Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mina Rakkaus Sinu, Aiti

This past summer I met a woman at the Wildacres Retreat where I learned enameling from Jean Stark. This woman's name was Katri, and I found out she was 100% Finnish. My mother is 100% Finnish, as well, and once we started talking, I felt an immediate kinship with her. She knew everything about the Finnish people in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and was even familiar with my mother's family homestead, which has turned into a museum of sorts.

At the last meal we all had together, she wrote these words on a napkin and handed it to me: "Mina Rakkaus Sinu, Aiti." She said, "It means 'I love you mother' in Finnish." How sweet of her! My mother's 82nd birthday is coming up this month, so I made her this necklace with those words stamped on silver tags. I just knew I would eventually figure out a way to incorporate them into some form of jewelry for her. I even added a super big clasp so that she will be able to take it on and off herself. I hope she likes it.

This is a new chain I whipped up last week. Can you tell autumn has finally arrived in my back yard?

This is my favorite time of year. It's so beautiful out there right now!

Until next time!


Friday, October 05, 2007

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

I haven't been blogging much recently due to being gone for 2 weeks helping out with the Music at the Crossroads first American tour. We picked them all up in Boston over 2 weeks ago with a Uhaul trailer and 2 extra cars, and then drove to Concord, New Hampshire. This was their first ever performance in the United States, so everyone was both excited and nervous at the same time. I knew after the first song the audience loved them. Clapping, hooting, foot stamping and a standing ovation! It was great!

The next day we drove to Woodstock, Vermont (gorgeous little town) and set up for that evening's show. Again, the audience was thrilled by their performance. Here's a little snippet from one of their shows.

After Vermont, it was a long drive with a couple of stops along the way before we got to Lousiville, Kentucky for a Performing Arts Exchange Conference. They played 12 times in 3 days. People were coming up to me saying that the word on the street was that this was the group to see! It was all quite exciting  and tons of fun. These musicians and dancers are the BEST!!! They're not only super talented, they're simply a great bunch of people - kind, sweet, funny and a joy to be with.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sara Smile

I love making simple jewelry...and I especially love making it for others. I gave this to my friend, Sara, for her birthday and she seemed so happy to receive something I actually made for her. I tried to think of words to describe her and came up with beautiful, loving, friend, Sara. Yep, that's a pretty good description of her. A freshwater pearl and leather chain finished it up.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Step by Step Wire Jewelry Magazine

My article is finally out! The magazine just hit the stands today, and if you see it at Barnes and Noble, pick it up and flip to page 35 (I think that's where it is) and you'll see how to make the sterling silver bookmarks I made for my book club friends last December. Since this is the first time I've ever submitted anything whatsoever to be published, I'm pretty darn excited. The article is called "Bookmarks for Bookworms." I hope you have a chance to see it.

I spent an entire day etching this past weekend. It's truly a day-long process. First I found the designs I wanted, then copied them onto blue "P&P" paper. I then transferred the design onto brass (this was the hard part) before putting them into the etching solution for about an hour...sometimes more.

Here is one of the pendants I then made from one of my etchings. You can also find it on my new Etsy site.

After all the time it took getting the brass plate prepared and etched, it's a thrill to simply roll the metal through the rolling mill against the plate and have the designed transferred to the silver. I'm planning on making more with all the fun designs I have now.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Feelin' Crafty

It was just by chance that I found out a neighbor of mine makes jewelry. So while walking the pups last week, I saw her outside and immediately went over to introduce myself. I said, "I heard you make jewelry...so do I!" She said she does make jewelry and she also sews. "So do I," I replied. We continued talking, got on the subject of our book clubs and she said she makes her book club friends bookmarks every year. Is this person living my life? I told her about the article I wrote for Wire Wrap Jewelry Magazine about how to make sterling silver bookmarks (on stands September 11th) and she told me she made some cute ones from old photographs and fabrics. I couldn't wait to see them.

On Wednesday she came by and I've been a busy little bee ever since. Yes, it's terribly early to be thinking of Christmas gifts already, but I don't enjoy being rushed during the holidays. By making gifts now, I'm enjoying the whole process... sifting through the fabrics, the photos and the quotes...scanning, printing, cutting and sewing. I'm wondering if I should add some embellishments. Perhaps a little ribbon, or buttons or a charm or two. Haven't decided yet about that...but hey, I've got plenty of time. These are just two of the six I've made so far.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Plays with Dogs

Jess left today, but not after a parting photo shoot with Bella & Hannah. I think Hannah wanted to leave with her. Jess and Hannah have always had a special bond, ever since Jess let Hannah sleep with her when she was a wee pup of only 6 or 7 weeks old. She still gets crazy excited when Jess comes for a visit and is always a bit sad when she leaves.

Check out the gorgeous necklace Jess is wearing! We went to a bead shop and she chose the lovely stones for her necklace. I taught her how to put it all together...and then I taught her how to string pearls. She's always been such a good student. :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Summertime, continued...

Once the frame was formed, the next task was to either solder or fuse it to the thin metal sheet (33 gauge). I chose to solder.

Jean then taught me how to twist wire by hand, which is far easier to control than when twisting in a flex shaft. I carefully laid the wire around the form and soldered. It was finally time to begin placing the enamel into the cells. The fun part begins!

I had tried a lot of different combinations of red transparent enamel, ruby transparent enamel and flux, and chose this color as my favorite. I also added some blue for contrast. Once I had fired on about 4 or 5 coats of enamel into the cells, it was time to sand (yucky part). When I was finished, we gold plated it in 24 karat gold. This is how it all came out:

As soon as I returned home, I ordered more enamels and cannot wait to get started on another project. It's an entirely different medium to work in and I'm lovin' it (except for the sanding part). I can't wait to return to Wildacres next year!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Here I am up in Wildacres in Little Switzerland, North Carolina...just a short drive from Asheville, NC. On the left is a photo of some of the pieces my teacher, Jean Stark, has done in the past, and what we are trying to duplicate in this class by using fine silver and enamels.

This place is heavenly. The mornings and evenings are cool and the days are pleasantly warm. We wake up to a bell ringing somewhere on the grounds at 7:30. Breakfast is served family style between 8 and 9:00. Everyone then heads off to their workshops. We have an engraving class going on, a writer's workshop (science fiction writers), a form-folding workshop with John Cogswell, Intarsia, Wax Forming and even a beginning metalsmithing class. We work until the bell rings to let us know it's time to head to the dining area for lunch at noon. Then we're back to work until the dinner bell rings. After dinner, we usually go BACK to our studios and are free to work until 10:00 pm, which we all do! We're loving it. No phones ringing, no television, no interruptions. In fact, to get phone coverage, I have to walk into the woods and find a place where my phone suddenly picks up a Cingular signal and I can't budge from that spot to call home.

The pic on the left is my "sample" of different kinds of red that I made. The pic on the right is the beginning form of what I am beginning to make in this class. I am learning SO MUCH and really loving it here. Just hanging out with all these people who love doing the same thing I do is a great experience. And I got super lucky with my roommate! She's from Michigan and I couldn't ask for a nicer person to room with. Here are a couple of my classmates - Robert (Rowbear) and Karen.

More later! I'll be home soon and will show you the finished piece as soon as I can.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Matrix Opal

Here is my recently finished earthy-looking pendant and chain I had started ohhhhh soooo very long ago. The lower stone was purchased when I first began metalsmithing and now I can't remember what it's called, but I think it's a form of jasper. I made the bezel (which is textured, but you can't see it in this photo), and then put the whole thing aside for a couple of years. Recently I purchased the upper stone, which is called a Matrix Opal (from Mexico), and did not realize what a perfect match it was with the bottom stone until I brought it home and placed it in my collection of stones. I wish you could see the iridescent quality of the Mexical Opal - it looks like an alien eyeball.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but if you have an interest in making handmade chains, I highly recommend Jean Stark's book called "Classical Loop in Loop Chains." You would definitely have to know some basic metalsmithing skills...like how to use a torch, how to fuse silver, etc, before you begin.

I have to miss my last two classes with Julia Woodman because of a trip back home (need to visit the folks), and I will truly miss her and my friends in the class. I believe it is helpful to be among one's peers...people who enjoy doing the same things you enjoy...to help spur one's creative juices in whatever area one is interested in. Sometimes taking a few months off can be good, as well. Either way, it's all good.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Shiny Toys

Ta-Daaaaaa! My copper bowl is finished. Okay, you're probably saying, "So what?" Well, if this was as big as my round copper stew pot from William's Sonoma, you would surely be impressed. But we all have to start somewhere, right?

It's hard to believe this little bowl (which is holding dog treats now on the kitchen counter) took so long to make. It started from a flat sheet of copper. With all the hammering on that innocent piece of metal, I thought I'd kill it...or at least form a hole in it with all the banging necessary to make a bowl shape. But it just kept on changing and warping as I went along. Once the bowl was formed into the shape I was happy with, I continued to finish with a forging hammer over and over and over, around and around and around, until it was as smooth as it can possibly be. Phew! I hope I have some new muscles from this. :)

In the pendant below (more forging and forming), I used what I learned in the John Cogswell workshop to form it. It's rather plain and simplistic, but the twist in the metal gives it a little personality. It also holds my sunglasses quite nicely. :)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hammer Time

I just spent a great week in a John Cogswell Forging Workshop. John is one of the nicest and most knowledgeable teachers I've ever had. He was open for every question (no matter how silly) and treated each person there with respect and encouragement. For five days, we learned how to stretch and form metal with a hammer and an anvil. He taught us how metal moves and what we need to do to make it move the way we want it to. Easier said than done! Well, it was easy for John, but a challenge for the rest of us. Here he is demonstrating for a couple of ladies in the class.

This copper necklace was our second class project. John whipped this one out from a piece of round copper wire in about an hour. It took the rest of us an entire day...some of us it took two days.

This is how people keep their forging hammers safe from getting marked up accidentally. Hmmmm...could this be Jessica's next knitting project? Hammer socks?

If anyone reading this has an opportunity to take one of John's workshops, don't hesitate. He's excellent.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Haaaaang on Loopy, loopy hang on

This past week I decided to make a chain I had never attempted before for a pendant I recently started. Because I'm supposed to be writing an article for a jewelry magazine in the next few months with photographs of each step, I decided to do a photographic practice session while making this chain. This has enabled me to see where the photographs are going to need more light, better backgrounds, etc. Meanwhile, I'll share with you all how I made the chain, just in case anyone out there might be interested in making one.

I used 14 gauge fine silver round wire and first wrapped it around an approximately 8 mm circular metal cylinder (wood would work just as well), then gently slipped off the loops while holding them tightly. The loops were cut with Joyce Chen Scissors (these are made for cutting chickens, but they're excellent for cutting metal). I cut 20 total (10 for each side).

I closed the loops so the ends were touching and fused them shut before putting them through the rolling mill to flatten just a bit.

The next step was texturing these 20 loops. I took a tool with a straight edge and pounded lines all the way around each loop, both on the front and the back.

Continuing along, I made 22 more loops (11 for each side of the chain) out of the fine silver (same size), but left these smooth. I opened one, slipped on two textured loops, then soldered the smooth one closed (the reason I decided to use an easy solder to close these loops is because I was losing too many loops by trying to fuse them). I then added a smooth one to the last textured loop, added one textured loop to that and soldered it closed, and so on, until the chain was complete. Each side ended up with 11 smooth loops and 10 textured loops.

At this point I was able to attached the ends of the two sides of the chain to the two sides of the pendant. I added a handmade toggle clasp, and then plopped the whole thing in a glass of JAX to darken and make it look "older." The very last thing I did was set the two stones made from Pietersite, and polished it up with a bit of ZAM.

I would have been glad to have given you a tutorial on making this bezel, but had already made this piece when the idea came to me to photograph the steps. Perhaps next time...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Silver and Opals and Chains, Oh My!

I'm happy to report I found some filigree solder online, so here is the result from my first experiments with the new concoction . It worked quite well, but it's different from the handmade solder I learned to cook up previously using silver, copper, bronze and zinc. Far less of the purchased solder is needed to fuse the filigree to the frame, so I overloaded it every so often, but it burned away nicely.

I am in love with this stone. I purchased it from our friendly "Opal Guy" (Gene) who mines the opals in Australia and brings them to our school for us to choose from. When he shows up and lays all all of his gorgeous stones on the table, no one can get any work done. We obviously buy a substantial amount from him because he keeps coming back...and that's a good thing!

Now I need to get to work on my copper bowl. In the new class I started this week, we are learning how to turn a flat piece of metal (copper first, then sterling silver) and pound it, little by little, into the shape of a bowl. The teacher, Julia Woodman, is wonderful. She's kindhearted, patient and considerate. I can tell already I am going to thorougly enjoy learning from her.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

You Can Leave Your Mittens On

What was my absolutely most favorite Christmas present of all this year? My new mittens lovingly knitted by my daughter, Jess, otherwise known as Yarnmonster. Aren't they great? She also made her brother a pair of black socks with the scull and cross bones design on each one in white (he's a pirate at heart), and whipped her dad up a gorgeous soft, green scarf! I'm amazed by her knitting ability. I look at the intricate designs and really have no idea how she does it.

Now all we need is a little cold weather over here so I can wear them! :)