Sep 182017
 
Horny Toad

Horny ToadFinding a property that had horned lizards (aka horny toads, horned toads) living on it was near the top of my moving to New Mexico wish list. I knew these engaging reptiles lived in New Mexico, but had heard of their increasing rarity due to environmental influences like loss of habitat and even the death of many horned lizards by deadly (at least to them) red ants moving north from Texas.

But I did not give up. In fact, here’s a verse from a song I wrote to keep myself from being bored during the drive from Florida to New Mexico this past April:

“We’ll travel down an old dusty road

Find us a place with a horny toad

We’re moving out west, yes we’re moving out west”

I’ve been keeping my eyes open, and in fact Ed and I saw one on a hike last May about an hour an a half northeast of where we live. Then our new neighbor (who lives about 25 minutes from us) showed us his resident horned lizard.

But after 3 ½ months of living on our 20 acres I’d about given up. We had plenty of good looking striped lizards scurrying around, graceful garden snakes with black heads, lots of interesting black beetles, a huge hummingbird population and even the occasional bear and deer. But no horned toads.

Then, about a week ago my daughter-in-law casually said to me:

“I just took a video of a funny little fat lizard, sort of sand colored and very wide in the tummy. He was down by the cabin.”

I screeched “THAT SOUNDS LIKE A HORNY TOAD!!!” Diana was momentarily astonished but quickly recovered her equilibrium. After all, she’s known me for 12 years.

She pulled up the video and showed me. More screeches from me. “What’s wrong, grammy?” Concerned grandchild, very sweet.

“Nothing! It’s just that your mommy found a horny toad on our property!”

“What’s a horny toad?” Diana showed her the video.

It’s easy for me to hyperventilate at 7,000 feet, so I willed myself to calmness. But the euphoria remained. I didn’t see the little guy in person for another couple of days, when my two youngest grandchildren burst through the front door.

“GRAMMY, IT’S THE HORNY TOAD!”

I stopped whatever I was dong (all other tasks obviously paled in comparison) and dashed after the little ones to the spot where Diana had him “cornered”.

He was beautiful. Ancient. Gorgeous and perfect. My life in New Mexico is now complete, my song has come true! And the very next day, I actually sold a pair of horned lizard earrings on my website. True story! And a very good omen indeed.

Sep 112017
 
Baby Praying Mantis

Baby Praying MantisSince we moved to our New Mexico property 2 ½ months ago (20 acres of pinons, junipers, bright yellow snakeweed blooming in late summer along with a profusion of other wildflowers) we’ve been exploring not only the more flamboyant aspects of this territory, but the modest ones as well.

I’m talking about bugs!

 

Praying Mantises have always held a special place in my heart…especially the little baby ones, exact replicas of the big mama pest eaters. The first one I saw here was on our little cabin door a couple of months ago. I even wrote a Haiku poem about it!

Small green alien
upside down on cabin door
Praying for a moth

Last night I was peering out my kitchen window and saw a slightly larger version devouring a moth attracted to the light. It reminded me of my Florida studio, where at night big-eyed geckos would take advantage of our late hours and catch the bugs drawn to our desk lamps.

Funny how a BUG has figured out this neat trick!

I learned a few interesting factoids about Praying Mantises recently. One is that the name itself, “mantis” comes from a Greek word, “mantikos” that means soothsayer or prophet. I reckon that has something to do with the forelegs that are held together, as if the little guy was praying.

Also:

  • Most praying mantises live in the tropics. I count myself lucky to live in a semi-desert place where they actually flourish!
  • Praying mantises can turn their heads 180 degrees! Quite a talent!
  • They share a common ancestor with cockroaches and termites
  • And this weird one: praying mantises have only one ear…and that ear is located on it’s belly!

I have always been a bug (and other “little critter” lover), starting back in my Ohio childhood where I would give earthworms a ride in the little leather pouch on the back of my bicycle. I also went through a stage of capturing insects in jars, killing them with bug spray and mounting them on pins. A little gruesome perhaps, but it was all in the name of science, 10 year-old style.

But one of my proudest kid moments was the day I brought a caterpillar to 2nd grade for show and tell, and had him walk a tightrope strung between the handles of an Easter basket.

Now I’ve graduated to creating bugs in silver, gold and enamel jewelry. And THESE bugs you can wear. Have you seen my profusion of butterfly designs?

Yes, I still love bugs. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll create a praying mantis pin!

 

Aug 252017
 
bear paw print in mud

bear paw print in mud

Since our family relocated to New Mexico a couple of months ago, we’ve almost gotten used to spectacular sunrises and sunsets, rabbits nibbling greenery outside our bedroom door in the morning, and the 20 (or so) hummingbirds that empty three half gallon feeders every other day. (It is still so strange for me to purchase white sugar, a commodity I haven’t paid good money for in over 45 years) But the sugar water seems to keep them healthy, sleek, breeding regularly and according to my neighbor Gregg, returning year after year.

The air here is delicious, scented with acres of pinon and juniper. It is quiet, and at night katydids and sometimes frogs serenade us to sleep. Mountains loom behind our house, watchtowers of the weather. I greet them every morning, never sure if they’ll be cloaked in clouds or sunlight

A few weeks ago, my son, his wife and their three children came to join us on our property. There has not been much culture shock at all, especially considering that their last home was in the city of Tampa Florida. The kids, who are still young, explore our acres with impunity and bare feet. They are delighted by our local lizards, so different looking from the anoles that make themselves at home in the semi-tropics. They haven’t yet found a horned lizard on our land, but hopes are high.

I told them about the cinnamon colored black bear I spotted outside my kitchen window before they arrived, and the walks we take on our property always include a careful examination of large rocks overturned, a sure sign of hungry bears. Toward the back edge of our property is a lovely pine grove, and in the middle of it is a bear bed…a circular spot where a tired bear, much like a weary dog has circled and stamped his way to a comfortable napping ground.

So far, the bear has not returned. Our son thinks the ambient noise of his brood will probably keep most wildlife out of sight.

But one of the kids discovered a baby bunny living in the wood pile next to our gravel drive. Now they all watch for it on their way from their little cabin to our house, “the big house” as they call it. The bunny is a bit of a celebrity, and my eldest granddaughter has been working to get a good photograph during one of his early evening hops.

For a family of animal lovers, our property and surroundings are a bit of heaven. Deer tracks, bear paw prints and the occasional cougar or coyote tracks are watched for and eagerly photographed. We all look forward to the winter, when it is said elk sometimes tramp through these foothills. Our neighbor  has seen them on his property, so hopes are high we’ll have a sighting of our own.

We are still newcomers to this ancient land, where humans have lived sporadically for thousands of years- many of them also artists. I think about them sometimes when we stretch our legs a mile or two, passing through those places where they camped and lived.

Jul 262017
 

Merry and Bear

 

Buying a house in rural New Mexico has been rewarding (mountain views!) intimidating (ever look outside your kitchen window and see a bear?) and sometimes surprisingly expensive (new water storage tank, repairing our hot water heater and fixing a wood stove pipe)

To celebrate our move and to help with the repairs, I’ve decided to do something a little wild.

 

I am having a 4 DAY BOGO sale!!!

This Buy One Get One Free offer will apply to all categories of Magic Zoo jewelry. (Yes, even the 14K gold pieces.)

But it is a very short offer… it starts today, Wednesday July 26 and ends this Saturday, at midnight July 29. FOUR DAYS ONLY!

Here’s how to get your free Magic Zoo jewelry:

  1. Choose an item(s)to purchase and put in your cart
  2. For every item you order, choose a second (must be the same price or less.) REMINDER: DON’T PUT THE FREE ITEMS IN THE SHOPPING CART, OR YOU’LL BE CHARGED FOR THEM!
  3. Type the free item(s) of same or lesser price into the comment box at check out. (comment box is under #4 – Order Confirmation)
  4. The free items MUST BE THE SAME PRICE, OR LESS, THAN THE PURCHASED ITEM(S)

The Buy One Get One Free Offer is only 4 days long. It starts today, on Wednesday July 26 and ends at midnight on Saturday July 29.

Think of it as Christmas in July! Get a jump on your holiday shopping, and help us get that water storage tank!

Your Animal Loving Artist,

Merry

 Posted by at 2:15 pm
Nov 142016
 

Large green iguanaI just got back from a trip to Aruba in the Caribbean…where I made the acquaintance of that island’s most (to me) spectacular inhabitant. The mighty iguana! To me, the most pleasurable part of traveling is seeing what critters live where I happen to be passing through. So here I am in my 60s, still wildly fascinated by animals. But I say, who wouldn’t love these rock climbing, graceful but tough looking reptiles as they sun themselves on the coast?

When I was a little girl, lizards were rare or possibly nonexistent in my Ohio neighborhood. Seeing an iguana would’ve been an eye-popping experience!

No, when I was a kid I had to satisfy myself with salamanders, which I hunted with my little jars in the creeks near my home. I would bring them home to settle into a terrarium, undoubtedly terrorizing them with my big curious kid eyes pressed against the glass.

My own Florida yard is teeming with that lizard’s tiny cousins…the graceful little anole lizard, as they dash across the yard. But I enjoy them immensely. My other local favorite are the nocturnal gecko, with his slithery, rubbery little flight from light. There is something I find  cute about their big eyes and stick-to-the-window toes. Once in a while I am entertained at night by their perching on the glass outside my studio window, gobbling he moths attracted by the light inside.

What is your favorite animal outside of the USA?

Aug 242016
 

I don’t have a dog, let alone a pit bull, but many of my neighbors do. Luckily, I’m not afraid of them; probably the rambunctious Dalmatians who shared my childhood home have something to do with that.

IMG_20130120_153455For instance, while jogging last week, I noticed an older man with his pit bull just a little ways down the trail. She (yes, a female) was straining at the leash, anxious to make some kind of contact with me. I asked the gentleman if I should go the other direction so I didn’t upset her, and he said “No, she’s fine.” Then she escaped from her collar and dove for me.

Did I experience a moment of panic? Yup. I admit it. Especially since he shouted at her. If he’d said “Don’t worry, she just wants to lick you” I would’ve been fine. But his surprised reaction, his voice tone…that’s what set me on edge.

And my fear wasn’t  because she was a good-sized pit bull. I like to think that a strange dog escaping her collar and bounding with unknown intention directly towards someone might create a little bit of concern for most people.

But of course I needn’t have panicked. She may not have had the best doggie manners in the world, but her intentions were purely sloppy friendship. She climbed up my legs, licked my face, wagged her tail wiggled her butt. You know, all those happy canine mannerisms. But what what I found interesting was the relief her human expressed. He was worried! Maybe he himself had bought into the “dangerous pit bull” idea circulating around. I may never know. I haven’t seen them again. But if I do, I’ll go right up to her and give her the petting she obviously was asking for!

I recently designed 2 new new pit bulls…they’re still at the caster, but by the time this is read, it may be on my website, so take a look and let me know what you think of them.

 Posted by at 2:29 pm
Aug 032016
 

Being an artist who loves animals, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what design to make next. My customers have suggestions, and of course I have my favorite ideas. But how to categorize all these thoughts in terms of what should be done first can be a little tricky! For example, I’ve wanted to make a platypus design for a long time, but in 27 years of working as an animal artist, perhaps 2 people have requested this little critter. Should I make one just for my own pleasure? Maybe! I’ve done that before, and once in a while it actually becomes my version of a “best seller.”

What do People Ask an Artist who Loves Animals to Make?

On the other hand, by survey most of my customers want me to make more dog designs. I like dogs, and they are lots of fun to make (some more than others). So I try and divide my creations and throw myself a bone once in a while (no pun intended). As an example of this, I just designed a kiwi bird. How many people have asked for this? I think probably none. Part of the appeal of this little bird traces back to a dear friend of mine who lives in New Zealand. Of course, that is the kiwi bird’s native home, and the inhabitants of this island nation are also known as “kiwis.”

zebra butterflyAnother recent design I created that had its roots in my own desire for plain old creative fun was the Florida zebra butterfly. I can’t wait to see this one painted in the gorgeous yellow and black stripes. This particular critter lives in my backyard, and as I’ve not seen zebra butterflies anywhere but in Florida, it holds a special place in my heart.

Being an Artist is Fun!

I must say that being an animal jewelry artist is spectacularly fun. Imagine being able to sit down at your desk whenever the mood strikes and turning a lowly blob of clay into a hamster, a tiger, a lion or a sloth. Speaking of which…or all…I just created new designs of all each of those guys. I’m currently on a creation rampage, and in the past 3 or 4 weeks have made about 50 new designs. FIFTY! That may be a record for me. Or maybe not. Back when The Magic Zoo sterling silver and painted pewter designs were coming out, I created new ones day in and day out. And many of them are still featured on my website.

I figure I have another 15 or 20 years of designing ahead of me. At the rate I’m designing now (and honestly, I’m not sure that pace will continue) I would have about 600 new designs every year, 9,000 in 15 years. But don’t hold me to it.

If you would like to see some of my newest designs you can click here. Today is August 3, 2016, and by the middle of September, this page will be bursting with new designs. So check back later! And let me know what you think of them.

 Posted by at 6:09 pm
Jul 262016
 

2345481903Guinea pigs have been pets in Europe for centuries! Some evidence discovered just a few years ago points to this…a guinea pig skeleton was found in the backyard cellar in a district of Belgium (which at one time had been part of the Spanish Empire.) With radiocarbon dating of the bones, it was revealed that this little piggie lived at the beginning of the 17th century, just after the Spanish made their discovery of South America. The fact that the guinea pig was buried on the property indicates it was an affectionate human companion.

Flemish guinea pig paintings from the time show multi-colored guinea pigs, obviously pets. The wild cavy, of course, is a brown color.

It makes sense. These little guys are so cute, so companionable that they have been winning the love of humans for a very long time.

I have never had a guinea pig for a pet, but so many of my customers have them. And I’ll bet my guinea pig jewelry is up there with the top 10% of popular items I create! This surprised me at first, but then I learned some interesting things about guinea pigs. Like:

  • Guinea pigs make excellent family pets
  • They rarely bite
  • They are fairly long-lived for rodents (5-7 years)
  • They make some very cute sounds, described  as humming and purring
  • They respond well to handling

The stewardship of guinea pigs sound like a wonderful way to introduce responsible pet care to a child. Of course, you as the parent would need to oversee this and make sure the guinea pig was being treated properly. But since they are so gentle, they might be a good start for a child old enough to actually keep the cage clean, feed the guinea pig and so on.

So it makes sense that guinea pigs have been pets for so long…I can imagine a Renaissance era maiden holding a little guinea pig in her hands, perhaps inducing it to take a bite of some delicacy. And it’s kind of humorous imagining a painter sitting at his easel, trying to capture a little piggie as it moves around. I’ve seen at least one painting from the 1600s with a couple of little guinea pigs in a central position. (They were black and white)

It has been postulated that it only took a couple of guinea pigs brought back from South America to be the parents of all the little pets in Europe that resulted. But I imagine more than that had been collected by the travelers. I like to think they were given as gifts by the people of South America, and that they enjoyed a pleasant journey across the water.

Who knows? Maybe that guinea pig you now have as a pet had “ex-pat” parents in Europe, and their progeny ended up back in the Americas, to be bred once again, and become the great great many great grandparents of that little guinea pig you cuddle today!  If you do like the little guys, stop by The Magic Zoo and see what guinea pigs I have come up with, and also make a suggestion  of what you would like to see me make in the future!

 Posted by at 6:24 pm
Jul 162016
 

Rainbow Lory earrings by The Magic ZooPolymer clay jewelry- wear it every day, every week or once a month. It matters not!

I have been creating these designs for over 25 years, and I still get tons of comments when I wear them. And my customers tell me the same thing.

It’s funny, since I began working in sterling silver and gold, I sometimes forget how fun the clay creation can be. But now whenever I get a custom order, I feel like I’ve recaptured the old joy.

Here are some of the best things about polymer clay daily wear:

  • If your polymer clay jewelry gets a little dirty, all you have to do is gently scrub it with a little dish soap and an old tooth brush!
  • The colors never fade, at least as far as I can tell…
  • Polymer clay jewelry is lightweight. Even the weight of a large necklace is unnoticeable

When I first discovered this medium back in the early 80s, I couldn’t get enough of those beautiful, bright colors. And when I started to work as a professional polymer clay artist, it only got better. There is something very special about getting paid to create beautiful things, and I felt like I had really found the medium I wanted to work in for a very long time. Which is exactly what I did.

I think it’s funny now, but back in the late 1980s I actually took my clay jewelry around to offices in little towns and cities in Marin County, California to sell. And people bought from me! I gained quite a following there, and some of my customers from that era are still with me today. (Luckily they didn’t just decide I was nuts) Or maybe they did, but they thought I was an endearing kind of nut.

Anyway, after all those many years, I seem to have come full circle. In between the 1980s and now my main focus as an artist shifted to sterling silver, gold, pewter and enamel jewelry. And the polymer clay sat on the back burner. The only pieces I created were for people who had heard about my polymer clay jewelry from someone else. I didn’t promote it. I didn’t really have very much about it on my website.

But I’ve always had veterinary customers who ordered their name badges in polymer clay, often representing the favorite animal of each employee. Those are just a joy to make! Imagine wearing a representation of your favorite pet every day at work. Think about the questions and comments you would hear! The opportunities to brag about your little yorkie, Great Dane, Pit Bull, bunny or cat!

And I do have a section on my site for custom orders, which for the most part means: polymer clay! Check out all these possibilities, and let me know what you would like me to make for you!

 

Jun 132016
 

Dog Paw Print JewelryDog paw print jewelry and cat paw print jewelry are some of the best loved designs among animal and pet lovers. I noticed this when I created my first paw print designs a number of years ago. Then several years back, the ASPCA asked me to design some special dog paw print jewelry that they carried for years in their online shop. (Yes, I am proud of that !)

A dog paw print jewelry piece combined with a heart motif is an especially sweet design. So of course I had to add that to my line as well. It goes so well…it expresses the love and good times we have shared with our four legged friends. It seems perfect!

I wouldn’t say my dog paw print jewelry pieces are only for dog lovers…in fact, cat paw print jewelry lovers purchase them as well. To me they express the love we share for both dogs and cats, and wearing them is certainly a way to keep memories of those sweet animals alive. And if you have a current best friend in your life, it’s a way to keep her or him with you no matter where life’s travels may take you.

My Favorite Paw Print Designs

The dog paw print jewelry I especially love are the 14K gold pendants. I was never much of a gold person until I designed some of it myself, but now I find it irresistible! One of my favorite pieces is the round paw print pendant, which I wear proudly on one of my gold chains. I always feel especially dressed up when I wear that one!

A few years back I even made a paw print key chain… It has a nice feel, and is the perfect size to keep those keys from getting forever lost in a purse or pocket. So even if you are not a jewelry wearer, you can have dog paw print jewelry in the form of a key chain. Great for guys, too!

Oh, I forgot to mention the paw jewelry I have in pewter and enamel. This pet paw design idea is one I have taken to heart, literally! My pewter and enamel designs all combine a heart shape with a paw print in the very middle. Some of them are colored, which gives a nice contrast to the shiny pewter.

The other nice thing about a paw jewelry design is that it covers all the different breeds. By that I mean if a dog is a mixed breed you can wear dog paw print jewelry (or a bone jewelry design) and still express the affection you have for your dog. And it makes it especially easy for people who wish to give a dog lover a gift, but can’t find anything they particularly like in the breed jewelry available.

Overall, paw print jewelry is a fabulous way to announce to the world “I am an animal lover,” and keep the connection to your dog alive wherever you go. It has long been one of my favorite designs, and I’m sure it will continue to be one in the future. If you would like a peek at my paw print designs, stop by! And let me know what you think of them by posting a comment here.