Sunday, 31 January 2010

Prong Set Amazonite Necklace

Taking a gemstone cabochon and manipulating wire to encase and showcase it is one of my favorite parts of jewelry making.  Trouble is, eventually, they all looked the same to me.  Sure, you can vary the wraps up the stone and everybody seems to have a signature way of swirling the left-over wire at the top, but it's still a beautiful gemstone with distracting swirlies.
About six months ago, I ordered a book from Amazon, called "Wiresmithing" by Jim McIntosh.  He gives very clear instructions for a technique of prong setting cabochons, instead of the traditional wirewrapping.  It took me quite a while to decide to try it, but it was a Eureka moment.  Not only do you get to do wraps, you can fuse, solder, hammer and create beautiful frames for your cabs.

My first attempt was a very simple wrap with prongs and no fire involved, but it was a pretty amazonite cab and the simplicity of the wrap really turns the stone into the focal point it should be.
I matched it with some amazonite beads, sterling beads and spacers and a Hill Tribes silver flower clasp.  And a purple ceramic hummingbird for a bit of whimsy.
Amazonite is a type of feldspar, relatively uncommon, and its subtle creamy blue suits its metaphysical properties of soothing and calming one's emotions.

And hummingbirds?  They're my idea of an avian Jack Russell!  Always busy, cranky little beasties who have no idea how small they really are.
This necklace is sold.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

This Could Be Embarrassing

A subject that seems to come up frequently on the jewelry forums is about organizing.  Over and over, people will write in and ask how other artisans organize their beads and findings.  And we're all so full of good advice - probably comes under the heading of "them that cannot do, teach."  Flipping through various websites, I just found a T shirt that I want to order by the gross - it says, "Organized people are too lazy to look for things!"
Oh, lordy, whoever wrote that is my hero forever and ever.  All these years, I made excuses for myself. " I'm artistic - artistic people can't be organized, it's not in their nature."  "I'm just naturally disorganized, it's my nature."  "I'm a very visual person - I have to have everything out in front of me."
Ha!  Now I've seen the light!  It's not me that's wrong, lazy or neatness-challenged, it's organized people who are basically lazy and having a place for everything is a personality fault, not a good trait.
Not only am I chronically disorganized, I'm a disorganized hoarder. Hoarding is defined in the dictionary as “a supply or accumulation that is hidden or carefully guarded for preservation, future use, etc.” Well, isn't that a good thing?  What if you threw it out or gave it to someone else?  Soon as you did that, you'd need it, sure as shootin'.  Other people were Cleopatra or kings and queens in their past lives.  I must have been a junk dealer.
I have made reasonably successful attempts to organize my jewelry stuff.  My first purchase was a few winters ago, when I was looking in Canadian Tire for a snow shovel.  In their tool department (so I love shopping in hardware stores!) they had nifty 40-drawer chests on sale for $15.  The drawers were all see-through plastic and of course it was going to be the answer to my clutter, so I bought two.  It was great fun sorting everything into drawers and I found stuff I'd forgotten I even had.  Wow!  thought me, I'm all neat and organized!
Of course, I couldn't do any work, because it was all packed neatly into drawers and I just didn't feel like it.  That was a long, dry spell and lasted until I rooted through the drawers and pulled about ten of them out and put them on my kitchen table.  Then I had to pull out the remaining 70 drawer to find my findings and jump rings and when I did, had no idea if they were silver or base metal.  I had taken them out of their original packaging to make them fit in the drawers.  And some of the beads - are they glass, or old WalMart plastic beads from my cheap beginnings?  Well, damn, this isn't going to work.
My next foray into organization was a trip to the dollar store.  They had nifty little trays, plastic containers and labelling stuff.  All the sterling silver could be in one container (with dividers, of course) and all the base metal findings could be in another.  Labelled.  Then, a trip to WalMart snagged a cheap 4-drawer dresser thingy that is really quite perfect for my kind of organizing.  More on that later.  I brought an old, felt card table down from upstairs and set it up in my livingroom, and started dumping the little drawers on it to organize.  Big beads in one wooden tray, smaller beads in another wood tray...Oh, look, wouldn't that look good together?  That card table with my beads dumped on it stayed in place for a couple of months and it was probably the most productive beading period I had.
A call from the real estate agent that someone wanted to look at my store and apartment put an abrupt halt to my messy fun.  Trays and containers full of swarovskis and sterling findings got thrown in the top drawer, beads in the second drawer, wire and polishing cloths in the third, and since I had started doing fusing, soldering and art clay, all of the tools for that in the bottom.  All of my base metal findings and cheaper beads were in the 40-drawer units.  I know enough not to stash things in a closet, because prospective buyers could be hurt when everything comes tumbling down, but drawers...if they open my hastily stacked drawers, it's their own fault.
It's actually a good system for me.  Nothing got labelled and nothing is neat in the drawers, but I can see all the beads and find all the findings.  Usually.  It still migrates out to my kitchen table or whatever flat surface is available, but I can hide it fast.
To complement my newfound organizational skills, I thought it was time to get another bead board.  My first board seemed to get buried with ongoing, unfinished projects, so a new, uncluttered one would be great to start a new project on.  Yes, I really am self-delusional.  Now I have two cluttered bead boards and work on a place mat at the kitchen table.  I HAVE to put it away then, or I'd have no place to eat.
Well, thought me, what I need is a big tray that I could move around with everything I needed for the project on it.  Then I could eat at the table and set it on the drawers when I wasn't working on it.  My dear car-pool buddy from my previous life had given me a beautiful hand-painted wooden tray - perfect!  That lasted about a week and "things" kept getting stashed on it.  Boxes, an easel, rulers, tools that came from eBay for beading classes, projects to be melted's got so much crap on it I have no idea what is under it.  I hope she doesn't read this blog.
So I could give people wonderful lessons about how to organize.  Just don't ask me how to STAY organized.  If you really feel the need to be that neat and know where everything is at every moment, you have a terrible personality disorder and are basically lazy.  And I have the T shirt to prove it.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Chain maille watch

This Persian weave watch band is approximately 8" long, meant to hang loose.  It is made of copper and aluminum, with a stainless steel watch.  The copper will darken with use and age, making a greater contrast between it and the bright aluminum.  $35 CDN

And yes, Virginia, cutting steel wire with a Koil Kutter is a no-no.  

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A short commercial

During my first few years of jewelry making, I accumulated a few necessary tools, but the ones I used the most and couldn't do without were a pair of bent-nose pliers from Canadian Tire.  They cost a whole $1.25 each and had no grooves to mark the wire.  They're getting pretty ratty and when I ordered some supplies from MonsterSlayer, I splurged and ordered a pair of Wubbers bent chain-nose pliers.
Well, I think I've died and gone to Heaven!  What a difference!  Guess someone would be pretty happy with hamburger until they got fed a good steak, but now I want more Wubbers. Steak!  No more hamburger!
So pardon me if this does sound like a commercial, but I can't believe I've limped along for years thinking that I was so clever getting cheap pliers.  I'd better get busy with all the wire that just arrived and sell something, because now I need the whole set. 

Catching Up

It's been a busy month since I got my new toys and no time to make new jewelry.  The year-end has to be done for the store which seems to take every bit of free time available.  I thought I was ahead of the game this year and right up-to-date with my accounting, but apparently I'm delusional.
My son came to visit for the best part of a week and that was another week with nothing done (but my house is clean!) but we had a wonderful time just talking and watching hours of old WKRP in Cincinnati reruns.  He isn't the kind of man that normally wears jewelry, but he kept fondling my Persian chain prototype until finally I put a clasp on it and gave it to him.  He liked the fact that it wasn't perfect - does that say something about both of us? 
Although I didn't make anything other than the Persian bracelet, the Koil Kutter got lots of use and I think I wrecked the blade today trying to cut galvanized steel jump rings.  Lots of copper and aluminum to practice with, though, and I tried a few patterns just to see if the old brain could get around them.

From top to bottom:
European 4 in One
Helm Chain
Barrel Chain
Dragon Scale

The Dragon Scale is a really cool pattern, although my tiny sample doesn't show its beauty.  It takes a gazillion jump rings and a ton of patience, so once I figured out how to do it, I couldn't see how I would ever use it and quit.

Byzantine is a pattern with lots of potential and a lot of fun to make, but it wasn't fun trying to get it to sit right for a picture.  It's much nicer in person than the picture on the right shows.
The kitchen table is starting to get its comfortable jewelry making clutter again and I'm working on a Persian chain watch band - stay tuned!  There won't be any more chain maille after that one until I order another blade for my Kutter.  No more steel wire!