Miss you!

Today is the one year anniversary of my beloved father’s passing. From the moment I woke this morning, I’ve felt him with me. Hanging out just over my shoulder. Teasing me softly like he did when I was a child. Poking me ever so gently in the ribs so I will notice him and come in for a cuddle. My dad wasn’t one to just come out and say, “hey, give me a hug” when he needed one. He was more likely to find a joke or a pun or a silly way to make me stop in my tracks and look at him. Almost like a little boy who pulls the little girl’s ponytail to get her attention.

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My father was witty and clever, so much so that he always managed to break the shell of this very serious little girl and make her burst into full belly laughter. My husband has a very similar humor, and while he’s very different from my father in a myriad of ways, I think the fact that he can always make me laugh is one of his most endearing qualities.

My father and my husband were/are fun people. While I can definitely have fun, I have to work a little harder at it. I’d rather spend my time getting to know someone for who they are. Their hopes and fears. What do they love? What do they need? These men – these beautiful men — are more likely to make you feel so safe and secure in their presence that you just melt into a naturally relaxed state where fun is simply the best option.

When I jumped onto Facebook this morning, it wanted to show me memories of one year ago today. What I saw were the photos of us in France with our students. While they were truly happy memories, I decided not to re-post them again to my wall today. When my dad passed last year, I wasn’t able to fully take it in because there were some big responsibilities on my shoulders; A dozen women whose dreams were to visit Paris and La Cascade and learn jewelry from Susan. It was an incredible trip, and the distraction of it was divine.

My dad was in hospice for three months before his passing. Even as he grew weak and ready to return home, he knew what he was doing. He made me promise to continue my trip. He and my mother never traveled outside the US in their entire lives, and he was extremely proud that both his daughters have traveled many parts of the world.

What a difference a year makes. Today I am home in my studio. I have the air conditioning turned down low and my studio is spotlessly clean and ready for me to work. As soon as I finish a few things on my computer, I’m planning to put some singer/songwriter music on Spotify and pull out my paints and canvases. My soul wants to do some intuitive abstract painting today and I’m going to listen.

My daughter is at art camp, hubby at work and son at his summer college classes. The house is quiet and my dad is with me. Time to see what my inner creativity wants to do.

JenSig

 

Embracing change

Embrace your many passions. Follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes. Explore your intersections. Embracing our inner wiring leads to a happier, more authentic life.

— Emilie Wapnick

I saw this quote on a friend’s Facebook wall recently and had to save it. Little did I know that it would serve as a guidepost for me as I’ve been contemplating a big decision.

For the past seven years, I’ve been working alongside my sister/friend, jewelry mentor and muse Susan Lenart Kazmer with her incredible signature product called ICE Resin. Last year, Susan joined Ranger Ink as a Signature Designer and Creative Director of ICE Resin. I’ve been having an amazing time working as the Director of Education for ICE. The partnership with Ranger has been fantastic because the people who work there are truly some of the most creative, talented and dedicated people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

One would think with all this fantabulousness (yeah, it’s a made up word but it totally works) that I’d be skipping a happy tune. For the most part, I have. But there’s also been this part of me that’s like the squirmy kid in the classroom who’s having a hard time concentrating because she’s daydreaming. I’ve seriously had so many “Squirrel! moments this year that I began to question myself.

As you might know, I’ve had a challenging personal year filled with loss. First my father passed, then my sweet old dog and then my mother in January. I honestly had no idea how much these back-to-back deaths would affect me. They caused a fissure in my foundation that made the ground beneath my feet feel soft and squishy. Add to that career changes (even fantastic ones), along with watching my kids grow in a blink of an eye and normal mid-life questions, I’ve been doing some very deep thinking.

When I was doing my studio purge I found an old writing journal. I saw an entry from 2008 where I had listed my Top 12 career goals. As I was reading over them I realized that in 9 short years I had accomplished every goal I had set for myself and a few more I hadn’t even dreamt of at the time. I felt a sense of satisfaction as I closed the book. A little while later I found a journal page where, just for fun, I wrote down every single thing that interested me that I wanted to explore “one day”. I read the list and laughed out loud. I need three lifetimes and at least 12 more careers. Life is just so interesting! My mother used to tell me that as a child I had two speeds – going like a whirlwind learning, discovering and doing or taking a nap. In this regard, I haven’t changed much.

It took me a few more months to draw lines between all these seemingly random thoughts. I finally quieted myself down enough to get clarity. I realized that even though all indications remain go for the path I’m on, there’s some thing tugging me to make a change. The words rest, refocus and renew keep coming up, not just inside my own head but literally everywhere I look. The other day a mattress truck was in front of me as I drove to buy take out for my family’s dinner. The words REST were six feet tall. It was like the universe gave me a face palm.

I believe that as artists we are the canaries of this world. We are the ones to see the ordinary in extraordinary ways. We can feel and see shifts and changes. If we can din the noise and listen to our own hearts, we know how to keep ourselves artistically fed and happy and, in turn, we can feed a hungry world. We absolutely understand passion; we yearn for it.

So it is that I’m taking a leap of faith. Everything is exactly as it should be. I’m leaving ICE Resin with a truly happy heart and taking a six month sabbatical. My kids’ summer break is now also my summer break. With a grateful heart, I’ll teach my remaining commitments for the year and the awesome ones I’ve been invited to teach in 2017. I’m blessed that I’ll be joining Susan this November as the organizer of her Stones, Bones and Talisman Jewelry retreat in gorgeous Bali. Beyond this near future, I have no idea what’s next. I’m sure it will be an intersection — though, truthfully, I see it in my mind’s eye as more like a roundabout. The question is simply what exit do I choose?

Words cannot express how much I’ve enjoyed, learned and grown from the journey that’s been ICE Resin. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more talented person to work with than Susan. She’s taught me more than I can express and has always supported me even though she’s the true rockstar. I’ve found my tribe in the mixed-media art community, and I’m not letting it go. I may get a little quite for a while as I focus on the three R’s, but this is still my artist life.

Artfully yours,

JenSig

A glimpse into teaching

I’m off to the Bead and Button show for six days. It’s always wonderful to leave the Phoenix heat and land in Milwaukee where I have to make a conscious effort to remember to pack my umbrella and I can still wear closed-toe shoes. (grin)

Since I get questions almost every show from folks wanting to learn more about the nitty gritty of teaching, I thought maybe this is a good time for a little history and a glimpse into the process. Hang on, folks, this is a long post!

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First, history. I’ve been teaching a while now. This important piece of my career began when I was doing mixed-media paper arts. Even though nobody called it “mixed-media” then, I was fortunate that what I loved to do was popular with the “chunky book, mini book” trend in scrapbooking. I took blank canvases — mostly chipboard or acrylic albums — and then loaded them up with family photos, paint, inks, stamps and just about anything I could glue on to a substrate. By 2001, I was teaching chunky book techniques at paper arts stores in Arizona and California. This was a hobby, since I was still working as a part-time magazine editor.

Teaching took a back seat to learning when I decided I wanted to make jewelry. I continued to write, but spent my free time taking metalsmithing classes at my community collage and obsessively adsorbing what I could from books and also through osmosis when Susan let me assist in her workshops. By 2009, I felt the calling again and returned to teaching, only this time at national retreats. Oh my goodness, I had so much to learn in the beginning! Fortunately, I’m a believer in lifelong learning so that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I truly believe that to be a good instructor, one must continue to tweak, adjust and attempt to innovate.

Ok, with all that said, here’s a little peek into the process in case you’re interested in teaching at national shows. Believe me, there’s definitely a process and know that it can be time consuming!

Every event organizer has a mailing list of potential instructors. If you want to teach for their event, you ask the person in charge to add you to their call for proposals list. The organizers work hard behind the scenes doing what it takes to host an event. This includes every event-planing skill imaginable, from finding a good hotel or place to hold the event on the dates and times they want to negotiating contracts (not easy!) to figuring out food, lodging, transportation, budgets, contingency plans, refund policies and more. Fortunately, as an instructor none of this is your job. Your job is to answer the call professionally and before deadline. A little note here. Some retreats are by personal invite. How do you know which ones? If you ask to be added to a call for proposal list and the organizers say they don’t have one, then it’s invite-only.

Once the call for proposals comes in, I start making brand new work and art samples. A lot of the time, I’ve already built work that I know I’d like to teach. I use these pieces as inspiration or a starting point to still create work exploring a new idea or technique or a new twist.

After building the art, comes photographing the work, sizing and scaling it in Photoshop to the organizer’s specifications (each one is slightly different). I always save my images in high resolution and then also in low resolution 72 dpi so that I have them print-quality ready and also web ready. This little tip took me a while to learn. Now it’s just part of my process, and that makes it much easier throughout the year to quickly respond to emails I get from people requesting images for various opportunities. Here is another tip: Photos are key! The most well-written description will not make up for a low light, out of focus photo. When it comes to photographing your work: practice, practice, practice (or hire a professional).

CKUteachersphoto

The next step is to write concise and (hopefully) exciting descriptions. As I’m doing this, I’m thinking about every single detail of my workshop. This is important because in addition to the descriptions, the instructor has to decide what’s included in the kit and what students must bring to class. With airlines making it expensive for luggage, the tools and materials list has become an even more important detail. Students often tell me they don’t like to bring too many supplies. If you, as the instructor, supply them then its an added expense to your personal budget. Shipping costs are expensive. Many of my fellow instructors drive to every event they teach in order to make their workshops as seamless as possible for their people. This is a time vs cost factor. Shipping is expensive and you’re in hot water if your stuff gets waylaid, but driving across country is not always a viable option.

Writing descriptions is definitely a learn-by-doing process. It can take some a long time to get this down, while for others it’s a breeze. I put a lot of time and editing into it, always trying to find the balance of being inspiring, yet detailed enough that my students know what they’re getting when they sign up.

Next it’s time to send your proposals off to the organizer/decision maker. Then comes the fun part, waiting to see how your proposals are received. Nothing is guaranteed for the national retreats. You turn in your best work and hope that your ideas are interesting enough and that your classes fit the organizer’s vision for the retreat.

Here’s another important teaching tip: You may get rejected. It stings. It puts you in a bad mood for a day or two, but it happens. Dust yourself off and try again. You have no idea why your work wasn’t accepted. Maybe someone else turned in something similar. Maybe that year too many people decided to follow a trend and that left the organizer top heavy with those techniques. Very rarely is is because someone doesn’t like you. I’ve been turned down for teaching gigs and have never known why. Other times, I’ve been told its because I used butterflies or that the retreat had too much jewelry or that they want to follow the trend of soldering and I did wireworking. No worries. You know the saying, “There’s always next time.” When it comes to national art retreats there’s always next year.

Wait, it doesn’t end once you’re accepted. You need to do you part to tell people about your classes and the retreat. These days this means social media. Hopefully you have some really good friends and they will help share the word for you. Also it helps if these people have taken your classes and have had positive experiences and they tell others. Nothing builds your reputation like authentic word-of-mouth advertising. It’s invaluable, and also why I’m grateful when people share my info.

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The last little tidbit is this: There are great artists and great teachers. The two do not always go hand in hand, so if you’ve had a less-than-stellar experience as a student remember it could be just as simple as this. Fortunately for most of the well-known people teaching the retreats today I can tell you they are in sync. I have truly met an amazing tribe of artists who’re called to share their knowledge.

I realize that sometimes I can seem daunting to break into the industry. But remember this as well; There is always room for new talent and expertise to enter any field. Your voice, your skills, your passion is needed in this world. So is your commitment and hard work. Teaching is wonderful, exhilarating, sometimes exhausting, sometimes drudgery (prep work and clean up), sometimes hard but always humbling.

Thanks to all of you who read to the end. This is a long post, and if you’re interested enough to read this much on a blog when photo stories and 140 character Tweets are the norm, then I believe you might just have all the patience inside of you to be a great instructor.

JenSig

Last chance for Bead and Button 2016 classes

Guess what I’d doing right now in my studio? Ok you might have guessed. Making kits for my upcoming classes next week at the Bead and Button Show in Milwaukee.

Right this very moment, I’m working on my class called Crystal Clear. I made this necklace last summer for a friend and loved it so much that I just had to turn it into a workshop for the world. It’s hard to photograph the depth and beauty of this necklace. The transparent image placed behind the chandelier crystal is just so very unusual. Every time I wear this piece out and about (yeah, I also liked the design so well I had to make one for myself!) I get a ton of compliments on it. True story, the barista at my local Starbucks was so infatuated with this necklace that she held up the long line of customers for a good 5 minutes asking a million questions about it. It just goes to show, you never know where you will find fellow lovers of jewelry and mixed media art.

CrystalBeautyJenCushman2

This is going to be a fast paced three-hour class. We’ll be making the free form wire links, making a clasp, creating bead links and also transforming the crystal focal from pretty to pretty fabulous.  I’m teaching this Saturday June 11th at the Bead and Button Show. Come join me. Bring your pliers and your smile. I got the rest!

I’ve got three other classes I’m teaching this year as well. Floating Petals is almost full (two seats left I believe) but there is room for sure in the cast resin feather earrings and also my Fly Mixed Media Bracelet where were are using real quail’s egg shells. You can see all my classes on the Bead and Button Show website.

The new Susan Lenart Kazmer ICE Resin booth will also be making its debut for the first time at the show. This is the booth that came to CHA and also Tucson that features very cool vintage doors. All the new products from Susan’s line will be on hand to purchase. Lots more to come on this next week on the ICE Resin blog, so be sure to hop over there next week to read all the deets.

Thanks for the nice little break of making kits. Now it’s time to get back to work.

JenSig

 

 

 

Charity Wings adventures

I’m off to one of my most favorite places in the world this week — San Diego and Charity Wings Art Center. As many of you know, I’ve been a supporter of Charity Wings mission and vision for about five years now. Elena, the founder of the Charity Wings non-profit, and I hit it off one year at a Craft and Hobby Association convention and we’ve become good friends ever since. Even without the dear friendship, I’d still be a huge supporter of this organization because as far as I know, it is the only non-profit that truly works hand-in-hand with the crafts industry.

Each year, I donate my time to Charity Wings to teach various mixed media techniques. Most times, it’s jewelry, but mostly I try to listen to what new skills and techniques the Ahmazing volunteers and supporters of the Charity Wings Art Center want to learn. Of course, resin is always right up there on the list. The BEST part about this year’s visit is that it is in conjunction with the organization’s Art Decade*nce Celebration and big come-one-come-all free festival that culminates the activities on May 14th.

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My classes are Thursday this week. There’s still time to sign up. The metal etching class is almost sold out, so if you are interested, I’d suggest you jump on board toot-sweet (Ok, it’s actually spelled tout suite in French and is an idiom for right away, but I think this spelling is much cuter.🙂

Here are some photos of what I’m teaching. In the caption is the individual registration link. Remember, taking my class at Charity Wings is like learning for good or learning with a cause. How cool is that?

 

 

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ICE Resin Basics and Beyond class — Registration link: http://charitywings.org/ice-resin-basics-beyond/

 

 

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Metal Mania etched copper pendant necklace: http://charitywings.org/metal-mania-class/

 

I sincerely hope I see you there so we can have a truly Artful experience together.

JenSig

A Mother’s Day First

Mother’s Day is usually a pretty great day for me since I became a mom. I love my kids more than anything and it’s always fun to get my macaroni necklaces and hand drawn cards and lots of hugs and kisses. This Mother’s Day is a new first. It’s the first one in my life where my mother is no longer here.

Don’t get me wrong. She is with me. In spirit. In Love. In my heart. Always and All ways.

However I can no longer touch her. No longer talk to her and hear her voice. No longer hug her, cry on her shoulder or call her just to chat.

This post is for all of you whom I share these thoughts and emotions with. I am your soul sister now because now I know a little bit of what you’re feeling. Here’s a big {{{hug}}} to you on Mother’s Day just because you deserve it.

This is also a day that I am making sure to celebrate ME. I have the most important job in the world – MOM. When my daughter gave me the macaroni heart necklace she made with such care in her first grade class this year, you can bet I gave her and extra big hug. It is my newest favorite piece of jewelry, and I will treasure it. One day when she’s an adult and goes searching for photos of the two of us, she will find this necklace saved for her a safe spot. Hopefully she will save it next to the one her future son or daughter makes for her with the same amount of joy and love. It’s a silly sentimental object, but right now, it’s what I’m holding on to. I wish I had found my macaroni necklaces when we went through my parent’s belongings. I’d wear it with pride layered with my daughter’s.

I decided to go looking through and old backup hard drive of mine with family photos. I found a few of me and mom. I admit I shed a few tears looking at them, but they make me happy. Memories are good. Good memories are better.

Here I am as a baby. My mom was 38 when she had me. Hard to believe when I see this photograph.

Here I am as a baby. My mom was 38 when she had me. Hard to believe when I see this photograph.

 

I don't have any memories of this, however, I've been told my whole life how much I loved it when we went bicycling when the weather was nice in Phoenix.

I don’t have any memories of this, however, I’ve been told my whole life how much I loved it when we went bicycling when the weather was nice in Phoenix.

 

Photo of my mother, myself, my sister, her favorite dog and my grandparents. My grandmother passed away when I was 5 so I never knew her, but my family told me she kept scrapbooks and read constantly and loved art. They tell me I’m a lot like her. I know we both like pie…a lot.

 

Another pic of my mom and me when I was young. I have a devilish little look in my eyes. Wonder what I was thinking? Probably where's my crayons? I want to color on that sidewalk.

Another pic of my mom and me when I was young. I have a devilish little look in my eyes. Wonder what I was thinking? Probably where’s my crayons? I want to color on that sidewalk.

 

Happy Mother's Day Mom. I miss you.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I miss you.

JenSig

Art Jewelry Adventure sale

Creative150ArtJewelryAdventureHey guys! Just wanted to let you know the Art Jewelry Adventure online retreat that’s taking place this entire year is on sale now for 20% off. If you use my direct instructor link – http://bit.ly/1M1Rs0f – and register now, you pay just $80 (normally $99).

Not sure what to get your crafty jewelry-making mom (or even for yourself) for Mother’s Day this might just be a great prezzie.

Once you register, you’ll be able to watch all the online lessons that have been taking place so far. And good news, you haven’t missed my class yet. I’m up in October teaching how to make a pretty transparent resin bezel and a handmade chain necklace from 18 gauge bronze wire.

Remember, please click my direct link to register.

Also here’s another peek of my project in case you’ve forgotten or haven’t had a chance to see it yet. The deadline to take advantage of this sale is May 7th so hurry now if it’s been on your mind.

Jen Cushman Transparent Necklace Class Image