Thursday, May 29, 2008

Snowflakes in May?

I heard it was 34 degrees in a couple of places in the U.S. yesterday...which seems so odd for the last few days of May, but in their honor, here's my latest creation:

I thought I'd continue my trend for making seasonally inappropriate jewelry with this frosty piece getting finished just as summer is about to kick off. A sodalite cabochon is surrounded with seed bead embroidery and the necklace is made of vintage glass and Bali silver.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What I did this weekend...

...after returning from four days in Vegas at a tradeshow, I decided I wasn't exhausted enough and headed out to my very first ever Metal Clay class at Brea Beadworks on Saturday.

For anyone who's not familiar with this medium, Metal Clay is a product that consists of particles of fine (99.9% pure) silver held together with organic binder and water to form a claylike substance which can be molded to desired shapes and then fired to produce a fine silver end product such as a pendant. It comes in two brands: Precious Metal Clay (PMC) and Art Clay Silver. The difference is basically the same as the difference between Pepsi and Coke.

I've been jonesing to take a class for a long time, but couldn't fine one near enough to my area to sign up for and I also found the product a bit intimidating. After all, it's pure silver which means it's $$$$ expensive which means (I thought) mistakes are correspondingly $$$$.

Turns out not to be the case - it's a very forgiving medium and any booboos can essentially be reconditioned back into workable clay and re-done. long as you haven't already fired the piece. Once it's fired, you're pretty much stuck with the result although sanding and polishing can fix a lot of minor surface imperfections.

I was also put off by the idea of requiring a kiln to finish a piece. They're expensive, bulky and I certainly don't have room for one in my house where I could be sure the kid wouldn't get to it. Fortunately, an alternative exists in the form of a small butane torch. MUCH more economical and user-friendly. Even I, who am a total fire wimp, could handle it. The butane refills for it are even available in the grocery store in the cigarette case.

So, long story short, if you've been wanting to play with this medium, I highly recommend signing up for a class. It's much easier and more fun that I ever imagined and the possibilities are pretty much limitless. Oh, and if you're anywhere in So Cal, take Cindy Pankopf's class at Brea Beadworks! She's a senior certified art clay silver instructor and did a terrific job!

Here's what I learned in her class yesterday:

Going clockwise from upper left:

1. Pendant with 3 bottom holes for attaching dangles. Done with a scratch finish and then patina'd in a liver of sulfer solution. In real life (instead of this crappy scan) it's actually different shades of rose, copper and blue and then I used a burnishing tool on the raised areas of the design to remove the patina and expose the silver again.

2. Oval pendant with stamped design. I did this one with a mirror finish - super bright and shiny. It could probably be better, but I got impatient with the sanding process.

3. Rectangular pendant with rolled bail and stamped design. This was actually a "rescue" piece. The original stamped design on this was too light and didn't really show up so I added the smaller, deeper impressions on top of it and it actually worked out okay. I did a mirror finish on this as well and then added a patina with liver of sulfur. I rubbed more of the patina off on this so it just has some touches of dark blue and burgundy here and there.

4. Two small diamond shapes for use as earrings. I did a scratch finish on these and then used a burnishing tool to shine up the raised areas. This leaves the background kind of a satin finish and the raised areas are very shiny and almost "sparkle" in contrast.

Not bad for my first attempt. Can't wait to make some more stuff!

Hope everyone else is having a good Memorial Day weekend!


Friday, May 16, 2008

Last chance... vote in the poll!!

Only 3 days left to help me pick which design to enter in the OC Fair by voting in the poll (see the upper right hand corner of the blog to vote).

To see pictures of the choices, you can click here and for a better picture of the Antique Smoke necklace, you can click here.

Otherwise, that's all I got until sometime next week when I return from tradeshow hell.

Have a nice weekend and try to stay cool (if you live in So Cal where it will be umptymillion degrees).

Peace out.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Teacher Appreciation

In light of the terrible budget cuts about to hit our school system (thanks a lot, Ahnold) for the 2008 session, I thought it was time to show some love to the teachers out there.

My son will be "graduating" from pre-school next month and headed to kindergarten in the fall (that's assuming there still IS a kindergarten after the budget cuts) and I wanted to thank his wonderful pre-school teacher for doing such a great job and working so patiently with both the kid and me during the year so I put this necklace together:

This design was made much easier by the fantastic lampwork beads from artist Criss Hunt. I just added some black onyx rounds, red Czech firepolish beads, Bali silver, a little judicions wire-wrapping and finished the whole thing off with a sterling silver box clasp set with black onyx.

I especially love the little bookworm - he adds so much personality to the piece.

I've got a couple of other goodies almost finished...they're just waiting for the perfect clasps to come along to complete the design. I couldn't find anything in my stash that was both the right size AND the right color so I ordered some things. They arrived yesterday and...still not right. GRRR!

Looks like more shopping in my future (oh darn!).

Also in my future, as I just learned today, is an Art Clay Silver class. YAY! I've been wanting to take one for several years but just couldn't seem to find the time. I also know I'll never be able to afford a kiln so it seemed like a waste of effort to learn how to use the clay but not be able to fire it. However, I've learned there are some alternatives to kiln firing the clay that are actually affordable so who knows? This may open up a whole new world for me.

How awesome would it be to make my own charms and pendants to add to my jewelry? I know...totally awesome ;-) Plus, I still have all my rubber stamping supplies and I know the stamps (and maybe some of the mica powders and stains, etc.?) will be useful for working with the clay.

Class is May 24th at Brea Beadworks in Brea, CA. I can hardly wait!!


Music: None - my ipod shuffle ran out of juice and is sitting on the re-charger right now :-(

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Guess that Mystery Gemstone

Russ from Rings & Things was kind enough to leave a comment (yay, someone actually reads this crazy thing!) about the gemstone index available on the Rings & Things website.

It's very important (and also kinda difficult) to be as informed and knowledgeable as possible about the various kinds of stones on the market when you are a jewelry designer. Not only do you want to be able to accurately identify your materials when talking to customers, but you also need be able to accurately judge quality and pricing when shopping for your materials.

Case in point: turquoise. I can't tell you how much fake turquoise I see at gemshows that is priced and marked as the genuine stone. In fact, there's so much fake stuff that there are even gradations of "fake" (turquoise dust mixed with binders, chalk/resin dyed to a turquoise color, howlite dyed to a turquoise color, plastic, etc.) Although, I suppose an argument could technically be made that beads made from turquoise dust ARE "genuine turquoise," but I would personally disagree with that.

While you're checking out the index, be sure to do some shopping as well. R&T is a great vendor!


Friday, May 02, 2008

Cameras vs. Scanners

I usually take all my jewelry pictures for the website and this blog using my scanner. I like it - it's easy...just lay the piece on the scanner, close the lid, push a button and done.

And MOST of the time, the pics are great.

Most of the time.

Every once in a with the recently posted "Antique Smoke" necklace, the scanner just doesn't cut it.

This means I either am stuck posting a crappy picture or else I have to go outside with a necklace form and my digital camera and try to do a better job. Now, the camera and I have a love/hate relationship.

It loves to confuse the hell out of me with all its bells and whistles that I can't figure out. I hate having to take 17 gazillion shots trying to get maybe one decent one. Also, I maybe have some kind of genetic defect that prevents me from holding the camera level or still. I maybe need to invest in a tripod?
However, when it DOES work, I have to say the shots are often a lot better than what the scanner can do.
So, here are some revised shots of the "Antique Smoke" necklace:

And a detail shot of the clasp:

I wonder...does this change anyone's vote on the poll (see the right side of the blog page to participate if you haven't voted yet or to change your vote if you want to).

Here's a new set I just finished last night:

I started with an iridescent metal leaf pendant and decided to pick out the purpley sheen it has by adding Swarovski pearls in a deep purple-blue shade and some other copper beads. I had enough pieces left over to make a matching bracelet and earrings. The clasp on the necklace is a really pretty copper toggle, but I could NOT get the camera to take a decent picture of it so here's the scanned version:

They look completely different, don't they? The pendant looks better in the scanned shot, but the pearls look more true-to-life in the camera shots.


When will they make a camera or scanner that has an "auto-jewelry picture" function? That's what I want to know!

Happy weekend, all!


Music: "Love in Store" by Fleetwood Mac