Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Hi! Hi, everyone! Guest blogger Dr. Frankenstein here. Along with my trusty lab assistant Igor.

Say “hi”, Igor.

What? No, they can’t understand you when you’ve got a mouth full of dead rat. Quit playing with that thing and get over here. We are guest blogging for Silver Parrot today and you need to be on your best behavior.

Speaking of which, don’t worry about KJ. She’s going to get better and be back soon.

And if not, I’m sure I can always come up with something here in the lab to re-animate…er…get her back on her feet again.

So, now, where was I? Let’s see, greetings, Igor, dead rat, re-animation…ah yes! Here we go. The subject of today’s post is experimentation. And who better to talk to you about experiments that I, the great Dr. Frankenstein?

I know, right? So, let's get to it.

Here in the lab, we do a lot of experimenting.

No, Igor, they don’t want to see our work in progress. No, I said! Wait – don’t pull that sheet off! And definitely don’t flip that switch…

Umm…’scuse me for a sec. Be right back.

Crash! Bang!


Whew! That was close…er…I mean let’s get back to our subject, shall we? I’m afraid Igor won’t be with us any more, but I’m sure we can proceed anyway. Good lab assistants are so hard to find, you know.

So, KJ asked me to explain about her recent experiments with metal and a hammer and a wonderful solution made of sulfurized livers.

(Just on a side note – I wish she’d come to me sooner. I could have offered her quite a deal on the livers. I’ve got tons of them just lying around waiting to be used).

Following project instructions from an article by Gaea Cannaday in a recent issue of “Step by Step Wire Jewelry”, KJ used 20 gauge copper wire to create large wrapped loop links and then she hammered texture into them using a ball peen hammer.

Hammers are ever so useful, aren’t they? Why, you can put up pictures or Halloween decorations with them or even use them to get rid of annoying lab assistants.

But I digress…

After hammering the links and connecting them together, it was time to patina the metal.

Using both sterling silver and copper wire, KJ created a few test subject clasps.

Test subjects – always a good idea, however, not always easy to find willing ones. Unwilling ones can often be had quite cheaply by bribing prison guards or, in a pinch, digging up graves.

Just a suggestion.

Here’s a picture of the initial results:

This picture shows the original wire color of the copper, the patinated sterling silver wire clasp and two copper versions – one left in the solution much longer than the other.

And a close-up of one of the copper clasps.

And here’s the finished necklace.

The patination of the copper resulted in a rich red finish with hints of blue, purple and green.

A polishing cloth was selectively applied to add shine and highlights in a few areas.

Another close-up look at the patinated metal links.

And one more look showing the texturization of the links by using the hammer.

The clasp was given the same hammering and patination treatment as the rest of the necklace.

A final look at the entire piece.

KJ wishes me to impart several of the lessons she learned as part of this experiment:

1. Don't be afraid of the wire...after all, you can always hammer it into submission (much like lab assistants)

2. Plan your experiment carefully and make sure you have ALL of your supplies on hand before you start.

Oh, you know, that is just so true. I can't tell you the number of times I've started to work on something only to realize I'm missing a femur or a big toe or something. How many trips to the graveyard can one man be expected to make in a night, I ask you? It's not like it's Home Depot or anything!

Oops...didn't mean to make this all about me. It's just that, the mad scientist business is not what it used to be, you know.

3. It is not necessary to make an entire VAT of sulfurized liver solution. A small amount is all that's needed to do quite a lot of pieces.

Well, that's it from here in the lab. KJ will either be back later or she'll have another guest blogger. I believe she was trying to get in touch with Dracula, but he's nearly impossible to talk to during daylight hours. The Wolfman is always up for anything but there's the whole "hard to type with claws" thing plus someone has to clean all the drool off the keyboard later. Yick!

Happy Halloween, all!

Dr. Frankenstein

P.S. This post on metal experimentation should be followed by a further post sometime in the next week or so on Lorelei's blog about her adventures in metal. Tag, Lorelei! You're it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jewelry Design Post Mortem

I think it's important to post not only the great stuff and designs I'm proud of, but also to post those which went tragically wrong. I do this in the hopes that future disasters can be averted and poor innocent beads spared from the doom of lives lived in ugliness.

Therefore, without further ado, I give you:

Sigh. I know...the horror...the horror! But, I promise it didn't start out to be a bad thing. Which just goes to show how easily a good idea can quickly go bad (especially in my hands).

It all started with these beautiful daisy beads from LeAnn at Summers Studio. Gorgeous, right? I know. Then, I went through my stash looking for anything that would work with this yummy teal color and I found these great apatite coins that I'd forgotten I had and I really wanted to work them into the design. I also wanted to use silver - not only because it's my favorite metal, but because I'd already done two daisy designs in brass and one in copper and I was concerned that the potential buyers for these pieces (a group of little old ladies who are my mother's friends) might not appreciate the base metal (in fact, if they are anything at all like my mother, I KNOW they won't). I wanted to have some variety.

So, I put the big daisy pendant in the middle and put the smaller, 2-hole daisy charms on either side (where the silver flowers currently are), but the whole thing just didn't seem to work. Of course, I didn't decide that until after I'd already strung the entire necklace AND crimped the crimp beads so I was sort of stuck with it unless I cut it apart and resigned myself to wasting all that beading wire and the crimps.

Which I wasn't able to do (not to mention that I hate, hate, HATE re-doing stuff).


So, I took the big daisy pendant off and ended up using it to make the copper and shell donut necklace that I posted last week.

Of which these are the earrings that go with (excellent grammar usage, no?)

I had to post one more pic - at least something in this post has to be non-gagworthy.

So, anyway, back to the ugliness.

After removing the big daisy pendant, I was left with the two daisy charms. Whereupon I had the brilliant idea that I could still salvage this necklace by putting one in the center and then adding the silver flower charms.

Yeah...not so much.

So, now, I've not only wasted all the beading wire and crimps, but I've also wasted some sterling silver wire that I used to wire-wrap the dangle hanging from the bottom of the daisy.

Nothing wrong with the clasp, though. I hereby declare that this necklace may only be viewed from the rear from now on.

The earrings are actually okay by themselves, too. I think I've decided that the daisies just cry out for either brass or copper. The silver seems to kill them - it's too cold or something.

I haven't decided what to do with ye olde necklace of disasterness, but I did make this with the other teal daisy charm: not that bad. I love the hand-dyed silk ribbon that runs from deep teal, to seafoam, to champagne, to molasses to chocolate brown and back again.

I added a few brass charms and some indicolite Swaro crystals. I'm still on the fence about the crystals, but I felt like it needed a touch of sparkle.

Also, I think if I did this again, I probably wouldn't knot the ribbon to hold the charms on. I think I'd just weave it through a link in the chain and then hang the charms with jump rings. The ribbon might show a little bit better that way.

The other think I like about this piece is that it's quite a bit more "dainty" than the other daisy necklaces I did, which I think adds some variety in what I'm going to offer my mom's friends. I do still wish I could figure out a way to get more precious metal involved - I have some oxidized sterling silver wire that might work. Still, these pieces seem to just need the warmth of the brass and copper.

Okay, that's it for todays design dissection. Stay tuned for tomorrow when I provide a replay of this weekend's experiments with metal, hammers and liver of sulfur. Ooooh...scary. Just in time for Halloween!

KJ (who still has a cold, dernit!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lack of Bead Porn Causes the DT's

Seriously. It's a known fact.

Anyway, sorry for the no posting on Thursday and Friday. Had a sick kid on my hands. By the time he was feeling better, he'd managed to infect me (kids are such petri dishes of contagious ooze, aren't they?) with whatever bug he was carrying so, um, yeah. That was fun. Not.

Nothing much else to report. We pretty much laid around being sick for 4 days. Which, in his case, translated to scattering Legos, game pieces, cars and other toys across the living room floor and turning the dining room table and chairs into a fort by draping blankets across everything.

Of course, he suddenly felt "much worse" when it came time to clean all that crap up.

No one does "pathetic" like a sick kid.

But that's okay. When he wasn't looking, I broke into the Halloween candy. :-)

Hey, I was sick, too.

Okay, so here's the missing bead porn from Friday:

Super cute pink clay charms from Winchell Clay Works on Etsy.

And, since I can never stop at just one of anything, I had to get them in lavender, too.

Artist Tracee Dock made this gorgeous shield pendant out of clay. I didn't know this at the time I bought the pendant, but she has a necklace in the most recent issue of "Stringing" featuring a similar piece. I actually like the colors in mine better than the one that's in the magazine, though, so it worked out perfectly.

When I made the Rose and Berry bracelet a while back, I kept thinking that what it needed were some cute little butterfly or dragonfly charms to add to the "garden-ness" of the design. Patina Queen came to my rescue with these little cuties.

What? I told you I needed dragonflies, too.

This has nothing to do with the garden theme, but I am compelled to pick up any "ocean-related" beads and components that I don't already have. Some day, there's going to be a really cool necklace chock full of all things ocean-y, but not today. Still, this cute, white brass sand dollar from Patina Queen is a great addition to my stash.

Summer beads in October? I say, "why not?" Especially when they are these so cute-you-can't-stand-it sets from Bead Intrigue on Etsy.

This set is just crying out for some little bee charms, isn't it?

More handmade silver flower beadcaps from Cathy Dailey on Etsy. I love that these will give me a touch of silver for a design with it being the same ol' same ol' beadcaps that everyone uses.

More flower beadcaps...or are they? If you look closely, you'll see that each "petal" is actually a heart. I could just die from the cuteness LOL!

Lastly, I found this beautiful crescent moon pendant - also from Cathy Dailey - and had to have it. The crescent moon is a special symbol for me and I'm looking forward to mixing this pendant with some great pearls and maybe some stones for a really pretty necklace.

Okay, I'm due for some more cough medicine so that's it for today. I'm hoping to have a new experiment to post about in the next couple of days plus more of the ceramic daisy necklaces so stay tuned.

Oh, and stay well. I'm putting either the kid or myself into a plastic bubble pretty soon. I don't know yet for sure, but ONE of us is going in there. Either he's going in so his germs can't get out or I'm going in so his germs can't get in. SOOOOO done with the being sick all the time!

Where is John Travolta when I need him? (and if you get that reference, I'll not only know how old you are, but you'll also get a gold star for the day).


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thanks for the Wisdom

First, thanks to all the "metalheads" who responded to my questions yesterday. Great advice and lots to think about. Time permitting, I'm going to attempt my first LOS experiment this weekend so stay tuned for much hi-larity on the blog next week as I write about my experiences.

I will probably end up oxidizing my hair by accident or something equally ridiculous.

In the meantime, I finished a few more of the daisy pieces:

These are the earrings that go with the brown daisy necklace.

For those who were confused by my oh-so-excellent- powers of description in referring to these metal beads as "pod beads", well, this is what I meant. Those open-work brass thingies at the top of the earrings. Which I like so much that I made an extra trip to a different Michael's last night to buy more of.

And oh yes, I DID end that last sentence with a preposition. Whatcha gonna do about it?

In case anyone else is planning a Michael's trip, I'll save you the trouble: I've cleaned out the Aliso Viejo and Santa Ana stores. They are now pod-less.

I finished another daisy necklace. Try not to compare this one to the brown one as they are TOTALLY different in style.

Okay, tell me this cool...or ugly? I'm flip-flopping on it...which usually means I've spent too much time contemplating it and can't be objective (perfectionist, remember?)

Of course, you can't say anything bad about LeAnn's gorgeous daisy pendant. Any ugliness of the necklace was all the fault of yours truly.

I think part of my problem is that I liked the first necklace SO MUCH, but I didn't want to just repeat the exact same design. I almost never re-make an exact copy of anything. I get bored and want to move on. However, that first one was such a home run (in my mind) that it seems like anything else I do is kind of pale in comparison. This is the THIRD version of this teal necklace that I have tried...took the other two apart because they were blech-y (a technical jewelry designer term).

Closeup of the shell donuts (see, Erin, I told you I'd already bought some and used 'em LOL!)

There are two smaller teal daisy charms that match this pendant that I was originally going to put in this necklace, but I ended up deciding it was too busy. I'm going to make smaller necklaces out of them, I think.

If you look really closely, you can see my first wire-worked hook clasp at the top of the picture (kind of peeking out from the pile of chain). I ended up taking it off because it's too bright and needs to be patinated and I don't have time to do that before I have to turn in this necklace to (hopefully) be sold tomorrow at mom's PEO meeting. I replaced it with a large copper lobster clasp that matches the patina on the chain. I also shortened the extension chain after I took these pictures because it was too long - I had kind of gone nuts with it.

Didn't get the matching earrings finished in time for the photo session (it got too dark out), but they have a copper leverback top, then a teal shell donut and then a white shell bead with a copper daisy spacer as a dangle - sort of mimicking the side section of the necklace.

Okay, I'm putting on my fireproof suit. Critique away.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

(Stupid Newbie) Questions for Metalheads

Okay, so I recently admitted that I am totally deficient when it comes to wire-working anything beyond the basic wrapped loop and I've decided I need to do something to remedy that. I purchased a bench block quite some time ago, but it has remained lonely and ignored in a drawer in my studio.

Why did I buy it if I didn't ever intend to use it? Well, I DID intend to use it, I just was afraid of what I would turn out in my first few attempts. Y'see, I suffer from "perfectionist's disease." If you don't ever attempt something, then you can't do it "wrong" thereby maintaining your perfect record of never doing anything wrong.

It's sick, I know.

Hey, I told you up front it was a disease!

Anyway, I have decided that the only cure for this is to face up to the fact that I may, occasionally, create something that is um, something less than supremely perfect and that when that happens, I will just have to GET OVER IT AND MOVE ON. And the only way to do this is to, well, just do it.

What a great line - some company ought to use that as a slogan or something.

So, this weekend, I picked up an issue of "Step by Step Wire Jewelry" and I bought some heavier gauge brass and copper wire for attempting clasps and I also bought (gasp!) a hammer.

(I'm sure the purchase of said hammer will eventually result in a trip to the ER to have my broken finger X-rayed and set, but that's a future blog post).

And here's where the stupid question part comes in:

According to the magazine, one needs both a ball peen hammer AND a chasing hammer. I bought a chasing hammer (mostly because that's all the LBS had in stock). Do I REALLY need both? They look nearly identical.

Stupid question nombre deux: When planning to use liver of sulfer to patinate metal - is it best to patinate your wire FIRST and THEN make something with it, or can you make your piece (bracelet or whatever) and THEN patinate it? Will the L.O.S. ruin any beads (lampwork, etc.) that you have mixed in with the metal?

And last dumb question...

My bench block came wrapped in plastic, but under the plastic, the metal block was coated in some kind of sticky, oily goo. It took me three applications of Dawn to get it all off. I'm assuming it was to protect the block from rusting or whatever, but what I want to know is, do I need to re-goopify it every time I'm done using it and if so, what kind of goop is best to use?

And yes, re-goopify is a technical term that I have copyrighted for this blog so don't go using it all willy-nilly around the internet unless you obtain my permission first.

All right, I now await enlightenment by the oh-so-wise and talented artists of the beady blogosphere.

Bring forth the wisdom.


I'll wait.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Remind me never to do THAT again!

I spent the majority of the weekend catching up on computer work. Updating the website, updating the Etsy store, cleaning up files, packing up jewelry for storage, etc.

Y'see, I had about a 3 month backlog of that stuff to do because I'd been told to cut down on my computer work due to my neck and shoulder pain. And since I can't cut down on the stuff at the day job well...that leaves the home computer.

Good news is that my pain is nearly gone. At least, it was until I stayed up until 1 AM on Friday night working on the sites. That was dumb, but I seem to have some kind of built-in thing in my head that once I start a particular project, I can't stop until it's either done or I fall down dead from fatigue.

Which is what happened at 1 AM...despite the Diet Coke.

Oh, and DC at 1 AM? BAAAAAD idea. Just thought I'd mention that li'l tip.

So, then I worked 3 more hours on Saturday afternoon.

And another 2 more hours on Sunday.

And then I finally realized (I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes) that this project was NEVER GOING TO END. So I went off to make jewelry instead. It was either that or pitch the computer out the window.

Then I worked 2 more hours last night and I'm STILL not done. I have 3 more pages of website updates to do before I can upload all the changes to the server, but the Etsy shop is up to date. I did get that much done.

I will NEVER let this much of a backlog pile up again. It's just too darn difficult to get caught back up.

Also, if I don't sell some jewelry soon...I'm going to need a storage shed for all my unsold inventory. Or maybe if I paperclip a $20 it would "encourage" people to take this stuff off my hands? I know I'm not a great designer or anything, but occasionally I manage to crank out something non-ugly that is deserving of a good home.

Or maybe I'm just delusional. It's entirely possible. I have been known to talk to myself so really, how far off can complete insanity really be?

Either way, here's some pictures of some stuff I made this weekend (during my enforced break from the computer updating project from hell):

Oh, look, another ocean-colored dangle bracelet. I told you I wasn't afraid to take a trend and run it endlessly into the ground!

Those rectangular Czech glass beads are actually striped with a deep blue color, not black as per my uber-fabulous photography.

I can't help it - the one thing about this bracelet that rocks is the clasp - I had to do a super-in-your-face closeup on it.

I had two of the little aqua lampwork spacer beads left and they DEMANDED to be earring-ized so, here they are. Because when the beads demand something, it's not wise to go against them. They know where you live.

Oh, and here's a closeup of my inability to wire-wrap. I wasted at least 4 decorative head pins trying to get these finished which really ticked me off. I can't stand wasting the good silver! I'm not usually quite that bad, though. Maybe I shouldn't bead when I'm exhausted? Ya think?

Occasionally, though, I do manage to come up with something that I'm rather proud of. Like this design I made for my Mom a few months ago:

The daisy is the symbol for a women's group she belongs to. She finally wore it to a meeting last month and it sparked a lot of interest I went to pester LeAn from Summers Studio to make me some more of these gorgeous daisy pendants and charms in various colors and she charmingly obliged me by producing a whole set:

I got the original mint green and then had her add some other colors as well.

Here's the rest of the set.

The package arrived on Saturday and I just had to get to work with them right away (go away stupid computer updating project) and here's the first result:

The orange rondelles are carnelian, the bronze wire is from Vintaj, the brass "pod" beads, twisted rings and green glass leaves are from (would you believe it?) Michael's, and the small Czech glass flowers are from my LBS. Brass chain and hook clasp are from Patina Queen.

I had originally planned to use these two-holed daisies as the earrings, but given that this jewelry is for ladies my mom's age, I decided they might be too big. I think I'll use the brass "pods" instead and hang a leaf and flower or a carnelian disk from the bottom of each.

Here's a closeup of the central pendant - it's smaller than the one I used in my Mom's original necklace.

I am in love with this dark, patina'd brass chain - it really makes the leaf and flower beads come to life.

Sorry for all the pictures - I'm just really, really, really happy with the way this turned out. Funny thing is, I thought this set would be the hardest for me to work with because of the color. I'm not really a "brown" kinda girl (see incessant number of previous posts featuring aqua beads and blue jewelry), but when I started laying things out next to these beads, this necklace just sort of made itself. I LOVE when that happens!

Okay, I'm done. Until it's time to post the earrings tomorrow and the teal necklace which I have mostly completed and which is TOTALLY DIFFERENT than this design. I thought it would actually be the EASIEST one to do and I'm having a much harder time with it.

Hope everyone is having a good Monday!


P.S. Need some help - I need to locate another source for those white shell disks that I used in my Mom's original necklace (the mint green and white one). I originally bought them from a vendor at a bead show years ago and need to replace them to finish off these necklaces. Anyone have a source they'd care to share?