Sunday, June 10, 2018

06.11.08 Let's Move - Kinetic Jewelry, Part 1

Photo credit: Hannah Wilson, CSJA
Although I'm always learning and improving my skills when I'm working in the studio, it had been quite a while since I taken a class. I was thrilled when I saw that De Pastel (my instructor for 201 - intermediate fabrication) would be teaching over a weekend right around my birthday!

We touched on kinetics at the end of 201, doing simple rivets and a hinge, and the riveted hollow form earrings from that class are among my favorites and I wear them often...but I hadn't touched tubing since, and I was excited about the opportunity to re-learn and improve on these techniques.

De sent us an email asking for ideas and the projects we had in mind.  She wrote "there are so many kinetic options in our field, this will allow me to hone the class on specific techniques you all want to learn and give you all the most information for your time in class."

I had two things I knew I wanted to do...the first was to remake a pair of turquoise earrings with the same riveted earwires as the hollow forms, and the second was to do another hinge (I was never happy with the one on 201 pendant - mostly because even though it looked fine, I got too much solder on it so the bail didn't move).

I love the stones in these earrings - but they were an early attempt at bezel setting, and because of their depth they never hung properly from the jump ring at the back.  So I pried them out of the silver and started over.
Two years on from the first attempt (at both the earrings and working with tubing) it's safe to say that I am a much better - and faster - metalsmith.  By lunchtime (halfway through the first day) and I had rebuilt the earrings, and now they looked like I wanted them to!

I was on to the next project - a hinged bail, a lot like the one I had done previously, but hopefully with a better result.  My recollection was that this was a really difficult task - and I expected that the pendant I had designed for this project would take up most of the remaining two and a half days.

I had given this particular piece a lot of thought.  Because the stone was rectangular, like a door, and the bail would be hinged (also, like a door), I wanted to create a pendant that looked like a mezuzah (the prayer scrolls mounted on the door frames of Jewish homes).

I started with the setting for the stone.  Rather than my typical bezel, I wanted to do a type of tab setting known as "score and fold" - which is exactly what it sounds like.  I had done the piercing (the Hebrew letter Shin) a few days before class, so I was able to move directly into forming the metal to hold the stone.

Just as it had been with the earrings, cutting the tubing and getting it soldered to the setting wasn't nearly as daunting as I had anticipated...

so, there I was at the end of the first day, with both of my planned projects finished.   It was a good feeling - but it meant I had to take my tired brain home and come up with something to do next!

Until next time (when I'll tell you more about the weekend).

Monday, May 28, 2018

05.28.18 When my baby smiles at me, I go to Rio...

Photo credit: NBC/SNL
actually, it's probably me who is smiling, because the Rio I am referring to is Rio Grande Jewelry Supply...and if I'm on their website, it means I'm buying more supplies!

Remember how Stefon (City Correspondent for SNL) said "this place has EVERYTHING"...

Well, they really do - and these days my average order with them is several hundred dollars of silver wire, sheet, chain - pretty much everything I need to make my pendants and earrings.  Not just metal - they are a one stop for all things jewelry.

I got so excited the last time a box arrived, I posted it as an Instagram story - and the Rio shared it!!

I also love their customer service...

my favorite pair of pliers has replaceable nylon jaws.  I use them all the time, and I love them because they don't leave marks on the metal.  After a while, the jaws got thin, and the screws were starting to poke through, so I ordered a replacements.  When the new nylon pieces arrived, I took the screws out of the old ones and tried to put the new ones in place...except...they were the wrong size.

I thought perhaps I had ordered incorrectly - so I called Rio, and after a bit of back and forth it turned out that while the part number had stayed the same, the pliers (and the replacement jaws) were actually different from the ones I had ordered a year before.

For some companies, that probably would have been the end of it - but instead - one of their parts managers said he would investigate and in the mean time, sent me a new pair of pliers, no charge.

Their folks are great in person, too. I had the opportunity to meet a few of them when they came to Austin to visit Creative Side to talk with the staff and members (like me) about our journey as makers.

When you watch the video, you will see why I love being in the studio with these amazing, creative people.  If you look carefully, you will also see the frog pendant in progress!
We live in tumultuous, stressful times, but thanks to Rio, I can keep calm and solder on.

Until next time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

05.14.18 Love is love.

Last time I gave you a sneak peek at my fused glass rainbow here's the rest of the story.

After doing the square plate in class, the next project was to learn to cut a circle (using a lens cutter) and make a round plate or bowl.  One of the examples our instructor showed us used reeded glass - which has tiny ridges like corrugated cardboard.
Reeded glass
Photo credit: Bullseye Glass

When you set two pieces together at 90 degree angles and fuse them - you trap tiny air bubbles in a grid.

Immediately - I knew exactly what I wanted to do for that project...and then for earrings! I wanted to use the reeded glass and colored stringers (tiny glass rods - turns out the 1mm variety fit perfectly in valleys of the reeded glass) to create a clear plate with rainbow stripes and bubbles...and THEN I wanted to do it on a smaller scale for earrings.

The plate turned out beautifully, and I was so pleased - I was ready to give earrings a try!

Our last class was essentially an open studio, where we could fill a kiln shelf with pieces of our choosing, so I decided to devote my time and shelf space to a whole bunch of earring dangles.

I made some short ones and some longer ones.  Some skinny ones and some wider ones...all in an effort to figure out what would work best.

The short and skinny ones failed at a pretty high rate, only half of them were usable.  The best ones were about half an inch wide and just over an inch long, so that was what I did for my first production batch.

I added a couple of other experimental designs - one with horizontal stripes in my college colors, and another with vertical stripes - just to see how they would turn out.

The answer is - great - they all turned out beautifully!

I had several pre-orders based on pictures I'd posted of the prototypes, so I filled all those, they went to friends who had seen them and said, "oh, those are so happy" (which they are) so I am calling them my Happy Rainbow Earrings.

Then I put up a listing for the rest in my Etsy shop.

It didn't take too long to have my first sale...and the buyer asked if they could be sent as a gift? I said of course.

We exchanged messages, and she explained to me that they were for the mother of her son's soon to be husband - and my heart just about exploded with happiness.

I posted this story on my Facebook page, and I also learned a new word - machatonim - which is the Yiddish term for the parents of the people your children marry.  My mother used to say we are all mishpacha - family - and wasn't really concerned with who was an aunt, a cousin, or if you were once or twice removed...but I never heard her use this term.  It's my new favorite word.

I've always loved stripes and rainbows and all that they might symbolize. I didn't set out to make a statement with these earrings...but nothing could make me happier than knowing they were sent as a gift of love and friendship between two moms, two families, whose sons will soon be married.

I hope this story fills your heart as it did mine, and that you, too, find happiness in rainbows.

Until next time.

Monday, April 30, 2018

04.30.18 Bullseye

After a detour for wildflowers and Passover, I'm back to glass...

Glass for my Mondrian plate
The glass we having been using in my fusing classes comes from a company called Bullseye, based in Portland, Oregon.  They are not the only makers of glass that can be used for fusing - but it is one of their specialties.

Not surprisingly - you can't fuse just any old glass - and even when it is made for firing and fusing, it's not all compatible.  Even glass from the same company isn't always a match - so it's important to understand some of the science behind the glass.

All fusible glass has a coefficient of expansion (COE) - which refers to the rate the glass expands (and contracts) when it is heated (or cooled).  The two most common types of glass are COE 90 and COE 96. You can't mix them - so you work with one or the other. We have been working with COE 90.  I have some COE 96 shards that the Salado Glassworks folks gave me - but I'm saving them for another time.

In order for glass to be successfully fused (in a kiln) there is a very specific schedule for heating and cooling the pieces so that they will bond without breaking.  Heating or cooling too quickly can stress the glass, and ruin all the hard work that went into creating a piece...and the bigger the finished piece, the more careful you have to be with the timing.

Photo credit: Bullseye
COE isn't the only thing you have to think about when pairing glass pieces for fusing...because what you see when you look at a sheet of glass isn't always what you get.

Photo credit: Bullseye
Just as many stones get their colors from chemical compounds, so does a lot of colored glass.  For example both turquoise and chrysocolla get their distinctive blue shades from copper.  Well, lots of blue-green glass does, too.

Pink and purple glass get much of their color from lead, and reds, yellows, oranges and some greens contain sulfur or selenium.

So, it's really important to check to see if the sheets of glass you are using are reactive - because if they are, and you aren't careful - you are likely to end up with something very different that what you planned.

For some glass, heat has no impact on the color - what you see when you pull it off the shelf is what you will get when it comes out of the kiln. Other pieces - called strikers - will change color, and the hue and depth of the change will vary based on how much heat is applied.

Some of my classmates are very spontaneous - mixing and matching, experimenting and taking their chances - which is great, but it's not me. I've been spending a fair amount of time before each class looking at the Bullseye catalog and making a plan for each piece. This should not come as surprise to anyone who knows me - or has been reading the blog for a while. I am a planner to my core.

One of the first things I'm planning with respect to my jewelry is fused glass bars for earrings.  Here's a sneak peek at my first experimental pair (pre-fusing).

Until next time.

Monday, April 16, 2018

04.16.18 Celebration - reprise

Tzimmes for first night Seder
Last year, when I wrote about Passover, I began my post by saying...

Ostensibly, this is a blog about jewelry, but you (gentle reader) and I both know that sometimes I write about jewelry, and other times I use it as an excuse to write about something else.  This post is very much in the latter category.

Well, this year my Passover post really IS about jewelry - a very special piece given to me by my dear friend, Don, who - along with his wife - has hosted the first night Seder we have attended for going on 15 years.

From year to year, the number of folks in attendance at the Seder varies - it's been really big (upwards of 30) and smaller (a dozen or so people), but regardless of the size, I take tzimmes and Don pays careful attention to the seating arrangements. Some years we have been seated together as a family, other years we've been spread out - and the idea is that over the celebratory meal we will talk to new people - or at least people we don't see very often.

Ricky Frank teaching at Creative Side Jewelry Academy
Photo credit: CSJA
In the spring of 2015 I had just started taking metalsmithing classes, and had talked about it a little bit over dinner with Don's wife, Sherry and his mom, Jean.

In 2016, Don seated me across from Jean - she remembered our conversation about jewelry, and asked if I was still taking classes. I told her that indeed I was.

We began to talk about a jeweler she knew well - cloisonne master Ricky Frank.  Jean and Don's dad, Peter, knew Ricky's parents and had been friends since their days as college students.

As it happened, Ricky was going to be teaching in the coming week at Creative Side - although I wasn't signed up for his class.  One day shortly after the Seder, when I arrived at the studio, I said hello to Ricky before he started teaching and told him about my connection to Jean. We agreed that it was a very small world, and it was clear that he had a great fondness for her.

Jean's pendant
I saw Jean at Seder again last year (2017), shortly before she was scheduled to have heart surgery.  She was very pleased to hear that I had connected with Ricky.

Sadly, the surgery turned out to be more complicated that expected - and she never recovered.  My heart broke for Don, and his family.

This year, when we arrived for Seder, Don said he had something he wanted to "pass over" to me - it was this beautiful Ricky Frank pendant that belonged to his mother. I was so honored, and moved by his gift that honestly, I'm still processing the depth of my emotions even as I write this post.

I also knew immediately that I would wear it with my mom's gold hoop earrings - which I wrote about in one of my earliest posts.  In fact, just a week after receiving the pendant, I wore it with the earrings, to the ballet.

Every piece of jewelry really does tell a story - and the story of this pendant is one of lifelong friendships and deep connection. It is truly a treasure.

Until next time.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

04.02.18 Wildflower season

Photo credit - SmartSeeds
I love spring - and not just because I hate winter. The sun comes back - the days get longer and warmer, and in Central Texas, mother nature paints virtually every patch of open space with vibrant color!

It's starts with deep purple mountain laurel, which smells like the most fragrant grape kool aid you can imagine when it blooms.

Photo credit - Emily Ling

Then come the wildflowers popping up along the sides of the road. No matter my mood, I can't help but smile when I see the bright colors - blue bonnets, yellow black eyed Susans, pink primroses and red paint brush in the medians on city streets and along the sides of the highway.

Jewelry inspired by wildflowers is certainly nothing new.  I have vintage pieces from long time Texas jewelers Jeep Collins and James Avery that belonged to my late mother.  More recently I discovered the work of fellow Austinite (and fabulous instructor) Vickie Hallmark.
Photo credit - Vickie Hallmark

When I first spotted her mountain laurel earrings, I knew I had to have them! Then, after taking a precious metal clay class with her, I asked if she would make me a pair of bluebonnet earrings - and she did.

Photo credit - Vickie Hallmark
If you follow my daily earring posts on Instagram, you know that both of these pairs are in regular rotation - especially this time of year.

Inspired by the landscape, these jewelers, and my love of the saw - I started creating my own variation on the wildflower theme -  pendants made from millefiori and vintage glass with a Texas cut out on the back.

I'm excited to report that a few of my Texas themed pieces are now available at Russell Korman Jewelers here in Austin. I have a long relationship with these folks, and was thrilled when they asked me if I would be interested in having my work in the store.
Photo credit - Russell Korman Jewelers

Spring is definitely a time of new beginnings - and I'm excited to see where things go from here.  I am so grateful to everyone who has supported me by liking, commenting on and sharing my posts, reading the blog - and, of course, buying my jewelry.

It definitely takes a village, and I love the new creative home I have found.

Until next time.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

03.19.18 Soon found out, I had a heart of glass...

I've been using glass cabochons in my jewelry for a while now, and as I have said before, I've developed an increasing interest in learning more about glass fabrication.

When we were out at the Salado Glassworks last year, owner and master glass artist Gail Allard recommended that I look into classes at Blue Moon Glassworks (which, as it happens is five minutes from my house) - so that's exactly what I did.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting about my classes - and hopefully - ideas for incorporating fused glass into my jewelry.

We started with a very simple impression project - and a technique know as kilnforming -  cutting shapes out of a heat resistant fiber board, and then placing the glass over the form before firing.

I decided to stick with a motif that I am familiar with - Texas and hearts. I've learned that - especially in the beginning - it's important to keep designs simple. I cut out the Texas and a small heart, and we glued them to a piece of special paper that doesn't stick to the glass when firing, and then placed two sheets of glass - one clear and one colored - on top before fusing.  The result is an impression glass plaque - suitable for hanging in a window.

The second project was more involved - requiring cut pieces of colored glass to create a design on a six inch square.  Our instructor advised us to have a good idea of what we wanted to do before class.

I have long loved the work of Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian - so I went looking for a simple example of his work to use for my design.  With a quick Google search I found exactly what I was looking for.

To get the look I wanted, I started with a black base and colored opaque glass for the top layer. I cut and arranged the squares so that black lines would show through after the pieces fused together.

I am thoroughly delighted with the end result!

I'm also excited about learning new things - there are three more weeks in the introductory class, and I've already signed up for my first open studio.

Stay tuned as I start to experiment with ideas for incorporating glass projects into my jewelry.

Until next time.