Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Pain in My Bezel

Recent work with bezel pendants inspired me to pull out my stash of stones that have been sitting (and accumulating)
at my workbench.
Stones are my weakness when I get the chance to attend a bead show.
I like knowing that however I eventually use a stone or cabochon, the end result will almost certainly be unique.
Unfortunately, I've become convinced that my bezel pieces are unique because they have absorbed my angst and my solder-soul-crushing disappointments.

Although I did take some classes at one of the nearby art centers, most of my jewelry skills are self-taught with...
reading lots of books and trade magazines,
watching lots of YouTube tutorials,
obsessively perusing the Rio Grande catalog to try to figure out what tools do what tasks
lots and lots of trial and error.
While I like to think that my skills continue to evolve in a positive direction,
soldering has been, and remains, my Achilles' heel as evidenced by a recent project.

Like most of my soldering projects, I began this one with cautious optimism because I was creating a bezel for a largeish stone,
around 5.75cm squareish.
For the base, I selected metal that I had etched with a pattern created by the talented local clay master/jewelry designer,
Barbara Hanselman.
My original plan was to have a collar around the bezel, highlighting a selected view of the etched texture.
Then the soldering started,
and then my problems started.

I wasn't surprised when I didn't achieve a continuous flow of solder in my first attempt.
After a pickle bath and brass brush cleaning, I tried again.
I realized that I had lost full contact between the bezel and the etched base in a few spots and gentle nudging with my solder pick was not correcting all the trouble spots.
There were repeated visits to the soldering bench, and after each clean-up, I set my stone in  place to make sure that I was maintaining the proper bezel shape.
A piece of dental floss was used to make sure I would be able to get the stone back out.

Too many attempts had me admitting defeat, and I decided to creatively cover up my solder misses.
Using my acetylene torch, I balled scraps of sterling and soldered them in place, turning my points of failure into points of interest.
The collar of etched metal no longer seemed to make sense, so I used my jeweler's saw to cut most of it away.
I will have to make better use of Barbara's lovely pattern on my next bezel project.

According to some rough calculations of time and materials,
I think I'll have to sell this pendant for $986.75.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bezel Pendants Part Two

After completing two bezel pendants this weekend, I returned to my workbench , planning to make two necklaces....
and then I sat there, stymied.
Often, the obvious direction is already in my head and I can put all focus on the making of whatever I'm envisioning.
This was not one of those times.
Since I wasn't sure how to construct the necklace, I decided to use some of the sterling links that I had just soldered.
I shaped a section of heavy gauge wire to fit through the formed bail and drilled both ends for wire wrapped connections.

As I began to construct a chain of links, I became increasingly dissatisfied.
Nothing felt right about my approach.
The pendant, with its large stone cabochon and riveted layers, did not need competition from a busy chain of over-sized links.
I needed to simplify, letting the pendant be the unchallenged "it" of the necklace.
Sterling chain replaced my chain-of-links, although I kept two links for added interest and texture, appreciating how they mimic the shape of the bezel.
A liver of sulfur treatment and sanding block cleaning were the finishing touches.

Much better.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bezel Pendants

While I was on a soldering-skills improvement campaign a while ago, 
I amassed a collection of bezel set stones that have been begging to become finished projects.
I successfully ignored these stones while they sat in a container on my workbench 
until last week when I decided my holiday line-up would need a few more signature/statement necklaces.
While I was working on my soldering skills, I unfortunately put no focus on how these bezeled beauties would eventually be featured as finished pieces of jewelry.
A smarter version of me might have incorporated a bail before I took the time to carefully and tenderly set the stones into their bezels, thereby eliminating the option of applying additional soldering-related heat.

I decided to revisit a previous design, soldering a bail on to a back layer that would then be riveted to the bezel layer.  
One bail-to-be was cut from a piece of etched metal.
After filing and sanding the edges, the piece was shaped with one of my bail forming pliers.
The second bail needed to be simpler, so a closed ring was joined with a previously soldered link that I cut open.
The cut link and the formed bail were soldered on to pieces of etched silver nickel that were cut to slightly larger dimensions that the bezel set pieces.
The matching layers were riveted together with segments of heavy gauge wire....
and I now have bezel set stones that can actually become pieces of jewelry.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

L'Enfant Cheesecloth

This week's studio efforts have included etching and texturing different pieces of metal.
The metal will soon become earrings, necklaces and bracelets as I prepare for the holiday season.
I know, I know....it's not even Halloween yet; how dare I speak of the holiday season?
I have an appointment next week to drop off my inventory for the seasonal display at one of the galleries where I sell, 
so I am well into my sort-of-end-of-year busy schedule.

Assuming that nobody wants to see the same thing that they saw last year, I've been testing out some new textures.
A new favorite is this cheesecloth pattern that I etched into pieces of silver nickel.
I liked how the larger pieces looked after cleaning them with a brass brush post-etching, 
but I liked the pattern even more once I cut a selection of smaller pieces.
Seeing isolated bits of the cheesecloth texture made me think that they resembled plan views of an urban network of roads....

like Pierre L'Enfant's 1791 plan for Washington, DC. 
it's the landscape architect in me coming out.

Those little sections of roadways are due to become earrings late tonight.