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Happy Winter!

Posted December 22, 2015 

Happy Solstice! It’s the shortest day of the year and to celebrate I took my dog on a long very cold walk before work. Zero degrees and a lot of layers of wool clothing. Moose, deer, ravens, magpie and a chickadee. I love the bottom of the year, the darkest days, the deep cold wintertime. It always seems like a good time to celebrate our vigorous urge to survive. The cycle of life that nature performs never ceases to fully amaze me and although we are in what seems like the dead of winter I know that all of the plants are simply sleeping until springtime.

I’m looking forward to having Christmas with family in just a few days and am winding things down at the shop for the Christmas season. Last minute shoppers are popping in and buying little treats for their loved ones and we are more than happy to put a pretty ribbon on the box.

2015 has been a good year, it was the 5-year anniversary of my store in Pinedale, I installed a public sculpture in downtown Pinedale, I started learning how to cut stones (lapidary), and I continued to make piles of jewelry for friendly tourists and townsfolk. My job is interesting because I get the chance to be a part of people’s milestones whether it is a new baby, a marriage or a lose of a loved one. I try to navigate each instance with as much love and respect as possible and I always feel so grateful to be included in these touching events. I never take for granted that somebody wants to have my artwork be a part of their life.

In January I plan to create my own artist residency. By this I mean that I will be open part time and on the days that I am closed I plan to work on art projects that I have not had the opportunity to achieve. I plan on mixing my love of jewelry making with sculpture and painting to start a new body of work, stay tuned.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and new year, thank you for supporting Isabel Jewelry throughout 2015.

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Public Sculpture, “Quartz, Mica, Feldspar” opening party: installed in springtime 2015:

More photos of “Quartz, Mica, Feldspar” and read the artist statement here: www.isabelrucker.com

5-Year Shop Anniversary Party, Summer 2015:

Lapidary, stone cutting, came to the shop in 2015:

Happy times at the workbench in 2015:

…….By the way, if you are a social media type, I post a lot on Instagram @isabeljewelry, and Twitter @isabelrucker and Facebook @Isabel Jewelry.

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It’s Holiday Time?! Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted November 12, 2015 

What?! It’s mid November? Holidays are upon us! So I am madly working away in the shop to bump up my inventory and bust out custom orders. It’s always a busy time for me but I know that I get a rest in January. I recently pulled out some gorgeous chalcedony beads that I recently purchased from a gem dealer and began a small grouping of holiday party drop earrings (see below).

My husband and I have been cutting and polishing some wonderful and colorful green Wyoming jade in all sorts of shapes (pictured below in one of our first dustings of snow).

I’ve made a couple of one-of-a-kind groupings of Australian magnesite (below) and Peruvian pink opal pendants (pictured at top of this post).

Both the magnesite and pink opal were bought during the Tucson gem shows a couple of years ago and it’s been fun to finally use them. Each stone has it’s own little personality: the pink opals are a classic pure pink, girly and serene, and each piece of cream colored magnesite is totally unique with brown veins making an interesting and natural matrix.

Also, I recently made some hammered rings with different faceted gemstones. Mixing and matching colors.

As we head toward Thanksgiving, I hope your holiday season shapes up to be the best ever. Peace!

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How I Photograph My Jewelry – Tips

Posted August 6, 2015 

I’ve been making a lot of jade jewelry in the past couple of months because we have begun cutting and polishing these Wyoming sourced stones ourselves. Due to all of this production I have been taking a lot of photos to upload the inventory to my website. (Above: jade rings on a boulder out in morning sunlight.)

Taking photos of jewelry is really challanging and is sometimes a specialty practice for photographers. Since my business tends to be DIY everything (by necessity) I’ve messed around with the practice of jewelry photography for years. Here are a few tips and behind-the-scenes secrets with a major disclaimer that I am not an expert photographer and a lot of my learning curve has been experimenatation and quantity of shooting:

(Above: Holding the necklace with one hand and the camera with the other can be pretty tiring so sometimes you can get a friend to help. Here I wanted a beautiful outdoors setting but the sagebrush was too distracting so I just slightly raised the pendant so it was against the famous blue Wyoming sky.)

Jewelry Photography Tips:

1. Start with a decent camera and lens. These days I have a nice “real” (i.e. not a phone or point-and-shoot) camera with a macro lens. However, this is not necessary; you can get really great shots using a small camera or even a smart phone but your details and colors will be better if you have a better camera. I used a point-and-shoot Sony camera for years so if that’s what you have…use it. I use my iPhone for my Instagram feed.

(Above: inside the light tent, I will rotate and crop so that the jewelry is on a simple white backdrop.)

2. Indoors: I use a little light tent kit that I purchased on B and H Photo. It included a light tent, two adjustable lamps and lightbulbs (found at their website under Lighting and Tabletop Shooting). I also purchased a reflective white piece of plexiglass for a simple background. Something I did not realize when I first got this setup was that I had to make adjustments for the white balance on my camera because my light tent kit came with tungsten bulbs; my first group of photos turned out yellow. I called my photographer friend Delsa (www.reflectionsofthewinds.com) and she explained the issue to me. Since there are two lamps I move them around and aim them in different directions until I see that the jewelry is getting hit in a couple of nice spots. When the lights shine through the tent walls the light tent diffuses the light so there is not a glare. Sometimes I have my hand inside of the box and am holding up the plexiglass so that the piece is closer to the lamps or at another angle. I have messed around with a tripod in hopes of relaxing my arms but I find that I have to move around so much due to the small scale of each piece.

(Above: messed up “white balance” setting on my camera, certain bulbs like tungsten need white balance adjustments)

(Above: a jade pendant hanging in front of various textures and colors, notice what a difference location and light makes.)

3. Outdoors: This is where I really have fun. The past couple of years I have gotten into using Instagramand this has loosened me up. Pulling my work out of the light tent has been a blast. I use a lot of weathered wood backdrops because I find that it fits the aesthetics of my work. Jewelry can look really great sparkling in the sunshine but that is near impossible to photograph well with my iPhone; the sunshine can really blow out colors and cause glare. I find that there are three main options for avoiding the sun’s zealous spotlight: 1. shoot on a cloudy day (this causes a natural diffused light just like in a indoor light tent), 2. shoot in the shade on a sunny day (I have found the overall light of the day will sometimes give enough glow), or 3. shoot in the shade with a reflector (I love to shoot on the deck of my work patio with the sun reflecting off of the patio doors; the jewelry will be in the shade of my body and the sun will be reflecting onto that area indirectly to give a sparkle). Sometimes I get away with full-sun on the jewelry and that is usually earlier or later in the day (however if it is too late in the day you will be in the golden-light time and all of the jewelry will have a orangish hue). Shoot with the sun to your back otherwise your jewelry will be backlight and dark.

(Above: the “golden light” time of day, just before sunset, can create too much of an orange glow on the jewelry.)

(Above: This aquamarine ring was in my shadow but I was crouched next to a glass door that was reflecting the sun into my shadow. It made a subtler light and since it was indirect the sunshine didn’t blow out the shiny silver. I later rotated and cropped in on the ring a little bit. I had tried taking photos of this inside of my white light tent but the pale shade of blue was really hard to capture.)

(Above: a hammered ring shot outside on a overcast day, notice the hammering on the right-hand one is blown out from too bright of a sky.)

4. Backgrounds: I try to keep backgrounds simple and not distracting. If you have a patterned backdrop make sure the size of the pattern is not similar to your jewelry piece because your piece will get lost, same goes with colors. If you have a macro lens to work with you can set up your work and focus just on the piece and have the background somewhat blurry so that it is just creating a color field. Less is more.

(Above: walking around my workspace and trying various backgrounds, you never know til you try, I settled on the red painted metal of my vise and cropped out distracting areas. Also notice various reflections and light that the pendant has in the 4 photos.)

5. Reflections: Don’t forget to notice reflections on your work. I often realize that my shirt is getting reflected in the jewelry and you really notice it once you crop in on the piece and there is a bright neon green area on your silver ring. So it takes adjusting your hand, your eye and where the pieces are to avoid an unwanted reflection.

6. Shoot a lot! Take tons of photos at first to get an idea of what works. Often I have thought my photos look great until I get them loaded on my computer and realize most of them are blurry or the color is messed up due to lighting or reflections. Try all sorts of backgrounds but keep them simple.

(Above: three Itty Bitty Hammered Rings in 14K Rose Gold, I cropped out my fake wood desktop and created a more intimate fantastical setting. While this isn’t the simplest background I think it works because it’s color is pretty monotonous in contrast to the rose gold. It didn’t work that well until I cropped out a lot of the crystals and it became less busy.)

7. Formatting: Try to get a hold of Adobe Photoshop software. It can be expensive but it makes all the difference in the world to be able to edit photos using professional software. I mainly use just a few tools in Photoshop. Most often: Levels, Vibrance/Saturation, Color Balance, Cropping, Image Sizing. For my website I save the photos around 600-800 pixels in height at 72 ppi and use the “Save for Web & Devices” under the File tab, there you can choose between .jpg etc. I use .jpg. ***Before you save your photo, make sure you put your website or name at the bottom corner using the Text tool because if people share your photo then its original source becomes lost without a name. Tip: Don’t e-mail an enormous un-sized file to somebody (it is annoying and makes you look clueless…remember different formats/sizes for different uses, for emails use your 72 ppi, 600-800 height images). If you are formatting for print you will want 300 ppi and probably want to save your images as .tif files because there is no compression, the height/width image size will determine depending on your use. Usually printing presses have their desired formats posted on their websites so find out what they want. I recently used Printing For Less for business cards and was happy with their service; I have also had nice results with Modern Postcard.

Happy shutterbugging!

(Above: my faithful dog creating a most fuzzy backdrop. Hey…you gotta work for your kibble!)

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Buying Quality

Posted June 22, 2015 

When you buy a piece of Isabel Jewelry you are buying handmade quality with a lifetime guarantee. I realize that there are piles of cheap jewelry that I compete with every day but I know what I am producing is carefully and individually made…because I make each piece. Like all micro-businesses I have to compete with factory made products. Knowing this, I like to keep my jewelry small pieces of artwork.

Some companies use flashy marketing campaigns to push lower quality jewelry, it’s hard not to get convinced by beautifully produced commercials and print ads that their commercial jewelry is more valuable. People wind up paying for a company’s marketing rather than quality artistry. When my customers buy from me, they are paying for top-notch, handcrafted jewelry that I guarantee for life and I am proud of that.

I have been metalsmithing for 20 years now and I create hundreds of pieces of jewelry every year. I am very comfortable at my jewelry bench and love forming metal into tiny wearable art, my tools are extensions of my hands and I am happy when I am at work.

This Saturday, June 27, 2015, I will be having a 5-year anniversary party for my shop in Pinedale (you are invited!). I opened the doors five years ago and have been enjoying serving my community and travelers ever since. It’s a good life and I plan on continuing my work. I thank everyone that has ever bought a piece of jewelry from me, you mean the world to me.

Pictured at top: Wyoming jade & Sterling Silver pendants.

Pictured above: my Pinedale, Wyoming storefront.

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Teton Belt Buckle Step-by-Step

Posted May 25, 2015 

The Teton Range is the featured horizon line on this belt buckle. I made this for a customer who wanted a very special graduation present for her Wyoming son. It is all sterling silver with elk ivory highlights.

To get a nice an accurate mountain range line I printed out some photos of the teton range, chose my favorite and sized it to the ballpark size I needed for the buckle. I used this line as a guide to trace a good ridgeline onto silver sheet. Instead of making a straight bottom line I decided to make a curving line to mirror the feel of the winding Snake River that flows beneath the Grand Teton Range.

My customer had requested a rope-like border on the buckle so I twisted together two lengths of silver wire, shaped those into an oval and slightly hammered that flat. I soldered the mountains and border to another sheet of silver. Meanwhile I cut and polished two elk ivories that she had provided and built the settings for them.

Once I had soldered the mountains and border on the buckle I flipped it over and set that into warm “pitch” so that I could hammer the back and dome out the front. I think belt buckles in this style look nice if there is a slight dome to them.

Once that was finished I flipped the buckle over and added texture around the mountains and river so that the main part of the image would visually pop out. Then I sawed away the extra silver on the edges, soldered the ivory settings to the front and a hook and loop to the back, and set the stones into place.