Monday, August 24, 2015

Sparkling Crystals

Beadfest was in town this past weekend.
Of course, I went and ended up coming home with a nice variety of gemstones as well as beautiful jasper cabochons for future bezels.
I like buying gemstones in person so that I can inspect the range of color, the quality of any faceting and the presence of any inclusions.
My purchases included aquamarine, apatite, peridot, garnet, labradorite
and some wonderful, large, briolette crystals.
Like all my gemstone purchases, I restrung the crystals on fishing line so that I could keep them organized in my studio.
Old, ugly, expendable beads were used as buffers between the crystals to hopefully avoid any damage as they hang with other inventory.
I had known right away that I wanted to do my tornado-style wire wrapping with the crystals,
and it was a little bit tricky.
The crystals are more fragile than many of the gemstones that I typically use.
Combine that fragility with the 19 gauge wire that I chose to work with and I had to be very careful as I did the wrapping.
Safety goggles were worn just in case some shattering happened. 

A simple necklace is what I aimed for, allowing the crystal to be the sparkling center of attention. 
The wrapped crystal hangs on a long chain that is interrupted with wire wrapped Herkimer diamonds (a fancified name for double-terminated quartz crystals discovered in Herkimer County, New York) and dangles of faceted labradorite and citrine.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sarah's Music

Getting rid of materials is always a challenge for me.
I think that's what happens when you look for something poetic in everything that crosses your path.
A box of guitar strings has been sitting on one of the shelves in my studio since I was gifted them by my friend Sarah, who sparks everything she does with her creative touch.
Playing guitar in the group Coracree, Sarah goes through a lot of strings and saved a bunch of them when I had an idea to use the little brass thingy at the base of each string.
I cut off those little brass thingies....
and soldered them on to the bottom of sweet bird charms that I made last year with other recycled metals.
That left me with a collection of brass thingy-less guitar strings that I had no use for but still could not toss out, and suddenly, it's easy to understand how hoarding can begin with one seemingly innocent act.
I looked at the guitar strings with fresh eyes the other day and thought how the beautiful music that Sarah made is still there in some ethereal form.
It then seemed appropriate to try to capture some of the musical magic and turn it into jewelry.
I annealed two pieces of brass, sandwiching a coil of guitar string in between and tried to run it through my rolling mill.
The mill said, "No way!"
There was too much variety to the depth of my little sandwich, and I couldn't get an effective setting with the pressure.
That's when my trusty, cheapo hardware store hammer came out and I wailed away on the assembly on top of a steel bench block.
Enough of an impression was made that I could isolate areas of interesting texture.
Strips were cut with my metal guillotine and then filed, sanded and drilled.
Sterling earwires and sterling wire wrapped aquamarine dangles complete the earrings.
Sarah's music lives on.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sterling Links

My recent order of sterling silver is on my workbench, becoming things.
 Some of the heavier gauge wire was wrapped around a mandrel,
cut into separate rings and soldered.
After a pickle bath, some of the rings kept their circular shape and some were shaped into ovals using my needle nose pliers.
As is typical for me, I make components with only a vague plan for how they will be used.
I have a few ideas for necklaces that will require some of these new links.
In the meantime...
earrings like these
(sterling links with sterling wire wrapped pearls, aquamarine, labradorite, garnet and chalcedony)
are what's coming off my workbench today.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Off With Their Heads!

Years ago, my mother gave me a curiously interesting bracelet that she had bought at a thrift store, a bangle made of heavy gauge sterling wire with wonderfully detailed heads of bulls at each end.
The eyes are small, faceted garnets.
It's likely that the bracelet made its way to me because my mother had the same issue that I had...
those horns.
This was a bracelet that I really did want to love and wear, but the well crafted horns stuck out enough that they were a problem.
Jewelry that pokes and catches on clothing does not get worn by me and does not get designed by me.
I greatly appreciate how some jewelry designers push the envelope by crafting pieces that I consider to be works of art rather than pieces to be worn on a regular basis.
My approach is to make pieces of jewelry that I would wear....
nothing too heavy, too bulky or too pokey.
My rationale is that if I find something uncomfortable, there would almost certainly be other people who would find it uncomfortable as well.
So, after holding onto this bracelet for way too long, I decided it was time to do something.
Using my jeweler's saw, off came the heads. 
The large piece of sterling was annealed and then straightened by hammering it on one of my steel bench blocks.
My trusty sheet/wire gauge measures this piece of sterling wire at 5 gauge.
For anyone not accustomed to being concerned about the gauge of wire, that is one significantly hefty piece of sterling.
How will it be put to use?
I don't yet know but I may use my drawplate to achieve a thinner gauge since I typically work with 20 to 30 gauge wire.
Maybe I'll run it though my mill to make my own bezel wire.
And the heads?
I find them interesting enough to keep them in my workbench stash of scrap sterling as I try to devise a repurposing plan.
I predict I'll be working on that repurposing plan for several years.

Friday, July 24, 2015

ADA at 25 Years

I was in grad school at the University of Illinois for Landscape Architecture in the early 80’s. It would still be a few years before the Americans with Disabilities Act would pass, but some of my design classes were addressing the issue of accessibility. Another Landscape Architecture grad student, Tom, was in one of these classes and he got very agitated when one day, the discussion focused on the spatial requirements necessary for a bathroom to be made accessible for the standard wheelchair. He didn’t think that business owners should have to give up valuable square footage to accommodate people in wheelchairs.
As a 22 year old, I honestly had never focused on the fact that there are physical barriers everywhere that can severely limit the way a handicapped person engages with life. I had the fortune to live with a certain level of arrogance as an able-bodied person, ignoring the fact that a 6” curb or a set of steps that I could casually navigate might effectively be a 6’ wall covered with barbed wire to someone in a wheelchair. I began to appreciate that, as a designer, I had a responsibility to consider how an entire spectrum of people might use a space.
As Tom expressed his upset over regulations that could be forced on private property owners, I decided, “Yup….I am totally joining this discussion.” I came in swinging with my point that once a person opens their business to the public, their ‘private’ space becomes public and must be in compliance with local and national regulations. None of us lives in the wild, wild west anymore where we get to make up rules that conveniently benefit our own, limited self-interests.
Maybe Tom wasn’t used to being challenged…I don’t know, but he steadily raised his voice until he was yelling at me because I wouldn’t yield at all towards his opinions. The discussion came to an abrupt end when Tom yelled that anyone in a wheelchair should be required to have a colostomy thereby eliminating the need for wheelchair accessible bathrooms. The whole class, even those who were benignly ignoring the discussion, looked at him with expressions that said, “Whoa, dude….really?!” Yes, he really meant it, but he realized that he had crossed a line that most of the class found rather appalling and chose to be quiet.
My 22 year old self had no idea how much the Americans with Disabilities Act would eventually come to mean to future me. As a mother of twin sons, both blind and one who is also in a wheelchair with profound disabilities, a challenging life is made just a bit less challenging because of those pesky ramps, handicap parking spaces, curb cuts and elevators that are sometimes present only because they were legally required to be present.
If it takes legislation to make us benevolent towards one another, that’s fine with me.
Thank you ADA!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Old Becomes New

I like knowing that I can often give new purpose to things that have outlived their use in other people's homes.
One friend saved an interesting beer can for me, correctly thinking that I could do something with it.
Discs were cut from the can and then riveted with hand forged copper rings to make fun charms.

I've taken old, silver plated servers....
and used them to texture metal for various projects.

After hearing about my recent transformation of a cigar box into a plein air easel,
a friend of a friend gifted me with a collection of beautiful cigar boxes that had been sitting in his garage for a looooong time.
This friend of a friend is also an artist and understands that you just can't throw out really cool stuff that might eventually come in handy,
even if it takes years.
The boxes will almost certainly become part of my holiday display, assuming I get into the juried show at Wallingford Community Arts Center.
( just sent in my application last week...please think good thoughts for me!)
The most interesting cigar boxes
were triangular shaped.
The size and shape make them challenging to be
considered for my display,
they are filled with wonderful, triangular compartments that once held the cigars.
A little bit of drilling
and a little bit of hammering....
and I now have some wonderful earring stands
that will definitely be part of my holiday display.
(if I get into that show!)

Friday, July 17, 2015

So Much Art This Weekend!

There is so much to do this weekend
if you're the type who enjoys looking at art
and if you're the type who lives near me.
just opened the Annual Student Show
and there are many wonderful pieces all completed by local artists.
(like me....those 2 small paintings to the right of the yellow pears are by yours truly)
just opened the Annual Members Show.
Again, all work on display is by local artists.
(again, like me....that's my 'Summer Fields' top center)
If that's not enough,
Woodmere Art Museum
is having its first
Porch Sale.
Items on The Porch will include pieces by regional artists.
(and yes, again....that includes me)
Yes, I am shamelessly recommending events that include me, but I will always encourage the promotion of local artists.
It's fun and inspiring,
and sometimes surprising, 
to discover the wonderful talent in one's own community .