Wednesday, October 30, 2013

64 Gifts

Yes, that's me. The lady in the oddish black hat In isle 2. I'm the one a little sleep deprived, sniffing an open box of Crayolas and sometimes packages of Pampers. I've had that same hat for eleven years of badhairdays. --been sniffing boxes of crayons much longer. There is just something about a box of new crayons... Untouched tips full of color and of promise and they have always smelled the same. Since those summer days at my grandparents picnic table when i would break open that box of 64 gifts, so thrilled with my favorites of periwinkle and gold. A new box of crayons smells like hope to me.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Straining Toward Home

....overhead, the Geese with their necks outstretched,
Are straining toward some mysterious home.
And i, here on the ground,
fumbling to find direction.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Looking Back

This month has been oddly very slow at Sacred Cake, but I can't complain. It is affording me the luxury of playfulness and time to look back at favorite pieces to be inspired, contacting customers to say hello, fiddling around at my old table and organizing my area.
Browsing through the earlier days in the "sold" section of my shop, (before the Anna Wintour "vintage jeweled necklaces" caught fire and took over!) I noticed some of the stories that I wrote to go with the pieces I sold.
After all, my tagline is that "Every piece tells a story." Though I rarely do that anymore...we can always begin again. I am a big believer in every day being a new beginning. Lord knowits I need keeps me hopeful!
Here is a little story I came across, and the piece that went with it~

"..she ran her hand noisily along the coolness of the chain link fence during her walk home from the shop until she arrived at her favorite spot. There at the edge of the fence, among the shreds of dirty paper and old faded wrappers, were clusters of fragrant wild tiny scarlet bouquets that grew there just for her."

Feeling the need lately to root myself in what speaks to my heart. I'm creating more assemblage jewellery pieces, bridal pieces, functional art and I might even begin the book that has been floating around in my head for awhile now. I'm also hoping to get back into some favourite magazines next year.
Here are some new assemblage pieces currently in the shop.

Find me also on my favourite sleepless night haunt, Pinterest!
I have boards of Miriam Haskell Jewellery, 1970s fun stuff, needlepoint, pottery, and even one I've begun on Confetti ware...Also, favourite that one.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Gift Certificate Giveaway over at Sacred Cake!

Jennifer Valentine's Etsy Gift Certificate
Please visit me on Facebook at JenniferValentineJewelry for the giveaway! I am giving away two 25.00 gift certificates to my shop! Leave a comment on the piece you love best and perhaps even why if you have time.
Each comment will have a number. I'll draw the numbers next Sunday afternoon!
I am adding new things this evening. You will have a lost to choose from!
Gearing up for the holiday it THAT time all ready?!
Hope you all are well and finding your joy...use the good china. light those special candles. treat yourselves well.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

First State of Mind


     To whomever vandalized the street downtown, I thank you from the depths of my heart. I needed this sign that day...a reminder that love will always prevail, and that ugliness and animosity never does in the end. Love is the only thing that is real.
     Small town life has its many charms. I've embraced my life here and the lovely people I see every day with smiling, welcoming faces...I find comfort in the familiarity. But there are times, when this small town existence feels very very small. Rumors spread. People talk about each other and believe the hearsay. I'm not one to believe a rumor, or perpetuate one. I like most everyone regardless of their faults, because I have insight and self awareness.
I am as flawed as the next person.
     I've been bothered by something that I experienced here recently... The last time I experienced this type of treatment, I was married to an abusive man and I have done my best to forget the way I felt all of those years ago.
     The encounter still brings some sadness to me as I write. My faith in humanity was truly tested. I was made aware that there are still those people in life that will not be satisfied until they see you fall. I was looked down upon like I was a piece of garbage. I was told with a sneer to "just sit down", as I tried to explain my feelings. And as the tears came, and as I sat, the person who resurrected those old, buried feelings of no self worth actually smiled with satisfaction, seeing the pain I was in. I could not believe what I was seeing.
     I was once again, in that place of abuse. The feelings of helplessness and anger and sadness rolled over me like waves, that I had forgotten ever existed, for over 20 years.
I became allowed myself to become, a victim....a cowering shell of the woman that I have spent the last 20 years "working on" to become whole and ok with my past and with my life here in small town, USA.
     My experience that day had me wondering if all the work I have done means nothing...if one person could tear me down so easily. If one person could determine my self worth in just a few minutes of time.
I allowed myself to become a victim again instead of staying strong in my faith that God is always with me and that I am worthy of love and acceptance. Worthy of being heard and seen. Supported by his hands, always.
     All of this from a conversation that was less than a few moments. It stemmed from a misunderstanding that I had already long ago forgotten, but one that had obviously been seething and bubbling in the mind of another who could not wait to get justification and revenge.
     Call me a fool, but I am one of those who believe that even the worst, hardened criminal still has that tiny flame of goodness inside of them. I am one of those who believe that God is present even in the "worst of the worst" because we are all of our creator...I am one of those people who believe that everything that happens, happens for a reason...and that all will be understood in God's time.
     I am not angry with myself anymore for breaking down. For crying as I sat there in public humiliation. Especially laying my vulnerability out only to be laughed at with such smugness and the kind of mean that existed in my life so long ago that I had forgotten how it felt.
     I guess what I am trying to convey is that I can only get up, dust myself off and get back on the horse. Just when we think we have overcome so much, done all the work and covered all of the "stuff", there is always more learning and more growing to do.
And so I am reminded to be gentle with myself, and be continue to be more forgiving because the others that I encounter in this life don't have it all together either. We are all only human. We are humanity. We are all works in progress.

I am a Canon Rebel

 So, you think you need an expensive Canon Digital SLR with all the fancy-shmancy buttons to take a good photograph of your assemblage jewelry? This camera was my camera for almost all of the years I've been photographing jewelry to put "out there" in my Etsy shop, Sacred Cake. Yup. This is the one I've used. And it was used when I got it.
Old Betsy Blue

She's been dropped, bopped and treated very poorly by my grandchildren...she's had amateur sand removal surgery and when I got tired of the blue showing up in the reflections of my photos, I hurriedly tried painting her with white nail polish...over the red polish that was on her when I bought her...I even hid her behind a blank page with a hole cut in it for the lens so her color would not show...
and I still got photos like this, handmade assemblage earrings
photo of bridal earrings taken with Old Betsy Blue 
And this
aqua blue necklace, jennifer valentine, sacredcake
aqua blue collet in silver
Now (thanks to the three easy payments plan on HSN) I have a brand spankin' new Canon Camera...but reluctantly purchased and only because the lens shutters on Old Betsy Blue had to be removed in order for the lens to retract. And it is still NOT a Canon Rebel digital SLR (cue angelic heralds and boy-choir music wafting in  from above). It is a basic Canon camera like I had, but with a better zoom. Drawback for photographing jewelry, once again, is the COLOR. Will I paint my new camera with white paint or nail polish? Probably not.
Will I make a white paper with a lens sized hole in it and hold said white holed paper onto front of camera while trying to take a decent photo? Most likely, if it is a super shiny thing that I don't want to see a big black blob in when reviewing pictures.
this is me zooming with new camera
I never thought I'd be one of those old sticklers that doesn't want to try "new technology", you know? But I was resistant to learning a whole new camera all over again! What I had worked. If the lens had not gotten scratched from it having no lens doors from it falling in the sand at the lake while taking pictures of those meddling kids...none of this would have happened... Me and Old Betsy Blue would still be working together after almost 4 whole years.
Would you like to know some of my secrets? I'm going to tell it all for you right here. Because I really like to teach. I like to share what I know.
Here are a couple of non touched up photos from my new basic Canon~ on automatic....not too shabby eh? You can take good photos with whatever you have. Trust me. Can you see a huge difference between the photos above and below?
photo of earrings taken with Big Black 
Come back soon because I'd like to share with you some simple tricks to use to take better photos for your online shop.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Drops of Hope Project

drops of hope earrings

I have often wondered, in my years here in this community, how I can give back...aside from helping the wayward kids that have wondered through our doors over the past Nine years here. There have been many that KW and I have cooked for, sheltered and briefly fostered to our best ability, while navigating turbulent teen years of our own children. The house is more settled now, and I have some time to spend on a small project here and there. I try to know my own limits as a person, so I don't take on too much at once and beat myself up for not "making it happen".
My current project is one close to my heart. I have even gotten help of my youngest, who punches cards for me. I think it is very important for children today to be involved in giving back. I think it helps to keep them more aware of the community in which they live, and it shows them the importance of working together.

our little guy punching cards
This project, I call "Drops of Hope". 
The earrings I make are simple. Made with vintage bead caps, faceted glass and non-reactive brass earwires and they come in pretty colors. At the end of each week, I use the money I make to purchase baby food for the local food pantry. So far, I have sold several pair and was able to donate two whole flats of large jars of babyfood to the local pantry, "People Helping People."

I am also hosting a free earring making class at the local library in August, and have plans to speak with the local Lions Club about hosting a walk-in workshop  for local teens to learn how to make jewelry of their own.  I'll keep you posted!

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don't need a lot of money to be happy--in fact, the opposite.” ― Jean Vanier

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Making Love

Recently, I received an amazing care package from someone very special to me. My idol, Stephanie Lee!We've never even met in person. It was filled with homemade jams, a piece of amazingly gorgeous jewelry, beautiful beads, and one of the kindest, softest notes I have ever received. This has become part of the unforgettable memories of my life. I know how busy life can get. And I know what it takes to send a package to someone...I do it often in my line of work...but one carefully filled with little glass mason jars in bubble wrap among other things? Well, that is above and beyond a care package...It made me feel seen and loved and heard...all of those things which we need as a human "being".
jams and preserves
            I lined the jars up and gingerly held them up to the sunlit window, slowly turning them like chunky kaleidoscopes. Each jar carefully labeled with the contents...beautiful amber and red colors...tiny chunks of fruit carefully cut and suspended in time. Friends, I know about canning. I know how labor intensive it is...
Nanny taught me about canning.
            During the hot summer months on Lake Santa Fe in northern Florida, I'd sit barefoot and tanned in a metal folding chair on the carport with my Nanny (Kathleen) Roberts shucking peas, de-veining  string beans, snapping them into smaller pieces...the scent of raw green in my nostrils and the gentle sound of the lapping lake in the distance. She called me Jenny in her gentle, southern voice and the sound soothed me with warmth each time.
Granddaddy and Nanny circa 1982
          Those summer days are some of the most cherished memories of my life. She and I and large bowls of snap peas and beans, chatting about canning and how long she had been doing it. The sound of metal lawn chairs scraping the carport cement as I scooted closer to her so I could see how it was properly done.
The large jars of butter beans were stored up on a shelf on the carport in long, neat rows. They could be seen when you drove up onto the carport, up to the kitchen door. I can still hear her voice calling to my father, Jerry, to go and get a jar of butter beans for supper. I can see his sun-browned hands reaching for one of the the large mason jars. Jars filled with those pale beans;  jars filled with conversations and sunshine. and the labors of a community garden in the deep southern sun.
            Holding those little jewel filled jars that were sent to me, my memory was flooded like a tide pool...holding the most precious living things I could ever own; my memories.
            Nanny is gone now. She was 85. Jerry left long before her in 1983. I was 14. She always said one should never have to outlive her children, but that he was with Jesus now.
            Holding the little jars from my box to the light, I remember love. I remembered family meals around a creaky old table. And I felt loved.... my mind flooded with memories of my father; of love, family and gentle conversation with one of the softest, kindest women I've ever known. All of this from a single box bearing my name.
            I bought muffins yesterday. Savoring the thought that this morning I would open one of the jars with that familiar POPing sound as the seal breaks, and spreading the fruity sweetness over crusty brown bread and  real butter...almost like the feeling of rolling vintage jewels around in the palm of my hand. I imagine the journey from garden to hands to bowl to plate. I hear voices and laughter spilling out into the morning air.
            I sigh with the thought of it all. Where love begins and never ends...long after the jars are empty, rinsed and ready for the next season. Jars turned upside down, long bereft of their contents, a symbol of hope for another season of love to be made.

Jewelry by Stephanie Lee

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Pennies from Heaven (because I forgot the really good title)

            I found the perfect one word title for this post, and then as quickly as it came, I lost it. Which is very much like me I imagine. Forgetting things, names, words and appointments. Forgetting why I came into another room with the purpose lost by the time I entered into the middle of it. And then leaving said room frustrated with myself. I read that it has much to do with the neurological issues I have. I have so many labels...fibromyalgia, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, depression, bulging disks and torn stuff in my spine, arthritis, Fabry's disease...
            Truth is, no one really knows why I am loosing myself to whatever this body of mine decides to do. Could be hereditary, but I know very little about my natural fathers health before he died. I only know that sometimes I am scared. I am scared of becoming encased in skin that cannot feel.
            I've lost my feet to numbness and  I experience excruciating neuropathic pain that saps my energy. I've lost my shins to partial numbness and parts of my thighs. Parts I didn't even realize were gone until the neurologist started poking me with a pin and caressing parts of me with a piece of tissue paper as my eyes were closed...
"Can you feel this?"
"How about this?"
           Mostly, I miss the feel of the grass beneath my feet. Oh, and sand too. Now I have to wear "special" shoes. I smile to myself as I write this because I think immediately of Forrest Gump when I put them on each day....these expensive pseudo-hip mary janes with fat heels and velcro straps to keep me steady.
I miss my feet.
         But none of this can stop me from my belief that it all has a purpose beyond what I can see. Because I've seen it in action, this truly amazing Grace that God gives to us each and every day.
I look for it. And it is there.
In the smallest of things.
            Last Sunday before church we were running late. The last spots were by the big mud puddles outside of the parking lot fence. I decided to walk along the fence so I could touch it as I skirted past front bumpers, secretly savoring the cool metal beneath my fading fingertips. It reminded me of my childhood, walking by fences and running my fingertips along to cool metal as I walked. I held on to the fence to steady myself before entering the parking lot of our church. When I reached the entrance, I happened to look down. At the entrance, right by the big metal post, embedded in grass and mud and leaves, was a penny.
I was not looking for pennies. It found me. I picked it up and looked closely at the date.
The year I was born.                                                                                                                                                                                                           God knows my thoughts. He knows my pain. To me, it was a sign  that I was born for a reason. That my life has a divine plan.  Not to give up.
I'm not saying that God throws pennies down just for me to find.
What I am trying to say is that if your heart is open to receive will find them.
There are little miracles everywhere. I truly believe this. Signs of God's love exist all around us.
        I could not stop the tears coming from my eyes during the whole service that day. My youngest son, looking over at me from his seat with questioning eyes and I couldn't explain why the tears would not stop.
How can one really explain to anyone how finding a penny with 1969 on it was such a touching thing...
I guess that is what I'm trying to do here.
Through an old penny, God said to me that I was born to do this.
That my life is purposeful and that I was on the right path...just watch for big muddy puddles, touch everything and everyone you possibly can. Hold on. This numbness in your body is a gift. Use it. Use your life.

You were born to do this.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Winged Heart Art

This is where is all began for me...the first pieces of artwork I ever made involved hearts with paper and wire wings, and sometimes messily sewn fabric ones, back in 1999. The wire elements were inspired by one of my favorite artists, Brian Andreas.  I was fortunate enough to be featured in the wonderful book, Taking Flight, which featured an article with a mirrored piece I did with the same signature paper and wire wings. Cloth Paper Scissors featured an article about me and my work (the first time i was ever published in a magazine!), and I just found an image of my work on their Pinterest board! So nice to see those again...they have long since been given away or sold...but seeing my assemblage work inspires me to want do this again. Assemblage jewelry and art is my heartbeat made tangible. Broken pieces made whole and beautiful again....that is me. It refreshes my spirit to read these old heart is still the same kind of heart. I still want the same things from life. I still want to make a difference in the world, even in the smallest ways. Perhaps the smallest ways are best.

photo by Jennifer Valentine,  "Writing in Books"click to visit link
Did I ever tell you how much I love old pencils? I think about the history they hold. Writings I'll never see...signatures, tests, apology letters...I love that about old things. They have stories to tell if we are just quiet enough to listen. This piece required me to very carefully drill holes through the tops of  about 15 old pencils! The wings were actually those cheap puffy fabric wings that I painted with a paint that you can rust.

Below is a heart from years ago (my mother's heart) that was featured on KellyRaeRoberts.Com. It was for an interview and It is made with old garter straps and stained up fabric from an old ironing board (I think i still have some of that.). Oh, how I love old raggedy fabric!
image by Kelly Rae Roberts, click for article

I used the same kind of silver thread for my hearts for years until the last bit left the spool...and I have not been able to find the same thread since. Would you like to learn to make the paper and wire wings? I was thinking about a little tutorial. It isn't as hard as it might seem. I have a little suitcase FULL of old, yellowed tissue paper that I have found stuffed inside old hats at garage sales and various places. This has really got me going now...i feel some more heart art coming on!

Here are a couple more paper and wire winged pieces featured years ago on Lovely Liz Lamoreux's blog back in 2009, when she did an interview with me (SO honored.)!

"Leaving" by Jennifer Valentine
"Flying Irony" by Jennifer Valentine

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

No Matter How Lonely

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.” 
― Mary Oliver

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Free Easy DIY Earring Display Idea

 I don't like my favorite assemblage jewelry to hide in a box, so I made something simple to display my assemblage earrings that is easy to make, and makes each pair easy to see and enjoy, wear and replace.

What I did~
I added small eye screws from a picture hanging kit to an antique rubber carriage wheel. The rubber is very hard, but very easy to screw into. I used a saw tooth picture hanging bracket for the back. Just nail it right into the hard rubber.
I also used a chemical called "Novacan Black" to make the bright metal of the eye screws look dark and aged.
I did something a bit differently in another post here,  
to display my favorite necklaces with a large antique tricycle wheel.
Hope this inspires you! I love to display my artful collection of earrings. Earrings pictured clockwise from the top are Sacred Cake,  Age Before Beauty, Sacred Cake Fanciful Devices, and Read Between the Lines.

I've even found some for you! just follow these leads by clicking on the photo:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Affirmation, a Mother's Day Letter to My First Born

My Dear "Little Prince",

            Mother’s Day morning is here, and I reflect today in the rare stillness of early morning; my thoughts turning to you. My first child. Born to me on the edge of 18. I could not stop looking at you. So incredible. So beautiful. So mine.
            I was a natural, even at that age. I know I've told you that before haven't I? I surprised everyone. I just knew what to do somehow, as if guided by something unseen and unknown. A force of pure love. I imagine that is what is called maternal instinct...
            I fumbled through your later years, as I imagine all parents do. We grew up together. I made mistakes that, in my mother's mind, are completely unforgivable. But you have forgiven me before I have even begun to forgive myself. Thank you for that.
            I am writing because I want to share with you one of my fondest memories. I have years upon years of memories stored up in my mind of you and your four siblings...fleeting glimpses of the past, like tiny movies I can play and re-play. And I so agree with  Pavese who once wrote,  “We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.”  Isn't it strange how a memory that only lasts just a few seconds, can change a person so...but the richness of the moment stays with us like sweetness on our tongues after desert is long gone.
            It was 2006. You were graduating from high school. Your father and his wife had the “good” seats, while I had to sit in the balcony section for guests... straining to find you among the sea of caps and tassels and gowns. And it was ok. Your father and his wife are the ones who were there in person, and urged you onward and finally got you to that place, a graduating senior, while i lived 3,000 miles and five years away from you.
            You had just received your diploma and I only applauded loudly as requested by the high school staff. You must have known how hard it was for me to stay reserved. I am never one to be demure! I had to quietly swallow the burst of pride that I felt, and tears of joy mixed with regret and longing leaked from the corners of my eyes. You walked by your father and his wife and found your seat and then it happened.
            As I watched in earnest to catch your eye, you turned around in your seat, searching the balcony crowd for my face.  My face. We made eye contact. You raised your diploma in the air and smiled at me. I waved and smiled back.
            It was two seconds. The most life affirming two seconds of my entire life.

            To be loved by you, I find such grace.
            There are the broken places inside of me that still ache for a second chance to get some things right, though I know it isn’t possible. And I know, as a parent, all parents have those tender, achey places.
            On this Mother’s Day, I want to thank you for your love. For loving me despite all of my faults. For forgiving the seemingly unforgivable. Imaginative, dynamic, beautiful child of mine;  thank you, for your unlimited love and grace.

                                                                                        Love Forever,

Thursday, April 04, 2013


It comes when I least expect it. And I am left wondering where it came from. What triggered it...
The feeling that I cannot catch my breath...the feeling of being smothered. The helplessness that comes with a memory I don’t want to remember. The brief bewilderment, the ache and sadness that comes with it. I find myself inhaling deeply. Calming with each free breath.
            I wonder if the memory comes with  stress, or the feeling of not being able to catch my breath, or if it comes after. I just know it arrives.
 No  longer the victim, I say to myself. No more, does he have the power to make me feel afraid. And almost as quickly as it comes, the memory finally fades. We cannot control every thought, or every memory; but we can control how we react to it…
My hope is that by writing these words, those of you who were abused at the hands of those who were supposed to love and cherish you, will find comfort that you are not alone in it. I know the darkness at times can seem overwhelming, and we get weary of fighting it, but there is light. There is hope. Always hope. I believe this with all of my heart.
I find that childhood  memories usually come in the stillness when I am holding one of my children, or one of my grandchildren. Or as I watch my children from afar.
The thought that comes is how? And Why? How can anyone abuse an innocent child? A child like me? A child like mine?
It just seems so easy to love.
Among my experiences as a young girl, one particular moment is emblazoned in my memory, like the branding of cattle. I was held under water in a pool for so long, I thought for certain I would never surface again. I was only seven years old, and I was afraid of the deep end of the pool at our apartment complex.
“Let's jump in together then,” he said.  Reluctantly, I held his hand, and leaped into the pool...only I did not get to surface.
His grip tightened, and I was held under for an eternity. My lungs burned. I remember struggling, looking up at his distorted face through the ripples of surface water…and the sound of the bubbles of my last exhaled breath rumbling in my ears. And it seemed like such a long way up to the surface where that breath awaited. An eternity, it was, for me.
When I was finally allowed to come up for air, I got out of the pool gasping for air and choking on tears of disbelief and hurt.
That was the last time tried to leap fearlessly.
I am not telling this story to elicit sympathy. I am telling it because it is part of my story.  It is a part of the story of my life. Just one of the many many moments that changed me, and my feelings of security and trust for most of my life.
We who are left to struggle with the aftermath of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse often times identify as victims. It becomes our brand. Our excuse. We try to control our lives and our relationships in ways we sometimes don't even realize, because at an early age, we were completely powerless. We were at the mercy of other people and their control over us.
We worry about what people think. We become people pleasers. We demand love on our terms. We live our lives around everything and everyone but ourselves. We feel unworthy. We have inner voices that drag us through absolute hell. We put ourselves last…
And we feel broken.
For years, I lived inside of the brokenness. I lived inside of the feelings of unfairness and anger and resentment and regret. I had no self-worth. I chose all of the wrong men and tried to “fix” them to my liking. I felt absolutely unlovable for the first 37 years of my life.
 I feel like I am finally beginning to surface. Even now, at 44 years old; even when I think I have fully conquered it, it is still here.
I am sometimes still giving my past abuse, and my abuser, the power to determine my self worth. I still struggle. I'm not here to lie to you and tell you I'm leaping fearlessly and to tell you I'm all healed up shiny new and I never make mistakes. I work on healing every. single. day.
What I am here to tell you is that I know it is not easy.
I am here to tell you that we can rise above it.
I am here to tell you that you are not alone in your struggle.
I am here to tell you that we are worthy of joy and happiness and love.
No matter how old we are, we can always begin.
Give yourself the chance to surface.
playing with seagulls, 2012