Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gold and Sapphires

While I feel I've definitely improved on the photography front, there are still occasions when I find myself stumped. Recording an image of this stunning piece seems to be one of those occasions. I thought of using the elegant black plastic hand once again, but the piece is so delicate, it just barely shows up as being part of the picture .. at least not without an extreme close-up. The other issue - once again - is sparkle .. or rather lack thereof. It's been a humbling adventure, this photography thing .. I have a lot of respect for those who do it well.

I'll try this one with the hand and see how it goes .. I probably should have just tried it while the tripod and camera were all set up, but I tend to get ... impatient. It's the Type A thing ... or maybe it's just ADD.

Anyway, I tried a couple different things here .. mostly so the piece could be seen in its entirety .. one shot on the clear support above and another on the milky white one below (I really need to get a black background before I can use the black surface successfully, otherwise everything reflects back onto the black surface. If you go back to early shots last year, I did take a few photos with it using natural light from a shop window).

I can't even begin to express my frustration at my inability to show this for the delicate but exquisite piece it is .. especially since it was so long in the making. I had purchased these lovely little 2.5mm faceted sapphire rondelles back in 2003 or 2004, just because I couldn't resist their sparkle - and because I had been slowly adding a strand or two of precious gemstones to my inventory at every wholesale show or two I was attending back then, and these were a great find. However, after purchasing them, I couldn't for the life of me think of a way to use them that would set them off. It would have been unthinkable to just string 'em up on wire and add a clasp .. just too darn boring for such beautiful little stones. So, I broke up these little segments with 14k gold chain .. and if you click on the photo, you can see tiny little 14k gold granulated spacers at either end of the stone segments. The clasp is unusual, too .. it's called a pelican clasp. This one is 18k, but I only just found a place where I can get them in 14k in three sizes (they're hard to find). If you clicked on the photo to enlarge it, you'd also see two tiny little 22k gold stardust beads on the ends of the chain where the clasp is attached.

There's a thread going on my favorite jewelry forum on photography, and one woman eschewed all the expensive lighting, light cubes, light clouds, etc. for natural light out on her deck. She just places the piece on rice or coffee beans to set it off, and actually comes up with some pretty nice photos. I'm afraid this piece would get lost between the grains or beans .. but it has set me to thinking ... stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Viking Knit meets Glass Blower

I've finally found a way to distinquish my fine silver Viking Knit necklaces from the sterling versions .. hand blown glass cones!

I had seen some glass cones in one of the many jewelry magazines that arrive in my mailbox occasionally and got very excited .. until I visited the web site and saw how much they wanted for them. Egads!!! A pair of them were significantly more than a pair of intricate Bali silver cones (more than three times the cost) .. the site offered a 20% wholesale discount, but the cost remained exorbitant.

Still .. even though they were a little roughly hewn, the thought stuck with me.

So I got the bright idea of contacting a local glass blower .. we finally connected in February and clicked immediately. I ended up spending much more time there that afternoon than I had planned - not only picking out some bright spring glass colors once he decided he could and would make them for me, but finding a wealth of little artistic commonalities which ended in his inviting me to come and make use of his studio any time in my enduring quest to learn how to make glass beads and pendants.

I picked up eleven pretty and colorful pairs of them in April and have only just gotten around to attaching them to a fine silver weave I initially brought along with me back in February to show him what the larger end diameter needed to be. I'm really pleased with the end results (so to speak) .. not only are they superior to the versions I'd seen in the magazine, but (while still more than a pair of sterling silver cones) they were also a lot closer to wholesale in price.

Here are the rest of them .. patiently awaiting their own fine silver weave to embellish. I have some ideas for necklaces that use only a partial segment of Viking knit .. the rest being chain or beads. In that way, the cone colors may be used to complement another segment of the necklace .. like rose quartz, lapis, amethest, opal, or any number of other shades. And I'm already thinking about the possibilities of warm, Autumn glass colors and 14k gold-filled wire for
the fall!!


This is a repeat of a piece I made about seven or eight years ago .. except this time I made the clasp, too. The piece from which it is derived is just a tad darker with shades of garnet and jet included -but basically they both shimmer in shades of blue and lavender crystals. And, per usual, the picture doesn't do it justice. Even my little "sparkler" light couldn't make the thing pop the way it does live and in person. Trust me .. it sparkles!

What prompted me to make it were the inquiries whenever I wore mine. I had made multiple versions five or six years ago in different shade families (once when I found some 5mm vermeil granulated spacer beads, I even made a stunning version in Autumn shades with a gold-filled clasp), and they all sold very well. But .. well, we move on, don't we. Being the curious Type A, over achieving, anal-retentive, perfectionist that I am, it's difficult not to be lured into learning new skills and processes .. and then working hard at making them my own. And with so many wonderful artisans out there willing to teach them to you, how can you resist?!?!

Though, having said that, returning to a comfy design or skill set is kinda like finding a favorite pair of old jeans at the bottom of your drawer or closet .. you'd forgotten they were even there and how good they feel when worn.

And sometimes when revisiting an old, comfortable skill set, you may find yourself so relaxed in the steps and motions you find your mind is able to let go of the task at hand and feel around at the outer edges .. and it often happens that this is when the lightbulb comes on over your head.

Due to the whole thyroid thing this winter, I was feeling a big "squished" creatively, and so reverted to some old skill sets and designs to allow some relaxed creativity to emerge. As it happens, it seems to have worked! Yay!! This little creative rush I've been experiencing, combined with a recent increase in Synthyroid, has helped tremendously. Having fun again .. ideas are beginning to flow .. now I just gotta keep up with 'em!

This bracelet, called Pizzazz, is another old friend. A gallery owner in Lowville (one of my Adirondack Artisans Guild homies) had requested a couple of these when she saw one I had left in inventory. I made a couple for my display there, then dug through my Bali bead collection and made a couple more. The intricacy of these beads never fails to astound me .. and they make for a really unusual piece.

If you're reading this on my blog rather than in an email "post update", click on the pic and check 'em out up close .. all those little dots and wires are added one at a time. The process of adding all those little dots is called granulation, and I've tried it .. it ain't easy. One .. dot .. at .. a .. time!! I'd have to shoot myself after a few hours of doing that .. and the silver artisans in Bali, Turkey and Thailand who do this kind of work do it all day, every day. Well .. practice really does make perfect! With silver at inflated levels, these aren't the cheap thrill they once were, so I haven't yet tried a necklace .. though it's been in the back of my mind, so watch out.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Redux Deja Vu

I first fell in love with glass beads when I saw pounds of colorful David Christiansen cane glass at a wholesale bead show years ago. From there it progressed to ancient glass trade beads to more recent handcrafted lampwork glass beads and pendants made by artisans with skills I cannot even begin to comprehend. The cane glass craze came and went .. though I still have several pounds left over from major wholesale purchases. Occasionally I'll use them to make a piece for a friend, or a friend's daughter, or to donate to some local cause; but I'd all but forgotten about them until I came across them by accident while looking for something or other in the shop (sometimes a frustrating hunt turns into a delight of lost treasures). Almost all of the past designs I created with them included sterling beads and clasps; but when I found the black cylindrical cane glass beads above laced with dichroic gold, they screamed for a black and gold version. I could only find six of them, so I used two for matching earrings. The round, faceted beads are onyx (though the smaller black beads on either side of the cane beads nearest the clasp are tourmaline); the two donut-shaped items are simple dichroic lampwork glass with a clear casing; the crystals are Dorado (a pretty taupe with a gold coating); gold-filled and vermeil beads make up the balance. I call it Caravan ... as in Middle Ages, Crusades, gold, incense, Damascus swords, assassins, camels, tents and precious jewels. Evocative.

I originally made this as a three-piece set in sterling .. the necklace included a lot more soft and subtle colors (gray pearl, rose quartz, blue quartz and more creamy pearls), there were two or three different matching bracelets and about four or five different earrings. I sold the last several pieces to a jewelry store up here last November and just decided to try it in gold. The granulated star spacers are vermeil (which is 24K gold over sterling .. at least these are), the wire and jump rings are 14K gold-filled as is the clasp. These are fun to make and .. as I'd made a few wrist-wrenching wire wrapped designs lately .. they also give my wrists a break

I seem to have a gold theme going on here .. so let's continue. The bracelet below was also originally a sterling design called Sparkle. I made them in Tahitian, light green, bronze, chocolate and peach (with matching tones of Swarovski pearls and crystals).

THIS version came about because my husband and I were both going to be gone on May 10 - he was actually away from the 8th through the 11th on a Museum-related trip, and I was doing an Artisan Home Studio Tour (as a guest) with my Adirondack Artisans Guild about 90 minutes south of here. As a result, the dog was going to be alone for about 15 hours - the longest she'd ever been without us before. Fortunately, we have some friends who adore her, and she them .. so they picked her up that morning at 5 AM and I left at 6 AM .. not to see her again until they dropped her very happy self off again at 8 PM that evening. It was a long day .. for both of us. She'd already been missing my husband for two days; and our friends said she just shook and shivered for the first several hours they had her .. poor girl. But she had her favorite fleece bed, some toys, a few treats and a large marrow bone (i.e. all day sucker) .. which helped. The next day (May 11) I made this bracelet as a thank you for the Mrs. and some Chocolate Raspberry Nut bars for the Mr. and delivered them both on Monday. She loved the bracelet, and I was so taken by how good it had turned out, I made a second one that afternoon, and then a third with bronze pearls in place of the cream rose pearls used in the first and second versions. The first name that came to mind was Opulence.

By the way, I was at a little artisan gathering just outside of Canton on the 17th along with seven other women, two of whom had brought along their own glass bead making paraphernalia so that the rest of us could learn how to make them. We all brought food and spent the day firing up some little MAPP gas tanks and suspending colorful glass rods in front of the flames, rolling, tamping, adding color, and basically having a helluva time.

But the reason I bring up the day is because I met a young woman there who teaches ... elementary math practices (or something like that) at SUNY Potsdam .. but who also makes and sells jewelry on the side. She's totally lost in the magic that is Swarovski and her mention of it triggered a Swarovski conversation in which one of the two women who brought some of her glass making goodies along for the day mentioned to us how she first learned the proper pronunciation of Swarovski. I have to say, I've never had a problem with it, but I've encountered plenty of people who just stumble over their tongues trying to get it out; so I was delighted with this little anecdote I could pass on .. which came from a Swarovski dealer/shop this woman came upon in her travels .. when pronounced correctly, it sounds like "Swore off Ski". Sparklin' crystal snow, ski .. Swarovski! Great little mnemonic device, don't cha think? I can't wait for the first opportunity to pass it on!! Can't help it, sometimes it's the silly little things that tickle me.