Week One: Update

Hello, faithful friends and family!  I’m sorry for neglecting to post an update sooner, but I’m grateful for the rest and time to acclimate to my new home.  It’s only been a bit over a week since I left, but it feels much longer, having had so much packed into my week already.  I was picked up at the airport by my friends Cori and Jup, who both work at The Well.  They’ve been a great encouragement, making me feel so at home in the volunteer house we all share.  My first full day was spent eating a Thai breakfast (sticky rice, papaya salad, fish), recovering from jet lag, and going to the movies (The Tourist, ironically).

My emotions this week went from, “Whew, I’m so tired I can’t make up my mind about how I feel…” to “Dear Lord what have I done…” to “Oh my gosh, this is GREAT!!”  The happy shift occurred during my first day of class.  After a whirlwind of crazy traffic, new food, smells, sounds, and many unknowns, I was completely affirmed in God’s leading me here.

My class consists of six creative, responsive, and inspiring women.  We haven’t yet received all of our supplies, so I was unable to set up the “studio” before delving into lessons.  However, God used that to narrow my focus and provide a great week of overview.  I shared my testimony through some of the jewelry I made, showed them pictures of jewelry that sells well in America, and did a few simple demonstrations of soldering and other jewelry techniques.  They got so excited!  It’s beautiful to see the strengths of these women:  some will be great technical designers, some have a natural sense for metalwork, and some will excel in sharing their personal stories through design.

After discussing design challenges with some of their past work, looking at pictures of popular American jewelry, and talking about what appeals to western culture, I had them to sketch out 10 designs of their own, writing down the description of colors, sizes, materials, etc…   Here are a few examples:

The top one I liked because it’s beautifully drawn, better than I could have ever done without drawing classes!  The middle one, gosh.  That student designs simple and classic pieces.  Can’t wait to see what she turns in!  The last design is a heart with a window into it.  The window opens and closes, like a locket.

I’m hoping to orchestrate the class in such a way that the students will naturally feel free to design meaningful, personal work, as well as making stuff that’s simply appealing to the eye.  I want to see the giving and taking of advice and careful criticism.  I hope to equip them with skills that they will be able to use for practical and therapeutic purposes.  I pray that my heart will be accepting of all results, even if they don’t meet my expectations.

I guess I’m just hoping to effect change that I can see.  I don’t want to JUST teach a couple of classes and go back home.  I want to know that what I’ve begun will last.  I want my students to become teachers.  I want them to get good jobs.  I want to see the results of my labor.  But don’t we all?  This purpose-driven mentality is a beautiful thing – it drives us toward goals.  Fuels our fire.  Gives incentive to keep going.  But I’m aware that it comes with a tinge of selfishness, and I don’t want to find my validation in the results of MY labor.  I want to find validation in belonging to my Jesus.  Then whatever He does through me will be fire in my heart.

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New! Ring!

Well, I’ve actually never made a ring with a bezel setting before.  Go figure!  Here I am, thinking I’m a metalsmith, and I’ve never even done a simple stone setting on a ring.  The nerve.  Since I was thinking of making a bezel-set stone ring a project for my class in Thailand, I figured I’d go ahead and make a demo.  You know, just to see if I even CAN.  And it actually turned out okay.  I didn’t have all the tools I needed to make it look super clean and polished – I desperately need a burnisher to tamp down the edges of the bezel.  But I think I did okay for what I have…

I’m afraid I made the band too skinny.  The stone is so heavy that it tends to move around on my finger.  But I’ve learned my lesson and will not be likely to repeat the mistake.   But look!  I’ve “coined” the edges of the copper seat the bezel is sitting on.  I just took my baby hammer (I’m thinking of naming him George) and I tapped all around the edge of copper to give it an interesting texture – it also served to soften up the rugged edges I had filed when I cut the copper.  I thought it was cute.

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Time to focus… and reflect.

Well, now I’m only 11 days away from leaving for Thailand.  It feels surreal.  It was only the first week in September that I got back in touch with Servantworks about helping out.  And now four months later, I’m shipping out, gone until May 3rd!    As I’ve been reflecting, I realize that so much happened in 2010.

I graduated…

I had a Senior Show -called Memento – to show off my favorite work from the past four years…

And after school, Mom and Dad asked me to move home to work and rest and figure out the next steps to take.  I got to enjoy the small-town environment, went to the local gym, and visited the flea markets and antique stores for goodies to transform into jewelry, all the while enjoying the company of my beautiful little sisters.

And while I’m in Southeast Asia, I get to visit one of my other sisters, Mel.  We’ve been best friends since we were in the church nursery together, and I can’t wait to see her!  This was our last picture taken together, in April 2010…

God has given me so much to be grateful for!  I’ve been blessed with a loving family that shows more consideration for my well-being than even I do; an exciting education; a sense of humor; salvation from my sins; a camera; a Sonicare toothbrush; a collection of jewelry; a collection of friends I treasure, and many many more blessing than I can count.

As I step into this ministry opportunity, I’ll meet many people who haven’t enjoyed the blessings of a loving family, unconditional love, education, etc., that I have been given.  I’m struggling to know how to prepare my heart for this time.  As I come face-to-face with difficult situations I’ve never had to reckon with before, may I meet them with grace, love, and understanding – not pity or selfish concern.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved, as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


St. Francis

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So I’ve been busy working and taking care of Thailand trip details, but I’ve also been a little Christmas elf on the side.  Here are just a few snapshots of my recent work……

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Who Invented Jewelry?

This image was used on a postcard advertising my senior show.

I designed this set with inspiration from plastic beads.  Plastic beads that I bought from a thrift store. Beads that were sold in a jar of Smucker’s Peanut Butter, no less.  I found these funky, outdated faceted plastic beads, and knew they would be amazing in silver.  So, I made earrings and a ring out of them.  And this necklace:

Made from one of the plastic thrift store beads, among other things...

I was really proud of this set.  It was for a class project, but I wanted to make something for me: something I could wear all the time.  You see, as much as I love crazy, non-wearable, “art” jewelry, I’m always going to be drawn to pieces that are unique but still wearable.  If I’m going to invest my time and heart into something, it had better have a solid purpose, you know.  Even if that purpose is just adornment…  I enjoy wearing these.  They make me feel good.  And that’s one of the main functions of adornment: “feeling” something. Being aware of the value another person has placed on you.  Feeling crowned, chosen, remembered, cherished, beautiful, accomplished, ridiculous.

It’s amazing what a few ornaments can do…

In Ezekiel 16, God reminds his people (figuratively) how He had taken care of them:

11″I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck12 and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head13 So you were adorned with gold and silver…  You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. 14 And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

Don’t tell me God doesn’t care about jewelry.  He INVENTED jewelry.   You may have wondered why I put those last few words in bold. Well, I just wanted to emphasize that when God puts His seal of approval on something, He adorns it with transforming beauty.  Physically speaking.  He shows it off.   When someone is right with God, you see it in their eyes, their smile, their features…  I want my “arms, neck, nose, ears and head” to be adorned.  I want to be covered in adornments that mark me as loved and loving, forgiven and forgiving.  I want to look like patience, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, love, concern, gentleness, self-control…

I’ll leave it at this:  May my Love for God, (and His work in my heart) be as evident as the rings on my hands, the pendant at my neck, the earrings in my ears, and the bracelets on my arms.

(And maybe someday, the ring in my nose….)

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A few of my older designs…

Well, even though I made these years ago, I still like them.  Maybe it’s because these images just look so darn good.  And once again, I must credit my talented friend, Jillian Zamora (jillianzamora.com) for the photos.  Of course, she’s way more experienced now than she was when these were taken, but I still think they’re just lovely.

Stained, wood-burned balsa wood, with a plastic flower that I took off a cheap magnet

painted leaves, amethyst, copper

Painted balsa wood, vintage bottle cap, vintage button, glass beads, amethyst, pearls

assortment of glass and plastic beads

brass, copper, leather

glass beads

glass beads, Swarovski crystals

Swarovski crystals, glass beads, sterling silver

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Spiritual lessons in Jewelry

When I first decided to enter the Metalsmithing program at UNT, I knew I’d learn tons of jewelry techniques.  What I hadn’t expected to learn is how spiritually connected the creative process is with the physical process of making jewelry.

For instance, I melted some of my old silver jewelry in order to use it for a project.  I had to melt it, clean the impurities out of the molten metal, and then pour it into a mold, which makes an ingot.  When in ingot form, the metal is thick, and needs to be flattened into sheet metal:

Silver Ingot

This is achieved by putting the metal through a rolling mill.  During this process, the metal can easily become brittle, and cracking may result.  In order to keep the metal malleable, it must be annealed (heated) before putting more stress on it:


When I made my first ingot, I realized God had worked in my life the way I was working on that piece of metal.  In order to be useful to my Maker, I needed to have impurities cleaned out of my life.  The process required fire, and felt destructive, yet it yielded clean metal ready for use.

But it wasn’t ready yet, the metal still needed to be stretched into a thin sheet.   As I passed my silver through the rolling mill, the edges would crack, unable to withstand the pressure.  This is normal though, and just needed to be monitored.  When I saw cracking, I used a metal file to smooth the edges, and then I annealed the metal so it would be ready to withstand the next round of passes through the mill.  And such is the Christian life…  God allows us to go through hard situations.  We may crack, we may become brittle, and he may have to cut out parts of our lives.  But you can always bet that He’ll soften your heart so you can bear it.

And in the end, it was all done for our joy and for His glory.  For our usefulness, and for His pleasure, which is both our pleasure and for His use!

I made the ingot I used for this locket.

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Support Letter

Dear friends and family,

I want to tell you about some exciting new things unfolding in my life and invite you to be a part.

A Surprising Opportunity

This year has held many changes and surprises for me.  After graduating from the University of North Texas in May with my BFA in Metalsmithing, I moved home to work and figure out the next step.  Through an interesting turn of events, I re-connected with a ministry called Servantworks, based in Thailand.  They offer art classes and life-skills training to Thai bar girls and women coming out of prostitution.  Their aim is to equip these women with dignified and sustainable work skills while showing them the unconditional love of Jesus.

A few months ago, I received a newsletter about the progress of their jewelry sales.  I emailed asking if they needed any help, and as it so happens, they had been praying for a volunteer to teach metalsmithing!  Once my internship application was accepted, I began working on jewelry class ideas, lesson plans, supply lists, and fundraising.  God has been very faithful to provide me with technical, relational and spiritual support, and I know He will also provide the financial support.

What I Will Do

My role will be to teach metalsmithing to women who already sell beaded jewelry.  My desire is to equip them with more marketable skills that provide better wages than selling the beaded work they already create.  Many of these women had been sold into prostitution by their familes, some had been lured by the promise of financial security, and most abused drugs to cope with their tragic lifestyles.  My prayer is that God will use my training to help these ladies, and that I will learn how best to show them His unconditional love and acceptance.

Prayer Requests

Please join me in praying for the following:

  • That I will be an effective teacher
  • That God will prepare my heart to love and serve these people
  • That the students will be eager to learn
  • That I will reach my fundraising goal on time! (I’m hoping to have half my goal raised by December 10th so I can secure airfare in advance.)


My trip dates are January 14th to April 14th.  In order to stay the full three months of my internship, I’ll need to raise about $4500.  This includes airfare, lodging, transportation, and food.  If you wish to partner with me, you can either mail a check to the address at the bottom, or make a tax-deductible donation on the website: http://servantworks.com/donate.  Much more than a donation, your prayers and financial support are real, tangible ways to invest in the lives of those I am sent to serve.

Also, you can keep up with me through my website: www.chelseyalyse.com.  I’ll post information about my trip, pictures, lesson plans, and general updates.

Thanks so much, everyone!

Donation Info:

P.O. Box 1505, Canton, TX 75103 – Make checks payable to Chelsey Burleson.

Or to make tax-deductible donations, visit http://servantworks.com/donate.  Under the “Missionaries” drop-down menu, select my name.

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Meet Pepe…

This is Pepe.  He is my baby anvil.  I hadn’t actually thought of naming him until I saw “Pepe” tattooed on the side of his body.  Instinctively, I decided that it was a boy, and that this was indeed supposed to be his name.  Pepe.  He provides just enough surface area for me to use my baby hammer (who sadly doesn’t have a name yet) to strike the metal wires I’ve used to create these little things:

Aren’t they pretty?!?  Yes, Pepe has been very helpful.  Hopefully I’ll get to naming my other helpers soon, but he’s the cutest so he gets the most attention…

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A little history…

Hi!  My name is Chelsey.  I’m a graduate of the University of North Texas, where I earned my B.F.A. in Metalsmithing and Jewelry.  Before studying metals, I was already in love with jewelry and beads.  My mother helped me start a jewelry business when I was 12.  I was able to sell my handmade jewelry in small town shows, and even had my work for sale in a few local businesses.  After fast-paced high school years had distracted me from jewelry, I decided that I didn’t want to trade in my God-given love and talent for jewelry to pursue anything else.  During my first few semesters in metals classes, I was quite unsure of the direction I wanted to take with my work.  I primarily spent my time learning new techniques and feeling overwhelmed.   By the last two semesters though, my style had evolved into what I’m most passionate about now – combining old and new elements to create deeply symbolic jewelry.  For instance, most of my newer work consists of antique, inherited jewelry pieces that are re-framed or joined together by new metal and modern designs.   In all of my work, my aim is to point others to the beautiful work that God can do in the hearts of humankind.  Just as Christ’s work is to reclaim and heal selfish human hearts, I aim to re-purpose decaying jewelry into beautiful new pieces.  When I work on these types of projects, I’m encouraged to remember all the ways God has taken unlovely pieces of my life and made them beautiful in ways only He can.

Now that I am preparing for this trip to Thailand, I’ve taken a break from my own designs to work on lesson plans for the metals classes I’ll be teaching.  Still, while sharing the training I have received with women suffering from the effects of sexual exploitation, I hope that the same idea of reclamation and newness shines through in every aspect of my communication.

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