Sunday, April 28, 2019

05.06.19 A little precision goes a long way. Kinetic Jewelry 2.0, Part 2

It had been a minute (ok, more like three years) since my last attempt at making hollow form pieces, and those were in sterling silver, not argentium. 

This might not sound like a big deal, but it is; if you want to understand the difference between the two metals, you can read my post on the magic of argentium (which is 93.5% pure silver, and 6.5% germanium - not copper).

Making hollow forms with argentium silver is great - because there is no solder required - the metal can be fused together...but...this requires precision both in the fabrication of the parts and in the application of heat and flame.

I measured (twice) and cut (once) my frame pieces, formed them into teardrop shapes and drilled them before I fused them down onto sheet metal on the first side.

Fusing the first side is relatively straightforward - you have to be careful about directing your torch, so you don't melt the frames, but it's not unlike putting down a bezel for a pendant.  

The first fuse went beautifully, and once it was done I was ready to cut away the excess metal, clean up the exteriors, and fuse the second side...which is the part of the process that's really tricky.

If you over heat the metal during the process of fusing the second side to the form, it will slump, and instead of having a "hollow" form, you will end up with a "sunken" form...definitely not the look I was going for.

It was fine to fuse both the frames down to the first side at the same time, but to finish the hollow forms, I did them separately.  The more metal you are working with, the more difficult it becomes to control your heat - so the trick is to have enough back plate that it won't shrink away from the sides, but not so much that it makes heating difficult, or that you waste metal.

With De at my side, I successfully fused both forms together! 

The next task was to repeat the process of trimming away the excess metal, then sanding and polishing the forms to a finished state.  This wasn't the last step - because there was still gold to add to the pieces, but the surfaces had to be completely finished before I went any further.

Come back in a couple of weeks for the third installment in this series of posts - and learn about the excitement of fusing gold!

Until next time.

Monday, April 22, 2019

04.22.19 Ellipsis... Kinetic Jewelry 2.0, Part 1

Three dots, why on earth would I write a blog post based on ...?

I promise, it will make sense, bear with me.

This is six inches of 18 karat gold wire (24 karat gold is 99%, 18 is 75% - alloyed with other metals) - I paid almost $60 for it. Now, that may not sound like a lot of money - but for $60 I can buy ALMOST 100 FEET of the same size argentium silver wire.

That's because the price of an ounce of pure silver hovers around $15-16 right now, and an ounce of pure gold will set you back around $1,300.

So, why did I buy six inches of gold wire, and what does it have to do with dots?

Well - I bought it because I signed up to take another advanced concepts and mechanisms (kinetic jewelry) class with one of my favorite teachers, De Pastel, and I told her I wanted to try using gold...making small granules (essentially dots) to fuse on to pieces of silver jewelry.

However, before I start describing this year's class, I feel like I need to review a little history.

De and Hannah Wilson were my instructors for Fabrication 201 at Creative Side, which I took three years ago! One of the projects was making hollow form jewelry, and I made what are maybe my favorite pair of class earrings (it's a tough call, but I wear these a lot) - teardrops with tube set black spinels.

Then, last year for my birthday I took De's kinetic jewelry class. I learned a lot...including that there was so much more to learn, so when signed up for the class again this year, I approached it a little differently.

Previously, I made a pair of gyroscope-like earrings that had a rivet through a tube that allowed them to spin.  This year - I wanted to put a tube inside of a hollow form, so the whole thing would spin...and I wanted to embellish the pieces with gold granules.

I started sketching my ideas, which included making fused hollow forms with argentium (something I had not done before) and putting a group of three dots on the earrings. I sent my sketches to De, and was delighted when I received an enthusiastic response!


I ordered six inches of gold wire from Rio and got ready to start class, which I will write about in detail in upcoming posts.

Until next time.

Monday, April 8, 2019

04.08.19 Wahoowa!

I was a student at the University of Virginia in the early 1980s, when basketball was THE sport, and Ralph Sampson was (literally) the big man on campus.  I was a four year student season ticket holder, and I never missed a home game.

Those were great years for UVa hoops, and I remember March Madness in the spring of 1984, when our beloved Hoos made it to the Final Four, only to have Guy Lewis and Phi Slamma Jamma - from the University of Houston - advance while our team went home.

In the intervening 35 years, I have watched a lot of UVa basketball.

Last year, 2018, Virginia went into the tournament as the overall Number 1 seed.  I was thrilled...and in anticipation of lots of tournament watch parties, I went into the studio and made myself a blue, orange and white pendant and put a Virginia "V" on the back of it.

Then came the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. For the first time ever, a Number 16 seed knocked off not just a Number 1 regional seed, but THE Number 1 seed.  A few days later, as if to add insult to injury, it was announced the commencement speaker at my daughter's college graduation would be none other than the president of UMBC - Freeman A. Hrabowski III.

Honestly, by May I had moved on to baseball. Dr. Hrabowski turned out to be a fabulous, inspirational speaker and graduation weekend was wonderful.

The boys of summer came and went, and so did football season.  Finally, college basketball season rolled around again - and as I do every year - I started following my Hoos.  We won the ACC championship, and punched our ticket for the the big dance. We played hard and didn't go home; not in the first round, not after making it to the Sweet Sixteen and then the Elite Eight.  No - we made it back to the Final Four, and another shot at a national title.

Now, we don't call them the "Heartattack Hoos" for nothing.  In every round, at every game, we held our breaths until the final buzzer.  We beat Oregon, and then Purdue (in overtime) by 5 points - and we thought those were close games - but then came Auburn.

I put on my fused glass earrings, my pendant and my class ring and headed out to cheer on my Hoos. As it happened, a group of my classmates - some of whom I hadn't seen in 35 years - were in town for the weekend, so we gathered with the local alumni club where we watched the game and clutched our chests.

With a buzzer beating foul and three amazing buckets from Kyle Guy at the stripe - they did it! All season this team had fought hard, and now they earned the right to play for the national championship.

As difficult as this might be to believe, I won't be watching tonight's game...we have tickets to see Lucinda Williams at Austin City Limits - on her 20th anniversary tour for Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. But - fear not - I am still wearing my orange and blue and will be checking my phone - discreetly, of course - from time to time.

I won't say that it doesn't matter whether we win or lose this evening - because IT DOES MATTER - but, not as much as you might think.

It's been a really rough couple of years for the town - and institution - I love so much, and this season has been more than about just winning games.  It has been about community, about overcoming anxiety and adversity, and remembering that you should never, ever give up.

Until next time.