Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This...

A Frog for All Seasons
... but she never mentioned that the days could stretch into weeks...or months...or even years! ;-)

It's been that kind of season for me. I've been rolling along, trying to take one day, and even one moment at a time. Slowly but surely, I'm making positive progress.

As I was dealing with the day-to-day chaos of life, I all but completely withdrew from my online presence. I was absent from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and my blogs; and I apologize for my absence.

The good news is that I'm back, and I'm feeling stronger than I have in quite some time.

Thank you for understanding that I just couldn't squeeze one more thing into my days.

And most of all, thank you for being patient with me.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tips and Tricks from The Studio Hammer Time

Hi. My name is Jean, and I'm addicted to hammering.
For a custom order that I created recently, I estimated that my hammer struck metal more than 11,000 times in a single day.  This type of activity inevitably impacts the body, and I exercise various precautions to minimize it.
In the studio, I consistently do the following:
  1. Wear ear protection...a pair of industrial strength ear muffs in the studio, and a minimum of ear plugs while I'm traveling.
  2. Layer the bench block to absorb the shock of each hammer blow.  My bench block sandwich begins with a folded shop towel on the bottom, a rubber block in the middle, and a steel bench block on top of it all. 
  3. Let the tools work for me.  I first heard this sentiment in a workshop taught by Keith Lo Bue.  Prior to that, I held my hammer in a death grip, and struck it each time as if I was trying to ring the bell at the top of a game on the midway.  Since then, I hold my hammer with the lightest of touches.  (You can literally pull it from my hand mid-motion.)  I also allow the dead weight of the hammer to fall with each stroke instead of the actively swinging it with force toward the bench.
  4. The movement of my arm when hammering is generated from my elbow and not my wrist or hand.
  5. And finally, I take frequent breaks and vary my activities, both within an individual work session and also within the scope of my work week
These are just a few of the steps that I take to avoid bodily harm, and it's my sincere hope that they'll also prolong my ability to happily hammer my way for years into the future.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Walking Down Memory Lane - Ocracoke Bracelet

Recently a friend survived a burglary in her home.  As she described all that she and her husband lost, it was the sentimental nature of what was missing that mattered most.  A piece of jewelry that belonged to her Mother, another that her husband gave her when they were dating, and several costume pieces that took her to a specific time in her life.  All held a special place in her heart; she never thought to photograph them; and now they exist only in her memory.
As we talked about the contents of our jewelry boxes, we realized that neither of us treasured the monetary value of what they contained nearly as much as we do our connection to each piece.

I have several similar boxes at home.  Once or twice a year, I spread their contents on the bed around me and "Remember when..." with each of the pieces.  In the past, these walks down memory lane were solitary excursions.  With my friend's journey in mind, I'm about to change that. 

The photos here are the first of many that I'll share with you.  Each represents a treasure of mine that's tucked away in a special place; most hold only sentimental value; and and I'm looking forward to sharing the stories of each and every one of them with you.

Ocracoke Bracelet @2006 - Sterling Silver, Glass, Lead Free Solder, & Paper. 
Each charm on this bracelet features a photo that I created on
Ocracoke Island.  At the time, I was planning to jump from
my career in financial services to my career as an Artist.
Ocracoke Bracelet - @2006 - (Reverse Side)
During the same time, my creative aspirations as an artist were
also shifting from that of a career in  photography to one of working in
mixed media, metals and jewelry. 

On a related note, I'm happy to report that the jewelry that I created for my friend happens to have survived the burglary intact.  It wasn't that the burglar's left it behind!  It's with her today because she wears it on a regular basis.  :-)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mixing and Mingling with the Wonderful Women of Art Is...You!

An early piece.  Words have always
played an  important part in my work.

 My journey to this place in my artistic career has been one of twists and turns with a healthy dose of experimentation in various media.  I began this path as a photographer, dipped my toe into beaded jewelry; painted, collaged, and constructed my way into a mixed media frenzy, and finally in an attempt to narrow my focus and develop a cohesive collection, I passionately ignited my love affair with found objects and metal through the creation of my own collection of jewelry and assemblage. 

Commercially, I've consigned with galleries, wholesaled to boutiques, partnered in a teaching studio, owned a gallery, traveled the retail show circuit, and sold my work via the Internet.  Through the years as my life's circumstances changed, my career adjusted accordingly.

Teaching in one form or another has always been a part of my path.  I approached it passionately and somewhat naively as I began to lay claim to the title of "Artist", and my pursuit of it has grown as I have.  Two years ago, I blissfully arrived in a place of confidence and security.  As this new reality dawned on me, I realized that I was willing to give fully and freely to my students.  I mean 100% freely...as in no holding back...no secrets...and a willingness to share every single bit of my knowledge and experience.  Thus began my search for the perfect place to begin the next phase of my journey.

Here's a sneak peak at the cover.
Please click the photo to get your very own!
Enter Salianne and Ellen, two lovely ladies who are the creative force behind the inimitable "Art Is...You" family of retreats.  As I researched teaching possibilities, I heard tales of these women, their retreats, the sense of community that they create, and the confidence that is inherently being built among their attendees.  I'm honored to be teaching with them for the first time on Monday, October 13th, in a class titled, "My Favorite Things".  These generous women have gone out on a limb in inviting me, a relatively unknown teacher nationally, to participate at Art Is...Stamford, and for that I'll be forever grateful.

As they say, "The cream always rises.", and I just learned that Salianne and Ellen and their Art Is... Retreats are being honored by being included in "Mingle", the premier publication featuring "a visual feast of imaginative gatherings...along with the uplifting stories behind uniquely creative get togethers."  Kudos, ladies!!!  I'm so proud to know you and to play even a small part in the amazing phenomenon that is Art Is...!

One of my samples from "My Favorite Things".
Please click this image to register online.


Tips and Tricks from The Studio Making Multiples

For this order of 150 pieces, each finished necklace featured
the sentiment"Remember to Remember". 
Pulling only these stamps streamlined the process of creating  for me.

When creating a series of similar pieces for an order, I pull only the stamps that I'll use for the project.  Then I place them, with the textured side toward me, directly in front of my bench block.  This provides easy orderly access, and it also eliminates the extra time that I'd spend looking for the correct stamp again...and again...and again.  :-)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Memories of May - ReMe Retreats Blog Hop Part III

Years ago I dreamed of hosting an event.  I knew that it would take place on Ocracoke Island; I knew, before I even laid eyes on it, that The Inn on The Sound would be our home; I knew that our time together would be art-centric while at the same time encompassing so much more than art; and I knew that throughout the experience I'd be surrounded by people I love.  Somehow I knew ReMe before the word was ever spoken.

Our signature prayer flags carry blessings to points near and far.

Penny, Jodi, and Jean
Artists and Partners in ReMe.
(Photo by Deborah Belica.)
Our ReMe Retreat – Ocracoke – May 2014 exceeded my wildest expectations, and I've been forever changed by it. 

I'm grateful to be partnering with Jodi Ohl and Penny Arrowood in this labor of love that we call, "ReMe".  Each is one of the most wildly talented, creative, and hard working women I know. 

Theresa Zurku
Den Mother Extraordinaire

I'm thankful that my oldest and dearest friend, Theresa Zurku, was able to join us as she served as our Den Mother and gave her heart and soul to the planning and execution of our Inaugural ReMe Retreat. 

The welcoming porch at
Books To Be Red

I'm amazed at the way my heart continues to be touched by Leslie Lanier... owner of Books To Be Red on Ocracoke Island... for the manner in which she continues to support my artistic development, and for the hospitality and love that she showed to each and every one of us during our time together at ReMe.  

Our sunset session
with Ann Erringhaus
I'm humbled by the manner in which Ann Erringhaus... the multi-talented artist, healer, teacher, author, and owner of Oscar's Bed and Breakfast... embraced us and enhanced our individual experiences during our time together at ReMe.

And finally I'm utterly astonished by each and every one of the brave hearted women who took a leap of faith and joined us for our ReMe Retreat on Ocracoke Island in May.   It's hard to imagine a more intuitive, kindhearted, capable, and generous group.  Our dreams became reality because of them.

The Women of ReMe-Ocracoke-May 2014
as photographed by Deborah Belica.
Together, we celebrated our similarities and embraced our differences.  I'm confident that the sense of community that we forged will bridge the time that we're apart and the geographic distances that separate us. 

These ladies have set the bar high for future guests of ReMe, and they've reinforced what we knew intuitively... those who approach their ReMe Experience with an open heart will be rewarded in the most unexpected ways.  This applies to students, teachers, and all who play a part in the magic that is ReMe.    
Prior to hosting our first ReMe Retreat, it was challenging for me to fully express the depth and breadth of all that the experience meant to me.  Now, with our actual Inaugural ReMe Retreat behind us, my challenge lies in editing my thoughts and feelings to an appropriate length for a blog post or two.  Please wish me luck as my post continues on the ReMe Blog!

To read and see more about this Remarkable ExtraordinaryMemorable Experience that is ReMe, please follow this link to The ReMe RetreatBlog.  There you’ll be able to register to win a custom piece of my jewelry too! 

These etched solid copper cuffs are
an enduring reminder of our treasured memories of ReMe.

(To keep up with all that’s happening in my world please enter your email address in the box on the right side of this page, *like* the Facebook Page for Jean Skipper Originals, and *like* the ReMe Retreats Facebook Page too! )


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Artistic Inspiration - Avery Lucas

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; it will always be home in my heart; and I actively seek reasons to visit.  Last year, on one such occasion, I participated in a weekend of making in a class lead by Bob Ebendorf at The Society For Contemporary Craft.

During our time together, Bob enthused about the annual Metals Symposium hosted at East Carolina University (ECU) in Greenville, North Carolina.  I left him knowing without a doubt that January would find me there.  As expected, I attended with my friend and fellow artist, Penny Arrowood. 

My time at ECU was a catalyst in a shift in the way that I'm thinking about my creative pursuits, my career as an artist, and this time in my life.  I was overstimulated in the best possible way, and one of the highlights for me was an a demonstration by Avery Lucas.

This life-sized piece is smaller than Envelop.
Each of Avery's creations is constructed from
one piece of copper.  And yes, this "Hand Made Tray" 
actually features her hands.
I'd read about Avery's work in the promotional materials for the conference.  Her piece, Envelop, featuring a pair of hands in glorious detail, was featured in several blog posts, and I was instantly drawn to them.  Then on opening night of the symposium during the art walk, I saw them for the first time in person.  They were even better than I'd imagined, and their sheer size blew me away.  Based on the photos, I was expecting a jewelry sized piece, and I was stunned by their larger-than-life reality.

Avery is humble and overflowing with talent.  She opened my eyes to the possibility of working larger with the same skill set and the same tools that I currently use in the creation of my jewelry.  She also provided me with the opportunity to witness the real life process of chasing and repousse for the first time.

From here, I'll let the photos tell the story... 

From her initial sketches to the finished pieces,
this body of work cohesively represents the artist's vision. 





Avery's work area.  As soon as I returned, I ordered
my first block of pitch.  I'm not sure exactly where
it will take me; but I'm looking forward to the process.


I was thrilled to add this brooch, Ameba, to my collection.
It's a miniature version of all that I love about Avery's work. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

In No Particular Order - Asheville North Carolina at Christmas

For my birthday during the holidays, Ken and I snuck away for a few days to Asheville, North Carolina.  Asheville is a funky artsy foodie town that we love to visit. 

One of our intentions during this trip was to pay our first visits to The Biltmore House and The Grove Park Inn, as somehow these destinations have managed to elude us in the past.  We accomplished both in high style, and we discovered a few unexpected surprises along the way too.

The photos will take it from here...

The Flat Iron Sculpture on Wall Street,
and near Early Girl Eatery. and
other downtown attractions.
This drive-by photo couldn't possibly capture
Christopher Mello's enchanting garden in West Asheville.

The Spa at The Grove Park Inn
is definitely on my radar for a future visit.
Photos don't capture the sheer majesty of the twin stone
fireplaces in the lobby of the Grove Park Inn.
(The nappers in the rockers tickled me too!)
We enjoyed a delicious brunch with a top notch view here.

The Grove Park Inn is known internationally
for its holiday gingerbread contest and exhibit.
This one wasn't even among the official winners!
Christmas Keepsake, Dare Johnson, Suffolk, VA
A close up of a piece created by
The Irish Team, Winston Salem, NC

Keeping a watchful eye over the entrance to
The Biltmore House.
We tend to be in the moment, and
except for a few selfies, we forget
to take pictures together when traveling. 
This one's a keeper. 

Mayfel's Restaurant warmed this vegetarian's heart with
a homemade Sloppy Jane with sweet potato fries.
(Diverse vegetarian options at home are few and far between.)
Ken continued his love affair with Gumbo,
and the beignets made a perfect ending
to the meal and trip for both of us. :-)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Reach and Win!

We're embarking on the fourth and final week of the First Ever ReMe Blog Hop, and you'll have one final chance to win our original artwork here and on the ReMe Blog.

Your comment here will earn one entry into my personal drawing for the One-of-a-Kind Reach Resin Pendant shown below.  Your comment on the ReMe Blog post this week will earn one entry into the ReMe drawing for my hand stamped Rest  Relax  Renew Collection Necklace shown below. Share either post, and return to comment with the details of your share, and you'll earn an extra entry for that drawing too. All comments and shares made by midnight on Sunday, March 2nd will be included, and both winners will be announced on Monday, March 3rd.

If you're so inclined, please also subscribe to my blog here and the ReMe Blog. We have a few "subscribers only" surprises up our sleeves, and I wouldn't want you to miss a single one of them.   Now, on to my official blog post...

One-of-a-Kind Reach Resin Pendant
Comment below, and you'll be entered to win.
My word for the day is "Reach".  It holds so many meanings for me that it's hard to know where to begin.  Immediately I'm filled with thoughts of "Reach for your dreams." and ."Reach for the stars.".  And while these are important mantras in life, recently I've also been reminded of other ways in which reaching is essential to my happiness in life.  My short list of these thoughts follows:

Reach for the ones you love.  Life is too short, and our time together is precious.

Reach for the ones you don't love so much.  They need it more than we know.

Reach back.  When someone extends their hand or their heart, reach back.  It takes strength to accept love, kindness, and yes even help from another.

Reach without being asked.  When someone's in need, reach out to them.  This can be as simple as helping to unload groceries when you see them struggling.  Reaching doesn't have to be a grand act with a well thought plan behind it.

Reach anonymously.  The joy is in the reaching, and inevitably we gain more than we give.

Reach when you feel like it.

Reach when you don't.

Reach a place of contentment, and celebrate success.  Amidst all of this reaching, make time to enjoy and appreciate those we love and all that we're accomplishing.

Rest Relax Renew Collection Necklace by Jean Skipper

Now it's your turn to reach out to me.  Please leave a comment...any comment...below, and you'll be entered to win my One-of-a-Kind Reach Resin Pendant.  Reach out to us at ReMe Retreats, and you'll learn how to win my Rest Relax Renew Collection Necklace and other original artwork by Jodi Ohl and Penny Arrowood.  Please click here to visit the ReMe Blog now.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In No Particular Order - Finding Inspiration At The Scrap Yard

I travel through life with my camera by my side, often needing to remind myself to experience the moments instead of trying to capture them in pictures.  While gathering photos during my adventures, I mentally write narratives to go with them.  I do this with every intention of putting pencil to paper as soon as I get home.  Then, reality strikes.  I return to real life; I'm pulled in a million directions at one time; and I'm off and running before I ever write a single word. 

This is the first in a series of posts that I'll call, In No Particular Order.  Each will provide me with an opportunity to walk down memory lane, rediscovering my inspiration while sharing glimpses of my life and thoughts with you.  Now, In No Particular Order, on to my first post...
So much to see, and so little time!  For safety's sake, individual wandering time
at the scrap yard is limited to lunchtime when the machinery is nonoperational.

Shortly after the holidays, I ventured with Jodi Ohl and Mary Neligan on a trip that we'd planned and canceled multiple times.  We set out with destinations in and around Raleigh, Cary, and Apex, North Carolina in mind.  We were in search of sales opportunities for our work, and on the way, we planned a quick lunchtime stop at Lee Iron and Metal in Sanford, NC.  The day was brisk and bright, and I'll pick up my narrative in the photos from this adventure.

Inspiration overload under a Carolina Blue Sky!  We made a beeline for
the corners where we'd be most likely to find cast off treasure.
To the untrained eye, this looks like a pike of junk.  We see fish tails and jewelry components.

Circuit boards aplenty! 
These pieces weigh a ton, and they sparked all kinds of creative dreaming.
Imagine all that we could make with them if only we had welding skills! 
(Not To Self:  Add welding classes to my bucket list.)
I've been working through a jewelry collection that's
inspired by my real life photos.  This one will serve as
inspiration for the next piece that I create.
On a micro level, I was captivated by the metal shavings and
parts and pieces that wear their history in a weathered patina.
Mary, in her element and on the hunt for Funky Fish Parts.
Day glow vests are our mandatory matching fashion statement at the scrap yard.
A perfect end to a perfect day.  :-)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Will You Accept Custom Orders at Jean Skipper Originals?

These samples were created
for the Cypress Pointe
Fire and Rescue Department. 
Will I accept custom orders?!?!?  In a word, ABSOLUTELY!  No project is too large, too small, or too outside of the box for consideration.

When customers share their stories about the manners in which my jewelry touches their lives, it means so much to me that I'm often brought to laughter, tears, or both at the same time.  These feelings become even more intense when I'm able to fulfil a request for personalized custom creation.  Perhaps it's because I know that I'm creating exactly the right piece for exactly the right person at exactly the right time.  Each one of these opportunities mean the world to me.

Here are a few visual examples of custom request that I've fulfilled.

This piece is a sentimental favorite
as it's a tribute to
Five Fallen American Heroes,
including SFC Alwyn C. Cashe
who's been nominated for
The Medal of Honor.

During the past few years,
I've created hundreds of
"Remember to Remember" pendants
for a corporate client.

No matter how large or how small the order,
I personally create each individual piece of
jewelry that bears the name of
Jean Skipper Originals.

A departure from my signature copper, these
sterling treasures were created with
three fashion conscious young ladies in mind.
If you or someone you know are seeking something special for your...

     ...sports team
     ...church group
     ...and just about any other purpose that you can imagine

I'd love to discuss your project with you to see how I can help.  Please contact me anytime at jeanskipper@jeanskipper.com  .