Thursday, May 26, 2011

A little glimpse into the future...

I haven't posted anything new on my Etsy site for a while now.  It's not because I haven't been working...I've had a few custom designs I've worked on along with a few other new items that haven't been posted yet because my laptop's hard drive died.  So here's a little glimpse of what I've made lately.  Except for the custom items, the other new ones will hopefully be up at my Etsy store real soon!

Her Future is So Bright necklace
Her Future is So Bright necklace was created specially for my friend Jennifer's daughter's graduation.  Katy's favorite color is teal, so I made her this out of a bright teal blue impression stone, some blue apatite, sterling silver and wood beads.  I think it will look really lovely on her.

Angela's Garden necklace
Angela contacted me to see if I could create a necklace to go with a pair of earrings that she had received as a gift.  As I had also created the earrings, I had moss agate stones that matched perfectly and it was no problem to create this beautiful choker style necklace just for her.  I really love doing custom work for people. 
Heaven's Tears earrings
These earrings are made from some cool blue jasper stones I got at the 2011 Bead Blast.  I thought the blue apatite chips really complemented the shades of blue in the jasper.  I think these will be great for summer! 

Gabrielle Three- in- one necklace
This is an adjustable necklace that can be worn three different ways.  It has two different strands that can be worn together as one double strand necklace or each can be worn by itself.  The pale amazonite beads remind me of a bright summer sky.

Barefoot at the Beach anklet
My friend Tammy gave me the idea to make this anklet.  She was telling me about how popular "glitter toes" are with her and her friends.  So I created this anklet to show off with a fabulous pedicure on a sandy beach. Now if only I had a beach nearby so I could test it out...

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of what's coming soon to my Etsy store for summer.  Thanks for looking!

Monday, May 23, 2011

An Artist with a Passion- Tammy Zehner, Whirl Girl Glass Designs

Hi everyone!  I want to start introducing you to different artists...I thought I'd start with Tammy because she's a very special person.  Not only is she now a good friend, she has a great passion for her artwork and also for helping animals... a topic very dear to my heart.  Tammy is a fellow Etsian and has been very helpful to me in sharing tips and giving me critique on my own Etsy store. Here is my interview with Tammy Zehner of Whirl Girl Glass Designs.  I hope you enjoy getting to know Tammy as much as I have.

One of Tammy's stained glass creations.

Hi Tammy, introduce yourself to my blog readers...
Describe yourself and your life.

I am a self-taught artist who learned from library books and the trial and error method.    I have been doing stained glass for 15 years now and still continue to learn new things every day.  I think you need to push your limits to become a better artist and I always try to.  I also don’t believe in being competitive.  I share my “trade secrets” with other artists or the public.  I believe that I put my own passion in my designs that cannot be duplicated and I am not threaten by competition.  Some of my best friends are other artists from Etsy and we work off of and respect one another’s ideas.  They inspire me and push me to be more creative not competitive.   I think that is what I liked about art in the first place that it wasn’t competitive.  In high school, I didn’t want to play sports I just wanted to paint and draw. I remember my dad kicking us kids out of the house for the day to “go play outside” and my sister and her friends would head to the ball fields where I’d climb a tree and draw.  In my senior year I won national recognition for a watercolor of a seahorse that I painted for Sea World. 
  My life has worked out just fine but a lot of ironic things happened that made me wonder how it could have been different.  I went to a catholic school for 9 years of my life and they didn’t teach art there.  I wasn’t exposed to art until I was in 10th grade.  Then I became obsessed with art of all kinds, art history, art museums and art class. Most of my high school photos in the year book show me sporting a Salvador Dali t-shirt, a Van Gogh, M.C. Escher or  Andy Warhol.
 Somehow I wound up at the only college in my area that actually taught glass blowing as an art but I didn’t take it.  I hadn’t found my passion yet. I went to school for occupational therapy and worked in the health field for many years off and on.  I currently care for  mentally disabled adults on my farm part time.  I don’t mind the work I do, it is very satisfying, but it isn’t my passion.
  I am a proud mother of an active 9 year old daughter who holds office in our county 4-H club and a wife.  We live on a 137 year old farm, so that means I’m always fixing something!  We have a wide variety of animal rescues here at Misfit farms, everything from unwanted sugar gliders to rescued horses.  All of this keeps me quite busy.  I am also active on our farmer’s grange and volunteer at church.  Where we live is almost like taking a step back in time.  We don’t have most modern conveniences and most of our day is spent outside working or preparing for winter. We sell brown and blue eggs (yes, some chickens lay blue eggs), make our own syrup from the trees, honey from the bees, chop wood for heat and live off of what we have grown and put up for winter.  I live in the kind of small town that when you’re trying to decide what you want to do this weekend your options are the tractor pull or the square dance.  I love living in a small town.

Tammy's daughter at the farm.

How did you first get interested in working with glass?

My husband first noticed that everything that I was drawn to when decorating our new home was glass.  Glass dishes, glass curtain rods, glass lighting, and glass vases, everything seemed to center around glass. He asked me if I’d like to try and learn about glass.  He bought me the supplies and gave me the push and I got started and have never stopped!  He has always been very supportive of my art talent no matter the medium.   Of course, every now and again I find my mind wandering asking myself, "what if I had been exposed to art since kindergarten and what if I went to school for glass blowing?  Where would I be today?"  But then I quickly snap back to reality when I realize it really doesn’t matter because I’m right where I want to be anyway so all is well that ends well.

What is your favorite piece of art you've created so far?  Why was this your favorite?

  I know this is a strange answer but it is an honest one.  My favorite piece of art is the one I am currently working on.  For me, the pleasure comes from the process not the end result.  This may be why I don’t have trouble selling my work because once I am finished with it, I like for it to move on where someone else can enjoy it and make more room for the next project.   I do have a few pieces of art in my home that are permanent, my back door is of a horse.   I am currently working on a Dutch door for my dining room of my rescue haflingers looking over a stall door.  I can’t explain the passion I feel when creating a new design, the challenge, the colors, the cuts, the design, the smell of the solder, the sound of the glass cutting, even the feel of my rough calloused fingers when I’ve worked for too long.  I even enjoy the parts that other glass artists dislike, the monotony of foiling every piece by hand and the joy I get from polishing it for hours to a shine I just can’t describe.  It all gives me great pleasure.  My art as in my life I do everything the old fashion way, I don’t use diamond saws to cut the pieces for my designs, if I can’t cut the piece myself with my hand cutter I don’t think it should be cut. If the glass has to be forced to break at a certain angle then it opens up the opportunity for it to break later as a stress fracture after the project is finished.  I just don’t complicate things if the glass doesn’t want to break for me I go back to the drawing board, literally. My tools are the most basic for glass, I don’t invest my time or money in every new product that comes along.  My favorite tool happens to be the pencil because we all started with one and it isn’t really about the tool it is about what you can do with it.

A work in progress, Blazer

What inspires you most in your art?

I think like any artist I am inspired by my surroundings.  I choose to surround myself with nature and animals, flowers and farm.  Every day I seem to have more ideas than I have time.  Ideas are all around us, we just need to open our eyes and see them.  Simple everyday things inspire me like the pumpkins and the gourds growing in the fall, birds’ nests, the honey bees, the maple trees, rocks (especially agates) and glass. Any kind of glass, from the green glass beer bottle to the colorful canning jars, there is something about the weight of a glass item in your hand that gives me a feeling of quality I don’t get with plastic.

What was the biggest success story you had with rehabilitating an animal?

The biggest success I’ve had rehabilitating an animal may depend on your definition of success.  I would probably say it is my cat Ashley (better known as the cat that lives under my bed) who we got from the shelter when we moved here.  I wanted the cat that had been there the longest and they explained to me that she wasn’t adoptable.  I assured them I understood and 3 hours later they had trapped her for us.  To this day she rattles around this old farmhouse and gets to live her life out in peace and freedom.  I explained our farm motto to our 3 year old when taking in a feral cat, “not every pet here wants or needs to be petted”.  We have other cats for pets but this one was adopted for the sake of a rescue and she truly is.  She doesn’t like us and doesn’t need to, she is only handled once a year when I trap her and vaccinate her.  Not many people adopt unconditionally like this, most people expect that someday the animal will come to love them.  That isn’t always the case, sometimes they are incapable of love for whatever reason, that just means I need to show my love for her in a different way, in her case by respecting the space and privacy she deserves. I know and accept the fact that this cat has lived here 7 years and is unwilling to allow me or anyone to pet her and I am okay with that.  Most people may not consider this a success but I do because what was her alternative?  She was an older cat when we got her and her options were slim at best.  We only take animals at Misfit Farms that have no other options.  If we think that they can be placed in another home then we allow that to make room for the ones that have no other options.
  My daughter and husband would probably tell you that the most successful rescue was our baby haflinger horse, Blazer.  We rescued him when he was 3 months old and was with a large herd of haflinger horses in the hills of Southern Ohio.  His mother was bought at an auction and not knowing she was already bred, she was let loose to run with the herd for the winter.  He was born in harsh conditions with nothing for shelter but the trees and nothing to eat but what he could find.  This suits this breed of horse well generally, but it didn’t suit him.  In his herd there were a lot of dominate horses that wouldn’t allow him to drop his head to eat and his mother refused to care for him.  Soon he became so malnourished that he didn’t have the extra energy to grow hair.  His before and after pictures show you the dramatic difference that we made in his life.  What you can’t see is the difference he has made in ours.  We took turns hand feeding him because he was so afraid to drop his head to eat he wouldn’t eat out of a bucket.  It took us 3 months of around the clock care to get him to look the way he does now.  Our other haflinger is named Jellybean and she is a 9 year old haflinger that was at the auction because she was too quiet.  That meant that she didn’t stand up for herself and other horses picked on her and they were tired of paying for vet bills to stitch her back together.  She has been the perfect 4-H horse for my daughter and the perfect surrogate mother  for Blazer.  There are a few things I have learned over the years doing rescues and one of them is I’m not always the best one to teach a mistrusting animal, usually a well-adjusted calm confident animal is.  Blazer grew up healthy and the only thing to match his draft horse strength is his sense of humor.  He is always up to something.  I have found him sunning himself on our deck and he has startled me more than once when I was supposed to be relaxing in the hot tub after a long day’s work.  He is in perfect health now and I’m guessing from the looks of things he may have a career in jumping ahead of him.  He is in training now to learn to carry a rider which isn’t very hard for him.  He is happy just to be around people and he doesn’t seem to mind having a job to do.  Someday, my daughter may take him to the fair when old Jellybean is too quiet and not fast enough for her anymore.  Either way, job or no job, both horses will live their lives out here at Misfit Farms no matter what!

Tammy with her horses, Blazer (lying down) and Jellybean

Do you hope to continue your work with rescuing animals in need?  Would you like to expand your farm if you could afford to do it?

 As long as there is a breath in me I will continue to rescue animals.  It is who I am not just what I do.  Since our rescues are usually long term, meaning this will be their forever home, we could have them for up to 40 years.  Draft horses live to be well into their 40’s.  We also have special needs dogs that live with us in our home and are part of the family.  Dalmatians are my favorite breed and a breed in need.  I have had dalmatians as a rescue for over 15 years now.  One of the problems of their breed is that they can be born deaf.  I love a challenge!  We are currently raising 2 deaf dals with the help of our hearing dalmatian.  I taught him the signs first and he then in turn taught the deaf dals, this proved to be much easier than trying to teach the deaf dals myself.  The deaf dals are the most challenging of all of my rescues.  Dalmatians are hyper active dogs normally, just imagine that plus constant barking, insecurity problems and medical conditions including seizures.   I’m sure other animals in need will find their way to our farm, they somehow do.  We have taken in a blind sheep, deformed llamas, alpacas and bottle baby goats among many others.  My goal is to be able to afford to give the animals the attention they need for the rest of their lives and that sometimes means I have to say no to some.  There is only so much of my time, money and attention to go around.  I think my family and I are at a comfortable balance numbers wise with the animals that currently reside here.  If funds permitted I’d improve the conditions that we have instead of rescuing more animals at this time.  As I said we live in an 1880’s farm house so we don’t have the conveniences of other barns.  We’d like to have water and electric ran out to our barns someday so that taking out fresh water didn’t take up so much of our time and energy around here.  The winters are especially hard with frozen water buckets.  Another long term goal of ours would be to expand the dog’s yard.  Yes, we live in the country and have our dogs fenced in.  We need to take special precautions with our deaf pups and having them secured at all times is one of them.  They have a small fenced in yard and go on walks twice a day but we dream of a larger area for them to romp and run and play in.  So trust me there are always updates to be made, fences to mend (especially with Blazer), and things to do here on the farm.  I dream it will someday be a place of rest and not always work for us and the animals to enjoy together.  Another thing that we think is important is our animals actually have their own checking account.  We make sure there is no chance we won’t have the money to continue our work for the animals we have committed to.   We set aside money that comes from donations or our own pocket book to cover expenses for medical care, consulting a professional trainer, food and repair bills.  We leave nothing to chance here at Misfit farms, the animals that live here will have no worries for the rest of their lives.

One of Tammy's dalmatians

What is your favorite way to spend a day off?

 My favorite way to spend a day off is to sleep in!  I enjoy my life so much we rarely if ever go on vacation because as I tell my husband why leave when I am in paradise?   We are actually going on vacation for a week this summer and rented a cabin on the Ohio River and are taking all of our dogs with us!  I wonder whose canoe will tip first, mine with 2 crazy dalmatians or my husband and his 200lb mastiff rescued dog “Mack”.  So even when we are on vacation we tend to go do things that are very much natural and include our animals.
  If I have a day off and I am not doing glass, I am usually doing something related to glass. Either taking a trip to the city to see the new exhibit at the museum, or appreciating and being inspired by nature or maybe just a lazy afternoon in the hammock with sweet tea in one hand and a glass catalog in another.  Somehow, I usually find time to weave both  glass and animals into my day.

Tell me where people can see your work...

My glass can be found at the Canal Fulton Glassworks Gallery at 215 Market Street West ~ Canal Fulton, Ohio 44614 , at the Newpointe church bookstore in Dover, Ohio, at local Louisville Shops on Main Street in town or at the farmer's market, various local craft shows TBA, and online at my Etsy shop  or at my website and on Facebook
I am also fortunate to have loyal customers and word of mouth has continued to be my best advertisement.

Examples of Tammy's glass designs

I can tell you have a real passion for your artwork and the farm full of animals you care for.  I really appreciate you taking some time out of your busy schedule to tell us about your life.  Thank you!

Editor's note:  Tammy had a name conflict with another vendor and has since the publishing of this interview changed her company name to Whirl Girl Glass.  She can now be found at  and  I have updated the article to show the new name and links. Thank you!

Sunday, May 8, 2011


This weekend was a whirlwind of activities for me.  My brother graduated from college (way to go Brian!), my grandpa celebrated his 90th birthday (happy birthday grandpa!!), and today is mother's day (happy mother's day mom!).  It's gotten me feeling a bit philosophical and thinking about life's milestones.  The events that mark a change or new beginning in our lives.  These are moments that help us measure where we are in life, show us where we've been and what we've accomplished.  Without taking time to celebrate these grand events each day would just be another day, just like the one before, and we might not even realize how far we've come and how precious each day in a life really is. 
The business world is really the same way.  This year will forever be the year I began my business venture as Grey Girl Designs, the starting point by which to measure how long my business has been around and how it is doing.  I've had lots of events happening that mean something in the life of my business such as first deciding to start off on this adventure, getting my business licenses, setting up my Etsy shop online and listing my first item for sale.  Making my first online sale, joining my first team, setting up my website, blog and facebook business page.  As it continues it gets bigger and busier and it is almost like a child growing and developing!  Wow, I didn't realize when I started this whole thing that it was going to become such an integral part of who I am.  It started off as a hobby and it really has grown into something much more than that.  I really can't wait to see where this adventure takes me.  I hope it will have a happy ending but no matter what at least I'm enjoying the journey each day.
I hope you all are enjoying your journeys too and taking a little time to celebrate the milestones in your life.  If you are a mother, enjoy your mother's day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How Jen's Jewelry became Grey Girl Designs

I thought I might write a bit about why I named my business Grey Girl Designs.  Who is the grey girl?  Well I am, but so is my 2 year old African grey timneh, Sadie Grey.  You see, I still remember sitting in high school art class and having one of my friends exclaim "Jennifer, you have a grey hair!!"  I started getting grey hair very early in life and I still have grey hair (well, white actually but I'll call it grey because it fits my story better!).  I have a sprinkle of grey mixed in with my brown along with a nice streak on the side.  So far, I like it.  It may make me look older but really I think of it more as a unique badge of my individuality.  I also love the color grey- all shades of grey, smoky, dreamy and with an almost mystical feel.  I used to think black was my favorite color but I've moved on to a softer version of it, mixed with light.  Along with calling me "mama" my little grey girl also calls me "grey girl".  So we are grey girls together. 

That brings me to my greys.  I haven't written anything about my birds in this blog yet and it is time to bring them into the story so you can see better who I am.  I absolutely love animals and birds are one thing that I just adore.  My love for them started very early with a little sky blue budgie named Tweety who was my childhood friend.  He simply mesmerized me with his little chirpy voice and his happy nature and those delicate and wondrous wings.  I have shared most of my life with birds, there have been many over the years and I even spent some years breeding various kinds of them.  I have raised cockatiels, ring-necked doves, Pacific parrotlets, black masked lovebirds and timneh African greys.  I really love them all but greys have a special place in my heart.  They are so intelligent and so mysterious at the same time.  They are little individuals with large personalities, and they truly captivate me.  I remember seeing videos of Alex the African grey Congo, who was known for his intelligence and speaking abilities, and just knowing I had to share my life with one of these beautiful birds.  Well, I have two unique little feathered children that I actually had the pleasure of hand feeding and raising myself.  Lyric and Sadie Grey are my timneh babies, and although they keep me very busy and tied down, I absolutely adore them both.  Lyric is the oldest of the two and he never decided to talk.  He was the only chick in his clutch that hatched and he had my undivided attention.  I even brought him to work with me to feed him and keep him company! 

My Lyric as a baby chick! Sept 2006

Lyric playing with an ice cube, 2007
When Sadie came along, there were two chicks in her clutch, her and her brother Sterling.  I think she learned to talk so well because she always had competition for my affection.  Her brother found a home with my neighbor and friend, Debbie.  I still get to visit him from time to time and it brings me great joy to see how he is doing and how loved he is.  Sadie is a very good talker and loves to let me know "I need a drink of water right NOW!" every chance she gets.  She amazes me with everything she learns and her ability to use words and even complete sentences.
Sadie Grey (on right) and her brother, Sterling, November 2008
Sadie, all grown up, April 2010
Me and Sadie Grey, November 2010
When I was trying to think of a unique name for my new jewelry business, it came to me pretty immediately that Grey Girl Designs would be perfect.  I added the red feather (with my brother Brian's artistic assistance) to the logo as a tribute to my feathered angels that mean so much to me.
I would like to add a side note to this conversation- parrots in general, including greys, are not the perfect companion animal for most families.  They require special care, lots of attention and a very long term commitment.  I spend hours cleaning up after them, paying attention to them, allowing them out of cage time and caring for them.  They are loud, messy, and generally have the attitude of a three year old child.  Please do not run out and purchase a parrot without learning all you can about them first.  Spend time with one and then decide if you are willing to devote yourself heart and soul to the care of one of these delicate creatures.
Lyric supervising a jewelry photo shoot, January 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Treasury thank yous!

I want to give a great big thanks to the following Etsy sellers for featuring my jewelry in their latest treasury lists! 
Oatkacreekstudio for the treasury It's a Madcap Life Team- Circles featuring my Fly Like an Eagle necklace.
Themadcapheiress for the treasury Madcapping It featuring my Modern Love Affair necklace.
Glasspassionsgallery for the treasury Take A Trip featuring my Storms A Comin' necklace.
YouWoodLikeThis for his Earth day inspired treasury Madcap team celebrates mother earth day by recycling and reusing featuring my Earth Bound necklace.
3pearls for the treasury Let's Take the Caddy Out For a Spin featuring my Green Aventurine earrings.
Medusa1307 for the treasury Nel blu dipinto di blu! featuring my Desert Oasis necklace.
MirrorIrorriM for the treasury Blood Stained Coal featuring my Hot Topic necklace.
Guindalejo for the treasury aegean featuring my Desert Oasis necklace.

I really appreciate your support of my work!

Here's a few of my latest treasuries:
bright madcap treasures for May
A little mystery.

All of them feature members of my team "It's a Madcap Life". We have some really talented and unique artists and sellers on our team.  I hope you will check out their shops and see what I mean.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reflections on the 2011 Bead Blast

This weekend was the 11th annual Bead Blast presented by The Bead Society of Greater Kansas City.  I had the great pleasure of attending along with my mother and sister.  I really had a wonderful time.  There were 44 vendors present at the event and various beading and jewelry making classes were given.  I think the Bead Blast is one of my favorite events to attend every year.  It really gives me a sense of euphoria seeing all those beads displayed and being able to shop for new and interesting stones. 
Me at The 11th Annual Bead Blast, getting ready for some fun!
The rooms were full to the brim with bead lovers and jewelry makers.  I am pretty sure everyone there was having a wonderful time right along with me.  I was able to find many new beautiful and unusual beads that will soon be at home in my jewelry designs.  It's funny how motivated and reenergized I am when I have new beads to play with!  It is a really great inspiration as well to see so many people gathered together who share my passion.
A sampling of what you can expect to see in my work this summer.
I have attended the Bead Blast for the last several years and I have never been disappointed by it.  I thought perhaps this year it would be less crowded due to the slow economy but as far as I could tell there was just as big of a crowd as there has been for the last couple of years. I saw many vendors that I remember from years past and I think a few of them may have even remembered me.  I think my favorite booths were from Avian Oasis, Hermina's Beads & Jewelry, Fishlips3 Beads & Blues, Papio Creek Gems and Gifts and Beadz Galore 

All in all, I would have to say that this year's Bead Blast was a real blast for me and I hope to be able to attend again next I have to quit writing and get to work creating something with all these new beads!