30 March 2012

From France to Atlanta, Inspiration is Worldwide for Aya Designs

Inspired by the world around her and a handful of stones, Aya of Aya Designs can take those two things and create a simply beaded necklace, or she can throw pearls and stones together to show off the Bohemian side of her.

“I love working with pearls and crystals. I mix all sorts of stones together with them that you traditionally wouldn’t,” Aya said. Her current favorite is a three strand multi-color and multi-shape pearl necklace, but then she says they are all favorites when she makes them and since she rarely duplicates her designs, these are one of a kind pieces.



- This pearl and crystal necklace is a perfect example of Aya’s love of working with these two elements. She has intermingled a variety of pearl shapes and colors and given them a spotlight of Swarovski to shine under.


Aya started her exploration into jewelry creation close to ten years ago and started selling online three years ago when she opened an Etsy shop. Seeking an easier to use venue, she made the move to Artfire.

She uses the stones to dictate the direction of her artistic endeavor. Sometimes she will put something together, only to take it back apart to work at it from another angle.

“I’ve been known to string something, only to tear it down and start over because it wasn’t perfect for me,” Aya said.

Just because she has only recently started selling online does not mean that her designs are unknown to other artisans. Aya is a member of an elite group of artists who work with celebrities and provide all the goodies that you hear about in the swag bags at all the “in parties”. She is a member of The Artist Group (TAG) and these talented artists fill bags for events such as Oscars, Primetime Emmys and the Golden Globe, to name a few.

“It is my first time working with such a group and it’s been unbelievably great in many respects,” Aya said. TAG works closely with GBK Productions in celebrity gifting and press gifts. Many of the celebrities are gracious and pose for professional photos with their gifts.



- Interesting design and movement make this Lavender Agates and White Jade Necklace a show stopper. Bali silver findings finish off this piece and it would be at home around the neck of any celebrity.


She advises other artists to always buy the best materials and to be meticulous with their finished product. “Also, really love what you do, it will reflect itself in your work,” she advises.

Aya is a full-time designer and after spending 20 years in the wholesale business, she is realizing her dream of developing her own line of jewelry and selling to boutiques. Her latest venture is a jewelry line for kids, which she is in the process of developing and working on branding. Kids are a new demographic for her.


- It might look like the lovable Easter Peep, but this pink bunny is Magnesite and is playing in an Easter basket of genuine white agates. It is on a double stretch jelly cord for ease in fitting.

Aya fills her day with studio work, marketing, design and the ever constant social media and studio tweaking. Her adult daughters keep her trendy and focused.

A “Jill of all trades”, Aya loves to spend time decorating, painting walls, recovering furniture and antiquing for pleasure.

Aya would love to learn to solder in order to add natural stones and pearls by working with metal. “I envy metal workers working with copper and other metals,” she said.

A world-wide traveler, Aya is enthralled with the beauty that surrounds her and was particularly moved by the years she spent in Turkey. She still cites her favorite day as one she can sit in the sunshine and read, preferably in the south of France. She is a French born self-described brat of a United States Army dad and a French mom.

Currently, she is a Georgia peach enjoying the southern lifestyle of the genteel ladies of Atlanta. Aya supplies the ladies with bridge jewelry and designs for the southern belles weddings. She also participates in a few shows each year.


- Southern belle or not, this bracelet from the arm of any woman will command attention and demand a second look. From the freshwater pearls to the crystal rondelles, the attention will all be on your wrist.


Relaxing for Aya is a stroll through the Atlanta Botanical Garden where she enjoys the flowers and mentally steals away color snippets to draw upon when she is designing a new piece.

Aya can be found at AyaDesigns on Artfire.

She is a member of the Checked In Today Guild on Artfire.

She is a member of The Artists Group.

12 March 2012

Works of Functional Art Cascade From the Lathe of Woodturner, Steve Pritchard

Breathe deeply of the sweet stinging scent of freshly cut wood as it cascades in long shavings from the lathe of woodturner, Steve Pritchard.

An earthy aroma permeates the workshop this fine arts award winning woodturner uses to create his works of art that will one day be used as a utilitarian or decorative item.

Steve Pritchard’s love of the wood is evident in the expertly executed pieces of 3D art.

“We need to remember that the tree spent a lifetime developing its unique qualities and we should try to preserve rather than destroy the fruits of that effort,” Steve Pritchard said. He uses wood from trees that have fallen on their own or been cut down to make room for developments.

“While I know it's inevitable due to progress and our need for building materials, it always makes me sad to see a tree down regardless of the reason. They look like fallen soldiers forgotten on the battlefield. Woodturning is one of the few ways that we, as individuals, can preserve a little of a tree that once stood tall and proud and it's wonderful to be a part of that community”, said Steve Pritchard.

A woodturner is one who is involved in woodworking with a lathe. This requires the turning of wood to create an item, rather than holding the wood steady and turning or moving a tool to create an object. This art form has been around since the early Egyptians who had one to hold the wood and one to hold the tool.

There is much skill needed to be able to turn the wood to create an item. Vision and steady hands are required when the wood is being turned.

A spinning piece of wood can be unforgiving and one must be extremely skilled to know how to apply the pressure to cut and the exact spot to shave, or you will go from one design to a “redesign opportunity”.  

Steve has been turning wood for 12 years and only became serious about his previous hobby once he retired around 2008. He also enjoys painting and photography, but always returns to his first love, woodturning. He is a resident of Winston, Georgia and cannot think of a better place for woodturners than in the state of Georgia. “We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to varieties of woods to work with,” Steve said.

He is a member of the American Association of Woodturners, a past president of the Georgia Association of Woodturners, a member of the Douglasville Artist’s Guild, the Carroll County Artist’s Guild and the South Cobb Arts Alliance. He has been selling online with Artfire since December of 2011, but has maintained a web presence for several years where he directed his clients to see previous galleries of his creations.

Steve works part-time professionally at his woodturning; he also participates in art festivals in his immediate area, does a few demonstrations and works on commissioned items.

His creative endeavors have brought him two first places in juried shows that were predominately fine art. His first places were for 3D art that normally do not place well in a fine art show.

The piece he can say is his favorite was one titled “Wrong Way Finnighan” and was his interpretation of the story of Wrong Way Corrigan, the pilot who was to fly from New York to Long Beach, but ended up in Ireland.

“Whimsical in nature, this piece was painted to mimic the light to dark depths of the ocean floor with pyrography fish swimming around”, Steve said. Of course, he added one fish that was going the “wrong direction”. The art of pyrography is when an artist burns their images into the wood, or in some cases, leather.

Steve Pritchard has an eye for 3D that helps him to visualize his creations before they are born from the wood in his hands. Even with an internal vision of what he would like to create, the wood may dictate something entirely different for him.

“Some of the best designs are those that the wood had something to say about it wants to be", Pritchard said. “Each piece is different and sometimes grain, texture, color, etc. dictate what can and can’t be done.”

He also said that when turning, your hands tell you when a piece is finished. “Wood is a material like no other and it will tell you, through your hands, what it is meant to be. Each time that happens, it is as if it were the first time and I am thankful that I am able to experience that moment again and again,” he says in his biography on Artfire.

Like “Wrong Way Finnighan”, Steve Pritchard enjoys stories about people and draws inspiration from those. He enjoys pieces that have stories behind them. He can be inspired by the endless inspiration of natural shapes, colors and textures and his favorite wood is the Bradford Pear Wood.

According to Steve Pritchard, this wood cuts like butter and allows him to do as he pleases. Although it is a bland wood, he enjoys coloring, carving and texturing it to get it to his final vision. Much like a blank canvas, the pear wood allows his creativity to express itself.

This beautiful and simple blue bowl is an example of Bradford Pear wood that Steve Pritchard has turned and then painted with two different colors of milk paint. Milk paint is considered safe, even for children and Steve Pritchard used several coats of salmon red, before adding soldier blue to the bowl. He then distressed it by sanding, giving it a fine worn and well-loved look. He has added decorative grooves into the rim and it has a beautifully ridged bottom.

“You’ll notice as you run your hands over it, you can feel the life in the wood. That pleasure will come to you each time you look at this item and each time you handle it. The milk paint is like no other finish I know. It produces a look and feel like no other finish,” Steve Pritchard said about this bowl.

This storm-damaged tree now lives on in an heirloom quality handmade bowl that can be used for generations to come.

Keeping with utilitarian works of art, this peppermill gives multi-grain a new meaning. Consisting of maple, cherry, walnut and ash, Steve Pritchard has artfully arranged the different woods in contrasting patterns to give this peppermill a visually appealing design. Not only is this mill beautifully turned with a smooth laminate surface, it is entirely functional for grinding fresh pepper for your salad. The chef specialties stainless steel grinding mechanism has a lifetime guarantee.

This peppermill is at home in any kitchen, since the wood is designed to complement any decor. Whether you have a gift that you need to give to a guy or a gal, this peppermill is perfect for any chef in training or anyone who loves to cook. In the hands of someone who loves the art of cooking, pepper is a versatile spice. In the hands of a woodturner, who loves the wood, the peppermill is an exquisite work of functional art.

Culinary graduates would love a peppermill as a graduation gift and Steve has many from which to choose.


When left alone to create, Steve Pritchard finds it easy to escape into the art of woodturning. He loves the hiss of the tool cutting wet wood and throwing ribbons of shavings around his shop, as opposed to the cutting of dry wood, which is hot and dusty work. The time he spends sanding, is also a time he uses to develop new ideas and projects.

Steve’s love of nature is also evident in his ornaments.

A popular piece that finds its’ way into many Artfire collections, this little birdhouse is the perfect gift for the bird lover in your family. You can just see the little bird flitting about on the tiny perch as this ornament adorns a desktop.

For the fashion conscious, Steve has created a collection of bangle bracelets that are both stylish and unique. The bracelet comes alive under his skilled hands and there will never be another bracelet like this.


You can find Steve Pritchard in his Artfire shop Steve Pritchard Woodturning

on his Facebook page

on Twitter

on his website http://www.stevepritchardwoodturning.com/

or blog http://www.stevepritchardwoodturning.com/blog/

When Steve Pritchard is not turning wood, he is watching racing or out enjoying a leisurely drive with his wife. They usually have no destination in mind and wander where the road takes them.

05 March 2012

The Nurturing of the Creative Spirit Leads to a Life Spent Designing

Inspiration traverses across generations for artist Leslie Walker of Leslie Marie by Design. While once inspired by her grandparents to embark upon a creative journey, the inspiration was again ignited by her eight-year-old daughter.

“My grandparents bought me my first set of markers when I was about four years old,” artist Leslie Walker said. She quickly graduated to oils, brushes and canvases as she tried her hand at new mediums. “I taught myself to draw when I was six from a She Ra coloring book”.

This was the beginning of a career in art spanning over 20 years.

“My grandparents thought everything I came up with was wonderful, no matter what it was,” says Leslie Walker. She attributes their love and nurturing to allowing her to explore her gift of art.

As with most creative people, she has had many different interests over the years as she worked on trying different creative voices. Along the way, thanks to her daughter, she has discovered the timeless art of jewelry creation. Not content simply to purchase commercial products, her creativity demanded she explore arts such as lampworking and the versatile medium of polymer clay to add her own touch to the jewelry.

Six years into her voyage of jewelry design and creations, Leslie Walker settled into the world of online studios and selling her creations to the world. Her daughter is currently involved with her own jewelry design, which she sells to her friends. There may come a time when we see this creative team both displaying their designs online.

Leslie Walker says that her favorite material to work with is polymer clay and has not found a thing she does not like about this medium. However, her next love is the art of lampworking and blowing glass. “I am fascinated by the patience it takes to make a beautiful bead. The glow of the molten glass is almost hypnotizing as you move the mandrel to design the bead. The finished product can either make my heart soar or it can break my heart. If I don’t have enough patience, a bead design can break. This is a challenging medium. I am always up for a challenge!”

Most of her designs create themselves and do not come from a set project unless she is doing a challenge that has been set forth by a contest, such as the guild challenges from the Polymer Clay Smooshers Guild on Artfire. She lets the clay take the lead, just as she does when working with molten glass. “I can have something in mind and end up with a completely different, more wonderful object that I started out to make,” Leslie said. “Often times I feel that I have completely messed up just to pull a bead from the flame and love the new design. There is magic in the chaos”.

Currently, this is Leslie Walker’s favorite piece in her studio because it links her love of jewelry design and the beauty of the polymer clay focal bead.

One of her more recent sales consisted of some yellow and orange blended polymer clay flowers that were sold to a fellow Artfire artist, which were put on a guitar strap and sold within a week. “The flowers were beautiful and her addition to the guitar strap just gave them a stunning home. I am always humbled and honored when a fellow artist loves work I have done,” Leslie Walker said.


Since her grandparents were the nucleus of her creativity, it is no wonder that she still reaches for inspiration from them although they are no longer with her. “I wish I could call my Gran and tell her about a new piece. She would have especially loved my owl necklace. She had a collection of owls,” said Leslie Walker.

Leslie took over two years to find the right beads to settle her little owl on and who would not love the whimsy in this tiny owl?

Charming and quizzical, the wide black beaded eyes seem to blink with curiosity as this fellow observes the observer. Wisdom and brass make up this jointed owl who will rest on your chest as he travels about the world with you. He is accented with pearlescent glass beads of earthtones reminiscent of the forest from which he was plucked. Feathers fly along the length of the necklace.

He is finished with a copper lobster clasp and is a princess length which perfectly perches him within view on either a high-neck sweater or a low slung scoop neck blouse. He is dressy enough for going out to dinner and casual enough for a play day with girlfriends.

Inspiration also comes from Leslie Walker’s children and large family. “My children inspire some of my greatest creations because they are so enthusiastic about life. Their giggles are infectious,” she said. Color is another inspiration for Leslie, even in the dry climate of Phoenix; there is color for her to draw upon. “We have some of the most beautiful sunsets”.

Leslie Walker’s art is greatly affected by living in the desert area outside of Phoenix in San Tan Valley, Arizona. She draws from the sunsets, mountains and the wild flowers, especially during the monsoon season when wild flowers pop up everywhere. This area of Arizona is also home to a large art community, which means that she is among residents who truly appreciate the time, effort and love that goes into a handmade piece of art.

Color is expressed in this lampwork glass bracelet featuring Leslie’s own lampwork beads.

“This beautiful Spring Flower bracelet is a show stopper! I have had many compliments at a recent craft fair. The flowers on this bracelet were handmade in my studio. There is not another bracelet quite like this one. I am very proud of this piece. I studied for hours and hours on how to do the lampwork flowers. These four flowers mark my very first successes with glass flame work”. Leslie Walker said.

As a regular attendee of the Arizona Ren Faire every year, she has had the opportunity to become enamored by the artisans who display their glass blowing techniques and wares. “I would love to do full on glass blowing. I am mesmerized any time I see artisans practicing this craft,” said Leslie Walker. In addition, she would love to learn to sew or quilt and has a lot of respect for those who are able to as her sewing machine appears to be possessed by the tangled up fairy.

When Leslie is not creating, she is reading, letting her imagination free to create in a completely different way and finds bookstores as wonderful as the smell of a new box of crayons. Her perfect day is creating and spending time with her family and her dog.

Leslie Walker is a member of two Artfire guilds.

Polymer Clay Smooshers

Checked In Today

She can be found at LeslieMariebyDesign on Artfire

Leslie Walker's Facebook Link

Leslie Walker's Twitter

A little bead she would love to find a loving home for can be seen here:

Leslie Walker does a little blogging on her Artfire blog and you can read about her escapade into HSN or her discussion regarding the color red for the Polymer Clay Smooshers Guild challenge by going to her Arfire blog.

Leslie Marie by Design is scheduled to attend the Fountain Hills Art Festival in Fountain Hills, Arizona from November 9-11 starting at 10:00 a.m. and going until 5:00 p.m. This is a juried artfair with over 500 artists participating. Fountain Hills is located outside of Scottsdale, Arizona. If you are in the area, take a moment to stop by and see Leslie and view her lovely jewelry and lampwork beads in person. 

For those who are unable to wait until November to purchase a piece from Leslie’s collection of artisan jewelry, her Artfire studio is open 24/7.  

04 March 2012

A fun Easter/Spring Centerpiece

I thought I'd share a fun Easter/Spring Centerpiece that I made today.
I started by hard-boiling some eggs.  Once they were cooked, I put them in some left over coffee and let them soak for about an hour.  They dyed to a beautiful antique brown.

Then came the fun part of decorating them.  I used vintage buttons, vintage lace trim, and mulberry flowers.

I nestled the eggs in some dried moss which was placed in a creamy white Vintage Haeger planter. 
I set the planter and two cement birds onto a framed mirror.  There you have it - a fun Easter/Spring Centerpiece all made with things around my house!