Friday, August 13, 2010

With all my heart

I honestly believe that necessity is the mother of invention. There are books (and websites) full of this kind of "positive attitude overcomes adversity" type quotes and phrases .. heady things like Nietzsche's "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger" as well as lighter fare, "When given lemons, make lemonade" .. and the more poetic "Sweet are the uses of adversity, Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head .." by Shakespeare. I love that. It really gets to the heart of the matter. Sometimes there is a silver lining. And sometimes things happen for a reason .. whether or not one can work with that is up to the individual. Easy enough to feel sorry for yourself. I tried not to do that, but when you can't work (and I really couldn't at first), it's a bit depressing. Spent a lot of time and money looking for a "quick fix" .. chiropractic, physical therapy .. acupuncture.

All of which helped a little; but my all-encompassing issue has always been chronic yeast and I think I knew down deep that it was feeding the inflammation and I'd have to do something drastic dietwise before my wrist would begin to heal. So, I finally got down to it about six weeks ago. While strictly monitoring my diet in an effort to beat out the yeasty beasties and ever so slowly repair my painful wrist, I've had to rethink my jewelry designs. Things improved dramatically after I went on a modified allergy elimination diet .. and I continue to be able to do things around the house and in the studio that I couldn't back in May and June .. but it's still not quite 100% yet. There are more than a few designs in my inventory (or long gone) that were real wrist-wrenchers in their creation. I'm aching - so to speak - to get back to the elaborate and time-intensive chain maille and wire wrapped bangle designs that leave me feeling so incredible satisfied when a piece is completed! However, while I attempt to keep from doing any more harm to my wrist while I continue to pump up my inventory, I've necessarily had to change course a bit. Stringing was the least painful thing I could do, but, you know .. been there, done that. And there are more beaders out there than ants in an anthill. If the right design comes to mind, I will still occasionally toss in a beaded design (and there are some old beaded design favorites that continue to do well) .. but I'm all about new and different. I like learning and trying new things.

So .. went in a just a slightly different direction with a new line of Talisman necklaces (bracelets may be forthcoming, we'll see). I'm not one to believe in things you can't see, but I do believe - as I've already explained - in attitude adjustment. And sometimes we need to be reminded that "every little ting will be ahright" .. that we hold the key to our happiness. It was this "key to happiness" thing that had the lightbulb shining over my head this time. I bought a bag full of old skeleton keys from an antique dealer when the whole Steampunk fad emerged as the "new thing". I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do with them, but I'd also purchased a bunch of old watch parts (and got a bag full of old watches, too) in a casual search for Steampunky components. I'd had visions of resin-encased bits-n-pieces pendants, but am still experimenting with clear resin .. and wanted to stay away from chemical fumes while I continue to heal. One day I was just messing around with some fine silver fun phrase tags I'd made .. affirmations, declarations, cliche things .. and came up with this lavish piece I call "With all my heart" (inscibed in french on the little fine silver tag). It just kind of took off from there.

I haven't yet photographed them but I've also created "Sea Change" and "Live Juicy" (a recommendation made popular by the colorful and ever-positive Sark). And I have additional tags awaiting their own necklaces for "Je ne sais quoi", Jois de vivre", "one day at a time", "this too shall pass", "In vino veritas", and one about an acorn that I'm still working on. I had toyed with calling them Affirmation necklaces .. but "Talisman" had a better feel. One of the definitons I found was, "anything whose presence exercises a remarkable or powerful influence on human feelings or actions." That was closer to what I was trying to do when I thought about the idea behind the pieces.

These jingly and sometimes musical little pieces make me happy .. I've tried to make each of the three I've created so far different in design from each other, but this, the first, is really glorious! It's got almost three feet of patinated sterling chain; bright, bold coral; and a little puffy Thai silver heart. It's long and substantial, yet when I wore it around last weekend for a test-drive, I forgot I was wearing it .. well, until someone mentioned it. Which happened a lot. This is one of those pieces I may have to keep.

I'll try to get the others up soon, but things are a little crazy at the moment .. I have a two-day show this weekend here in Ogdensburg. A 2nd "annual" Wine, Beer & Food Festival .. for some unfathomable reason split between two locations: the Lockwood Arena over on the corner of Main and New York Avenue and The Dobisky Visitor's Center down by the water. I'll be in the Dobisky Center with a bunch of other artisans .. the better of the two locations, I'm thinking. Especially since that's where all the beer, Bar-B-Que and entertainment will be. Saturday 11:00 to 6:00, Sunday Noon to 5:00 .. stop over if you're in the area! It's supposed to be an absolutely gorgeous weekend!

(Thanks to Heather Wynn for the design idea!)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Still Spinnin'

I've been doing a whole lot less stringing over the last year or so, mostly because I've been having fun with wire and metal clay, among other things. But I've had to put my beading cap back on and come up with some designs that put less strain on my wrist as it seems, after almost five months, that I'm still dealing with some pain and discomfort. For a while I couldn't even make a simple wrapped loop on an earring. That isn't the case any longer, but working with anything thicker than 18 gauge (dead soft) wire has me reaching for the Ibuprofen before bedtime. I feel a little improvement now and again, when I realize I can do something I couldn't do even a couple weeks ago without pain, but it's been very slow. I have every confidence that I'll get to the other side of this, but while I'm waiting I have to think about the few shows I have coming up. So .. I rummaged through my collection of materials this week and found a whole box of Czech glass seed beads!

There are any number of secreted, forgotten surprises down in my studio .. boxes, bags and baskets full of stuff stashed away for later use. You know how it is .. if it isn't out where you can see it, you tend to forget it's there. Most of the seed beads I have are 6/0 size .. a bit larger than what I wanted for a multi-strand necklace that began materializing in my head. I needed something that would allow three or four strands to fit nicely into the sterling Bali cones I also found while rummaging. These matte black beads were perfect for the job! (There are some other colors I found to play around with as well .. this one just worked with the color scheme I needed at the moment).

The little pale green beads are chrysophrase, a real pretty stone that often looks like it's illuminated from within. They're interspersed with 4mm sterling silver round beads.

The cones that capture the strands at the clasp are absolutely gorgeous examples of granulation. These were hand made (not cast) by artisans in Indonesia .. each one of those little dots is applied one at a time. You should be able to click on any of this photos and see the piece close up.

The toggle clasp is also an Indonesian hand made component. You can usually tell the difference between truly hand made Bali components and those that are more cheaply cast by the way they look upon closer examination. "Bali Style" components which are cast look sort of like they were partially melted in the sun. Because the silver is poured into a mold instead of created from scratch, the individual design features lack the sharp detail of individually placed design segments - they run into each other instead.

The pendant is turquoise and is hinged in the center .. it's also removable, so you can wear the strands without the pendant, if you choose. The first thing I thought of when I put all the colors together was a panther .. you know, black as night .. with green eyes? But I couldn't name it "Black Panther" without thinking about the 60's and the negative connotations .. so I called it "Jungle Cat" instead.

It's currently in a beautiful Arts & Crafts oak display case at Mare's Wares Pottery on Route 37 in Morristown .. the site of an upcoming show on July 1st. Look for more information about the show at either or on Facebook at "Mare's Wares Arts Fest". If you're in the area, stop over .. it's going to be an incredible day!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Positive Spin

I've been out of commission for several weeks due to a repetitive strain injury in my right hand/wrist. It just amazes me whenever I do something like this to discover just how much we use a particular muscle or body part! The problem was caused by a little too much laptop data entry .. it seems I overworked the joint in my right thumb, which created a little swelling in my wrist, just below the thumb pad. I feel like I've gotten a rather painful anatomy lesson. It's difficult enough turning the ignition key in my car, or shifting, or washing dishes, or opening a jar, or dressing, or putting on a jacket, or brushing or drying my hair .. making jewelry was out of the question.

However, after cleaning up portions of my studio - which could be done without hurting myself and was sorely needed - it was tough not to develop a whole bunch of ideas while putting away wire and pearls and stones and findings and stuff. It was an idea from an artisan friend though that finally had me thinking about what I might pull together, despite my (hopefully) temporary incapacity.

The idea was a donation .. she and I and several other friends are part of an artisan group covering three local counties (check out the link to the Adirondack Artisans Guild over on the right). My friend's daughter is coordinating a fund raiser at the school where she works in California and suggested that our group might open ourselves up to a whole new market if we were to donate as a group. I'd totally forgotten about it until the last minute, so didn't have a whole lot of time .. plus I couldn't pull together the sort of wrist wrenching wire work I would have liked to have created for what I saw as an opportunity to advertise along with my tax deductible contribution. I always think of California as ahead of the curve in style and accessories .. I wanted something a bit different and eye-catching.

So .. I pulled out one of my funky fine silver toggle clasps .. this one is about 8 grams of pure silver and is textured on both sides, as you can see from the photos here (one side is a sort of checkerboard, the other is a wavy pattern). I might have normally fused some smaller fine silver rings to both ends and attached something with stones and silver beads and more fine silver connectors. But I thought that stringing a bracelet would be less stress on my wrist, which turned out to be the case. The clasp is about an inch across though .. a single strand, unless relatively large beads were used, would be overwhelmed by the large clasp.

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I spent an entire day working out the design, color scheme and additional beads to be used before I finally began to assemble it. It was seasonably warm and sunny last week when I put it all together .. mid 40's, which is seasonable for this time of year in northern New York! I had initially chosen some peacock blue pearls .. they looked fabulous with the silver accents, but it was so dark. So I went rummaging through my pearl drawers and found these pretty, bright, and very Spring-like Celadon-colored fresh water pearls. And as it happened, I had some similarly colored 6/0 Czech glass beads to fill in the strands. I originally tried to use them to make the bead loops attaching the ring portion of the clasp to the strand, but they turned out to be just a tad too big. It was difficult to get the bar part of the toggle to fit through the hole when the 6/0 beads were taking up so much space inside. Fortunately, I found some smaller seed beads that fit the bill .. both in size and color. The rest of the strand is comprised of little three-sided Thai silver beads, some tiny little fine silver nuggets I made, and some very cool "gear" shaped beads made of silver-coated ceramic.

I have to tell you, it's been a LONG time since I've used crimp beads in a piece. I spent a good half hour looking for both crimp beads and the special tool one needs to attach them to a strand. All of my strung pieces use either beads tips or French wire to attach a beaded strand to a clasp .. but I couldn't figure out a way to attractively do it. The problem with crimp beads is that if you crimp a little too enthusiastically, you'll destroy and weaken the integrity of the wire inside the crimp bead; if you don't crimp firmly enough, the wire will ultimately work its way out of the crimp bead and all your beads will slide off and disappear.

I was delighted both by my ability to still be able to crimp properly AND with the design and look of the bracelet when it was done! It's very bright and Springy .. I called it Spring Fling. Hey, I was on the clock .. it was the first thing that popped into my head. It'll do : )

The event is scheduled for May 1 and is called Moroccan Nights: An Evening in Casablanca .. and doesn't THAT just conjure up a whole bunch of wonderful images in your mind .. dark, smoky jazz clubs, slinky gowns and swept up do's, mysterious strangers ... Bogey?!?! The paperwork suggested that ALL items will be put online for bidding unless the donor requests otherwise .. and why would anyone request otherwise?? The school is .. and I'm assuming there'll be a link somewhere on their site to the silent auction items once they have them all in their possession. I'll certainly keep you posted! : )

UPDATE: The link for the online auction portion of this event is up for viewing. Though bidding isn't possible until April 13, you can still scroll through what they've put up so far. I'm told there's a whole lot more to come. The site may be found here. If the link doesn't work, just copy and paste this:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sweetheart Pin with pearls

This large and fabulous pin design has taken on a life of its own. It began with a project by Sherilyn Miller from one of the many jewelry magazines to which I subscribe. I made the pin exactly as the project described, and even sold a few - which hadn't been my intention. I usually view projects like this as a chance to stretch my skills .. you make the project and hope that what you've learned spurs you on to other things. Even better, this one project has been the springboard for more variations than any other design project I've ever tried. From this simple pin design I came up with a beautiful bracelet idea .. called Tranquility (though I called the one I gave my friend for her April birthday April Showers). I did so incredibly well with those bracelets - which varied slightly in size and stones, though remained always a soft shade of blue - that I'm working on trying another color scheme for it this year. It was the pin's most recent transformation that made me think that pearls and crystals might be the way to go.

I might have ultimately come up with the pearl idea on my own, but it was a potential customer who saw at a small show in Watertown a similar pin I made for a friend of mine (who was wearing it at the time). It was the same size as this pin (I have made a smaller, more delicate version, but neglected to photograph it before someone purchased it) but was covered in three different stones representing the birthstones for my friend, her husband and their son. I explained to her what the stones on my friend's pin represented and she asked if I could do one in jewel tones. Not a problem, I told her. But after subsequent back and forth emails with multiple scans of various stones and crystals, she asked if pearls and crystals would work. Even better, I thought. Clean, simple, romantic .. with just a little sparkle.

I was pleased with the finished pin .. about five or six of the crystals are small, 4mm round, clear crystals with an AB (aurora borealis) coating on them. It adds just a little flash of color without going over board (though no matter how many shots I took, I couldn't get that little flash of color to show in a photo). I've got several drawers full of white and cream pearls, so I was able to create a pleasing mix of different sizes and shapes.

For the moment though .. it's 2009 year-end and taxes that are scrambling the synapses in my cranium .. so the creative side of my brain is taking a break while the analytical side takes over. And that, my friends, is where the trouble usually begins ...

Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It began with a bead ..

.. in the spring of 2009. The bead belonged to my potter friend, Mary Ann Evans. I had been showing off a bracelet I'd made which contained an old African trade bead, and she pulled out this large, colorful bead to show to me. It's about an inch and a half long and a half inch wide and appears to be a glass millefiori trade bead.

Beads similar to this can be traced to ancient Rome, Phoenicia and Alexandria. Archaeological sites in Ireland uncovered canes dating to the 8th century that were probably made in Venice. Prior to the 15th century, glass makers were only producing beads from Rosetta canes. Like Chevrons, Rosetta beads were made by adding a number of layers of colored glass in a mold and then pulling it from either end into a long cane. The cane was then cut into short segments.

Large scale Millefiori bead production began in the late 1800's. Beads were made by hand, one by one, built on a center glass core with solid color. Thin slices of colorful Rosetta cane were then pressed into the surface of the wound glass while still hot. Millefiori became one of the most commonly traded and popular beads. My friend's bead looked to be of a similar type .. singularly handmade. The glass core is black; and you can see two entirely different Millefiori slices were pressed onto the core. Here's a link to some similar examples: Millefiori trade beads

She handed the bead to me and said "See what you can do with it." So .. I took it. And it sat inside a little zip lock bag on an area of my work bench where I could see it pretty much any time I was working. She had suggested "a pendant or something" .. but it kept whispering bracelet to me.

Things were pretty crazy between June and November last year; but I think an idea began percolating almost immediately. Since the bead was so large, the piece had to be on an equal scale. But I didn't want it to be big and bulky, since the few things of mine Mary Ann owns are rather delicate. However, after discovering her wrist size was a nice average 6.5", I felt she could carry off what I had in mind.

What I ended up doing was making it entirely out of fine silver links .. in a gauge heavy enough to allow for some attractive hammering and forging without the weight. The five links attached to the hook mimic the design splotches on the bead, and the mother of pearl and blue sponge coral beads pick up a couple of the dominant colors. Despite the heft of the trade bead, the bracelet is very light weight.

The larger of the links contains wrapped 2.5mm mother of pearl beads on fine silver wire.

I've already given Mary Ann the bracelet or I would have taken another shot of this link .. there's actually a front and a back to the bead, and this, much to my dismay, is the back. The wire extending up to the bead isn't as prominent in the front. It still looks good, but I'm sorry I didn't notice that when I was taking the photos.

As I've mentioned in previous posts about pieces containing fine silver, one can "harden" fine silver by giving it a good going over with a hammer. This changes the composition of the metal's crystals in such a way that a very malleable piece of wire becomes very rigid. It would be difficult to bend several of these links without a bit of effort. Because fine silver IS so soft, however, it's easy after flattening and hardening a link to add a little surface design interest with whatever might be at hand .. in this case, the smaller ends of several different types of hammers in my arsenal. It's a funky piece, to be sure; and I like it enough to maybe try a similar design with a slightly different focal bead. I have a whole lot of them from which to choose, so we'll see what kind of interesting pieces I can get out of this idea. This particular piece I called Manic Millefiori.

Might be time to purchase some more fine silver wire!