Power Struggles

Power Struggles

Above is one of the images my teenage daughter sent me saying that she wants to dye her hair pink. I don’t have a problem with that, except for the fact that her hair is already pretty fried from having gone platinum (like Gwen Stefani) for years, and only in the last year plus has she agreed to get highlights, (less damaging) instead of full on platinum. Even so, her hair is not in good shape, we just had to trim it again, and I worry that it will get even worse if she goes pink. So we discussed. And then we discussed more, and there was alot of disagreement, interrupted by watching You Tube videos of a number of young girls dying their hair various shades of pink and how they did it. Some were incredibly compelling and I wavered between thinking maybe I should dye my hair pink, to sternly telling myself this was an idea I would quickly regret and reminding myself to get back on track as this wasn’t about ME, this was about my daughter and how could I best support her without her doing something that might just destroy what was left of her hair. Not my body, not me, get out of the way…

Last night I barely slept. Because this is just the sort of thing that keeps me up at night. And yes, I was aware, at 2AM that I was incredibly fortunate to be thinking about my daughter’s hair color and not something actually serious. I even said a silent – thank you – to the great unknown. And then I remembered that when my son was my daughter’s age he went in for some serious ink and came home with a massive tattoo that he now wants to have removed. I didn’t love that tattoo, though I rather like a couple of the others that he got, but again, not my body, not me, get out of the way…

My job is to support my children, now almost adults. This is easier said than done, however. I figure it’s my job to give them good information so they can make, hopefully, great decisions. Unlike my own young adult self who made a series of questionable and even very, very bad decisions! (I will spend the remaining years of my life apologizing to my mother for what I put her through.) But mostly I need to not engage in anything that starts feeling like a power struggle, because, in the long run, I’m not going to win, and anyway it’s ultimately counter productive. Again, not my body, not about me, get out of the way…

All of this got me thinking about designing (see, I told you my thoughts ricochet like a pin ball during the wee hours of the night/morning) and how similar these kinds of challenges are when designing and stitching. Often when designing I begin with a sketch. Sometimes that sketch evolves, but other times it’s simply the starting point. I have to be willing to let go of the initial idea. Some ideas are definitely more bossy than others. I have to go with where the design leads me, sometimes down unexpected paths. But most of all, I have to get out of the way…

Below is a sketch of a bracelet idea I had using 18 Kt Gold and a variety of green colored gemstones.

Preliminary Sketch for Bracelet

That idea eventually turned into this 18 Kt Brushed Gold Bracelet with multi-colored Tourmaline.

18 Kt Brushed Gold & Tourmaline Bracelet

Below is my sketch for what would finally become my Cookies Delight Quilt. The Pattern for this has been written and I’m just waiting on a couple of things before releasing it as a PDF with detailed instructions on how to make and stitch it.

Cookies Delight Sketch

My Cookies Delight Quilt, using Sue Spargo’s wonderful techniques for layering and stitching, free motion quilted and bound!

Finished Quilt

This is the preliminary very rough sketch I did for the piece I’m currently working on, which was begun in a workshop I took a few weeks ago with Sue Spargo.

Landscape Sketch

This is where it’s going or maybe I should say leading me… I am definitely having to follow this one as it’s careening off the original path I’d set out on. We will see! But that’s also part of the fun – seeing where it goes and doing my best to follow.

Landscape Piece in Progress

I’ve convinced my daughter, for now, to get highlights (compromise) and we’ve bought a “pink conditioner” and will apply that this weekend! Who knows where this may lead?!

Power Struggles

Finding One’s Voice

In January I had the opportunity to go to one of Sue Spargo‘s fabulous workshops in Tucson, Arizona, a place I’d never been. While there I met some lovely people, one of whom was Anna Bates, who has a blog, Woolie Mammoth, a YouTube channel – Quilt Roadies, and blogs for The Quilt Show once a week under the heading – Anna and G on the Road. During the course of our five days together, Anna interviewed me and wrote a lovely post about me and my work. Though I realized afterward that while I sent her photographs of my early designs in fashion and knitting, even a photo of one of my hand thrown and hand painted pots, I didn’t send photos of my jewelry! (insert wide eyed emoji). So here are a few additions to her post…

One of my ring designs in 18 Kt Gold with Sapphires
18 Kt Brushed Gold & Emerald Earrings
Sketch of one of my knit designs
The above sketch made into a knit for Elle Magazine

Because of my conversation with Anna, I reflected on the past (almost) forty years now, when I began my studies at Parsons School of Design and now, when I am learning everything I can about quilting, quilts, dyeing, and manipulating fabric in different ways to create an image, a feeling, an idea…

Another of my knit designs for Elle Magazine
An early design ensemble from my days at Parsons School of Design

All of which led me to a recurring topic – finding one’s artistic voice. How does one find it? How can it be nurtured, cultivated, encouraged?

While listening to a podcast a few weeks ago, two musicians were discussing this very idea and one of them repeated something they’d been told by another artist friend, who basically said – the only way to find your voice is by doing, and in the doing, you will not only find your voice, but it will make itself heard.

I love that! And it aligns with what I have learned through my experiences designing, whether that was fashion, knits, jewelry or quilts and fabric art.

A few months ago I decided I needed to learn how to piece. In quilting terms this is the ability to make something that looks like this: (This hen block was designed by Janet Nesbitt of One Sister.)

I have had a number of design ideas, such as combining pieced blocks with appliqué blocks and overlapping design elements that I cannot realize because there are some pretty basic things I do not know how to do. Piecing was one of them. I’m working on two quilts at the moment that cover all of these things, but in order to do them, and do them well, I need to learn how and then to practice, practice, practice.

So I signed up for Sarah Fielke’s 2019 BOM and began making Janet Nesbitt’s Half Crazy Quilt (which the pieced hen shown above is part of). In addition I joined a craftsy, now Bluprint class – Learn To Quilt with Amy Gibson. And while most of that class I was able to fast forward through, there were a couple of key take-aways that have helped me, such as getting seams to meet up perfectly and squaring up.

With each of these projects I’m learning and in learning how others do it, I am practicing and expanding what I can design, and hopefully my own voice will become clearer and more refined.

Power Struggles

A Work Space of One’s Own

At three in the morning, in a fit of frenzied sleeplessness I decided my work space was in desperate need of reorganization.  And what great idea that comes to you in the wee hours of the morning isn’t a brilliant one?!  However, upon further reflection, I decided reorganizing is not one of my strengths and so, I did what anyone would do. I solicited the help of someone who excels at reorganizing.  Step into the limelight my fabulous husband (FH) and take a bow.  He is extremely good at just this sort of thing.  “Okay,” he said, all business-like, “talk me through this.”  And then proceeded to ask me a series of questions.

From this conversation he prioritized and broke down what I needed to do in manageable steps.  I forgot to take a photograph of the disaster that was once my work space, but this is what it looked like at about the halfway point.

As I was trying to decide what color I should paint that great expanse of white wall (this was a tricky decision as it is a dark room, made even darker by the red carpet I bought decades ago in Turkey) I thought, “I need a design wall!”  This is not essential, after all I have sketch books and a table where I can play with ideas, but a design wall would be really, really nice to have.  So I googled design walls and found some wonderful ones.  I decided I wanted one that is at least 62″ x 72.”  In order to do this I needed to get rid of a great many things scattered all over the place.

I decided on a bright mango color to brighten the room up.  However, as with so many things in life, painting one wall proved more complicated than I anticipated.  I ran into bubbles.  Thousands and thousands of tiny bubbles appeared after the first coat of paint.  I pricked one of them with a pin and, much to my horror, the bubble expanded exponentially, revealing all the coats of paint below the fresh coat I’d just painted, so that I was staring at dry board!  I was so horrified I didn’t have the presence of mind to take photos, but my FH was witness.  I ended up pulling off great sheets of bubbled up paint.  After running to the hardware store for advice, making a couple of emergency phone calls to friends of mine who are far more experienced in painting walls than I am, I finally pulled up as much paint as I could, sanded, dusted, spackled, sanded some more, dusted some more and finally repainted and held my breath.  What should have taken a few hours took more than a day and a half, BUT it came out pretty well, if I do say so myself!  FH had the great idea of hanging my ironing board.walllookingoutThen there was the question of my design wall, which is removable.the-designwallI needed to organize my fabrics and other materials that I use for my jewelry design, such as wax, files, metals, wire, etc. While I was doing all of this, I came across my old portfolio from my days in fashion design and got a little side tracked… croqueparsonsfinalparsonsFinally, after all of that, I got back on track.

And here is the finished space!jewelryfabricwallthewallNow it’s time to get back to work – I have a queen-sized quilt to sandwich, baste and free motion quilt and then there are these little guys who keep calling to me.


A work in progress – Sharkey Dog


The African Rhino and his Friend – Blue Bird


Jewels and Words…

Jewels and Words…

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

Today is the final day of the first leg of my Ariane Zurcher Jewelry trunk show in New York City. Next week I’m in Chicago and the following week Aspen, Colorado. It’s a – three trunk shows, in three cities, in three weeks – tour!

I’ve written about how I started designing jewelry ‘here‘ and about the genesis of my Transition Collection as a way of finding that elusive “balance” of family and work that so many talk about, but that I never seem to actually achieve, ‘here‘.

I won’t go into any of that again, but like everything in life, it’s impossible to compartmentalize career, family, children and friends into neat little boxes where nothing overlaps with anything else.  And even if it were possible, I wouldn’t want to do it.  I love that design influences life and life influences design.  That these different elements weave together to create something unique is what I respond to when I look at any art, whether it’s a painting, ceramics, sculpture, clothing or jewelry.

18 Kt Brushed White Gold, Druzy and Natural Pearl Ring

My daughter, Emma, has begun writing stories.  Those of you who follow my other blog, Emma’s Hope Book, will have likely read some of her writing as I’ve posted it there, with her permission, more and more.  What I love about reading her stories is how unexpected they are.  Every sentence is a surprise, a tiny, sparkling, gem of an idea, beautifully wrapped up in words that take my breath away.

Recently Emma told me she was interested in jewelry!  Before I pack up this trunk show, I plan to ask her to point out a few things she particularly likes.  Words and jewels…  the apple didn’t fall far…

The Process of Creating

The Process of Creating

Ariane Zurcher Jewelry ~ Juno Collection: 18 Kt Brushed Gold Earrings With Removable 18 Kt Brushed Gold Ball and Chain 

Ariane Zurcher Jewelry ~ Juno Collection: 18 Kt Brushed Gold Bracelet With AZ Logo Box Clasp

Ariane Zurcher Jewelry ~ Juno Collection: 18 Kt Brushed Gold Bracelet With AZ Logo Box Clasp

On my other blog ~ Emma’s Hope Book ~ where I write about the ever evolving process of being a parent and human being and how my daughter’s autistic neurology has made me rethink everything I once thought I knew (in the best possible way), I wrote today about her perfecting a “catch” at the trapeze school she has gone to for several years.  You can read the entire post ‘here‘, but that process, hours and hours of practice that led up to the video clip I attached, showing her flying through the air on a trapeze and then letting go and catching another person’s arms, looks so much easier than it actually is.  So much in life is like that.

Most works of art, whether the written word, paintings, sculpture, or things we wear, took time to create.  Like a terrific actor who makes the role they’re playing look believable and natural, luring us into the story so we forget this is someone acting a role from a script they’ve memorized, the most beautiful works of art make us forget there is any process at all.  We have an emotional connection to the art, the hours, days, weeks and even years it may have taken to produce it, is not something we think about.  But usually the process of creating is messy…  in my case the creative process means metal dust gets under my fingernails. My hands, face and clothing become covered in a fine dust.  So much so that once, on my way home, a friendly stranger asked, “Oh!  Are you a mechanic?”  There was a trade school for mechanics across the street and no doubt she assumed I must work or teach there.

Work bench

So I want you to see where I go everyday.  Welcome to my studio!  This work bench is one of two, where I make the models of designs I’ve created, sometimes from a sketch, sometimes from wax I’ve carved or hot wax I’ve shot from a gun, sometimes I just start playing around and things happen, things I hadn’t intended.  Often what I visualize in my mind isn’t at all what I end up creating. Other times it is exactly what I visualized.  But the actual process is always similar.  I have to sit at that bench and work to create anything.  Michael Crichton once said that to become a best-selling author, he had to sit down and actually write.  He used a commercial airline pilot as an example.  He said, “If I am due to pilot a plane filled with people, I can’t say, “You know, I’m not really in the mood to fly today.  Let’s reschedule.”  I love that!  So yeah… I have to show up and do the work…

This is one of a half-dozen sketch books I have.  I always carry a sketch book, a pencil and an eraser with me.  As you can see, I made lots of notes and drew pretty detailed sketches for what I wanted to create.

Sketch for clasp

Ariane Zurcher Jewelry ~ Juno Collection: 18 Kt Brushed Gold Orbs Strung on 22 Kt Gold Chain With 18 Kt Brushed Gold AZ Logo Box Clasp

Ariane Zurcher Jewelry ~ Juno Collection: 18 Kt Brushed Gold Orbs Strung on 22 Kt Gold Chain With 18 Kt Brushed Gold AZ Logo Box Clasp

Ariane Zurcher Jewelry ~ The Back of AZ Logo Box Clasp on Juno Bracelet

Ariane Zurcher Jewelry ~ The Back of AZ Logo Box Clasp on Juno Bracelet

The finished product ~ an 18 Kt Brushed Gold Necklace with Hand Fabricated Box Clasp took a number of tries before it looked like this!  And in the process I went a little box clasp crazy.  I made a square box clasp, an oval box clasp, a rectangular box clasp, a small circle box clasp, a medium-sized circle and a large circle box clasp, I even made a box clasp with a false bottom that no one would see except the wearer.

I’ll have to devote a post to box clasps one day, they are a beautiful thing!

Ariane Zurcher Jewelry ~ Samadhi Collection:  18 Kt Brushed Gold, Labradorite, Pink Tourmaline, Moss Aquamarine, Ruby, Green Aquamarine

Ariane Zurcher Jewelry ~ Samadhi Collection: 18 Kt Brushed Gold, Labradorite, Pink Tourmaline, Moss Aquamarine, Ruby, Green Aquamarine

This Labradorite necklace with gold “bead” began as a sketch on the page opposite the sketches of the clasp.  It went from pencil sketch to this…

Italian Vogue

And eventually ended up worn like this in Italian Vogue!