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2015-08-25 11.54.16This week a group of Hickory artists including myself took a field trip to Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC. If you are not familiar with it, the school is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

The school has a rich history. It was founded in 1929 by Lucy Penland, the unmarried sister of a minister. Lucy learned weaving at Berea College and used her knowledge  start a cottage industry called the Penland Weavers which provided both an educational and a networking source for helping the women sell what they made.

In 1928 she brought in weaving expert Edward F. Worst to visit the school and teach the weavers. Several out-of-state students joined a group of local women for a one-week class at Penland. Several years later Morgan began to add more crafts and fundraising to the schools effort in order to expand the buildings and courses they offer.

Today the mission of Penland School of Crafts is to support individual and artistic growth through craft. The school is nationally known and many different craft venues are offered. Types of crafts focused on include glass blowing and working, metal working, weaving, knitting, print making, photography, woodworking, book making, jewelry making, pottery and more. Nationally, and internationally known artists are brought in to teach these courses.

The school’s gallery gift shop contains museum quality work of incredible scope.

Pictured above is the original building where weaving was taught.

Below, left, a student works at the metal forge.

2015-08-25 11.10.57Students take only one workshop at a time so they have time to enjoy what they learn and immerse themselves in it.  One week and eight week sessions are available. Course fees vary depending on the course. For example, the 2015 fall fee for a regular eight week concentration is $4,175. For an eight week in hot glass is is $5,447.

What struck me most was the age range of those I saw in the classes as we toured. It was a mixture of young, old and in between. Lots for retired folks like to take classes there as well and I met several folk who had left careers as psychologists, or nurses, etc., to throw themselves into the art world and they were loving it.

Whether you want to take a course, or just tour Penland is well worth the trip. Set in the rolling hill of the beautiful blue ridge mountains, it harkens back to an earlier time when handmade was deeply ingrained in our way of life.






Dolphin with saddle sculpture

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Below, a modern metal bull sculpture

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Recipe: Pasta Pesto

ligurian-pesto-with-spaghetti-940x560This recipe has been with me ever since we were newlyweds. My vegetarian sister-in-law shared it with me and it has long been a favorite. It’s delicious, economical and simple to make.


1/4 c water

1 T dried basil leaves

1/4 cup margarine

1 clove garlic

1 T lemon juice

3/4 cup chopped parsley

2 oz parmesan cheese

8 oz spaghetti, cooked and drained


Mix water and basil. Let stand 30 mins. Heat margarine and garlic until margarine melts. Remove from heat. Whisk in basil mixture, lemon juice, parsley and cheese. Toss with spaghetti. Serve immediately.


Delicious Handmade Lemon Yellow Clay Earrings

E043yaEvery artist has a favorite creation and today I want to share a favorite earring design. These ceramic earrings are handmade from rolled clay. I rolled out the low fire Lyman red clay purchased from  Highwater Clays in Asheville, NC to approximately 1/8 thick. Next I used a small circular cutter to cut out my shapes.

For the design on the front of the earrings I pressed a metal shank button with a floral design into each earring shape. Next, I put a hole in each earring with a wooden shish kabob skewer.

I let the clay harden for about a week and then cleaned up the earrings for any rough spots with fine sand paper, then wiped off any dust. Next, I bisque fired them.

After they were bisque fired I added three coats of Amaco lemon yellow  glaze and fired according to directions.  The finishing steps included adding a brown bead on copper wire and handmade copper ear wires. I love the way the reddish brown of the clay shows through the yellow. These earrings make me crave bananas. LOL.

These earrings are listed  in Serendipitini Jewelry in thecraftstar.com


Inspirational Quote of the Week

nobody-said-itd-be-easy-life-daily-quotes-sayings-picturesNobody said that it’d be easy.

They just promised it would be worth it.



How to Take Good Photographs of Your Handmade Products

E029CaIt’s World Photography Day so today’s blog topic is about how to take good photos of your handmade products. This is crucial if you plan to sell on line. One of the big mistakes novices make when they open an online shop is posting poor photos.  Poor photos are a barrier to sales.

Here are some tips I have learned.

1. Use Natural Light.  Whenever possible use natural light. Overhead lights tend to add a yellow tint and also cast shadows. I have several favorite locations by windows in my house that I use depending on time of day and how overcast it is.

2.  Use a White Background. As a general rule this works best because it is clean and takes away from distractions. I use a light box I made from a large cardboard box. Cut away two sides of the box  so you have only two sides standing and the bottom, then line all sides with white foam board. Photograph items in this box. You can break the “white” rule later on by experimenting with different backgrounds but if you plan for your items to be in catalogs, most retailers want it on a white background. The same color background also adds a cohesiveness to you photos.  The only exception is photographing white on white. Cream or tan backgrounds seem to work better for those products.

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WA1010A3.  Take Several Shots. You can bump up the exposure on your camera by adding a plus or minus. The smaller the item, the closer you want to get, but if you get too close, the picture will blur.  For jewelry you might want one close up shot and one a little farther away.

4.  Add Contrast, Adjust Color and Brightness. Use a simple photo editing software such as Photoscape to add contrast. Make sure your photos are not too dark. Nine times out of ten I need to brighten the color some.  Bump up the contrast a little to sharpen the image.

5. Crop Out Distractions and Extra Space.  Always pay attention to what is in the background. You want your product to be your main focal point and it shouldn’t be lost in a sea of white space. Crop out excess space and any distractions.

Taking good photos is much like the rules for grammar. Once you know the rules and master them, then you can experiment with new backdrops to add variety.


Little Black Earrings to Go with Your Little Black Dress

E054E054aI had some time, while working the AKC dog show in Greensboro, NC last week with my Serendipitini Pet gifts, to design some earrings.

Just as every woman needs a little black dress, I needed a pair of basic black earrings for myself.  I wear black frequently and they go with so many different outfits.

I had several of these genuine black onyx  gemstone beads so I worked on making several pair of handmade earrings. Each black onyx stone includes a small crystal bead and sterling silver chain. Ear wires are sterling silver. In case you need a pair of black dangle earrings, here’s the link to them on my TheCraftStar shop


Crafting a Better Life. Great Article by Katherine Kotaw

I like to share inspirational information that can help encourage and equip handmade artisans. This week Katherine Kotaw, the new marketing manager of TheCraftStar.com has a great article on http://sheownsit.com entitled Crafting a Better Life. Kotaw spotlights several women entrepreneurs who have overcome difficult circumstances to manage their own business. If you are feeling discouraged, this will definitely spur you on to keep going. Here’s a link to the article Crafting a Better Life. 

If this inspires you be sure to say what resonates with you or inspires you in the comments section


Recipe: Easy Zucchini Sub Sandwiches

zucchinisandZucchini is one of the most prolific garden plants and I had several zucchini  to use up from my garden.  I searched out a zucchini recipe for dinner and found this great recipe for Zucchini grinders. I tweeked the recipe some so you have the option of making your own marinara sauce from this recipe or using Newman’s Own marinara or another brand which still tasted great and shortens the prep time.

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

Sub Filling:

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 pinch red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Optional, sliced red pepper

4 (6 inch) French or Italian sandwich rolls, split


  1. To make marinara sauce, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, basil and red pepper flakes; cook and stir for a minute or two until fragrant. Stir in sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour in tomatoes with their juices and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and puree until smooth in food processor or blender.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  3. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the zucchini in butter until browned and slightly tender. Season with red pepper flakes, salt, garlic powder and pepper.
  4. Spoon a generous amount of the zucchini mixture into each sandwich roll. (Optional, add red pepper slices). Cover zucchini with about 1/4 cup marinara sauce per roll. Top with a handful of shredded mozzarella. Close the rolls, and wrap individually in aluminum foil.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven at 350 degrees, until bread is heated through, rolls are soft, and cheese is melted.

Based on a recipe from allrecipes.com with a few tweeks


Product Review of Omega-3 Supreme by Life and Food

Omega3LifeandFoodOmega -3 Supreme is a dietary supplement by Life and Food which helps with cardiovascular health, joint support, circulation and in maintaining cholesterol levels.  I have tested this product and found no ill effects such as are present with some other fish oils which can cause gas or burping or a fishy taste.

The product comes with 180 soft gel tablets.  You get 1,400 mgs of Fish Oil. Here is my product review video for more information.


SCT005eI created a video tutorial to show the ins and outs of bottle slumping in order to make a cheese tray from recycled glass. For this project you will need a large wine bottle and a kiln.

You can purchase these finished cheese trays from my online Serendipitini store however, if you want to make them yourself, here’s the video tutorial.

Here is a link for the glass slumping schedule for this project.






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