Pickle Day at the Kingfisher Designs House of Chaos


cucumbersWe alternately work with metal and raise vegetables as they say “in the dirt”.  Today we were over run with cucumbers, but that’s ok because we have been planning a pickle making day for a while.  When we harvest more cucumbers we plan to make more sweet and dill relish and some bread and butter pickles.  It is hot outside to can, but doesn’t heat up the house and we will be glad in the winter when we open jars of home made pickles.  Today’s hot pickles are a slightly sweet version with a smokey essence.

We raised these particular cucumbers in straw bales and it has been quite the experience.  The bales have to be prepared (composted) for about 2 weeks before you plant.  We don’t have weeds to deal with and have not had fertilize at all.  The plants are huge and the cucumbers are plentiful.

We had already put up 7 jars of sweet relish and some hot sweet pickles, but these were to be something very brinedifferent.

We have been growing jalapenos and smoking them for our own chipolte peppers.  The peppers were grown in raised beds and have been one of our best performing plants in the raised beds.  The peppers were smoked 12 + hours very low in our Komodo oven (like the Green Egg cooker).

The dill relish and sweet relish came from Old World Garden Farms.  If you are interested in gardening, canning, self sufficiency or minimalism visit Old World Garden Farms They have so much practical and usable information on the site and a great newsletter.


So we got the cucumbers all cut up (8 lb. cubed for dill relish and about 3 . for pepper pickles).  We brined them in the shower in pots (salted and  chilled them for 2-3 hours).pickle-relish

Meawhile we set up our canning kitchen on the porch.  We are very lucky to spend our canning time on the river watching the water.  It all went pretty smoothly once we got the pickles ready to can and while the dill relish was processing we prepared the pepper pickles.  Can’t wait to see how they taste in a few weeks!




It’s All About That Color

It’s All About That Color

It is all about the color in metal as it always was when I was working with fiber – and we will do almost anything to create color on metal.  Most color on metal is fugitive – meaning it comes and goes.  It must be sealed to to retain its color.  Enamels, also called vitreous enamels are powdered glass and when it is fused to the copper or silver it creates permanent color on the metal.


Chasing & Repousse’ Shell

The Chasing and Repousse’ Shell is patinated with a common substance called Liver of Sulphur that is used by metalsmiths to create an aged or antique look.

When used in a slightly different way you get these great putples and blues. But the color is not stable and will have to be sealed, so the piece was buffed to show the lines of the piece.

Fusion Enameled Pendants

The pendants to the right are enameled with vitreous enamel (powdered glass) fused to copper.  They were worked under the torch while molten to create the sense of movement.

When the torch is on the piece you can’t see anything but a bright glow, so you have to plan your design before you start working.

Flame Painted Pendant

The color on this copper pendant is from the flames of a torch.  Each temperature develops a different color, but the temperature keeps rising after the torch is removed, so the colors are rather unpredictable.

This piece was sealed to protect the color.  All copper wants to do is look like a penny and a protective coating will prevent it from turning.

Elements Copper Collar in Color

    r necklace shows several different kinds of surface color on the copper.

Color can be developed through flames, fluids and fumes.  All of these must be sealed to protect the color and shine.

Many of these colors are experimental and highly unpredictable, but with constant practice, we have managed to create a few that we can recreate.  It is probably the most fun we have in the studio.  It is done in very much the free spirited way that is the hallmark of most of our Kingfisher Designs jewelry to “Delight your Free Spirit”

Summer Jobs for Artists – Taking the Show on the Road


In our area most of us show in the spring and fall; but we do few shows during our hot months of June, July or August.  No one wants to shop outdoors during the heat of a summer in Mississippi and indoor shows are few and far between.Packaging

A lot of people think this is vacation time for us, but most of us are diligently working toward our fall shows and the Christmas season.

We maintain our displays and our tent, order packaging, order business cards and materials and create new designs along with making more pieces in our existing lines.

This year our packaging is more vibrant and upscale to go along with our new work.  We have some larger pieces now, so we have aded larger bags.

displayWe have changed the display a little to go with the new work so had to cut down some of our usual display pieces and fit the skirts to them.  Fortunately our Abstracta is very flexible and this was not a difficult job.

We have 10 x 10 ft. at most shows and our displays have to optimize the space and make sure that people who visit our booth do not feel crowded or uncomfortable.  Most of us work on our booths in some way each year and continually find things that they feel need to be done.

stitchingWe were in the marine canvas business for quite some time, so fortunately repairing the tent really was not too difficult.  It was not actually a repair, just something the manufacturer missed.

When you see us at shows you will notice a variety of tent styles.

The best ones cost more than you might expect, but they last for many years.  We have two – one is for longer shows, but we do have a very quick set up tent for one day shows or short setup times.  We also carry weights and tie them to the corners of the tents in case if a storm.  This spring has been unusually difficult for many who travel to do shows because the storms have damaged so many tents and ruined years of work for some of the artists.  Even if you have a great tent with adequate weight you can be damaged by having a neighbor’s displays and work blowing into your own set up.

helpingDeuce manages every phase of our operation from the first sketches through the creation of finished work and photographing that work.  He is our shop steward, QC inspector, safety engineer and principal entertainment.  He works cheap and doesn’t take too many naps.  We think we will keep him.

Usually we procrastinate these maintenance tasks til the last week.  This year we have done everything except ordering our business cards and that should be done pretty quickly.  Show season will be here before we know it!



How Much Did That Cost?


Many of us talk about “Living Simply”, “Living With Less”, “Tiny Houses” or “Minimalism”.  The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has sold over 2 million copies.  Our lives ares full of busy schedules, too much “stuff” and too many intrusions.  Shopping is considered a recreational activity by many.
And impulse buying has sit retched our budgets and filled our houses with clutter.

When we moved aboard our boat, we put everything we thought we wanted to keep on the boat and had a yard sale with the rest of our 25 years of accumulation.  That morning 67 cars were parked in front of our house when we opened.  By the end of the next day all we had left went into a pickup truck and off to a charity.  What did I feel? Freedom!

You might try this to change your approach to the shopping / collecting rat race and control the clutter before it ever gets intoyour home.  Compute the exact cost of an item – not in dollars, but in the hours of your life it takes to earn the money to pay for it.   Time is your most valuable  commodity.


Our tiny 2 room house gives us great joy and keeps our load light. You see our figs and grapes growing along he side.


1.  It is limited
2.  Once it is spent there is no “refund”
3.  There is no way to acquire more time.

So, pretend you make $15 an hour at your job.  (or supply your own numbers for the examples.)

1.  A nice dinner out costs you $45 or so.  It take you 3 hours to earn those $45.
2.  10 packets of garden seed cost $25. It takes you 1 hour and 40 minutes to pay for those seeds
3.  A book costs $20, so it takes you 1 hour 20 minutes to earn the money for the book.
4.  A movie with popcorn costs $25 and that is an hour 20 minutes.

Only you can decide if what you are buying is worth the time it takes from your life to make the purchase, but here are just a few things to think about.

1.  Does it enhance your life?
2.  Does it give you joy
3.  Do you have a place to keep it”
4.  Try waiting a week and seeing if you still want it.
5.  If you decide that don’t want it any more what can you do with it?
6.  What are the benefits of your purchase?
7.  What are the liabilities?

The purpose of this blog post is not to keep you from buying, but to help you think a different way and simplify your life.

Better Late than Never – The Garden is Underway

Better Late than Never – The Garden is Underway

Raised Bed Gardens 2015

Raised Bed Gardens 2015

We built 4 new raised beds this year.  Our soil is hard clay dredged out of the river and does not drain at all.  We have dug up trees that died and found that their roots never made it out of the soil we planted and into the clay around them.

I planted my seedlings in February and March in our tiny greenhouse – however, with rain and shows, we just now finished the gardens.  And today we planted anything that looked alive.

We were even lucky enough to have volunteer tomatoes and watermelons in our compost heap, so they have also been moved into the beds.  We planted what beans were alive and I put in about 60 seeds hoping for a good crop of beans.

5 Raised Beds

5 Raised Beds


Now we are trying to decide if it is worth planting some of the other things we wanted to because it is pretty late here in Mississippi for putting things in the gardens.

This picture shows all 5 of the beds.  Those giant plants are volunteer sunflowers from our bird feeder.  They re great for our morale.  Big beautiful leaves and growing every day.

We also have a lot of volunteer tomato and watermelon plants that came out of hte compost heap – I am hoping that they will take root and go well.  One is even blooming.

Fuchsia Strawberry Blossoms?

Fuchsia Strawberry Blossoms?

An unexpected part of the garden is our strawberry bed.  We really had not planned to build one, but I had berries stashed around in different places and got some at a garden sale at our last show, so – we have berries.  Have you ever seen a fuchsia strawberry and the leaves to the left of this picture are about the size of the palm of your hand – I have no idea what kind of berry it is but it has bloomed already.

The berry on this little fuchsia plant is long and thin.  No idea what they taste like yet.

So now we are at least planting – very late, but I have high hopes that we will get some good produce from the gardens.

Living simply takes some work, but in the end it will be worth it.  I can already tell that there are a number of aisles at the grocery store that we just don’t bother going into.

6 Ways to Simplify Your Life

6 Ways to Simplify Your Life


Chambered Nautilus Salad Set

The garden is on hold til we get some other jobs out of the way.   We were invited to a very special show – Adorning the Table.   We have just sent some pieces to the National Ornamental Metal Museum and have 4 more pieces to be sent out tomorrow.

After that we hope to finish the garden and get the plants in.  So I have taken off on a different tangent.  When I write about Simple Living I am actually using the ideas to try and simplify my own sometimes very complicated life.  I am just taking you along on the ride.  My goal is to eventually have a balanced life.

So many of us live at a fast pace and everywhere we have experienced loss of important parts of our lives – time, money, privacy, space,

Simplify Your Life

Simplify Your Life

1.  Make a List – the lightest pencil is still stronger than the strongest memory.   Depending on your work habits and alert periods, you can make your list at the end of the day or first thing in the morning.  For me, the end of the day works best because I know what did not get finished during the day and what needs to be first.



imp2.  Set Priorities – Everything on the list is not of first priority.  Some things are critical, but ask yourself if “xxx

‘will matter in a month, in a year, etc.  That will help you set those priorities.  Those things that further the goals you have set for yourself are a priority.  Some things are urgent, but not important and others are important but not urgent.  Your job is to find those that are both urgent and important.

do3.  Learn to say no.  It is one of the hardest words to say when you are asked to help.  You don’t have to do everything.  You can delegate work to others  if possible.   Chose your volunteer focus and stick with it.  There is enough work to go around.  Enlist help and assign tasks.  This also goes for donations.  Chose your causes and stay with them.  You don’t have to do everything.

files 4.  Tame the Paper Monster – In our paperless society it seems we have more paper than ever.  From bills and lists to magazines and forms to fill out, our desks overflow.  The Handle-it-Once-Rule works best.  Put all paper that comes in and is not dealt with in a central location like a basket or special file box.  Once a week empty that box.  Put everything where it belongs.  As an alternative, deal with each piece of paper as it enters your domain.  Your own nature will tell you how to handle things.  For magazines, read them and if you want to keep an article, tear it out and file it.

want5.  Wants vs. Needs​ – Here is where you have to do some thinking.  Do you need “it”?  / Do you want “it”?  If you have to keep buying or renting storage, chances are you have a lot of extra things.  (we will talk about that in another post).   Trips to the store can be fun if you just pretend it is a museum and enjoy looking.  Remember that if you bring it home you have to find a place to store it, clean it, insure it and find a home for it at some point.

use6.  Be a Clutter Buster –  This may seem to complicate simple living, but it limits the trips to the grocery store, the left over foods and impulse buying at the grocery store.  You will find that your pantry has more space and is more organized.  Try this one thing.  Go through 3 kitchen cabinets and remove anything you have not used in 6 months.  Put them in a box and label with the date.  If you have not gotten it out of the box in another month, donate it or sell it.

Living Simply Can be a Lot of Work

Living Simply Can be a Lot of Work

Case in point – our garden.  Last fall we decided to grow enough vegetables to provide at least 30% of our food.  We planned all winter. What did we want to plant,  where could we get organic seeds?  When do we start everything? There is a LOT to learn.


Of course we had our dreams. Beautiful, bountiful vegetables with no blemishes and no work

Of course we had our issues

  1.  Where would we find space?
  2.  How could we grow in our heavy clay soil.
  3.  How could we water efficiently?
  4.  Where were we going to get enough plants at a reasonable price?
  5. Where could we find non GMO seeds?
  6. Could we find seeds that would make plants we could save seeds from?
  7.  How were we going to work in all of this with our work with Kingfisher Designs business?

So we came up with a plan:


Our “tiny” greenhouse with starter plants inside. It is on the glassed in porch.

We bought a tiny greenhouse (about 18″ x 28″ x 72″ to raise our seedlings for the garden.  Following our carefully laid out spreadsheet (When you have an engineer in the house you have spread sheets) we planted hundreds of tiny seeds in little plastic bathroom cups.  The greenhouse was inside the porch and kept warm even in single digit temperatures.  It has been fun to watch these tiny plants grow all spring, but the time has arrived to plant them.

 We decided on raised beds to avoid our own clay soil and make the most of our space. We are building them out of salvaged sea wall material.  The

 We built them out of some salvaged sea wall material.  They should last for many years and retain moisture well for the plants. We used pipe on the sides so we can actually put in frames and use plastic for mini hoop houses to extend our growing season.



One of our raised beds that will soon be planted with high hopes!

We are right on the river, so we have a pump to water out of the river itself.  Each bed takes abut a cubic yard of soil, which is top soil, black cow compost and loam.  We nearly have the beds done, but the rain is going to get us and our supplier is out of top soil.  Hoping to get the plants in next week.

Meanwhile we have been invited to show in the Adoring the Table exhibition at the National Ornamental Metal Museum so we will be preparing for that.


You Know You’re a Packrat When ……


It is very difficult for a Packrat to live in a small space.

1. If you have to unstack 5 pans to find the “right one”, you might be a Packrat.
2. If you have to remove 15 “decorator” pillows to go to bed, you might be a Packrat.
3. If you have an entire cabinet full of grocery bags, you might be a Packrat.
4. If you have a dried up corsage from a 1960 dance, you might be a Packrat.
5. If you have shoeboxes full of bolts and screws, you might be a Packrat.
6. If you have a stack of 8 track tapes, you might be a Packrat.
7. If you have keys to doors you don’t have any more, you might be a Packrat.
8. If you ave no space left on your bulletin board, you might be a Packrat.
9. If you have prescriptions from 1995, you might be a Packrat.
10. If you haven’t seen the top of your desk for a year, you might be a Packrat.
11. If you have a bag of Valentines you got in the 3rd grade, you might be a Packrat.
12. If you have a nice collection of dried up markers, you might be a Packrat.
13. If your collection of plastic bag twisties that would fill a quart jar, you might be a Packrat.
14. If you can no longer get into your attic to see what is there, you might be a Packrat.
15. If you have stacks of partially filled paint buckets, you might be a Packrat.
16. If you have 20 Straight screwdrivers, you might be a Packrat.

7 Sure Signs Your Small Space is Too Cluttered



Be a Clutter Buster

1. You have to move things out of the way to sit down or use your dining room table.
2. You keep losing frequently used things.
3. You can’t find things you know you have, so you buy another one.
4. Flat surfaces in your home are covered with random “stuff”.
5. You have a year’s supply of magazines you plan to cut up and file.
6. You have clothes you can’t get into hanging in your closet.
7. Your kitchen has more than one “junk drawer”.

Living Comfortably in a Small Space


As some of you may know, our work has evolved over the years to more flatware, holloware and pieces for the home.  I have been thinking about how to make the blog more interesting and relate it to our work.  I kept trying to imagine what I know that you might find interesting.  You might find the new direction useful.  I know how to live comfortably in a small space and make it function.


Caper was our beloved home for 12 years.

I was raised in a mobile home (we called them trailer houses in those days),  lived on a 50 ft boat (12 years), lived in an 8 x 8 camper with 2 kids and an Old English Sheepdog, in a 26 ft. camper and recently in a 34 ft. camper for 4 years. The heated and cooled area of our house is less than 650 square feet.

Everyone has their own definition of a small space.  For some it is 2000 square ft. and for others it can be 50 square feet (think RVs and boats).  I know how to live in a small space in comfort and make it function. Probably know it just about as well as anyone. S

We are going to talk about making the small space seem larger, hidden storage, using original artwork in the small space, getting the most out of a small kitchen, clutter, organization, letting go of extras, simplicity, and more.  Questions and suggestions very very welcome.