Sunday, March 20, 2016

Easily Distracted by Lovely Textures

Spring cleaning of my garden can sometimes take way too long.
I have a recurring problem of allowing myself to be easily distracted by the textures of dead vegetation.
Dried seed pods, ornamental grasses and leaves often make me pause to think,
"Hmmmm...wonder what this would look like if I roll printed it?"
Once that thought is there, it can nag at me until I actually test out the texture with my rolling mill.

I lucked out when I bought my rolling mill years ago at a nearby Harbor Freight.
This is not my dream rolling mill, but finding it on sale for less than $100,
I decided I could live with less than my dream.

Some dried leaves appeared to be good candidates for the mill.
Each leaf was sandwiched between 2 pieces of annealed copper.
The resulting texture was definitely worth the effort even thought the brittle leaves cracked under pressure, resulting in a disjointed imprint.
I then had to figure out how these pieces of copper leaf texture could best be used.
Brief consideration was given to cutting out discs for earrings and links,
but I decided that would not be an effective way of communicating the story of my garden's leaves.

I chose to cut out the leaves with metal shears.
After filing and sanding the edges, I tried forming one by using a couple of my swage blocks.
Once I was satisfied with the shape, I treated my prototype with liver of sulfur.
This was definitely a much more interesting project direction than my initial thought of cutting discs.

The other leaves were shaped in steps
with different profiles in the swage blocks.

The plan was to use the leaves as pendants,
so I had to consider how the connection to a chain would be made.
Again, I had an initial reaction, thinking that a wire wrapping link could do the job nicely.
My smarter, inner designer wouldn't let me go down that wire wrapped path.
I think these formed leaves have a beautiful simplicity that would be compromised by the heaviness of too much wire at the top.
The solution was to shape and cut large sterling wire jump rings that I soldered closed after threading them through holes that were drilled at the top of each leaf.

The liver of sulfur treatment was done in repeated baths,
allowing the patina to build up.
Once I was satisfied with the color, 
multiple layers of microcrystalline wax were applied and buffed with a soft cotton cloth,
creating a lustrous finish.

Now I'm ready to turn these metal leaves into necklaces
and ready to get back to cleaning out my garden.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Be Wary of Praise from Strangers

I am a tiny, modest business operation. 
Cynthia Murray Design consists of me,
working away in my basement studio/workbench and at my easel. 
I am told that I have cultivated a small following at some of the local shops that carry my work. 
My blog, Flickr and Pinterest sites have groups of regulars who presumably find something of interest in what I create and write.

I am very aware that mine is a singular, quiet voice in a cacophonous sea of online entities, 
all trying to put forth some kind of message. 
That is why I’m always a bit surprised when someone pauses to hear my message and even more surprised when one of those who pause actually reaches out and contacts me.

A few months ago, I received an email from the Director of Marketing of a company that designs and creates a popular line of products, telling me that she had come across my blog while researching fellow artists. 
She found my work “absolutely beautiful” and could tell that I was “passionate about my art”.
 Because it was Artist Appreciation Month 
(?...yeah, I also wasn’t aware that this was yet another one of those 30 days of alleged ‘appreciation’), 
their company wanted to 
“learn a bit more about me as an artist”.

I readily admit to initially feeling flattered by being contacted by a successful company, 
but life experiences have inspired in me a healthy level of suspicion. 
I wrote back, asking for more information. 
The response explained that they wanted to “celebrate my work and learn what fuels my passion” by having me write a blog post, answering a series of questions that they developed. 
I was to post this on my blog.

Wait a minute….
I didn’t understand how posting something on my own blog was going to be a benefit to me. 
I already tell my own story,
in my own words. 
I had a brief, naive thought that my work might be mentioned on the site of this successful company whose Director of Marketing was only pretending to be interested in my “lovely blog”. 
As I read further, I realized that they wanted me to include a link to their web site in my blog posting with no reciprocating acknowledgment.
How convenient that they provided the link to the page that highlighted their new products.

I decided to research and immediately found many blog postings composed by artists and craftspeople who undoubtedly received the same email that I had received, 
enticing them to take part in this ‘Artist Appreciation’ campaign. 
Many of the postings communicated the excitement felt by being contacted by such a successful company. 
All of the postings included the link to the new product line.

After another minute of sleuthing, I found out that this company had made the decision to discontinue their business relationships that they long held with national retailers. 
All future sales were going to be online through their own site. 
What a surprise…
this transition coincided with their alleged interest in me and likely hundreds of other independent designers. 
We were going to be their free marketing tool.

 I could have just let it go, but I don’t appreciate being played. 
I wrote back, 
“Thanks for clarifying.
You want to use my humble blog to promote your successful company….
no thanks”. 

I will always listen to my inner, suspicious voice.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Getting Centered

I love tools.
There have been times when I've made flimsy justifications, 
giving myself permission to spend money on a new workbench tool.
I didn't even pretend to hesitate when I saw this nifty tool at a recent bead show.
This wonderful piece of plastic that cost around $8.50 is a center locator.
I can hold any size disc within the V-shaped guides and mark a centerline which is quite useful when I want to cut out inner discs and drill holes for earwires and/or dangles.
I used to operate just fine without my new, super tool,
and would locate my cutouts and drill holes by eye.
Sometimes 'by eye' failed, and I would end up a tad off-balance...
probably something that only I would notice but that would be enough to make me toss the tad off-balance piece into the scrap box.
No toss outs in the batch of discs that I'm working on right now!

A central guide line helped me position the etched brass pieces in my disc cutter.
I used the guide line again to mark the drill hole location with a center punch.
The circles were then set on a solderite board and heat treated with my propane torch.
The small discs that were cut out were added to my container of interesting metal bits,
ready for use in a future project.

Some doming, some sanding and some wire wrapping of amethyst and labradorite...
and new earrings are ready to be delivered later this week.