Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Making New Jewelry with my WigJig

Yesterday I took myself down to the Post Office to pick up my latest package. It was a WigJig, and a book I had ordered called “Wire Jewelry Workshop”. The book, by Susan Ray, has instructions and photos for wire wrapping techniques. I found it very interesting and informative, and there are numerous projects in the book I’d like to try.

The WigJig opens up a new era in my jewelry making. Now I can learn a new technique, and create brand new designs that I’ve been wanting to try. The device itself is little more than a clear acrylic board with holes strategically drilled on it. I chose the model called the Centaur, which incorporates evenly spaced holes in a rectangular configuration, with holes in a semicircular pattern. The design is a hybrid, incorporating the design of the Cyclops and the Delphi.

When I ordered my WigJig, the company sent me a free E-book with instructions on how to do the most basic designs. Awesome! This was a great help, since I’ve never done wire wrap techniques before. When I got my new WigJig, I needed to learn how to set it up and even what tools I needed to use the product.

Now I’m making wire wrap jewelry and developing a fascinating new skill. I love my new WigJig Centaur and I’ll surely be adding lots of new items to my Etsy Shop in the near future.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Visit a Traditional Chinese Courtyard Hotel in Beijing

China was another of those places I had dreamed about, but never quite thought I’d ever see. Surprise! There it was on my itinerary and I was working hard to contain my excitement.

It all started about three years ago when Tom announced to me that we should start planning that trip we’d been talking about. Hm…what trip is that? He said it would be a good idea to use up all those timeshares that had been sitting in the bank waiting to be used.

Before Tom got sick with Guilllan Barre’, we hadn’t had much time to travel. We could manage a few weekend trips a year, and if we were lucky two weeks around Christmas and New Years. That was the slowest time for the Tree Service, so we would shut down the business and take a vacation. That way nobody could get hurt while we were away.

We hadn’t been able to travel at all for a couple of years while Tom was in a wheelchair, so now he was walking again and it was time. It was TIME!!! Tom asked me where I would like to go if we went around the world, and I gave him a wishlist that would make anyone’s head spin. So he said, ok, start booking it.

JUST LIKE THAT! Start booking it! Wow! This was to be a trip around the world, so I had included countries in several continents. About 25 or so countries to be exact, later reduced to about 15. We finally decided to simply take a trip to Asia and leave the rest of the world for another time. After quite a bit of thought and decision-making later, we ended up going to the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, Asia and Europe. Oh, and a quick jaunt to Morocco, in Africa. Oops, don’t forget the little week we spent in Hawaii! If you’re counting continents, we only missed South America and Antarctica, so it was a pretty good start. The whole trip took us four months to complete, and if we had done the African Safari and South America I think I would have simply dropped with exhaustion.

China, not by the book

Ok, so back to China. I chose a place in China called Xingdao, because that’s what RCI had available. That was great, it was the place the sailing competition was held for the Olympics. But Tom told me we absolutely had to go to Beijing, no question about it. So we ended up spending two weeks in China. What an experience!

When booking a place to stay in Beijing, there were no timeshares available, so I got a little creative. I chose a “traditional Chinese courtyard hotel” in a very old section of Beijing. The name of the hotel was the Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel. Isn’t that totally awesome? I had looked online for a place to stay, and happened upon this site that offered the courtyard hotels. This one appeared to be the nicest, so I chose it.

So when we arrived in Beijing, we found a taxi driver (who, by the way, didn’t speak English) and showed him the paper I had downloaded from the internet with the address of the hotel written in Chinese. I suppose you can tell we’re not much on the idea of packaged tours. No problemo, we just wing it wherever we go. It works, trust me, and it’s so much more fun than having to stay with a group and never getting to go out on your own.

It was an interesting experience when the driver turned down the little alleyway to go to our hotel. But considering the area was ancient, the streets couldn’t be brand new and shiny-clean, could they? As I said, it was a tiny little alleyway, just wide enough for a car to get through if you wound back and forth around the cars, motorbikes, and bicycles parked on both sides. Here and there you could see into an open doorway where some men would be sitting around a little table playing some kind of gambling game. Or a woman would be sitting on a chair cutting some vegetables into a bowl, or some people would be sitting on chairs outside a tiny store. Oh, it was amazing, all right. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

The only thing was, what was that hotel going to be like on this ancient, narrow little alleyway of a street? Finally, after what seemed like forever, our driver pulled up in front of a doorway. You could see inside to what was obviously our courtyard. There it was, surprisingly, amidst all that ancient living, the most amazing hotel you may ever see.

We walked past a bird in a cage, merrily singing to us, and a picturesque fountain with tiny waterfalls and water wheels turning peacefully. In the next room we discovered a hotel desk, occupied by several beautiful young ladies dressed in traditional silk dresses. We showed them our papers, and soon we were being escorted into the depths of the hotel.

It was absolutely fascinating! The rooms all surrounded peaceful courtyards, planted with an aromatic array of flowers and plants. Each courtyard contained places to sit and enjoy the beauty surrounding you. Each room was different, furnished in the old Chinese style. The beds were covered with silk spreads that were just too beautiful to sleep under, but that’s exactly what you were expected to do. And you were supposed to lay your head on silk pillows as well.

Our room contained two beds and a tiny bathroom. It was small, I agree, but that didn’t stop Tom, no sirree. We took photos of the beautiful room, and then Tom told me to relax right there for a few moments.

After several minutes, Tom arrived with two beautiful silk-clad ladies in tow. One carried a huge key (they were ancient metal keys with large brass labels attached). They showed us to another room, about twice the size of the one we were in. Tom asked me if I liked that room, which of course I did. So the ladies carried our bags to the new room and wished us great happiness. Lucky for us, Tom has a way of getting just what he wants, always.

Now, if you are getting tired of reading, you’ll understand that I’m getting tired of writing as well. So I’ll wait till another day to tell you about our trips to the Silk Market and the famed and fabulous Pearl Market. You’ll love it!

Bye for now!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring! It's here!

Don’t you just love Spring? The trees are beginning to bud out, the birds are twittering in the trees, and the rabbits are hopping around the yard doing a little happy dance.

Last year at this time we had just moved from Louisiana to our new home in Arizona, and I was frantically getting everything ready for our trip around the world. I’ve been telling you some of the great things we saw on that trip, and I promise I have a lot more to show you.

Now, finally, we’re at home, moved in, and beginning our new life. Tom has built me a chicken coop and a garden, a storage room and he’s almost done with a big new porch. Right now he’s working on a horse pen so his new horse can come home.

And I’ve begun working on my new website, JewelMania – An Etsy Shop. You can see the photos of some of my jewelry in the Etsy Mini on the top left of this blog, or you can just head on over to the site and have a look around. I’m steadily adding new items, so there’s always something new to look at.

In addition to seeing all the new jewelry I’m creating, you can take advantage of my April sale. For the month of April you can buy any item on my site, and get half off the second item. All you need to do is mention this blog post in your notes when you order, and I’ll be happy to refund the difference via PayPal. If you send a Money Order as payment, just take the half off the price of the second item and send me the balance.

Of course there have to be rules, so true to form, here’s the rules. The second item has to be the same or lesser value than the first item. But, you can use the same sale to purchase two more items. In that case, you can get an even better deal by grouping the two higher priced items and the two lower priced items to get the maximum savings.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Morocco, land of fertile deserts and supple leather

Ah, Morocco! Tom has told me stories of his time in Morocco since the day we met, but I had no idea one day I’d see it all for myself. But there it was, a land of mystique and beauty; where a hostile environment can’t take away the beauty of the people.

Tom’s stories were all memories of a generation ago, when he was young and full of adventure. He was stationed at an Air Force base in Morocco, working for the base commander. He’d tell me of going to the King’s palace, and eating at the table of King Hussein. Although he was only an enlisted man, Tom always had a charisma about him that could charm…even a King.

King Hussein would spend quite a bit of time talking with Tom, remembering his name when others would only get a nod of the head. Tom had no fear of speaking with a King, and he helped Hussein work on his English skills by honestly telling him the correct way to pronounce words. This pleased the King, and he spent time at each meeting perfecting his English.

Tom also likes to relate stories of how the King would get on the train when it passed through Morocco. He enjoyed driving the train himself, and who could refuse what the King asked, right?

Scarf Shopping

So…here we were, in the beautiful land of Morocco. No, we didn’t visit the King. He has long passed and his son has taken his place. But Tom made certain to take me to Marrakech, Fez, Casablanca, Rabat and Tangiers. We traveled by train, getting a taxi at each city when we arrived. It was an adventure in itself just taking the train rides. We first had to visit the train station and find someone who could speak passable English. Then we determined when the train left to go to our city of choice. After some time we would come away with tickets for the following morning to take us to our desired destination. Then on that morning, we simply showed our tickets and we would be shown the correct train to board.

We visited the beach, the same one Tom had told me about all those times. And the shops, where people sit day after day painstakingly creating intricate mosaics, pierced and beaten metal trays and pots, and leather goods. Oh yes! The leather!

In the town of Fez, our driver showed us an old district of town where the houses are jumbled together so close you can only pass one at a time through the narrow alleyways. We passed a tour group, with dozens of people packed into a tiny room listening to their guide talk about the spices offered for sale in a tiny, dark little shop.

They had just exited another door, narrow and hand-carved, probably hundreds of years old. So we entered that same door. It was occupied by a tiny, bent old man who smiled and offered his hand in greeting. He soon offered us a sprig of mint, which we accepted questioningly. Our guide placed it close to his nose, indicating it was to help ward off the smell. By this time I had visited so many places with so many unusual smells that I didn’t see a need for it, but I held onto it nonetheless.

The old man began climbing stairs, up a tiny staircase barely wide enough to accommodate us. We followed up one, two, three flights of steps, through numerous claustrophobic rooms, until we reached a tiny, cramped little shop bulging to the seams with hundreds of leather coats. In addition to the coats there were belts, purses and many other items, one after another on racks. The colors were the usual blacks, browns and supple golden yellows. And there were reds, greens, fuschia and blues.

Tom began his haggling routine with the man, trying to bargain him into an acceptable price for a leather jacket. However, it was to no avail. Tom does not pay full price anywhere, and certainly not in Morocco. And the man was a hard bargainer, probably used to tourists that are willing to pay prices much higher than those Tom will accept.

After some friendly dickering, the man offered to show me upstairs. Tom nodded, indicating it was all right, so I followed. Four more flights of stairs later, the man showed me onto the rooftop of the house. There, before me was a panoramic view of the rooftops below, and between the buildings were round colorful pots.

But I was so high up there, it took me a moment to realize how huge those pots were. Each was so large a man could get inside of it. And yes, there were men getting inside the pots. As I looked closer, I saw the pots were each partially filled with the colorful dyes used to color the leather I had just seen in the shop. And the men were climbing into the pots of dye, making certain the leather was gaining the correct colors.

After a few moments to take photos and look around a bit more, I exited the rooftop and wound down those tiny staircases once more. Tom was waiting for me, and I showed him what interesting photos I had taken.

Soon, we were leaving the winding, narrow corridors and traveling to a bazaar. There I held poisonous vipers, and met a colorful water boy. All the things Morocco had to offer, and we only had a week to sample that fascinating country. On another day I’ll tell you more about that harsh but beautiful country. One post can never be enough to show you everything.

Until then…

Friday, March 27, 2009

Welcome to JewelMania, a jewelry artist’s unique view of the world and its art.

This blog chronicles the life and times of a young-at-heart, not so retired world traveler who can always find just one more adventure to fill her never boring, always hectic days. If that’s not enough, I’ll show you the fantastic jewelry I’ve seen, found, bought and created. Don’t go away! There’s always another day, another adventure, and another jewelry find to capture your imagination.

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Cheryl Cholley, and I can’t tell you everything I’ve done and seen in a little over 50 years. Together with my husband, Tom, I’ve explored the beauties of America and the far reaches of Asia, with dozens of stops in between.

During our travels, we invariably discover fantastic jewelry artists and their work. We have seen the Pearl Market in Beijing, the fabulous jewelry markets in Jaipur, India, and visited a cloisonne' factory in Malaysia. While walking by the canals of Venice, I happened upon a shop that carried fascinating glass beads. And of course I just had to have some! While in Melbourne, Australia, we walked the aisles of the Queen’s Market, and found the perfect opal for my collection. Just wait until Tom tells you the story of how he got his Aussie hat with the crocodile teeth!

Here, in the months to come, I’ll share with you our sojourns to Morocco and how I held deadly poisonous serpents. You’ll see photos of the huge vats the Moroccans use to dye their supple leathers, and I’ll give you a birds-eye view of the casbah and it’s fascinating wares. One day, I’ll show you the fantastic sights we encountered on our way to visit the miraculous Taj Mahal. Rug merchants, and their rituals are a favorite of Tom and myself as well. I’ll give you a peek into the way these artists display and sell their wares.

Ask me about New Zealand, and I’ll show you the panoramic beauty of a tiny country with more sheep than people. I’ve tasted fine wines there, and stood on the exact spot where “The Lord of the Rings” was filmed.

Get me talking about Italy and you’ll hear not only stories of Rome, Venice, Florence and Pisa, but of the interesting and oh-so-beautiful Italian Alps.

The world is only as big as you let it be, and it’s definitely as beautiful and interesting as you’ve imagined. Around each bend in the road is another artist with a story to tell and wares to peruse. Ambulate slowly through life and be sure to stop and smell the roses. Here’s my view of the world and I’m ready to show it to you.

Welcome to JewelMania, a jewelry artist’s unique view of the world and its art.