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


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

Giving Back – Annette Piper

19 11 2008

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

 – Winston Churchill


How much do you participate in your community or in your artistic field?  Not just in selling your wares and promoting yourself or your goods – but actively helping organizations that you are surrounded by?   


Is there an organization within your community that you admire for what they do?   Is there a professional organization that fosters new artisans/artists?  Is there a group that helped you in the past?


I live in a small rural community.   Every organization (and there are a LOT of them) fundraise to meet their expenses or to achieve their goals.   They are all run by volunteers.   I have found that I no longer have the time to sit on stalls all day, to spend a day baking, or to help organize a fundraising function. 


However I do have a product that people appreciate and want.  This makes it ideal for me to support these organizations by the donation of a piece of jewellery.  The jewellery is either raffled or auctioned – either way someone gets some lovely jewellery and the organization gets much needed funds!  


Of course, they don’t ALWAYS want jewellery, but three or four times a year  I will donate an item or two to organizations in my local town or the surrounding district.    And you know what, it feels GREAT!


How about supporting a local artisan group by giving lessons or talks to young people interested in getting into the artistic field?   Encourage their efforts and support their endeavours.  


Hopefully your generosity will inspire others to do the same.  And you will benefit by getting the satisfaction of strengthening and helping your community.

This coral, lava and silver necklace raised several hundred dollars for a neighbouring school.

This coral, lava and silver necklace raised several hundred dollars for a neighbouring school.


“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”

– Aesop


To read more by Annette, see her blog, Under the Loupe and view her jewellery at www.annettepiper.com.

Texture – Annette Piper

18 07 2008

Have you ever looked closely at gemstones?   They are like small worlds with their own character and each is unique in its patterns, shape and internal beauty.   Whilst texture often only relates to the ‘feel’ I can often get the effect of texture from the look of a stone.

The pattern of the stone, perhaps it is orbicular, banded or variegated.   The stone could be transparent, translucent or opaque.  The colour may be solid or shaded.  All of these factors build to a visual texture of depth even though you know the actual surface will be cool and smooth.   This ability makes jewellery very tactile.  People want to FEEL it.


There are stones that do have a different surface texture of course.  Lava, for example is aerated and pitted.   Some jaspers feel almost like cold velvet.   Tumbled stones are smooth but may have pits and bumps across their surface.   Faceted stones are often hard and almost sharp along their edges.   Pearls and organic gemstones such as amber and shell, have beautiful surface textures caused directly by nature, even though they may be more fully revealed by man’s intervention.


Adding levels of textural interest into jewellery is possible by mixing the smooth with rough, the dark with the light, the patterns with the plain, lustrous with matte.   Be adventurous and experiment – you never know what brilliant amalgamation could emerge.


Textural contrast - matte jasper with lustrous pearls

Textural contrast - matte jasper with lustrous pearls

The Journey—Lisa Liddy

10 07 2008

Sometimes the creative journey seems a lot like air travel today. Not nearly as easy as it was years ago! Lots of missed connections and extra costs. Delays and a few unexpected surprises on the trip.

I’ve hit those snags and delays of late so I’m going to take this “journey” more in terms of how I ended up creating jewelry and developing a business out of it. I liked how Lori Anderson handled it in her post awhile back.

I’ve always done crafty things. Sewing was my primary love for years and years until my daughter was born. I’ve not sewn creatively since then. The floor was my preferred place to layout and pin patterns…not conducive with an infant/toddler. And somewhere along the lines “they” resized the patterns on me! (OK, it was baby weight that never left, but the thrill of making my own clothes left around that time). 

I dabbled in beading years and years ago when I was single with a beaded Christmas tree…made two of them! And then moved on to other things. Have crocheted a bit, fabric painted, and a few other activities through the years.

When Emma was 6 or 7 she was invited to a birthday party at a bead store…the girls made little strung necklaces from kits that they chose. She ended up at several and had her own party there one year too. Since the moms stayed closer for those parties, I spent some time poking around the store and occasionally found time to go and sit for a couple hours working on projects for me or as gifts. I learned how to crimp endings and add clasps and the general mechanics of finishing off necklaces and bracelets (as well as an understanding that buying retail was going to get really expensive!).

I wasn’t hooked  yet. But it was coming. I had discovered Ebay and developed an interest in vintage jewelry that never really went anyway…I’ve got a box of old earrings that have been turned into holiday wreaths and mini-trees for charity over the years. Somehow though in the course of searching, i stumbled on lampwork beads and the obsession was born. I was fascinated with these glass beauties and the detail in them. I bought and bought and developed relationships and friendships with beadmakers all over the world. It was the bonus in the purchase as I had become a bit of a homebody: husband traveled every week, main business was homebased and computer driven, daughter was fairly high maintenance. I didn’t get out much for several years. So my online beadie friends were a godsend. A couple would suggest that I should learn to make my own beads (a couple others thought that was a bad idea! 🙂 ) and as much as I love the beads, I realize that I have no time in my life to become as skilled as my taste in beads would require. But I digress.

After collecting beads for a bit, I was making them into jewelry (I actually started with natural stones and crystals and Bali silver but moved on from there to almost exclusively lampwork, freshwater pearls and Hill Tribe silver). In late fall 2001 while we were still reeling from the devastation of 9/11, my husband found out he was losing his job. He stayed on to close down the corporate office (which moved back east) and then tried to find work in the hospitality business for over a year. During that time, I ramped up the book design business and he took over as the “senior editor/delivery boy” enabling me to grow my business enough to keep us afloat on one income for awhile. He started working for one of my clients and eventually ended up working for the large publisher who purchased my client’s business.

But it was a long and stressful side trip…I worked endless hours at times and found comfort and sanity by having a bead tray nearby. I could lay out the beads and push them around into various designs even for just 15 minutes late at night. It calmed me. I usually started several projects that way and a week later might get to the point where I could string them. Finishing them off might be another week later in stolen moments. Friends and family wanted to buy what I was making. Somewhere along the way I was introduced to Nirvana (the gemshows in Tucson, not the band!) and Joolz by Lisa was born.


I still struggle with finding the time for ongoing creation, not to mention the venue for successful selling and I love to be surrounded by my treasured beads. It’s a topic for another day but my office is a co-mingling of my two lives. To the left of the computer are all things book design. To the right, all things bead and jewelry related. Those who have seen it are a little unsure how I get anything done!

Let the journey continue.


Balancing Career with Life – Annette Piper

18 06 2008

It is so easy to get caught up with work. As often struggling artists/artisans we put 110% into our work – to creating, to promoting, to selling and we often fret when we are prevented from doing so. Sometimes we have to step back, take a breath and a good look around us and assess our lives.

The old saying that you should “work to live, not live to work” is true. Admittedly some amazing artists put their lives on hold while they worked and worked and worked. And the body of work they created has afforded them a measure of fame (often after their decease, however). But what was the quality of their lives as a consequence?

We mustn’t let our health suffer – we must take time to stop, to rest, to eat healthy foods and to get sufficient exercise. Our minds are important too – we need time to reflect, to refresh our perspective, to recharge our batteries. To let new ideas flow and new creations emerge without being forced.

What about our families? The love that our families can give us and the esteem in which they hold us will be for the type of person that we are, not just for the art we are able to create. Do you want to see your children grow and be a part of their lives? Do you want to be a valued and integral part of your family’s life?

When I started designing and creating jewellery, things accelerated incredibly fast. I found myself busier than I had ever been and surprisingly stressed at the success I was experiencing. But I was too busy to do things with my family and I also became very ill. Even though becoming ill was unpleasant, it made me stop and assess – and I realized that, for me at least, living my life and being enriched by my art, but not controlled by it, was the key to my lasting happiness. And years down the track, it is still working.


Garnet jade and peridot sterling silver necklace

Keep your work fresh and new with a balanced look at your life.

Annette Piper Dip. Gem. Handcrafted Jewellery
Under the Loupe

Style – Lori Anderson

25 05 2008
necklaceStyle. When I think of style, I think of what makes a person unique, what makes them special, what makes them THEM.
Some people express their style by their hair style (or color!), clothing, or mannerisms. My personal clothing style is pretty bland. I own a short-sleeved and long-sleeved t-shirt in pretty much every color available, plain and unadorned, and wear that with jeans. My personality, and my style, comes through when I wear all kinds of jewelry with those plain, boring t-shirts. The shirt may be ordinary, but the jewelry is anything but!
When customers visit my booth at a craft show and pick up an exciting, whimsical necklace, or an elegant, glittering bracelet, they often say, “I love it, but I don’t know what I’d wear it with.” I always have to chuckle and say, “See what I’m wearing?” Yep, it’s jeans and a t-shirt, and that necklace they just complimented me on five minutes ago. They didn’t even notice the clothing — they zeroed in on the jewelry. And that’s my style. I’m “The Jewelry Lady”. To heck with the latest fashions. It’s all about the jewelry I choose to wear each and every day.

Pick your own style. Make it your own. Have fun reading up on “the latest” but don’t stress over it. Your style should be like your signature, unique and YOURS.

Discover it, explore it, and celebrate it!