Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Golden Acorn with Jean Stark

Is it Hot in Here?

After a week-long workshop in granulation with Jean, it was sweltering.

I just had probably the most intense jewelry workshop of my life. It was fun, scary, enlightening, nerve-wracking, frustrating and joyous all at the same time.

I started off by working three days on forming the above dome out of 22k gold and adding on those miniscule granules one at a time. Sometimes they would sit nicely where they were supposed to be, and other times they would slip down or slither over to hook up with some other granule formations they were not supposed to be a part of. But it was definitely 3 days worth of work before I reached the point of being ready to begin fusing. My brilliant teacher, Jean Stark, was at my side to watch over me as I began to fuse. My heart was actually beating faster and my palms were sweaty. I'm not kidding about this. I was SCARED. Anyway, the torch was put to the dome and heated until it was a bright, glowing red (I thought for sure it was going to just burn up and melt into one big blob). Jean gently encouraged me on how to use the torch, and little by little the granules fused to the gold. It all happens so quickly. Knowing when to stop and move the torch away before melting is a skill one develops over time I imagine. At this point in my granulation experience, which is practically zero, all I could do was try not to blink in case I missed the "flash" that told me the granules had fused.

Then it was on to making the bail, as well as re-firing the dome again and again to fuse wayward granules. I must have torched this dome at least 10 times, so you can probably imagine how happy I was to bring this baby home all in one piece.  

Amazing experience with an amazing teacher!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blues, Greens and In Betweens

After receiving about a quart of Liver of Sulphur from Rio Grande, I've gone a little crazy with it. I'm throwing pieces of jewelry into the pot that I had never considered putting a patina on. It's always a surprise to see the results after a dip or two in the heated Liver of Sulphur, followed by a little steel wool scrub. This new pendant was made from one of the Australian Opals I bought in class a couple of weeks ago. The slightly antique look of the silver really brings out the blue of the stone, another unexpected effect.

Below is an example of my attempt to use some of those new skills I learned in the gemstone-setting workshop that took place a few months ago. : ) Practice, practice, practice.

This is Rebecca, the senior student I've been "mentoring" and teaching metalsmithing skills to. She made a lovely Egyptian spiral bracelet and just finished the pendant hanging from her neck. The picture is wacky because the camera was accidentally set on "Manual" by mistake. Whoops!

Here we have a couple photos from our trip to the Georgia Aquarium last week. Ken and Sharon, friends from Michigan, were in town and we acted like tourists with them for a couple of days.

The beginnings of my next project...such pretty stones...what shall I do with them?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Who Let The Dogs Out?

Red, brown, dappled, gray, big, small and in-between dachshunds everywhere you looked! Yes, it was time for the yearly Howl-O-Weenie Festival put on by Dream Dachshund Rescue in Atlanta. David and his friends, Matt & Jacqueline, joined us in the park for a morning of dachshund mania.

This little "Princess" was quite the eye-catcher! She had her own well-decorated pink float to ride on in the costume contest.
This was one of the funniest! You can't see the Obama dog next to this pup, but that dog had a Biden doll sitting on it's back.
How cute is this?
The scary spider dogs!
This little pup is named Daisy.
Oh, let's not forget our own little ones. Yes, I'm aware they look rather disheveled and tousled here. Poor little Bella - the excitement of driving into the city was too much for her and she had a "foam at the mouth" seizure when we arrived. Luckily, I had brought some valium (doctor prescribed for just these types of moments) and we got a half of one in her mouth. So if she looks a little out-of-it, she is! Plus, the hippie costume thing just didn't work. Their skirts kept falling off. I must plan better next time.

Ahhhh....home at last. Sure was a fun outing hanging out with all those dachshunds, though.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Ball of Confusion

This past weekend I took a class on Granulation. Getting those tiny, little spheres to fuse to the silver without melting is not an easy task. There's no random torching here! What you see below is an experiment. The spheres did adhere, but I somehow over-cooked the silver so it now has a mottled appearance. I need to find out what I'm doing wrong here because it happened on both pieces. In November I'll be taking another workshop with the lovely Jean Stark, and will have to be proficient at this by then because I'll be using gold ($835 an ounce today). Overheating will not be an option. But I've been told that if you can fuse silver, gold will be easy. I'm counting on this to be true. :) 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wide Open Spaces

Jackson Hole, Wyoming. About 15 years ago I was having dinner with a group of business people and one of the women said she lived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. At that point in my life, I was completely unfamiliar with the area. Now that I've come and gone, I understand why. Stepping off a plane in Jackson Hole is like walking into the past...back when there were huge open spaces with mountains and sky every which way you looked...cattle and horses grazing alongside the road...cowboys (real ones) with weathered skin and cowboy hats on their heads passing by on the street and taking pretty girls for a twirl on the dance floor at "Cowboys" in the evenings. Yep, it was the West I had envisioned in my head from stories and television shows and movies, but never really believed existed. It still exists, and it's stunning.

I suppose winters aren't quite as comfortable with a layer of white snow always covering everything and temperatures getting to minus 49 degrees. It makes me wonder how anyone can live there year round. About 7,500 people do live there year 'round. Good grief. Ann Arbor, Michigan has over 113,000 people in their little city so Jackson Hole residents must feel like a large family.

We had a great time hiking & rafting with our friends, B&C, who you have seen here on my blog many times before. Here's Brian tickling Connie on our way up the mountain. They are so much fun to travel with:

As we were entering the area to land our raft here was Mr. Moose, waiting for us. We were told not to get too close because he could get nasty. We kept our distance.

This is a view from Grand Teton National Park. We had hiked up to "Inspiration Point," which SOME of us found a little more difficult than others to accomplish (ME...because it was like straight UP the mountain!), and then we continued hiking along a more flat terrain (suggested by our rafting guide, Andy, who gave us so many wonderful suggestions of what to do with our time in Jackson Hole. He was a college student who had come there for one semester off, and never left. We understood why.)

I have so many photos of this trip, and plan to get them on flickr as soon as as possible. Will let you know.

: )

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A New York Gluten Free Minute

First, I just want to thank the "celiac chicks" who have helped me find all the wonderful gluten-free restaurants in New York that I look forward to visiting when I'm there. This past weekend I was fortunate to actually find and try some gluten free potstickers!!! It was the first time in over eleven years I was able to order them in a restaurant. Lilli and Loo's (on Lexington) have a gluten-free menu with a wide assortment of choices. I drank Thai Iced Tea, gobbled up the potstickers and a finished with a crispy fried shrimp dish. Quite good and really a treat.

On a sunny and warm Sunday afternoon we headed to the Broadway show "Wicked." I wish I had pictures to show you, but they don't allow picture-taking in the Gershwin Theater (a good idea because you wouldn't want to miss a moment of the action on stage while messing with your camera.) What an amazing show. I was mesmerized from the opening number until the standing ovation. This is a picture of the stage right before the magic began:

Here's my favorite daughter, Jess, with her adorable boyfriend, Vitaley, in Bobby Flay's restaurant "Bar Americain," where we dined after the show (my favorite son was home watching the pups). I loved being in New York and I loved being with Jess & Vitaley for 3 whole days. I love so much about New York that I had to ask my husband if he was getting irritated at me constantly saying, "You know what else I love about New York?" He kindly replied that I wasn't irritating him at all. Hmm...I don't know about that...

The big letdown was on Monday when we all decided to meet at "Risotteria," the Italian GF restaurant I always try to visit when I'm there. This time I was going to try their GF panini. But we arrived to find it was closed for the day. Yep, a bit of a bummer, but we found another nice place nearby and then spent the afternoon doing a little shopping. How can you go to New York and not spend some time shopping? I splurged on a really-cool-sweater-wrap-kind-of-thing so am looking forward to fall so I can start wearing it everywhere. It's one of those pieces of clothing you can throw over your jeans & t-shirt and look like you are dressed far better than you really are. I need more of these. Lots more.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Somewhere in Atlanta with Diamonds

On Thursday afternoon I finished a three-day workshop with Robert Wooding where I learned how to set gemstones. Being the novices we all were, we used brass rings and cubic zirconias to do our experimenting with, and were expected to set approximately 3 to 4 rings every day. I learned far more than I expected to and am thrilled I took the course and can now, actually, set a stone! Amazing! Cabachons are cool and all, but sometimes its exciting to add something more...something dazzling.

Since returning home, I've been stuck with my head in the Stuller catalog, the Fire Mountain Gems catalog, and the Rio Grande Catalog, trying to find some lovely gemstones. Hmmmm...far too many choices!

Here's a good video on Youtube that demonstrates how to set a stone, for anyone interested:

I'd like to find a good source for gems in the near future. If anyone reading this has a suggestion, shoot me an email ( or leave a message below. It would be very much appreciated! : )

Monday, March 17, 2008

Workin' on the Chain Gang

Last week I was fortunate enough to be a part of a workshop on chainmaking. Jean wrote the book (literally) on chains, which is called "Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains and Their Derivatives." We had time to learn five or six different types of chains, but very few of us completed any of them. It is a time consuming process, and the priority was to learn how to do these patterns to be finished later at home. The first step is cutting all the little links, sometimes one or two hundred of them, depending on the chain you are making. Then they must all be fused, one by one, so they'll stay nice and tight when you eventually form them into their pattern. I melted a LOT of links last week. There's a knack to heating the wire so it fuses just right.

Here are some silver examples Jean brought along:

And here are some gold:

One of the designs for a chain involved making what Jean calls a "Heracles knot." I liked it so much I made a pair in 22K gold with blue lapiz beads hanging from below.

The only chain I actually completed in class was this bracelet, which is called a "foldover link." The most difficult part was heating the metal to form all the silver balls on each link exactly the same size. Mine came out a little too big, so I'll have to be more careful the next time I attempt this.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Red Velvet, If You Please

Hammers pounding, drills buzzing, and torches ablaze with fire! That's how I'd describe my studio these past few weeks. Winter is bringing on a productive mode of being. The above pendant is a design from my favorite Japanese design book . These designs are so pretty I could probably make jewelry from this book for a very long time and never tire of them. I etched this particular design onto a plate of brass and then transferred it to sterling silver via the rolling mill. I lightly domed it and then soldered it onto a flat back piece before adding patina and polish.

Thinking it was about time to add some earrings to my collection, I came up with the design above. It's a cross between something I saw in a sundance catalog and a book on ancient jewelry. After cutting out the basic shapes, I added a bit of texture by chasing some designs along the bottom edge before adding the ear wires. I want to make them again, but this time edge each piece entirely in in sterling silver wire which will form the loops on each side, to which the ear wire can be attached. If successful, I'll post them here.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tired of Smoothies? Try Energy Soup!

One of the things my teacher, Julia Woodman, is famous for (besides her master skills as a silversmith) is her Energy Soup. She whips it up and has it for lunch every day (truly, every day). I think it must be doing good things for her because she appears to have an abundance of energy and a zest for life.

I finally took the time yesterday to buy what was needed at Whole Foods. It's a wild concoction of ingredients that you simply can't imagine tasting good...but it DOES taste good!

If you don't have every single ingredient, it's okay. Just make sure you use a gluten-free soy sauce instead of the one listed below if you are gluten-free. Julia likes to add her leftover salad ingredients from the previous evening to her Energy Soup bowl before lunch, so I guess this is one of those recipes you can do whatever you want with, but the recipe below seems to have the just the right amounts of everything to balance the assortment of flavors and ingredients.  

Energy Soup

1 avocado
1 apple
1 medium Vidalia, or sweet onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 inch of ginger root (peeled)
1 three ounce container of Vonnie's sunflower sprouts
1 three ounce container of Vonnie's buckwheat lettuce
1 whole cucumber
1 peeled stack of broccoli
1 bunch of washed spinach OR 4 collard green leaves
1 large swiss chard leaf
2 tablespoons almond butter OR 2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons sweet miso
1 tablespoon of grade B maple syrup
1 tablespoon of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Nama Shoyu organic unpasteurized soy sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 3/4 cups filtered water
Several sprigs parsley, a little dill weed.

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Large leaves may be bunched together and cut across into 1 1/2 inch segments and pushed through the top of the food processor. I would suggest using the pulse command so it doesn't get too soupy. You want it to have a nice, somewhat chunky consistency.

Yields 4 generous servings. Freezes well. Will be okay in refrigerator for 2 days.