Category Archives: Creativity

Do You Vary?

I do!

Vary  “. . . To make or cause changes in the characteristics or attributes of; modify or alter “ www.answers.com/topic/vary

A few months ago, I told you that I was fortunate to have one of my bracelet designs on the cover of Step by Step Wire Jewelry magazine.

cover

This week, I’m guiding some of my friends as they make this bracelet at our Faux meetup. I always practice before I teach/lead and this time I decided to “VARY” the bracelet. This is one of my favorite things to do with designs as I employ various creative thinking techniques to change things without completely losing the character of the original designs.  Below is my practice piece which is varied through magnification (enlarging) and combining (adding the beads to the metal strip in unique positions).

brac1

I torch enameled and then sealed a piece of 26g copper sheet before cutting the shape for the bracelet. Then I wove 26g wire over 14g wire and through holes in the metal on both sides. I added the turquoise rounds within the weaving to vary the technique.

This change has initiated more consideration of other possibilities and ways to vary this design.

Yes, I do vary - - - because the opposite would be to “conform” and that’s just not my style!

A Tale of Two Prongs

The last two jewelry making classes that I’ve taught involved working on various types of prong settings. Although I don’t have any more of these scheduled, I’m still intrigued by the unique possibilities that soldered prongs present for jewelry construction.

I think the blue agate piece below might be called “snakes” except that might not be a very appealing title for a customer. I wanted to add a tube setting to this piece and used a 6mm lab grown amethyst. It seems to help bring out the color in the agate.

blue1

There’s always considerable problem solving in jewelry construction even when you’ve made the best of plans. I share my mistakes as a pat on the back for those of you who don’t make them (anyone out there???) as well as encouragement for the rest of us. My mantra seems to be “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. After the entire pendant was complete – soldered, filed, sanded, formed, patinated, etc. – I carefully set the stone and positioned the prongs over it. So far so good. Then I placed the amethyst in the tube bezel and used my new bezel setter to secure it . . . beautiful. But then . . . plop. . . out came the stone. Not to be dismayed, I tried again and again and then . . . I realized that I had soldered the tube bezel onto the back plate upside down! I knew I should start again, remove the agate and go back to the torch station.; but I didn’t. I recently read that a renowned jewelry maker/teacher uses glue in certain situations. THIS was my situation. I got that little E-6000 tube out of the drawer, glued that little stone in the tube bezel and if I hadn’t fessed up, you might never have known.

blue2

The second prong setting is a green agate. I cut a piece of 22g copper sheet to create the partial bezel and then used a two-legged prong setting at the top. In essence, the bezel simply keep the stone from sliding out the bottom. The prong provides tension from the top and holds the piece against the back plate. I also used a little bit of that E-6000 on the back of the stone so I would feel better. The bezel is a bit of copper tubing soldered on the front and I embellished the pieces by wiring some small glass beads to the prong. By the way, twice I filed and sanded the back of the piece too closely where the prongs come through and had to re-solder them. Oh well, it gave me good practice!

green1   green2

Did I learn anything? I found that self deprecation when something doesn’t go right doesn’t help me in making jewelry. When a prong failed to solder properly, I just said “oh great, now I get to go back down the stairs to the torch room.” (More exercise and more practice can’t be all bad!) Now, if something doesn’t give me a problem, I’m suspicious. Could attitude be 9/10s of the work ethic?

For my soldering students, keep smiling and torch on.

Tree Fall

Tree of Life pendants have been popular ever since I started making jewelry (and probably long before). I’ve made many and people always seem to want them. The other day, I decided to try a different type of tree. This one looks like it fell over and thus the name blog entry name, Tree Fall.

leaf weave 2

The above tree or branch, depending on how you see it, consists of eight pieces of wire that I wove in the round with lighter gauge copper wire. While working on it, I kept looking out the studio window to see how the dimension of most trees changes on the way up. My observations indicated that the diameter of the tree branch should reduce on the way up. I attempted to represent this by splitting the bundle of wire to create smaller and smaller twigs or branches.

I enjoyed making the above piece and decided to combine it with some of the copper sheet leaves shown in a previous blog. I also thought this would give participants in my leaf classes this weekend another choice for creation.

leaf weave 1

I soldered wire stems to the copper leaves, torched painted them and then put them in cooking oil to achieve the red color. Finally, I sealed them with an automotive spray. I worked the stems of the leaves into the weaving. I think this piece will hang vertically as opposed to the horizontal position of the first necklace. I’m still cogitating about that.

I created a slightly different look between the pieces with the wire weaving. I went over each larger gauge wire on the first one and under each on the second one. I found it much more difficult to go under, but like the look; so I guess I’ll just need more practice.

The weaving continues to intrigue me leading to hours of play with the wire. This is confirmed by the callouses I’m building on my fingers. The difficult part is resisting closure and allowed myself to experiment with the weaves without a preconceived notion of what I can make. I have a book about Free Play sitting on my desk and it reminds me of the importance of play, like my experimental weaving, in the creative process. Author Stephen Nachmanovitch states “There is a time to do just anything, to experiment without fear of consequences. to have a play space safe from criticism . . . “ I’ve just got to remember that self criticism is also detrimental to creativity  and and try to think more positively about my play.

Sharing Ideas

I enjoy sharing creative ideas through conversation, problem solving, teaching and publishing. While these ideas used to come in musical or educational form, lately they’ve been in the design arena.

Think week I received the latest copy of Step by Step Magazine that contains my Tiara Necklace design and tutorial. The publication did a nice job of photographing the piece for the main page and I was glad the other photos that I took worked out well. I created this piece while playing with wire one day. I made my own “princess for the day” tiara, turned it upside down and used it as a necklace.

Tiara-step by step

While preparing to post about this piece, I realized that I hadn’t yet shared the cabochon wrap that was in the June-July publication of the same magazine. This evolved when I used my Synectics training to think of an analogy in which one thing captures or holds on to another without help from the latter. I thought about the way a child hugs an adult by wrapping his arms and legs around the person. You can see the “arms and legs” of the silver wire wrapping around the stone in the photo below.

Step by step

Seeing this pieces in print helps urge me to do more and I certainly hope the well doesn’t run dry any time soon.

Creataholic

Anyone who knows me probably realizes that I’m a creataholic. I tend to make things all day, everyday. Yes, I still wash the clothes, cook, play with the dogs, yell at my husband (not really!), etc. but I really like to make things!

I spent so many years learning about and teaching about creative thinking that it’s really fun to get to actually “DO” creative thinking. No matter what I’m making, I find myself asking “how many different ways can I ……?” This phrase is generated following the ideas of Alex Osborne about fluency. One of my other favorite phrases from the formal Creative Problem Solving procedure (Trefinger) is “In what ways might I . . . ?”

One of the tasks this week has been considering those two questioning phrases in terms of a new woven bracelet I’m developing. The form utilizes a simple weave wherein two outer pieces of wire are woven together with a copper strip about 1/2 inch wide. I’ve been punching holes in the copper strip so it could be part of the weave.

woven bracelets

The prototype bracelet is the one at the bottom of the photo. I torch painted the copper strip to get the red color and left the copper wire its natural color. It will, of course, oxidize later based on the environment. The other two are the first answers to the “how many ways” question. I embellished the one on the top right with some natural turquoise cut in button shapes with two holes. The bracelet on the top left has fewer holes and I cut them all in the center rather than on both sides of the copper strip. It has quite a different look from the other two when viewed close up. Both stone embellished bracelets were dipped in liver of sulphur to which I added a tablespoon of ammonia. It gives it a slightly different patina from plain liver of suphur.

Now the challenge will be in finding other ways to change this basic design without losing its simplicity. I may just have to conger up some basic creative thinking processes to help me continue to vary this design. Hmm . . . there’s something about fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration . . . and then there were those Six Thinking Hats (DeBono) . . . (so many choices).

Revisiting a Friend

Recently, I rediscovered an old friend – a metal necklace that was popular before I moved on to other things. One of my boutique customers suggested that she could use another of the disc necklaces shown below and I revisited the design for her. Of course, I couldn’t just make it like the original and enjoyed exploring different texturing techniques for the discs.

disc2

I couldn’t just stop at “same old, same old;” so I explored alternative shapes and finally chose the rectangular shape, also in graduated sizes. I layered smaller rectangles on top of the first group and then balled some sterling silver for embellishment. I like the way this piece lays on the neck when worn.

metal1

Finally, I went a bit overboard with the mixed metals and started dapping and dimpling various circles before also layering them. These are soldered onto a piece of copper tubing that I annealed and hammered. I found this piece much more difficult to make than the first two necklaces. It was next to impossible to clean the layered/soldered/dapped discs and in soldering one part of the necklace, a silver disc decided to partially melt. Hmm . . . Then I had to go back and melt part of another one in order for this artistic flaw to appear planned. Shush – don’t tell anyone!

circles

I want to experiment with some other shapes as well, but am aware that shapes with severe angles, such as diamonds, may not conform as well in multiples. Currently, I considering some free-form shaped ovals and hoping they won’t just look like funny little ghosts. Do you have any shape ideas?

You just never know what might hatch in this studio.

Joining

 

earrings2

I’m not a joiner. I don’t do clubs and only belong to one “society”. Yet, I think that once in a while we all need to join. I join my family for lots of gatherings and even plan a “join” now and then. I also enjoy “joining” with friends who share a common interest or endeavor.

I think it’s the rules that usually come with clubs and societies that bother me. I also find that as these groups plan events there are often conflicting opinions of how to do or run things leading to hurt feelings and sour faces. I guess that’s why I enjoy the “Faux” bead group that I meet with monthly (no dues, no officers, no minutes, no bylaws . . . get the picture?) This enables to group to be dynamic and continually bending towards the needs of those who are participating at the time. I wrote a brief description of this group  http://www.magpiegemstones.com/san_marcos_faux_bead_society.html  

earrings1

I guess I’m thinking about “joining” because I’ve been working on joins with my jewelry designs this week. Perhaps it’s a stretch, but I keep running into parallels between the two types of “joining”. Just as groups have rules and procedures, soldering has them too and when I don’t follow them, the join usually doesn’t work. I guess there really is a need for them. This week, it seems that each time I tried to skip things in the soldering process, I failed and had to return to the rules.

I did, however, realize that at times, when I’m trying to create something new and different, I must come up with my own rules and procedures. Often what I’m doing doesn’t exactly follow the guidelines for soldering and I just have to figure it out. In other words, this process is also dynamic and that’s what makes it intriguing.

My thought is that both types of “joining” require flexibility and problem solving. Just as I have to step away from the soldering at times in order to get a fresh perspective, I think I often need to step away from groups that cause consternation. But then, if I enjoy the metalsmith “join” perhaps I should try a bit more of joining with a group. What do you think? . . . (no, I think I’ll just keep soldering – ha!)

Coloring and the Lines

 

enamel necklace

Do you color within the lines? My first reaction to this question would be “absolutely not;” yet on second thought . . . the idea of coloring within the lines might be situational.  When someone poses this query, they usually don’t actually want to know about color, but rather about whether you follow the rules or parameters set for a task. While most highly creative individuals intentionally stray from the rules others try to impose on their art form, they may follow the rules in other instances. For example, this might be to pay the bills on time, get the car registration sticker to avoid a ticket, etc. Rules and parameters can be important.

This is the case with some jewelry techniques. For example, on Sunday I did some etching on copper which requires mixing an acid solution. I read the directions three times before ever opening the bottle of acid. The rules were important to keep me from burning myself. I’ve also found some of the suggested “rules” for torch enameling are quite helpful for this technique.

If I use counter enamel on the back of a metal piece, it has less of a tendency to curve under when I apply several enamel coats on the top. Also, I’ve found that it’s helpful to use the suggested liquid that helps hold the enamel powder on the surface of the metal. Go ahead. Ask me how many tiny bits of colored enamel threads rolled off my pieces and fell on the floor of the work room before I discovered this agent.

A past post showed a few examples of torch enameled pieces of jewelry, but I wanted to share some of the newer work. The necklace at the top shows a variety of techniques with which I’ve experimented. Below are a few of the earrings sets I’ve made.

enamel1

enamel

The Gingerbread family below was tricky to make and I’m not sure why Gingerbread Pop has more sugar on him than the others . . . ?

gingerbread family

It’s rather obvious that I didn’t color between the lines on these pieces but rather I often just let the enamel stay where it landed. I’ll follow the rules/lines on something else that I’m doing, but not in my art form. How about you?

Variations on a Theme

 

Dimensional Cuff Bracelet Tutorial       oval bracelet

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I make many analogies between jewelry design and music. This is yet another. Variations on a theme bring to mind classical music in which many of the great composers embellished their own basic motives to create numerous variations. Some contemporary musicians have also taken short snippets from classical music, varied these and employed them in new music.

Variations are also a big part of training in creative thinking wherein we ask participants to think flexibly and change an original idea. Sometimes the ideas that follow are better than the first and sometimes this exercise simply serves to reassure the thinker that they had the best idea in the first place.

The same is often true in jewelry design. I try many different versions of a “theme” or design to see whether it might be improved. Sometimes I initiate this process out of sheer boredom when I’m tired of the same design, yet it is still popular with customers. The following is an example of this.

You will likely recognize the bracelet on the left above that is a design I’ve been making for at least five years. I also sell the tutorial for it in my etsy shop and it has also been popular there. (Thank you customers!) https://www.etsy.com/listing/91729421/dimensional-cuff-bracelet-tutorial

When a boutique customer called to she needed more of the same, I realized it was probably time for another variation on this design. I’ve made it with square and rectangular faces in the past, but wanted something new. After experimentation with shapes, I created the bracelet shown on the above right – a variation on the theme. I plan to make this one again using more colorful gemstones that will show up better against the weaving.

Another popular bracelet, the wave, that initiated so long ago that I can’t locate a photo, also needed revamping. I changed the initial bracelet shape to triangles as shown below.

wave tri

Finally, still considering the wave bracelet theme, I made a new “cursive” bracelet that proved to be a bit tricky. This one required plenty of wraps to help the 14 gauge wire hold its shape. I think this one holds further possibilities.

cursive bracelet

This was an interesting and somewhat challenging exercise and I continue to think “what if” regarding variation possibilities. But for now, I think I’ll just go play some classical music on the piano with a score that someone else wrote.

Pass It On . . . and On . . . and On

It’s not a surprise to anyone who knows me that I like to teach. I tend to grab most any “teachable moment” whether you want me to or not. With adults, I try to curb my appetite for devouring those moments, but little children need to beware!

I’ve truly enjoyed the two jewelry classes that I taught last week, one in Wimberley, TX and the other in San Marcos. I worked with seven women as they learned to make a wrap bracelet in Wimberley and then four more who worked on wrapping cabachons. I enjoyed hearing from the first group about who some of them planned to pass their bracelet to as a gift. I regret not getting a photo of that group, but note the happy intensity on the faces of the second.

cabs girls

It’s common for someone to ask a designer ideas come from. I have no doubt that many of mine come during preparation for teaching. I think that is why it takes me so long to get ready to teach a class. There’s something about this pre-planning that gets my creative juices flowing. I used to fight this urge, trying to stay on task, but now I just go with it. I do, however, have to resist my propensity to want to teach the new idea instead of that which was designated for the class. I just keep wanting to pass it on.

As an example, a couple of gals came over for a little assistance in starting their journey into soldering with a torch. They hardly got off the ranch before I was cutting and planning the piece below. Yes, I know it’s a bit bird-like, but it wasn’t planned that way – oh well, it’s definitely different!

bird

I’ve also done a new soldered design that someone on Facebook suggested is Bohemian. The legs on this piece are soldered to the bottom half of the arc and then wire wrapped. I was tickled that the very first sale of this went to my good friend who often calls and says “is the Dreamcatcher Designs shop open?”  (Of course you know I don’t have a shop!) Sometimes she just runs out to the ranch and gets what she needs. This piece was gifted from her to a co-friend of ours and I’m pleased for her to have it. Do you think you can wear “Bohemian” at the Lutheran Church?

           sue

As you read, many things, both concrete and ideational, were passed on last week. From teacher to student, student to teach and friend to friend. I think life was very productive.