Failure, stopping and quitting

I taught school for nearly 34 years. The last 10 years I was caught up in what is called high stakes testing. The students were asked to get as close as possible to ‘level 4’ which was then the highest level & considered mastery of whatever given area being tested.
Failure to achieve this often resulted in remedial classes which were supposed to help,but often did not.
Fast forward to the last decade since my retirement from teaching school and I’m caught right in the middle of what students face. Failure to make my ideas come about, frustration and the thoughts of stopping or even worse quitting making art.
I am fortunate enough to realize that most of what was shoved at me as a teacher and students about failure was wrong. Failure does not imply anything other than you need to start again. You did not get where you wanted to go. In fact failure is a gift. It can only defeat you if you stop working or worse yet quit. Then where will you find yourself in 20 years? With the thought that you could have continued on with your art but didn’t. Not winding up in that boat.

I have lots of customers who come into my booth and tell me …..’Oh, I was introduced to (enameling) when I was at school or camp ‘blah blah’ when I was young. I think, “Really? In 2 weeks of summer camp you managed to master cloisonné, champleve or plique a jour? Techniques that have left master enamelists bewildered and frustrated. I usually smile and let them ramble on, often finding out that they did not go near a kiln that reached temperatures of 1500-1800 degrees of heat. I ask them why they stopped if they liked it so much and the reasons are many. We all have so many reasons why we stop or quit. It’s hard, I failed, it didn’t turn out the way I wanted.

No kidding? How can you expect to get where you want to go the first time out? As for me I’m not quitting or stopping until I can’t anymore. My failures are chances to start again, start again, start again.

I am not Monty Hall

At times people will ask me at the art shows if I will negotiate a price…in other words take less than the price I have listed.

The answer is always the same…… No.

I think long and hard about the prices placed on the art we sell and believe it to be fair. I am not Monty Hall, this is not ‘Lets Make a Deal’

There are 2 reasons for this decision. The skills that it takes to make art are often learned over a lifetime. When people ask ‘how long did it take to make that?’ I often tell them my age. At this point it has taken me 70 years to make everything. It is getting longer to make every day.

If I lower the prices on my work it will deliver this message to you:

1) It is easy to make and 2) less than what you think it cost.

Neither of these things are true. I make slow art, thoughtful, mindful and fairly introspective. I want to be compensated for my work, not wealthy. Although I have a BFA in studio art I continue my education by taking courses mostly in glass fusion to metal.

I travel out of state for advanced classes and workshops with master enamelists.

However, I do nice things for my customers who walk past the big box stores, the malls and come to me to buy wearable art. I appreciate the people who buy the work of Rainmaker Designs. You allow me the wonderful opportunity to work as an artist and not become the exclusive collector of my work. My homes interior is already becoming an enamel mecca. I am eyeing the exterior as I write this. So I am very appreciative of your support.

So art lovers,…. I will clean and buff all your jewelry that you purchase from Rainmaker Designs free of charge. Making it so shiny that you’ll give me that look that I love to see on your faces.

I’ll give you a glass of wine, cup of coffee, tea or water and clean up your piece while you wait at our studios and show you where we work. I am happy to share my space with you, show you all our tools, machinery and 1000 plus square foot studio area. You can see the messiness of the art experience as opposed to the clean, beautiful pieces that you purchase. Artists make a mess to make something beautiful.

If you damage enamel I will repair it free of charge the first time and probably the 2nd or 3rd if you are nice. I have even replicated lost earrings to match the existing one. The only enamel I ask for compensation for is plique-a-jour. This is a high failure rate enamel procedure that I must basically be talked off the ledge to make. Although I will repair if I must.

But please do not ask me if I will play Monty Hall with you. Answer is always the same.

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about…say yes quickly, if you know, if you’ve known it from the beginning of the universe”

Walela–The Hummingbird

“It’s impossible,” said pride. “It’s risky,” said experience. “It’s pointless,” said reason. “Give it a try,” whispered the heart.


This is how I start out all of our major pieces. I think…..”Who are you to try and do this?” Then as we keep working, I always think we’re really doing this and I begin to feel brave. I have come to learn to love wabi-sabi ( imperfection  & transience)  because I have to in order to continue my life as an artist. When glass and metal meet high temperatures alchemy takes place. Metals get warped and twisted. When pieces are fitted into  wood areas that are routed, carved and twist in all manner of direction they are bound to crack and need re firing. What I am looking for is beauty not perfection.

The truth is I don’t like perfection. Good thing because I haven’t seen  art that I think of as perfection.  Imperfection drives me back to the studio, but what I’m learning is that I’m seeking more than perfection. I want the big human emotions, fear, joy, anger, grief.  Similar to Mark Rothko paintings. Things that are completely perfect seem fake.

I thought about adding all the working process shots from the hummingbird here but I am going to let our web designers, Katie & Dave Hunt do that technical stuff.  I’m going to continue to blog (what an unpleasant little word) and try to get Dave to set up a little on line store for us this winter. Lots of art lovers have asked me to do this. I’m good with it until I’m not.

So for those of you that haven’t seen our hummingbird, here she is. Walela is the Cherokee word for hummingbird. Parts of her put me quite over the edge.  Dan was his usual quiet self, listened to me carry on, sometimes screaming & just went on wood working. He would smile at me & know  I would eventually quiet down and figure out a way to make all that glass, metal and heat cooperate.

I must tell you though, glass, metal and high temperature are not friends. They can get along and very well but  need coaxing, encouragement and a calm fire painter. Sometimes the heat and I play well together. It reminds me of the kids I taught. They often argued but  would defend each other (or me) to the death.  I often think that fusing glass to metal and teaching kids that won’t fit into common places are one and the same.

We are planning on traveling the globe a bit, be inspired like we were in Barcelona. I was fortunate enough to lay eyes on the work of Antoni Gaudi (Sagrada Familia, Park Guell)….. Salvador Dali at his hometown museum in Figueres, Spain.  And of course Picassos museum in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. Walking the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter was my favorite part of being in Spain. Loved laying hands on buildings that are 400 years old.

Not sure where we will wander off to. But I’m bound to get lost and be awed. High on the list of places to visit: Greece….Athens and maybe Santorini, then a wild switch back to Manitoba to see some polar bears or maybe Italy.  You can’t lose there right?

Look for a new sculpture in the coming months for Artisan Works, my favorite place in Rochester.


Rainmaker Designs & the en suite bedroom




So we’ve decided to build onto our home. When we had the house built in 1991 we only had one bedroom. The builders were having a fit….1 bedroom but a potential studio of 1,000 square feet. They said it made no sense, no potential resale blah, blah. The only reason we are building another bedroom on the main floor is to put Dan on one level. Stairs are getting to be a bit much. But the en suite bedroom has 4 skylights & 3 large windows……..
Still no curtains. Love my Norway spruce trees. It s chaos here with a total roof tear down & the addition but Im just trying to breathe & know that I am home.

The hummingbird arc is coming along nicely. Much work. The pieces always seem impossible until they are finished and then I say…”ah, that’s how its done.”



Hummingbird Arc

Trying to decide the transparent green colors I will use in the Hummingbird Arc. They are similar in color but I can tell the distinct nuances. May use them all. The arc is going to have a lot of vitreous enamel,  The wood working is a major challenge as well. Barcelona had an influence on me. Especially the interior of Sagrada Familia. Listening to Big Bill Broonzy in the studio. Maybe I’ll have him decide from spirit world. Beryl Green, Sea Green , Grass Green or Spring Green. Like ’em all.


Porcupine Quills, Gratitude and Larimar


Recently returned from the 100 American Craftsmen Arts/Crafts Show in Lockport.  A few unusual things happened there. I saw porcupine quills up close. A customer just purchased them from another artist who used them to make hair picks. Really cool and I was surprised at how thick they were. Had fun working with this customer, she bought the last large scarf slider I made. I use a technique known as ‘radical enameling’.  I place pieces of enameled copper within other pieces. I won’t  be making anymore this size.

Most people are just too scared to wear a piece of art that large on their body. I’m  not retiring the technique just the shape of that particular slider.

Also sold a beautiful neckpiece in Larimar. Michelle remembered that I listen to the blues on Spotify while I work even remembered “Rory’s Blues” a piece that I sold several years ago to another art lover. It was named for Rory Block. Who says artists aren’t rewarded? Sending gratitude to both these art lovers.




Hummingbirds are the tiniest birds in the world. They can live up to 10 years but most die within the first year of life. Their legs are weak and they prefer flight. They see further than and hear better than humans. They are smaller than a penny at birth.

No matter what you think they will not become addicted to your feeder and when they are done with your sugar water it is arrivederci.  Stay away from that red dye #40. Stick to a 4 to 1 sugar mix. Simple is best.

Rainmaker designs is very fond of moss. Neither one of us is big on grass and the hummingbirds love to use moss to make comfy nests for baby hummingbirds.  Moss has happily overtaken our woods.

I’m telling you all this because our next major sculpture for Artisan Works will be a hummingbird drinking from a flower. It is going to be a challenge to have the hummingbird suspended  from the flower but we have ideas. Ha!




For the few that are interested. If you have questions let me know.
Next sculpture up is one of my favorite birds….hummingbird drinking from a flower. Due for installation at Artisan Works before the end of 2016.

Began this sculpture as a butterfly.There is no butterfly without a chrysalis & a caterpillar. So this sculpture was made backwards. Top down.

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