Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When a Visitor Comes Calling

I always use natural lighting when photographing my jewelry. The drain area of my porcelain kitchen sink is a favorite location because the morning light is sometimes just enough to get a few acceptable images. If the conditions are just right, I prefer to set up outside where I usually increase my chance of getting those acceptable images.

Yesterday's lighting was great, it wasn't too cold, the wind was minimal and I had a window of time where I was not required to drive anybody anywhere. I set up in my driveway to photograph this necklace that I finished over the weekend. When teaching my recent wire wrapping workshop, one of the students asked how I figure out the design of a necklace. My answer.....I rarely have the design figured out as I start assembling my pieces. As with this necklace, I'll lay out a selection of materials that I think I want to work with and get started. I knew that I wanted to use stick pearls, so they were the first item on my workbench. I then gathered some faceted prehnite rondelles (the pale green beads- otherwise known as green amethyst) and various crystals. I had the necklace underway when I thought that a darker color might provide a nice contrast to the more gentle hues that I had already selected- enter the dark champagne colored disc pearls. As the chain emerged, I thought that some kind of central feature might be nice- enter the heart.

I made this sterling heart a number of years ago at a precious metal clay workshop and have had it in my sterling supplies box, waiting for the right inspiration. This was a pendant that was made at the end of the workshop as I tried to use up my pieces of scrap precious metal clay. When I look at the pendant now, I like how it can suggest that an open heart is vulnerable to being pierced by external forces. It was around the time that I was taking the heart pendant photo when a visitor showed up. This cat has been an occasional visitor for almost 4 years. She (?) is a sweet, purring bundle of delightfulness and likes to weave around my legs when she catches me working outside. It's literally hard to focus when a sweet cat is begging for attention. More probable is that the begging is for the food that she knows I will put out. I am a complete pushover, and set out food and drink when "Kitty" comes visiting. Nice, original name that I have given her. We can be very literal in our household. My one son still has his cherished stuffed, brown bear that he got for Christmas when he was 2 years old. The bear's name?....Brown Bear (which over the years was shortened to the nickname B.B.). My other son still has the stuffed dog that he received as a gift when he was 3 years old. The dog's name?.....Poochie. My sons are lucky that a little more creativity was used when their names were selected.

Anyway....setting out some food for "Kitty" allowed me to finish my photographing without stepping on my feline guest.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Anticlastic Earrings

I've been making good use of my advanced forming stake, making discs for a series of anticlastic earrings.

Textured silver nickel with pearl and bronze spacer dangles.

Textured silver nickel with stick pearl and bronze spacer dangles.
Copper discs with garnet and bronze spacer dangles.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Conversation Bangles

This past holiday season I debuted my 'conversation bangles', and they were a hit. It was interesting to see that these bangles appealed to a wide range of age groups from middle school girls to late 60's-ish grandmothers. I choose text that has meaning for me and apparently has meaning for many others as well.

I worked on these bangles last night, preparing them to bring to the Woodmere Art Museum gift shop in Chestnut Hill. One revision from my earlier bangles is that I have soldered brass 'nubs' onto the side that I have stamped. Even though it's a simple addition, I like that little bit of dimension that is added by the nubs. Tonight's goal includes final cleaning of these. While those nubs are a nice feature, they're a pain to clean!

My favorite?......'BLAH BLAH BLAH...'

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Now I Know What I Didn't Know

A while back, a friend asked me if I might be able to make an earring to replace one that she had lost. The pair had been one of her favorites, and she held on to the remaining earring with hopes that the lost one would eventually reappear. Didn't happen- the lost remains lost.

I typically shy away from specific requests. I know where my comfort zone is and would never exaggerate my jewelry making abilities...... at least not intentionally.

When I saw the earring, I was so happy to be able to say, "Sure! No problem." I was looking at a silver and bronze disc-cut earring that had been curved. Some simple soldering of the ear clip and small jump rings was also part of the fabrication. Easy! Well, not really.

When I sat down to get to work, I studied the two disc-cut pieces and realized that when I initially said "No problem", I didn't even know to know what I didn't know. Is that confusing enough?

I realized that the curves of the two pieces were somewhat similar to the curves of a saddle- not something that I could accomplish in my dapping block. What to do?!

The books that I have in my home 'library' did not offer any help. The talented Dawn Bergmaier pointed me in the right direction. She explained that the earring in question was an example of anticlastic forming, meaning that two curves on the same surface are at 90 degrees to each other. With that understanding of what type of forming I wanted to do, I did some research and found out that specific tools were needed.

Oh happy day- a legitimate reason to buy new tools!

I ended up purchasing this advanced forming stake and accompanying hammer, both made of a high density plastic which prevents marring of the metal surfaces. The sinusoidal curves across the top vary in width and depth and resemble gentle ocean waves. I could get all mathematical here and describe the graphing of sine and cosine functions, but it's been many years since I took Calculus and I would be stepping out of my comfort zone.

Instead, here's what the stake allows me to do.
I cut discs of silver nickle, textured them and punched two holes. I cut out central discs and then annealed the pieces to make the forming as easy as possible. The 3 pieces on the right were shaped on the advanced forming stake and now have that distinctive Pringles shape.

Small, faceted sapphire gemstones, wrapped with balled sterling wire dangle from the bottom of these formed discs.
When I finished these earrings, I felt a bit underwhelmed.

This pair works for me.
These discs are brass that was textured using my center punch before being annealed and formed on the stake. Faceted prehnite beads wrapped with balled sterling wire dangle. I added what I call my wrapped tornado link of annealed steel wire to connect the sterling earwire. This little tornado was sanded with a fine sanding block to bring out highlights.

My staging photo is one that I found at a flea market, and I love the ethereal quality that it suggests. I have a richly detailed storyline that I can imagine for her and appreciate what she adds to my images.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

St. Patrick's Day

Today's big event was our community's St. Patrick's Parade.

This parade is so popular that for one day, it feels like our community is the epicenter of all things Irish in Pennsylvania.

The parade follows a route that wraps around my street, and I have learned from previous years that going anywhere in a vehicle is just not possible on this day. There are bands from local schools.

Our own town was well represented by the high school marching band.

I always look forward to the Mummers string bands, something that is unique to Philadelphia.

How could you not love a group of men dressed in fantastically garish costumes, playing banjos, accordions and saxophones?

Each string band has a leader who does his 'Mummer strut', a lively and animated dance that helps to rouse the crowd.

There are always some parade spectators who are so roused that they simply cannot contain themselves. They run into the street and perform their own strut alongside the band leader.
Watching these free spirited Mummer fans is usually my favorite part of the parade.

Not this year.

My favorite part had me laughing so hard that I didn't capture a good photo. This leprechaun was marching alongside a flatbed trailer.

On the flatbed trailer stood three young men who were drinking. That's it.

Oh was also smoking a cigarette.

Friday, March 4, 2011

More on the Etching

I've been working with the silver nickel that I etched earlier this week.

Some of the etched metal was cut into discs. Holes were then punched so that the discs could be used in future projects as links or dangles. The etched pattern wasn't reading especially well so I heated the discs with my torch, instantly turning them black due to the rapid oxidation. I then sanded each disc with a fine sanding block to better reveal the patterning.

I love how the etched pattern resembles morel mushrooms. I also love how nobody else has discs like these.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Setting Goals

I pulled out one of my etched sheets of silver nickel with the goal of making a couple of new bezels. I do typically set a goal for myself when spending an evening at the workbench which keeps me on task and helps me to maintain a business-like approach to my work. The downside to setting a specific goal is the disappointment of not actually achieving it.

Get the idea of where this is headed?

One of my cabochons was sized with a piece of fine silver bezel wire which was soldered into a circular shape snugly fit to the stone. I then prepared to solder the bezel onto my etched base.
That's when the problems started.

The problems started and just did not end. Well.....actually, they did end, but it was not a good ending. Because the silver nickel is thin (24 gauge), it started to warp as I heated the piece to reach the temperature necessary for the solder to flow. The warping meant that the fine silver bezel wire was no longer in full contact with the silver nickel. When the solder did flow, it just spread onto the surface of the bezel wire.
No....that is not where it needed to be.
I have soldered onto this gauge metal before with success and insisted on two more attempts. Unfortunately, 'attempt' is the operative word here and the above photo is the result.

I admitted being defeated by a 1 ounce piece of metal and decided that I needed to change my strategy. I cut a piece of 16 gauge silver nickel and made a new fine silver bezel.

I am ready to try again another day!

At least my evening's etching was a success.