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423 Southeast 69th Avenue
Portland, OR, 97215
United States


Filtering by Category: Jewelry making materials

Boro, my Indigo fabric crush…….


I have been making jewelry from a magical material that infuses my work with a tactile and ancient quality that I love. "Boro" is an old Japanese patchwork fabric usually made from cotton or other natural materials. It is dyed with Indigo and the pieces that we see today are scraps from old Japanese country peasant farming clothing, kimonos, tatami (household floor mats) and bags. The material was expensive, so the objects and clothing were used and reused, then patched together to be used again. This fabric usually comes from the period of 1850-1950, and is quite rare and special. It is prized today for it's lovely color and delicate hand stitching. 

The earrings I have been making with Boro are embellished with my hand made silver charms and hand-sewn knots, little bits of red silk that I feel accent the rich blues and grays. The Japanese aesthetic concept of Wabi Sabi, which roughly means an elegant state of imperfection and impermanence, really is at play in my Boro jewelry. Holes and patches add to the sense that one is wearing a delicate heirloom or piece of history, however rough and worn.   I plan on continuing to use this material, allowing it to imbue my jewelry with a little Wabi Sabi. I will be selling my wares next at the Buckman Art Fair, March 7 and 8th in Portland.   Tune in for more posts in 2015! I got something to say about a lot of stuff, what I am making, and what I have seen and done. I have a perfect place to say it on my blog so why not! Comments(and complements) are always welcome, except the bizarre Spammy kind with very funny English!

Jo's Spring '14 events: BUCKMAN Art Fair, MT. TABOR Art Walk & 3 all new Art CLASSES!


MARCH 8 (11-7) & MARCH 9(11-5), at Buckman Art Fair: I am pleased to be selling at Buckman again and hope you will join me in supporting this great arts elementary school. 30% of every sale goes to the school's arts programming! Come and find my table and shop for new Jo Brody jewelry!   MAY 17 & 18, 10-5 on the Mt. Tabor Art Walk: a wonderful way to see inside artists' homes and studios and shop extremely local! Mark and I throw open our doors wide, and share our passions for 3-D mosaics and handmade silver jewelry! 

CLASSES: register at ErasersBasic Beading and Found Treasures


Felting Fun


crochet tree
crochet tree
Gossamer storefront
Gossamer storefront
felt earrings
felt earrings

I was driving along SE Burnside the other day and I pulled the car over abruptly to inspect a curious and tactile piece of street art: a crocheted tree whose trunk was covered in rich green circles of granny-esque doilys knitted together with expertise and Portland DIY humor. The tree had been attacked by yarn bombers. The yarn bombed tree was right outside Gossamer, a shop that has been celebrating the art of felt making and other yarn-y crafts since its arrival in 2007. The crocheted tree? A gift from local knit and crochet artists to the humored shop-owner in honor of Gossamer's 5th anniversary. Granted Gossamer's relative longevity in the world of SE Burnside shops might be attributed in part to the rise in the early 21st century of Portland, Oregon as the world epicenter of homespun craft-makers. Still, Gossamer has all of the elements of a mainstay supplier for crafters working in the fine art of felt making: a knowledgable and kindly founder/owner, Rose Sabel-Dodge, well-stocked supplies with surprises and necessities alike, exciting exhibits demonstrating accomplished work in the felted arts, and intermittent classes ensuring a new crop of felt-makers will be grown right here in Portland.   I was in the shop that day to source organic-looking felt for earrings I make using hand-stamped silver discs. The earrings are like little billboards for quirky two-word sayings. A way of wearing one's sentiment on the ears. I make a crop of these earrings periodically to satisfy my love of working with felt.   I have high hopes of working more in felt, having learned several types of felting techniques already at the healing arts workshops I facilitated when I ran the breast cancer healing program I co-founded. I plan on taking a needle felting class as soon as possible. Mostly I love knowing that there's a shop in Portland for every creative pursuit under the sun. Or clouds in the case of my dear hometown of Portland. Let your felt flag fly, Portland crafters! And make it out of felt, please!

Silver Lace--new line for December


  I landed on the idea of lacy silver accidentally, when I was fooling around with Precious Metal Clay(PMC) in a syringe. This is a form of PMC that is most often used to repair cracks in metal clay work or to join one piece of silver to another. I like the look I discovered after squeezing the clay out in long squiggly lines to form irregular and lacy patterns. The best part comes after the clay has been fired in the kiln, necessary for "sintering" or fusing the silver particles together and burning off the organic clay binder. After firing, I work harden and texture the lacy fine silver pieces at my jewelry bench. Hammering is wonderful for stress relief and has the added benefit of making divets and grooves in the metal in which to concentrate the darkening or oxidation. I darken the clay using the organic & very smelly product, Liver of Sulphur (neither word is nice alone and together, well, can you say STINKY??)   I had the chance to see some actual lace work in Brittany on the West coast of France this summer and I was very inspired to incorporate some of it's delicacy and beauty into my own metal work. The most remarkable manifestation of Breton lace is the "Bigouden", a tall cone of white lace that sits atop the head of traditional Breton women. Apparently the height of this extremely tall bonnet has kept getting taller and taller through the centuries, topping out in present day style at a foot tall!   The local costumes of Brittany are one of the many charming things about the region and I recommend a visit, especially the perfectly preserved medieval market town of Quimper, where we visited the family of our former exchange student. The cathedral in the town center is thought by many to be more majestic (certainly easier to gain access to!) than Notre Dame, it's contemporary.  

Silver Clay is Cool!



 I spent this past weekend selling my jewelry and prints at the Buckman Art Show and Sell, a fabulous annual fundraiser for the only Arts Elementary Magnet School in Portland. My silver jewelry was of great interest to my customers, because the details and textures you can get in a small, intimate scale are almost like little prints and tiny things always charm people! I love the metal clay work for this reason--it is akin to printmaking, a discipline I am in love with and am continuing to learn about in my 2-year Fine Art Certificate Program at Pacific Northwest College of Art, here in Portland, Oregon. Currently I am taking an etching class, learning about the techniques the old masters used to make intimate and intricate artworks that we still admire and emulate today.  

When I form a lump of Metal Clay into a piece of silver jewelry, I start by rolling out the clay to make a flat ground, much like a prepared substrate for the printing press. Onto this surface I push textured material from diverse sources, including rubber stamps, polymer or fiber. In this sense, I am working the surface into an intaglio print, with the indented surfaces being able to take a darkening agent, or patina, so that the image or texture comes into sharper focus. The result is a miniature etching, a small piece of unique art, because each image is printed individually and is one of a kind. Each time I press my texture into the clay, a different result happens.   The piece pictured in this blog post is a thistle, one of my favorite flowers. The thistle is the symbol of Scotland, where I spent a semester in college. The thistle and other wildflowers feature in my artwork regularly. I was happy when I found I had an old rubber stamp with the image of a Celtic tree, including thistles, a bird of paradise and other flora & fauna (I love using that phrase!). I use this texture plate frequently since there are so many little areas from which I can grab a texture. Do you see which thistle I used?

Getting My Gem Geek On


This weekend I am teaching a workshop at my home studio, "Let's Get Knotty", focusing on perfecting the art of knotting gemstones and pearls on silk thread. I love this technique because the softness of each silk knot really highlights the beads and the spaces between each bead allows the piece a gentle movement.I love sourcing gems from all over, but I especially love getting my inner Gem Geek on by going to the gem and rock fairs around the Portland area that pop up in County Fairgrounds and other quirky locales. These Fairs are often held in parking lots encircled by chain link fences and featuring other glamourous trappings like craft tents and fry bread!This weekend will find me at one such event, the Tualitin Valley Gem Club show, where my Gem Geek will be raging and my wallet will be frequently opening to purchase some really special gems and stones.Ordinarily I would give you a hyperlink to the show here, but these Rock Hounds are so serious about their rocks and gems that they simply have NO time to update their skeleton of a website. Anyway, if you want to go, meet me there on Friday, Saturday or Sunday at the Washington County Fair Complex

It is at these fairs that I really learn about the stones I am buying. I can usually see an example of the stones in their natural form and I can often meet the people that carve the beads and stone pendants themselves. This proximity to the stone's source adds a great deal of character and connection. Then, when I am stringing the beads or knotting them on silk, I have a better idea of the journey the bead or stone has made to get to me, and then to the buyer of the piece I am making. Another wonderful place to learn all about stones and gems is the fantastic Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. I was first introduced to this cool and extensive museum located in Hillsboro (very near the site of the Tualitin Valley Gem Club show!) on a 5th grade field trip with my son's class. I think I had the most fun of all the kids, seeing the endless rooms of a former private home in the forest encompassing vast quantities of examples of all kinds of fossils, petrified wood, huge meteorites, amazing fluorescent rocks, and a wonderful agate gallery. My personal favorite is the display of giant chunks of amber with real bugs inside! One of the highlights of the museum is "Alma Rose", the rhodochrosite from the Sweet Home Mine in Alma, Colorado. Rhodochrosite is one of my favorite stones, having a lovely pink hue and many shades and forms to choose from.  

Kiffa Beads-Design for the Ages



I have been fascinated with these colorful beads from Kiffa, Mauritania since I set eyes on them at a bead show years ago. I bought a whole strand simply because I loved the story of how they are made using the most rudimentary techniques and yet look incredibly complex and modern. They are valued as representing the highest level of artistic skill and ingenuity among bead makers anywhere.    "Kiffa" beads (a name only attributed to these beads in the second half of the 20th century by bead dealers) are made by women using a wet inlay technique, in which monochrome, imported glass beads are crushed to powder, creating a palette of powdered colored glass. This powder is then transformed into a moist paste by mixing in a binder. This binder can be made of sugar, gum arabic or, most elementally, the women's own saliva. The colored powder is then spread with a needle over a core bead made from plain glass. This process, kind-of like needle felting, allows the designs to be carefully controlled, resulting in beautiful, intricate striped or dot patterns. Each bead is heated in a simple charcoal oven and sometimes polished after firing.

The result is a bead with a depth and personality as unique as it's maker.   These beads have been collected and traded for centuries. Each bead is described by a vocabulary that includes descriptions of color, material, shape, decoration and size. Many of the Kiffa beads have a polychromatic color scheme of blue, red and white and are decorated with triangles and chevron stripes. Eye-like circles are a common design feature. The diamond-shaped beads are often made into bracelets or sewn onto strips of leather in a specific ratio of blue to red to polychrome. Some of the patterns are believed to increase the fertility of their wearers.   Bead collectors are in love with Kiffa beads, because they represent what is special about old beads: they are/were made using simple techniques to achieve stunning and timeless designs. Click here to eavesdrop on bead collectors geeking out in an online discussion about Kiffa beads.  

My Special Bead


chevron bead

I spent way too much for this red, white and blue bead and I don’t feel guilty. In fact, I don’t even remember how much it cost me at the time(maybe $90?) I only remember that I had to have it for my own. I bought it in a thrift store in Santa Fe. The owner told me it was from the 19th century. I know she wasn’t lying. This bead is a Chevron, likely made in Venice, Italy and likely used as a trade bead in Africa. I say “likely” because my bead did not come with a handy note detailing it’s age and provenance. I do know it is bead-museum quality.  My bead was made from glass in this way: colored glass is heated and blown through a tapered mold with corrugated sides, producing the star-like points on the end of the bead. Additional layers of glass are applied to the center core and molded again to produce another layer with more points. Stripes of glass are then applied to the surface. Still molten, the hollow gather is drawn or stretched into a 6-foot cane, cooled and sectioned into beads.   I bought it because I loved the way it feels in my hand. I love the indigo blue color and the rough patches of brown that speak to the distance and difficulty of the journeys of the people who carried it. I bought it because the stories it holds are rare and beautiful, like the bead itself. The story of african trade beads is a long and not always happy one, but it is worth learning more about these incredible little carriers of history. Chevron beads are plentiful and can be inexpensive, especially if you buy a strand and consider the per bead cost. For me, how much each bead cost me is not the point of having a bead collection. The idea is to appreciate the inherent value of the history that you hold in your hand and understand that the material manifestation of centuries of human experience can be contained in your palm.

Bohemian Rhapsody


Bohemia Map

I start with the beads that come from Bohemia, of course! This European region, now called the Czech Republic, is famous for colorful, richly textured glass beads in such vintage hues as coral pinks, cerulean blue, and jadeite green. Old Czech glass beads(and German glass too) are some of my favorite beads ever! I am a hoarder, an obsessive seeker, of these colorful little glass creatures and I am charmed beyond measure when I find a new bead that I know can only have been made in the past, when time was more plentiful than now, and fine craftsmanship was deeply valued.  Made in CZ Beginning in the 1560’s, a glass industry developed in the lush, green riverside villages of Jablonec and Nisou, near Prague. Hulking glass furnaces fueled by nearby forest timber and a plentiful supply of quartz deposit with which to create molten glass and press into molds allowed this region to enter the already thriving glass bead trade industry, centuries old, between Italy and Africa. The factory molds were used to create innumerable fantastical shapes including flowers, faces, feathers, animals and insects.   Vintage beads are by definition rare, and I like beads that play hard to get. Of course you CAN get them and the hunt is part of the fun. More on this later. For a start, visit my favorite local bead store, Dava Bead and Trade and ask them to lead you to Bohemia!  

I Love Old Beads!


african trade bead detail

Sometimes beads get a bad rap in the jewelry design biz. There are so many beads in this world, a vast swath of them crappy and cheap, that their value can seem diminished. I am not ever going to talk about the cheap, crappy beads here. I will only ever talk about the rare beads, the sexy beads, the old beads and the stunning beads. I will tell you about the time I paid too much for this one, or the odyssey I went on to see the place where that bead came from. Beads are a form of armchair travel, not just geographically but through time, stretching back thousands of years, to Neolithic times. If you have ever wondered why so many beads have a magical eye staring back at you, or would love to peek into a window on women in Mauritania making polychrome Kiffa glass beads using their own spit, I will take you there!  

Jo Brody's Studio Sale




  Friday, December 9th, 6 pm -10 pm Saturday & Sunday December 10th and 11th, 10 am - 6 pm

  Each piece is richly textured, hand forged & oxidized for an awesome new look! In addition to the new silver line, Jo has a slew of new jewelry in her signature style, rich with vintage beads, sexy gemstones and funky vintage brass dangles. As always, Jo will serve you delicious snacks & sips while you shop for gifts, and mingle with friends old and new.