My New Little Sanctuary

7I9A2617I’ve been slowly and deliciously chewing my way through Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances (which is a splurge brand new so look for it used).  It is one of the most beautiful art books I’ve ever handled, and full of snippets of wisdom and truth, and once you read her thoughts and letters and the things others wrote about her you can fully appreciate what she was trying to do with her paintings and they become unquestionably beautiful.  She wrote a lot about how the artist must create a sanctuary to create in and that once in her creative sanctuary, she must not be disturbed lest she suffer murdered inspirations.  She didn’t even allow herself a dog or a cat while living remotely in New Mexico.  She cloistered herself away in order to create without interruptions, to keep her inspiration as pure as possible.

While I do have some hermit-y tendencies, I do not mind the occasional studio interruption (especially if it is fur bearing).  And of course, there’s my trail run every day around 2:30pm, wherein I interrupt myself and which I daydream about as I work, looking forward to the wind and the sky all around me.

I am trying to keep this new studio as spare as possible.  I like the texture of the room, the volcanic stone work, the quiet paint color of the upper walls  and the light is amazing — the wall behind my benches in this photo is the only complete wall in the space.  The room has light pouring in from two directions of windowed walls and a third wall bears big French doors that lead into the dining room.  I have worked out of 8 different studios in the past 9 years and this is by far my most favorite space yet.

Catching Up

7I9A6434Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 3.55.24 PM7I9A64477I9A63787I9A65377I9A6484Well, the first one of a kind piece finally rolled off the studio bench today since the move to Idaho for the winter.  I think I’ve talked about it before, but yanking a studio up by the roots is tough business for me.  I’m doing it twice a year right now because of Rob’s job and it’s hard on my soul, time consuming and I lose stuff every time I do it — tools, partly finished projects…you name it.  There is always a handful of items I can never find ever again, they simply disappear into the ethers between Washington and Idaho.  Setting a space up again is becoming grueling for me.  Once my work space is set up, there’s also the spatial re-learning that can make me a little impatient.

It’s muscle memory, you know?  The way your hands and body move between bench, anvil, vice, and all the other tools of the trade.  You find a rhythm.  You can reach for objects and tools without looking.  It becomes like playing a twelve page sonatina by Beethoven by memory — your fingers and heart and senses just wind themselves up and then merrily tap away at things.  I love getting back to that place again where I’m flowing in the studio and I’m almost there right now but it’s been a slog at times.  The small victories come slowly.  I just try to give myself a little grace along the way.


Things I currently find inspiring:

-birds (waterfowl, birds of prey, upland birds, song birds, flickers…you name it, I’m obsessing)

-the idea of rags turning into riches, or the old adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure

-Russian olive trees

-the image of a sleepy —- ——— ————– — — ———- (can’t share too much about this one yet because it’s going to be beautiful and I cannot unveil the image I have in my mind yet…I hope it turns out when I sit down to actually make it

-water and wind (what those currents feel like and thereby what they must look like to the unseeing eye)


-running, running fast and how to make myself run faster and stronger — I often imagine I am a jackrabbit running through the sagebrush with an owl at my 6 or a salmon swimming inches from the dark tunnel of a bear’s throat — I’m constantly thinking to myself, as I run, “Be faster.  Be wilder.  Be stronger.” and I try to run like I’m scared, like I’m surviving, I pin my ears back and lean into it, it feels glorious…

-cobalt blue, salmon, ochre

-the skills animals are naturally and instinctually equipped with (or taught by their parents)


-everything upland…everything


Reading/Recently Read:

Desert Solitaire (Edward Abbey)

The Moon Pulled Up An Acre of Bass (Peter Kaminsky)

M Train (Patti Smith)

Never Broken (Jewel Kilcher)

Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)

Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)

Mary Oliver New and Selected Poems Vol. 1



First Aid Kit

Patti Smith

Bright Black Morning Light

Hey Rosetta!

Bob Dylan (Desire & Nashville Skyline)


Jewel (Spirit)


Watching/Recent Viewings:

Song of the Sea (…watercolor animation about selkies!!!!!!!!!!  AHHHHHH!!!)

Dances With Wolves

Wolf Children

Point Break

Velvet (The era!  The fashion!!! The subtitles…)


I’ve been consciously practicing omission lately, with regards to writing.

“…you could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood.”  [Hemingway :: A Moveable Feast]

I mean it.  Everything I’ve been writing lately has been hacked to bits before it’s been submitted.  And I like it.  But I think I’ve been practicing omission for a while, specifically with my decision to write less about jewelry designs when I present them to you — choosing instead to let you feel your own way about them instead of assigning obvious meaning and symbolism to the objects themselves.

What do you think of that?


What I jotted down yesterday:

The youngest sister is here and so eager to vacuum the floors which need cleaning daily because the claws of the high desert slip so easily through the ribs of the windows and doors and the dust rides in clinging tightly to my feet the way I used to dance with my father when I was very young and I always like to see her for her humor and because we are like two mice, one from the country and one from the city, but we still like to nibble at the same cheese.


The dogs and I are trying to start every morning with a quick river walk.  I take a cup of tea or coffee with me and we see if we can find some pheasant feathers down on the river edge and we marvel at the trees and the coldness of the winter sun and we squint a little, too, and the quail are always bombing out of the thickets and the herons are doing their awkward calling to each other and the ducks fly over.  I love a quiet morning walk, so much.  The dogs are so much better behaved, too, throughout the day and my lungs feel scrubbed clean.


Lastly, I have to tell you about something crazy — I’d actually feel like a bad citizen if I didn’t share these details!  I was made utterly ill by laundry detergent and literally gave up ten days of my life to an agonizing rash that covered 75% of my stomach and other random parts of my body (including one earlobe, one eyelid, and part of my ribcage…and almost my whole right arm and wrist).  It was awful.  My lymph system is totally shocked out, I mean, honestly, it derailed my life!  The situation is still pretty awful but I’m slowly recovering from it and beginning to catch up on all the catching up I WAS doing when I came down with the rash.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re all like, “Huh?  A rash?  Please Jillian, let us spare our compassion and prayers for those with leukemia and scarlet fever.”  Fine.  But I’ve had broken bones and my share of physical ailments and my servings of suffering I have to tell you that this is one of the most difficult ailments I have endured in my lifetime for the plain fact that the agony of it caused my mind to unravel.  I almost went crazy.  I still haven’t really slept in about eight days.  The rash looked like 3rd degree burns on some parts of my body.  It still does, a bit.  Lordy, it’s been terrible.

The last thing I will say about it is this:  Please do not buy the lavender scented Kirkland brand eco laundry detergent from Costco.  It has affected many, many folks in the same way (go read the reviews on the product on if you’re struggling to take me seriously, you may have even had a similar experience, yourself).  I don’t usually write about things like this but honestly, I’d feel awful if one of you or your kids came down with a similar, systemic rash.  I’m utterly (and may very well be literally) scarred by the experience.



Outside, the rain.

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The studio was such a zoo this weekend!  Thanks to everyone, near and far, who came to the Methow Valley to support me and the artist community here.  It was such a pleasure to meet you, hug you and in most cases, send you off with a piece of my work!

I’m off to the high country tomorrow on a quick shoot before I begin to photograph leftover work and list it in my Etsy shop.  I need a little break from this space before I begin to pack it up and wind it down for the summer season.  Preparing for this open studio tour was VERY wonderful for me.  It was a concentrated patch of studio time…such as I haven’t had in a long while.  Just beautiful.

I can’t believe we’re already in transition again out of this fire season and into the next leg of life.  It seems too soon, in a goldilocks-y kind of way (as in, JUSsssSSSsssT right).  Did I tell you yet?  We’re headed back to Idaho for the winter!  We’ll be in the strawbale house for a full six months.  I’m already itching to get set up and working again never mind getting out into chukar country to stroll around with the dogs.  Rob and I are feeling free and are looking forward to some solitude with each other.

Hang tight for an updated Etsy shop.  It’s on the way, by and by.

First, I must sleep.

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Holy and Unhabitual


I took the long way to work this morning, a total of 15 driving miles instead of 5.  It’s not the best use of fossil fuels but I find driving extremely freeing and sometimes I simply need to take the long road to get to where I am going.  I sip my coffee slowly in the truck, roll the windows down so the dogs can taste the wind with their long tongues, play my music loud and shake my hair as we swoop around the corners and cowboy wave and the neighbors.  It makes me feel limber and relaxed so when I get to work, I am ready to get to work. I find my holiest habits aren’t truly habitual.  Not really at all.

I am working my way through Trust The Process at the moment and one chapter addresses the idea of changing up daily rituals in order to keep work fresh and progressive, down to silly things like employing non-dominant hands in the middle of work to engage the opposite side of the brain!  Some folks thrive on a day to day regimen but I find I work best when I approach my days exploratively, when I let them, to a certain degree, carry me.  I like to be adrift.  I like to see where the path leads, I thrive on the looseness of intuitive wandering and the freedom therein.  I try to be gentle to my sense of time.

A wise friend once told me that it’s ungrateful to complain about time, its structure, the seeming lack of it on certain days.  It dishonors those who have lived short lives.  I thought, as I drove this morning, about one of the firefighters who died a few days ago on the Twisp River Fire here in the Methow — he was twenty years old.  Just a baby.  So far, I’ve been given thirteen more years of life than he was given.  I am spoiled with time.

Time is on my side.

Something else I am practicing in the studio these days is physically moving, as much as possible.  I am working past a layer of something that is like scar tissue or knots in my creative muscles — muscles that are crackling with seized up fascia; in need of stretching, movement, healing, loosening, a massive tearing down so they can be built back up into a place of flexibility and power once more.  Putting on a song that gets my body moving in between batches of tiny solders and hours of delicate piercing work feels fantastic.  Sometimes I stick a huge piece of paper up on the wall, grab a pencil or a handful of pastels, shut my eyes and simply usher the medium over the paper while I move to music.  I make motions.  I make marks.  I open my eyes when the song is finished and see what the music made my body do.

I don’t really care what folks think of these mad methods, all I know is somehow, they are doing something to me and I feel myself creatively re-opening right now, or at least loosening to the the point of being open to openness.

I’ve been hell bent on setting stones the past few days, re-connecting with work that is clean and made powerful by accuracy, simple mastery of the medium and speed.  There will be time when I settle down into working deeper than this but it seems like reattaching myself to the glorious mechanics and science of metal work and soldering is important right now.  So I am allowing myself time for very basic designs that feature beautiful stones in simple settings.

Clean, bright work.

Last week, after I expressed concern to a friend about the smoothness of my re-immersion into the studio and metalwork, she said, “I just looked through all your photos because I miss your damn face.  It’s been fun to see your growth in photography but don’t let it stifle your metalsmithing.  You are talented at both and it’s good to learn to feed both mediums.  I love you.”

And she’s right.  And it was what I needed to hear.  I am working hard and fostering both right now and am dismantling the feeling that I often have of neglecting one for the sake of the other.7I9A0958

 The promise of autumn is written in the stars and draped in swaths of cold dew on the lawns in the morning now.  Can you feel it where you are?  We’re making our winter plans, finding a place to live once the fire season is over, imagining how sweet it will be to feel the wind in our faces as we hunt birds behind the dogs and curl up with books by a warm fireplace.  The end of the fire season is near and I’ll miss it when it’s gone, like I have every time before this, like I will every time after this.

What we have here in the Methow has become family.  At the firefighter memorial on the weekend, I sat in a sea of broad shoulders and shaggy hair, I sat holding Rob’s hand, and I thought, “This is my immediate fire family and we really are just like a family.  Some of these people are like brothers to me, some are weird, some I plainly do not understand or particularly like, but we’re a family, I love them all and we will always have each other, come rain or sun, come hell or high water.”

And I thought that was a really beautiful thing.