Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's on the Desk Monday ( 2 days late)

Went to a Rings & Things wholesale show on Sunday.. yummy!
I cannot resist sparklies! Yes, I am half cat and half magpie.

These stones are just crying out for some sterling silver wire!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

What's on the desk Monday 03/21/2011

No pics this time. This week I'm trying to finish up details on my booth redo. I've bought all the fabric, and I'm making sketches of what the new table drapes should look like.. they go to my booth "tailor" next Monday, so I really have to get crackin'. I've also bought over the last few months new displays. I still need to locate bracelet displays that I like in the new color scheme, maybe 1 or 2 other little pieces I'm considering.

I need to get this all pulled together by the end of April for my first show of the season!

I'm also working on my Lady of the Lake project, and a few odds and ends..

I'm hoping to get all the booth redo stuff done by this weekend, so I can spend the weekend being really productive!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cure for the big deep funk

Do you ever feel like everything is not quite the way you want it to be? Like everything is off a beat, side-ways or surreal?

You know the funk? The nobody really likes me, everything sucks, what's wrong in my life funk?

Then you see something and you realize how good you have it. How much you are really just whining because life means you don't get everything you want exactly how you want it.

At the waterpark today I saw a man without feet playing with his toddler son and very pregnant wife. He had 2 futuristic looking prosthetics tucked neatly in tennis shoes and wore regular swim trunks. He walked pretty good, he sort of shifted his weight from one side to the other to lift up one leg and then the other. They were having a very good time together.

And I couldn't help thinking, I bet he doesn't ever get into a funk -- losing both lower legs, that's about as serious as it gets. You cannot loose that much of your body and not be in life or death situation. And now he is with his family, living and playing at a waterpark. Watching with pride as his little son runs over to him to splash him and runs screaming in delight away and the man CAN CHASE HIM ON METAL FEET, and catch him and actually, carefully, stoop and pick up the wiggling giggling child.

And if he gets into a funk?? He's got a hell of a better excuse that I do.

So hug your family, count your blessings, and BUCK UP.

Life could be alot more challenging than it is now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Here comes the Sun Part II

Here are all 3 suns of this batch done -
You can read Part I here. You can purchase one a sun here.

OK this pic shows what a sun looks like after it's soldered together. I'm sorry I couldn't get a shot of the actual soldering part, but well, trying to juggle a camera and a torch seemed like a bad idea.

I don't heat my pickle because of my Asthma, the fumes of warm/hot pickle can get to me. Pickle will do the same job cold, it just takes longer. What is it's job? Pickle cleans up flux used in the soldering process and gets the icky black stuff and fire scuff off as well.

Since I often only get an hour here and there to work, it's nothing for me to leave it in the pickle overnight, and pick up where I left off the next day. Or the day after.. or possibly a week later.

After a pickle bath, I use soap and water to clean off the pickle, and then it's tool time.
I clean up any edges that are still sharp, and if my solder "leaked" alittle I clean that up. I also add the hole for the bail. I use a variety of dremel bits depending on what sort of clean up I have to do. Sometimes I use a brass brush on the dremel to give metal a satin finish.
Then it's doming time. If us a wooden doming block to preserve the hammered texture of the suns. If I use a metal on I might loose all that earlier hard work! I will use a piece of fabric also to help keep the texture marks fresh.

The sun looks like a 6 legged spider in this picture! After I dome the middle, I very carefully bend back the rays of the sun and gently flatten with a rawhide hammer.

Then it's time to add a wirewrap bail. I usually use 20 or 18GA sterling wire, and add my signature spiral on it.

The last thing I do is any touch up needed, and then It's in the tumbler for a few hours of hardening and polishing.

Once it's out of the tumbler, I do a quick hand polish, and double check my work.

So there you have it! Most metalsmithing pieces go through these steps, and some pieces require even more work. But it's so much fun, who minds alittle hard work??

Monday, March 14, 2011

What's on the desk Monday 03/14/2011

These lovely necklaces need matching earrings. A funny thing about my bigger wire necklace pieces.. I often sell the earrings that go with them 2-3 times before the necklace sells. So I try to make 2 earring pairs with I make bigger necklaces. They are different styles of course, what would be the fun in making exactly the same earring over and over? I usually make a simpler pair that is smaller, and then go wild making a longer, danglier ( more fun to me at least) pair. I go through my inventory periodically and "true" up things I like to sell as a set. ( I am always pleased to sell them separately of course)

I'm still working on the Lady of the Lake from last week.. I had to set it aside to get some other stuff done, but I"m hoping to work again on it tomorrow!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Here comes the Sun.... PART I

I finally have a batch of suns done! I really want to take you step by step through the process of making one, as it goes through several steps before a customer would see the finished pendant. while each sun I make goes through this process, each one turns out differently and no two are exactly the same.

I cut them out first. I have a die machine that isn't really made for metal, but I modified it and I can cut out shapes in thin gauge copper, brass and sterling. I use this tool to cut out the rough sun shape.

Because the die machine really isn't made for metal, sometimes the sun isn't completely punched out. Depending on how much is "stuck" I use a saw or snips to cut it the rest of the way out.

(it's on my wish list to someday have a hydraulic press to eliminate this problem)

These 3 came out pretty clean, I only had to use the snips on one. Sometimes the cut is *almost* all the way through, and I can bend the copper back and forth to *snap* it apart from the extra metal.

Even if it comes pops out without assistance, I still need to run a file across the edges so nothing is sharp or jagged. Even though I might have to do this after the hammering stage, I like to smooth it out here because I've actually cut myself on metal, and it's not fun. This means I end up cleaning edges more than once on some suns, and that's OK, I like to be safe.
Here are the suns getting textures via hammers

The sterling silver "moon" or background to the copper swirl is a 1inch disc I cut out with my disc cutter. I love my disc cutter I bought last year, it's one sweet sweet tool! It's the swanstrom disc cutter and if you are a serious jewelry artist and don't have a good disc maker yet, get this one! It's pricey, but worth every penny. The discs come out of this cutter so clean I only have to run sand paper once over the edge to make it baby butt smooth! When making jewelry the less time you have to spend cleaning up edges is time you can spend elsewhere, and time is money. I can also pop out thick discs with this tool, which is very nice.

Once the suns and moons are cut out and edges cleaned, the fun begins! I love hammering texture on metals. Two of the suns below and all 3 of the moon middles I used a variety of hammers on. (for those who follow this blog, I have 12 hammers if you recall) ( OK, I have 13 but don't tell Jerry yet, I'm planning on breaking it gently to him)

On the 3rd sun I embossed texture on, which worked OK, but I think I like my hammer work the best.
I think of my suns as symbols on how everything is so interconnected. It's almost a yin-yang thing for me, you cannot have ( or at least fully appreciate) happiness until you have met sadness, you cannot have light without the dark, or the sun without the moon. Since I've always looked at the sterling silver part as moon like, I use the hammers to give them a cratered look. Among my hammers I have a set of Fretz "mini" hammers. Personally they are the perfect size for me, but Fretz also makes larger hammers for silversmiths. They are totally fab no matter which size works best for you!

Strangely enough, my absolutely favorite hammer is my very first one, a basic chasing hammer I got for like $12.00, and I still use it more than all the other hammers put together.. not that I don't need every hammer I own! It's great for flatting out wire and metal. For texture I turn to my Fretz set first. My set has narrow skinny heads and rounded heads ( called Raising and embossing respectively) It's amazing the range of textures you can create with these hammers, I'm still finding new ways to use them all the time.

Some of the hammers I have are just old hammers with wonderfully "abused" faces, so they make interesting textures. I love that I'm using something that might otherwise be considered damaged or broken to make new jewelry pieces.

Once I add the texture, I will smooth out any rough edges again. When you hammer metal, you are actually pushing it, which can cause ridges on the edges. Some times your hammer strikes just on the edge of the metal, and sort of pinches off the edge making it rough. No reason not to run a file or sand paper and just smooth it down again.

You can read Part II here. If you are interested in purchacing one of my suns, you can do so in my Artfire studio store

Friday, March 11, 2011

my box is done!! end of my stained glass adventures

wooo hoo!! I managed (with help from my teacher) to get my box done in my last class Wednesday. Now you can tell a pro didn't make it, but for my first effort I think it's pretty good. It certainly looks handmade! LOL

It's approximately 4x6 long, maybe 2 inches high. I I'm really proud of the lid.. it's 2 different stain glass ( you can't tell so much in the photo, but the class has this lovely deep swirly texture to it) and one of my handmade fused glass cabs. I used the copper patina as the finish, which I think makes it look really old, like I inherited it from my grandmother or something.
It took me around 11 hours to complete... now it shouldn't ever take that long again, part of that was learning how to make it. I was afraid about half way through that I'd picked a project beyond my skill level. Maybe a box wasn't the best idea for a "first" project, but I love boxes!
When I took the class, since I already knew (more or less) how to cut glass and since I knew (more or less) how to solder silver, I figured it would be well, "easy".

Stained glass is more challenging than I imagined, and once I worked through some of my frustration I'm glad. I think sometimes with jewelry I get alittle complacent ( I really don't want to use the word bored... no no no ) so doing something outside of my comfort zone is a really good thing.

I learned alot, and some of it I can even feed back into my jewelry obsession.

Maybe I'll start taking a art class every year that isn't strictly jewelry, to help my creative juices flow!

Pottery anyone?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What's on the Desk Monday

OK, I'm running a day late this week. I actually had the pics taken and everything, but then I got a book in the mail I've been waiting to read for MONTHS! so I did that instead of all the stuff I normally do. Everyone needs a vacation from reality from time to time!! Top pic shows whats on desk #1. That very kewl brass stamping of a lady is from B'Sue's website. I keep thinking " lady of the lake" when I see it, so I'm working on a palette of blues, aquas, and teals for the lake. Hopefully it will turn out as good as it looks in my mind's eye!
On my 2nd desk I've got the suns ready to dome.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

what I love about Jewelry

OK, ran out of time this weekend to finish my sun pendants, but they are on my desk ready to dome next time I get up there. I've been in a pooky mood the last few days, which didn't help my time issues. Yesterday seemed to be a string of petty disappointments, and it felt like everything I did just didn't work! Quite honestly, working on the suns yesterday would probably been an exercise in futility the way I was going. It was only toward midnight when I finally got something to go right!

Today I got up feeling more friendly to the world and to myself, and in an effort to retain that feeling in the face of impending reality, I picked out my scarab beetle earrings. As I finished getting ready this morning, I started to ponder why I picked them out.

I didn't make these, I've owned them for 21 years, longer than I've been making jewelry. They were a college graduation gift from my sister. I love them for many reasons -- they are pretty, they are sterling, I love Egyptian imagery, the fact my sister got me a gift that was dead on, the scarab is a symbol of rebirth and life it's self, they have a good weight in my ears (especially once I changed the earwires from the original tiny ones), etc etc etc.. and most importantly they make me happy just to wear them. They are a memento of one of the most important and happy times in my life.

In short, they are a solid memory of happiness, and they magically transmit an echo of that happiness every time I wear them.

I don't put them on and think about why they make me happy, they just do.

How many women out there have jewelry (or a favorite shirt or purse or something) that make them happy just putting them one in the morning?

And then I wonder how many pieces of jewelry I have made that have that same effect on the person who wears them.

And suddenly my little bit happy is a whole lot more happy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Sun is rising again....

Like I mention a couple of weeks ago, I am working on suns again. This one is coming out of the pickle after soldering the silver and copper together. I'm hoping to have 3 done at least by the end of the Day Saturday, and if I can do this I'll do a nice long blog on the process from step one cutting out metal, to step Last, selling them!