Oksana Prokopenko: Icons and More

30 04 2010

After waiting, planning, working, praying,the much anticipated art exhibit is almost here: my one person art exhibit-

Oksana Prokopenko: Icons and More

– is three weeks away tonight. Here is my gorgeous postcard invitation, if you’d like to receive one – send me an email and I’ll be sure to get one over to you!

Read more here...

Oksana Prokopenko: Icons and More

Memories – Oksana Prokopenko

11 11 2009


The Image Not Made By Human Hand

The Image Not Made By Human Hand




I got this photo yesterday and it brought a wave of emotions and memories. This is the first icon that I made in glass. This is the one that got it all started. I carried this image in my mind for years.
It’s a very strong icon, strength being a spiritual quality primarily, and aesthetic one when it come to icons.

I remember being taken over by something larger than life itself from the very start. The only way to describe the creative process that was happening is to call it mystical: time expanded and stopped, eternity took over, glass seamlessly flowed into place, all the while I existed in a state of profound peace.

When it was done, my husband and other practical voices around me strongly advised me to put a price tag on it and put it out on the market. Instead, again in that same state of peace and quiet, I brought it to a friend’s house-a friend who happened to be an Augustinian priest. His house was filled with monks and nuns that day, something was celebrated when they looked at it, their faces changed and there was quiet in the room. My husband knew what I had known from the start-this was not for sale, neither was is for keeps.

The icon now is the sole image in the office of that priest, who is now the Head of the Augustinian Order of the Eastern Hemisphere, in Villanova, PA. Everyone walking into his office sees it. He told me, ” I sit them in front of it, and leave them for a few minutes alone, and half of their problems go away. ” Those that do not, acquire a different taste, a different perspective.

I sometimes get asked, why did I let that one, the first one go, without even taking a picture? Well, not taking a picture was silly, I agree but letting it go was not. It was an act of reciprocity, what I received – I shared. And in giving it away- I came alive, and continued on creating, or as iconographers say — co-creating.

The icons travel. Sometimes, when there is a place for an icon out there, and in a strange mystical way, spirit (what they call inspiration in the art world) finds an iconographer somewhere and besieges him to create. And create he does, not knowing where the icon will go, not knowing why. But trusting, trusting fully, listening, following on the subtlest of hints, and then letting go.

Finding the Muse – Andrea Quenneville

5 06 2009

I’ve spent the past few months focusing on my family and settling into our new home and community. Now that I am ready to restart my business, I find that I’m frequently at a loss for new ideas. What inspiration I do have seems to come at awkward moments when I can’t get to my studio and once I’m finally able to sit down, I have trouble translating the ideas into tangible creations. Here are a few of the things I am trying to get myself out of this dry spell and rediscover the muse:

  • Visiting galleries and artisan markets to admire the work of others
  • Going for walks, hikes and bicycle rides in areas of natural beauty to look for new color combinations and intriguing shapes
  • Visiting museums to learn from work outside my usual mediums
  • Giving myself permission to take a break for a weekend or a week in order to consciously remove some of the stress I am creating for myself
  • Challenging myself to create one thing every day for a set amount of time while being careful not to overdo it and get burned out
  • Finding new sources for supplies, preferably local stores and not catalogs or online shops
  • Reorganizing my existing supplies, as handling them often generates ideas
  • Taking digital photos, especially macros, and then examining the patterns and textures I’ve captured
  • Reading a book or watching a movie, because sometimes settings and themes used in the stories provide inspiration

I hope that some of these will prove useful to others!

Andrea blogs at Thoughts from Ms. Q

Education – Annette Piper

18 05 2009

Educating yourself and your clients should be a very important aspect of your creative business.

Naturally, you, as the creative talent behind your endeavour need to know the materials you work with, how they can be worked most effectively and how to look after them.

Experience will count for a lot, particularly in the skills knowledge area, however specific materials knowledge is very important and your customers will appreciate your expertise.

Don’t necessarily accept what a supplier of your materials says – particularly if they are a new supplier or not well known to you. They may be repeating something they have heard, were told, or, unfortunately in some cases, making it up to ‘sound good’.

By asking lots of questions of your suppliers, they will hopefully take on board your interest in the facts and bolster their own knowledge. You will benefit from their efforts of educating themselves and in the process learn more yourself.

Seek out information through courses, appropriate texts, information sites and forums. If someone not qualified offers you their opinion on materials, take it on board – but question everything if you’re unsure. Even professionals get second opinions!

As a gemmologist and jewellery designer, I am fortunate to have a good knowledge of gemstones from my years of study and work in the trade. However, even I get occasions when I’m not quite sure if a stone I am buying is represented correctly. It may be just a little niggle of not being sure, but I’ve found it’s a wise niggle to listen to!

It can be quite an adventure to educate myself further on a little known stone and ensure that I know exactly what it is I am working with. The end result of course, is that my clients know precisely what each stone in a piece is, including any treatments it may have had.

Be sure to share your expertise with your customer.  On the other hand, don’t overwhelm them. Offer your knowledge as part of the selling process. They will gain confidence that you know what you are talking about and in time you will become an expert in your field – at least to them.

Know your materials - can you name all the gemstones pictured here?

Know your materials - can you name all the gemstones pictured here?

 To read more from Annette, visit her blog at http://annettepiperjewellery.blogspot.com and view her jewellery at www.annettepiper.com

If only I had known… – Annette Piper

17 04 2009

Ah yes, if only I had known … there are so many things in life that could have been better with the aid of hindsight.  A wonderful thing hindsight, but in a way – it takes away all the surprise!!  Here are a few of my “if only” moments …


If only I had known gemstones would one day take over my life and a good proportion of my house!   I worked with gemstones since my earliest working days but never imagined they could have become such a big part of my life!   And the storage issues are a nightmare – they have to be there to see and to touch and to feel, but there is just not enough shelving in my whole house to accommodate them all!   When we built my workroom I blindly thought that would be enough shelving.  Ha.  How could I have been so utterly wrong?


If only I had known that jewellery making was to be my future I would have paid a lot more attention to the jewelers when I was working in the trade and would have taken them up on their offers to let me have a go at the bench!  As it was I only picked up bits and pieces from them (but all valuable nevertheless) and then had to pay to do lessons! 


If only I had known the Aussie dollar was going to tumble in relation to the US dollar last year I could have bought so much more stock and saved some $!   I remember that the AUD was almost at parity and I was actually thinking ‘but I don’t need anything else’.  How absolutely mistaken I was – I ALWAYS need more – especially gemmies.  Now I just have to pay so much more for them … it has slowed down my purchases, but certainly hasn’t stopped them!


If only I had known the satisfaction I would get from creating and selling my creations I would have started a lot sooner.  It has made me a happier, more rounded person being able to fulfill my creative outlet and sharing my passion with the world!  Of course, others could call me addicted, but hey, nothing’s perfect!



Bright red bamboo coral - if only I had known it would have been so hard to get really nice quality pieces - I would have bought a lot more!

Bright red bamboo coral - if only I had known it would have been so hard to get really nice quality pieces - I would have bought a lot more!


 To read more from Annette, visit her blog at http://annettepiperjewellery.blogspot.com and view her jewellery at www.annettepiper.com

A Sign Of Times – Oksana Prokopenko

31 03 2009


St Francis         At a recent art show, what was most on view was not art but human anxiety over the current economic situation.  Sales were slim to none. Mood was grim and all talk had to do with bank bail outs. Not your usual happy go lucky opening night.

        It was only natural for  artists showing to get uneasy, if not downright scared.  Those of us with day jobs quietly promised to do a better job so as to keep it safe.  Those of us without- afterall, we make art! at least that’s how the reasoning went for years- well, we entered into a heated discussion of why exactly do we do what we do.  Questions like these seem to generate a lot more fire (and not just smoke) when economy slows, slumping art sales.  So why do we?

        This is where one could potentially write a multi point list of all the various personal, spiritual, societal, cultural, etc  etc etc reasons for making art.  And they were listed, vocally so, then and there at the art show (and elaborated further during the days after). 

        Watching and listening to all this was a much older lady,  a great fan of the gallery, and a supporter of the arts-

-an emotional/psychological supporter which, even these days I would argue, is at least equally as important as all other support. Though the  lack of the latter, in particular financial, support caused the discussion in the first place. 

 She touched my shoulder gently and, addressing all of us, said with deep gentleness in her voice: “Seeing all of your, young people, work – it makes me so happy, thank you!” 

       There was a palpable shift in the mood.  Question answered.

She then leaned into me, and whispered: “ Good choice with St Francis. Good for the times!”  Now, I was happy too. 

Turn your boring wardrobe into a canvas for Color! – Heather Hertziger

12 03 2009

Color can be very scary for some people. Look at your closet right now, how much of it is black, gray, beige, brown, and white? Are you a color-phobe? I’m not here to scold you or try to talk you out of your fear of color. I am here to tell you that it is OK, and you are not alone. I am here to show you how to disguise your color phobia with three easy pieces.

Outfits with the popular 3/4 length sleeves scream for fabulous bracelets. A brightly colored bracelet not only hides the fact that your clothing color scheme is subdued. If you want to draw attention to yourself a cha-cha bracelet that swings and make noise is an excellent choice, the shorter 3/4 length sleeves seem made for this sort of bracelet as your sleeve will not get caught in the dangles. If you prefer your jewelry to be of the silent type a simple strung bracelet of brightly colored beads is an excellent choice. And if you prefer classic and simple then check out chainmaille. Metal is always a good choice but chainmaille adds an artists touch as well and shows that you are not the type to follow the herd when it comes to choosing jewelry.


Tops with low necklines scream for a fabulous necklace. Bold necklaces draw attention away from your clothing and to your lovely face. Depending on how chunky you like your jewelry to be you have a lot of options. Many artists make fabulous chunky pendants that look great suspended from a simple cord. Strung necklaces with or without pendants are great too. You can combine various materials with different textures to make pieces not only interesting to look at but interesting to touch and fun to wear.

 purplefantasynecklace1 trianglependant
  If your top has full length sleeves or a neckline that doesn’t work well with a necklace then a funky pair of earrings may be just the ticket. Earrings are always fabulous and there are literally 1000’s of designs and styles to choose from. If you are hesitant to wear a really bold necklace or just don’t care for bracelets then earrings are your best friend. If you’ve never worn bold jewelry before then earrings are also the easiest way to start. Without spending to much money you can find yourself a fabulous pair of fun and funky earrings just perfect for you.

blueet2 red31

So, take these tips, and turn your colorless wardrobe into a marvelous canvas on which to display some beautiful artisan jewelry. Whether you buy your jewelry from me, one of the other artisans on this blog, or from an artisan you come across at an art show, wearing a piece of colorful, beautiful handmade jewelry tells those around you “I am fabulous, and I deserve fabulous, colorful things.”

See, I told you a neutral wardrobe wasn’t a bad thing. 🙂

Heather blogs from her home in Watertown, WI. You can find her work on her website, Artfire, Etsy, and 1000 Markets.  You can read her personal blog here.

If I Had Only Known

20 02 2009

As I’ve mentioned before, I got into the jewelry design business completely and totally by accident.  I didn’t take a class, just jumped in with both feet and started messing around and figuring things out for myself. 

Almost immediately, I took my hobby into a business.  Looking back, there are so many things I wish I’d known:

1)  Beads will take over your life

 Do not fight this.  So from the start, get a huge storage system in place.  It will be full sooner than you know.  The quicker you allocate studio space, the quicker you’ll be able to find things when you need them — and know what you have so you don’t keep buying the same supply over and over again!

2)  Take some classes early on. 

I don’t know how long it was before I learned how to make a perfect wrapped loop, but at first, I had no idea how.  And it showed.

dream-2a13)  Explore different mediums

Right now, I’m a stringing/wire work jewelry designer.  I know traditional metalsmithing and lampwork bead making, but I’ve gotten so involved with keeping inventory up for the shows I do that I don’t have much time to look into other things, or hone new skills.  If I’d started exploring new mediums sooner, who knows what I’d be making now … altered art?  Woven wire?  PMC?.  It also would have helped me figure out what direction I wanted to go with my jewelry — what did I want my primary market to be?  I didn’t allow myself enough experimentation time before starting to sell.

4)  If you’re going to sell your work, use the best beads you can afford. 

I should have been pickier when I first started selling my work.  I cringe now at what I was using.  This doesn’t mean you have to start with AAA London Blue Topaz, but if you’re going to be serious about selling, be serious about your beads.

5)  Get a handle on your pricing structure right away. 

I quickly learned that my retail prices weren’t going to support a wholesale after-the-storm-2business.  I also learned that because I started with such cheap beads, it was a little difficult for my customers to get used to prices once I discovered beauties like handmade glass.  (Another good reason to make sure you’re happy with your craft before you start selling it!)  Additionally, decide right away if you’re going after the wholesale or retail market.  Each one has its own peculiarities, and it’s often a good idea to choose one or the other.


I feel pretty lucky that five years later, things have turned out as well as they have.  But it sure would have made a difference if I knew then what I know now.


Lori Anderson sells her jewelry at craft shows  and on www.lorianderson.net, taking time to write on her blog, www.prettythingsblog.com.  She creates in her studio in Easton, MD.

Artistic Block – Annette Piper

17 02 2009

Artistic block – have you ever had it? That awful feeling when you look at your bench or at your drawing board or at a blank canvas or at your sewing basket and go completely and utterly blank? When, if you force yourself, it just turns out wrong?

I was starting to get like that at the end of last year – I was tired out from shows almost every week, from filling orders, from creating when the well was almost dry. Sitting at my bench had become a habit, but one I really wasn’t enjoying. I knew I needed a break.

I have younger children and Christmas is a family time, as well as our summer holidays. So I just stopped. I switched off and tried not to think about work – tried not to think of shows I should/ could do, what I may need in stock, what supplies I had stockpiled, what new supplies I may need… Of course I didn’t always succeed, but by the middle of January (about a month into my ‘holiday’) I was a bit shocked when clients started popping in to look at jewellery or to get something made!

I thought about getting back to work when the children returned to school from their summer vacation at the end of January. After all, I had to prepare the winter collection. But it was so hot, I was still so tired and although I sat at my bench and moved some stones around – well, it just didn’t happen. I got up and left it.

I admit I became somewhat discouraged and the thought that ‘maybe I’ve lost my creativity’ did fleetingly go through my mind. But I decided to put that negative thought away and let it happen when I was ready.

Sure enough a creative burst was just around the corner … well a couple of weeks away, but not long in the course of a year!

I sat down and made a bracelet. Yes, I liked that. But nothing more came for a few days. This was obviously just a creative ‘warm up’.

Next, I did a necklace – it was rather challenging and took me a whole day to get just ‘right’. Then I finished off a necklace that had been sitting there for months – just needing an extra pair of hands to help me finish it off.

A week passed, then I decided to start pulling apart all those pieces that for some reason I had set aside – they either weren’t right or I had grown bored with them before I’d even finished with them. There were quite a lot from the last few years. (Yes, I also procrastinate!)

I deconstructed the first piece, I added some extra bits, I took others away, I fiddled and fussed and before I knew it, I was deeply engrossed in CREATING.

Yay, it’s back! I’m now in full creative mode and loving my work again!

A bright creation in lime, black and silver

A bright creation in lime, black and silver

To read more from Annette, visit her blog at http://annettepiperjewellery.blogspot.com and view her jewellery at http://www.annettepiper.com

Business 101-Chase Designs

28 01 2009

My business is making lampwork beads and marbles.  I have read a few of my colleagues are creating their yearly business plan and that just makes my head spin.  How could I possibly know what I want to accomplish in the next year?  Other than sell enough beads and marbles to pay my bills and save a little cash.  Though these days I think many artisans are just pleased to stay in business.

So, while I don’t write a business plan…ever, I do have goals.  I have a certain amount of product I want to make each day to list on various outlets.  Currently I list on Ebay, Etsy, Artfire, and my own website.  I plan for two new items on ebay, two new items on etsy, one on artfire and one on my website.  That is five new items in the form of a set, marble, pair, daily special, whatever.  Plus I list two of my husbands marbles every day.  Well, six days  a week.  I do not list anything new on Saturdays.

I admit, I almost never make my daily goal of new product.  That takes  a back seat to special orders, which I do get quite often and regularly.  It is still my goal though and when I reach it I get euphoric, then I panic.  It’s kind of sad in a way because I know if I met my goal I am caught up.  Then I am left wondering when the next order is coming in.  I know, I can be a mental case.

So my business plan is to always have new product to offer and of course provide excellent customer service.  Timely emails and fast shipping.  I cannot express to you enough how much these two things matter to our customer base.  Yes, the product should be well made and hopefully desirable, but in this world of do it yourself service, the customer certainly notices when you go the extra distance.