Think Art Loud

Inspiring, Encouraging, and Promoting the Handmade Arts and Artists

Archive for the ‘Resources’ Category

Ok, so since we’re at the ‘back to school’ time of year, I thought I’d post about the arts and art training, etc. Working in the arts business is difficult for many reasons: not just that it’s a luxury business with high competition and takes much longer to establish than other business, but also from the stand point of education beyond just highschool. Do you go for that BFA or MFA degree from an expensive college? Do you take workshops? Teach yourself? This is a question that I found myself struggling with for quite some time.

After graduating highschool, I went to the local community college to get my Associates of Fine Arts degree. I had it all planned, I was going to get my AFA and then transfer somewhere to get my BFA in Jewelry and Metalsmithing and then go on for my MFA. Where, I hadn’t quite figured out, but that was the plan. By the time I finished my AFA, I had tentatively decided on Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI. I went to visit them, see how my credits would transfer, and so on and so forth. Well, it didn’t quite turn out as I had planned. Sure my credits would transfer just fine and they were very impressed with my transcript, but the more I saw, the less I liked them. I was not at all impressed with the BFA level work that I saw (I’d seen much better work at Delta!), and even less impressed with the work coming out of their jewelry program (which could hardly be called a program or even a concentration when they only offered about 3 classes in jewelry work). Talking with the representative from the art department is what sealed my decision as a resounding ‘no.’ I found him utterly stuck-up, and condescending. It was not his attitude towards WMU (trying to make it sound more impressive than it is) that really bothered me; it was his obvious condescension towards my having gone to a community college that turned me off from the school (especially since said community college has a ranking as the 6th best 2-year college in Michigan, and WMU doesn’t even rank in the top 25 for 4-year colleges). [Note to college reps.: insulting potential students because of what school they last attended is a really, really bad way to make an impression.] But this threw a huge monkey wrench in my plans. Where would I go now? Did I really need to get a BFA to work in this field?

While pondering my conundrum (and praying, praying, praying for an answer to it) I made this discovery: there were way to many options for how to go about getting a career in the jewelry industry. I could go for my BFA/MFA, or go to a technical school, or try to find an apprenticeship, or take workshops, or just teach myself. None of these were going to be easy. Degree programs are expensive, and, as I’d learned, for my focus I’d have to go to an actual fine arts college making it even more expensive. But there was another problem with degree programs: sometimes (with jewelry anyway), they put too much emphasis on all that weird art concepts and having your art ‘mean something’ than in the technical aspect, with results that were utterly impractical….. and jewelry was a practical art, it is, literally, half-way between a skilled trade and the fine arts so neither aspect was to be neglected. Unfortunately, with the trade schools (of which there truly are some excellent schools out there!), it swung the other direction. The emphasis is almost all on technique and often very little on design. Why? Because traditionally, you are either a jewelry maker or a jewelry designer, but seldom both unless working independently. Apprenticeships, while still available, are unfortunately dying out, or at least they are in the States, so is an unreliable option. Now, for myself, after much prayer, discussion with my family, and seeking the advice of others in my trade, I chose a route that is not for everyone: teaching myself and taking workshops as needed for specific techniques. This is the slowest route out there, but for me was the best option.

Now, I am not writing all this to tell people to give up on the idea of a college AFA/BFA/MFA degree and go solo with your art education/training. On the contrary, there are some great art schools out there, and, for some, focuses, art school is pretty much the only option. The thing is this: not all forms of art require a degree, and you can always go back for it later if you decide you still want that degree.

Now, especially for those that have gone the same route I have, if (after whatever training route you chose) you find yourself a little stuck in your field and not really getting anywhere career-wise, don’t be afraid to go back to school to increase your skills. I have, in fact I’m doing so right now. After being out of college for 7 years, in February of this year I started school again. This time (via distance learning) with the Gemological Institute of America for my Graduate Gemologist Diploma. I may also go back for a few of their other programs once this one is finished. The point is, just because you chose not go for that degree earlier, or even if you did, does not mean your education needs to end their. If things are going slowly (or perhaps not at all), then maybe it’s time to consider more courses. Not to retrain entirely and abandon your field, but to enhance what you already know and maybe even consider an aspect of that field you hadn’t looked at before. Getting more training or refocusing, is not the same as giving up; it gives you more options to help you better pursue doing what you love.

Advice? Well, if you’re just starting out, some college is never a bad thing. If you know you want to pursue some form of art but not sure what aspect yet, then I’d recommend starting with you local community college. It’s a gentle way to get your feet wet, sample a variety of art classes to see which form you like best, but doesn’t have the ultra-high cost of a 4-year college. Also, should you decide to go further with college training, it gets some of your generic requirements out of the way so you spend less time/money at a more expensive school. Also, do your research. Find out what options you have and all the information about them that you can get. I’d also recommend looking at how others currently working in that field got their training, maybe even join an online community for that artfield and ask around their for advice. I know that helped me. Not every option is suited for everyone, so do your research and find out which training option is best suited to you. Remember, you can always go back for more training later!

Whether giving a new use to an old (and possibly broken) object or just creating artwork out of atypical materials, upcycling can be a ton of fun and there are a ton of books out there that can help give you ideas. So, Here’s a list of just a few of the great books out there!

Playing with Books: the Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book by Jason Thompson

Playing with books: the Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book by Jason Thompson:

This is a really interesting upcycling book. It’s an upcycling book all about upcycling books! The book shows many different techniques including bookbinding, origami, papercrafts, textile, and a number of other techniques and ideas of how to have fun with reusing old books.

Upcycling: Create Beautiful Things from Stuff You Already Have by Danny Seo

Upcycling: Create Beautiful Things from Stuff You Already Have by Danny Seo

This is another really great upcycling book. There’s a wide range of different project ideas all of which use just everyday materials that are easily gotten ahold if if you don’t realdy have them.

Upcycling: 33 Ways To Reuse Old Glass Jars, Mason Jars, & Wine Bottles For Home Decorations & Much More! by Kitty Moore

Upcycling: 33 Ways To Reuse Old Glass Jars, Mason Jars, & Wine Bottles For Home Decorations & Much More! by Kitty Moore.

Another great upcycling book with really easy crafts!

You know a great place to look for upcycling books? Try your local library. I have a small part-time job at one of my local libraries and I’ve seen hoards of upcycling books in there, not only in the adult non-fiction collection, but also the young-adult/teen and children’s non-fiction collections. We’re also getting new ones all the time. Actually, some of the ones in the children’s non-fiction are especially good. There’s a whole series of them that my library has and there broken up into material themed books, versus the mish-mash of a lot of the regular non-fiction idea books out there. While they are generally more simple, they can sometimes be a great place to start if you are just getting into this kind of craft.

FiberArts Cafe

So, if you are a fiber artist in or around the New Jersey area, you might want to check-out the FiberArts Cafe. The FiberArts Cafe is owned by Carol V. Moore and is located in Millville, New Jersey. Whether you are a knitter, crocheter, needlepoint artist, or any other form of fiber artist, the FiberArts Cafe is sure to be a place you’ll enjoy visiting. They carry all manor of supplies, tools, books, and also offer workshops.

In addition to the wool, bamboo, alpaca, cotton, and acrylic yarns that the FiberArts Cafe carries, they also carry an selection of more unusual yarns, as well as, yarns that have been handmade locally! Also of note, is that the store carries work made by local fiber artists, so be sure to stop by and appreciate their work!

Interested? Great! Here’s where you can find them!

501 N. High Street, Ste. L
Millville, New Jersey 08322

Store Hours:

Tuesday-Saturday: 10am – 6pm
Sunday: noon – 6pm

Group meet: Monday & Wednesday: 6pm – 8pm


Wire-wrapped Boho statement necklace - Bronze Age Jewelry

Laura Moradi of Bronze Age Jewelry is a jeweler after my own heart, as she also takes much of her inspiration from history. Her particular period of focus is, of course, (as indicated by her business name) the Bronze Age, drawing stylistic and colour inspirations from cultures of Egypt, Crete, India, Greece, and Ireland. Bronze Age Jewelry is also finds design/colour inspiration from the beautiful embroideries and metalwork of the central Asian cultures.

Trained at the Rhode Island School of Design (generally considered one of the top art/design schools in the U.S.), Laura Moradi has a great eye for colour! With the colour complements of blue (particularly turquoise) and orange being one of the apparent favorites.

Wire-wrapped Indian style pendant - Bronze Age Jewelry

Many of Bronze Age Jewelry’s designs are wire-work creations, but other techniques are also used, and all of them just as beautiful as the others. Laura works with a variety of different metals including brass, copper, and sterling silver and just about all of her designs can be custom ordered in any material.

Bronze swirled toggle clasp - Bronze Age Jewelry

In addition, to her finished jewelry, Bronze Age Jewelry also offers a variety of handmade jewelry findings made from copper, brass, and sterling silver for you to use in your own work. Laura also mentions that she plans to add DIY kits as well!

Here’s where you can find her!


It would seem that, regardless of what kind of artist you are, being an artist also means having to pretty much have your own personal library. This is certainly true of the jewelry arts, and, as there are a lot of really great books out there for jewelry technique books out there, I thought I might highlight just a few of my favorites.

The Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques by Anastasia Young

The Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques by Anastasia Young:

I absolutely love this jewelry technique book! It covers pretty much everything you need/want to know about jewelry making. It not only has a ton of great information on supplies, materials, and techniques, but also about designing, photographing, and even information about pricing/selling.

Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers: A Handbook of Techniques and Surface Treatments by Elizabeth Bone

Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers: A Handbook of Techniques and Surface Treatments by Elizabeth Bone:

This is another great jewelry technique book! From basic techniques like annealing, soldering, casting, cold connections, etc. to surface treatments (colouring, reticulation, etching, chasing/repoussé, etc.) to more specialized techniques such as granulation, filigree, and stone setting.

Jewelry: Concepts and Technology by Oppi Untracht

Jewelry: Concepts and Technology by Oppi Untracht:

Sadly, I must admit to not yet owning a copy of this, however, I have borrowed it via the inter-library loan system and fully intend to add it to my reference library as soon as possible. You couldn’t ask for a more comprehensive book on jewelry techniques, materials, and concepts! It is quite possibly one of the best jewelry technique books out there.

Making Silver Chains: Simple Techniques, Beautiful Designs - Glen Waszek

Making Silver Chains: Simple Techniques, Beautiful Designs by Glen Waszek:

Great step-by-step instructions for basic chain soldering. Includes many of the classic chain designs.

Jewelry: Fundamentals of Metalsmithing by Tim McCreight

Jewelry: Fundamentals of Metalsmithing by Tim McCreight:

Another one that is not, yet, in my own collection of jewelry technique books, but one day it will be! Tim McCreight has written a lot of great metalsmithing books and any of them would make great additions to a jewelers reference library.

Jewelry Lab: 52 Experiments, Investigations, and Explorations in Metal by Melissa Manley

Jewelry Lab: 52 Experiments, Investigations, and Explorations in Metal by Melissa Manley:

This is a really fun book! Great source for new ideas of techniques and surface treatments to try with your own jewelry work.

Again, this is just a short list of the many, many great jewelry technique books that are available out there and there are more coming out all the time.

I know some take issue with how Pinterest works (does it or does it now violate copyright laws, etc.), and can be a bit of a hot topic. However, I thought I’d blog about the usefulness of Pinterest for businesses, and in particular, handmade businesses.

First of all, Pinterest can be a great marketing platform. Pin the image/description of one of your art pieces from its website listing and you now have a free advertizement with store link and one that can spread across Pinterest to reach more than just those that follow your account. The more people that your pin reaches, the greater the probability that that pin will result in a sale, and yes, sales do get made because of Pinterest. I had two sales last year that I know can be traced back to one of my Pinterst followers. It’s not guaranteed, but then there is never that guarantee with any form of advertizing/marketing. You just keep at it, and, eventually, the sales begin to come in.

However, Pinterest as a marketing platform is the tip of its usefulness to handmade businesses. Besides showing off your work, Pinterest can also work as the online version of what is called an ‘inspiration morgue’ (a binder, box, etc. that artists/designers use to store objects and photographs that could provide inspiration for future project ideas). You can use the boards to organize different forms of project inspiration, (colour, texture, pattern.?), keep better track of tutorials than simply using your browser’s ‘bookmark’ feature, brainstorm display ideas, etc.

Pinterest really is a valuable organizational and marketing tool. If you haven’t tried it yet for your handmade business, I would strongly suggest you consider giving it a try!

I love upcycling/repurposing. I enjoy seeing what interesting ideas people have to remake objects into something completely different. So I thought I’d share just a few of the great upcycling blogs for anyone else who enjoys upcycling.

Upcycle That:

Upcycle That was started by Jacques Karsten and Judy Rom in 2012 as a resource for anyone interested in upcycling. It has a lot of great eat information about upcycling: tutorials, project inspiration, etc.

Upcycled Treasures:

The upcycling blog Upcycled Treasures is particularly for DIY home decor and design ideas. It includes ideas for upcycled furniture, crafts, and even wedding ideas.

The Upcycle Blog

Includes lots of different upcycling ideas. From fashion to jewelry to home decor, etc.

Upcycled Your Life

The Upcycled Your Life blog has a lot of great and easy to do project ideas!

As mentioned before, this is just a short list of some of the many different upcycling blogs out there. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to have some upcycling fun of your own! And if so, please feel free to share a pic of your upcycling creations on my Facebook page! I’d love to see them. With upcycling, one man’s junk really can become another man’s treasure!

Green and turquoise felted scarf - Kentucky Blue Fiber

Kentucky Blue Fiber is owned by fiber artist Annette Browning. Annette began her business shortly after purchasing some alpacas and finding that breeding/selling them was just not for her. They had become her friends, and she just could not not sell her friends. But, since, in her own words, she came from “a long line of knitters and crocheters,” her original business venture would not be in vain as she instead took the jump to become a fiber artist.

Nuno felted shawl wrap - Kentucky Blue Fiber

Annette shawls, scarves, and wraps are truly beautiful and it is clear that a lot of time (and love!) have gone into them! Not only does she do all the knitting, crocheting, and felting, but remember those alpacas she bought? That’s right, Kentucky Blue Fiber also spins and dyes their own yarn.

Hand dyed lamb wool locks - Kentucky Blue Fiber

Kentucky Blue Fiber offers more than just handmade creations using their handmade yarn, but they also offer for sale the yarn itself so that other fiber artists/crafters can enjoy it. In addition to the already made up yarn, the raw materials are also available for purchase. You can find both dyed and natural wool locks just waiting to be spun into beautiful yarn.

You can visit Kentucky Blue Fiber at the following links!:


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Artichoke Tones - Design Seeds

Looking for colour inspiration? If you’re like me, you love to use colour in your artwork. Colour can really bring a design to life and each colour combination can evoke a different reaction from your audience. But sometimes, it can be difficult to come up with just the right colour combination, and you find you need a little bit of colour inspiration help. Let me introduce you to a site you may, or may not, have heard of: Design Seeds.

Nature Brights - Design Seeds

If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve likely seen a ton of pins that look rather like the picture above (in fact, you may have even seen this one!). Many of those pins came from Design Seeds’ website. Design Seeds are a type of colour journal; they are based on the concept of design notebook sketches that any artist/designer may make when planning out a new project only modernized. I love Design Seeds. I have a whole Pinterest board devoted to colour inspiration and most of the pins come from Design Seeds.

I love looking at Design Seeds for colour inspiration, not just becasue they show such gorgeous colours, but because of how they show colours. They first give you an image and then they break that image down for you to show you what colours are behind it. This can be really helpful when it comes to planning colour combos because you can get a better idea of how they look together. Plus, often times you find colour combinations you might not have though of otherwise but Design Seeds has given you proof that those colours really can look great together.

So, whether you struggle with how best to combine colours or just need some fresh ideas, give Design Seeds a look and see if they can’t help get your creative mind working again!

Steampunk spider - Handmaden Designs LLC

Love Steampunk but don’t know where to start? I’ve compiled a short list of Steampunk resources that I hope will be helpful! As there are quite a number of Steampunk websites, blogs, and online communities that I could list among Steampunk resources, I, unfortunately, can’t list them all, but here are some to get you started.


Steampunk Instructables
Designer Daily: 15 useful Steampunk tutorials and resources (for digital art)
Examiner blog post: Roundup Steampunk Craft Tutorials
Webgraphics (for digital art)
The Steampunk Workshop
The Steampunk Lab


The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer
Steampunk Your Wardrobe by Calista Taylor
Steampunk Style Jewelry by Jean Campbell
Steampunk Emporium by Jema “Emilly Ladybird” Hewitt
The Art of Steampunk by Art Donovan
Steampunk Magazine by Margaret Killjoy and C. Allegra Hawksmoor

Where to get supplies:

Yard sales/garage sales/rummage sales
Flea markets
Antique stores
Thrift stores
Dumpster diving
Salvage yards
Craft supply stores
Hardware stores

Other Steampunk resources:
The Steampunk Empire

In your search for Steampunk DIY, don’t forget that Youtube and Pinterest are your friends! Now that you have some more ides of where to look, go have some fun and make some Steampunk!

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