Monday, November 30, 2009

She's making a list, checking it twice...

With the holidays upon us here, I'm spending more time decorating the house, cooking holiday meals and doing online shopping than working on my jewelry projects. But I wanted to post the results of the recent design challenge I'd mentioned in an earlier post.

Doing a design challenge is a great way to force yourself to just play with different textures and sizes until you create something you like. You'll be surprised how this exercise gets your creative juices flowing! All you need to do is make 3 different textures in your metal and then cut out a number of pieces, same shape but different sizes. Then you play! What I had originally planned changed and changed again the more I messed around with my pieces. Here is a photo of the necklace
before I put a patina on the metal:

The bracelet changed dramatically from my original intentions. Here it's easy to see I've taken the same shape and cut it out in different sizes and textures. I soldered and formed a cuff bracelet and then added a little gold for highlights, finishing with a patina and final buffing:

Now it's back to making holiday lists and checking them twice!

: )

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Silver Threads & Gold

Yes, it's time to get back to a little metalsmithing! It's drizzly outside and I'm happy to be warm and dry inside my studio, experimenting with some new ideas. I'm taking two classes this quarter with two different teachers, so am learning so many new things. For example, did you know that when the stick you use to pick-solder gets all icky and gooey, you just put the torch to it and then quench it in water a couple of times? Cleans it almost back to new. I used to think I had to replace them when they got bad. 

A couple of weeks ago, we had a great demo on how to attach a domed, circular bottom to a domed top piece with silver, balled wire (instead of soldering). The item we chose to put in the middle was completely up to us, and half the fun. I searched my stash and found this three-piece domed, gold and silver bi-metal creation I had made recently, but hadn't yet figured out what to use it for. The middle of this new pendant seemed the perfect fit. This was seriously fun to make and I'm already thinking about doing another one, domed on each side, but both with an opening, and hanging a pearl or some other pretty bead in the middle.

It's such a pleasure being back in Julia's class again with all my jewelry-making friends. Julia got me started working on these two sterling silver forged bracelets. They began as 6 gauge square wire (6.25" long), then were formed into a circle, soldered, and forged into these shapes. I'm going to make one more because I think they look good as a set of three. The reticulated bracelet that was mentioned previously is still unfinished - just giving myself a little break with that one. (I WILL finish it, I WILL...)

What is this mess of metal, you ask?

A design challenge (per Kristin's instructions)...and a perfect way to get your creative juices flowing. What we have here is one basic shape and three different textures in metal. We cut out about 15 to 20 different size pieces in sterling silver (you could use copper, as well). The challenge is to make something out of it the pieces. Here's one of my ideas in progress, but I'll show you what actually materializes when I figure it out myself. (These pieces are just laying on top of each other -- nothing here is soldered down yet.)

More to come...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ain't Nothin' But A Hound Dog

Howl-O-Weenie Fest 2009

Another great day at the 2009 Howl-O-Weenie Festival, the yearly event put on by Dream Dachshund Rescue of Atlanta. Think you might want to adopt a Doxie? Look here:

Our little wee ones actually made it into the finals for best costume this year! : ) They were Geisha girls. Here's Marci and David (with Hannah & Bella) in the final "line-up":

The "Doggie Lama" was the clear winner! : )

This little pup was the airplane on the Hudson. Sooooo cute


Scary Pirates...

Our wee ones, sitting patiently to hear the contest results...

Dachsunds up for adoption:

This is always a fun day for us and the pups. The Dream Dachshund Rescue organization puts on a great event - lots of contests, raffles, music and silly dog stuff. And the craziest thing of all is how much Hannah and Bella enjoy coming to the Howl-O-Weenie every year. Their tails are wagging the whole time we're there. I guess they enjoy being with their tribe. : )

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Pizza, Panini, Cake & Columbia

I had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite gluten-free restaurants in New York this weekend, Risotteria, which I've written about before here in my blog. The gluten-free breadsticks they put on every table is just the beginning of the fun. Since I've had the pizza on a previous visit, this time I skipped it and went for the gluten-free panini. The waiter made sure to let me know they have an assortment of GF beers and a brand new cake with chocolate chips, chocolate frosting and a dusting of coconut, which I had him package up in a take-away box. I carried that piece of cake around with me the entire afternoon and then onto the plane with me for our return trip home. It was scrumptious. Even the flight attendant couldn't help but admire it as she passed by.

While in New York, Jess gave me a great tour of Columbia. She was even able to get me into one of her favorite libraries (I think there are something like 23 of them on campus), Butler Library, which is usually off-limits to anyone outside the school. The fella who let us in said, "I'm not supposed to do this, but since it's your Mama, I will." : ) Walking up the staircase you are greeted by a painting of a young Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was president of the university. This is the largest single library on campus and houses 1.9 million of the university's 9.2 million volumes. Very impressive!

Here is "The Thinker" by Auguste Rodin in front of the Philosophy building.

And here's Jess, a proud and happy (but very busy) student!

I also made it (finally) to Metalliferous, a supply shop in Manhattan I often order from for jewelry-making supplies. It was crazy in there! SO MUCH STUFF! A couple of the sales people were friendly, but a couple of them were quite rude. It was actually funny in a strange way. Jess and I kept giving each other perplexed looks and laughing. Hard to believe people actually think it's okay to treat customers in such a condescendingly discourteous manner. It was definitely a memorable New York experience.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Camping We Will Go

I just returned from a great week up in Little Switzerland, North Carolina. This year I took an enameling class with Linda Darty, and it was the best! Linda is an excellent teacher and is a wealth of information. My head is still swimming with new ideas. I have wanted to take an enameling class for years, so to be able to finally take this class with Linda Darty was a dream come true. (Note: A special thanks to my friend, Pam, who switched classes with me to make this happen.)

We had a few technical issues - one of them being the kilns were heating up the room to an unbearable temperature. So the solution was to move the kilns outside. But then it started to rain. This is Bev and Tom firing their work in the rain.

We ate way too much. Three full meals a day. It felt like every couple of hours, the bell was ringing to let us know it was time to eat again. And like little lemmings, we all came out of our workshops and headed to the cafeteria. This is Charlotte , Donna & Susan (Susan was my very first metalsmithing teacher and I've taken many, many classes with her.)

A photo of one of the workshop cabins:

Just a few of Julia's admirers:

We're all looking forward to doing it again next summer!

This is one of the enameled cloisonne pendants I made in Linda's class. I call it the Love Bug.
: )

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Much is that Ducky out the Window?

One evening my husband and I discovered two ducks swimming in our swimming pool. One was brown and tan colored and the other one had an iridiscent green head with a reddish chest (which I later discovered were Wood Ducks). We've lived here for over six years, yet this was the first time we had been visited by our new feathery friends. About a week after their visit, I was in the back yard and spotted what appeared to be one of the brownish-colored ducks DYING! It was just sitting there next to a tree by the pool looking all sad and unhealthy. I called the hubby up right away (he had just left) and said, "You've got to come back! There's a duck dying in our yard!" This was about week after we had found a dead squirrel lying on our family room carpet, so to now find an almost-dead duck was not even a surprise. I always suspect the mischievious Bella in moments like this. I explained how she just laid there (instead of flying away) while Bella barked at her frantically. He asked if there were a lot of feathers around her. Surprisingly, yes - a lot of them! He told me she was nesting. We had a duck nesting in our back yard. What a relief.

There she sits, day and night. We have had a couple of powerful storms since she arrived, but none of them budged her. One day she was clobbered by huge chunks of hail pouring from the sky. A few days after that, fallen trees due to high winds caused considerable damage in the area and a large part of Georgia had no power. I'd go to the window and peek out just to make sure all was well, and there she would be, still sitting on her nest of eggs.

She's been out there about three weeks so far, so last night I decided to do a little research to find out when these chickies are going to arrive. "Anytime within 28 days," is what I read on the internet. So it looks like we'll have yard full of little baby chicks any day now. : )

And just so you know, Mrs. Ming Ming Ducky (named Ming Ming after the fearless duck on Wonder Pets by Twitter friend, Betsy, Betsy & Claude Baking Company) picked a pretty nice place to hang out for a couple of months - right under this tree:

I'm a little worried about the baby chicks toddling about and then falling into the pool by accident before they're ready to swim. If you have any suggestions, please comment. I've never done this before (obviously) so don't know what to expect.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reticulated, Anticlastic Formed Silver Cuff Bracelet with Blue Topaz Gemstones

Reticulating silver is still an ongoing adventure over here, so I'm showing you one of the cuff bracelets I recently fabricated. This is a variation of the cuff bracelet highlighted on the cover of Art Jewelry Magazine in January of 2008. I made a couple of alterations, which I'll explain.

First, when Julia, my talented teacher (and designer, master metalsmith), saw me trying to solder 10 gauge round wire all around the edges of this bracelet, she told me that half-round wire would be far easier. She was 100% correct (of course)! It was still difficult to solder, but because there were two flat surfaces touching each other, I was able to finish the soldering in probably half the time it would have taken me had I continued to struggle along with the round silver wire.

Second, not wanting my bracelet to be a carbon copy of the one in Art Jewelry Magazine, I added the two blue Topaz gemstones to the inner edges of the cuff.

More to come...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Adventures in Reticulation

To begin the process of getting a piece of reticulation silver prepared, you must anneal the piece of silver several times and then clean the surface after each annealing with a brass brush (how often one uses the brass brush is highly debatable).  The silver becomes ready to reticulate after somewhere between 5 to 9 times of this process. As the silver is heated, the copper oxidizes on the surface. Once the surface is pickled and cleaned, the copper is removed which leaves a surface nearly pure in silver content. This is what causes the surface to have a higher melting temperature than the alloy within. When the metal is heated one more time to bring out the texture, the surface will begin to move and form in rivers and valleys. There are no two pieces the same. The number of times you anneal and the size of the flame used to reticulate cause variations in the texture of the reticulated surface. Some people use large flames from a large torch tip, while others use a small torch tip. Both produce interesting designs, so I'm beginning to believe that there are numerous ways to experiment here.

A number of us are making a bracelet that uses reticulated silver on the outside and fine silver on the inside. They will be soldered at both the top and bottom and a box clasp and hinge added last. Here is where I am at in this process: One piece of formed silver and one piece of reticulation silver ready to be binded together with binding wire and soldered.

It's hard to believe this will all be one unit soon. It's not going to be easy. I've already seen the struggles of those who are ahead of me, so know what is coming. :)

In the meantime, I've made a simple ring with some of the leftover reticulated silver. It's holding a deep blue opal inside a 22K bezel.

Next time I'll tell you all about my week-long class in learning how to make clasps and closures.