Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Woodland Ring Silversmithing Class

I have been making jewelry for the past 3 decades.  (Yes, I'm old....LOL.)  In all of the years that I have been creating jewelry, I have never taken a jewelry making class.  Not one.  I pride myself on being a self-taught designer.   In fact, I used to teach jewelry making classes when I lived in Arizona.  However, recently, I became aware of an opening in Deryn Mentock's Woodland Ring two day silver-smithing workshop.  I have long admired Deryn's jewelry designs, and when I saw her latest ring creations, I JUST KNEW I had to take this workshop.  So...I did. I have no regrets.

I made the 10 hour drive from my home in Northwest Arkansas to Katy, Texas; the workshop was held at Multiplicity Studio there.  I learned so much about silver-smithing from Deryn, in addition to  her tried and true techniques for this process.  Diane Cook, who is a metal jewelry designer in her own right and also the Creative Workshop Coordinator and Metals Instructor at Multiplicity, also assisted the class in soldering and operating a rolling mill to emboss our ring bands (among other things).  Let me tell you, both of these ladies are fabulous and they left quite an impression on me.

I not only enjoyed the camaraderie of the classroom, I appreciated the ability to learn new techniques (such as making the nifty little rose embellishment for our rings) and branch out from my comfort zone. I completed most of my ring during class.  I still have to add another embellishment to the ring, apply a little patina to it and set my stones and I will be done!  

This is my almost-completed ring:

My ring - almost done!
 I will share the finished design here on my blog - so please stay tuned...

These are Deryn's rings that inspired me to take my first ever jewelry making workshop.  Aren't they gorgeous???

Deryn Mentock's Woodland Rings - aren't they gorgeous???
Be sure to check out Deryn Mentock, Diane Cook and Multiplicity Studio at the following links:

Deryn Mentock - Something Sublime
Diane Cook - Rosa and Josie's
Multiplicity - Studio

Thanks for stopping by and "see" you soon!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Graduation, Europe and Loss in 2017

I realize I have not posted anything new here since July of last year.  For me, 2017 was a year of joy, sorrow, adventure and pain.  Last year at this time, all of my focus was on graduating from college with my bachelor's degree.  School literally was my first priority above everything else. I figured if I could successfully graduate from college at my age (51 at the time), I would be ready for anything.  Last May, not only did I graduate from the University of Arkansas, I did so with honors.  It was a very proud moment for me.

Earlier in the year, as a graduation gift to myself, I booked a 3 week fall trip to Europe, specifically, to Germany, France and Italy.  I was thrilled not only to visit my favorite place in the world (Italy), I also planned on visiting the small town in Germany where my family hailed from, along with France for good measure. 

My happiness was short-lived, however.  My youngest brother, Jason, had been experiencing pain in his shoulder, which numerous doctors attributed to a pinched nerve from weightlifting.  He had been having trouble performing basic tasks such as tying his shoelaces, and he had fallen a couple of times.  On July 5th, as he was leaving his most recent doctor appointment about his shoulder pain, Jason was involved in a minor car accident. His left side had gone numb while driving and he ran into the person in front of him.  He was taken to the hospital by ambulance where tests were conducted.  That night, I got the news that he had a brain tumor.  Doctors had to conduct brain surgery to remove the tumor, but also, to see what kind of tumor they were dealing with.  The following week, the doctors gave my family the dreaded diagnosis.  Jason was diagnosed with the deadliest and most aggressive form of brain cancer - grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (the same cancer Senator John McCain has; he was diagnosed one week after my brother received his diagnosis.)  Jason was given 14 months to live.  I was told he cried when he got the news.  After he got over the initial shock, he announced that he was going to fight this beast with everything he had.

Jason Christopher Tillwach
Jason before his cancer diagnosis.
 Jason and I talked on the phone and texted several times shortly after he received his diagnosis.  He lived in the Phoenix area, along with my parents and another brother.  I live in Arkansas.  During one such phone call I received from Jason, I was seated in the lobby of my doctor's office undergoing tests for my own cancer scare, while Jason was preparing to undergo his second brain surgery later that morning.  My parents kept me posted on Jason's progress as he went through chemo, radiation and physical therapy.  The chemo and radiation proved difficult for my brother.  Once a healthy, intelligent and muscular guy who worked out at the gym several days a week, he lost the ability to walk.  The treatments resulted in his heart being damaged, blood clots in his leg and a significant loss of muscle mass.   It seems like the treatment for the disease was just as bad as - if not worse than - the glioblastoma itself.

In September, I departed for my trip to Europe, which shifted from a vacation to more of a pilgrimage on behalf of my brother.  I visited numerous churches and resting areas of incorrupt saints who are known for their powerful intercessions and miraculous healings.  I prayed hard and asked God to heal my brother. I even bargained for him to take me in my brother's place.  I remember sitting in the pew of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Strasbourg, France, tears running down my face, begging for my brother to be saved, asking for a miracle.

It was not meant to be.  While in Rome in early October, I received the dreaded phone call from my mother informing me that Jason's condition had significantly worsened.  I cut my trip short, cancelled my remaining hotel reservations in Italy, and flew to Phoenix to spend time with my brother, who was now staying at a hospice facility.  Although I was fully aware that my brother might be unrecognizable due to his significant weight loss, I was not prepared for the other ravages caused by the cancer.  Jason - who was a radio personality in the Phoenix area for over two decades - could no longer hold a conversation.  Any attempts he made to communicate were limited to just one or two words, and those were spoken in forced whispers.  The cancer had spread to his spine and testicles; he was in immense pain, so he was on morphine.  Also gone was the mischievous light in his eyes.  Ever the jokester, Jason's eyes used to reflect his fun-loving personality.  His eyes were now dull and emotionless and resembled those of a mannequin.   Before flying home to Arkansas, I said my goodbyes to my beloved brother; I had a horrible feeling I would not see him alive again.

Jason - at his son's first birthday party.
Jason - ever the jokester...
 A few days later, my mother called me with the awful news that Jason passed away.  She was crying; I could hear my dad sobbing in the background.  I had just returned home from my daughter's baby shower.   I don't remember a lot about that weekend; I think I was in shock.  I couldn't cry.  I just remember sitting in my dark living room for the rest of the weekend, shades drawn, mourning my loss.  My brother had been given 14 months to live, but we lost him just 3 months and 2 days after his cancer diagnosis.  He never stood a chance against the beast that ravaged his body, mind and personality.

It has been five months now since I lost my baby brother.  I think of him everyday.  They say that time heals all wounds, but I don't necessarily believe that to be true. I have my good days and bad days. Some days, it is all I can do not to slip into a deep depression.   Fortunately, I am cognizant of what happens when I start to feel depressed so I force myself to get up and get moving; it's all I can do some days to physically get up and do something to ward off my melancholy.

I fully intend to start blogging again on a regular basis.  I have so many things I want to share with my readers, including new DIY projects and recipes.  For those of you who continue to follow me - even during my prolonged absence from blog-land - I want to thank you for coming back time and again.  It is most appreciated.  ♥

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Shopping for Jewelry Supplies & Embellishments in NYC's Garment District

Even though I love all things creative, when I shop for supplies, the things I buy most often are intended for my mixed media jewelry design creations.   Now don't get me wrong, if I notice a sale on beautiful fabric or trim, I don't hesitate to purchase it for my quilting stash; more often than not, though, my focus is geared towards jewelry supplies and beads.

Last month, I spent several days in New York City.  And lucky me - my hotel was located within walking distance of the Garment District.  Prior to my trip, I researched the internet and various blogs to find shops that carry jewelry supplies.  I visited a few of those, in addition to other places I discovered just by wandering around the area.  I want to share my findings with my readers and others who are interested in finding jewelry supplies in the Garment District.

Hai's Trim
242 West 38th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)
(212) 764-2166
Hours: Monday - Friday from 10:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m.; Saturday from 10:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m.

Although I visited several shops, my absolute favorite was Hai's Trim.  Although Hai's Trim touts itself as a carnival supplier and fashion design shop on its Facebook page, they have much, much more by way of embellishments and jewelry design.  You name it, they have it here.  There is an entire wall of metal chain by the yard, in a vast array of designs, shapes, sizes, weights and colors - many of which I have not seen in my local craft stores or on the internet.  And best of all, it is priced reasonably compared to other shops that carry chain in the area.  Another thing I love about this shop is the fact that they carry large sizes (for example, 10-11 mm sizes) of AB rhinestone chain in various colors and metal choices, including bronze, black, gun-metal, copper and rose-gold, which is generally hard to find.   I purchased several yards of chain here, in addition to metal stampings and crystals that will be perfect for my future creations.  A lovely girl by the name of Cynthia patiently assisted me during my visit.  She was quite helpful, informing me that the shop gives a 10% discount on purchases that total over $100.00.  In addition, they sell to both retail and wholesale customers.  Be sure to bring your resale certificate when you shop here.

Storefront view of Hai's Trim.

Large rhinestone chain sold by the yard.

An entire wall of chain - a jewelry creator's delight.

More chain.

And still more chain...

Just a small sampling of embellishments available for sale.

A view of just some of the decorative trim.

A view of some of the rhinestone chain I purchased here.

M&J Trimming
1008 Sixth Avenue (between 37th and 38th Streets)
Hours: Mon - Fri : 9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Saturday : 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Sunday : 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Tel: 212-391-6200


I have been on M&J Trimming's email list for several years.  It all started with an online purchase I made from them.  However, until last month, I did not have the opportunity to visit their physical location.  Let me just say that this store is chock-full of floor to ceiling ribbons, trim, buttons and other items.  The store's website offers several items for sale, however, it does not (cannot) represent anywhere near the volume of items available for purchase in the retail location.

Included in the vast inventory of this store is a decent variety of metal chain sold by the piece, foot or yard, depending on the item.  In addition, Swarovski crystal buttons, trim and flat-backs are sold here.  The service is good, too.  I was assisted by an adorable octogenarian who told me she has worked for the shop for over 40 years - and loves it.  I can't remember her name, but she was super sweet and very helpful.  Even though the main part of my purchase here was chain, I couldn't resist purchasing some of the decorative trim for my other projects.

Outside of M&J Trimming.

Storefront view of M&J Trimming.

One of the floor to ceiling ribbon displays. I couldn't fit it all into the picture.

A close-up view of ribbon/trim available for sale.

Gorgeous rhinestone trim.

A good selection of chain is available for purchase.

My sales lady - who is an octogenarian - has worked here for over 40 years.

One view of the store.

Tons of Swarovski crystals are for sale.

A sampling of Swarovski buttons available for purchase.

Buttons galore - more than meets the eye - are for sale here.

CJS Sales
16 W. 36th Street, 2nd floor (Between 5th and 6th Avenues)
(212) 244-1400
Hours: Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
NOTE:  Wholesale customers only; they do not sell to retail customers. Bring your resale certificate.

I recall reading about CJS Sales on the internet long before I ever had a chance to visit here.  This shop is iconic and there is nothing quite like it.  This is a wholesale warehouse that is jam-packed with boxes of vintage beads of all kinds including crystals (Swarovksi and cheaper versions), glass, Cloisonne, plastic, metal, pearls, etc.  CJS also sells metal stampings, cabochons, chain, bezel settings, filigree, components and so much more.

Upon entering the warehouse, I was given a tour of the warehouse by one of the owners, Carl Schimel.  Carl explained that he gives first-timers a tour in order to help them discern where everything is; people tend to get overwhelmed at the vast amount of "stuff" available for sale. This is great if you are searching for something in particular.   I ended up purchasing 14 pounds of goodies here; I was one happy camper.  Thankfully, CJS  provided me with a large sturdy bag to carry all of my items.  (I walked over to the nearest post office and shipped it all home so I wouldn't have to carry it around all day.)  If you plan to shop here, I would suggest wearing comfortable shoes and clothing that you don't mind getting dirty.  I'd also bring a water bottle and hand-wipes.  You will have to dig through thousands of items, and you will get dirty, but that is half of the fun.  You can easily spend an entire day here sorting through the vast inventory of items. 

Boxes of metal components and stampings are in these boxes; many are vintage.

Metal findings and components.

Tons of jewelry parts available for sale.

Chain, beads and components by the boxful.

Stone International
64B West 37th Street (Between 5th and 6th Avenues)
(212) 273-1126
To be honest, I don't purchase a lot of gemstones, simply because I don't normally utilize them in my designs.  While this shop is small, it appeared to have a good variety of strung gemstones on both walls of the shop.  One thing that caught my attention here was the variety of mini beaded rosary chains available for sale here.  This is unique because the bead size of the chain was approximately 3-4 mm in size as opposed to the 6-8 mm sized chain that is readily available for sale in craft stores.  I did find the cost of the chain to be quite steep at $12.00 and up per foot. (They didn't appear to be made with gemstones, just glass beads.)  I found a seller on Etsy that sells something similar for $1.25 per foot and up for what appears to be the same thing.  On another note, there were several items marked down on clearance in the front of the store.  I purchased a few strands of amazonite beads and freshwater pearl cross beads from the clearance area that I couldn't live without.

Storefront view.

Strands of gemstones dangle from both walls of the shop.

Rosary bead chain made with 3-4 mm beads are available for sale by the foot.

A detail pic of the rosary bead chain.
Mood Fabrics
225 W 37th Street, 3rd floor
(212) 730-5003
Hours:  Mon-Fri: 9am - 7pm, Sat: 10am - 5pm

Mood Fabrics is well known because it is the place where the up and coming fashion designers from the television show Project Runway purchase their fabrics.  The main reason I visited the shop was because I was on the hunt for zippers and quilting fabric for my daughter-in-law.  I found the zippers my daughter-in-law wanted and bought several of them.  While there is a huge selection of fabrics perfect for making clothing, Mood doesn't carry any type of cotton fabric that is good for making quilts, handbags and other projects.  I was, however, pleased to find that Mood carries a small selection of rhinestone chain and colored metal chain that can be utilized in jewelry making.  I also found some gorgeous trim that consists of small roses fashioned from organza, chiffon and other fabrics.  I ended up purchasing a few yards of this, as well.  I think they will make beautiful additions to cuff-style bracelets and bib necklaces.

Mood Fabrics

Rhinestone chain sold by the yard.

A view of some of the beautiful trim available for sale.

More trim for sale - and LOTS of it.

Metal chain is various colors is sold by the yard.

A vast assortment of buttons on display in the store.

More trim...

And more trim...
Bolts of fashion fabric are available for purchase.
B&Q Trimming
102 W. 38th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues)
Hours - Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

B&Q Trimmings is not exactly touted as a bead or jewelry store, however, towards the back of the store, there is a small selection of rhinestone chain (the least expensive of all of the stores I visited in the area), crystals and other trims and such that can be fashioned into jewelry items.  I was helped by a woman who gave me several yards of trim marked at $1.95 per yard for $1.00 per yard.  When she saw me looking at particular trims, she made me the offer, and I couldn't refuse.  The trims will look cute on some of my jewelry pieces; the rest I will use for my sewing/quilting projects.

The Storefront.
Inside B&Q Trimming.
 All in all, I was really pleased with the purchases I made during my visit to the Garment District. If I had to offer one last piece of advice, I would suggest bringing copies of your resale tax certificate with you when shopping in the area (if you have one.)  Many of the shops are willing to accept these and you can save a lot of money on supplies you can utilize in your jewelry or craft business.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Introducing Wanda Maria Designs and the San Gennaro Festival in NYC!!!

Life is quite interesting at times - and that is an understatement!

For several months, I have been planning to go to New York in September, 2014 in order to promote my jewelry business, and I ended up receiving the opportunity of a lifetime.   My business will be a sponsor and vendor of the Annual San Gennaro Festival in New York's Little Italy.  This is a big deal as the special sponsor/vendor status is granted to only 12 businesses each year.  The promoter informed me that they have not previously had any businesses which make handmade Catholic and faith-based jewelry participate in the event.   They felt I would be the perfect addition to the festival. Needless to say, they really bent over backwards in working with me to bring me on board.  I can't tell you how very excited I am about being able to participate in this event, which is expected to attract between 1.5 and 1.75 million visitors this year.  This is a huge networking opportunity for me.  I will meet hundreds of thousands of people; in addition, the promoter informed me that one of the large Italian Fashion Houses will be helping with the event.  The Fashion House works strictly with jewelry and clothing designers.  I am very excited about getting to meet them while I am there.  One never knows what could happen.... *fingers crossed*.

San Gennaro - patron saint of Naples, Italy and blood banks.

I have been thinking about rebranding my business name of "Two Crafty Mules" for awhile now.  It was a cute name when we started the business in 2000.  At the time, we were making everything from dolls to quilts to jewelry and other sorts of homey, crafty things.  As the business evolved, it essentially became a business that sells primarily mixed-media and faith-based jewelry designs.  Two Crafty Mules no longer encompasses the type of product designs I make and sell.  In order to better capture the spirit of my handmade jewelry, "Two Crafty Mules" is being rebranded as "Wanda Maria Designs".   The Etsy store name has been changed to accommodate the name change, and a new website is being developed.  The Facebook page - which is currently a work in progress - has been set up here.  This blog will remain as "Two Crafty Mules" and will continue to share craft projects, tutorials, recipes and the like, as will the Two Crafty Mules Facebook page.  The "Wanda Maria Designs" page will focus more on sharing new jewelry designs to accommodate those who are interested in just the fashion aspect of my business without all of the crafting.  Confusing?  I hope not.  My main goal is to keep my customers and blog followers from the past as I garner new ones through "Wanda Maria Designs".

The logo for "Wanda Maria Designs"

Until the new website is set up, I will continue to share new jewelry designs on this blog.

I thank you for your past support, and I appreciate you sticking with me as I go through this exciting transition.

By the way - to help me launch "Wanda Maria Designs" on a nationwide level, I have started a project in Kickstarter.  Please feel free to stop by and check it out.  Any support you can offer will be much appreciated.  Those who support me there will have the opportunity of receiving FREE jewelry pieces from me, including, but not limited to lovely pieces like these:

I hope to "see" you there!
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