Sunday, May 24, 2015

Necklace of Summer

Part of my recycled copper stash has been on my workbench.
Years ago, I bought copper by the pound at one of the local metal recycling facilities.
I was surprised that I was allowed to look through the huge bins and gather what I wanted, so I grabbed as much as I could.
That was a great investment!
I had ideas for several necklaces and used one of recycled copper wire bundles to cut segments for links to be used in those necklaces.
Some of the links were simply hammered flat at each end and then drilled for connections.
Others were formed at each end with my favorite round nose pliers.
Some of the wire segments were shaped into clasps with one of my bail-forming clasps.
The first necklace included some blue agate beads that I've been itching to use.
The blue makes me think of cool water on a hot summer day which is good because we're due for our first heat wave of the season later this week.
Yikes....and it's not even summer.
Anyway...also included in the necklace are some of my new copper links and a new clasp, a faceted honey jade feature pendant, disc pearls and aquamarine.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Jewelry Community

Each year I take part in a few juried art/craft shows and each of those shows invariably includes an abundance of jewelry designers.
For security reasons, the various jewelry displays are often grouped together.
After one of these shows, a friend asked if I was frustrated by so much jewelry competition.
I said that I never feel like I'm competing with my fellow jewelry makers and explained that I think of our small community like a town that has a variety of good restaurants.
Much like each restaurant has unique menu focus, each jeweler has a unique design voice.
I am convinced that everyone benefits from each other's success.
I meet some of the nicest people when I start talking with my craft show jewelry neighbors.
I met Andrea Abrams-Herbert when we both took part in a holiday show at Main Line Art Center.
Getting to know the inspired designer of the jewelry that I was already familiar with made the show much more enjoyable for me.
Andrea's jewelry is beautifully crafted with sterling and wonderful bezel set gems.
Everything Andrea makes is one-of-a-kind...
and each piece captures her kind hearted spirit.
Andrea's work can be found at Woodmere Art Museum, Mount Airy Garage, Michener Art Museum and Langman Gallery.
I met Barbara Hanselman when our displays were adjacent to each other at the Wallingford Community Arts Center Holiday Show.
As with Andrea, I had already been familiar with Barbara's work and appreciated the opportunity to meet her.
Barbara is the creative force behind BH Claysmith.
She regularly teaches at Wallingford Community Arts Center where I'm told she has a devoted following of BH Claysmith groupies.
Using her handmade ceramic pieces,
Barbara creates jewelry that is soulful and richly textured.
When I realized that Barbara also sold some of her handmade beads and components,
I knew that I wanted to bring some home to my workbench.
I purchased these large ceramic beads...
and planned to make them featured pendants in necklaces.
The large slider bead was wrapped with sterling wire
 and features etched brass bead caps and dangles of aquamarine, citrine and prehnite.
The bead pendant is the highlight of a handmade chain made with sterling, aquamarine, citrine, prehnite and etched brass.

The cone shaped bead was wrapped with recycled copper wire and features dangles of yellow jasper and carnelian.
The chain consists of wire wrapped yellow jasper, honey jade, carnelian, vintage glass beads, hand forged copper links and a handmade clasp.
Both necklaces were recently delivered to Woodmere Art Museum.
I'm looking forward to working with the other treats
that I purchased from Barbara.
I'm already imagining how these wonderful slider beads will look in future necklaces.
You can also purchase Barbara's clay beads and components at her etsy shop and at Blue Santa Beads in Media, PA.

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.