autumnal Bowl

A few months ago, or maybe it was years, (this is an aspect of getting older, the years feel like months, yet another example of that saying people tell you when you first become a parent – the days are long, the years are short)  I asked Emma if she had any interest in learning to knit.  She said she did, and as I love knitting (I wrote about some of that “here“) and used to design knitwear, I thought we’d start with something simple, like a scarf.  Emma chose a light blue yarn.  After a couple of tries, she lost interest and so I began making a long scarf using an alternating knit 2, purl 2 pattern.  I rarely use knitting patterns or cooking recipes for that matter, but that’s another post.  Anyway the scarf began like this.

Light blue Scarf in alternating Knit 2, Purl 2 Pattern with Navy Blue Chenille infinity scarf in the background.

Light blue scarf in alternating Knit 2, Purl 2 pattern with the beginning of a navy blue chenille infinity scarf in the background.

The finished scarf ended up measuring 87 inches in length and 11 inches wide.   What you don’t see is the other side where I changed my mind after an inch or so and decided to make the pattern more elongated.

The Finished Scarf

The Finished Scarf

This is the edge where I began knitting and decided to change the stitch.  Three times.  The final stitch pattern is a Knit 2, Purl 2 for three rows and then Purl 2, Knit 2 for 3 rows and repeating for the remainder of the scarf.

The I-Changed-My-Mind-Edge

The I-Changed-My-Mind-Edge

I’m hoping Emma will try knitting again sometime, but in the meantime, I’ve started a couple of other projects, one is this deep blue chenille yarn that I’m knitting, using a newly learned brioche stitch, into an infinity scarf for a friend.

The makings of an infinity scarf using a brioche stitch

The makings of an infinity scarf using a brioche stitch

And finally this is one of my ceramics projects.

Pebbles in a Plate

Pebbles in a Plate

For those familiar with my jewelry, this may remind you of something else…

Ariane Zurcher Jewelry - B26 Lotus Collection - 18 Kt Brushed Yellow Gold, 25.08 ct Pink Topaz, 2.69 ct Pink Sapphire, 12 ct Tourmaline, 2.96 ct Aquamarine, 17.21 ct Mandarin Garnet, 4.03 ct African Paraiba

Ariane Zurcher Jewelry – B26 Lotus Collection – 18 Kt Brushed Yellow Gold, 25.08 ct Pink Topaz, 2.69 ct Pink Sapphire, 12 ct Tourmaline, 2.96 ct Aquamarine, 17.21 ct Mandarin Garnet, 4.03 ct African Paraiba





Brushed Silver & Aquamarine Brooch ~ Ariane Zurcher Jewelry

Sometimes what’s reflected is easier to see than the thing being reflected.  I wrote about this and the nature of  progress on my other blog, Emma’s Hope Book the other day.

EHB is the blog where I write about being a parent and autism and how my daughter has helped me see the world differently.  It’s ironic that her neurology, the thing so many believe to be a massive deficit – autism – has shown me a world far more beautiful than I ever dreamed or believed possible.

Reflection is like that sometimes.  We see things in a reflection that we might have missed were we to look directly.  Art and inspiration are like that too.

I took this photograph in Central Park this July 4th.  Had you asked me what the weather was like I would have told you – clear blue skies and hot, hot, hot.

“Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city”

Lyrics: Lovin Spoonful

Yet, I would have been wrong.



18 Kt Brushed Gold & 42.8 ct Tourmaline Cabochon Bracelet ~ Samadhi Collection

Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui at the Brooklyn Museum is not to be missed.  Running through August 3rd, it features more than 30 pieces by the Ghanian sculptor, El Anatsui.

Detail of "Drifting Continents" by El Anatsui ~ Brooklyn Museum

Detail of “Drifting Continents” by El Anatsui ~ Brooklyn Museum

The detail above is such a wonderful example of perspectives.   As we were walking through the show, I overheard someone exclaim, “But it’s just a bunch of metal tops!”  And I thought – and we’re just a bunch of cells and water!  But step back and we are so much more.   I am always thinking about things in terms of neurology and autism.  Our culture tends to see autism and those who are Autistic as less than, but if you move away from this thinking, there is great beauty.  (I write about all of this in much greater detail on Emma’s Hope Book.)

Here is another view of the same piece ~ “Drifting Continents”

"Drifting Continents"

“Drifting Continents”

The beauty of the piece is in both the details and in the magnificence of it, as one steps far enough away to view it in its entirety.  Below is a detail of the piece, Gli (Wall) which greets you as you enter the exhibit.

El Anatsui ~ Gli (Wall),  2010 Aluminum & Copper Wire

El Anatsui ~ Gli (Wall), 2010 Aluminum & Copper Wire

A portion of Gli (Wall)

A part of Gli (Wall)

It is majestic…

Gli (Wall), 2010 El Anatsui Aluminum and Copper Wire

Gli (Wall), 2010 El Anatsui
Aluminum and Copper Wire

Gravity and Grace… what a wonderful title for a show that exemplifies both.

To view Ariane Zurcher Jewelry and more perspectives on art and design, click ‘here‘.

Where Art & Life Meets

Where Art & Life Meets

B23 - 18 Kt Brushed Gold & 18 VSII .31 ct. Diamonds ~ Total Diamond ct weight = 5.58 ct

B23 – 18 Kt Brushed Gold & 18 VSII .31 ct. Diamond Bracelet ~ Total Diamond ct weight = 5.58 ct

When my daughter, Emma was diagnosed with autism I threw myself into research the way a starving man forages for scraps.  I describe it this way, because the degree of desperation I felt was acute, and at the time, I viewed autism as “life-threatening”.  It saddens me now, looking back, that the information we were given regarding autism and what that supposedly meant, for not only our daughter, but for all of us, has not changed dramatically.  How many parents to newly diagnosed children will feel what I once felt?  How many parents will go home and throw themselves into the monumental task of educating themselves about autism and will read similar stories as I once did?  How many parents will believe that “recovery” from Autism is a concrete and noble goal for their child?  How many parents will fall into line pursuing any number of dubious treatments all in the name of “saving” their child?  Because I can tell you, that pursuit, that mind-set of desperately seeking “recovery” from Autism is a dangerous mirage.

R12 - 18 Kt Brushed Gold & 16.5 ct Pink Tourmaline

R12 – 18 Kt Brushed Gold & 16.5 ct Pink Tourmaline Ring

About a year and a half into my “research” my husband, Richard came to me and expressed his concern, not for Emma, though he absolutely loves both our children and feels concern for their well-being, not for her diagnosis, not for anything we were or weren’t doing, no, he expressed concern for me.  I remember the feeling of rage that welled up inside of me.  I remember thinking that I hated him for voicing his thoughts.  I remember my outrage and indignation.  I remember.  All because he dared to suggest, “You have to find something that has nothing to do with autism.”  Did he not understand that I was saving our daughter’s life?!  Could he not see that I was single-handedly engaged in a battle?  While he stood there looking at me with love and worry, I fumed.  I no longer remember the words exchanged, I can’t remember our exact conversation, but I remember the gist of it.  I remember how pained he looked when I angrily attacked him, suggesting that were it not for me, our child would be thrown under the proverbial bus.

But my husband is not easily pushed aside.  My husband is a tough negotiator, a dogged persuader, a pit bull in a junk yard, he can go up against the best of them and still come out standing.  In other words, I didn’t have a chance in hell.  Still I put up a good fight.  Richard, not to be undone by my hurling insults, stood firm. You see he understood something I didn’t.  He saw what I was doing and he could see what it was doing to me, even if I couldn’t.  “You’re depressed,” he said.  I glared at him.  “You can’t even see it.”  How do you argue with that?  How can you counter unawareness?  You can’t.  But Richard loves me and kept trying to get through and even though I didn’t understand and didn’t agree with what he was saying I could hear the love in his voice.  I could feel his words.

E206_ATT29 - 18 Kt Brushed Gold with Removable 18 Kt Brushed Gold and 30.15 ct Prehnite Drops

E206_ATT29 – 18 Kt Brushed Gold Earrings with Removable 18 Kt Brushed Gold & 30.15 ct Prehnite Drops

As a direct result of that difficult conversation I began taking classes in jewelry making.  I’d gone to Parsons School of Design, majoring in Fashion Design, knew before I’d even graduated with my bachelors degree that fashion design was not for me, and worried that jewelry was too similar, but I was wrong.  There is something about working with metal, carving a wax model, sketching a new design, figuring out how something will hang or how a clasp will function and yet add an artistry to the piece, that transports me.  When I am working, time becomes meaningless, the world, worries and fears move into a corner.  When I am designing and making jewelry it is as though I am in another dimension.  A magical place where it is just me and my work, there are no words, my emotions become the work, they are embedded in the design.  Art does not intersect life as much as it becomes life.

I found a studio.  I began to create…

R17 - 18 Kt Brushed Gold

R17 – 18 Kt Brushed Gold Ring

E184 - 18 Kt Brushed Gold, 12.3 ct Rubelite, SI2 - .44 ct Diamonds & 18 Kt Brushed Gold, & Removable 82.1 ct Indicolite Tourmaline

E184 – 18 Kt Brushed Gold, 12.3 ct Rubelite, SI2 – .44 ct Diamond Earrings with Removable 18 Kt Brushed Gold, & 82.1 ct Indicolite Tourmaline Drops

After awhile I began selling my work.  My ‘jewelry‘ (click ‘jewelry’ for Ariane Zurcher Jewelry website) began getting noticed, I won some awards, and suddenly two years after having that conversation with my husband, I had a business. In 2010 I began a blog ~ click ‘Emma’s Hope Book‘ ~ where I write about autism, my daughter and the hope she gives me for this world and all the people in it.


Please don’t forget to ‘like’ my ‘Ariane Zurcher Designs‘ Facebook page, by clicking on the link or at the bottom of this post and if you’d like to receive additional posts from this blog, be sure to sign up and follow!  I will post once a week or so.

I’d love to hear from all of you ~ what inspires you?