About Fingernail Moon



Hi, I'm Marion. Welcome to my world. I am a retired high school teacher turned jewelry artist and instructor. The short of it is that I am a native Floridian - yes, there are a few of us around - born and raised in Orlando, even before the mouse! While visual and performing arts have filled my life from the beginning, my journey into jewelry making began late. After a lot of travel, living abroad, living in different places, I wound up back in my hometown, and eventually back in the house I grew up in! Now I am a resident artist at FAVO - Faith Arts Village Orlando in Downtown Orlando, where I work, teach and sell my jewelry. I am versed in several methods of jewelry-making, primarily metalsmithing, precious metal clay and Tiffany Method soft solder. I do not have formal training in art, so my design style is organic, inspired by the beauty of the nature around me, or drawn from the materials I'm using. In other words, I fly by the seat of my pants! Each piece I make is unique, and each piece has a little bit of me in it.

So that's the short of it. If you like to read (and I like to use my words!), here's the down low...


So what's in a name? Where on Earth, or rather space, did the name "Fingernail Moon" come from? 

Once upon a time there was a little girl, who like all children, made conrete, logical assessments of the giant, crazy world around her based on the tiny world she had first hand experience with. Like when the giant fountain in the middle of the big lake downtown shot up massive plumes of brightly colored water, she assumed there were people inside the fountain throwing up buckets of different flavors of Kool-Aid. And when she looked up in the sky at night and saw a gleaming white sliver of a moon, it looked like one of her mother's fingernails had floated up to heaven.

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who felt she might have wandered down the wrong path in life, decided to take a writing class under a rather famous author. Although she had prided herself as a talented writer herself, this famous author proceeded to trash everything she handed him. Until the last class. She wrote a short story, which the teacher hated of course, except for the line about the "fingernail moon," which he surrounded with little hearts. She always believed that he probably used the expression in one of his later books, but she refused to ever read anything of his again.

Once upon a time a new jewelry maker wanted to put some of her creations up for sale on a friend's website. As the friend sat before the computer, fingers poised over the keyboard ready to start listing, she asked, "What's the name of your shop?" The shop? Name? It's supposed to have a name? But the friend was insistent that a name was required at that moment. Suddenly Fingernail Moon was what came to mind. And that was that.

So what's in a name? Names connect us to our identity and individuality. Names create and convey meaning, and reveal something about who we are. The names we carry were bestowed upon us by other people at the time of our birth. They had their own reasons for giving us those names. We may not agree with those reasons or those names, but we rarely do anything to change them. I gave birth to this business, and I bestowed this name upon it. True, it was blurted out under pressure in the spur of the moment, but it stuck. And I think the business has grown into the name. 

The Moon has always been associated with feminine energy. It connects us to our intuition and emotions, a place where we can find real joy and self-love, and connect to our life's true purpose. The waxing crescent moon's energy is new energy, growing energy, urging you to push on and finish what needs to be done in order to make your dreams a reality. Over the top for the name of a jewelry store? Maybe, but don't we all find a little mystery, a little charm and intrigue in the moon. And I find that people are attracted to and intrigued by the name. And for me, it has become a connection to my inner self and my true purpose. Making jewelry is not my ultimate purpose in life, but making jewelry has given me a new purpose, and this business has given me the ability and opportunity to expand my horizon, to reach out and connect with more people, and to reach deeper within myself.

So Fingernail Moon is the little girl seeing love in the shape of a crescent moon. It's a young woman thumbing her nose at a teacher who attempted to kick her down and moving on in spite of his pettiness. And it's an old lady who has entered a new phase of the moon and has become...


Beach hair, don't care. A Florida girl in her element.

My daughter told me awhile back that I needed to become the main character in the story of my life! Out of the mouths of babes. But that is what we wives and mothers tend to do, and teachers too. We devote ourselves to the others in our lives. We take care of our spouses, our significant others, our children, our students, we put them first and lose ourselves. And I had done just that.

So this story is MINE! It took a lot longer that I had hoped to really get things rolling in this second chapter, this new story, this new life, mostly because of my lack of confidence. But that is a work in progress, and probably always will be. But I am really enjoying those moments when I do realize my own power. Like many women, I stopped coloring my hair during the pandemic. I had actually already started the process but went cold turkey when my hair dresser shut down. I had mixed feelings about coloring my hair as long as I did, but I had my children when I was older and I really feared being mistaken for their grandmother! Once my daughter graduated from college, I decided it didn't matter anymore. It was scary, but once I did it, it was so empowering! It really started me on the road to accepting myself, wrinkles, age spots, gray hair and all. Not long ago I took a class in stained glass. The instructor was a young woman who was living the life I had wanted but didn't have the nerve. She had been in the business world, then lost her job due to down-sizing. Rather than struggle through the job search routine, or take a job that was not fulfilling, she decided to follow her passion and go into glass work full time. She got into two internship programs, one for a year in Italy! And has been able to support herself working in her art. As I am watching her with such admiration, she asks the students to introduce ourselves. When it came to me and I said I was a silversmith she jumped in, "WHOA! A silversmith! You are such a bad ass!" Wow! This woman called ME a bad ass!  Dang! That has become my mantra, "I am a bad ass!" But the more I pondered that and relished in it, I realized that what probably made it so surprising to her and others is not my gender, since it seems that women have invaded the field of metalsmithing in huge numbers in recent years, but my age. My gray hair and wrinkles perhaps bely the strength and coordination smithing requires. But I do it and I do it well. I have worked hard for these wrinkles and this gray hair, I have earned them all. I AM A BADASS!!!


It started with a loop!

I grew up in an artistic family. My great uncle had a big band back in the '30s and '40s. My grandmother was a musician. My mother was trained to be an opera singer, but the War (II) put an end to those aspirations and she turned her musical talents to teaching. My father wanted to be an actor (or a circus performer!), but the War sent him flying over the Himalayas and away from the stage. My brother is an accomplished guitarist. I was raised on ballet, piano and violin lessons and self taught flute and guitar. My heart was always in theater and my sites were set on Hollywood. But life got in the way and through several twists and turns - which included living in Mexico, getting a degree in International Relations, getting married, getting divorced, starting a masters degree in Latin American Studies at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. with the plan of getting into Foreign Service, quitting graduate school and giving up on Foreign Service with the plan of becoming a writer, becoming a teacher because I needed money, getting a Master's degree in education, getting married again and having children, teaching for 30 years and raising children, caring for my senior and failing mother........well, my life went a different direction, and art, or creativity of any kind went out the window.

Yep, that's me during my first stint in Mexico, ca. 1973, hand embroidered shirt and all!

So, yeah, teaching and raising children can really take it out of you. While the creative drive was still inside me, the end of each day found me with nothing left for myself. So for nearly 25 years creativity was put on hold.

Then came the loop. One day I gave in to the urge to take a jewelry making class at a local craft store. The sent us out into the store to buy lots of beads and tools and the list of materials, then ran us through a one-hour string-a-necklace class (you know, actually a "free" class opportunity to sell lots of stuff!). The first thing the lady taught us was how to make a loop in a wire to create an eye pin. My first loop came out perfect! And I was hooked! No, I never wore the necklace I made that day - those beads were cheap and the design frankly sucked! But I got the basics. And I ran with it. Within a short time I had upgraded my materials to sterling silver and copper with semi-precious stones and had self-taught some nice techniques. But I knew I needed more.

As my children were growing up and becoming more independent, and I was approaching retirement, I found a silversmithing class at a local art center, and off I went. Over the next few years I began selling my work at local art festivals and online. Then I was asked to teach silversmithing at the art center! That was a huge leap for me! You really get on top of your game when you have to show someone else how to do it! At the same time I decided to get into precious metal clay. I jumped in the deep end and achieved my senior level instructor certification through Art Clay, and started teaching that as well. Over the years I have continued to study and practice new and different skills and techniques, like enameling and mokume gane in metal clay, and have recently added Tiffany Method soft solder technique to my slate.

A newspaper clipping from an art festival. I'm famous!

And now, several years into retirement, my second career is finally moving into high gear. I regularly participate in art festivals. I have moved my online sales to this new platform with my own website. And I have moved into my own studio in a wonderful artists' community in Downtown Orlando, FAVO - Faith Arts Village Orlando, where I can work, sell and teach. 

Here's FAVO in full swing during the monthly open house
Art Stroll on the first Friday and Saturday evening of each month.


So here I am, a few years late, but have you ever heard of Grandma Moses? But here I am, going strong with no plans to slow down any time soon. And what is it that keeps me going?

Making jewelry has become a passion. With all of the different arts I have dabbled in over my life, jewelry never occurred to me. Until that fateful beading class! Then 25 years of pent-up creativity came pouring out in one laser-focused stream. Like most creatives, I enjoy occasional forays into other areas, like painting, woodworking, photography, embroidery and others. But I have focused my attention for many years on building my skills in certain areas of jewelry making:


Beading and wire-wrapping really cover a wide variety of techniques of making jewelry with beads, wire, cord, etc. The basics are pretty simple and involve putting beads onto cording or wire and either using findings or shaping the wire to hold everything in place. You will see some very fancy techniques in wire wrapping (not from me!), like crocheting and weaving that create some amazing and intricate designs. But sometimes simply putting a couple of beautiful stones on a wire and hanging it from an earwire is all you need. It's all about design. Beading is the gateway drug for many smiths! And many give up beading once they move on to the stronger drugs! But I enjoy beading, it's very zen for me. More importantly, I love the look. I often mix methods, like a beautiful fabricated pendant with a beaded necklace. Browse through my pieces and see which ones are mixed like that.

A woman is wearing a necklace of a large silver leaf on a chain of colorful stones.

Fine silver leaf on a handmade link chain of Indian agate.

Part, yes just part, of my bead addiction - um...collection!


Here I am at the torch, playing with fire!

Silversmithing / metalsmithing / smithing / fabrication are some of the names for making jewelry or other items of metal by cutting, shaping, heating and soldering sheet metal and wire. It requires specific tools and a degree of precision. While you will hear people talk about being a "kitchen table smith," it is difficult if not impossible to make jewelry of any size or weight without getting into more heavy duty equipment, which of course, means more expense. Smithing is an expensive hobby, even if you don't have to put out a lot of money on the tools (I had a student who picked up an entire studio set up, at least several thousand dollars worth of equipment, for $150 off Craigslist! I think an ex-girlfriend was getting rid of the dude's stuff for whatever she could get!) the metal is crazy! The price of silver keeps going up, and let's don't even talk about gold! But if you can deal with the expense, the satisfaction of banging on metal, playing with fire and coming out with a beautiful piece of jewelry you literally made with your own two hands is un beatable!

Petrified palm set in textured sterling silver
What cool things you can do with your own two hands!


Here I am playing with clay that magically turns into silver! Not really so magically, but it seems like magic, and it's just as fun. This is during Covid mask days and a very rare manicure.

A technique of painting diluted metal clay onto an organic object that will later burn away during firing.

Precious metal clay was invented by a scientist in Japan for Mitsubishi Chemical (yes, that Mitsubishi) in 1992. It was the first truly NEW method of making jewelry to come along in millenia. Once man discovered fire and learned how to use tools, he figured out how to use both of them to work with metal and create beautiful jewelry. It involves heating the metal, banging on the metal, and cutting the metal. Over the years, centuries, millenia, our tools have gotten better, but we're still heating, banging and cutting. Then this scientist figured out how to grind metal into very fine particles, mix those metal particles with an organic binder (usually a cellulose, like what's in your vitamin pills!) and water. This forms a lump clay that can then be worked and formed like any other clay. The magic happens when it's fired, either with a torch or in a kiln. All of the organic binder burns away and what's left is pure metal. Metal clay is great to use for intricate, detailed designs that would be extremely difficult to accomplish with sheet metal.

My little pumpkin house, hand molded in fine silver metal clay, about 1" tall!
Making miniatures is one of my favorite things to do in metal clay.


A variety of soft soldered pieces.

Like many jewelry makers, I have a stash of beautiful gemstones. I have known a very people who judiciously pick stones based on what they plan to make. But most of us are irresistably drawn to these wonders of nature. We see them and they set of fireworks in our imaginations, all of the possibilities! So we rescue as many of these orphaned rocks as our wallets allow and give them a safe and comfortable home with the rest of our hoard. ...I mean, gems.

A peek at my stone stash.

Some people spend a lot of time planning out a piece of jewelry, drawing out the design in great detail. I design by the seat of my pants. I play with the stones in my stash until one really calls out to me. Then I start playing with the metal, doing what the stone tells me to. But along the way I found I had collected some stones with unusual shapes that would be more difficult to set using traditional smithing techniques. Then I discovered soft solder.

Ever heard of Louis Comfort Tiffany? He was an artist and designer who was best known for his work in stained glass. Ring a bell now? Tiffany brought the art of stained glass to new heights through his designs and use of new materials and techniques. One of those techniques was the use of copper foil to edge pieces of glass so that they could then be soldered together. This technique is what has allowed this method to be used for making jewelry.

A solder iron is poised to add solder to a stone being held in a pair of pliers.

Soldering iron applying lead-free solder (96% tin, 4% silver) to a chunk of emerald.
The stone gets hot, so don't use your fingers!

For the Tiffany Method, stones are wrapped with copper foil tape. That tape is then coated with a lead free soft solder. Multiple stones can be joined along with pieces of metal to create all kinds of pleasing designs. Soft solder is made up of mostly tin mixed with a small amount of another metal, formerly lead. (The solder I use is 96% tin, 4% silver.) Soft solder melts at a low temperature, under 700 degrees, allowing it to be melted and applied with a soldering iron. (In traditional silversmithing, metal is joined with hard solder. Hard solder is usually about 80% silver mixed with another metal that has a lower melting temperature, so that the solder will melt at araound 1400 degrees or lower, well below the melting temperature of the silver, but requiring a torch to reach those high temperatures.)

Me with my trusty soldering iron.

 Using this method, the molten metal conforms to the shape of the stone, making it much easier to create a setting for an unusual stone than by cutting, bending and soldering sheet metal. In addition, it is possible to achieve a chunky, organic look with all kinds of textures and shapes. It's also much faster, much closer to instant gratification!

One of my favorites, blue onyx crescent moon with giant baroque pearl (no, it's not a giant tooth!)
from my Beauty and the Beach collection.


I am over the (Fingernail) Moon that you stopped by! Please stay awhile, look around, ask questions, come join us for a class if you can! Hope to see you again soon!