how do you grow?

So I’ve been observing the beauty of trees more recently.  Usually though, it only happens when I’m in the car, driving home from work, or to a gathering of some sorts, or to volunteer, or to do something.  I wish I just did nothing more often.  And by nothing, I mean that I would sit contemplatively and quietly, and have time to see all my thoughts and lay them out on the ground, or project them up into the sky, and simply stare at them against the fresh and unimposing stillness of the sunset behind dormant trees… And then, after spreading all my meditations on the peaceful backdrop of nature, I’d know just exactly how to collect them – to sacrifice some hopes to God, to let others lie asleep until it’s time to think about them again…  Other thoughts, whispered prayers, and half-hoped-for changes, I would lift up to Him, and ask Him to prosper them for His glory and my joy.  Through my scattered messes, it’s good to know my God is a soul-reader.  He delights to show us His good gifts and thrill us with joy that we didn’t even think to ask for yet.  He is the one who untangles thoughts.  I’m grateful, that even as I sit at my favorite coffee shop quickly writing this, knowing that I’ll have to hurry out for a class I’m teaching, He knows what I truly, deeply long for.  Even I don’t know that.

People, do you know how trees grow?

Listen.  They can grow up and down at the same time.  Also, trees don’t grow taller when the weather is cold or dry.  But during those times, new buds start to form.  When the weather improves, the buds start opening. The reason many trees start to flower during the winter, is that the leaves are no longer taking up so much space, and this enables the success of wind pollination.  It’s against most things in nature to just be beautiful and flowering all the time…  We need dormancy to keep us growing.  It’s just a different type of growth that isn’t as visible…

I have to leave for class.

This will be continued…

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Another journal excerpt..

I wrote this last night…

“I can’t decide what I wish to cry over more: the beauty of the hazy sunset behind the silhouette of  leafless trees, or the fact that I could see a similar sight every evening but just don’t make the time to…  And if my heart is so achy over missing out on these passing beauties, then how will I feel one day when realizing all the missed opportunities to stare at the eternal (invisible) workings of my Savior, to worship Him in spirit and in truth..  God please grant me repentance.”

Also, enjoy this music, which pretty much makes me want to cry:  Big Country Instrumental

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This journal entry was made during a short trip to an island about 3 hours south of Bangkok. It was the most enchantingly pretty place I’d ever seen. Clean clear water, the whitest sand I’ve seen even in pictures, and the strangest flowers too. This drawing is of an even smaller island I kayaked out to (by myself) one morning. I neglected to wear my life jacket. It was the first time in 2 months I experienced actual stillness, since the city is so busy. And I always become like the things I’m around. So my mind was busy and loud and full of distractions.  And disappointments.  Anyways, there I was, kayaking out to this island alone, sitting ON TOP my life-jacket, throwing caution to the wind.  And yes it was windy.  And the waves were choppy.  And I was probably not scared enough, because I was like, “Oh world, you’re so big and small at the same time, like me.  I’m invincible because I’m insignificant and I know it; you can’t hurt me.”

So.  You know that part in movies or books where the main character faces a crisis of sorts, and they just go off into nature all alone, and get all reflective?  That’s what I felt like.  It’s stupid when you’re in the middle of absolute quiet beauty, and you’re envisioning yourself as a fictional character facing vague obstacles with sweeping music in the background…  Anyways, I was being reflective and waiting for a life-changing revelation to descend upon me out of the clouds.  Didn’t get that.  (I rarely do, and I used to think it was a terrible problem…)  Instead, God just let me remember that no matter where I go or what I do on this earth, I’ll always have an internal battle between my sinful nature and my redeemed nature.  This schizophrenic feeling I have is normal.  It pushes me into Jesus, into desperate prayer for help.  He reminded me that I have everything I need though, to do right and “be” right regardless of how I feel.  He reminded me that feelings don’t matter as much as the truth matters.  He reminded me that I can have peace in His Truth, even when I’m scattered in pieces of insecure pride.   He made me almost grateful for my problems, for the simple fact that God uses them to wake up my groggy heart and cause it to be affectioned toward the only One who can truly wake me up.  Duh.

So I kayaked back in quiet, renewed peace.  I went back to Bangkok and street dogs and motor-taxis in determined peace.  I resumed teaching metals classes, battling insecurities, sweating too much, feeling ugly and frizzy-headed on a daily basis, and getting sick off the (delicious) food…

And I had peace because Truth got real to me, by the grace of God.

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Summer Workshop

Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I’ve actually neglected to update my blog since getting back from Thailand.  I can’t catch up now, so I’ll just let all my many readers (sarcasm) know what I’m up to this summer.  This is how I kayak on Puget Sound:

I'm not running into this guy's kayak. He just steadied my boat so my friend could take a picture of me being on the sea, in a kayak, pursuing my "dreams," and not being directionless.

I’ve actually been quite industrious lately.  Got a few tricks up my sleeve.  One of them is this art class I’m planning to teach during the month of July.  Even while I was still in Thailand, I began to plan productive and helpful ways to keep myself busy this summer so I don’t feel like a directionless sloth.

"Directionless Sloth"

One of my goals is to teach a summer art workshop in Canton, my newly adopted hometown, which desperately needs some art influence and sense of community among local artists.  Another goal is to continue to educate myself in art and counseling.  I DID get to attend the SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths) conference in Seattle.  The trip was awesome, and  I learned new things and got excited about art all over again.  As for counseling, I hope to take a course this fall.  We’ll see.

So about this workshop:  Here’s the info I put in the newspaper:


Come join my Summer Art Workshop!

Who? Open to anyone, age 10 and up.

What? Local metalsmith and jewelry artist, Chelsey Burleson, will teach a small-scale, metal art workshop. Producing 4 projects in 4 weeks, students will learn how to cut, drill, shape, hammer, color, texture, and solder metal together. Cost per week: $60 – Cost for the month: $200. Materials and finished projects included!  Sibling discounts apply.

When? Tuesdays and Thursdays in July, from 9 to 12.

Where? The Canton Connection, on the corner of FM 17 and FM 1255 in Canton, one block north of Hwy 64

Why? Because working with metal/jewelry is SO COOL, is probably more fun than watching TV or playing video games, and because the sense of accomplishment one gets by making stuff with their own hands causes kids to feel mature and adults to feel like kids. Itʼs a win/win!

Call Chelsey at 214.263.8906 to reserve a spot in the workshop.

*Enrollment will be limited to 10 students/class

Email: with any questions or concerns.


Yeah, I know the last part is cheesy, but I toned it down quite a bit from the original.  I just hope it sounds playful instead of absolutely sincere.  Anyways, I’ll post more detailed information about my lesson plans soon.  If you’re interested, call or email me to learn more and reserve your spot in the workshop!  If more people register than I planned for, I can always add another class day.  :)

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I got to visit India!  I went to tour a silver jewelry factory in Jaipur, which is in the northern part.  That means that it’s more of a desert climate – and that there are camels everywhere!  Camels, cows, pigs, sand, sandstorms…  I wish I would have taken more pictures, but I really treated the visit more as a business trip.  I got tons of pictures of the factory, and asked a million questions, trying to learn as much as possible about production organization and methods.  I also came back with some new supplies to let my students try out.  Hopefully these things will improve production time and overall efficiency.  Also, I was there during the cricket World Cup, where India beat out Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  The entire night sky was filled with fireworks, and it was loud and chaotic and crazy.  And the food was so good!  All in all, it was a great trip.

Here are some pictures…

View from my room...

Bezel settings awaiting their stones. It's a ridiculous amount of work, but the guys made it seem easy.

This is a toggle clasp in production.

Silver rod ingot, which after the rolling-mill process, turns into silver wire. Yards and YARDS of it. I had never been around so much silver in my life, and I wanted it ALL.

This guy was just the best. He spoke some english, and was enthusiastic about teaching me. I couldn't really seem to convey that I had used a jeweler's saw before, or that I knew how to anneal metal, so I just obliged. He also made me drink alot of chai tea. But the crazy thing about this picture is that he's got those two torches on a "cotton" fiber padding. I've searched the internet high and low and can't find this product. But I want to, because it's a good oxygen-absorbing surface that allows you to heat up metal without too much oxidation dirty-ing up the surface.

They make everything look soooo easy. Hate it.

This is an amazing specimen of Larimar, which is a stone found only in the Dominican Republic. The factory buys "rough" stones, and cuts and polishes them to the specifications of the jewelry that's been ordered.

This is rough Rainbow Calsilica. I believe it is natural, but there is plenty of argument that the stone is man-made. It's mined in Mexico, but the mine isn't open to geologists, for fear of exploitation. Oh, the mystery!

This wasn't at the main factory I visited. Rather, this one-room shop is a mini foundry, where this guy casts metal into ingots for his customers. All day.

Posted in Metalsmithing | 1 Comment

March Update

A few weekends ago, I took a short trip with two of my housemates to Koh Samed, a small island south of Bangkok.  After about 4 hours on a bus, traveling through thick city and then beautiful farm land, we reached the ferry, which carried us on a pleasant hour-long journey to the island.

the view from our lunch spot

It was absolutely beautiful, and the first time I traveled outside of Bangkok since I’ve arrived.  The city is, as I’ve said, so very thick.  I’m used to traveling through Dallas, but not to walking its’ streets everyday.  So living in Bangkok is a little overwhelming sometimes.  I’m grateful for that.

Just before leaving for the island, the season of Lent began.  I’ve never participated before, but this year it seemed like a nice opportunity, and very well-timed.  Lent is the 40 days of discipline, repentance, and reflection leading up to Easter.  It’s a time to consider the crushing weight of our sin nature, the weight lifted by our Savior when He took it on Himself and offered us His very own nature, and a renewed heart!  During this time, some choose to fast from a particular food or activity, or to devote themselves to other spiritual disciplines.  So many people have the intention to be better disciplined, and agree very strongly with things that they (i) never actually get around to doing.

In light of this, some things I’m working on currently are waking up earlier…

sunrise in front of the bungalow

And doing more reading…

C.S. Lewis - The Great Divorce. Goes well with a banana shake, a beachy breeze, and... instant coffee??

Of course, beautiful Koh Samed made it easy to wake up with the sunrise.  Coming back to Bangkok, I was so refreshed and grateful for all that beauty.  Still, it’s been a challenge to wake up earlier, to start my days in reading scripture and praying to God before checking emails or making breakfast and going about my business for the day.  But you gotta start somewhere, right?  I’m glad that God is helping me to acquire a taste for discipline, while at the same time LOVING me despite my idolatrous heart.

On another note, metals classes have been going so well.  We’ve received our first order and are busy with production.  I’m currently spending most of my time in class writing materials – spec sheet forms, safety guidelines, design criteria, quality control criteria, etc..  At first overwhelming, now it’s just fun!  Hopefully I don’t leave out anything important…

Here are a few more photos to leave you with…

View from our beach... See that tiny lil island?!?

Eat your heart out, Emerald Coast! (seriously, why is that an acceptable idiom?!) The three of us were kayaking when my friend Skye took this picture. We may have also been singing "Row Row Row Your Boat."

found lots of pretty sea glass near this spot

See the perch up in that tree? Magic.

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Some student work…

Well gosh!  So much has been happening, and I’ve neglected to share the amazing work my students are making!  So here are some pictures to catch you up…

These earrings were the first attempt of one student. She has great craft skills, and her designs have only improved!

The lady who made these uses many symbols in her paintings, one of them being an eye. It's crazy how much of her metalwork also uses the same symbolism!

The student responsible for these loves to make cute, teenager-ish designs. So I am really surprised by these elegant beauties!

On our first field trip, getting design ideas for a nature-inspired pendant!

This student missed the first week, so I had her sister catch her up on all the demos we did. It was so great to see students teaching each other! Plus, this design is just awesome. She wanted to make a pendant that looked like a flower she saw. The flower had three heart-shaped petals. We brainstormed and came up with this idea. It abstracts the original design, and looks great!

Cute, huh?


This is genius, absolute genius. I had absolutely NO part in the design of this, she just drew it and then made it. All be herself!!

FIRST-attempt bezel setting. Be impressed, be impressed.

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Well, I can’t seem to get SNAG off my mind.

For those of you who don’t know about the Society of North American Goldsmiths, we’re a special bunch.  Last year was my first time to go to the annual conference, and it had a lasting impression.  Really challenged me to invest more intellectually into last semester of metalwork.  I got to visit with other students, educators and seasoned artists from all across the nation as we listened to lectures, watched technical demonstrations, viewed all sorts of jewelry and metalwork, and dressed up for a “fancy” ball at the end.

So, I want to go to this year’s conference in Seattle.  And while I’m there, I want to go kayaking on Puget Sound, and stay in one of those international hostels nearby.  I’ve only gone kayaking maybe three times, but I canNOT get it out of my head.  It’s my new favorite.  Don’t know if any of this will happen, but I sure hope it does.

That’s all.

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Gosh, it’s been forever since I last blogged!  So much has been going on, and I’m afraid I have the tendency to try to catch up on every little detail.  Which would be exhausting for me AND for you well-meaning readers who just can’t spend the time reading bi-weekly “books.”

Therefore, here are some snippets of things I’ve experienced the past two weeks:

-Housemate dinners replete with worship music, prayer, sharing of our testimonies, Thai food, and mosquito murdering.

-Waking up to street dogs and fruit vendors and the Nigerian church, which dedicatedly meets for LOUD worship music at least three days a week.

-Taking my students on a nature walk, discussing integrity of design and using God’s best creation as inspiration for our own

-Trying to teach my housemate Jup how to say the word “flirt”.  It’s hard since she interchanges “L” and “R” on a regular basis.  It usually comes out as “fart.”

-Going to the crazy-big tourist market to look for suppliers of silver and stones.

-Trying to buy stones from a creepy Indian salesman who wanted to charge $10 for Chalcedony cabochons.  If you didn’t know, that is MADDENINGLY outrageously overpriced, especially since he thinks he’s a wholesaler. (I’m seething with disgust and anger as I write)(WAIT, I’m a missionary I can’t do that).  Don’t worry, I got him down to an almost reasonable price.  I was very sweet about it too.

-Finding a NICE Indian salesman with better quality stones and prices and a nice smile.

-Experiencing a Thai massage in which the massage therapist did Yoga while pretending that I was the floor mat and/or yoga ball.

-Running with friends in the neighborhood, getting weird looks from neighbors and street dogs.

-Being scared to ask little questions, like “How come there is no toilet paper, no soap, AND no hand towel?!?!?!?!”

-Learning the life-stories of my students, and meeting their sweet kiddos.

-Playing soccer after school with some of the students and children.

-Comparing bruises and other battle scars the next day!

-Constantly having pollution boogers :(

-Getting air-conditioning in class and no longer being grumpy!

-Taking cold showers.  Begrudgingly at first, and then on purpose.

-Watching my students teach each other and holding back laughter and tears of joy!

-Randomly finding a pizza parlor a short walk from home.

-Being hug-attacked by a tiny 3 year old boy I had never met before.  Gosh, when babies do that I just MELT.

Well, I’ll update more later.

Thanks for keepin’ up with me!

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Surprise… Supplies!

After getting stuck in customs for a week or so, our tools and supplies were finally delivered this Monday morning!  I’m not sure how my students felt at first, but it was sheer bliss for me.  We’re talking Christmas-morning-as-a-little-child bliss, except better.

Once we got everything unpacked, de-greased the steel tools, and assembled our little work stations, they were getting excited.  Then I started the demo – I showed them how to use a jeweler’s saw to cut out shapes in metal.  It was practically a matter of SECONDS before they all appropriated their own pieces of copper, drew shapes into the metal, and started confidently using tools they’d never seen before.  The sun (below) was one of my faves.  The student who designed this later stamped the word “light” onto the surface, and oxidized it (or made it dark.)  Clever.

It’s beautiful to see the women jump into a project without any fear of failure.  Not having the experience of formal training, they are unaware of the boundary-lines learned through harsh artistic critiques.  No inhibitions, just creations.  I love it.  It’s totally opposite how I functioned in Metals I.  My classmates and I would cut out little circles and squares, always staying within the lines of what was easy or normal.

Anyways, one student designed a fish pendant with the words “Follow Me” stamped on the back.  This is in reference to Jesus recruiting a few fisherman to live and learn and change the world with Him   –  “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4:19.

She asked Addy, (my friend and classroom translator) to look up the passage and read it aloud.

Today was good, very good.  I’ve got this group for about 5 hours a day, Monday – Thursday.  Now that we’re done with demos, they’ll be working on actual projects to turn in this Thursday.  I think I’ll have them make at least 3 pairs of earrings, but we shall see.  I’ll have them sketch out the designs first, so I can give guidance about the most efficient way to produce them three-dimensionally.  I hope to make the last day a show-and-tell: a time for critiquing the craftsmanship and function of the finished pieces, discussing the art of designing for different price-ranges, and learning to cater to different style preferences.

I can’t wait to post more pics of their work!

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