Wednesday, December 12, 2012

With All My Heart Redux

A little over two years ago (August 2010) I made a bold little piece called With All My Heart

The original necklace
This was originally meant to be a one-of-a-kind piece, but in late July of this past year someone left me a comment on this post:

“How do I order this key to my heart jewelry? I am in afghanistan and would love to get it for my girl at home.”

It was actually a few months before I saw the comment. I’m supposed to be able to moderate comments, so they don’t post until I see them, and I should get an email telling me I have comments to moderate. But not this time. Not sure what happened, but I contacted the guy, whose name is Jon, apologized for the delay and asked if he was still interested. As it happened, he was!

“It is beautiful and (we) have that special "Key to my Heart" relationship so this piece is very fitting and she will love it. I wish I could use the key she gave me in a gift but I believe we will gain quite the key collection in time :)”

I had sold the original piece at Mare's Wares Arts Fest in July of 2011, but told him I had all the materials and could make another. So we discussed payment, shipment, delivery, etc. As it was to be a Christmas present, I only just shipped it. But THIS time, I photographed the process along the way.

I don’t know if he’d be interested in the process, but I find myself interested in explaining it. At art shows, which are supposed to be (though aren't always) filled with vendors who hand craft their products, I still get the occasional browser in my booth who'll ask “did you make all this?”, which only serves to make me wanna grab ‘em by the collar, pull ‘em in close, and explain how each and every piece on display is made. OK, maybe not. Well, I might think it, but I would never actually follow through (grin). This piece took me a little longer to complete than it might have because of a few complications, so I thought I’d take a few shots along the way.

Most of the components assembled on a cork board work space.

I assembled everything and put it all together on my work space so I could think about the order in which I needed to proceed. I cut two 19.5" lengths of sterling silver chain for the main part of the necklace and a small 1" piece from which the little puffy heart hangs; I added - and fused - jump rings to the three components that will hang from the pendant; I wire-wrapped the little piece of coral and connected it to the eye pin that then goes through the puffy heart and will attach to the bottom of the short length of chain. I used heavier 16 gauge wire for the hook clasp, 20 gauge wire for the pendant that holds the three components shown, and lighter 22 gauge wire as a finishing touch wrap where the strung segment connects to the chain.

Chain, hook clasp & small components
After I had everything assembled, I began patinating individual silver pieces. I never used to like using liver of sulfur. I always preferred bright and shiny silver to artificially blackened pieces. But blackening, and then cleaning, the silver really does add visual interest. And in the case of the De Tout Mon Coeur tag, it was necessary to make the letters really pop and more easy to see.

The letters in the fine silver tag really pop after a dip in LOS!

There are times when I can dip an entire finished piece into warm liver of sulfur, but I didn't want to do that with this piece; I had more control over the components by dipping and cleaning them individually. And the little puffy Thai silver hearts had already been patinated a bit, so I didn't want to have to clean them off again.

Completed pendant, ready to string
In the original piece, I used half hard silver wire for the round pendant piece that holds the three pendant elements; but I couldn't find any of my 20 gauge half hard wire. It's on my reorder list, so it's possible I used it all to make ear wires this summer. Ah well. So, what I had to do was work harden the wire a bit. I just put it on my steel block and worked it over with a small rawhide hammer. This hardens the wire without forging it. Still .. even with half hard wire, this segment of the piece can be mangled, so it should be handled with care when storing and wearing it.

Partially assembled

The portion of the piece connected to the chain is strung on Soft Flex beading wire. This is 49 strands of fine nylon coated stainless steel. It comes in multiple strengths and I used the .024 diameter "heavy" type, because it's a relatively hefty piece and I wanted it to hold up over time. Generally when I use beading wire on a piece, I end it with bead tips, tiny little bead cups with hooks. The cups hold the knot (yes, this stuff can be knotted), and the hook allows the strung piece to be connected to a clasp. On this piece, however, a bead tip wasn't going to work.

Beading wire through a crimp bead
The design was such that I had to use a crimp bead. I really don't like or trust crimp beads. They're tiny little sterling silver tubes through which the beading wire is strung. Then with a special crimping tool, which has two separate crimping stations included on it, the crimp bead is smushed against the wire. The first crimp creates a crease down the middle of the tube making two separate channels .. through which each piece of wire passes. The second crimp brings the two channels together and rounds them out a bit. If you do it right, it should be secure. But even when you do it correctly, it's not always secure .. and somewhere down the line, the thing will release its hold on the wire and your piece will come unstrung. That doesn't happen with bead tips (the hook on the bead tip may open and release the clasp, but the strung piece remains intact, so you don't lose any of your beads).

The 1st crimp creates two channels
But I have used crimp beads like this before and have found ways to reinforce or strengthen them when the design calls for their use, like this one did. It amazes me that even expensive pieces like those you might find in the Sundance Catalog use them (here's a lovely little example that could have been made sturdier with gold-filled bead tips instead of crimp beads). Not only are they untrustworthy, they are a relatively unattractive way to "finish" a piece. Just my humble opinion (and a designer soap box issue, as you might have determined); but if you're going to charge a couple hundred dollars for a piece, as Sundance often does, it should be both attractive and sturdy.  So ...

Almost done!
.. this is what the connections look like once both of the crimp beads have been attached (that little extra piece of beading wire on the right will be tucked into the silver bead). I couldn't possibly, in good conscience, leave it like this. So I dipped a couple pieces of 22 gauge wire in some fresh liver of sulpur and wrapped those areas where the crimp beads and the beading wire meet. This not only adds a nice finishing touch, but it also adds a bit of strength to the beading wire and crimp bead connection. Any favorite piece that's worn and handled a lot can be subject to breakage, but I do whatever I can in the design process to make it more difficult for that happen.

The finished piece!
So, here it is! The necklace proper is around 30 inches or so long, the pendant is an additional 3.75" long. I really love this piece and after I sold the first one in July of 2011, had fully intended to make one for myself. So this one should have been mine (smile). I wore it with various white t-shirts all summer long (though it would probably look just as good against a black one). I truly hope the recipient loves it as much as I do (and did). Lucky girl!

I made some matching earrings, too .. they weren't part of the order, but I had a couple set backs (I had originally promised delivery mid-November) and Jon was so wonderfully patient and understanding that I included them as a concession to his patience.

Plus, if she's not in the mood to wear the larger, bolder piece, she can still wear the earrings and remember both the gift, the giver .. and that she's loved!

It's hard not to love commissions like this!