Nov 142016
 

Large green iguanaI just got back from a trip to Aruba in the Caribbean…where I made the acquaintance of that island’s most (to me) spectacular inhabitant. The mighty iguana! To me, the most pleasurable part of traveling is seeing what critters live where I happen to be passing through. So here I am in my 60s, still wildly fascinated by animals. But I say, who wouldn’t love these rock climbing, graceful but tough looking reptiles as they sun themselves on the coast?

When I was a little girl, lizards were rare or possibly nonexistent in my Ohio neighborhood. Seeing an iguana would’ve been an eye-popping experience!

No, when I was a kid I had to satisfy myself with salamanders, which I hunted with my little jars in the creeks near my home. I would bring them home to settle into a terrarium, undoubtedly terrorizing them with my big curious kid eyes pressed against the glass.

My own Florida yard is teeming with that lizard’s tiny cousins…the graceful little anole lizard, as they dash across the yard. But I enjoy them immensely. My other local favorite are the nocturnal gecko, with his slithery, rubbery little flight from light. There is something I find  cute about their big eyes and stick-to-the-window toes. Once in a while I am entertained at night by their perching on the glass outside my studio window, gobbling he moths attracted by the light inside.

What is your favorite animal outside of the USA?

Aug 242016
 

I don’t have a dog, let alone a pit bull, but many of my neighbors do. Luckily, I’m not afraid of them; probably the rambunctious Dalmatians who shared my childhood home have something to do with that.

IMG_20130120_153455For instance, while jogging last week, I noticed an older man with his pit bull just a little ways down the trail. She (yes, a female) was straining at the leash, anxious to make some kind of contact with me. I asked the gentleman if I should go the other direction so I didn’t upset her, and he said “No, she’s fine.” Then she escaped from her collar and dove for me.

Did I experience a moment of panic? Yup. I admit it. Especially since he shouted at her. If he’d said “Don’t worry, she just wants to lick you” I would’ve been fine. But his surprised reaction, his voice tone…that’s what set me on edge.

And my fear wasn’t  because she was a good-sized pit bull. I like to think that a strange dog escaping her collar and bounding with unknown intention directly towards someone might create a little bit of concern for most people.

But of course I needn’t have panicked. She may not have had the best doggie manners in the world, but her intentions were purely sloppy friendship. She climbed up my legs, licked my face, wagged her tail wiggled her butt. You know, all those happy canine mannerisms. But what what I found interesting was the relief her human expressed. He was worried! Maybe he himself had bought into the “dangerous pit bull” idea circulating around. I may never know. I haven’t seen them again. But if I do, I’ll go right up to her and give her the petting she obviously was asking for!

I recently designed 2 new new pit bulls…they’re still at the caster, but by the time this is read, it may be on my website, so take a look and let me know what you think of them.

 Posted by at 2:29 pm
Aug 032016
 

Being an artist who loves animals, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what design to make next. My customers have suggestions, and of course I have my favorite ideas. But how to categorize all these thoughts in terms of what should be done first can be a little tricky! For example, I’ve wanted to make a platypus design for a long time, but in 27 years of working as an animal artist, perhaps 2 people have requested this little critter. Should I make one just for my own pleasure? Maybe! I’ve done that before, and once in a while it actually becomes my version of a “best seller.”

What do People Ask an Artist who Loves Animals to Make?

On the other hand, by survey most of my customers want me to make more dog designs. I like dogs, and they are lots of fun to make (some more than others). So I try and divide my creations and throw myself a bone once in a while (no pun intended). As an example of this, I just designed a kiwi bird. How many people have asked for this? I think probably none. Part of the appeal of this little bird traces back to a dear friend of mine who lives in New Zealand. Of course, that is the kiwi bird’s native home, and the inhabitants of this island nation are also known as “kiwis.”

zebra butterflyAnother recent design I created that had its roots in my own desire for plain old creative fun was the Florida zebra butterfly. I can’t wait to see this one painted in the gorgeous yellow and black stripes. This particular critter lives in my backyard, and as I’ve not seen zebra butterflies anywhere but in Florida, it holds a special place in my heart.

Being an Artist is Fun!

I must say that being an animal jewelry artist is spectacularly fun. Imagine being able to sit down at your desk whenever the mood strikes and turning a lowly blob of clay into a hamster, a tiger, a lion or a sloth. Speaking of which…or all…I just created new designs of all each of those guys. I’m currently on a creation rampage, and in the past 3 or 4 weeks have made about 50 new designs. FIFTY! That may be a record for me. Or maybe not. Back when The Magic Zoo sterling silver and painted pewter designs were coming out, I created new ones day in and day out. And many of them are still featured on my website.

I figure I have another 15 or 20 years of designing ahead of me. At the rate I’m designing now (and honestly, I’m not sure that pace will continue) I would have about 600 new designs every year, 9,000 in 15 years. But don’t hold me to it.

If you would like to see some of my newest designs you can click here. Today is August 3, 2016, and by the middle of September, this page will be bursting with new designs. So check back later! And let me know what you think of them.

 Posted by at 6:09 pm
Jul 262016
 

2345481903Guinea pigs have been pets in Europe for centuries! Some evidence discovered just a few years ago points to this…a guinea pig skeleton was found in the backyard cellar in a district of Belgium (which at one time had been part of the Spanish Empire.) With radiocarbon dating of the bones, it was revealed that this little piggie lived at the beginning of the 17th century, just after the Spanish made their discovery of South America. The fact that the guinea pig was buried on the property indicates it was an affectionate human companion.

Flemish guinea pig paintings from the time show multi-colored guinea pigs, obviously pets. The wild cavy, of course, is a brown color.

It makes sense. These little guys are so cute, so companionable that they have been winning the love of humans for a very long time.

I have never had a guinea pig for a pet, but so many of my customers have them. And I’ll bet my guinea pig jewelry is up there with the top 10% of popular items I create! This surprised me at first, but then I learned some interesting things about guinea pigs. Like:

  • Guinea pigs make excellent family pets
  • They rarely bite
  • They are fairly long-lived for rodents (5-7 years)
  • They make some very cute sounds, described  as humming and purring
  • They respond well to handling

The stewardship of guinea pigs sound like a wonderful way to introduce responsible pet care to a child. Of course, you as the parent would need to oversee this and make sure the guinea pig was being treated properly. But since they are so gentle, they might be a good start for a child old enough to actually keep the cage clean, feed the guinea pig and so on.

So it makes sense that guinea pigs have been pets for so long…I can imagine a Renaissance era maiden holding a little guinea pig in her hands, perhaps inducing it to take a bite of some delicacy. And it’s kind of humorous imagining a painter sitting at his easel, trying to capture a little piggie as it moves around. I’ve seen at least one painting from the 1600s with a couple of little guinea pigs in a central position. (They were black and white)

It has been postulated that it only took a couple of guinea pigs brought back from South America to be the parents of all the little pets in Europe that resulted. But I imagine more than that had been collected by the travelers. I like to think they were given as gifts by the people of South America, and that they enjoyed a pleasant journey across the water.

Who knows? Maybe that guinea pig you now have as a pet had “ex-pat” parents in Europe, and their progeny ended up back in the Americas, to be bred once again, and become the great great many great grandparents of that little guinea pig you cuddle today!  If you do like the little guys, stop by The Magic Zoo and see what guinea pigs I have come up with, and also make a suggestion  of what you would like to see me make in the future!

 Posted by at 6:24 pm
Jul 162016
 

Rainbow Lory earrings by The Magic ZooPolymer clay jewelry- wear it every day, every week or once a month. It matters not!

I have been creating these designs for over 25 years, and I still get tons of comments when I wear them. And my customers tell me the same thing.

It’s funny, since I began working in sterling silver and gold, I sometimes forget how fun the clay creation can be. But now whenever I get a custom order, I feel like I’ve recaptured the old joy.

Here are some of the best things about polymer clay daily wear:

  • If your polymer clay jewelry gets a little dirty, all you have to do is gently scrub it with a little dish soap and an old tooth brush!
  • The colors never fade, at least as far as I can tell…
  • Polymer clay jewelry is lightweight. Even the weight of a large necklace is unnoticeable

When I first discovered this medium back in the early 80s, I couldn’t get enough of those beautiful, bright colors. And when I started to work as a professional polymer clay artist, it only got better. There is something very special about getting paid to create beautiful things, and I felt like I had really found the medium I wanted to work in for a very long time. Which is exactly what I did.

I think it’s funny now, but back in the late 1980s I actually took my clay jewelry around to offices in little towns and cities in Marin County, California to sell. And people bought from me! I gained quite a following there, and some of my customers from that era are still with me today. (Luckily they didn’t just decide I was nuts) Or maybe they did, but they thought I was an endearing kind of nut.

Anyway, after all those many years, I seem to have come full circle. In between the 1980s and now my main focus as an artist shifted to sterling silver, gold, pewter and enamel jewelry. And the polymer clay sat on the back burner. The only pieces I created were for people who had heard about my polymer clay jewelry from someone else. I didn’t promote it. I didn’t really have very much about it on my website.

But I’ve always had veterinary customers who ordered their name badges in polymer clay, often representing the favorite animal of each employee. Those are just a joy to make! Imagine wearing a representation of your favorite pet every day at work. Think about the questions and comments you would hear! The opportunities to brag about your little yorkie, Great Dane, Pit Bull, bunny or cat!

And I do have a section on my site for custom orders, which for the most part means: polymer clay! Check out all these possibilities, and let me know what you would like me to make for you!

 

Jun 132016
 

Dog Paw Print JewelryDog paw print jewelry and cat paw print jewelry are some of the best loved designs among animal and pet lovers. I noticed this when I created my first paw print designs a number of years ago. Then several years back, the ASPCA asked me to design some special dog paw print jewelry that they carried for years in their online shop. (Yes, I am proud of that !)

A dog paw print jewelry piece combined with a heart motif is an especially sweet design. So of course I had to add that to my line as well. It goes so well…it expresses the love and good times we have shared with our four legged friends. It seems perfect!

I wouldn’t say my dog paw print jewelry pieces are only for dog lovers…in fact, cat paw print jewelry lovers purchase them as well. To me they express the love we share for both dogs and cats, and wearing them is certainly a way to keep memories of those sweet animals alive. And if you have a current best friend in your life, it’s a way to keep her or him with you no matter where life’s travels may take you.

My Favorite Paw Print Designs

The dog paw print jewelry I especially love are the 14K gold pendants. I was never much of a gold person until I designed some of it myself, but now I find it irresistible! One of my favorite pieces is the round paw print pendant, which I wear proudly on one of my gold chains. I always feel especially dressed up when I wear that one!

A few years back I even made a paw print key chain… It has a nice feel, and is the perfect size to keep those keys from getting forever lost in a purse or pocket. So even if you are not a jewelry wearer, you can have dog paw print jewelry in the form of a key chain. Great for guys, too!

Oh, I forgot to mention the paw jewelry I have in pewter and enamel. This pet paw design idea is one I have taken to heart, literally! My pewter and enamel designs all combine a heart shape with a paw print in the very middle. Some of them are colored, which gives a nice contrast to the shiny pewter.

The other nice thing about a paw jewelry design is that it covers all the different breeds. By that I mean if a dog is a mixed breed you can wear dog paw print jewelry (or a bone jewelry design) and still express the affection you have for your dog. And it makes it especially easy for people who wish to give a dog lover a gift, but can’t find anything they particularly like in the breed jewelry available.

Overall, paw print jewelry is a fabulous way to announce to the world “I am an animal lover,” and keep the connection to your dog alive wherever you go. It has long been one of my favorite designs, and I’m sure it will continue to be one in the future. If you would like a peek at my paw print designs, stop by! And let me know what you think of them by posting a comment here.

Jun 082016
 

Well, at least this member of the jewelry artisans club loves animals. And no, there is not an actual club for jewelry artisans. At least not that I know of. But sometimes you find yourself grouped with other people who share your interests, and I think that is not necessarily a bad thing! Artists are some of my favorite people. And not just jewelry artisans. I am not prejudiced in favor of my particular art form.

Of course when I’m exhibiting at an art show, I feel especially chummy with the other jewelry artisans, painters, potters, woodworkers and so on. It is sort of an exclusive club, even though most of us look a little ragtag. Aging hippies, I guess some would refer to us as. But I never did feel like a hippie, even though I may have dressed the part. “I am,” I would say with some mocked up dignity, “an artist.” As if you couldn’t be both. Growing up with a couple of artists for parents led me to feel especially comfortable in that role.

We are all Artists!

Ada at the pianoOne of the things I’ve learned over the years is that we are all artists (yes, that means you, too), and most everyone has an area he or she can create in. Cooking is an art. So is building things. So is raising a happy and sane child. And of course, you could be harboring a truly artistic ability that just needs to be let out of the bag. My sister is a latent artist of that variety. A couple years ago her husband gave her a professional drawing class as a birthday gift and you should have seen what she produced! I never would have guessed it was the first time she had seriously worked on her art.

I love all sorts of creating. Early on, I was half-way serious about being a musician. And I made a bit of progress in that area, getting up on my share of stages and even performing on local TV and radio. But my love of animals and my need to be a mother at home as much as possible with the kids led me towards a “quieter” field, that of jewelry artisan. Not to say I don’t still love to belt out a traditional folk tune or so during a family party.

And 5 years ago I published my first book! Now that was an accomplishment. I love to write, and suspect I will head in that direction again one of these days. I used to create books about fairies when my 11 year old granddaughter was a bit younger. I suspect she would still enjoy my silly tales, and ought to write her a new one some day.

But designing animal jewelry has been my primary art form for many, many years. I suspect it will continue to play a role in my life for many years to come. And that makes me happy!

May 182016
 

The first bunny necklace I made was in polymer clay. I remember it well! It was a silvery and white colored little fellow, and I put a couple of matching polymer clay beads on either side of the pendant itself. That little guy is no longer in my line, but my current bunny necklace (or should I say necklaces, plural) have not such a different look. I mean, rabbits and bunnies are hard to improve on for general cuteness, and the expression that attracted me over 15 years ago is still there. So even my silver bunny has a look that reminds me of that earlier, slightly more organic version.

I know a lot of lovely ladies that do rabbit rescue, and I absolutely love the idea of a house rabbit! Not for me, mind you. No, I just create the bunny necklace (and earrings, pins, charms and so forth) But the idea of having a little hopper in the home amuses me. But from what I understand, you really have to keep an eye on those electrical cords! I’m sure those bunnies are worth all the looking over, though. And is it true they can be housebroken? Anyone have any experience with this sort of thing?

What is your favorite bunny breed?

Pewter bunny lapel pinIt’s funny how some animals end up inspiring me to create dozens of designs. For instance, I have a rabbit charm and an entire line of rabbit jewelry as well as a whole slew of bunny designs. This was not really intentional. I just ended up making a whole lot of extra work for myself by calling some of them bunnies and some of them rabbits. It’s hard to explain, but if you happen to have an online store, you would know exactly what I’m talking about.

So my dilemma is that I don’t want to show a lot of prejudice by creating even more rabbit jewelry, but at the same time, they are pretty irresistible and might just be worth it. What to do, what to do… I wonder how long it would take me to come up with some enamel bunny and rabbit jewelry in black and white? I have the brown painted rabbit and the all white with red eyes bunny stuff, but I think before I branch out too much more, I need a bit of feedback on this. It’s not like the old clay jewelry making days, when I could whip up a new design, and try it out at a show. NOW I have to make the original bunny charm or necklace in clay, send it to my caster, and go through a lot more pre-production in general.

So if you have a feeling about this one way or the other, I would love to hear what you have to say! Help out your bunny jewelry artist by letting her know if you would be interested in a bunny necklace designed in some other colors. Here’s where you can peek at my current line of rabbit designs to give you a feeling for what I have already!

May 062016
 

Wearing pet memorial jewelry is one way to cherish your relationship with a beloved animal. And all animals we have shared our lives with tend to hold a special place in our hearts. My mom would talk about cats and even a cow and a chicken she shared her girlhood years with. She would speak of the death of a pet and the tears would flow, even 60 years later! But all of us kids understood…we were raised by animal lovers to be animal lovers ourselves. And our own pets held very special places in our hearts.

But when the death of a pet eventually occurs it is always difficult. I have found a very effective way to deal with the hardest few days, and even beyond that time. It may sound almost too simple, but it does help. What am I talking about?

A Way to Ease Grief

Believe it or not, you can help ease the grief by taking a good, long walk. You can go by yourself or go with a friend. The key is to look around at your surroundings. Don’t think too much. Just watch the sky, the trees, the bushes, houses, anything in the environment. And you can do this several times a day, actually as often as you wish.

The most intense grief from the death of a pet will eventually ease, and all those wonderful memories will have a chance to resurface. Games played, walks on the beach together, sharing a peaceful evening watching the fireplace or enjoying a TV show, cuddled together. Of course your wonderful pet will always be loved.

Memorial Jewelry Respects the Animal-Human Bond

Memorial cat necklaceA couple of years ago some of my customers asked me to create some jewelry that would be a pet memorial for their dog or cat. This led to several designs I was happy with, in sterling silver and 14K gold. Both of them depict a cat or dog asleep, with a pair of angel wings. I also made a rainbow bridge with some little paw prints “walking” over the bridge, and I recently added a memorial bunny charm and pendant to my line.

Finally, I decided to create some pieces that would be even more affordable, so I made some sweet dog and cat angels in pewter and enamel. All of them have very sweet expressions, just like the angels they are meant to be! It makes me feel good to have some designs that might be able to ease the death of a pet, and give a little comfort at the same time. I have heard from people who are going through the pet loss period, and they have thanked me for creating a symbol that they can hold, and one that reminds them of their wonderful companion.

I know what it is like to experience grief, and losing a pet can be very difficult. Whether your pet that has recently passed on is a cat, a dog, a bird, a guinea pig or a reptile (or one of many other pets) I understand how you are feeling. And I hope you take me up on the idea of taking a walk and observing your surroundings. You might be surprised at how much that will help ease the death of a pet.

And of course, I can also make you a custom polymer clay jewelry design of one of your favorite pets, either living or one that has “gone over the rainbow bridge.” I would love to hear from you and about your own beloved pets, both present and past. Feel free to comment, and share your own story.

Apr 262016
 

My owl pendants and charms are a good example of inspired jewelry. I have always loved nature, and that is where I draw my inspiration. And to me, one of the most amazing animals in the world is the owl. Pendants and charms crafted in their image have always fascinated me. So a jewelry piece depicting any owl species is a personal favorite.

And what owl pendants do I carry? Well, a few years ago I designed a new silver pendant of a barn owl. It’s one of my favorites, and really doesn’t look like any other jewelry item in my line. Most all of my designs have each individual part as a separately crafted unit, but the barn owl pendant has its detail carved with a special tool I reserve for adding specific texture by hand.

Owl and Art Encounters

Silver Barn Owl PendantA couple of years ago, a little screech owl (I believe) appeared just outside my studio window, and perched on the sill. I don’t know my owl species well enough to positively identify it, but it was a thrill! Luckily my husband was in the studio too, so I got to share that delight. I guess just because owls are nocturnal I think of them as being rare. Actually they are probably very common, but since we daytime creatures don’t see them too often, they seem rare.

I know art is a very personal thing, but I am amazed by how many people collect owl pendants, owl charms and owl earrings. And I believe there are quite a few vintage owl designs available as well. My new enamel owl has a bit of that vintage enamel look, I think. It is an owl design in pewter, which has been hand painted in some lovely jewel-toned colors. (I say “has been hand painted” because I actually have a team of US artisans that paint my enamel designs. I am proud of their work, and don’t want to take credit for it myself.) Of course I choose the colors, but they do the actual painting.

Just a few days ago my husband and I took a nature walk at one of our fabulous Florida parks, and there met several owl species, among them a couple of horned owls. These birds were being cared for, since they all suffered injuries making it impossible for them to hunt and stay alive on their own. I hoped they were comfortable, and that they didn’t mind the fact that they could no longer fly. At least they were served food on a platter, and have the distinction of being ambassadors for their wild counterparts, teaching today’s kids about their habits and lives.

Are you a lover of inspired jewelry? And what actually compels you in your artistic selections? I am always curious to hear what my customers and any animal lover looks for in a jewelry design. Whether you love owl jewelry, or are a fan of another animal entirely, I enjoy hearing your thoughts. One of the best parts about being an animal jewelry artist is the feedback I get. I don’t think designing owl pendants or any other kind of animal jewelry would be nearly as fun without the comments and phone calls coming my way. Not to mention the customers I get to meet in person at my shows! Please let me know what what inspires you in your jewelry purchases!