Saturday, April 11, 2015

Back from Bead Fest...Back to Work

Bead Fest is in town this weekend, and with a very specific shopping list in hand, I made my visit yesterday.
Deciding beforehand what my purchase needs to be helps to keep me from being unnecessarily distracted and helps to keep my bank account intact.
The operative word in that statement is 'helps'.
In my earlier years of jewelry making, it was a struggle to contain myself when surrounded by over 100 vendors, each with a tempting variety of supplies that I was convinced I needed at my workbench.
I'm older and wiserer now.
My plan is to continually evolve, and as I define my 'design voice', I have a better understanding of what I might want to become
and of what I don't want to be.
I'm more discriminating than I was a number of years ago and prefer to do business with a small selection of vendors who I like and trust.
Loyalty matters.
I also know which vendors to avoid.
Honesty matters.
 Unfortunately, not all vendors are completely honest about their products.
First stop was Jewelry Tools.
I handed them my shopping list...
liver of sulfur, solder cutting pliers, bead reamer, diamond tweezers, wooden forming blocks, brass brush....
and in a few minutes an order was placed that will be shipped on Monday.
Next stop, and one of my favorites, Metalliferous.
They always come to Bead Fest with lots of wonderfully curious items that don't show up on their web site.
I regularly order some of my metal supplies from Metalliferous, and the items arrive clean and shiny, ready to be transformed.
But what caught my attention was something that I've never seen in their online store.
In their bins of patterned and embossed strips of brass and copper was a bundle of extremely grungy brass strips.
When presented with a choice between clean and shiny or dirty and grungy,
I will almost always go for the dirty and grungy. 
A patina suggests that there's some history and maybe some kind of interesting story.
I thought that a bit of selective cleaning would reveal beautiful details.
Some work with a medium grit sanding block confirmed my suspicions.
What to make.....
With my jeweler's saw, I cut a few sections from the pattern.
All edges were filed smooth
and holes were drilled for connections.
Sterling wire wrapped crystals dangle from the bottom
and mini tornado wraps of annealed steel make the connection to sterling silver ear wires.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ceramic Bead Inspires Necklace

A small collection of large ceramic beads has been sitting on my workbench for years.
Occasionally, I would pull the beads out, look at them and think,
and then put them away.
Maybe it was the recent bombardment of Easter egg images that motivated me to revisit these beads yesterday,
but I decided that the time to do something had finally arrived.
I chose to make one of the ceramic beads the featured pendant in a new necklace.
Heavy gauge wire was used to make wrapped connections at both the top and bottom.
To help the bead sit nicely, I made brass bead caps that were textured with one of my old chisels.
Before getting to work on fabricating the chain, I perused my supplies, selecting a variety of components that would complement the featured pendant.
Small ceramic beads with a similar glaze help to connect the appearance of the chain to the pendant.
I liked the bright contrast that yellow jasper beads offered.
Tiny flecks of blue/green within the jasper help to make a good visual connection to the pendant.
Hand forged  and chisel textured copper rings also offer contrast with their negative space.
Creamy white, faceted honey jade beads were added because I appreciated the difference in both shape and surface texture.
A handmade clasp ties in with the wire used for the wire wrapped connections
and large copper links allow for some variation in the wearing length of the necklace.
These different materials that have been living separate lives at my workbench
come together nicely as one coordinated piece.
This necklace will hopefully be in one of the local galleries before week's end.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Preparing More Earrings for the Order

I've been busy at my workbench making the third style of earrings for the on-line store order.
As with the two previous styles, I needed to be careful and consistent as I made each pair.
Even though I have a pretty good eye for creating balance, I needed to have a more reliable method for locating the center of an assortment of discs.
Discs were cut from 24 gauge brass.
In order to cut out a small, inner disc, I needed to determine the center of each disc.
I ended up cutting out a cardboard disc and located the center point at the intersection of two drawn diameters.
That intersection point was punched out allowing me to use a Sharpie to mark the center of each disc.
With the center located, I cut out the interior disc.
The discs were then annealed and sanded.
Connection holes were drilled and the discs were formed in my wooden dapping block.
Now my consistent (or fairly consistent) discs are ready to become earrings.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Preparing an Order

I was recently asked if I would want to be one of the featured artists  for an online store.
Well, that was an easy "Yes"!
In contrast to how I typically work, I would need to provide multiples of each featured piece of jewelry.
Many of the supplies on my workbench did not seem to be appropriate candidates for this new request.
My etched metals have too much variety in the texture.
Lots of the gemstones have too much variety in the color.
I ended up making 4 earring prototypes that could be recreated with minimal variation.
After presenting the 4 styles for review, 3 were selected, along with one of my necklace designs.
When I develop a new style of earrings, I always wear the prototype for a while to understand if I need to make any adjustment to the design.
My opinion is that earrings should look lovely without being heavy, noisy or too.....anything.
This is one of the pairs that I prepared.
I've been wearing them for around a week and they are my new favorite.
The design is simple and elegant, and I get complements each time I wear them.
A request was made that I add texture to the piece of brass.
No problem.
I knew that I couldn't trust my intuitive approach to be able to make multiple copies and was careful to measure and document each step.
The size of the brass tab, how long the wire is, where I bend the wire to make the connecting loop, which plier was's all noted in my book.
Ready for the sterling earwires and delivery this week.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Earrings Project

I'm working on a couple of projects that might lead to multiple orders of the same (or 'sameish') item.
It's not typical of me to repeat my pieces, but there is the possibility of a good business opportunity and I want to see how this plays out.
One style of earring started out with a piece of silver that had already been cut for discs.
I keep my silver in a special bag that only comes out for special projects.
Even though the price of silver has dropped from its recent high price of almost $43.00 per ounce in 2011, I still tend to be conservative in using my supply.
I wanted some surface texture,
so I used my trusty hardware store hammer and pounded away on some paving in front of my house.
After measuring and marking,
strips were cut, filed and sanded.
I knew I was going to do a simple earring design and wanted a slight curve to the strips.
I normally use my wooden dapping block for that kind of forming, but wanted a slightly less pronounced curve.
I wanted only a smidge less, but often that little smidge is what makes a big difference.
I use that base of my steel bracelet mandrel for broad curves, but I didn't want to form the strips on metal.
Metal on metal forming can sometimes flatten a textured surface....just a bit.
And again, that little bit can make a big difference. 
Searching around the house, I located a thrift store wooden bowl that held bits of whatnot in my studio.
I used one of my large daps and got the subtle curve that I was hoping for.
Green pearls wrapped with fine silver, balled wire dangle from the bottom.
Simple and elegant.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Etched Squares, Fussy Design

Last year I etched pieces of silver nickel sheet not knowing how I would use the metal,
but knowing that I would eventually come up with a plan.
One plan that I eventually thought of was to make earrings that used negative space as a primary part of the design.
I rarely draw my ideas;
I see the idea in my mind, sit down at my workbench
and start cutting/sawing/drilling.
A collection of small squares were cut
and central
(actually, close-to-central)
circles were cut out to create that negative space.
All squares were filed and sanded before being drilled for the connection that I was imagining for the earwire.
The connection was to be balled copper wire formed into an arc.
To do this, I first balled one end of the wire,
threaded the wire through one of the drilled holes and back out through another.
The unfinished end of the wire was then balled and the remaining wire was shaped into an arc.
Turns out that the plan imagined in my mind was much easier to do than the plan executed at my workbench.
Even though I was working with segments of wire cut to the same length,
it was difficult for me to end up with matching arcs.
The second balled end would be a smidge too large or a smidge too small.
It was also frustrating to shape the arc.
I tried shaping before balling the wire, but then annealing happened and misshaping happened and frustration happened.
Shaping after balling the wire meant I couldn't fit my preferred tools in the available space.
I made the above pairs of earrings at least a year ago and I apparently chose to forget about the reasons why I abandoned that design.
I still had some of the squares in one of my workbench stashes...
and made this pair of earrings last week.
I think they're lovely, especially the wire-wrapped, blue chalcedony briolettes that dangle below.
But making the copper arc reminded me why I chose to stop making this fussy design.
I still had some of the negative space squares
and decided they needed to become something else. 
They became this bracelet
featuring a central, bezel-set labradorite  cabochon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Trying to Finish a Painting

So this is how it happens...
for me, when I'm working at a painting.
Around two years ago, I started a painting that was based on an image from one of my old issues of National Geographic.
I was drawn to the geometry of the various fields and how, aside from a central building, the landscape colors were shades of yellow and green.
I had been painting for a few months when I began this, 
and my lack of confidence led me to make this rigid recreation of the photographic image.
And what was with my foreground field....
it's falling off the canvas!
I felt frustrated because I didn't know how to improve it.
I set it aside.
Months later, I came back to the painting thinking that my skills had developed enough to address the problems.
I was wrong.
I did adjust some of the colors to create a greater sense of depth, and I toned the building which was feeling conspicuously out of place.
Building still out of place and foreground field still weird.
I set it aside.
Months later, I came back to the painting.
I did make some changes that I feel were in the right direction, like the adjustments to the large yellow field in the background.
the foreground field still felt like it wanted to slide off the canvas.
The building continued to irritate me, so I began to obliterate it.
What was I doing with the cypress trees around my pesky building?!
I turned them into gigantor trees.
I set it aside.
The painting has been hanging in my hallway for almost a year, and last week I looked at it and said,
"All right, you and I are finishing this battle once and for all."
This time I stopped looking at the National Geographic photo and changed some of the colors according to what I intuitively wanted instead of what a picture was dictating. 
I reigned in the cypress and blurred the background.
That pesky building?
I think it's done.