Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Castro, SF

Anyone who hasn’t yet seen the movie “Milk”, I highly recommend it.

It was 1981 when my boyfriend (promoted to "husband" now) and I moved to the border of the Castro and Mission districts, only 3 years after Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone’s assassination. It is a sunny part of the city (for those who knows the San Francisco weather patterns, sunny is real good), affordable neighborhood (our one bedroom flat was only $400 a month rent), and conveniently down Market Street from Downtown (only 3 subway stops for me to get to work).

On those rare warm nights, we could walk to Castro Street to get an ice-cream from Double Rainbow, which used to be located north of the Castro Theater. I considered the Castro as the safest neighborhood for me since I didn’t have to worry about being picked up. (Yes, I made sure that I clutched onto my boyfriend’s arm to clearly show that he was taken. Lol.) The Castro Theater (still in operation today) is a beautiful piece of art deco styled architecture (designed by Timothy L. Pflueger) and is a perfect example of the grand movie palaces built in the 1920s. We loved hearing the organists playing, live, on the Wurlitzer organ before the movies started. We enjoyed many old films there, including those with Betty Boop, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, and numerous art films. Today, they also include live performances. Read more about the Castro Theater

Another event we used to enjoy at the Castro was the Halloween street party. In the beginning years, it was a ton of fun to walk over there on Halloween night. I still remember one guy had a mask/make-up that looked like his companion bull dog. In terms of costumes, creativity abound. And of course, some said the best costume was the lack of one. Everyone was out having a great time, and the street was closed to traffic for the evening. In the recent years though, it had become too rowdy and the city decided to shut it down. There was an attempt to move the party to the parking lot of the ballpark, but hardly anyone showed up. I think someone missed the point here – once you move something out of context, it’s just not the same.
The movie “Milk” today brought back so many fond memories. There are so many things that we take for granted today that were the results of Harvey Milk’s struggles. I want to thank him, the Mayor of Castro Street, for standing up for the minority groups – the gays/lesbians, the Asians, the African-Americans, the seniors, and the handicapped. He helped make San Francisco a very tolerant city.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

STOREWIDE SALE Thanksgiving Weekend Only

This is my FIRST annual sale, starting Wednesday 11/26 and lasts until Monday 12/1. Details are posted on my Shop Announcement. I'm hoping this will add a boost to my online store, and to help everyone out in this slow economy.

Since most of my jewelry and accessories are one-of-a-kind creations, once they are gone, they are gone. For pieces from my limited editions, I will re-list as soon as I can during these 6 days. All purchases will be gift wrapped and sent by First Class domestic mail, FREE, to you.

Wishing everyone a happy and yummy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History

As I was walking around the local library today, a book popped out at me. The name is “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History”, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. She is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, and wrote these words in 1976.

Ulrich’s original quote first appeared in American Quarterly in spring of 1976, entitled “Virtuous Women Found: New England Ministerial Literature, 1668-1735.” The article begins with this paragraph:

"Cotton Mather called them 'the hidden ones.' They never preached or sat in a deacon's bench. Nor did they vote or attend Harvard. Neither, because they were virtuous women, did they question God or the magistrates. They prayed secretly, read the Bible through at least once a year, and went to hear the minister preach even when it snowed. Hoping for an eternal crown, they never asked to be remembered on earth. And they haven't been. Well-behaved women seldom make history."

Ulrich’s intention was not to incite behaviors like Britney Spears or Madonna, nor behaviors of history-changing women such as Joan of Arc or Rosa Parks. In her own words, she was “making a commitment to help recover the lives of otherwise obscure women.” Instead of being forgotten, she was trying to acknowledge ordinary women, calling for history to pay attention to these women and their local and domestic contributions.

Since 1976, her quote has taken on a life of its own, appearing on T-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers and such. Today, many people associate the slogan “Well-behaved women seldom (or sometimes written as “rarely”) make history” with feminism. Without the suffragists, we wouldn’t have been able to vote today. Without Rosa Parks, would I have to go to the back of the bus even though I’m not Caucasian?

Can you remember the achievement of the following “Famous First” women: Elizabeth Ann Seton, Victoria Claflin Woodhull, Edith Wharton, Amelia Earhart, Shirley Chisholm, Sally Jean Priesand, Dr. Sally K. Ride, Geraldine Ferraro, Janet Reno, and Hillary Clinton.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Micro Engraving

Micro carving/engraving has 3000 years of history, in the Shang Dynasty in China. The artisans had a strong foundation in calligraphy, excellent control of their hands, worked in total concentration, and possessed unparallel eyesight. The requirements are so demanding that there were only a handful of these experts. Majority of this art were commonly seen on oracle bones, stone, wood, ivory, human hair and requires a microscopic of 100 magnification in order to read them.

Some of the better known micro engravers today who practice this art include Feng Yaozhong (Zhejiang) who carves on sesame seeds with works listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, Li Qiufeng (Shandong Province) who carved the full text of Confucius teachings on porcelain, Shen Weizhong (Suzhou) who engraves poems on pieces of hair only several mm long, and Zhang Yunhu (Shanghai) who reproduced the 300 Tang Poems of over 10,000 characters on a 3cm square piece of ivory.

To the right is a sterling bracelet where I engraved Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How do I love thee” poem. I would consider my inscriptions as mini engravings since you do not need a microscope to read the text. Yes, it required a lot of practice, breath-holding, and total concentration. This bracelet was purchased by a gentleman for his wife to celebrate a special birthday. I love happy endings. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Beaded Affair

Lois of A Beaded Affair is the talent who created this incredible wire wrapped ocean jasper. I like how the center wire curves to reflect the natural curve and circular patterns on this ocean jasper cabochon.

When Lois gets a free moment from running her realty office in the Philadelphia area (Willow Grove in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania) or from wire wrapping gemstones, she seeks out incredibly beautiful bead strands for listing at her “candy” store. She has fancy drilled amazonite, malachite coins, graduated garnet, sardonyx with very striking white stripes, deliciously colored Botswana agate, and so much more. Currently, she is offering free shipping when you buy 3 items or more. Don’t forget to grab some very hard to find square copper wires so you too, can give a try at wire wrapping gem cabochons. So check out her
Etsy store right away. You won’t be disappointed. She is an avid antique jewelry collector too.

I’m so glad to be a teammate with her at the eSMArts Guild. Lois will be our store manager for the new
Team Shop. She is one of the most qualified candidates, plus the fact that she has a big heart. Proceeds of the shop sales will go towards good causes. So check out the shop for more details. Basically, the eSMArts shop is filled with a spectrum of handcrafted art created by the team members. Where else can you find a better one-stop shopping shop for the upcoming holidays?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cleaning Silver Jewelry

Being a jeweler, several customers had asked me how to clean their sterling silver jewelry without the hard work of hand rubbing with polishing cloth. I usually use a polishing lathe or a tumbler to clean my creations before they ever leave my studio. Well, not everyone have access to these equipment. So I did some research and found the following organic method that only requires simple household items. (Note that this WILL NOT work on silver plated items or jewelry with porous stones such as turquoise, pearls and shells.)

You will need –
- large old pot (DO NOT use this pot for food prep afterwards)
- aluminum foil
- ½ a gallon of boiling water
- ¼ cup baking soda
- ¼ cup salt
- ¼ cup liquid dish soap
- plastic spoons
- strainer

1. Line the pot with aluminum foil.
2. Spread out your sterling jewelry in the pot, making sure they don’t touch each other.
3. Mix the baking soda, salt and dish soap and put in the pot.
4. Add enough water to cover the jewelry (about 2-3 inches) and bring the water to a boil for 2-3 minutes. Avoid breathing the fumes or putting your face near the steam.
5. Use the plastic spoons to gently move the jewelry pieces around so that they touch the aluminum surfaces.
6. When your silver jewelry is shiny again, pour everything out into a strainer and rinse with water.
7. Dry and buff with soft cotton cloth.

As an alternate to cooking your silver in a pot (Steps 1-4 above), you can also use the same concoction of baking soda, salt and dish soap in an aluminum pie pan and pour boiling water into the pan. Let soak for 2-3 minutes. Repeat the process as needed until the silver pieces are all clean (using fresh baking soda, salt, dish soap and boiling water each time.)

Sterling tarnishes when exposed to moisture in the air. When storing your silver jewelry, put them in anti-tarnish bags or zip lock bags and keep them away from direct sunshine. Silver will react to eggs and rubber products like rubber bands.

Hope you find this tutorial helpful!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Find Your Target Market

When I first started making jewelry, I pretty much make what I like to make. I tried to learn all the different interesting techniques, soaking up all the information my brain can hold. It is magical to be able to create all those beautiful sparkly objects.

Then I wanted to be able to sell my work to replenish my supplies and buy new tools. I plunge into researching on how to make this new obsession into a legitimate business. At that time, I would hear people talking about target markets. Heck, I didn’t know what that meant. I figure that “if I make it, they will come.” Ha! So on with hunting down shows to apply to, and jumping with excitement wherever I get accepted.

Well, I learned my lesson really well this weekend. It was like my light bulb was turned on by this craft show. Sales were so slow today that I decided to play a game. Each time a new person came near my table, I would try to guess whether this person would stop and look, whether she would pick up a piece of jewelry to take a closer look, or would she make a positive comment, or would she make a purchase. All this was based on my first impression of this shopper.

Although I barely made enough to pay for expenses, I learned a valuable lesson. Each artisan will have his/her own markets, depending on their art medium and style. Some questions to ask in order to find your audience would be:

- From what neighborhood(s) will my potential buyers be from? Well-to-do neighborhood with manicured lawn or fixer-uppers?
- From what kind of income range? Will they have discretionary income? I know, it can be hard to tell in this economy.
- What age group are they? Younger or older?
- Will I have the highest or lowest price points in the show? You really don’t want to bring your $100 items to places where most other people are selling $5-$10 items.
- Will my art be appreciated? Are these people used to buying imported mass production or will they appreciate the handmade process by local artists?
- Do they mind having the same things as everyone else or would they prefer uniqueness?

- How are they dressed? Conservative? Flamboyant? Chic? Casual?
- Are they wearing any jewelry? If they are, what style?

I’m sure there are more to the above list. The one advantage or disadvantage in selling online is that the target market need not be defined as clearly as direct selling in art shows. As an artisan, I’m glad I get to do both. If I only rely on virtual sales, I would not have learned how to define my target market even to this date.

Well, I’ll just jot this weekend down as an experience. To make myself feel better, I snatched a chocolate cake that was put on half price at the end of the show. :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Free Earrings Winner

On my first blog, I promised to draw a name out of my list of blog followers to receive this pair of crystal cubes and sterling earrings I made. The winner is Jodi of j_craft. Congratulations!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How to Promote Your Website, by Unique Expressions

Unique Expressions: How to Promote Your Website

I found this site and can't help but need to spread the words. A great list with links to many of the social marketing sites. Check it out.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Prototype Ring

This is the first time I made this ring, using sterling sheet, sterling wires, and colored resin. It has over 6-1/2 grams of sterling and my hand-signature on the back. The top has a circle within a circle, allowing up to two color combinations. They can be complementary or analogous colors, providing me hours of adventure in mixing and pairing them.

The ring shank is made from heavy gauge round wire and is soldered only to the back of the ring top. The ends overlap, which allows for easy size adjustments. I smoothed out the wire tips for comfort. Customers will never have to worry about their fingers swelling in the summer heat, nor the ring slipping off their finger during cooler weather.

It is a really fun ring to wear, with its bright colors. It’s a definite show-stopper. I finished the ring two days ago and garnered compliments each time I wear it. I made the top almost 1” in diameter so it doesn’t flop around. It is also a good way to camouflage my big knuckles. :)

I haven’t quite decided whether to put this into production yet. I thought I would give my readers and fans a chance to vote. Send me your vote or suggestions/comments below.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm Featured on Judaica Journal

What a nice surprise when I find my work featured on Judaica Journal . It is the only blog journal (that I know of) that dedicates to all things Jewish, and it has an international following. I feel extremely honored to have the exposure on this journal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

SandT Creations

This gorgeous necklace is from S&T Creations in Jeffersonville, IN. She uses turquoise and black beads to create this stunner. Saundra and Teri enjoy working and learning together. One of Teri’s dreams is to visit the Roman ruins in Italy. I’m sure she doesn’t mind taking me along when that happens. lol


This delicate-looking bracelet was woven with tiny seed beads by Elayne. I tried bead weaving when I first started making jewelry. It takes a lot of patience and good eyes. So, my hats off to Elayne. And she is selling this for $42, which is a steal. If you like it, you’d better snatch that up at their Etsy store right away because good deals don’t last.

Elayne is the daughter of the mother-daughter team behind ChezChani. Roz is the mom who makes all the glass beads and wirework. They work out of their home in Las Vegas and are transplants from Montreal.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chinese Jews

On the left is an almanac of a 趙 (Zhao) family in China. Notice some names in Chinese and some in Hebrew.

It was more than 20 years ago when I first learned that there were Jews in China. Rabbi Kirschner of Congregation Emanu-el lent me a book on the topic, Jews in Old China: Studies by Chinese Scholars by Sidney Shapiro. That must have been the first English language book written about the Chinese Jews. Since then, there has been many books telling the tales of Jews in Old and Modern China.

Jewish visitors had been documented as early as 231 BCE. They came via the Silk Road through Central Asia and India, and they traded with merchants in Kaifeng, the largest city at the time. Some time during history, the Jews must have brought the game Mah-Jong back home. So many of my temple sisters play that game, and I would be one of the rare ones who don’t know how. I blame that on my Dad.

Growing up in Hong Kong, many people played Mah-Jong, including my mom. There were several few times when I would stand next to the table to watch all the players shuffle those pretty tiles. Each time, my Dad would tell me to get away from the table because he didn’t want me to be “learning about gambling”. (The game uses these colorful chips as bets.) And no, they never used any game cards.

I hope some day I can visit the different Jewish communities, or the sites of old communities, in Kaifeng, Shanghai, Harbin, and Beijing. I just think that it would be a very interesting trip.

(I am a Jew, by choice.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My First Blog Post & Free Earrings GIVEAWAY

Wow, this is a historical moment for me - my first blogging effort. It's about time, huh?!

To celebrate this occasion, I will be drawing a name from my list of blog followers. Click "Follow This Blog" on the right sidebar. The drawing will take place at the end of the day on my birthday - October 14. This one lucky winner will receive a pair of earrings that I created. They look like this -

Amethyst and rainbow color coated clear Swarovski cubes, separated by twist wire rings. Ear wires and all findings are sterling silver. A great pair of Everyday Earrings.

Now a little bit about myself (so I can get this self-promotion behind me, lol):

After many years of practicing as an architect, I craved to create with my own two hands instead of just sitting behind the computer or drawing board and have other people carry out my designs. From mega-scale projects to micro-sized adornments, I execute my jewelry designs/fabrication with an artful eye, precision hands, and human comfort in mind. I hope my jewelry collections will bring you as much meaning and enjoyment as the passion I pour onto each piece.

My inspiration comes from my past experiences in life, my cultures, my environment or it can be a specific moment in time. Sometimes interesting techniques will challenge me to come up with different designs too. My work keeps evolving, with fresh ideas all the time.
I try to keep my designs simple and timeless, using materials of the highest quality. My preference is to use silver or gold since they are highly recyclable and highly shapeable. On the other hand, with the cost of precious metals these days, I do explore other jewelry grade metals as well. These materials will be specified in my descriptions and materials sections on my Etsy shop.

I'm also a proud member of the awesome, one and only, incredible team called eSMArts Guild. Go to our team site to find out more, and to get to know my extremely talented cohorts.