This part of the summer when the boutiques I serve are closing out summer merchandise prior to bringing in Fall clothing, I have time to experiment with new ideas for upcoming jewelry designs.
I have to get into a different mindset for experimenting and remind myself that there’s no pressure for anything to “turn out”. I don’t have to produce anything; I just need to play.
Play this year has come mainly in the form of torch enameling. It started when I taught the Torch Enamel II workshop a few weeks ago. I had a super set of participants and we had such fun. Teaching always propels me forward as I challenge myself to make difficult processes easy for students. I worked on champleve and sgraffito and have carried some of that into the experiments I’m doing now. Below are a couple of things that seem to be working well.
I’ve also explored “holiness” in several forms and found it to be fun when incorporated with the torch enameling. I just kept singing “Holy, Holy, Holy . . . “ and things kept hatching. Hmmm . . . I wonder what would happened if I sang a different song . . . ? Any suggestions???
Today, I’m experimenting with different shapes and sawing. I’m conscious of the fact that it’s not production – it’s inquiry and learning. We’ll see what turns out. Wish me luck!
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
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!)
Isn’t is wonderful how a few truthful and positive words can provide a great moral boost? When I show my work to someone, I’m really just sharing and not necessarily looking for accolades. I think my family should just know what I’ve been making. Luckily, they’ve learned to accept my “show and tell” without feeling any real obligation to like what they see. I’ve tried to encourage them to view my process and growth rather than just the art.
Today, I spent a good deal of time trying some new torch enameling techniques.
I’ve been working in my comfort zone for quite some time following the class that I taught and decided that today was the day to stretch. (sometimes stretching is hard)
First, that little bird pendant gave me fits. It’s difficult to tell the details on her from this photo, but suffice it to say they are there. It takes numerous firings on this type design and several times after I applied the enamel and set the pendant on the trivet for torching, the whole thing fell off on the floor. Then I had to start anew. I think it was a test to see if I really wanted to persevere. I worked through the frustration and when I brought the pendant to my spouse he actually knew what it was supposed to be. That provided a positive stroke. He even told me that it was an orange tanager. (If I had been on the ball, I would have said that was what I planned – but I wasn’t on the ball.) His remarks made me forget my frustration.
The final pair of earrings for the day was the orange and purple pair which I designed based on a piece of fabric called dimples. I thought they were really ugly, but when I showed them to my husband he said “great colors”. That helped me see them differently and I accepted another positive stroke. I guess they are rather funky.
My adult piano students used to say they always knew when I was going to correct something in their playing because I started with a compliment. I think some of them secretly wished I would just get to the correction. Yet, it helped me to find the good in what they had done rather than just searching for something to fix. I now need to find the good in my own work before worrying about what went wrong.
I wouldn’t want to hear “fake” positive comment, but once in a while a sincere one is really welcomed. Focusing on what turned out well can help me retain that part of a piece while seeking to improve the part that wasn’t so good. Oft times I only see the problems in the piece and need someone else to point out what worked well.
I am thankful for a supportive spouse who is always truthful and helps me see the good when I’ve missed it.
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.
The Gingerbread family below was tricky to make and I’m not sure why Gingerbread Pop has more sugar on him than the others . . . ?
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?
I thought I knew the correct ending for the title phrase, but I’ve learned that “try, try again” doesn’t always work.
For the past two months I’ve been trying to teach myself how to do torch enamel. It looked so easy when a friend demonstrated the technique at a meetup. She even let me do one following her demo and I did just fine. Yet, after ordering my own enamel and giving it a try, I found things weren’t so easy after all.
I don’t give up easily and believe that if I just practice something long and hard enough, I’ll eventually get it. That was not the case with torch enameling. I’ve been trying to enamel flat copper disks, but they either turned out bubbly or bumpy or mottled. Thinking I had one of the variables wrong, I tried altering various things. I tried several different gauges of copper sheet metal. No luck. Then I tried various colors of enamel thinking perhaps one color had a problem. No luck. I even switched torches, trying three different ones. . . no luck. I also took my inferior disks to my friend who did the demo, but she didn’t know what was wrong either.
Finally, I was asked to bring my torch and help the same friend work with a large group at another meetup. During our time together, she let me use some of her enamel. LUCK! I torch enameled those disks like a pro and learned that the problem was the brand of enamel I was using. Although I’m relieved to know it wasn’t me, I’m upset that I spent so much time trying to alleviate my difficulty.
Now, I have purchased Thompsons’ enamels and am having a great time with the technique. The blue earrings below look like they have some white on them, but this is just the glare.
This learning episode reminds me of when I was taking doctorate level statistics. The professor said we shouldn’t struggle with a problem more than 30 minutes before seeking assistance. I believe her advise stems to more things than statistics. The next time I can’t get something to work, I’m going to visit a successful friend.
There are some weeks when I wonder why I keep making jewelry and learning new skills. This was NOT one of them!
The independent jewelry maker can make his/her own policies when needed rather than visiting the “company” voice. I no longer string or restring beads for people unless I made the piece in the first place. I used to do this, but now it seems I’m unable to get new design work in and and trying to find that valuable commodity – time. This week, however, a man I didn’t know phoned to see if I could help him with a broken piece of jewelry. My first instinct was to say “NO”, but for some reason I listened. His girlfriend had lost one of her favorite earrings and he wanted someone to make the remaining one into a small pendant for her birthday. We talked for a bit and he finally told me that no one else would discuss it with him. All the stores he called told him “we don’t do that.” Since I was going to a town near him the next day, I agreed to meet him and see what I might do.
On the appointed day, I took all the needed tools, wire and findings and met the man. The earring was a pretty sterling silver back with two small pieces of turquoise set in bezels. The ear wire was soldered to the back. I managed to turn the ear wire into a closed ring and put it on a sterling silver chain for which I had made a clasp. Then we picked out turquoise to match and made a new pair of earrings using a bit of the matching chain. I had the man put the headpins in the stones and then polish the piece in order to be able to say he helped make them. We wrote on the card “Custom Made by “(the man) and Karen.” Did I mentioned how pleased he was?
The neatest part about this episode is that during the course of our conversation we realized that his lady is my Mother’s nurse where she lives. Neither of us had any prior idea of this.
The moral of this story is . . . you never know when in an attempt to make someone else happy you make yourself even more pleased. I like being an independent.
Working on “bird” earrings, I’ve found myself thinking “it’s for the birds.” Most people know and perhaps use this phrase, but I never thought too much about it. It is an idiom of American origin and means worthless or undesirable. Sometimes the phrase is intensified by adding “strictly” as in something is “strictly for the birds.” It seems that there is more than one reason that the phrase took hold. One is that birds eat bird seed which some think is worthless. Another has to do with the fact that they peck at other animal dropping to get seed from them. This is definitely repulsive and the next time I hear someone use the phrase, I mustn’t assume they are thinking of where the birds hunt those seeds. Yuk!
Below are some of the new bird earrings. They look pretty simple to make and certainly should be; however, my difficulty as it always is with earrings has to do with getting two birds that are the same shape.
In light of the connotation for the title, I think I’ll rename the top two pair of earrings with the phrase “shake your tail feathers”; yet, I guess that, too could have a bad connotation. Perhaps I need to just stop with the phrases while I’m ahead. However . . .
I’ll fly from this birdy post with just one last phrase . . . “Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie . . . “ Do you remember that nursery rhyme? Below, is the valentine chocolate pie I baked for my spouse today, but I assure you it isn’t “for the birds” and there are NO birds in it. Happy Valentines Day to You! (This day is NOT for the birds!)
I’ve largely spent this week reviving my earring batch which was pretty pitiful after the holidays. I’m sorry for my family and friends who have been inundated with my requests to “try on” a pair so I could see how they look. Even though I’ve had pieced ears twice, I still can’t wear earrings; so I have to look for models. I guess I’m going to have to create some type of fake ears here in the studio so I can quit bugging people. Hmm . . . I wonder if I could make a model out of clay . . . ?
You can see from the photo that the bulk of these are hearts which were requested by one of the stores. I also made something in copper that’s supposed to resemble calla lilies and there’s another unknown shape in sterling silver at the bottom left. I thought the latter shape was a trisket, but it seems I’m wrong and must have invented that name since I’m not finding it on the internet. Do any of you know what this is called?
The above picture shows earrings that look better on that laying flat. I thought I’d call them “dancing feet”, but I’ve yet to figure out how to explain the pair on the right. I guess those have two left feet!
I often feel that I either have two left hands when I’m working or that I don’t have enough hands to hold everything I need. Some days I wish for a real human who would willingly lend a skilled hand and work in tandem beside me at the bench. Alas, I’d probably talk to the person too much and neither of us would get anything done. I guess I’ll have to stick with my own two hands and do the best I can.
I’ve been busily adding inventory to my etsy shop this week. I don’t usually have much in this since I mainly sell to boutiques, but I’m currently at the end of that season, finished with all the shows and thought I would do a bit more with etsy. You can see the listings at the side of this site.
I’ve had a couple of neat challenges this week from people who saw my work at a local San Marcos, TX gift store, Paper Bear. One person requested some earrings similar to a pendant in my display at the store. These were a challenge, but I enjoyed trying to make her idea come to life.
It’s hard to get a sense of them from the photo, but they are copper ovals that have copper stars soldered to them. I set small denim lapis stones in a premade bezel in the middle of the star. There are small silver balls at the side of each star. The challenge, as always, was trying to get the earrings to match. I hope the person likes these.
Another person asked me to wrap some rocks from her family vacation. I thought that was a really neat gift idea and hope her family members will appreciate her idea. I’m not showing those since I don’t want to spoil any surprises.
I think it is interesting to brainstorm with customers regarding what they want made. Often, they can’t quite put into words what they want, but a wave of the hand and a few drawings often brings their ideas to light. The fun part is seeing the pleasure when their own ideas comes to fruition. I’m sure they will have a story to tell when the gift is presented.
Gifting . . . isn’t it fun?
Those of us who love to learn new things sometimes move to new avenues for this too soon. Either the initial fun wears off, something new calls our name, or time for the learning simply runs out. Often for me, I move on to something new before completely exploring the myriad of possibilities for creative development in the existing arena. This may have been the case with fold forming, a technique developed by Charles Lewton-Brain. “Mr. Fold Form's” book, Foldforming, contains a wealth of information on how to construct various shapes from metal; yet, it doesn’t show as many completed pieces of jewelry as I would like to see.
Frequent and long time readers may recall that fold forming was the new technique I chose to develop last December and January during the winter lull between completion of the Fall products and the development of the Spring designs. Unfortunately, I may have moved too quickly from fold forming last year and back into rapid production for my customers. Also, I “closed” on the technique partly because I couldn’t figure out new things to do with it. I chose not to face the somewhat discouraging struggle that forces one into creative generation. I currently have renewed interest in fold forming due to a couple of happenings. Two of my lucky friends took a recent workshop with Kim St. Jean at the Texas Beadfest and their discussion of the class helped add to my refinement of the technique. Also, I gave a demonstration on the technique at a recent gathering of wire workers. Therefore, I had to practice.
The trick for me with fold forming has been trying to make something besides a leaf that would comfortably work as a piece of jewelry. First, I practiced some different ways to hammer on a few leaves and learned how to better ruffle the edges. Then I created a couple of copper cuff bracelets. I like using a long diagonal fold to start the bracelet design and following this with appropriate texture. I quickly learned that it’s important to begin with a longer and wider piece of metal than the size of the anticipated product. I folded the metal first and then cut the final bracelet shape. When I annealed the metal bracelets with a torch during the fold forming process, beautiful colors appeared on the pieces.
I’ve also been experimenting with a star shape shown in Newton-Brain’s book. First I made several pairs of earrings and then I created a larger star and used it as a pendant on a strand of coral. I gave the pendant a liver of suphur bath, tumbled it and then used the torch on it again. It adopted a very rich color.
Now the struggle is to try to develop some ideas of my own for fold formed shapes. Hopefully, I’ll have the time this year to stick with fold forming until I’ve either developed some new ideas or convinced myself that I CAN’T come up with anything new. Wish me luck.