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.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Painting Small Studies

I don't know how this happened,
but there is a great art supply store nearby that I was completely unaware of...
until last week.
Going to an art supply store is my personal version of being a kid in a candy store...
well, so are book stores, hardware stores and fabric stores.
Walking into Artist & Craftsman Supply on Market Street in Philadelphia, I thought,
"Oh no...this could be trouble."
Being surrounded by a wonderful variety of  supplies is painfully tempting, but I stuck to my intended shopping list.
I was very proud of myself when I left the store with a small bag holding three tubes of oil paint and a collection of 6" x 6" masonite boards.
My plan is to do a series of quick paintings with hopes of developing my intuitive reaction to the paint and the subject. 
The limited size of a 6" x 6" panel might keep me from being overly involved and overly attached to each painting...maybe a good thing.
The panels were covered with an acrylic gesso.
Two coatings of gesso were needed to properly prepare the boards.
I chose to do no sanding, preferring instead to allow some of the gesso brush strokes to be revealed in the eventual painting.
Once the gesso was completely dried, I toned the surfaces and purposely chose a couple of bold colors that might push my comfort zone. 
After a day of drying, I started with one of the burnt sienna boards (top row) and chose a picture from my 'Images for Art' file.
I like how pieces of the burnt sienna can be seen, bringing a warmth to the painting that suggests the golden light of a sunset.
It was late last night when I stopped working on the above painting.
I needed to clean up, but my frugal nature wouldn't let me toss away all of the paint that was still on the palette.
Instead, I used some of the leftover paint on one of the turquoise boards.
Same image for inspiration, same paint mixes, but such a different mood.
More work will be done, but I like where this second panel is going.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bracelet Redo

Early last year, I made one of my etched, mixed-metals bracelets featuring a central bezel with part of a vintage black & white photo.
I admit I briefly hesitated before using this image of a man wearing a sleeveless t-shirt, looking to his left.
A somewhat peculiar selection, but there was something about this guy that captured and kept my attention.
I imagined him as a sort of hybrid of James Dean and Tom Joad with a rich storyline of integrity and struggle.
Well....I thimk I'm the only one intrigued by this gentleman.
The bracelet caught the attention of quite a few people, but the reaction was typically,
"That's weird."
"Ummmm....that's kind of creepy."
Since I had not made the bracelet for it to become a part of my permanent collection,
I decided James/Tom Dean/Joad had to go.
A jasper cabochon set in a sterling bezel on a piece of milled copper is the new central highlight.
The bracelet is now at Woodmere Art Museum, along with a group of earrings and necklaces that were delivered this afternoon.
James/Tom Dean/Joad is back on my workbench...
and I have no idea what to do with him.
I think I'm stuck with him.