Saturday, November 24, 2007
Shortly after taking this photo, I added bails to all four and they're currently drying. I'll be able to clean them up some time this week. (I'm sorry I didn't put a half dollar in the middle so you could see the size comparison. I'll have to remember that next spring).
I've found it easier to add the bails later rather than trying to work them into the design when cutting out the leaf. They just end up looking so much better. And it's easier to clean up and "polish" the dry clay without the bail being in the way (I've broken one or two bails this way, one of the reasons why I switched). I've toyed with the idea of creating the bails, letting them dry separately, and then adding them later. But I've been making the leaves with Standard (or original) PMC, and I haven't been able to find paste (or in clay terms, slip) in this version of PMC, so I have to make my own PMC Standard paste. And the few times I added water to the PMC powder that results after sanding, I ended up with a moldy mess when I went back to use it. Not good. Scary, in fact. So now I still collect the powder, as the stuff's too expensive to waste; but I keep it dry in its own container, and create paste as I go by just dipping a wet brush into the powder. Takes a lot of wet brush dippin' to create the kind of paste blob one occasionally needs to "glue" one really dried piece to another. So .. while at least the bails are still moist and willing to stick to stuff, I form them with greased up little straws, attach them, muck around with their placement, and hope I've been able to create enough of a sticky mess at their connection points to meld in the kiln (the PMC version of soldering!). I haven't been disappointed yet. Mostly 'cuz I'm a bit of a stickler for overkill. Not a bad thing in cases like this.
Anyway, I was really pleased with these four .. I think they're the best I've done all season. Can't wait till they come out of the kiln!! The one on the far left is my absolute favorite local leaf with which to work. It sticks nicely to the clay while still being easy to remove when I'm done with it. It has a lovely shape, great veining and they're the perfect size for working with both Standard (which shrinks 25-30%) and PMC+ and PMC3 (both of which shrink about 10-12%). I can't tell you what it is - I've tried to find out, but can't find it in any of our collection of books on trees and local flora. It comes from a grapeleaf like vine and is found at the base of several of the maple, oak and apple trees on our property as well as in among the honeysuckle the birds have "planted". If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to know! The next one is a birch and the third and fourth examples are a red maple and a white maple (one of which is already spoken for, just don't know which one yet).
OK .. I'm off to run errands. One of which is to stop at the local Agway and see if they have any house plants from which I can raid leaves over the winter! I haven't really thought about house plants as a source, but there just may be one out there with the perfect PMC leaf! I'll keep ya posted.
Friday, November 23, 2007
In between all those shows, I do occasionally have time to create something new. This piece came out of the discovery of a local rubber stamp dealer at a show I did at Clarkson University's Cheel Arena back in October. I purchased several from her over a couple visits to her booth (from among a collection SO much more interesting than what's available at Michael's or the local JoAnn's!!), but this particular one was the only stamp that barked at me for immediate use. I really liked the long twining vine theme. I initially thought I might attach the precious metal clay piece that resulted to a strip of leather, as I've been toying with the idea of creating some sort of leather design with a sterling clasp - but for some reason I decided on something more delicate. The pearls are faceted, dyed teal and are hand knotted. Aren't they a great color!?!? I call the piece "A Secret Garden". The silver piece is a 1/4 ounce of .999 silver, yet it's still a dainty, elegant bracelet.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
It won't be long now before the 2007 Show season will be over .... whew! I'm not even out there every single weekend like many of my artisan friends, but I'm still tired! And longing for January when I can dive back into some new designs, play around with some cool new PMC tools I've been collecting and try out some of the tutorials and lessons I've purchased over the last year (as a reward here and there when I did well at a show!)
The photo above was taken in early November at Jefferson Community College in Watertown. It was one of the last times I used the black velvet table covers. It's a nice look; but I had originally purchased several different sizes of velvet to fit over a variety of display cases at the show that followed this one - and they weren't meant to be long term (though I've been using them now for two years). They're wide open in the back, which leaves all my boxes, tubs, bags, lunch and stuff visible whenever my booth doesn't have a good backing ... like another vendor's stuff or the back panel of a pop up canopy.
This was taken at the next show, the Jefferson County Historical Society, also in Watertown. I was the featured artist here in 2005 and have tried it a couple more times with good results - thanks to several great fans from the area! These are three women from my Artisans Guild - all four of us were at the JCHS Holiday Victorian Faire on the 9th and 10th. From left to right, Carrie Sweredoski , who makes awesome handmade soaps, lotions and potions using real essential oils - no fake 'r phony scents here. She and her husband are off to California Dec 15 and won't be back til Spring. Color me green; Moi, in the navy jacket; Mary Ellen Tyner in front of whose decoupage plate booth we are standing. She's an FIT graduate and can actually make a wedding gown from scratch - this skill amazes me - AND while a student there, she's the one who designed the famous Isotoner glove!! No recognition for that whatsoever .. life is most definitely not fair; Susan Lyth makes beeswax candles .. the kind of candle EVERYone should be burning in their homes instead of those high-pollutin' wax and so called "soy" (not 100% soy, but soy and paraffin blends that are sold as soy candles) .. or those especially nasty, artificially scented things you find in the grocery stores and gift shops .. yes, ladies, I include Yankee Candles in this category.
It was fun being all together at the same show .. that doesn't happen very often. Though several of our group will be at Lisa Nortz's Open House at the Fire Hall in Croghan on the 24th - if you happen to be in the area, stop in! Lisa does silver jewelry, Marcia Walligory makes gorgeous baskets (including sturdy pack baskets), Lis Barsuglia-Madsen is a weaver and makes all those warm winter things you like to have this time of year, as well as very cool woven handbags, table runners, placemats, etc., Susan will be there with her candles, I think Sharon Stewart will have her herbal blends, teas and animal treats, and Lisa's husband will be displaying his wooden lazy susans and cutting boards. Worth stopping in if you're the type who likes handcrafted things. We're a pretty cool bunch, even if I do say so myself.
These shots are from a show on the 18th at North Country Community College in Saranac Lake. It was the first time I used my new table covers!! A very good friend of mine made them for me from material I found on sale at JoAnn's in a color that matches the blue on my business cards and stationery (I can do buttons and hems, that's the extent of my sewing ability) . . and I had a graphic art company in Watertown put the logo on the front of one of them. It was supposed to be only six inches from the top .. I'm not sure what happened, but it still beats hauling that little wooden sign around with me, and I love the way it turned out regardless! Oh, and the covers all have back flaps that velcro shut .. so I've got a ton of privacy for all my show "stuff" now! I just love progress!
Monday, October 8, 2007
OK, so here we go with the purpose of THIS post! These pieces go with the Athena necklace I made for my husband's friend back in Albany. She couldn't decide on the earrings, so I sent 'em both .. still waiting to hear back. And the bracelet is what I came up with after wasting several days agonizing over it with false starts.
It was such a bear to create .. very tricky around those little loops that capture the jump rings from which the beads dangle .. that I was afraid I was going to aggravate my finally recovering wrist inflammation.
But I was so very pleased with the way it turned out, I promptly set out to create one with a different color scheme in sterling. And, of course, practice makes perfect - so I then felt inclined to warm it up a bit and do that same Autumn color combo I'd just completed in silver in 14k gold-filled wire .. and THAT version is what I've posted here. I just love it! I'm now thinkin' about doing an Athena necklace to go with it. Right now I'm working on a few pair of earrings in both the sterling and gold-filled versions to match the bracelets .. one thing at a time is all I can handle until I grow a couple more hands.
I've been thinking about a sterling version in cool aquamarine and soft green shades with cream colored pearls. A bit more "Spring" to be sure, but who cares; it's the color combos that are fun to work with. And there are SO many wonderful color combos I can imagine! It's incredibly energizing when the cogs are well greased and turning smoothly and the whole mechanism just hums!
Thursday, September 20, 2007
The necklace is part of an order for a friend of my husband's in Albany - her son is getting married in October and she wanted two three-piece sets; one for the rehearsal dinner, one for the wedding. We actually got together back in May when I was in Albany for a show and she brought along the dress she'll be wearing for the wedding, which this necklace is meant to match. She'd emailed me with a general description of the colors included in both dresses, so I brought along a gallon-sized zip lock bag full of possible gem and pearl matches. The mauve pearls and the faceted smoky quartz beads were the two we matched to her wedding outfit. I filled in the spaces with other beads that I'd been tossing into a small basket when I came across them (and the little lightbulb came on for a good match). I've already got one set of earrings done and have an idea for another design I may try today (it's good to have choices!). My brain's been stewin' over the bracelet .. I could just do more of the same; but I'm inclined to make it match with a slightly different design. We'll see .. often times if I move on to something else, the right idea will fall into place simply because I've relaxed my brain about it. And there's still the second three-piece set to begin. This one in sterling. I'll keep ya posted (get it, POSTed?!?).
Anyway, this one's called Athena ... Greek goddess of wisdom, the arts, industry, justice and skill. Geeeez .... I hope she likes it!
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Anyway, as promised, here are a few (what's left) of the finished 'Poetry Pendants" I fired. I made five of the "expletive deleted" and sold four of them at the Clayton show the last weekend in August. I kind of thought that might be a popular one, so I made a few more over the weekend. I also sold the elongated maple leaf with the crack in the center (shown in a pre-kiln state in "PMC Impressions"). I was wearing it at the time. I love when that happens.
Since I had some new and some completed PMC pieces, I thought you might like to see a PMC progression .. so the photo below includes two freshly cut pendants (top) that still need some drying time before I can begin to clean them up (I collected some white and red oak leaves over the long weekend and hope to cut several of those to add to the collection of items to be cleaned up and sanded over the next week or two. I also intend to make several more of the poetry pendants to dry, as well).
Directly below the freshly cut "wild" pictured upper left is a "wild" that's been dried, cleaned up, sanded, and had a fine-silver cylindrical bail added. If I did it right, when fired the pendant should shrink down with a little space still left on either side of the bail. We shall see. The three fine silver pieces are what they shrink down to once they're fired. I hung them all from sterling chains cuz it was quick for show purposes .. but now I kinda like the look .. the "all silver" thing.
I went out searching for some additional "word" stamps over the weekend and found a wonderful site with not only some great additional single-word stamps to add to the collection, but a couple sheets of short sayings. Won't know if they'll work as well as these until I get them; but I'm hoping even if they're smaller, I can figure something out. Discovered several additional websites with unusual art stamps, too ... bookmarked for later exploration. New ideas are already percolating.
I felt compelled to add the necklace below because I sold it at the Clayton show and still have it only because its new owner wanted it shortened. Before taking it apart, it was 19" of slightly graduated, faceted rubies with an 18k gold clasp, delicate little 18k gold spacers and 24k gold coated Swarovski crystals. A purty piece, to say the least. Since shortening it required removing beads, I suggested to my customer that I make earrings out of the extra beads. As it happened, there were 32 total beads removed from either side of the clasp ... and it seems I got a little carried away with these freebies. If you're gazing at this on my blog and not via a new post notification email, you can click on the pic and see it up close. The earrings look like little bunches of red grapes! And since the bead holes were SO incredibly small, I had to dig through my supplies to find 26 gauge gold-filled headpins (whew! glad I had 'em!). I'm glad I didn't offer to do them in 18k!! As it was, even taking into consideration the fact that the rubies were already paid for, just the gold filled materials alone would have amounted to about $38 retail (16 little connections on each earring tends to add up). If you added in the cost of the rubies, the retail value goes to $78. I'd say she got a discount on the price of the necklace, all tolled! By the way, I have another strand of these rubies (grin).
The necklace is called Rubaiyat, which just seemed appropriate to me not only for the "ruby" aspect, but for the romance, and the Persian derivation (full of gold) and for one of the many translations I stumbled upon by Edward Heron-Allen, made in the late 19th century:
I desire a little ruby wine and a book of verses,
Just enough to keep me alive, and half a loaf is needful;
And then, that I and thou should sit in a desolate place
Is better than the kingdom of a sultan.
... from whence comes "a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou ..." (an entirely different translation, but with such an ancient language, translations are bound to be diverse!)
A little romance, a little decadence .. it fit. I may have to make another one.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
A friend of mine who'd been out here catching up on old blog entries saw the Fibula post I made a while back and sent me a link to a couple pieces from the website of the Smithsonian American Art Museum: Ramona Solberg . Hmmmm, says I .. that's kinda cool! And my first thought was this could be another way to show case some of the beautiful handmade lampwork glass beads I'd been collecting; my second thought was that unlike with the Thai Silver Leaf pin from the first Fibula post, I could do THIS version using gold-filled wire.
The thing about these pins is that in order for them to be strong and sturdy (and provide a nice spring in the pin part), a larger gauge wire is best. But when you start looking for beads that will actually fit on a heavier gauge wire, your prospects begin to decline. Most bead holes are tiny little affairs. Lampwork beads, however, are absolutely perfect for this application. The downside is they tend to be a little pricey. I mean they're made - one at a time - with colorful glass rods, a torch and a steel mandrel .. a tricky affair and much more difficult than you might think. And the glass artists who really have it down turn out the most amazing little pieces of glass!! I understand the cost aspect .. though I once wished I could learn to make the things myself to lessen the material cost of including them in my work. Alas, there's just no room in the studio for yet another set of tools and accoutrements! AND, to get to the level of some of these artisans would require givin' up all else for quite a while - even a few great lampwork bead makers have no time for making jewelry with their little works of art. If you're interested, here are a couple of my favorite sites (some of these sites have email "alerts" when new beads are available for sale .. if you aren't around when the email arrives, I mean right there to hear the thing come in with a 'ding', you miss out. With some of these sites, even ten minutes late, and the beads are all gone!). Bluff Road Glass - gorgeous sets, a couple hundred dollars a set (or more); Shibumi Glass - Round, flat, square, clear, rich and robust, Robyn Knapp's beads always causes severe decision-making stress; and Blue Iris Designs - you just know that when prices aren't visible, you shouldn't ask unless you're ready to do the deal!
Anyway, I babble. I was so excited about this slight variation on the fibula, that I created a bunch of 'em. Only a couple are in sterling; the rest are in gold-filled wire. I don't know if you remember the first pin with the big, gently curved Thai silver leaf; but the sharp pointy part of the pin slips beneath that little upturned part of the "shepard's hook". On this "new" version, the shepard's hook is turned towards the front and its entire large looped shape holds the sharp pin part in place.
Another little serendipitous event occurred when, while snipping and shaping the sharp pin point, I accidently snipped the shepard's hook and destroyed the whole pin as a result (whaddya gonna do, accidents happen). However, when I realized what I'd done and broke it apart to see what wire pieces could be salvaged for another project, I discovered that the squiggly wire part - with the addition of another hook at the top - would make a great new clasp! A clasp like this would work well for the Viking knit bracelets .. or even on a strand of pearls (though I'd probably use a finer wire gauge for that application).
And speaking of the Viking knit bracelets, another slightly different change on a current design is the addition of some gold pieces. I've only got four of them so far - dark blue, dark purple (think eggplant), and the red and black versions shown here. I found a nice, reasonably priced vermeil version of a short cone I could use on the ends. Since it's 24k gold over sterling, the gold in the cone is a bit more vibrant than the gold-filled wire clasp. But using gold wire is out of the question .. too soft and too expensive. It works as is (the red is particularly spectacular), so I'm putting them out at the Clayton show this weekend. I'll keep hunting for a gold-filled bullet or end cap; but I'd be very surprised to find one. And I was getting requests for gold versions, so I had to go with what I could find.
I can't remember if I've explained gold-filled wire before. I have a few "high gold" pieces containing 14k, 18k and a few 22k components; but most of my "gold" things are gold-filled. A perfectly acceptable alternative to gold .. and significantly better than plated materials, which involve a thin coat of a precious metal. Items made with gold filled wire are considered professional jeweler's quality and not fashion jewelry. 14k gold-filled wire is made by forming a tube of solid 14k gold which is then "filled" with a base metal. The gold is bonded to the base metal with heat and pressure. The base metal is also gold in color and is made up of almost the same mixture of metals (usually a brass alloy) used to bring 24kt gold down to 14kt, 10kt, etc. The exterior of the product is solid 14kt gold, and everything you can see or touch is a solid layer of 14 Kt. gold. This is why it will never tarnish, chip or wear off. The gold layer on gold-filled wire is approximately 100 times thicker than gold-plate and is bonded with heat and pressure. (Gold-filled wire is actually available in 10k, 12k, and 14k. In the symbol 14/20, the 14 stands for the karat of gold used and the 20 means 1/20 - the gold content is 5% or 1/20 of the total metal. I use only 14/20 gold filled components).
Oh .. I fired most of those PMC pieces earlier this week and have been tumbling, patinating, and tumbling some more hoping to be able to get most of the stuff into this weekend's show. No time for pics today, however. I'll take a few next week after all the hustle and bustle of preparing for the show are over. Everything turned out great .. can't wait to make a few more of the "poet pendants"!!
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I know, I know .. I've been bad. I apologize for the great gap in posts, but tis the season to be out there gettin' it done, so blog time is on the back burner.
I AM very excited about some new Precious Metal Clay stuff I've been doing though, and thought I might just pop a photo up real quick so you could see what I've been up to (up to this point, most of what I've been pounding out are repeats of existing pieces and LOTS of those colored wire bracelets and necklaces .. so you haven't really missed much).
A couple exciting things have happened to get things moving on the PMC front: (1) I finally received my logo and business name stamps, and (2) I serendipitously discovered an incredible little "rubber stamp poet" kit at a local antique show a couple Sundays ago filled with the most wonderful word stamps!! And that's all it took!
You might have to double click on the photo above to get a closer look (can't do it from an email "post update" folks .. go to http://www.thewildinside.com/ and click on the photo there), but the small round piece on the bottom shows my logo stamp. I used Original PMC for these, as they'll shrink down about 25% to 30% and will be perfect little charms for the Viking Knit bracelets. The stamp with my business name .. using the same OzHandicraft font as all my business materials .. can be seen on the back of one of the word stamps in the lower right. That particular stamp - representing "obsenities deleted" - made the whole box full of 80 stamps worth the $6 I paid for it! I just know that I'm not the only one who has days that such a pendant would perfectly represent! The other two, "Wild" and "Juicy" were among my first experiments with the stamps. Every single stamp uses a different font; and they're the proper size for either Original PMC (which will shrink down to make smaller pendants) or PMC+ or PMC3 (which shrink only about 10% to 12% and would create slightly larger pendants). And there are enough wonderful words to keep me busy making pendants for a while: Moon, Mystery, Beauty, Dream, Passion, Dance, Secret, Fate, Laughter, Heart, Always, Magic, Imagine, Soul, Secret ... among others that can be combined on one stamp or doubled up and suspended on chain, leather, ribbon, etc. The possibilities are endless!!
I've poked jump ring holes into several of the pendants above to allow them to be suspended from whatever necklace material I choose; but "Wild" I left alone, as I think I might solder a fine silver tube bail onto that one. I'd like to try it at least once to see how it looks before getting crazy with that idea .. but I've only just recently found and ordered some fine silver tubing, so we'll see how it goes. The inside diameter of the tubing I ordered is relatively small; so I think they might only be appropriate for something easily threaded through them - like leather cord, rattail or ribbon.
The leaf is from a maple tree ... again I used Original PMC, so it'll end up being only about 1.5" long after it's fired. I was really pleased with the way this one turned out. I'd been trying to find a leaf small enough to impress, but who knew trees stopped growing in June!!! Sheeesh! So it's been a trial hunting up an example that was not only small enough, but which also hasn't been destroyed by various leaf-eating creatures. I rolled this one awfully thin (not recommended), so it'll be very delicate once it's fired. But the thing that got me especially excited is that I pressed a little too hard in the center where the largest "vein" in the leaf is located; and when the piece dried, it cracked through to the other side. Normally, this would be cause for disappointment. However, in this particular case, it makes the leaf look so much more real, that I couldn't believe my good fortune! However, it ain't over 'til it's fired ... so I'm crossing my fingers that it holds up in the kiln. Once it's fired, I'll be able to bend some of the leaf segments this way or that way so that it's not completely flat. It was so thin, I hesitated to get creative while it was still wet clay.
For anyone who thinks PMC is a "faster" way to make precious metal pieces, think again!! If you want your PMC pieces to look GOOD when they come outta the kiln, ya gotta spend some time with 'em before you pop 'em in there. Once they're dry (and while I have a hotplate I can use to excelerate the process, I prefer to let them dry on their own ... less rolling up on the edges that way), you have to clean them up - soften any rough edges and sand, sand, sand!! I have really fine micron-graded abrasive finishing paper from 3M that I use, beginning with 400 grit and working up to 8000 .. slowly, one grit at a time. The more time you take with this process, the happier you'll be when they come out of the kiln. If you don't do it at this stage, you'll have to do it when it's finished .. and it's a lot easier to sand leather hard PMC than fine silver metal!
OK .. that's all for now folks! Oh .. one more thing .. I have a show coming up in Clayton on the 25th and 26th (in the heart of the Thousand Islands, for those of you unfamiliar with the area) for the benefit of The Handweaving Museum and Art Center, so I've got to get busy and pound out a few new pieces. It's at the Recreational Arena in Clayton, right off route 12. If I have time, I'll post a couple of the new pieces ... the ribbon necklaces have been getting some attention, so I may pull out the colors I haven't yet used and see what I come up with.
Ciao for now!
Monday, June 25, 2007
Today I hope to finish another necklace .. in dark blue with pale olive briolette dangles (I'm awaiting an order for more of those little bullet ends before I can complete it or any others). I'm also looking for a less complicated sterling slide for a slightly different pendant look. The pendant I used on the solid sterling piece, as well as the one on the left with the graduated peach jade briolettes, has ten little rings to which you attach beads. I'd like to find a nice slide with just a single ring beneath it .. maybe attach just a single stone or do a little multi-stone dangle with different colors and sizes (much like the bead burst pendants .. maybe a bit fewer beads .. two or three). I'm so excited about the possibilities I could just about explode! There are a couple colors I have on hand that haven't yet been made into anything, and a few new shades I ordered after a couple days of playing with the stuff ... matte lavender, purple, dark purple, red (hot cha!), and matte turquoise.
The bracelets below, while they look complete, are awaiting some sort of little charm(s). They look great as is .. I've worn each of them around already .. but a little dangle off the "eye" on the end adds a bit of interest. I ordered a stamp of my logo (the head with all the little elements popping out of it at the top of this page) to be used with precious metal clay; and I hope to make some little logo charms to attach to these funky, chunky style bracelets (the more delicate sterling jewelry tags just don't look right) .. perhaps together with a semi-precious stone. But, while I had expected the stamp to arrive by now, I'm still waitin' ... anxiously.
Anyway - from front to back - are matte olive, forest green, aqua green and dark blue shades. The shade differences are evident when you see them in person - and they're evident on my monitor, though perhaps not on yours. The wire is "permanently colored copper" .. baked on, per the company from whom I purchased it. Though I did discover that the color can be scratched off with a bit of careless plier action, it does hold up surprisingly well through the process of drawing the finished weave through my rosewood drawplate .. multiple times! So I have no qualms about continuing to use it for these purposes. I can't imagine anyone scratching the color off during normal wear; I even wore multiple chunky pieces along side for several days, with no problem. The rest of the piece is sterling.
And speaking of sterling, beginning in early 2008 I expect to start collecting a stock of Argentium sterling to use in these and other pieces. Argentium is a relatively new version of sterling - sterling silver being defined as 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals. Argentium is simply a modern adjustment to the sterling formula. It's still 92.5% pure silver; but it replaces some of the traditional 7.5% copper with a rare metallic element called Germanium. In general this results in a change in sterling's tendency to tarnish under normal use and to form oxides while it is being heated and worked. It's much closer to fine silver in its ability to resist tarnish .. which is nice, for those designs you'd love to remain bright n shiny.
I've put off participating in the whole Argentium craze because (1) it's more expensive than traditional sterling (and even traditional sterling is still relatively pricey these days); (2) the longer it's out there, the more information gets circulated with regard to its properties and peculiarities; and (3) initially only sheet and wire were available in this new medium - while one can now find Argentium earring findings, beads, bezel wire, etc.
In the interim, I've got a whole lotta traditional sterling to get through first! But those of you who are annoyed by the slow tarnish of your favorite silver pieces, keep a look out here for pieces made with Argentium .. next year around this time.
One more bit of news - I finally set the wheels in motion for a real website .. with pricing and a shopping cart and everything. However, I'm not expecting miracles. I'm using the same folks to do the programming who did The Remington Museum when my husband took over and decided the website needed updating ... and it took nine months to get theirs up and running. I try to keep in mind that my site won't be nearly as big or complicated, so perhaps by January the shell will be complete and I can begin loading photos and pricing and be on my merry e-commerce way! Time will tell. The woman who designed my logo, business cards and stationery is doing the design side .. she and the programmer will get together once I've settled on the design I prefer. And while all this is going on, I've got some decisions to make about what to ultimately put up .. and then there are ALL those photographs to take. Yep .. lots to be thinkin' about, lots to be doin'. I'll keep ya posted.
Ciao for now!
Ta dah!! This is what the bangle in my last post looks like with sterling beads in place of the blue India glass. I used a shorter core wire this time, a slightly shorter focal "bead" (that elaborate wire piece in the center) and shortened each of the four twisted wire segments; and, while it fits a bit better than the blue version, it's still a little oversized for me. But my wrists measure a little under 5.5". So, I will, of course, keep tryin'!
Though I'm wondering if this bangle just wasn't meant for me. The larger gauge wire core and clasp provide a sturdy base on which to wrap wire and slide interesting beads .. but I've been toying for awhile with the idea of trying a significantly smaller gauge for a lighter, more delicate bangle design. Not necessarily THIS design .. but something incorporating some interesting little precious metal clay beads, smaller gauge twisted wire, etc. The idea is still stewin' for the moment .. so keep watch.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
As all the massage, stretching and pressure point triggers were slowly working to relieve the Repetitive Strain Injury in my left hand, I got a little crazy this past week and churned out a bangle. If you check a post in May labeled "Silver is a nobel metal" you'll see a pic showing a couple others I made a while back .. quite a while back, like 2004, I think .. before we moved back to the North Country. Before I had the studio set up here I couldn't make twisted wire (the four smaller seqments on this bracelet) .. while in my temporary digs I had no place to attach a vise to hold on to one end of a length of doubled-up wire.
I've been wanting to get back into making these ever since. Got side-tracked with a whole buncha other stuff .. it happens. So many new things pulling in multiple directions .. sometimes it's difficult to focus .. for me anyway. If I was three people, it probably still wouldn't be enough to head off in all those different directions! ; )
Anyway, it's just like me to wait until the most inopportune time to do something inappropriate. There's a whole lotta wrist-wrenching necessary to make one of these - not necessarily during the wire-twisting part, but definitely during the part that requires you to wind the twisted wire (and in the case of the larger wire focal bead, half-round wire) around a wire mandrel. Dead soft wire, which is what I use for these, will get "work hardened" if you hammer, twist or otherwise manipulate it in some way. So dead soft wire, doubled up and then twisted is no longer dead soft .. and it's a bit more difficult to manipulate. And the core wire, the wire on which everything is "strung", is 12 gauge. Takes quite a lot of power to make the "eyes" at the end which contain the clasp. Silly girl .. don't know what I was thinking. But I plodded on and completed the thing. Only to have to ice my wrist when it was done. ; )
It was so worth it as it turned out great! I'm out of practice though and am already thinking of doing another to try getting back into the swing of it. This one's too big for me .. in fact, it slips right over my hand, even with the clasp in the closed position .. so I'm anxious to make another that will fit. And I may do another that includes large round sterling beads instead of the blue India sand glass. I just don't learn, do I! Sometimes enthusiasm can be a dangerous thing!
OK .. off to do Sunday chores so I can get back to SOMEthing productive on Monday ... got several knotted pearl orders awaiting completion (waiting for some materials to arrive for one or two). A much less strenuous task, as I think I've mentioned.
But my wire beckons ....
I don't generally advertise or promote the fact that I make these, but I love makin' 'em! Mostly because the women for whom they're meant wear 'em to death : ) It's difficult not to love a piece of jewelry with your child's (or grandchild's) name on it. Trust me .. I've had to restring more than a few of these due to wear n tear.
Both of these examples went to the same woman .. CALEB was a gift from me and my husband to his Administrative Goddess at the Remington Museum when she had her son in the spring of 2006; BRIELLE was a gift from her to her partner's sister, who just had a baby in March (the pale blue crystals represent aquamarine, the traditional birthstone for March).
As the first one was a gift from us, I was at liberty to get a little crazy - hence the vermeil (pronounced ver MAY) beads, the addition of the little gold-filled jump rings that move around freely (you'll probably have to double click on the pic to see them), and the heart-shaped lobster clasp. (Vermeil, by the way, is 24k gold over sterling .. at least that's the traditional definition).
I've got a ton of those little sterling alphabet beads, so I'm always happy to accept a special order for one. I made a spectacular double-stranded version for my sister-in-law several years ago that made her cry - happy tears, of course ; ) So .... if you're wondering what to get your mom or sister or other important female personage in your family, these things always make a big hit! Good for scoring points, big time! : )
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
That's Cara on the right .. she thought they were in her yard, too, as it was her barking about it that brought me to the window.
For an interesting rendition of the job an eel weir performs, check out this site. And this is OUR particular Eel Weir .. my husband tells me (he's the historian here) eels caught at this sight used to go to upscale restaurants in NYC. In another time, long ago and far away.
OK .. beads beckon! : )
In the interim I've been lightening up quite a bit in the shop .. there are several projects sitting half completed as they involve a lot of wrist wrenching activities. So .. it's back to basics for a while. I figure it took me three to four weeks to get to this uncomfortable point - it may take as long, or longer, to regain my strength and banish whatever is causing the discomfort. I'm thinkin' there are gonna be a lotta pearls and beaded things comin' outta here in the next coupla weeks! : )
The necklace above was completed during my artisan guild's Open House celebration at the Shops at 25 West in Little Falls on Sunday, May 20. Not a lot of pain in knotting. I finished it up here in the shop with a couple 14k jump rings and a 14k gold handcrafted "swan" clasp. The pearls are 5.5mm to 6mm cultured fresh water pearls in a color called Marine Teak - a really rich coppery brown shade - knotted on chocolate silk cord. As usual, if you're reading this on my blog and not in an email, you can click on the pic for a closer look.
Another thing I have to do is keep these posts short (my husband is no doubt laughing at the thought of my trying to do that
Ciao for now!
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Usually I just snag a piece out of inventory if I'm approached for a donation; but occasionally I'll get an idea for something specific. I'd been thinking for over a year about a piece for Waterfowl U.S.A., a local chapter of a larger national organization akin to Ducks Unlimited. An organization like this wouldn't even have been on my radar, but our contractor - a guy who knows pretty much EVERYbody in town - suggested their annual banquet and auction was something I should be involved in. This is the guy who was responsible for my making a spectacular sale to a local jewelry store back during the holidays; so when he tells me I should be involved in a particular annual event, I say OK, who do I call?!?! So, I called the current president of the local chapter last June (their annual banquet is in May) after I was made aware of the organization and their annual dinner, introduced myself, explained that a friend we had in common had suggested I participate in the 2007 event. He was surprised .. actually, neither one of us had been in this position before - an artisan offering a donation without being asked!! Egads! This is what it must be like in a parallel universe!! Anyway, we had a nice conversation. I gave him all my contact information and that was it.
Well, from that point on I started thinking about what I could do that would be duck related. Most of what was on the list of auction items from 2006 was artwork by a well known local artist, and many various duck decoys ... with only a few other items scattered among them (a hand made waterfowl quilt, an oak blanket chest, pottery, a hall entry bench ... nice stuff, to be sure). I was thinking I could include a couple of my nicer pieces ... a hand knotted pearl necklace and maybe a Byzantine bracelet .. but the "big" thing ... the "advertising piece" - the design that might spark some interest - needed to make a little splash, so to speak : )
It all began with some polymer clay beads I spotted on a site I monitor occasionally for new things .. they were pretty much the exact colors you find on a female mallard. So I bought 'em .. twelve little roly poly round beads and ten cylindrical beads, all using the same swirling color combos. I combined them on a sterling charm bracelet chain with smoky quartz, Swarovksi pearls and crystals, mother of pearl and coconut shell .. finishing it with a faceted apatite briolette on one end.
I had mentioned to the creator of the polymer clay beads what I was going to do with them; and when she sent them she included two additional freebies that looked exactly like little wings! So with the two extra round beads left over from the bracelet, and the little wings, I made earrings. (If you're reading this on my blog, and not in a "new post" email, you can double click on either pic and see it close up).
Once I had them all assembled, I made a little placard - mostly so the colors evident in the female mallard would be on hand for comparison. Gotta toot yer own horn occasionally. : ) Here's the set all together ...
I called the Pres again in February (or maybe it was March), just a heads up, and spoke to his wife. She was quite excited about the prospect of jewelry in the auction and thought the wives would all be delighted to finally have something of interest to bid on for once
And here's the kicker: I never got a call. Didn't know when the event was taking place and didn't realize it had passed until I saw a little piece in the paper about it. So .. here's a whimsical n ducky set with no where to go.
I may put it out at a show or two, but I'm not sure if anyone other than a waterfowl enthusiast would care .. maybe I'm wrong. I may send a letter to Pres with the three Publisher pages I created for this set and the other two pieces (which I had intended to include with the pieces when handing them over) and ask if it wouldn't be too much trouble, could he please CALL ME next year. Not too much to ask, do ya think?
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I occasionally get called upon to shmooz with attendees at events throughout the year, provide an extra pair of editing eyes for various publications, set up all the silent auction items for the end of the year funding raising event (in addition to digging up a few auction items as well), and am generally back-up support whenever needed. As our lives rarely coincided in this way while we were in our respective finance and telecom careers in Albany, this has been a new and fun melding of our individual talents.
One of the things we need to begin doing in this relatively new life we've entered up here is entertain more. While not total recluses in our other life (B.O. - Before Ogdensburg), we rarely if ever entertained .. friends and family on rare occasions, and that was about it. And for those of you for whom this skill comes naturally, you'll have no idea what I'm talking about when I say entertaining on a large scale intimidates me just a bit. We, like the good little students we are, have been working up to it. I'm happy to say that it does get easier with each and every opportunity. And I now actually look forward to the chance to try some new set up, idea, or recipe ... much like jewelry designing. What keeps it interesting is maintaining existing skills and incorporating some new ones occasionally to keep it exciting! : ) And, of course, the whole point of the thing is to get to know your guests a little better, if you don't already have a good handle on them and can just enjoy the opportunity of spending a little time with them. Being a gregarious sort, I like this part best, especially when there's someone new to meet or some interesting new tidbits to file away.
This week had a couple of wonderful "hosting" opportunities ... just last night we brought the assistant curator of the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute from Williamstown, MA out to dinner. He's here for the week researching some of Remington's sketches and journals for any information they might hold in helping him to better understand a piece of Remington art the Clark Institute owns (one of only three Remingtons the Clark has in its collection). The piece is one of Remington's nocturnes .. a body of work where Remington explored the many and varied sources of nighttime illumination. This particular one shows an Indian on horseback, snow on the ground, stars in the sky, a settlement of some sort off in the distance .. it's somewhat vague in its overall setting and meaning. And therein lies the need to research. The curator believes it may have been purchased by the Clarks shortly after its completion, as there is very little information about its being exhibited anywhere. He'd specifically like to understand Remington's mind in creating it. What kind of Indian (both the horse and the rider's accoutrements may or may not provide clues) and where is it set. Even the title of the piece has come into question. The curator (aka Cody) is even looking into the constellation represented in the night sky - though he feels he may only discover it depicts a location east of the Hudson, as this is where Remington spent most of his life. Still .. a wonderful little exercise in historic detection, and a lot of fun to talk about!
The other opportunity was here at the house Sunday night .. the museum was hosting a couple of personable guys (an engineer and a sales rep) from a company whose primary product is aftermarket turbine parts. They had approached the museum to discuss the possibility of providing an exciting new way of creating Remington bronzes (for sale). They had sent a mock up ahead (kept under wraps by the curator on punishment of hard stares and a severe chastising if unveiled before the formal presentation) and were driving down from their arrival in Montreal, where they were doing a tradeshow on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Though it's only a couple hours to Ogdensburg from Montreal, we really had no idea what time they'd be arriving; so we decided to keep it simple with a variety of cold cuts, fresh bread and sandwich makings and a bunch of fresh greens and salad fixings. We initially thought dinner out would be the way to go, but being Ogdensburg, little is available or was open .. and the one place that WAS available was shutting down at 7 PM (and on Mother's Day, too!!). As it turned out, they arrived at the house around 8:30. I set everything up on the island between the kitchen and dining area and everyone helped themselves. Informal is sometimes best .. and I used to travel a lot; I know a heavy meal after a long haul tends to weigh ya down - especially so late in the evening. Sandwiches and salad were perfect .. and apparently they thought so too, as they were the reason I now have the incredible floral arrangement you see at the top of this post sittin' on my diningroom table. Totally unexpected, but received with a great big smile! The piece is one of those designer arrangements ... Todd Oldman has tacked his name on it and called it Houndstooth Baking Dish (it arrived unharmed via FedEx in a cardboard container that must've been an award winner in engineering). Yellows, greens, a little white and those splashes of little red berries .. wow. I love flowers, but I especially like things out of the ordinary; and this little number is not your usual stickin'-out-of-a-vase flower arrangment!! Thanks guys! Ya shouldn't have, but I truly appreciate that you did : )
... Though I'm wondering if the "Baking Dish" theme means I should offer a hot meal next time?!? ; )
Monday, May 14, 2007
I had hoped to get these two images posted before last weekend - when I had a couple shows to do and a trip to Albany to get to the second of the two - but things don't always go as planned.
I've got a little breathing room this week - though I have a gallery Open House in Little Falls on Sunday, so will probably spend the balance of the week trying to pound out multiples in copper and silver of several of the chain maille designs you've already seen here.
The image on top is another new one called Harvest Moon. Though I must tell you I found it nearly impossible to photograph the thing in a way that allows the viewer to discern the pattern. I even tried hanging it from a decorative hook inside my light cube. When viewed this way, it was easy to see the pattern - but then, like earrings when I try to snap a clear, unblurred image, it wouldn't stop swaying long enough to get the picture. It's a light weight, delicate design, though a little tricky to put together. The alternate name for the pattern is Tomato Sandwich, because - when held taut on both ends - the pattern reveals a series of rings "sandwiched" between two rings. The Harvest Moon aspect is also visible when the bracelet is held taut .. three inter-connected rings seem to represent a waxing or waning moon.
I took the second image in an attempt to get a quick representation of a variety of different types of wire bracelets I've been working on .. and hope to create as the design ideas flow (as I have a TON of beads, it's my Design Muse I'm waitin' for!!) The top bracelet is a variation of the Byzantine chain with the addition of some gorgeous, handmade Bali beads; the bottom is the Harvest Moon bracelet; and the two on the sides are "brangles" - a term coined by Connie Fox, one of those wonderfully creative jewelry folks out there willing to share their skills with the masses (brangle, of course, being a combination of bracelet and bangle). These are created using a large gauge wire core on which twisted wire, ancient trade beads, handmade lampwork glass beads, sterling, and various handmade and purchased charms and dangles are added or attached. They're best made to order, but I've found that, like regular beaded bracelets, there's an "average" size that fits most people. The good news for those who revel in their individuality is that these bracelets are usually one-of-a-kind. There is a solid sterling design which can be repeated; but when you're working with old trade beads and individually made glass lampwork beads, it's difficult to find two exactly alike. But then, this is what generally makes handcrafted artisan jewelry desirable. I stopped wanting to look like everyone else around age 16 ... when I finally decided that Karen spelled KarAn was pretty cool afterall. I'm like that with my jewelry, too.
OK .. to explain the subject of this post, I must begin with the mundane: making and cleaning rings and finished bracelets. Wire is a pretty cool medium in which to work .. I haven't yet mastered it, but I get a little closer with every new project, tutorial and design. The task of winding rings on a mandrel and then cutting them is an assembly line kinda routine. I try to make as many as possible when I have all the devices set up to do it. Once I have a little pile of ring spirals, I go through the process of cutting them, suspending the cut rings on a piece of teardrop shaped copper that gets twisted at the top to hold them all on, and then dumping them all into my rotary tumbler with some steel shot, some water, ammonia and a drop of Dawn dishwashing liquid. Tumbling for an hour or two will both "work harden" them a little bit (as did the act of winding them onto a mandrel) and clean them up as well. After I've made a bracelet with the resulting rings, I dump the bracelets in and tumble them for another hour or two. Mostly because after handling the rings in the making of a bracelet they get a bit dull and a little marred. They always come out of the tumbler sparkling. I'll often toss one of my own solid sterling bracelets in along with new ones, just to clean them.
Just before the show on the 5th, I had several copper and several sterling bracelets I wanted to tumble for a bit and so dropped them all into the tumbler together with my usual solution, set the thing in motion, and went off to romp with the dog and run some lunch time errands. When I returned to the tumbler a couple hours later, my sterling bracelets would about blind ya, they were so bright n shiny. The copper bracelets, however, were no longer their lovely coppery color, but were totally washed out. Or at least that was my initial impression. What I had discovered I'd inadvertently done by putting both copper and sterling in the tumbler, together with ammonia, was to plate the copper with a thin layer of silver. Apparently the ammonia worked as an electrolyte. If I had tumbled the copper along with iron, it would have been the iron that would have emerged plated with copper. Something about Silver being more "nobel" than copper allowed a layer of silver to come off my sterling and overlay all the copper in the tumbler. So, instead of copper I now have some "silver toned" copper. Next to the sterling bracelets, they don't quite look like sterling ... and I have no idea how long the silver will last or how easy it will be for the silver to wear off. It will tarnish, however. I at first thought I might run them all through the tumbler again ... without the ammonia this time .. and see if I couldn't tumble them long enough to remove the layer of silver; but they're really kinda pretty the way they are. And at the copper price, you get what looks like a silver bracelet!!
Who knew you could silver plate in a tumbler?!?! Kinda cool, kinda humorous .. but definitely a lesson learned!!
OK .. back to the bench. Got a busy week ahead! Talk to you again soon : )
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Pearls aren't always so serious; they've been known to be whimsical on occasion. These are 6mm oceanic blue/green fresh water pearls hand knotted on silk and attached to sterling silver stars with French wire. (French wire, also known as bullion or gimp, is a very fine coil of silver or gold-filled wire used by jewellers to conceal and/or protect beading wire or silk when attaching to a clasp. Proponents maintain that French wire gives jewelry an elegant, professionally finished look while also protecting and strengthening the ends of the beadwork. I tend to agree. Most of the pearls you find in jewelry stores use French wire.) The hook-in-the-front clasp is a handcrafted "pendant dependent" on which hangs a stunning blue faceted apatite briolette. Pearls, like girls, just wanna have fun.
This piece is headin' out to a silent auction for St. Marguerite D'Youville Academy here in Ogdensburg .. though I have two or three more strands of these pretty blue pearls if you'd like one for your very own. : )
THIS was almost going to the silent auction, but I couldn't quite part with it. This is a Sequential Byzantine chain. The origin of the Byzantine chain is a mystery (trust me, I've looked); but I have seen variations of it in several of the books I've collected for my studio library. One variation on my list of new things to try is called Inca Puno .. it's a similar repetitive sequence of knot formations without the connector pairs in between. I've been making the Byzantine for several years .. but generally only when someone has seen the one I wear and asked for one of their own. They're substantial pieces .. lotta silver. Both of the other jewelers in my Guild make them regularly (out of both silver and gold), so I thought the Inca Puno might be a nice variation to work on instead. I cut enough 16 gauge rings for the Byzantine above to make four or five of them .. and I can whip one out in about an hour and 15 minutes now .. so I made a few for a couple upcoming shows. This one, however, is the only one with an ornate clasp. The others have lobster or toggle clasps. It's a little bigger than the others, as well. I can slide it over my hand with the clasp closed .. just about 1/8th of an inch under 8 inches. A show piece, to be sure.
OK .. gotta make three or four more of those funky copper bracelets and a buncha earrings! I'll try not to stay away so long next time!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Well, color me pink and call me embarrassed!! I can't believe it's been just a couple days shy of two weeks since I last posted! Time surely does fly by when you're having fun. You'll be pleased to know I haven't been loitering, though. I have been a busy little jewelry elf. And part of the reason I put off posting this particularly elegant piece was because it was to be a gift .. and as it's now been given, I have no fear of giving the surprise away. There are earrings to match - however, surprising as it may seem, they were a little trickier to figure out!! So they've been put on hold while I get some more inventory holes filled in.
If you click on either of the pictures here, you can get a closer look. First time I've done this one, though it's a variation on a European 4 in 1, much like the bracelet a few posts back (Chain Reaction). Took me a good part of a day to do it though. Per usual, the first time is copper .. I haven't figured out what the cost might be for a comparable piece in sterling, but it's only 20 gauge wire, so it might not be too bad. The only downside is that the little bead dangles have to have a hole large enough to accept 20 gauge wire. I really, really wanted to use smoky quartz beads for this one. I thought that as the copper slowly tarnished to a deeper and richer copper color, a pale brown smoky quartz bead would set it off nicely. Couldn't find any in my infinite collection of smoky quartz that fit the bill. And I didn't have the time to ream them to fit. So, what I used instead were some No. 6 Czech glass beads in a pale peach color. They'll provide a nice contrast when the copper darkens.
The next - and newest - problem I had with this one was taking a good photo of it. As it took up a larger amount of space, I could no longer use the macro setting on my digital camera .. not unless I wished to focus on just one particular spot on the piece. So I had to pull back and do a normal focus. I've since created a slightly different set up with my light cube using light gray paper and coming in from the top of the light cube instead of in from the side. I took a couple shots this morning of a new knotted pearl design and a spectacular Byzantine bracelet with a flower clasp.
Unfortunately, the dog is looking up at me with those big sorrowful eyes, indicating that it's time for her first romp of the day. So ... I'll leave you to examine this piece for the moment and try to get back this afternoon for the other two. Ciao for now!
Thursday, April 12, 2007
So .. I thought I'd try again and keep it simple this time. I'll try the whole show n tell thing another time when I've completed another bracelet. Easier to photograph anyway, as the weave is so much shorter. I actually got a little carried away with the necklace and went just a little bit longer than I should have ... it's a bit big for me; but I know it'll be just right for someone else. Besides, this just means I have to make another one ... or two. Just to have some size variations. I know I should have taken a solo shot of the necklace - the handmade clasp is just a little different - but it's that time of year. Show time. Not so much the schleppin' to shows part, but the jumpin' through hoops part where you have to come up with x number of slides of your work, and one, or more, of your booth, and take out a second mortgage on your house for jury fees, application fees and all the overnight stays in far away places. One show insists that nothing at all will be allowed in a booth that isn't represented on the slides .. and you only get four shots at it! I get a brain cramp reading those kinds of applications. Almost makes me wistful for the wholesale customers who used to ask, "ya got anything else?"
So, I got a little extravagant. Couldn't help myself. Props are us.
Oh .. and I learned something today that I knew, but had forgotten. You know how it is, there's only so much room up there. If ya aren't using it, it gets pushed to the back of the bus. Anyway, found a whole rack of those laminated reference sheets at the UPS Store after mailing a package, and bought the one for PhotoShop. Huge segment on resolution .. the whole pixels or dots per square inch thing .. affects clarity and quality of the image. Important for things like printing ... and blog images. A computer monitor can only represent 72 dpi. This might explain why all my high-resolution images were looking kinda blurry. I have PhotoShop on my laptop; but it's a bit of a resource piggy. You have to shut down virtually all other programs to use it.
But, I'm thinking it might be a good idea to get a grip on tweaking photos with it for that time when I've actually got a real web site and have to put up a professional front .. make visitors think there's a whole crew of folks working in the background making jewelry, posting photos, making coffee for everybody ... when it's just me. Kidding! Well, not about the professional part; but I hope you'll all poke me in the eye if I EVER start speaking about myself in the third person, or refer to The Wild Inside as "us" or "we", or pretend that I actually have a customer service department. I'm the customer service department, I make the coffee, the jewelry and everything. Things could be a whole lot worse though. Did I mention I live on six acres ... on a river, with an adorable dog and a great life companion? It's our anniversary today .. been hanging out together for 30 years. Life is good.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Well, here's a little bit of magic .. the Viking Weave in sterling silver. I can scarcely believe I've done this, I'm just so amazed at how well it turned out. The actual weave is done on a wooden dowel then, as I mentioned in my earlier post, drawn through a rosewood drawplate several times to compress the weave. It's not necessary, but I put a wire core through it - which ends as those loops that hold and catch the clasp. It's a dreary rainy day here today, so I think I'll take the time and try a necklace next! A tip of the hat to Andrea for the tips n tricks (and shortening the learning curve dramatically). I probably never would have tried it had I not seen hers. I feel a creative growth spurt! : )
Monday, April 2, 2007
This is another project I've been aching to get at .. if I had three or four pair of hands, it mighta happened a bit sooner. I like this one so much, I might make a few more, just to have on hand. I know if I wear this one, I'll get inquiries - it's really quite impressive when it's sittin' in front of you. The leaf is from the Karen Hill Tribe .. it's fine silver, not sterling. It's about four inches long and about an inch wide at its widest point. I worked on the business end of the pin with a file and 0000 steel wool long enough to keep it from snagging on even a fine knit sweater; though it's actually meant for a bulky knit or as a shawl pin. I've got some incredible conch shells I intend to try with a slightly different design. Oh, and my sterling bullet ends arrived .. so there will definitely be a sterling Viking weave piece this week! Stay tuned!! : )
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Well, it's been an interesting coupla days! Lots going on! I whipped off the pearl bracelets for three individual donation baskets my artisan guild is putting together (and which I need to deliver at one of our all-day meetings on Saturday). The idea was for each of us to have a consistent value for the items we include in our group's charitable donation baskets so we can always use the same value statement about the basket as a whole. Keeps things simple. I didn't mean to get so carried away; but I love working with pearls and I love to knot. So I just dove in and did it without really thinking about what the end value might be. As it happens, these three work out to $58 each .. they're Grade A fresh water pearls (a pale peach color, in case your monitor turns 'em pink) hand knotted on pale peach silk cord (incredibly sensuous stuff!!) with a delicate hand crafted (as opposed to cast) Bali heart toggle and a little spiral charm I made (if you click on the pic, you can get a closer look). And, of course, I had to make up little individual paper tags with the name of the piece (it's Blossom), a brief description of the materials - and a condensed version of my blurb on the "care and feeding" of pearls .. not to mention my logo and all my contact information. I had initially planned on something in the $28 to $35 range, but I'm pleased with my choice. Since the donations are all for a good cause, the little heart toggle seemed perfect. But I'm not married to the design .. I can always create something else for the next round of baskets!
And THEN, I get online this morning to discover I've been awarded The Wizard's Hat Award!! How cool is that?!?! Wizard is an exceptional local photographer with the heart n soul of a true Earth Mother. Besides having an incredible eye (a Wizened Eye!) for things you and I would pass unnoticed, she's connected to the earth. I think it's probably this connection that allows her to see those things the rest of us don't. Anyway, we've been corresponding a bit and getting to know one another. So I've made revelations .. you know, the kind of revelations you make when you open up to a new heart. And in an independent twist of the ubiquitous blog award, Wizard has created one of her own .. for, in her own words, "artists recognizing artistry" .. and awarded it to five of us. I feel like I've just received an Academy Award or something! It's a trifle, yes .. but it's so much more satisfying to receive praise and recognition from a fellow artist .. someone who understands the grasping, frustrating, exhilarating, tryin' something new, fun of the creative process. However, the pressure is now on - to keep the flow of "ideas and creative energy" ... flowing!
And with great timing, and in keeping with that theme, I tried a whole new process yesterday!! I was so excited when I completed the thing, I tried to call my friend, Andrea, in Albany - who was both wonderfully open and forthcoming with tips and tricks for making it work and instrumental in helping me believe I could do it. Now that I've done it .. and another in a copper craft wire .. I'm ready for sterling, I think. I may make one more in the copper craft wire, as adding a new wire while weaving has posed a couple bumpy problems. I got such a rhythm going though, that the work moved along at a nice little clip .. it's kinda meditative in a way.
The process is called Viking Weave .. and it requires a LOT of wire. The first one I made (above) uses coated copper craft wire. I didn't read through the directions completely and carried on after an initial "starter weave" using just a single weave process, so it didn't use as much wire and was a bit more loose and open than the uncoated copper craft wire version I did next using a double weave. Tried to keep track, but I think it was something like 15' of wire on the second one. It just seemed amazing to me that I was weaving wire like this; but a truly incredible transformation takes place when you draw the completed weave through a wooden drawplate: it condenses down and becomes a tight little design. A drawplate includes a series of holes in progressive sizes. With this design you squish the leading starter weave so you can polk it through the largest hole, grab it on the other side with drawplate tongs, and pull it through. It's like magic, what comes out on the other side!! I pulled it through two additional smaller holes to end up with the tight weave you see here. This one has a core wire of copper running through for support (you can just barely see the copper through the black wire); and because I have no copper findings, I had to create my own copper end caps and clasp. When I knew I was going to be trying this design, I placed an order for some sterling end caps. They haven't yet arrived, but they'll provide great motivation to complete a sterling version once they get here! I can barely contain myself, I'm so excited to complete a sterling weave .. though I'm now thinkin' five sets of end caps aren't going to be nearly enough!!
But, in the interim, got a few other things I'm working on. I think I'm going to try a fibula today .. another new technique for me, but one I've been meaning to try. And I have a very cool collection of conch shell discs with which to work .. you'll be amazed! : )
See ya again soon!
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
This bracelet (called Roma) is comprised of Bali "barrel" beads, granulated "daisy" spacers and faceted garnet rondelles (aka roundelles, rondels or donut shaped beads). A good friend of mine purchased this at a show in November 2005. It fit, but it was a trifle snug. I offered to lengthen it; but she wanted it NOW. You know how it is .. you see something, you buy it, you want it - right then and there. Understandable. I was sorry I didn't persist at the point of purchase though - and was delighted to hear that I was going to have an opportunity to get it back for a little while. I could have predicted what would happen. The strain of the snug fit was finally too much, and the bar end of the toggle clasp came off. The good news is that I always use bead tips on my strung pieces .. these are little cups with a hook. The knot from the bead cord/wire sets snuggly in the cup, and the hook is what attaches to the clasp. When there's a strain on a piece with a bead tip, it's almost always the case that the little hook opens and the clasp falls off. Not a biggie .. easy to remedy.
However, what you often find on the ends of beaded/strung jewelry are crimp beads. I really, really don't like using crimp beads, and don't use them if it can be avoided (and it usually can). A crimp bead is a tiny little cylindrical tube .. you thread through a crimp bead once, then through your clasp, then back through your crimp bead a second time before you begin adding beads to your strand. You hold the crimp bead in place near the clasp by squishing it against the beading wire with a crimp tool. Three things are wrong with this: (1) Your beading wire is exposed to wear, as there is nothing between it and the metal of the clasp, (2) I don't think it presents a professional-looking finish, and (3) the only thing holding that crimp bead and wire together is the pressure you exert when you squish the two against each other. And what happens when there's a sturdy tug on a piece finished with crimp beads is that the wire inevitably breaks free and you have beads everywhere. And women (your's truly included) are extremely hard on bracelets. Bracelets get caught on all kinds of weird things. Bound to happen .. your hands are all over the place.
The only other alternative to bead tips I would use is French wire (also called bullion or gimp), an itsy bitsy little wire spiral you string through, capture your clasp, then string through the last bead, and then knot. It's used primarily with pearls - besides being a very professional way to finish pearls, it also protects the bead cord from wear. I wouldn't suggest it for bracelets though .. I've only ever used it on necklaces. Since you secure it with a knot at least one bead in from the clasp, it doesn't have quite the same breakage issues that crimp beads have; but it's not so strong that it wouldn't break with a really good tug.
So, the bracelet .. remember the bracelet? .. got a little make-over while visiting. I took the whole thing apart and tumbled the barrel and granulated beads for a couple hours; replaced one of the garnets (which had a chip out of it), added a couple of links to the bar side of the clasp and a sterling 5mm flattened "saucer" bead at either end. (At her request I also added one of my The Wild Inside tags). She didn't need much additional length - just enough so it's not so snug. She's gonna love it.