Monday, January 31, 2011

Cabochon In Progress

Last night's work included one of my 'getting better at soldering' cabochons.

The cabochon is from my bag of stones and is set onto a piece of the silver nickle that was previously etched. The silver nickle is a very thin gauge (24 ga.), and I chose to rivet it to a piece of brass that had been milled with lace. Wanting to explore an option for attaching the pendant to chain, I riveted a hand forged copper ring to the top. Meh.......I'm not completely sold on this option, so I may have to revise this detail.

My last cabochon pendant was riveted with balled copper wire, and I wanted to try a new material with this pendant. I ended up using brass escutcheon pins that can be found at any hardware store. The head of the pin is small and appropriately scaled to most of the jewelry pieces that I make. Like any other riveting material, it's important to match the size of the drilled hole to the diameter of the pin. That took a bit of work since these pins are not perfectly sized to any of my drill bits. Once fitted though the drilled holes, I cut off the excess length and finished the connection with my riveting hammer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Workshop

Jumping into the world of jewelry making can seem a bit daunting. Some common fabrication techniques require specific tools as well as specific knowledge. My studio includes a rolling mill, a metal guillotine, a flex shaft, a dapping block and punches, a disc cutter, a jeweler's saw, files, steel blocks, assorted hammers, and much more. I love tools, so I am usually very happy to justify the need for a new piece of equipment.
Not everyone is interested in making such a commitment to a plethora of tools, and that does not have to limit the quality or variety of jewelry that can be made.
Welcome to wire wrapping.

Wire wrapping is a basic technique in jewelry fabrication and requires only a few hand tools. The above bracelets were all made with sterling wire, closed sterling rings, semi-precious gemstones and sterling clasps and 4 hand tools.

This necklace detail shows how beads can be wire wrapped and turned into links. It also shows how tiny pearls can become decorative dangles by wire wrapping them directly onto the sterling silver chain.

There are endless ways to use wire wrapping skills resulting in unique and beautiful pieces of jewelry.
My new workshop will teach the basics of wire wrapping in a 4 hour session on Saturday, February 19 at the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, PA. It will be a fun and productive afternoon!

Interested? Register at the Wallingford Community Art Center web site or contact me.

Please note that each workshop student needs to bring certain hand tools. The Art Center has the list, or you can email me for info.

Monday, January 24, 2011

More Bezels

I spent time in the studio making more bezels, but have not yet removed the disappointing heartache from the process. I love layering textures in my pieces and have been insisting on soldering my bezels onto etched or milled metal. This can create a problem since the bezel wire needs to have full contact with the base piece of metal for a successful flow of solder. It would be ideal to use a flat sheet of metal for my base, but that's just not what I want to do right now.

After several attempts, I did get successful solder joints for the above bezels. The base pieces were from my supply of etched silver nickle. The cabochons are again from my bag of stones that I bought at a gem show, and I have no idea what they are. I like the golden warmth of the left stone and chose to layer that with a piece of brass that is textured on the back. The connection between the silver nickle and the brass was made with balled copper wire that I turned into rivets.

I'm now making the golden cabochon piece into a necklace using sterling chain and wire. Small carnelian beads capture the rosy color of the balled copper and faceted honey jade complements the warmth of the cabochon and the brass base.
I'm also making a necklace out of the creamy white cabochon bezel that I made last week. A recycled sterling leaf (a pin in its former life) was riveted to the bottom of the copper base which now has stamped texture. A faceted amazonite bead atop an etched metal disc was riveted to the leaf with balled silver wire. The sterling chain is wire wrapped with faceted aquamarine beads, pearls and recycled crystal chain.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Better Bezels

I have set a goal for myself: Get Better at Soldering
Soldering, especially making bezels, has been my primary point of frustration when it comes to my jewelry making skills. When all goes well, it seems like some kind of magical alchemy. I want to take the magic out of the equation and have any success be the result of actual skill.

The other night I was determined to make a couple of bezels and ended up with these two pieces. I first cut pieces of metal that I had previously etched. The left piece is silver nickel and the right is copper. I used fine silver bezel wire and sized it to some cabochons that I bought at a gem show. I don't even remember what these stones are, but I think the left one is a type of jasper and the right one (?) idea. I just like the dreamy, opalescent quality of that stone. I bought a bag of cabochons similar to these so that I could use them for my better bezel journey. My bezeling did not go as smoothly as I would have liked and each piece took a couple of attempts. It is so disheartening to take a piece that you thought was a successful solder out of the pickle pot only to realize that it was actually a stinking failure.

These bezels still need to be cleaned up a bit before I can incorporate them into finished pieces.

The etching on the back side of the copper makes an interesting texture that I plan to highlight with liver of sulfur. I plan to rivet the silver nickel bezel to another piece of metal to make it a more substantial, layered piece.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Assessing My Work

I created a mosaic tile of selected images from the past few years.

It is a valuable exercise to look back on your work and assess how you have evolved. For me, that means assessing my technical skills as well as my design skills. I continue to work on my methods of joining metal- wire wrapping, riveting and soldering (OY!...the soldering that sometimes makes me want to weep with frustration!!) I think that my value of words is clearly expressed in much of my work. I would never claim to be profound, but I do aim for gentle thoughtfulness and humor in my pieces and carefully select words to support that goal.

I know that I have frustrated more than a couple of past customers when they look for pieces similar to something that I made several years ago, and I have to explain that some items are no longer available. My inner wiring demands that I create things, be it jewelry or landscapes, and that I keep exploring new materials and new means of expression.
I have to keep moving forward.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Longwood Magic

Longwood Gardens, the incredible horticultural legacy of Pierre du Pont, is in my neck of the woods. It's only around 2o miles away, but that's far enough to keep from from visiting regularly. Walking through the various gardens and the Conservatory is such a treat for all the senses, especially at Christmas-time. For years I have been meaning to see the Christmas display, but something has always come up to interfere with my intentions.

I finally made the time for a visit this week.

My arrival was timed perfectly with the beginning of one of the fountain displays choreographed to a selection from The Nutcrakcer. Everybody who had gathered was completely transfixed.

The Conservatory was lush and wonderful with seasonal plantings. Every single bloom that I saw was pure perfection.

One part of the Conservatory that I especially wanted to see was the Cascade Garden.
Around 20 years ago when I first moved to the Philadelphia area, I played a small role in the design and construction of this garden. The schematic design had been prepared by Roberto Burle Marx, the world renowned landscape architect from Brazil who has since passed away. The design development, preparation of construction documents and construction supervision was coordinated by Burle Marx's USA representative, Conrad Hamerman, a landscape architect from Philadelphia. Conrad needed some part time help; I wanted some part time work, and I ended up working on the Cascade Garden.
One of my tasks was to work out some of the fountain details. I drew up the construction details for the 'scuppers' and the water basins to get the effects that Burle Marx and Conrad wanted- attractive flow of water, soothing sounds and minimal splashing.
Conrad and I made several trips to the quarry that supplied the stones so that we could hand select those stones that would be in prominent locations. With Conrad directing, we then worked on site with the mason to ensure that the stones fit together with tight joints and a 'natural' rhythm of sizes and shapes. Conrad's discriminating eye and unrelenting expectation of excellence ensured that the installation was beautiful. It takes a lot of hard work to make something look natural.
It felt satisfying to see the garden after so many years.
If you're in my neck of the woods, you might want to consider visiting Longwood.

It's a magical place.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Cleaning

Phew! It has been a busy, hectic time in my household. Between holiday shows, holiday baking, holiday decorating, holiday visitors and holiday vacations, not much new jewelry has been made recently, but we certainly have been enjoying our holiday festivities!
I was cleaning my studio workbench last night. Manic preparations for the December shows left my work space in an organized mess otherwise known as chaos. All of my materials are getting put into logical places so that, in theory, they can easily be found when the proper inspiration hits me.

I have tucked away this collection of plated charms that I happened upon at a yard sale during the summer. The nearby town where we used to live has one Saturday a year when everyone is encouraged to have their yard sale. There are so many sales that the whole town has a festival kind of atmosphere. I hit the jackpot at one of the homes where I found these charms as well as old photos and beautiful fabric, trim and vintage buttons.

I began talking with the owner of the house and she told me that she was clearing out the supplies of her former business. She used to make hats and jewelry, but was now at retirement age and had no interest in holding onto the pieces of her past that were no longer relevant. It struck me that I was talking to future me. This woman recognized that she was talking to a kindered spirit and practically gave me all of the items that I was interested in. A lot of the charms were pieces that I would not necessarily have bought under other conditions, but I knew that I could put them to good use.

This plated dragonfly was riveted to a piece of patinated brass that was cut from a recycled platter. The top 'halo' was hand forged from recycled copper wire and the resin set word "capture" was cut from my favorite 1930's dictionary. The chain is wire-wrapped with crystal and citrine beads.

This bird is riveted to another hand forged ring made from recycled copper wire as is a plated oak leaf. One hole was drilled into each wing for attaching the chain. The chain is made with wire-wrapped freshwater pearls. A single pearl dangles from the bottom of the ring.

Best wishes to everyone for a joyous and creative 2011!